I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry... On-the-Road Loneliness Nobody Talks About - On the Road #15

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Hey y’all,

I wanted to show off. At the time, I wanted nothing more than to entertain my audience of friends and family.

Strangely enough, that is what I regret the most about the email journal I kept of my DIY booktour/roadtrip in 2005-2006.

That yearlong odyssey was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. That doesn’t mean it was easy. I only wrote home about the fun stuff, and therefore, I wasn’t being fully honest.

I never wrote about the loneliness. Those long stretches of desolation only came out in hints here and there that only the very perceptive picked up on.

I was so lonesome a sensation of grayness permeated everything.

I was so lonesome a sensation of grayness permeated everything.

Isolation has a relentless quality. 

From what I remember of that trip, there were many chunks of time when I was so lonesome a sensation of grayness permeated everything.

After the excitement of the first weeks wore off, and as summer gave way to autumn, the other travelers had gone home. That’s when I realized that in the “us vs. them” mentality of most Alaskan small towns, I was one of “them.”

Even though at that time in my life, I had lived in Juneau/Douglas for enough years that I had earned my Alaskan spurs, I was not an integral part of the places I passed through in the Interior 

I sold books pretty consistently. Since I had several hundred books in the back of the Beast, I was always “ON.”

Alaskans are very big on community. Contributing to the village is a core value of this state in a way that is lacking in many others.

Travelers and vagabonds don’t invest themselves in the communities they visit. We’re there for our own experience. If we’re cool and awesome about that, we come and go without impact, and are always welcome to come back.

Travelers are there for their own experience.

Travelers are there for their own experience.

 The locals were very nice. People talked to me readily at the bar or the coffee house, and seemed curious about this journey I was on. But nobody invited me home for any dinner, nor to any potlucks that happen as the darkness comes and the summer goes. 

I could hardly blame them. Even in my chats with people, I couldn’t connect with them any more than they could connect with me. The locals were settled and on home ground, while I was on the road.

Constant motion does something to a person.

A few months later, when I would be in Colorado, a college friend told me that I seemed very ungrounded. She was right. It was impossible to stay grounded when all I had to do was pack up the Beast and move on, and that created a here-today-gone-tomorrow mentality.

I remember when the switch flipped in my mind. It was around the 3-month mark.

After that, the only people I could relate to were other travelers looking for the next place to live. Although they were filled with excitement and a sense of adventure (which for me, was like cool water while dying of thirst in the desert), they were as unsettled as I was.

I learned to make the most of every genuine connection, however brief. Every chat and every conversation gave me the nourishment I needed to stay somewhat tethered to humanity, and kept the relentless grayness at bay, and for that sliver of time, I felt relief.

I can’t believe this is my life I’m living. I am so blessed.

I can’t believe this is my life I’m living. I am so blessed.

And then something would shift. The next adventure would begin, and I was off on another limb of this odyssey. I would be so excited I would forget the loneliness. All I could think was:

“I can’t believe this is my life that I’m living. I am so blessed.” 

Peace,

Montgomery

 

PS: This post is from memory, written now about the DIY booktour/roadtrip I was on for a year during 2005-2006. To see the previous post, Lazy Hiking and Positive Omens, click here.

Lazy Hiking and Positive Omens - On the Road #14

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Hey y'all,

Honest...I think I wouldn't be keeping a journal if I wasn't sending it to fifty people. It's weird, but even though I have little to say this week, I feel compelled to write anyway. 

For those of you who live in Alaska, ignore this if you like, because we experience cool shit like this all the time. This is more for those who live elsewhere. 

I love lazy hiking. Sitting on my duff whenever I feel like, zoning out until I feel like getting up and moving again. 

It's the peak of autumn right now, and the colors are breathtaking. Staying last weekend in Denali, I couldn't find my camera before going on a hike; but I looked at the cloudy, rainy skies and figured it wasn't that important, so I left without it.

Of course, lots of special Kodak moments happened.

"Etch it in your brain," my inner voice said. "That way you can take it with you when you die." 

That's very nice, but I still wish I had my camera with me. Even if I can recall the image vividly at will, my bragging rights have been severely stunted.     

There had been a group of fitness-junkie hikers that zoomed up to the overlook and back, while I puttered along and sat on my ass regularly. They said the view was "awesome," and nothing else.

But they didn't have a squirrel flirting with them from branches three feet above their heads, trying to seduce some snacks out of them. I did. And that's the kind of thing that happens when you do lazy hiking. 

I continued on up even though the fog was totally socked in and it looked as if I wouldn't be getting any "awesome" views. But I saw at least five flocks of migrating (after asking around, I decided they were cranes) birds flying above me as they made their way to their winter homes. 

Whatever they were, it was impossible to miss them, because their purring birdcalls could be heard for quite a few minutes before I actually saw them. 

I had also seen a flock of cranes (they definitely were) flying above me in Fairbanks. And I saw folded cranes in Gulliver's - who is carrying my book - and in the College Coffeehouse - where I did my last minute storytelling.

My time in Fairbanks was effortless.  

Cranes are definitely a "thing" in my life, whether they're made out of feathers or paper. What can you expect from a woman who folded a thousand cranes and put most of them up on her wall? 

But back to my hike. I made it up to the overlook and there was a ridge trail continuing on. Once at the top of the hill, I hiked the ridgeline. The undulating ease of the ridge is the hikers reward for getting there. 

The mountainsides were stunning with the red, gold, and fiery colors, and the deep green spruce speckled throughout. The fog kept coming in and going out, and eventually, the rainy skies cleared up. 

The views alone were enough to make me regret my camera. And that was before I saw the sheep. 

Going the extra distance was worth it. A quarter mile up the ridgeline, I saw a horned head poking around a rock staring at me, and a smaller head joined hers. 

Looking to the right, I saw a young Dall ram - his horns hadn't curved all the way around yet - poking along the stray plants munching away. He gave me a bored glance and kept chewing. 

The mama sheep and her young were just a little more nervous. They were also right on the trail, so I gave them time and space to move, which they did hesitantly, eyeing me all the while. 

I watched the sheep, the lamb, and the ram for a while, cursing myself the whole time for not searching more diligently for my camera. They practically posed for me, and there was nothing but my memory to remember them by.  

I passed them and sat on a rock that gives that "top of the mountain" feeling and just soaked in the space around me. After a few minutes of sitting on my duff, I head footsteps behind me and turned to see yet another Dall sheep coming up the trail and she stopped about six feet away from me.

We just stared at each other for a few minutes. Maybe if I'd stayed still, she would have strolled right past me, but as soon as I moved, she scurried to the side and around me to join her group.

Now that was cool. 

Between the flocks of cranes and the sheep, I took the whole day as a sign that things were looking up and a breakthrough had happened on my book tour. 

Maybe I'm a superstitious ninny.

But this week, I heard from the Anchorage Press that they are featuring my last storytelling at Organic Oasis, instead of just putting it in the calendar. And book sales have been steady. Maybe that's only a coincidence.

Either way, I still love lazy hiking. 

By the way, many thanks to Jason Caputo for featuring my journal entries on his website, www.juneaumusic.com. Don't forget to check out the site regularly for info on what is happening in Juneau musically and artistically.

Besides some of the links are cool, but beware the infinite David Hasselhoff crotch shot. Unless of course, you like narcissism...and David Hasselhoff. 

Peace,

Montgomery 

This excerpt from my DIY booktour/roadtrip in 2005/2006 was one of my favorites. I don’t know if the juneaumusic.com site is still active with or without David Hasselhoff’s crotch shot. But my email journal ended up being my first blog during the infancy phase of blogging. Andrea, who was on my email list, forwarded it on to Jason and that’s how it all began. If you’d like to see the previous letter in this journal, click here.

I LOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVE FAIRBANKS!!!!!! - On the Road #13

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Hey y'all,

I Love Fairbanks. I love it, love it, love it!!!!!

Let's color this email happy, baby!

(No color fonts in SquareSpace, unfortunately, hence the colors in the photo.)

Just when it seemed as if I was burrowed in the vat of discouragement, eating bitterness for breakfast, I came to Fairbanks. Never mind the drive up with the fall colors lighting up the tundra - that was beautiful! - but at Fairbanks, I arrived.

Granted my trip was not just sneers, you're-weird-looks, and other unpleasant run-ins - I have met so many wonderful, supportive, and amazing people at every stop...but in Fairbanks - at least from the college side of town to Ester, it wasn't just random individuals here and there, but packs of people in general. We all know that there's safety...and strength in numbers.

And coming here on the tail end of the Alaska Fair was just what my spirit needed to keep going.

I could feel from the first that Fairbanks would be different. At Gulliver's - awesome bookstore! - I ran into an acquaintance I met in Juneau - several of those up here - and was bellyaching about the trip and the difficulties of selling my own work, and myself, etc. when a friend of his sat down and after hearing what I was doing, offered to buy a book.

That night, I was at a dinner party in Ester when Jen, an artist I'd met in Girdwood, suggested that I go by this coffeehouse and if they didn't have anything scheduled, ask to do a storytelling there. Sure enough, one night was open, so I managed to set something up at the last minute. She also challenged me to "creatively visualize" a hundred people waiting in line to buy my book.

"If you do that every day for a month, I promise you, things will happen."

On the same day, I was at Gulliver's again, waiting for my turn for free computer usage when the manager came by and said they'd take five books to start out.

I also sold three more to acquaintances that I ran into and a stranger I'd just met.

The next night, I had a couple of groups, Jen's friends and people that I met at the hostel show up for the storytelling - one man bought five books, a Japanese lady bought two, and yet another bought one. Better yet, Ethan, a high school English teacher bought one and asked permission to photocopy it, so he could teach it.

"I love your book!" said Kliff, a drummer who is a friend of a friend. And apparently, he has raved about it to everybody he knows, because the Ethan the teacher was a friend of his.

At the Pub that night, I sold two more. I also met a radio dj who wants to interview me when I come back to town - because of course I will!!! - and one of the women who bought a book and was at Jen's dinner party - is a natural at marketing and is already cooking up ideas for a dinner party with a story segment in between courses. I had been wanting a venue to do "Ella Bandita" as a combo dinner theatre/tableside storytelling, and here Sarah was just handing it to me.

"Fairbanks is a place where a lot of people are trying to create something," said Jay, a musician who lived in Juneau briefly a few years ago. "So people really try to support each other here."

Jen said her art has just taken off since she moved here. Her friend Heather, who makes hats does quite well at the Farmer's Market.

I don't know what it is about this town, but after weeks of people's walls, boundaries, suspicion, and all other forms of attitude, the feeling of openness, generosity, and support was like the nectar of the gods. I sold twenty books in a few days without even trying and I have a posse in less than a week.

Hope everybody has patience with my bragging rights, but hell, this was long overdue.

Did I mention that I love Fairbanks?

Montgomery

This is from the DIY booktour/roadtrip I took in 2005-2006. This stop was one of my most joyful, and I still have cherished memories from that time. The DJ ended up being a total dud in the long run, fyi.

If you’d like to read the previous On the Road post that strongly contributed to the relief of this journal entry, click here.