April 22, 2011

The Last Half

The last half of my book tour was so much fun.  Ed and I drove to Randolph College, which is only two hours away, along rural roads.  We’re usually on freeways and so totally loved winding among farms and small towns, watching spring trace its way North.  I love the vanishing rural structures in the countryside.  One of Ed’s many virtues is that he will go back when I say, “Oh, look at that!”  I leap from the car and explore whatever has turned us around.


By my lights, this gas station in Alchie VA is a holy structure.  The lines are pure, the color contrast is stark, and the rhythm of the volumes pleases the eye. Literally, I wonder if it was once a church because it has the right form.  The sign says 1859, long before gas stations, so it had other incarnations prior.  Architects, lie down and weep!!!

I’d always brake for this:


By the time we reached Lynchburg, I was back into the love I had for Virginia when I went to Randolph-Macon Woman’s College.  The landscape is always evocative.  Then stepping on the campus, stepping back many years, was one of those time-collapses because the campus is much the same and I always found that from it emanated a strong aura of learning and beauty.  When I was there, my friend Rena and I hung poems from the cherry tree and a tradition started from our “Loveliest of Trees” among the blooms.  I was lucky to be there when the cherry tree (not the same one) was in bloom and to read the poems dangling in the breeze:


President John Klein and his wife, Susan, were welcoming and my event there was a pleasure.  I met several women in their seventies and eighties who still wore their class rings.  Now that’s school spirit. I saw my “big sister” Marion, and Jane, a classmate.  Ed seemed interested when I pointed out windows of rooms where I lived and had his own Virginia spring memories of his graduate school time at the Hollins writing program.

My next stops were at favorite book-tour places.  I got to stay at the historic Brown Palace in Denver and to speak at one of the great bookstores, The Tattered Cover.  It’s one of those superb bookstores that are a cultural force for their city.  Then onward to another fine venue, Rainy Day Books in Kansas City.  My two events there were at a women’s club, The Central Exchange, and at Brio Tuscan Grill.  I reunited there with Barbara, who owned the hair salon I went to in San Francisco. One of the joys of the tour is such meetings.  Sometimes I think I will see again everyone I’ve ever known!  Vivien and Roger, who own Rainy Day Books, are such important people.  They work constantly to promote a sense of community and to give authors the best opportunity to present their work.  With Border’s struggling to survive (our local one is closing), you have to realize how endangered our community bookstores are.  And they are so crucial!  Please, support your booksellers–and all local business.  Just being in a bookstore inspires me.  I always find something I didn’t know I must read, whereas on line, I simply order what I already wanted.  Something about thumbing through, something about the paper and the typeface, and always, the opening sentence. . .

National Geographic put on a grand event with a lavish reception.  Looking in the glass walls were a mother duck and eight tiny ones.  I met many old friends and new ones there and afterwards.  Don George interviewed me on stage, which was slightly scary beforehand–an interviewer can ask anything–but totally easy once it began. We dined late and long with a group of friends then happily repaired to our B & B, The Swann House, which was like visiting friends because Mary, the owner, seems like someone I already know.  We had another day to wander the National Gallery and to admires I. M. Pei’s East Wing.  I especially liked his wall of water in the underground connector between the old and new wings.


Right in front of it, on the small world plan, we ran into Swiss friends from Cortona! That’s Kurt’s foot peeking into the edge. I wonder what I. M. Pei would think of the gas station in Alchie, Virginia.

Here endeth the tour for Every Day in Tuscany. Many thanks to everyone who hosted me, all the organizers at Broadway, and everyone who came to the events.  You mean the world!