Big Plans. Little Brain.
Sitting here in the lobby of the Hilton Garden Inn, Flagstaff, Arizona, with a couple of hours to kill before my train leaves, and finally I have the bandwidth to sit and blog a bit. I had grander aspirations of blogging my way through the book tour, but who did I think I was — Doris? I’m no diarist.
I did post a lot of snippets to Facebook, but those are int he moment. So here are some of the greatest hits of my book tour.
1) Meeting Facebook and Twitter and Compact and other email friends in real time — seeing their faces, getting to hug them and share a coffee or wine or beer or tasty snack with them. Finally, faces to the “voices” or words that I so often see. I loved that.
2) Doris on the road: People who had never heard of Doris have fallen in love. The highest percentage of any audience who had heard of Doris was about half. That means the other half walked away knowing about Doris. And sometimes no one knew who Doris was, and walked away loving her. Win-win!
3) Getting to track Doris in Portland. I saw the street she lived on, saw houses her father built, saw vistas she had seen. Of course there is plenty I did not see, but I found evidence of her in the library and at her former school, and that felt very validating. Also, digging into a trove of letters and photos in Albuquerque, as my Aunt Barbara (Doris’s niece) lent me more family documents and albums to look through. I have lots of work to do — and can’t wait.
4. Costumes! I wore several different costumes in my travels — flapper wear, day dresses, jewelry and head-wear. Sometimes others dresses up with me, and sometimes I was shockingly alone in my venture (such as the betting parlor I walked into, dressed as a flapper (not on Halloween), and was mistaken for a different kind of lady altogether). Exciting times, my friends.
5) Train travel. This is how Doris traveled back in her day — in the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s. I felt a kinship when traveling through places Doris mentions in her diaries, and I felt connected with passengers who asked where I was headed, and then seemed delighted to hear of Doris. I sold books on the train, in both directions. Train travel is cool. No doubt.
6) Incidental tourism. I got to see lots of Portland, the whole length of Oregon, California and much of the Arizona and New Mexico high desert. I enjoyed a short visit to the Huntington Gardens in Los Angeles, saw petroglyphs in Albuquerque, Lynx Lake and the Dells in Arizona, and more thrift stores throughout the Northwest and Southwest than I should admit to. All good. All bonus. Loved it.
7) I’m a better speaker now than I was before I started. I like talking about Doris. I am enjoying the journey, literally and metaphorically. And Doris has been with me, somehow, along the way.
8) The tour was not without its bumps. A couple of places that were going to offer The Rebel Girl were unable to source the ingredients (I thought them easy to get, but I was wrong). One event was marred by rudeness and obstruction, but I smiled past it and didn’t let it ruin the night. Pouring rain did not deter history buffs in Portland, however. And being told I was not Stephen King did not bother me. I’m not Danielle Steele, either. In fact, I’m not even Doris Bailey. Just me. Happy to be so.
9) Real hang-out time with some good friends: Katy, Lisa, Jeff, Angela, Max, Kelly, Heather, Debra, Aunt Barbara — quick meals, late night heart-to-heart or car-time catch-up. All good.
10) The kindness of strangers: feeling welcome wherever I went (except that one place I won’t mention again), including train porters, hotel bell-persons, conductors, waiter-staff, concierges, drivers, friends’ family members forced to put up with me as a house guest, salon employees, train passengers and taxi drivers. Nice people out there — of all kinds. I like that a lot.
Good times. More to come — after I get home.
Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of six books: three novels, one poetry collection, and two women's history. She was the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California, in 2014-17. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. She has a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, and MA in Early 20th C. British Literature from Cal State Hayward. Julia's articles have appeared on Salon, Thrillist, Paste, Scary Mommy, Narratively, Yahoo News, Your Tango, and Sweatpants & Coffee. Her articles have also run in Redbook, Woman's Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, Town & Country, the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Magazine, Quill, and MadeLocal. She was the founding editor of weekly Alameda Sun and literary zine Red Hills Review. Her poetry has been in The East Bay Literary review, Postcard Poems, Americus Review, Cicada, Tiferet Review, and many others. Julia has been recognized several times by the San Francisco, East Bay and Peninsula Press Clubs as well as the California Newspaper Association for her blogging since 2003.