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?
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.
Although it was a stroke of luck to get any space at the Alaska State Fair since I didn't get on it until the very last minute - and I am grateful to Denise of Non Essentials (homemade natural skincare) for giving me that space - I am nonetheless exceedingly relieved that I wasn't at the State Fair every day, much less paid exorbitant rates for a booth there.
There was something about the fair that made me think of the Celestine Prophecy and the Critical Mass, those select individuals awake to the spiritual journey of their lives, and will thus raise the human race to a higher level of existence.
Even if this is an act of love for all of humanity, one could still argue the concept of a Critical Mass as another form of elitism - sugar-coated and with the new age stamp of approval - but still a statement that some people matter and most people don't.
Although I found the message to be inspiring, hopeful, and way groovy, The Celestine Prophecy is also one of the most badly written books I've ever read, so I couldn't take it completely seriously. Yet, some of the most intelligent people I know have eaten it up, and I don't know what to make of that.
For those heartfelt idealists who really want to believe in the potential of all humanity, but feel the pull to...get in touch with their tendencies towards elitism…I suggest you go hang out at the State Fair. Even better, try to pursue your dream at the State Fair, and you'll get in touch real fast with your inner snob. Anybody who has ever spent any time in any customer service job knows just how awful, stupid, and downright annoying people can be.
And at the Alaska State Fair, as I was commiserating with Denise, the lovely woman who let me set up a table on her "porch" free of charge, about the oblivious rudeness of those who come into her booth, I was struck by all the people. Swarms of people streaming by me with their hair spray-painted in rainbow colors, outlandish designs that will take the better part of the night and next day to wash out, designs painted on their faces, in tight hip-slung jeans in varying stages of fat and thin, with quite a few Mabelline cosmetics covering teenage faces that don't need make-up, and the scruffy teenage boys in their shapeless clothes. Not to mention tourists with their sparkling white, comfortable, "walking shoes" and their name tags. This sea of humanity walking back and forth was striking in their ordinariness, and there were so many of them. It occurred to me how few of these people really seemed interesting or vivid. Denise agreed and remarked that she was shocked that so many young women looked tired to her, and even more haggard than she was in her early fifties.
"When I was young, I was young," she said. "These girls I know are young, but they already seem old."
On a positive note, a beautiful mother/daughter duo got my attention as they approached Denise's booth. I noticed them immediately because they had the same eyes - large and almond shaped, slightly Asian, and bright green. The mother was in her mid forties with her hair short and her clothes practical; she wasn't trying to impress anybody. Her daughter had her long hair in a ponytail, no make-up. She was about fifteen and absolutely beautiful in an effortless, natural way and her manners matched her looks. They spent quite a bit of time in Denise's shop and made her day, not only because they spent some money, but because they looked over her products with appreciation. They stopped at my table for a minute. They didn’t buy anything but I didn’t care. They were not only pleasant and respectful, they were very present.
If I had to pick shoo-ins to the Critical Mass of those who are truly alive, I’d definitely choose these two.
These ladies were a vast improvement over the stout dowager clad in a pink sweat suit with a goofy cartoon character on the front. She announced that she didn't read fiction, only the Bible; and she certainly didn't read fairy tales since she was a Christian.
"But I have many friends who do and I don't hold it against them," she puffed up. "And I don't hold it against you for writing them."
I'm sure she felt the greatness of her spirit as she told me that and reveled in the righteousness of the narrow world of those who do not think. Perhaps she's an eager participant in book burning parties.
Shortly after that exchange, I found myself thinking of the Critical Mass and wondering if maybe there wasn't something to it.
I'm sure this lady was certain that she was part of the Critical Mass of those who had been saved by Jesus. She certainly believes she's right and maybe she is...Who am I to say otherwise? Maybe we all are supposed to be mindless dogma junkies who live by a checklist of good behavior and see the Devil in fairy tales. Perhaps they really are the saved. Who knows?
If they are though, I will gladly go to Hell. Who wants to hang out with people like that for all eternity?
So, who are those who make up the Critical Mass?
Call me selfish, call me vain…but in my world, the Critical Mass are those people who say:
"Oh! I would love to buy your book because I believe in supporting local artists."
This is from a journal I took of a DIY booktour/roadtrip I did in 2005/2006. You can find the previous entry here.
In 2005, I was extremely blessed to receive a grant from the Rasmussen Foundation in Anchorage, Alaska to self-publish a collection of original fairy tales and hit the road, telling stories and selling a book out of the back of my truck. I was on the road for a year. It was one of the greatest adventures of my life. I kept an email journal that I sent out to my friends, which eventually became a blog due to one of my friends being into it on Juneaumusic.com. I don't know if that site is still up, but if it is, my blog is not there. And self-publishing has changed a lot since then. We rely far more on the internet and more people are doing what I did now. Whereas no other writers were then. Anyway, it seems fitting as adventures in self-publishing continue to resurrect those stories from that time. It is a huge regret of my life that I did not get any pictures of me in my beloved Beast from that time. But above is a picture that looks a lot like the old rig that I traveled in. Enjoy!
Ode to the Brown Beast
King of Resilience
(At least, I hope so)
Cursed be the blockhead that twisted the oil cap too
The Brown Beast lost precious blood on the first run
of his long journey.
Clanking its death rattle into Tok, Alaska,
the rider of the Brown Beast was alarmed to
receive the news from a twelve year old with braces
that the Brown Beast would be lucky to make it to
The Brown Beast would need bypass surgery, if not a
"It's got an old heart, and old hearts get tired,"
said the shaman grandfather of the boy.
The boy offered to buy the Brown Beast, if the rider
cared to sell...
No, the rider most certainly did not.
The Brown Beast rattled and rolled its way out of Tok,
determined to make its way to the City of Muck.
The death rattles wound down to an occasional clank on
slowing to a walk and stop, and the rider was
reassured. Sort of.
The Brown Beast made its way to the city, coming to
life when called upon to do its duty.
But the need for a doctor is imminent, if not
Will the Brown Beast ride again, valiantly to the end
of the road, holding out for the Carnival?
Or is it a terminal case?
Either way it sucks that my emergency fund is needed,
At least I had a place to crash...