Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chapter 8

I was walking around a field looking at old cars from an auction that had ended yesterday, when I was introduced to a guy in a golf cart who was recently released from prison for murder. Turns out he shot a Native to death after a fight outside of a bar.
"I was minding my own business, drinking with some friends, and this big fuckin' Indian, 38 years old, sits down and says to me, 'I want to be your friend,' you know, trying to work me for a goddamn drink. So I tell him, I got enough friends, and that starts it, and he gets thrown out."

I look around me at the cars and the sky. The grass here is deep green and the sky has remained light blue since I crossed the border. He rests his hand upon the top of the cart and shifts in his seat,
"The guy comes up behind me outside and hits me in the back so hard that it separates my ribs. I got into the car, grabbed my 22 and turned around firing."

He goes on about the details of the murder, the coroner report, the trial and the 12 years he did for the shooting. I was called away to check out an old Lincoln with suicide doors. The golf cart guy yelled to me and I looked back at him and he said, "I'd have shot him if he'd have been white, too."

I walked over and looked at the car. It was old and mean and expensive. The main street was windy and I watched some loose gravel pelt my van from the passing of two farmers on a tractor.

I got in the van and slammed the rest of my water, drove to a cafe and read for a while. My friend Todd Kimball called me up to ask me about my trip, and to tell me that he just ordered some books from the site store. I asked him how is own company was doing. I told him about some of the trip so far and we hung up, and I sat there and stared at three of the seven churches in a town of three hundred. There is something so untouched and clean about some of these small towns, regardless of what you run across. I have spent a lot of time here driving the back roads and routes and fields of the plains. The small bars and the people and the feel of family here are lost in a city life, but that's also what I like about the city. Everything gets old or routine given enough time. For now the tin sheds and the fields of cropped industry mixed with the sunsets and calm summer creeks are important to me. The cities are there but harder to get away from than where I am at this moment, which sharpens the landscape to a polarized dream of sorts.

I let the dogs run for while and threw the frisbee for Meg. Chico has yet to learn the art of returning what he fetches, but I like that about him. I like that he's different from his sister. Dogs are small mirrors of the humans they run with and sleep next to.

One of the best feelings as a writer, for me, is when the library carries your book. In Beresford, SD, the library there took copies of Meat Won't Pay My Light Bill and March of Time and Skin.
I've been spending a lot of time on this tour talking to people and watching them drink and smoke. I spend time in small bars or in large, open fields taking photos. I like the history of places, the feeling of old air and dead things watching me. It's surreal and free and haunting. The American road remains strong and without too many wounds from the changing of us. I would say that everyone should drive coast to coast once a year. It would cut down on a lot of brutality.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Chapter 7

I found myself in downtown Sioux Falls at some traveling beer festival after midnight. Mini Kiss
played the headline. I've never been a huge Kiss fan. I tried to get into them when all of my friends were but I couldn't. Not saying here that a couple of their songs haven't been emblazoned across my memory. They have. But to be able to meet this band of midgets or little people or whatever the hell their handle is today, was one of my best times on this book tour. Turned out Joey Fatale, the band's creator and lead, is a writer himself. Gave him my email. I have to read this guy's shit. I really do. Here he's holding a copy of March of Time and Skin that I gave him in trade for their set, which was hypnotizing. If you get a chance to catch them, then catch them.

I sat in a jazz club and had a drink before driving onward. Heading to a small town about 40 miles south. The moon is low and blood orange over the cornfields and plains to the west of 29 south. Sioux Falls Rock City...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chapter 6

When you drive into Montana from the west, you pass some trees then a center opens into a vastness and depth that can't be captured with a small, digital camera. Words like boundless and god come to mind. Words like blue and clean and reset. I've spent a great many years driving and working labor across the states, but I've never driven east through Montana in the daylight. For the first time in what has to be a decade I feel almost great.

Meg and Chico sit up and stare over the cliffs and valleys. I drive and sip my coffee, turn the music off and watch what's around me. The sky is blue and it fades into cobalt blue, and then it fades into a concave canvas. I reach over and rest a hand on Chico's head. He sniffs at the air coming in from the outside through the vent as Meg jumps to the floor. It occurs to me that I will be 39 this year. It occurs to me that I haven't been married or had children, or even been engaged. It occurs to me that I might just close the shop alone, which is fine. I mean, if the past is any reflection of the future, then I'm better off that way. I don't know how to put my finger on the pulse of what I want to do. I only know I want to write books and keep pushing, keep myself young and without the ugliness of being under any type of control.

Chapter 5

I found an exit close to the rest area and pulled off for coffee. The lady behind the counter was wrinkled and bitter, and the coffee was weak and tasteless. I asked her if she read. She actually grunted and said, "Nope." I trashed the coffee and drove a ways up to Poor Henry's. The clouds had burned off in the center and it was hot. I tied the dogs outside and ordered a burger and a coke. Walking out to the van to get my phone charger, I saw a billboard up the access road, and I stepped back and shot it.

Inside I asked the bartender about the sign.
"It's a big deal here," he said, "Never had balls before?"
"No. What do they taste like?"
He stared off for a second, trying to add a name to the taste and texture of balls in his mouth.
"They taste like gizzards? You had gizzards before?"
"Just like that."
"Or Rocky Mountain Oysters," I heard. I looked across the bar to a guy in an orange shirt and a white beard. "They call them Rocky Mountain Oysters," he said again. Then the bartender, Todd, nodded, "Gizzards, dude. They taste just like gizzards." A guy and his wife had been sitting there, and I sold them books. The orange shirt and white beard started talking to me about his own business, homemade relish made from zucchini squash. Willie. Willie's Gourmet Relish. I shot him and a jar. It looked good. In case you want to order a jar for yourself, I promised Willie I'd include his number here. 406-258-5139.

An interesting part of this tour is that there are writers everywhere. Todd ended up buying two books from me, and he tapped the cover of mine and said, "This is what I want to do for a living. I mean, I own the bar and all, but I want to write, man."

Moments define existence. I'm full with one of the best fucking hamburgers I've ever had and I'm high on fatigue from sleeping in a ball in the back seat. I feel a bead of sweat run down the back of my neck. I want to order a beer, but I have to keep driving east. I finished my coke and paid up, unleashed the dogs and headed past the testicle sign. Poor Henry's is alright.

Chapter 4

I woke up to the sound of air brakes and Chico growling at a guy who was talking to him through the window. Meg has learned the road and people at this point, so she and I watched Chico bare his teeth at this jackass while he tried to offer his hand. I sat up and cracked my neck, and asked the guy to leave, to which he said,
"Just trying to pet your dog. His eyes are beautiful!"
"You're still here," I said. He mumbled something under his breath and walked off. I walked into the welcome center and waited on the bathroom. A really fucking creepy looking kid walked out. I started to walk in the bathroom, but the toilet seat was lined with paper, and it smelled like black death. I saw a soccer mom walk out of the women's room so I went in and locked the door, pissed, brushed my teeth and wiped my hair back with hot water. Walking back to the van I shot a photo of the tufts of clouds over the trees.

Chapter 3

I crossed the border into Washington on the 395, where I stopped at a coffee place in Kennewick, hoping to sell some books at random. I stood behind this old man while he talked to the counter girl for 10 literal minutes. I looked over my shoulder at my dogs in the van, and they watched me back, and I thought about how they saw everything, and it started to make sense to me to punch the old man in the back with all my strength, because he saw me in line and he knew he was being a pain in the ass. Just as I was about to exhale a Jesus Fucking Christ he walked away and I had lost the feeling of talking about myself or the books or any of it. The coffee turned out to be free because it was old. I loaded it with milk and sugar but ended up trashing it before I got off the sidewalk.

The drive through Spokane was mindless for the most part, because there was some scattered rain and the sun had fallen, and because I was thinking about a job I'd worked seven years back, building barns for horse shows along I5 from Monroe, Washington down to Burbank, but also along this same road to Spokane, where I had once met a girl in a thrift store and stayed with her at her place on Mission, a little house on the corner. Now she was in Hawaii and I was in my van. I thought about Hawaii and the time I met her. I was glad to be in the van hauling books and headed around the country. It made more sense this way, like it made more sense to blow through Idaho at night, where I broke the Montana border, found a rest area so the dogs could run and I could lay the blankets out across the back seat.

Chapter 2

I had a tongue jack fastened to the trailer and we drove 84 through the Columbia Gorge. The trailer is heavy with 2,000 books. I watched the gas gauge move physically. Up the mountain and around the water burned over a quarter tank.

In Boardman I was being followed into the gas station. I grabbed some water and some coffee. Outside a guy walked up to me and asked me if I had any books on me, drug deal style. What I had forgotten was my friend Crystal Shade had painted www.bookmeetsroad.com on the side of my trailer. This guy and his girlfriend had entered the site on their cell and followed me off the exit. I sold them a copy of each title. The best part was the wind, the constant wind of Boardman as we stood and talked about Book Meets Road. I was tired and the dogs were tired. But we left with 20 dollars more and a full tank.

I drove and thought about the couple who had bought the books. They were headed back to their place, they had a good day together in the sun and wind and they were most likely headed back to clean up, see a movie, eat something and maybe read a bit after sex or before, or whatever. But I am driving east with the river to my left and my mind on Montana. There are few things better in America than blasting through Montana at dawn. I'd never seen Montana in the daylight heading east. First there was 395 and the tri-cities, then Spokane, then the panhandle of Idaho, which I will blow through as fast as possible.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Chapter 1

On 82nd just after the tire shop I drove past an old lady holding up this sign. I parked the van and walked over, dropped to my knee and shot her. She said something about the vet not properly sedating her rabbit, which caused it to go into heart failure. Then she told the vet that she would stand out there every day for the next seven years, since it's the normal life span of a rabbit. I put my camera in my pocket,
"You're going to stand out here every day for seven years."
I walked to the van and continued the test drive. I had to turn it around so I could get the other side of the van and trailer aired up, and I got a crash course in reversing the trailer, which is heavy with 2,000 books. One is my novel, March of Time and Skin and the other is a novel by Kurt Eisenlohr, Meat Won't Pay My Light Bill, which was originally published by Future Tense Books in 2000, a small press run by small press savior Kevin Sampsell, a writer and long time Powell's Books events organizer, who is single-handedly responsible for most of the underground to small to pristine literary scene in Portland. Powell's, as well as a few other bookstores and readers who showed up to some of the best dives in town to meet Kurt and I at our signings were a huge help in getting the work out there as fast as it got out there.

But I had decided to do this tour because I can't afford professional advertising, and because I think the books are strong enough to put Rose City Publishers on the map permanently. I had also decided to do it because I missed the road. I missed the long drives and the feel of constant inspiration, good and bad. The miles laid to dust for years behind me now, the strange feeling of prison within the freedom of a big city. The failing jobs, the failed ventures and the inevitability of another job acted like a catapult. I loaded up the van, the trailer, my two dogs, my BMX bike and a few other necessities and I left. Those of you who have read March of Time and Skin have an idea about my relationship with the road and the work in involved, but also involved is the economy of motion and the poetry of motion. The idea here is to go place to place and sell the books, get another print run going for other titles, and sell those books, and to meet good writers who deserve some recognition.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Right here.

My friend Nicole Lane (www.nicolelane.com) set up the following promo note for me. I am dealing with some last minute details as far as getting ready for the road. Been thinking about it, this aimless drive with a purpose. It's been a long time since I've gone far and long on the road. Those of you who have read March of Time and Skin know about my relationship with asphalt and byways... Today I was cleaning paint off the garage floor, and I thought about pulling up to some mountainous rest stop somewhere in Montana, opening the back windows of the van and reading until I fell asleep, then waking up and driving. Coffee, air, clean opened road and sky, and maybe even a more opened mind. Been letting the bullshit of life and my own fucking expectations of myself eat at me. All these words and no way to let them out for the last long stretch of time, and also the 7 month fucking winter we dealt with here in Portland. The road is just sitting there, the bars, the independent book stores, coffee houses, not to mention the people in truck stops and gas stations and road side cafes. I need to sell books to survive, but mostly I need to be back out there to survive. I tried the stable life, I tried the lawn and the routine. I tried to make myself aspire to the typical goals that maybe should matter more to me. But I can't do it. I need the movement and sunlight and cities and mountains and also new, darkened corners to thrive on. I need to punch a hole and drive through it. I leave in a matter of one week. First Seattle, then where ever the hell.


One Man's Quest to put the Blue Collar back in Fiction

Portland, Oregon -- Prolific road writer and publisher Jeff Stewart sets off on a cross-country trek across the U.S. to hand-market books. In a van pulling a trailer full of novels, Stewart with his two dogs, a flatland BMX bike, a video camera and a laptop hit the road…until the trailer is empty.

This is far more than a run-of-the-mill book tour.

‘Book Meets Road’ blog. Stewart will keep a nightly blog about the trip including photos and videos of the project. His features will chronicle the towns, cities and venues he visits; tribute the characters he meets along the way; account on inspirations, interesting people and situations that cross his path. Eventually, this blog material will form a book about the trip, in a literary survivor manual and photo journalism format. Take the trip.

Off the Beaten Track. With much success reaching out to readers on their own turf, Stewart is setting up appearances in bars, coffee houses, indy bookstores, bike shops, skate parks and other unusual venues. Potential tour partners are bands, bloggers, BMX outfitters and bookstores.

This is crazy, but smart. Why do this? Ultimately, the most important reason is to get the work out to as many people as possible. This tour will promote and sell his publishing company Rose City Publisher’s books “March of Time and Skin” by Jeff Stewart and “Meat Won't Pay My Light Bill” by Kurt Eisenlohr. Stewart will introduce new readers to Rose City’s Publishers next releases: “Dead Birds Hot,” Stewart’s upcoming short story book; Jeff Wenker’s novel “Gone Postal,” a book about the decline of the Western States, set in present tense. Stewart is also looking to meet other writers and discovering new talent. He has no timeline except to sell the remaining print run -- approximately 2,000 books. Revenue generated from this enterprise will finance the print runs of forthcoming books.

His Story.
Stewart has been writing novels, short-stories and poetry for the past 20 years. Readers rave about his recently published novel “March of Time and Skin” as a “can’t-put-it-down,” raw and honest read. Stewart has been featured in media, read the Portland Mercury interview with Stewart. With Rose City Publishing, he participated in the internationally recognized Wordstock literary festival in 2008. Stewart was a featured writer in Smallpressapalooza 2009, presented by Powell’s Books and the Independent Publishing Resource Center.
Feeling the fire to publish, Stewart founded Time and Skin Media to publish his book in 2008 which has recently become Rose City Publishing. Stewart has written many un-published books, scores of poems and other writings, but hadn’t had the yearning to publish until now. A traveler at heart, Stewart has spent much of his life on the road and writing about it. He has an extensive history in BMX, including writing internationally for Ride UK BMX since 2001, plus his own 25 year history of flatland riding. Stewart is looking forward his next road adventures with his two dogs Meg and Chico...and writing about it.

Long-tail Ambition. Stewart wants to turn Rose City Publishers into a bigger publishing house. Using this flesh-to-flesh method, he hopes connect to readers and to discover new talent, paying them what their work is really worth. Stewart’s definitive goal is for Rose City Publishers to be the place artists want to be to get their work out there, and for loyal customers to await the next Rose City release, because of our content vein and high standards of quality. Eventually, Rose City Publishers will also be a multi-media venue, publishing short films and music videos.

…Sponsoring Book Meets Road…
Stewart is ultimately seeking 10k, in any increments.
Offering advertising space on the trailer and van, as well as blog credit,
Stewart is a mobile advertising opportunity.
This innovative, independent, physical hand-to-hand style marketing to target audiences will generate solid and loyal customers for everyone involved.
Anyone can be a sponsor.

The Books.

March of Time and Skin written by Jeff Stewart

An aggressive, blue collar road novel in which the young and scarred narrator takes us along on a cross-country hell ride. Grotesque and beautiful, savage and tender and relentlessly alive, March of Time and Skin is a punch in the gut that reads like an epic letter fueled by loss and the deep need to communicate. A new anthem for an unwound, unsound generation.

Meat Won't Pay My Light Bill written by Kurt Eisenlohr

...about a punk named Lupus Totten. Lupus, like the disease, yeh. A man bent on escaping the horrors, headaches and hemorrhoids of the work world. A man who would rather paint or stare into blue-black eternity than grovel at the feet of the clock eight hours a day. A man whose woman gives him the boot for just this reason. A man who then panics, takes two full-time jobs, gives up art for the 9 to 5 life, the 6 to 2 life, no life. And what occurs thereafter, the yawn and madness he encounters while trying to redeem himself in the eyes of Woman and World.

email: stewartlives@hotmail.com | site: http://bookmeetsroad.com/