13 stores in 15 days

Lost Sex, Huckleberries, and Heavily Caffeinated Beverages: The Putting Your Passion Into Print 2001 Northwest Odyssey

13 events in 15 days. Here we go. Berkeley Barnes & Noble, we kick off on a lovely sun-drenched Saturday afternoon, followed by a manic 14 hour, 850 mile road race up the 5 in our Rav 4 to Eagle Harbor Bookstore on Bainbridge Island, north of Seattle, where a the drenching turns from sun to rain, a fine mist hanging thick amidst the autumn ruby reds, canary yellows, orange oranges, and of course, the emerald green, green, everywhere green.

We were greeted with a glow of warmth by Mary Gleystein, who immediately made us a cup of tea. Never underestimate the power of a cup of tea after a 14 hour, 850 mile road race up the 5. By the time we started our event, the place was packed, every seat taken, and excitement buzzed in the damp Northwestern air. When we were done, the applause seemed enthusiastic. Either that or they were very nice and really good at faking it. Then there were, as there always are, lots and lots of questions. One guy said, “I have a stupid question.” David said, “There are no stupid questions.” He said, “You haven’t heard my question yet.” He got a big laugh. Turns out it wasn’t a stupid question at all. It was a smart question. In fact these people asked lots of smart questions. They brought up stuff we hadn’t thought of. Stuff we later included our event. Then we signed lots of Satchel Sez: The Wit Wisdom and World of Leroy Satchel Paige-s and Pride & Promiscuity: The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austin –s. People thanked us profusely, chatted nicely, and bought books. In short, it was a real gas.

Next Stop: Port Townsend, Washington, where we were wined and dined on garlic chicken and blackberry pie you could plotz dead away from, treated like royalty by the lovely and talented Gillards, parents of Jessica (more on her later). And O my, it was so spectacular there, big huge trees, glorious vistas of Pacific Ocean blue, Monet painting fall colors, surrounded by more green than you’ve ever seen. Arielle immediately wanted to move there. So David, a veteran of the Pacific Northwest who wants no part of living there ever again, craftily took her out golfing the next day and by the time they were done with nine, they were a couple of drowned rats pouring rain out of their shoes. So much for moving to the Pacific Northwest.

Next Stop: Vancouver, Washington, just over the river from Portland, 200 miles later. By the time we started our event, Rebecca at the Barnes & Noble was scouring the place frantically for more chairs, cuz there were already fifty of them filled, and people were still showing up. The highlight of this event was during the Q&A when a tall thin handsome fellow stood, and in a thick German accent, and said, “I am very nice to work vith, unt full of joy, unt I vant to know if Arielle vill be mine agent.” Brought the house down. Again we signed many books, again we were thanked profusely, and again we had a solid solid gas.

Next Stop: Bend, Oregon, 150 miles south of Portland. 6:30 AM, Kristy Miller, perky hostess of “Good Morning Central Oregon”, welcomes us on-air, and interviews us for 7 minutes. She was charming and sweet and we were thrilled and honored to be in all seven homes in Central Oregon who were watching the show that morning.

Next Stop: Bellevue, just outside Seattle, 350 miles later, and 12 hours later, Alison at Barnes & Noble gets David a heavily caffeinated beverage. At that night’s event, a woman told a story about an industrious young man who wanted to get hired by a captain of industry. This industrious young man found out that the captain of industry loved pizza with pineapple, Canadian bacon, and triple cheese. Well, the industrious young man had a pineapple, Canadian bacon and triple cheese pizza from the finest pizzeria in town delivered to the captain of industry. He taped his query letter and resume to the inside of the pizza box, so when the captain of industry opened it, he was staring right at it. The industrious young man was hired that very day. We will subsequently tell this story at every subsequent event.

Next Stop: Downtown Seattle, Northwest Book Fest. For an hour and a half we pressed flesh, made introductions, pitched our books, and met a big bunch of Northwest book buyers.

Next Stop: Paulina Springs, Sisters, Oregon, just west of Bend, 5 hours of hard driving and 350 miles later. By now we had memorized every inch of road between Seattle and Central Oregon. Luckily it’s beautiful country to memorize. Driving south from Portland to Bend, with Mt. Hood posing like a picture postcard through the windshield, and beauty growing thick all around us, we were intoxicated again and again by the gorgeousity of it all.

911 said the sign at the edge of town as we pulled into town. We weren’t sure if that was the population, or a cry for help. This was the only store where we were doing an event solely based around Satchel Sez. This was at the insistence of Kate Cerino, who greeted us as we walked into the store at 4:40 for our 5:00 event. Apart from Kate, none of the 911 Sisterites were there. Our expectations, extremely low to begin with, plummeted as we spied the 30 empty seats sadly facing one lone chair, which was staring off self-consciously.

As we strolled around Sisters, we noticed that all the shops were closed, and no one was around. It was like a Twilight Zone episode. We began to wonder if there really were 911 people in Sisters, or if we were going to be abducted by author-starved aliens who would make us write books day and night for the rest of eternity.

Well, imagine our surprise at 5:00 when we returned to find Paulina Springs Bookstore packed with 35 of its 911 occupants. 3% of the population. If this was LA there would’ve been 300,000 people there. Our jaws hit the floor. Those melancholy chairs were now full and happy, brimming with Sisters bottoms, all waiting for us to say something intelligent, insightful and witty about Satchel Paige.

I scanned the crowd, and it suddenly hit me: there were only two people under the age of sixty in the audience. Talk about your target audience. Afterwards, the crowd shared their own Satchel Paige stories. It was America at its best, oral history flying all around us, right there in Paulina Springs Bookstore, Sisters, Oregon, population 911. Turns out almost everyone there had seen Satchel pitch, which is not as strange as it might seem, since he barnstormed North America from Moosejaw to Miami.

Towards the end of the event the Oldest-Man-in-the-Room raised his hand. In a voice weathered with age but still going gangbusters, he said, “I was the batboy on Satchel Paige’s team. My uncle was his manager. I used to ride in his car with him. He was fast. He would have made a great race car driver, Ol’ Satch.” He stole the whole show in about twenty seconds.

After the event, the Oldest-Man-In-the-Room approached David. He had several hundred thousand miles on him, but his smile was wide, his mind was tack-sharp, and he had incredible posture. Made us stop slouching just looking at him. He thanked us for writing the book. Then he told David that he had one of Satchel’s old gloves. David said he would love to buy it from him. The man said, “No, sir, I want you to have it. Give me your address and I’ll mail it to you.” David insisted on paying for it, but the old man wouldn’t hear of it. He gave David his pen, and David wrote down the address. The Oldest-Main-in-the-Room carefully folded the paper and put it in his pocket. Then he stuck out his hand and David took it. It was old and thin, but the grip was strong, with a nice pump at the end. “I hope I’m shaking hands as well as that when I’m 80,” thought David. After he and the Oldest-Main-in-the-Room said their heartfelt farewells, David was distracted by someone asking him to sign a book, and this led to another signature, then another. As David signed the books, he was so happy that the buyers asked him to make the inscriptions out to their grand-sons and grand-daughters. Then it hit him: this is why he wanted to write the book in the first place, so the next generation would know about Satchel and his 6 Rules for Staying Young. As David signed, he felt a tug on my sleeve. It was the Oldest-Main-in-the-Room. David smiled to myself. He figured the old man probably forgot something. “Sonny, you got my pen.” David cracked up, handed him the pen, and smiled as he watched the Oldest-Main-in-the-Room walk away slow but steady, overjoyed at 44 to be called Sonny.

We thanked Kate, she thanked us, then we all patted each other on the back for quite some time. We promised her we’d be back when David’s memoir Chicken comes out in February, and she said she was looking forward to it.

We sold more books at this event than at any other. And had the most solid of gases. Again proving: You just never know.

Next Stop: Bend, Oregon. David had another highly caffeinated beverage. The highlight of this event was meeting a children’s author who lives off the grid with her husband and her animals, and sometimes gets snowed in for two months in the winter. She was so cool.

Next Stop: Kah Nee Tah Indian Reservation, 75 miles north, home of Warm Springs Tribe, in the High Desert country, eating huckleberry pancakes with huckleberry sause and huckleberries with huckleberry cream looking out over ancient red clay and wild horses that sniff at the laughing wind and the crying sky.

Next Stop: Portland, Oregon, 75 miles north, Reed College, David’s alma mater, where our lovely and talented intern Jessica (who is a current Reedy) sent up a smashing event. Again, by the time we started, the chairs were all full, and students had to sit on the floor. And they just kept coming. About twenty minutes in David felt someone behind him, and there were 3 students sitting there. David was shocked at the turn-out on a Tuesday night. “I woulda never gone to something like this when I was at Reed, I was way too busy hanging out.”

Next Stops: Seattle University Village Barnes & Noble on Friday, 200 miles later, Portland’s Annie Blooms on Saturday, 200 miles later, Seattle’s Elliot Bay on Sunday, 200 miles later, and finally Beaverton’s Border’s, 200 miles later.

As we motored home, we were tired, but it was that good kind of tired. We felt like we did something really hard, but we did it as best we could, and we learned so much about books, ourselves, and life. We loved seeing the country, meeting the people, hanging out with David’s mom and sister, watching their friend Margit dance, feeling the magic, and falling ever-deeper in love. And it was glorious pulling up our driveway, 4,000 miles later, so nice to be home sweet home.

Plus we wrote our next book. It’s called Putting Your Passion Into Print.

State of Satchel: 11/1/01
We’ve just returned from our Northwest 2001 Tour, so we thought we’d take this moment to review what we’ve achieved so far, and what we plan for the future.

Book store Events
Barnes & Noble Colma: South San Francisco
Next Chapter Books: Davis, California
B & N: Fremont, Ca
B & N: Walnut Creek, Ca
SF Public Library:
With a Clean Well Lighted Place for Books, and
The Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Foundation)
B & N: Berkeley
Eagle Harbor Books: Bainbridge Island, Washington
B & N: Vancouver, Washington
B & N: Bellevue, Washington
Paulina Springs: Sisters, Oregon
B & N: Bend, Oregon
Reed College: Portland, Oregon
B & N: University of Washington Village, Seattle, Washington
Annie Bloom’s: Portland, Oregon
Elliot Bay Books: Seattle, Washington
Borders: Beaverton, Oregon
Borders: San Rafael
 

 

About David Sterry

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, book editor, activist, and book doctor. His first memoir, Chicken, was an international bestseller, and has been translated into 10 languages. “As laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing, what more could you ask for?” – The Irish Times.
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