It was only two hours to Cheyenne, Wyoming – a drive I’ve made before. The first time was just over twenty years ago when I interviewed for a reporting job at a local TV station. I suppose it’s for the best that I never got that job, or I wouldn’t have become a reporter in Alaska. And if I hadn’t gone to Alaska, I wouldn’t have written a memoir about my life in Alaska (and my trek around the world). I passed through Cheyenne again seven years ago, on my way to Thompson Falls, Montana. I spent a month there, cleaning out my deceased grandmother-in-law’s house, and working on my memoir.
Cheyenne was the first stop on my four-week book tour for They Only Eat Their Husbands: A Memoir of Alaskan Love, World Travel and the Power of Running Away.
So, here I was again on a straight stretch of I-25, Rocky Mountains to the left, Great Plains to the right, cringing as my car threatened to rattle itself to pieces at “Speed Limit 75,” actual speed slightly more. Why? To reach the first stop on my four-week book tour for They Only Eat Their Husbands: A Memoir of Alaskan Love, World Travel and the Power of Running Away.
I never did have time to pour a bowl of cereal before I left. So I thought, if I hit Fort Collins by 12:30, I’ll pull into a Starbucks for a pastry to end this clenching emptiness in my stomach. I forgot that Fort Collins really isn’t near the freeway. If there was a caffeinated lady in a green circle nearby, I missed her. I reached Cheyenne at 1:00, no time to dally. But there was a Taco John’s across the street from the Laramie County Library, and my stomach insisted. Who ever thought of putting Velveeta-style cheese and breaded chicken into a burrito? It was disgusting yet liberating to eat all that decadent fast-food fat right before presenting a book about exotic worldwide adventure. I stuffed half in my mouth, then drove across the street to the library.
As I struggled to carry a box of books, a laptop, and a camera inside, a little girl complimented my earrings, then tilted one of her own ears toward me and asked, “How do you like mine?”
“They look like real diamonds,” I said.
“I just got them pierced.”
“I remember when I got mine pierced,” I said.
Did I have time for this conversation? “When I was 12.”
“Cara?” Another sweet young voice chimed in. But she was an adult: Laurel, the library’s smiling, cherubic adult programming specialist. I set my box of books down, shook her hand, then picked the box back up… hoping I didn’t pull a muscle. Twenty books get heavy quickly – maybe I should have cut another chapter.
We still had plenty of time to set up my slide show, a book display, and a wireless mic. After 10 people arrived, Laurel said, “Shall we start?” I looked at the small group, reached under my shirt and pulled off the unnecessary mic. I determined to get excited about the small turnout on a sunny Sunday. Intimacy is fun, if not lucrative. After a few minutes, we were all laughing. Not until I finished reading did I realize that my selections seemed to share a theme of sex-sex-sex. Funny, I’d chosen them because I was trying to avoid selections with too many swear words. Hmmm, this all makes my book sound racier than it is.
My selections seemed to share a theme of sex-sex-sex. Funny, I’d chosen them because I was trying to avoid selections with too many swear words.
For a moment I worried I might have offended the older set, but they bought books. Hey, we’re all moving the same direction on life’s timeline. I like to think open minds remain open throughout a lifetime.
Afterward, my open mind and I got in a car behind Laurel’s boyfriend, Colin, and followed him to the cute house they share with a roommate. This is where I’m surfing my first couch of the tour.
This is where I’m surfing my first couch of the tour.
The positive promise of couch-surfing has come true so far: these were interesting people I’d never encounter otherwise. Laurel is a professional comic book artist who has just published her first book, Olive Peril, and Colin is a novelist who has just finished his first draft of a novel that combines fantastic realism and horror with social commentary. Their downstairs game room is full of paraphernalia related to The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia. Dragons, swords, models, role-playing books. A world I only enter when I read, and have never tried to bring into my real life. Ah, escape. I really have left home.
Laurel is a professional comic book artist who has just published her first book, Olive Peril.
Today, I’ll drive seven hours to Lovell, Montana, near Billings, where my only task is to rest – at a hostel, this time. Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 22, I’ll speak at the Parmly Billings Library at 7:00 p.m. I wonder what that evening will bring?