Archive for October, 2007

Getting To There…Part One

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Snarly. I HAD walked the pavements of Midland for more than a month. Perhaps it really was true, and there were fumes that were poisoning my good nature. I let the clear and fresh Texas air blow me clean, north to my destination of Archer City. A fine day. Interstate 20 East is ordinary. Flat, with the usual familiar food joints and gas stations at every exit. It wasn’t until I switched to 277 North that my heart began to lighten from the landscapes that weren’t off putting to me. Again, those windmills in the far distance, spaced, marching on, inviting the wind. And closer to the road, the miles of cotton fields. I wound past towns whose populations were a few hundred, or less than a thousand. Livelihoods cotton, oil, ranching. Pulling over and gathering from the rough grass at the sides of the road a handful of cotton that had blown free and then been snagged, I marvelled at its sameness to cottonballs purchased at a store. Mine is not bleached and has a few sticks in it, but otherwise the same. I kept pushing on, had to reach BOOKED UP by closing. 273 miles to go and I made it.

Pulling into Archer, I recognized Thalia, the setting in Larry McMurtry’s books. The town has one light that doesn’t go red or green. Just the one cautionary light hanging from a wire at the main intersection, flashing yellow. BOOKED UP was right there, right where it was supposed to be. How to express how it felt. Knowing the history behind this undertaking. Knowing the “coming home” that it involved, too. And as someone who has only ever felt comfortable in two kinds of stores, book or food, I stepped right in and felt immediately at home.

BOOKED UP is divided into four storefronts, and named appropriately, BOOKED UP #1, #2, #3, and #4. BOOKED UP #2 was across the street, BOOKED UP #3 and #4 were down the street and around the corner. In the showcase room in BOOKED UP #1 there were books under glass, words and bits of whimsy on the walls, old wood, all things wood, tables, chairs, the bookcases, and the underlying all pervasive belief in books. The love of books. There were directions on the wall on how to use the bookstore: wander round, yell yahoo for assistance, bring your purchases back to #1 as there is nowhere to pay in the other buildings. As I stepped through doorway after doorway into more low-ceilinged warehouse rooms top to bottom lined with books, tears filled my eyes. I loved this. I loved this endeavour. I loved this beautiful success. I did not come here to buy only though. I came to breathe. I will not be distraught that I failed with my camera again. Asking permission to take a few shots for my friends back home, I forgot to switch on the flash and all the pictures are too dark.

Then I did what I think all book lovers do. I wandered. After years of working in bookstores, and book publicity, and being a book buyer, and having amassed my own particular personal collection of books over the years, I found myself weighing my knowledge and my favourites against another book lover’s. I searched out the authors that I hoped would be represented. Touchstones. I looked up titles that I knew were out of print and shouldn’t be, and there they were, having one more chance to be found. It didn’t matter that my time ran out and I hadn’t got to 3 and 4. I had seen enough, inhaled enough for my trip to have restored me. There were a few customers intent on their searches in #1 and no one at all in #2. There I picked up “A Coney Island of the Mind” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti in the poetry section for Patricia back home. I can already hear her saying, “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God” as I tell her this story. Uh huh. Crossing back over the street to pay for my book, the late afternoon sun so golden warm, the absence of pressure and traffic and noise, I felt tapped into all those moments past and future when you realize you’re feeling a true acceptance of your life, and a gratitude. Anne Lamott says there are only two types of prayers, “Please, please, please,” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I’ve come to agree.

So then I walked the streets, it didn’t take long. Nothing was open. Many of the buildings were empty and hadn’t seen life for a while. Archer is on a bit of a rise and the wind made me glad. You could see cars approaching, Wichita Falls is just 20 miles down the road. And it wasn’t hard to imagine the feeling a young person could get with night coming on, a restlessness if Archer wasn’t enough for them. And there’d be those who’d spend the rest of their lives driving back and forth to Wichita, thinking they got out. And the other choice would be to dig deep, and find something else inside yourself. I drove too, went back into the neighbourhoods to get a glimpse of families, yards and trees beside porches, trailers and brick houses, shacks fallen into ruin. I knew there were two places to stay in Archer City and I had seen one of them, The Spur Hotel. But it had a type-written note on its door saying that they required 24 hours notice for Reservations, and the door was locked. The sun was going down so I did the obvious, hit the road to Wichita Falls, unsure of what to do next, or where to stay the night.

But I didn’t find it, a town centre, a sign, an arrow pointing the way. In the La Quinta lobby I had picked up hotel coupon books, so I pulled over and started thumbing through them. Loneliness is a good indicator that you’ve taken a wrong turn. I sat by the side of the road. All I could see was yet another Wal-Mart, another Sonic, another IHOP, a coupon for a Travelodge in Abilene in my hand, halfway back to Midland. But I didn’t want to go. I had been happy going nowhere in Archer City, had felt a swell of peace. Sometimes the little voice doesn’t seem to make any sense, but it knows what it knows. I started the car up and turned back from where I came, back to Archer City…

Good Life

Hello, Larry!

Friday, October 26th, 2007

I’m setting the alarm for morning and I’m getting up and going. There’s a Grand Am in the garage, a duffle bag I’ll toss in the trunk, the MapQuest directions and black licorice in the front seat with me, and it will be nothing but country tunes all the way. I’ll get that garage door open and find the Interstate 20 East. My destination is Archer City, Texas, home of Larry McMurtry and his very own bookstore called BOOKED UP. What better pilgrimage for a bibliophile like me, a fan of Larry’s writing, and one who also has a connection/fascination/repulsion for this big macho state. Even the slogan, DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS, so laid back, so mildly threatening. It’s time for the road trip, this my last weekend here in Texas. I want to discover another Texas too, and chronicle something other than the dismay I’ve felt with my own limited experience here in Midland, this oil patch town.

I have no plan except to drive. Me, road, music, sky. I know I have 38 hours to wander, the car must be back by Sunday night. BOOKED UP is only open until 5:00 on Saturday, closed Sundays. I’ll head there first. Leaving but having no definitive plan, no reservations, no research done, is like one gigantic exhale for me. It’s the adventure combined with the be here now. Up until now I’ve walked small, around and around this neighbourhood, now I’m finally taking flight.

Larry McMurtry lives in Archer City. I’m sure he’s also a denizen of America’s larger cities, too. Anyone who is a Pulitzer Prize and Oscar winning author must have places to go to, people to see. Did you know that he and his partner Diana Ossana wrote the screenplay for BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN? What a brilliant and compassionate trio: he and Diana and author Annie Proulx who wrote the original short story, “Brokeback Mountain.”

Archer City has less than 2,000 people. Why it’s called City I don’t know. Is everything really bigger in Texas if you say so? This saying originated about a certain type of Texas man, ALL HAT NO CATTLE. But to be fair, there are no geographic boundaries for those that fit that description. Perhaps Texans have a wit I just don’t acknowledge too easily. I lose my sense of humour around Bush supporters. Yesterday an incredibly expensive fully loaded luxury car slunk by me, the bumpers sloganed with God Bless America and Bush propaganda which was gag worthy enough, but sailing from its window on a pole the size of a mast, was an over the top, oversized American flag. Was it Grade 7 or Grade 8 History class where the textbooks warned that excessive nationalism breeds imperialism?

Sometimes when I forget the bigger picture, and can’t see through four walls, or my walking neighbourhood hems me in, or I’m so defeated from the things that debilitate our human spirit, it’s then I remember to look to the sky. I remember what my friend wrote to me, “Take care of yourself and look up. I’m looking at the same stars and thinking of you lots.” I will look up. I share these clouds and stars with everyone. I’ll find our kinder similarities instead of rail about abhorrent differences. This weekend my expectations on the ground are small, just a safe journey and some peace of mind. I will ask Larry to lunch if I can, there is a Dairy Queen just down the street. But if our paths don’t cross, I’ll be happy to be among book lovers, see the bookstore he has built, and appreciate what a great man he is. He said he grew up in a bookless town and wants to create in Archer City another Hay-on-Wye, the small town in Wales which has become a mecca in the literary world. The ratio of bookstores to people is toppling. I’ll be overjoyed to introduce myself and say “Hi, Larry! I’m Diane from Midland, by way of Fort Langley, by way of Vancouver, originally from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. I’ve met you in the bookstore for a long, long time…”

I would tell him about the words written above my door, SOLVITUR AMBULANDO (It is solved by walking).

I would tell him that when I was reading “Duane’s Depressed” through a blur of tears, I kept seeing “Diane’s Depressed” which made me laugh, and then cry harder.

I would tell him that I read the whole Lonesome Dove series every night through the last hellish weeks of my job, and crazily, all the shooting, raping, and pillaging kept me sane.

Or maybe we’ll just sit quietly in a booth, looking out the window at the same big sky.

Good Life

May I Offer You…Toast?

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

I am experiencing technical difficulties. Let me elaborate on that by saying that I am a fast typist. I can use a telephone, but cannot figure out a cellphone. If I am left with a remote and the choice of DVD, Video, Stereo, or TV channels NOTHING will appear on the screen but static, or sound only, but no picture. At this point I wander off to read a book. I moved into the attic mid-June and did intend to have an unplugged summer, but it is getting ridiculous. Because I was phoned and alerted that Sherman Alexie was going to be interviewed on a TV talk show I did manage to plug in the TV and screw on the cable cord, and voila! But that had to be divine intervention. It was Sherman Alexie after all. My stereo system is still in the cupboard as are the DVD player and VCR. I have no idea how to hook them up. What I’m using for music is a greasy ghetto blaster from a downtown Vancouver restaurant kitchen, salvaged before it hit the dumpster. The instructions for the super deluxe combination microwave convection oven are still in it, unread. My jewellery and penny candy are stored there for now. Every camera that has been passed down to me mysteriously stops working within a week or two in my possession. I have lost count of the times very computer savvy people have come over to rescue me at my keyboard to say, “Hmm, I have never seen this happen before.”

Why I am bringing this up is because I am embarrassed about the unfinished appearance of my blog. Tom and I really pushed to get this blog on the road with me, and succeeded. And I have leaned on Tom long distance since, and he has been just as affable and informative with his answers. But some of my questions are just plain dumb. And I am very timid around “machinery” and am not comfortable with trial and error. I would really have liked to have put up my profile for instance, but thought I would wait until I return to Fort Langley in case I make a mistake and can’t fix something. I do not want to come across sounding like Bachelorette #3 and not be able to erase it. And I promised you poetry! But I don’t know how to change the spacing on this computer and do not want all poems double-spaced, Lord no! Not for the continuous amount of beautiful poetry I am eager to share with you.  So I have neglected that category, too.

When I get back to Fort Langley, questions in hand, then I will learn how to play on this thing without frustration. Do not email me now Tom, offering assistance. You have done enough! (Thank you forever!) In the meantime, I can type. I can hit Save, or Edit, or Publish. (That is important.) I can sharpen a pencil, uncap a pen. Answer a phone (land line only). Use a hair dryer and a washer and dryer. I have just been taught my first dishwasher. I may learn the automatic garage door opener this week. Life is a challenge and this Luddite is rising to it.

But I have always, always been able to make toast.

Good Life

Get Your Crave On!

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

It’s Saturday night and I sure know how to pick ’em. Now I’m at an all night Denny’s, beside the Interstate, not far from Euless (I’m definitely missing someone). My family is at a Family Entertainment Centre – bowling, go karts, pitch ‘n putt, pizza, strobe lights. I know how much fun I’m not, so it’s best I didn’t go. We’re staying at a pet friendly motel chain called La Quinta, and once again there is nowhere to walk. Denny’s it is. I’m in here with my notebook for company. I see couples walk through the door, leading with their distended stomachs. They’ve lost their looks, both of them look like Fred Flintstone, or if they’re short, Mr. Rubble. I’ve been told I’m not being fair, it’s not just Texas, that people everywhere in fast food outlets have that look. That kind of startled me, and it must be true. I do not patronize these eateries back home either, haven’t read “Fast Food Nation” nor seen Super Size Me. So I just didn’t know. (I guess their commonalities are like a trail of breaded crumbs.) At tonight’s location the flag is in a large picture frame in the entranceway. Charlene keeps coming around asking if I need anything else. I know she’s dying to inquire about my notebook, and I kind of wished she would too, someone to talk to. But I’m feeling low energy, I can barely lift another french fry. The staff are wearing their black Denny’s T-shirts with the bouncy slogan on the back, but they all look beat under the neon lights. Seated here in a non-smoking booth it’s hilarious, I’m ten feet away from the lunch counter which is lined with smoking heads. The heads, under their white clouds, are swivelling my way periodically. I guess I am the stranger in a strange land.

I got the, “Say Hi to J.R. when you’re down there,” a lot before I left. Well, I picked up some brochures in the hotel lobby and one was for Southfork Ranch. TOUR THE MANSION & RANCH MADE FAMOUS BY THE HIT TV SERIES DALLAS! I could have experienced television history at the Ewing Mansion! Seen the gun that shot J.R., Jock’s Lincoln Continental, and Lucy’s wedding dress.

The other brochure was for the DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth) Gun Range & Training Center…JUST SHOW UP AND SHOOT! There’s a picture of a woman, got kind of the Texas cheerleader hairstyle, lots of jewellery and make-up, wearing some kind of bustier, aiming a pistol and smiling out toward the camera. Here are all the features that I just have to share with you: Luxury Indoor Gun Range, Shoot in Comfort Year-Round, Use Your Guns or Rent Ours, We Have Everything You Need: Guns, Ammunition, Eye/Ear Protection, Private Instruction.

About the facility…We pride ourselves in providing a comfortable non-threatening environment for our customers. We have a plush interior with oriental rugs and a seating area around a big screen T.V. with satellite hook up. In addition, we have: Indoor handgun range with individually operated targets and a clean air, climate controlled environment, State of the art soundproofing of the handgun range, Retail area with firearms, holsters, and accessories, Repair and custom Gunsmith shop, Concealed handgun classes, Security Guard training.



The family outing that I did participate in was going to the Fort Worth Zoo. I had no idea that seeing a rhino would bring me such happiness. In principle I have never been a supporter of any kind of facility that cages animals for our entertainment. But I went, we had excited children with us, and I was very relieved and impressed at how beautifully the grounds were laid out. Even though it was yet another hot, hot, sunny day there was so much bamboo and vegetation and old growth trees and there was space and cooling oxygen. Space for all of us human folk and the animals, too. The zoo encompassed eight full acres.

An odd juxtaposition, these thoughts tonight. I’ve got my ticket stub from the Fort Worth Zoo (and a terrific memory of a warthog sleeping in the sun), and know that at the zoo all these species of animals are cared for and protected. I’ve got the advertisement for the gun range and training center (use your guns or rent ours), which is where you go to learn how to kill one of our own species. I feel a great weariness. Kurt Vonnegut survived the obliteration of Dresden because he was in the basement of a slaughterhouse where he was being held as a prisoner of war. In his book “Slaughterhouse Five,” in which he described every madness and every sadness, he always ended by saying, “And so it goes.”

Good night Kurt. Good night you, and me, and all breathing things. And so we go.

Good Life

Batter Up!

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

I love my Texas family, but my oh my, I feel like I’m coated in a 1/4 inch of a cheery neon yellow batter. They love their fast food, and I’m going to have to roast them now. Everything’s chicken and french fries. The colour of our meals is yellow and beige. In my head I am running screaming to a nutritionist for an intervention. Dr. Pepper for breakfast and all day long. Coke, anyone? Coke? Coke? Coke? The drink cups of pop are the size of flower pots. We found a paper clip in the bottom of a supersized drink from Whataburger. There is a side of fries waiting for YOU, America!

I crave steamed broccoli, the austerity of short grain brown rice. A baked yam with butter. Two slices of sesame Ryvita crispbread, one with peanut butter (real) and one with honey. I want an apple from a tree not a truck. A glass of good Merlot and a bar of Angela’s Euphoria orange bitter dark chocolate.

We went on a family outing to Dallas last weekend. Riding in a big, red, air-conditioned pickup it’s easy to forget the heat on the other side of the glass. It had to be a six hour trip, to make pit stops for Colette. Compared to the lushness and the accessibility to trees and cool, refreshing oxygen in BC, I realized how difficult it was to find somewhere a little girl could stretch her legs and run around. In the parched grass everywhere there is a thing called stickers. These are little balls of pain. They have a way of getting in your shoe or up your leg and attaching to your clothes. The only way to describe them is a plant version of a spiny sea urchin. They hurt. They go right into your skin. You want to avoid them. And at the rest stops there are ants that bite and snakes in the grass, too.


The Interstate 20 going east to Dallas was a good road, well-maintained and smooth. It’s very noticeable the number of trucks on the road in comparison to cars. In this neighbourhood I was surprised by how many white pickups there are until I was told that that colour means it’s a company truck. Midland and Odessa are here because it’s an oil patch. These are employees of the oil business, it’s the meat and potatoes of this area (the chicken and fries).

Sitting up in the cab of the truck, gazing out to the sides of the roads, I wanted to let the miles do their magic, and let those hundreds and hundreds of pages of Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove series, those cowboys on their horses pushing cattle across this dusty landscape, just materialize before my eyes. They did, I could see them. It was just over a hundred years ago and they’re still there. This overlay of modern day Texas cannot dispel their ghosts; they’re still among the low, sturdy trees called live oak, the cactus growing underneath the mesquite. I know there are ranches and cowboys still, horses and barns and pens full of cattle out beyond the Interstate. I saw windmills, miles as far as you could see; smart to harness the incredible wind power of Texas. And I’d never seen a cotton field before, and there they were. How much history has been picked in these southern fields of cotton. Most of the traffic alongside us were rigs and semis crossing this vast state. I imagined them full of chickens, potatoes, oil, salt and sugar to supply this fast food nation. And the pumpjacks going up and down. They’re on every horizon.

It turns out Larry McMurtry has written a sequel to “Duane’s Depressed” called “When the Light Goes.” I started it last night and it feels different, reading it from right here in Texas, looking around me and seeing exactly the environment he’s writing about. Already on page 24 he’s mentioned Odessa. Ruth and Bobby Lee are talking about where Bobby Lee’s estranged wife Jessica is from. “Odessa, the worse town in Texas for a girl to be from,” Bobby Lee said. “Why’s that?” Ruth asked. “It’s because of the natural gas smell,” Bobby Lee told her. “It comes right up through the cracks in the sidewalk. Odessa girls grow up smelling it and it makes them real snarly.” I love these descriptions. I remember in one of his books he said someone was the kind of rich like diamonds on a dog’s ass. We passed a refinery that held 800 million gallons of oil. The pipelines running to it were dug a few feet under the ground.


Our first stop was a Dairy Queen in Clyde. Nowhere for Colette to run but at the back of it on hot tarmac. Stepping down out of the truck my heart trilled at the sound of birds! Dozens and dozens of them in the live oaks that surrounded the DQ parking lot, cracklings and mockingbirds, what a sound! Texas is getting to me. Underneath its sprawling, macho, careless, rapacious nature there runs a spring of sweetness, a surprising tenderness, an earthy, lusty, lovability that’s showing up in my encounters with strangers on the street, and the effect on me of this exotic vegetation and animal species (and I haven’t even been to the bars yet). The Dairy Queen was full of a lot of grey, ill-looking people. My heart sank at eating more french fries, and I wondered at what point the scales would tip ( choice of words intended) and I would completely undo the health I’d gained from quitting my job and having a glorious, restful, happy summer. There was a large, heavy TV in the eating area, the news was on. I believe it is state law that there has to be a U.S. flag somewhere visible in every public building. In this case it was atop the TV, planted askew in a pot of dusty, fake flowers.

But I’ll remember Clyde, remember the sign that said they had an annual pecan festival. Remember the old-timers, wearing their baseball caps, sitting in front of their meals on crinkled paper, anchored down by blobs of ketchup. And the young employee who really wanted to know more for me than she did, about the way of the cracklings out there in the trees. She was as sweet as pie.


Our first destination was a suburb of Fort Worth called Euless. When I heard that, it did bring to my mind a little trouble I’ve been having (refer to previous blog called Identity and Place).

But I have to go to bed now, last weekend’s story can wait. I’ve had a head cold for weeks. Being sealed in a house with the doors and windows closed and the air-conditioning running 24/7 is really doing me in. I need to get back to the chill, fresh wet coast and regain my health. But it did rain the other day and it was so exciting. Colette and I got up from our nap and the house seemed so dark. Then thunder! I had a willing initiate in her as we ran out the front door into the street, arms outstretched and faces up. When I saw that it was going to come DOWN, I got us two pieces of pizza and we sat silently on lawn chairs under an awning by the pool, and watched the wind whip the trees in the back alley, and sheets of cold water descend miraculously from a Texas sky.

Good Life

Tall Tales From The Big Sky

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

My girlfriends want me to meet a cowboy. Tonight I went to Wal-Mart, no cowboys, but there were guns. There are a lot of things I haven’t done yet. I have not even driven in Texas yet. Perhaps that is not something one would think a pedestrian like me would want to do. But I do. Even from this small, hemmed in enclave I’m in, a neighbourhood of about a dozen blocks and cul-de-sacs surrounded on all four sides by seven lane highways, I feel that itchy, open road feeling. I would love to go on a road trip.

The sky catches me here. Funny thing, my horoscope (those Free Will Horoscopes I recommend) advised me to “look at clouds.” As I walk around and around in circles on the ground, accompanied by my precious and precocious two year old granddaughter Colette, that is exactly what I am looking to. It is so phenomenally flat in this area that I find there is more sky than what’s in front of me, or what’s on the immediate horizon. The clouds are voluptuous, and loll about on each other. There are great dollops of whites and grey, there are lines and streaks and slashes against a fierce proud blue, and then there are sunsets. Nothing pastel here. These reds and golds scream at day’s end. And the birds. Don’t know their names but they celebrate the few low trees there are with a cacophony of possession. Loud, wild, abundant, melodious and surprising. It is the sky I’m looking to and I imagine what it would be like to hit the highway and head into it.

I have been very cynical about the Texans and their trucks. They drive everywhere. Before I got down here I said I’d make the news as some crazy Canadian seen walking in Texas. I do walk twice a day here. I have to or I’d go stir-crazy. If we get out by 9:30 I can usually last about an hour and a half before the heat makes me buzzy in the head. It is still hot just before dark but that’s the other time to go. This week the temperatures have been between 95 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of the front yards are concrete. You pay big to grow grass here. It’s not supposed to, it’s too friggin’ hot. But that’s what the Texans have done anyway, imposed themselves on a landscape that’s not really meant for living. Now I admit that reinforces the reason they drive. That unrelenting sun gives no respite. So I’ve seen at least six walkers like me since I’ve been here. The same six. When that number climbs to a dozen I’ll have to drop my cynicism that Texans won’t walk. I guess that’s called a movement.

I’m meeting the neighbours. I have taught Colette to say, “Hi, Neighbour!” A couple came out of their house and down their steps to say to me, “We’ve seen y’all walking, you aren’t from around here, are ya?” Today on our walk, a beautiful black woman with golden ringlets bounced off her porch and sang out, “Hey, Shuga!” to Colette who was already waving. Her name? Roslyn. The same name as my best friend back home. Touchstones. Her T-shirt said I’M BLESSED AND HIGHLY FAVORED. Thank you Roslyn, both of you.

A curious contradiction; all the people who pass by in their cars and trucks all wave at us, so there is that noticeable, Southern friendliness, but at the same time why the rampant aggressive paranoia? My friend Howard, who is a naughty, savvy man in his mid-eighties, when I told him I was coming down to Texas, gave me this definition of a Texan – someone who has already blown their brains out.

I have found the familiar. There is a little branch of the Midland library close by, the Centennial, in one of the strip malls. It is my goal to squeeze a library card out of them, even though I’m not a resident. Boyd the librarian looked a little goggled when I put in my requests. Texas also has that finest practice of transferring books from one branch to another. I know I was showing off a little, asking him to look things up for me, but I was very excited to be in that familiar home turf again, talking books and authors, and feel all those little doors in my head slamming open.

I worked at the Chapters Metrotown store in Burnaby when it first opened. There was one particular aisle that when I walked down it and turned right into the next one, I got a tingling sensation in my brain. It was like pheremones were released and I practically swooned. Every single time I walked that route I got turned on. I even experimented with it, and stepped in and out of its force field. It never let me down. Books for me do give off vibes, energy. It’s been a long, long love affair. When I was a kid, I carried in my wallet for years a piece of paper on which was written, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.” Certain bits of poetry, “It is the time of the full moon and my blood feels like water. The sound of your name releases a flood of remembering.” Or Sherman Alexie, “There is no silence in blindness. In the dark and din I waited.” Words that have just stayed with me.

The other familiar was the big box bookstore. We went to Barnes & Noble last Saturday night. It could have been Chapters in Canada, the usual family outings and singles cruising the bookstore, and the look and the layout is the same. Someone came up to me and asked if I worked there. I said no but I was still able to help her find a book. It was different going there as a civilian. I’ve worked at three different Chapters in the Lower Mainland. Three years at the Metrotown location, two years Robson Street, and one year in Langley. At Metrotown I’d find french fries in the books like bookmarks, compliments of McDonalds next door. It is none of my business now, the books tossed into corners, the people in Starbucks with armloads of magazines, licking their fingers as they flip through the pages.

There was a huge Christian section but much to my delight, a copy of an Osho in New Age. I had a hard time leaving behind an illustrated copy of “Life of Pi.” A Croatian artist, and a larger more beautiful copy of such a keeper book. When Pi, in the book, decides to compile a list of what he’s got in the lifeboat, to take stock, I felt a gratitude for Yann Martel that will never end. “…..1 signalling mirror, 1 pack of filter-tipped Chinese cigarettes, 1 large bar of dark chocolate, 1 survival manual, 1 compass, 1 notebook with 98 lined pages, 1 boy with a complete set of light clothing but for one lost shoe, 1 spotted hyena, 1 Bengal tiger, 1 lifeboat, 1 ocean, 1 God.” Thank you, thank you, Yann Martel.

I had picked his first novel “Self” out of the Bargain section at Metrotown years ago and made everyone in the Book Club read it. They hated it. I loved it. Yes, it was an imperfect, bizarre, convoluted book. But. But. There was a passage in the opening pages where the imagery was so wonderful, so fantastical that I knew that this guy had it. Well, his novel was panned by all and Yann got very depressed and went to India. You know what I’m getting at. If he hadn’t written “Self” and if it hadn’t been booed, then he wouldn’t have left town. And out of India he would not have written “Life of Pi,” a brilliant and original book that won the Booker Prize. Ha!

About this blog’s title, that was just to lure you in. I’m still small here. I’ve got a month. One more month.

Getting back to the lonely experience of being a walker in Midland, Texas, I say lonely to describe it, even though I am not lonely, because it is a solitary experience, one that is not understood or shared by Texans. I am reminded of the opening scene in Larry McMurtry’s book “Duane’s Depressed,” which is the third book of a trilogy. First there is “The Last Picture Show” and then “Texasville.” It follows Karla and Duane and their family and friends through the boom and bust oil days and is set in a small town in Texas.

Duane has just driven home from his office out in the oil field and parked in the garage at his ranch. He sits in the truck and just sits, can’t get out. He realizes he is really sick of it, sick of the same old thing. Driving the same road to his office, then back seeing the same sights, park in the garage, go into the house and everyone’s insane. He loves his family but they’re all nuts. He thinks that he is spending his whole life sitting in his truck, driving from one place to another. He goes into the kitchen and puts his keys in a coffee cup at the back of a kitchen cupboard. No one has noticed him yet and he walks out, through the garage, past his truck, and continues walking down the driveway and then onto the open road.

Well, he doesn’t get more than a few miles before pickups are pulling over, and concerned friends and neighbours are trying to cajole him into their trucks. The news spreads like…..wild fire. Back at the ranch the phone rings and someone from town tells Karla that Duane was spotted walking down the road. Karla quizzes her about any more information, anything more that anyone might know, and comes to only one conclusion. She slams down the phone and says incredulously, “Duane wants a divorce!”

I have a great reverence for writer Larry McMurtry. It seems we share the same fascination with walking under this big sky. In his Lonesome Dove series there is a Kickapoo tracker called Famous Shoes. Famous Shoes walked everywhere, or ran. He was faster than any cowboy on a horse. If you looked down and then up, he’d already be on the horizon. Famous Shoes could, he could find water in the desert. Pulling out a map of Texas I see the place names and the distance that this Lone Star State encompasses and I am awed.

Words…touchstones…poetry. Oh, West Texas. Wichita Falls, Sweet Water, Odessa and Wink. Kermit, Tarzan and Abilene. Big Spring and Tahoka and Ransom Canyon. Shallow Water, Amarillo, Ropesville and Necessity. And who lives in Loving, Texas?

I’m dreaming.

Good Life