Hippie Paradise - On the Road #6

Imagine a DIY music festival in front of this!!

Imagine a DIY music festival in front of this!!

Hey y'all, 

In Anchorage with a lull in my book tour schedule - next round of dates not until September 12th and way out of cashola, thank god for the credit card.

Joe was lured by the promise of a fishing job in Valdez and he stayed while I drove on to McCarthy, and by some miracle, did not get flattened by the road leading to Hippie Shangri-la, the same road that just happens to be hell on tires since it's rocky dirt road built over old train tracks - nice! Just before the end of the road, I was tempted by the lure of full-service cabins with VACANCY sign.  Pulled in and charged two nights for a yuppie cabin in the middle of nowhere - I mean, laminate floors in McCarthy! Andy, the keeper of the cabins, was very friendly and gave me three eggs, freshly laid, with some bread and butter for breakfast the next day, along with coffee. I figured what the hell?  This is a business trip, I can write the whole thing off, treat myself to a comfortable bed, a big tub and lots of privacy after three weeks of camping, crashing on couches, and sleeping in the Brown Beast, which is hanging in there I'm happy to say.

The next day, I went across the bridge and walked to McCarthy, where I found out that the festival was in Kennicott - five miles away.  There was irregular bus service, but the “contents were changing the world.” In other words, this bus in remote Alaska ran on peanut oil.  

Layton and Sharmon, a couple from Soldotna, were on the bus with me.  They were stocking up on beer and camping equipment, and when I said I was in work mode, Layton asked if I was a writer. I said yes, how did you know? And he said, you gotta be. He was a writer for the Clarion, a local paper on Kenai, and after telling him my story, he bought a book and assured me that of course I would sell all 20 as the bus running on peanut oil deposited us at the festival grounds in Kennicott.

I got off the bus and looked around; then I went into shock as the weight of 20 books in my pack settled on my back.

There were about sixty tents set up in a gravel parking lot with the ruins of the Kennicott copper mine and the Kennicott Lodge perched on the hill above us. Abandoned mining gear was laying everywhere in its rusting glory and a homemade stage was set up practically in the bushes. There were belly dancers undulating wherever they could find space amongst the rusting forgotten equipment, and people hanging out wherever they could find space.    

Just beyond this scene looked like the other side of the moon, terminal moraine that's too cold to progress to the beginnings of forest because glacier ice is 3 feet underneath it - but just thick enough to cover the glacier, in uniform lines of silt in earthy tones of grey, beige, red, depending on which valley the glacier was carving through.  

I looked at the homegrown festival - that was free, of course - and my vision of a big field with a variety of vendors was dashed. I muttered to the bus driver that this was not what I expected.  

"Well, what did you expect?" he quipped. I’m sure he was as amused as he looked.

"I don't know, but it wasn't this."

Recognizing faces of people that I didn't know very well, I had the feeling I was at a Girdwood party in Kennicott and that this was not the right venue to be selling books.  A gal named Valerie confirmed that suspicion a few hours later when she told me that she and her boyfriend were also promoting a book, "Wild Animus," written by an eccentric gazillionaire from Colorado, that wanted people to read his book so much, he was hiring promoters in every state to give his book away.  Last year, they had given away over 2000 books and this year they were handing out CD's with him reading enticing segments of the book, so people would actually read it.  

"Is it any good?" I asked her.

"It's a piece of shit," she said.  "It totally sucks."

This was definitely not the venue for what I had in mind.  

If you can't fight em, join them. I decided to just enjoy the party and hitched a ride by motorcycle back to the bridge and got my stuff out of the yuppie cabin I wouldn't be sleeping in that night, and got my camping gear for the party that went on until the wee hours of the morning...

That's all for now. Thanks for reading.



PS This experience was one of my most cherished experiences from that year on the road. It was proof that one does not take a journey. A journey takes you!

PS This was one of the most epic experiences I had from the DIY booktour roadtrip I did in 2005-2006.

On the Road #5


Hey y'all,

In Anchorage to give the Brown Beast the medical care he deserves.  Apparently, the BB has many leaking wounds, but according to the doctors, if I keep giving him transfusions on a regular basis, the BB should be good to go, for a long time...how about that? 

Joe has joined the tour for the rest of the summer and he's set a goal to sell all the books in my truck. It is definitely more empowering to be a team of plural than a mission of singular, and the books are definitely selling.  At Chair Five in Girdwood, I had people following me to the bathroom to buy a book - yippee!!!  It is so much easier to have somebody else promoting me as a dreamer who is trying to manifest fantasy into reality.  When I do it, I sound like a geek.  At least for the next month, I don't have to endure the surface polite nods of those who can smell blood, while underneath the kitty sharpens its claws...okay, so I'm blowing things out of proportion.

Done with the Kenai Peninsula, and manana we're heading to McCarthy for the Blackburn Music Festival where we'll lay out a blanket and sell books.  Heard good things about this festival, so it should be good, and then we'll be heading up north - we may even go to Prudhoe Bay just so we can say we did because I doubt a bunch of republican oil-drillers will be into fairy tales featuring my heart-eating seductress, but you never know.  Then we'll be meandering on down to Fairbanks, and then...who knows.

Joe asked the I Ching a couple of questions...about chicks of course.  And one said the great departs and the small approaches - after he made the decision to not spread himself thin to go see a gal on the other side of the world  and the other was "The Marrying Maiden" with "The Arousing, Thunder" as the upper trigram, and "The Joyous, Lake" as the lower.  Since that girl already compared him to a flower, because he's "sweet," that made Joe's day.  He's been referring to himself as "I am the Arousing Thunder" ever since.  And he's totally sold on the I Ching. 

It's like traveling with my kid brother. 

Anyway, my journal list is starting to get bloated, so I have a request of everybody...if you would like to keep hearing of what's going on, drop me a line and let me know one way or the other.  If I hear nothing by the end of the month, I'll assume the answer is not and you're too considerate or too chicken to say so.

Anyway, hope all is well... 


PS This is the 5th email I sent to my friends of what are now some cherished memories of my DIY booktour/roadtrip in Alaska in the summer and fall of 2005. It was literally called “I don’t know what to call this one; this is the fifth email.”


Eternal Novicehood and the Saving Grace of Good Friends - On the Road #4


Hey y’all,

This road trip was shaping up to be an exercise in humiliation until Joe showed up. For instance, in Homer, at my first open mike, I had right in front of my stage the Christian kiddie contingent. They were there to play cards, talk loud, and make smart-ass speeches after different musicians played just to show how cute they were, while the folks that were actually listening attentively were behind them.  

I was lucky though, they got even more obnoxious when the guy after me went up to play his guitar and sing.  

At the Land's End in Homer, my first night was the exact same time and date as the post-Memorial service for Drew Scalzi, a former state Representative, so everyone there was going to that. One couple tried to get me to go upstairs, have some food and drink and let people know I was there, but there's just something about going to somebody's funeral, especially someone that I'd never met, to hustle some business that is...distasteful to say the least. The same couple came down and bought a book - probably out of sympathy because nobody showed up that day, and the wife suggested that I should come in the winter when people are looking for things to do during that time.

The next day, a couple of acquaintances and a couple of total strangers showed up. I sold two books. All I could think was that it was a mighty fine thing that I did not pay a dime for that space and that my beginner's luck had run out. And I'm back in the time and space of being a novice...again.

I packed up the Brown Beast (that is burning through the oil, but other than that is running beautifully) and headed for Seward.

It seems like every year I decide to do something different that I know nothing about, just so I can be a novice all over again. Perhaps Zen Buddhists would applaud my embrace of Zen mind by constantly being a beginner; but given that I learn by making sooooo many mistakes, the novice/beginner period can be agony.    

In Seward, at the Resurrect Art Coffee House – an old church that was converted into this little gem, I had set up a tableside storytelling for the sake of promoting my book. The owners are every artist's dream come true as they support the arts and would let me do whatever I wanted. So I set up for three days, hoping positive word of mouth would help.

Day one: I told several stories and sold...nothing.

Granted, I'm sure it could have been worse, I could have been insulted on top of it. But to be in a place for four hours and have people nod politely at my efforts is...awful and humiliating.

Why would any sane person put herself through all this?

It didn't help that I had a Homer friend tempting me to go back to Homer, go charter fishing and party. It was so demoralizing, I almost went, but I made a commitment and as much as it hurt, that commitment must be kept. I gritted my teeth to bear it on Thursday, where at least the day would be mercifully short.

Day two: I told two stories to four people...sold two books.  I perked up a bit. I've survived painful learning curves before and it was always better. I even sold two more books to a waitress and one of her followers at the bar where I refreshed myself with a beer after hiking.  

And then came deliverance...

Friday brought the arrival of Joe, who has absolutely no boundaries, and therefore, no inhibitions. A born balls-to-the-wall salesman type. For those who know Joe, after fishing in Bristol Bay, his dreds got inflected with fish bits, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. He said every morning when he woke up his head smelled like fish and he couldn't take it anymore. What should surprise everyone was that he shaved them off, along with his beard. And damn! He now looks like a respectable young man. He’s not, of course. But at least, he now passes.

Joe listened to a couple of stories, and even stopped being a smart-ass half-way through the first one. A Colorado woman who calls herself "Soozie Creamcheese," bought a book, and the two over-friendly studs I'd met at the youth hostel bought none. Then Joe took it upon himself to take a few books and hit the bars. He took four books, and within 45 minutes, came back with forty bucks, and left with ten more books. By the time people were only caring about getting drunk he sold seven more books. While I stayed put at the Resurrect Art Coffe House, told more stories, and sold two books.

I couldn’t believe it.

Here I am, busting my butt telling stories and recommending myself to strangers and all Joe has to say is: "Dude, you should REALLY buy this book," and he’s usually chatting up a female.

And it works.

I just might have to pack up Joe in my luggage...

Thank God for good friends.



PS These were some great memories of my road trip book tour in the summer of 2005. FYI, the Resurrect Art Coffee House is still around. If you’re ever in Seward, go check it out!