postcard, multnomah falls

On September 13, I head to Portland, Oregon. Lewis and Clark country. Six events. Three days. Plus a day to mimic their footsteps. Explore a new-to-me site or two.

Travel looks glamorous.

It isn’t.

Yes, I love meeting current fans and making new ones. Yes, I adore adding destinations and making memories. Yes, I’m grateful anyone shows up for anything I do.

But I miss MTM.

A bone-crunching, heart-stopping ache.

Yes, I plow through everything and make it look fetching, but I do it while craving my soul.

I’m lucky he supports my crazy dream. Even when I wonder how anyone makes money writing books. Especially when I get another snarky review and cry for an hour or several. He keeps saying I believe when I walk through the valley of author atheism, a place bereft of belief in myself.

So many of you bolster me in ways you don’t know. You cheer and critique; you check on me and say exactly what I needed more often than you realize. In my loneliest moments on the road, when I struggle to keep up with myself and my stuff while being ‘on’ 24/7, you reach out and send me thoughtful messages, funny pictures and tender texts.

It’s my turn to give back to you.

If you’d like to receive a Lewis and Clark postcard from my trip to Portland, please leave a comment today. I’ll reach out to you by e-mail if I don’t have your mailing address. I’d love to spend part of a day at a picnic table, staring at the river Lewis loved to hate, breathing a few expedition molecules and penning notes to you.

 

turbulence

If you’ve been following my online life, you know I’m the walking definition of a glamorous existence. Relaxing by the pool. Hobnobbing in casinos. Hiking new (to me) trails. Jetting to Europe. Scouring old palaces. Cementing friendships.

FACT: Most people only share the
“Don’t You Wish You Were Me”
bits of life on social media.

ALSO FACT: I’m like most people.

I dragged my glasses from my tuckered face near midnight on my second day in Kansas City, never realizing glasses could pop in two. I held one lens in each hand, thinking No worries. I’ll get MTM to overnight me a spare pair.

Because I’m a champ.

The next morning, I popped contacts into bloodshot eyes and flogged books at the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation Convention. The day before, I sold almost thirty books. I schmoozed and small talked and listened and elevator pitched and bonded and begged and guilted everyone who came near me.

My glasses must’ve been my good luck charm.

The last day, browsers must’ve read panic behind my mask of confidence. Nothing I tried moved my sales beyond five books. Not buttering up William Clark’s several-greats grandson and his impressive mustache. Not offering buy-one, get-one-free. Not telling my sob story about the US Postal Service losing my spare pair of glasses, leaving me on my way to England with two contacts as my only eyes.

I was upstaged by another author,
but that’s another post for a different day.

As I taxied to the airport, I realized another sickening fact: I couldn’t see much with my right eye.

But I’m a champ, right?

With shaking hands, I tried every configuration of tape to coax my glasses together, but alas, even mummification-by-tape wouldn’t fix them. And sight continued to diminish in my right eye, another flare-up of the parasite that plagues me.

What do champs do when they break their glasses
and can’t see out of one eye?

They go to the bar, knock back two gin-and-tonics and board their scheduled flight to London, sure they will awaken on the other side of the pond to nothing more than an en route nightmare.

But when I landed, I had a hangover to match my blind right eye and still-broken glasses. My dear English hostess Kate Shrewsday met me. She called pharmacies, asked about doctors’ appointments  and even let me sleep late, while she found the perfect super glue for my glasses. I sat under the skylight in my attic haven, ready to cement my way to Ms. Fix-It glory.

Super glue spewed from the bottle
like pea soup crossed with The Exorcist.

In less than two seconds, it coated one lens and stuck my fingers to the frame. Champ-like, I vaulted to the bathroom, groped for scalding water and dislodged my digits whilst tearing away chunks of skin. At least, I think that’s what happened. I really couldn’t see much.

I groped my way downstairs and collapsed at the kitchen table. Bits of glue clung to bloody fingers, and my lens was caked with layers of dried cement. Another call to the optometrist revealed a week wait for new glasses.

Defeated. Pulverized. Drowned. Annihilated. Washed out. Hosed. I flew to England to record Not Without My Father for audio with a professional (Kate), but I was ready to cancel my trip and fly home.

Sometimes friends are the champs.

Kate brewed a cup of perfect tea. The perfect proportion of milk. And the perfect response: I’m calling my dad. He’ll know what to do.

The next morning, I came downstairs to functional glasses. My right eye recovered somewhat from its parasitic tantrum. I started working to master the vocal moves necessary to wow the audiobook aficionado.

My travels are seldom glamorous, Dear Reader. But on my last trip, I learned how to navigate life’s turbulence like a champ: Call Kate Shrewsday’s dad. He can work miracles with anything.

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grand stair at hampton court palace*****Photo: The Grand Staircase at Hampton Court Palace

ground

A backdraft smacks him in the face when they open the door of the plane. Concentrated heat melts into him, causing his skin to crackle. He can hear it burn as he trudges along the jetway. By the time he makes it to his rented car, he is sweating, but before he can wipe his brow with the back of his hand, the welcome sensation of dewey wetness evaporates into the parched air.

He didn’t want to be here. In Arizona. The desert. At least, he’s come to say goodbye, if one can ever say goodbye to a person whose death won’t kill him. Parents, they live on within the landscape of our selves, even when they aren’t welcome there.

He surveys the terrain zipping past his windows. It matches his disrupted mood. The ground bakes under the relentless sun. Driving through the country is like visiting another planet. Strangled brush makes an otherworldy carpet on the dusty ground. Giant spines of cacti – would they become trees if it rained enough? Forests of them dot the rolling hillsides as far as he can see.

Water. He stops to buy a bottle. The hard ground scatters bowls of dust in the wake of his footsteps, the remnants of the runoff of the river of time. When he pours some water on it, the soil contracts like constricting pores, refusing to take the wetness in.

He stares, knows he’s stalling, delaying the inevitable, the possible rekindling of something within the core of his combusted soul. When he sees his father, he feels like the rocky, starved soil surrounding him. It’s mesmerizing. It goes on for miles.

Yet, there’s nothing there.

Connections can wither without a healthy dose of water, the proper amount of light and shade. Even predictable storms erode layers of feeling if they do nothing to relieve the harm of the aftermath they cause.

His father is dying in the desert. This wasted land will be a fitting place to say farewell to the man who withheld his care in a lifetime without rain.