Wednesday, September 19, 2007

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

Crossing the Rockies yesterday, I entered a new geography. I wish I had a map of the Pacific Northwest and especially California, so I'd understand mentally when someone mentions Santa Cruz or Santa Barbara or Walnut Creek or Cupertino. I wish I had some toothpaste. I shall click my heels together three times for the toothpaste, although I don't think that will help. There is a Walgreens across the street from my San Francisco hotel. The only way out is through. To Walgreens. Sigh.

I was nervous about my Barnes & Noble signing in Walnut Creek last evening. A poster announcing my presence was next to the escalator and, as I rode the escalator up, I heard an invitation to customers to come upstairs to the children's section to meet me.

I'm not in Mississippi anymore, I think, I'm not in the South... will kids come? Will anybody come? My friend Pat Grant at Windows: A Bookshop tells me, "ALL-STARS is more than a southern story, you know. It's an American story. Baseball! Walt Whitman! Friendship!.." etc. Yes, that it is. So come on, y'all....

And look -- baseball players! Can you see their caps? I was overjoyed, as I stood there with the Hundred Acre Wood behind me, to see boys who had come with their fathers, boys who had come wearing their baseball uniforms! The season is over for them, but they wore their uniforms to the signing. Joy, joy, joy!
So come on, Deb, let's read about baseball. Forget that old dead guy in the beginning of the book. Here are brothers Andrew and Brian Merken and another young reader (very invested!) listening as I read from the baseball game chapters and the tension mounts. "Come on, Cleebo, knock it out of the park!"
Here's Matthew, who came to see me with his mom and sister Clare. What a smile. What a baseball player.

Girls came, too. And girls play baseball -- Ruby Lavender wants to play ball in ALL-STARS. Here are Kelsey, Bridget, and Brooke. Bridget brought her dog-eared copy of LITTLE BIRD and I was so touched by her words.

And cool, cool, cool, here is a baseball bunch of boys, just like in ALL-STARS: Andrew is the older brother and Brian is the younger. Dad Jeff brought the boys to my signing. Both boys pitch. Brian is a lefty, like House Jackson, like Sandy Koufax, my baseball hero. Jeff recommended escort Carol and I check out McCovey's Restaurant, "a living tribute to Mr. Willie McCovey, the San Francisco Giants, the people of Walnut Creek, and sports fans everywhere," and I wanted to go, I did, but as we walked out into the early evening, I felt myself losing air, like a balloon, unpoofing, as it were. (although my hair, I must say, is behaving on this trip. I send thanks to the hair gods. And Ken and Heather, in Atlanta. It takes a village to tame Deborah's hair.). Next time, though. Next time.

I hope there is a next time -- what a lot of fun. Thank you to B&N Community Relations Manager Colleen Holcombe for setting up this signing and sticking with us throughout the evening, and to children's manager Valerie Shoop, pictured on the right. I'm not only learning a new physical geography in California, I'm learning a new geography in presenting my book. Baseball. I can't wait to talk baseball with Californians. Especially I want to showcase my long-ago loves, the Los Angeles Dodgers dream team of 1965.

Yesterday was such a long day! Two airplanes, six hours in the air, an hour to the hotel, then an hour and a half to the event, and an hour back to the hotel. I skipped dinner -- too tired! And I'm up and out this morning, leaving at 8am PST for a day of school children -- school visits set up by Linden Tree and Books, Inc. It's breathless!

But you know, lying in bed this morning trying to get up, I began thinking about the stories we told one another last night, thinking about the possibilities of the day ahead... and then breakfast arrived at 6am, just as I finished my shower and got to work on this journal entry. I'm refreshed and ready to go again. It's amazing how much a good breakfast perks up a soul. It gives the body a whole new geography to work with, just as stories shape the geography of the heart.

Let's grab some toothpaste! Let's go to school!