Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Basement Tour

I had to remind myself several times this week that we're not doing this tour for the scenery. Interesting (or even varied) scenery is nice, but that's not the reason we're on this tour.

Which is to say that this week provided more long, wide miles of corn.

And then wheat.

And then basically barren plains.

But in the towns between, there were people, and bookstores, and stories.

Everyone really does have a story, and for a lot of the indie bookstores--some of which have been around for generations--there are stories inside them, too.

We were in the little town of Seward, Nebraska where Chapter Books sits on the corner of a small, classically American-looking square. Outside, the two-story brick building is painted a lovely red with grey and white accents. It's quite beautiful. And on the inside where the bookstore occupies the ground floor, everything looks welcoming and well-organized--a really nice place.

But then we heard about the basement! A scary basement that the employees refused to go. And that upstairs were abandoned apartments. Rumor was, they were scary, too.

So of course I begged for a tour.

And they were scary!

But also interesting.

And I could feel the tickle of stories beginning in my brain. Who were the people who had lived upstairs? Had there really been a barbershop downstairs? How, with no windows? Where did the freight elevator go? Why were there large plastic-wrapped church artifacts lying among ancient newspapers? And what was in that large heavy crate, unopened for 50 years?

I had a blast on the tour of the basement (despite rumors of rodents of unusual size) and the abandoned apartments. Just the old furniture and wash basins were enough to tickle me happy.

How can this not make you wonder?
What struck me after we left Seward was that, yes, beautiful (and varied) scenery is nice, but the cool thing about being a writer is that there are stories waiting for you everywhere, even (or maybe especially) in the most unexpected places. You just have to listen. To the people you cross paths with, to the buildings you pass through.

Who needs scenery when you're allowed into a basement?

So that's my little musing for this week. Next week wraps up the tour and I am looking forward to our last several events...and then to getting home after 8 weeks on the road. (And getting my computer fixed!) Here are the final dates:

Monday 11/3 @ 7 PM, The King's English, Salt Lake City, UT
Wednesday 11/5 @7 PM, Lyon Books, Chico, CA
Thursday, 11/6 @ 6 PM, Face in a Book, El Dorado Hills, CA
Friday, 11/7 @ 7 PM, Hicklebee's, San Jose, CA

And lastly, I noticed online that today is Jessica's birthday. As one of this blog's faithful followers and ever-thoughtful contributors, I want to send up a special cheer: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JESSICA!

See you in the comments!


Kylie said...

No no no no no! I thought you were going to Chico on the 15th! Noooo! This means I will not be able to go! Noooo! Oh geez why didn't I triple check the date? But it wouldn't matter any way because I have a test both Wednesday and Thursday this week so have wouldn't be able to go any way. Darn it! Well with all luck maybe I can convince my sister or friend to go for me or something.

But on a happy note, well more like creepy, that basemate and apartment sound so freaky! I think I would have been scared out of my mind the whole time! And once I saw a rodent I probably would have screamed.

It sounds like you guys are having a blast though, but ready to go home.

Well have a fantastic week everybody! And safe travels on the last leg of your journey!


Jessica said...

Aww, thanks for the birthday wishes! I totally forgot to check the blog last night.

How can you see that unopened crate and not open it? I love exploring places like that, imagining who lived there, how the various items ended up where they were. In college, my roommate and I explored the side-attic in our garret room; it started at one gable window, wrapped around the corner along the entire outside wall, and again to the gable window on the opposite wall. There were test papers from the 1970's, clothes, an old cassette player, furniture, a planner (only a few pages were filled), luggage... We only stopped when we saw ancient mouse traps (empty, with fossilized bait) -- I wanted to keep going, but I was too chicken to go alone, and my roommate was done.

Have a great rest of the tour. I hope the outside scenery gets more interesting -- and that you get to hear lots more stories.

Kylie, that's such a bummer you can't make it to Chico. I hope someone will go for you!

Yusa said...

Happy late birthday Jessica!!!!

Kylie: I wish you could go and I hate when school gets in the way of life...

Cool basement. I think I would love attics and I do love rooftops.

Wendelin & Mark! I'm coming to see you guys (hopefully) again tomorrow. I hope you don't get annoyed with my constant presence. I have to remember to get my shoes and shirt signed since I forgot last time.

I cant believe the tour is already almost over! It seems like just last blog post it was being planned. It's been so great and exciting to see your travels and to meet you!


P.S. Do you have any more info on where we will be able to see the SK Documentary?

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Yusa, are you kidding? It'll be like seeing a good friend again. Hope you can make it! We are home in 2 days (very excited!) and on Sunday I will wrap things up and let you know what I know about the documentary. Packing the car for El Dorado Hills now...!

Optimistic4ever said...

Happy belated birthday Jessica!

Wendelin & Mark, I can't wait to meet you tomorrow! Bringing my younger sister, who is also a Sammy Keyes fan :D

Gregg Hogan said...

A scary-looking basement? How interesting! I can feel your excitement through your post, as you begin to put together fragments of the basement's imagined history. I think it's quite amazing that you dared to tour the basement everyone was scared of going to. Hahaha! Anyway, I hope you see more interesting finds like that, Wendelin. Thanks for sharing that! All the best to you! :)

Gregg Hogan @ American Basement Solutions