Last Monday, I found myself on Highway 55 headed to Garden Valley, Idaho. The 50 mile drive is scenic and stirred memories from many glorious summers in McCall. A friend of a friend invited me into her home to share my story with the local book club. The weather was in the mid 60’s and I stopped to admire and photograph the ferocious rapids on the Payettte River. The astounding log cabin is nestled between pines spreading across 7 acres on the banks of the scenic river. An aging Golden Retriever, Zoe, anxiously collected pets on arrival. About 20 people showed up to enjoy immaculate hors d’oeuvres, wine, and my presentation. 20 years ago, I bought two large willow chairs that sit in my living room. I met their maker at Kim’s home. As a result of this journey, I will be joining Kim on a 19 day trek through the Bhutanese Himalayas in October.
I woke up early and energized on Tuesday to get ready for a flight to Denver. A Colorado librarian heard me speak on a radio program and invited me to present at several branches. The exit row gave me me some additional room on the cramped Canadair Regional Jet. My next door neighbor did not appreciate the extra space and began an unsolicited tirade about the cramped quarters, her distaste for United Airlines, and the cool temps. My attempts to focus on the brighter side of the day fell flat. Earbuds and fake sleep turned the potential infection into a luxurious and private flight.
While disembarking the plane, I ran into a childhood friend. His father is a local psychiatrist and has treated about 110% of my family. The history is rich. I offered to chauffeur him to his downtown hotel. Avis was out of my reserved car type and upgraded me about six levels to a luxurious Suburban. My friend has morphed into an executive with AAPR and they have a program to promote people like me to their members. We are having sushi this week to create an action plan. On this good karma day, the Holiday Inn upgraded me to a suite.
Over 100 people showed up at The Bemis Public Library to hear my presentation. It was a pleasure to finally meet the woman that arranged the initial invitation. After the lecture, I laughed as my space age GPS phone gave me voice directions to turn left on Jackass Hill and then right at Southpark. Was Cartman pulling a prank?
My venue for Wednesday was the very progressive Anythink Library in Thornton. The logo is a spaghetti doodle. Their literature suggests that the most humble ideas often begin as a doodle. Anythink means that you are allowed and encouraged to do anything. They trashed the Dewey Decimal System and librarians have been re-branded as guides. I have never seen such a unique learning center. Katharine was my contact and it was love at first sight. I began to tell her that I would like to share the Anythink story with my library friend in San Diego named Jose. Without hesitation, she said, “You mean Mr. Aponte. He is my dancing partner from the past.”
Thursday began at the local 24-Hour Fitness. I was on the elliptical and noticed an older man on a treadmill and wearing a backpack. I was drawn to him and felt a need to stop my exercise and talk to him. This guy was at my presentation in Bemis (about 20 miles away from this gym) and is now considering a walk on the Camino. He said, “When you told us about meeting an 82 year old man, I thought about giving it a try myself. Just here to see how far I can walk with some weight on my back.” My smile stretched ear to ear.
On the way back to my hotel, I found myself on a street named Columbine. I pulled over and tapped the voice activated GPS icon and said, “Columbine High School.” It took me four eerie minutes to arrive at the school. The upscale neighborhood seemed so normal. It is hard to imagine that in 1999, two children approached this same school with such malicious and evil intent.
My first presentation of the day was at Arapahoe Community College. My name was literally in neon lights flashing across the giant reader board at the parking lot entrance. I had to stop and snap a photo. I don’t spend much time around the college crowd and felt uplifted to be surrounded by the future of America. There is a freshness associated with minds not burdened by years of life. I was chatting with one of the attendees and quickly recognized her friend. It was a lady that came to my gig at the Bemis library. I was humbled to have my first official groupie.
100 miles down the road took me to the first of three exits for Fort Morgan, Colorado. I saw a freeway advertisment for one of my favorite childhood fast food restaurants. I thought is was out of business. I rarely eat that food, but Taco Johns brought back many fond high-school memories of bong hits and taco bravos. I devoured two of them. Around 5:00 PM, I departed the Comfort Inn parking lot in search of the local library. Lannie greeted me at the front door and could not have been nicer. I spoke to a group of about 60 people. At the end, I cut the price of my books in half and begged them to dig deep because I could not take the remaining book inventory on the plane. I also told them that the unsold books would be donated to the community. They put a pretty good dent in my stack but left me with about 20 extras. The “Friends of the Library” paid my expenses for this trip and were very gracious. They would not accept the donation and agreed to sell them and send me the money. There are some really great people on this planet.
While typing this blog, my phone rang and the called ID flashed a Pennsylvania number. A 65 year old stranger had read my book and called to tell me that his flight departs in a week. He has never been out of the country.
Life could not be better.