Michael Perry, author of Coop, reports from his road trip:
All along the tour, when time and geography allow, I do drop-in signings. Say hello, introduce myself, sign books if they're in stock. After a recent drop-in, I headed directly for a local coffee shop to sneak a bit of writing time. Twenty minutes later a guy came in carrying a brand-new copy of Coop. I've often wondered how I would react in this situation. I'd like to think I'd be all cool and everything, but I wasn't. I kept shooting him glances and went back and forth about whether I should bug him, especially since he was accompanied by his possibly preschool son, but what finally swayed me was the fact that included in the pile with my book was an Olivia the Pig book. I'm a tad homesick as it is, but the sight of Olivia immediately put me bedside with my own two girls, both of whom love the inimitable porker. As the man gathered up his coffee, books, and youngster to leave, I just pointed at Coop and said, "Hey, thanks for buying that book."
Naturally he looked at me like I was a two-legged non sequitur.
Then I heard myself saying what I wish I'd been too cool to say, but I said it: "Yah, I wrote that."
But y'know? What may have been a cringeworthy moment bloomed beautifully when his face lit up and we were off to the races, shooting the breeze about the books (good news, Harper people: he has 'em all), raising chickens and reading Olivia the Pig stories to our babies. He's a carpenter and a builder, and it did my heart good to hear that despite his skills, his first chicken coop didn't turn out quite the way he hoped. Then we talked about the esthetics of timber frame construction in general, and then the esthetics of chicken coops in particular, and I pointed him to this website, cited in chapter two of Coop and a major influence on my henhouse.
We parted then and will perhaps never meet again (not being dramatic, just stating a likely fact), but thanks to chance (him walking into the bookstore just after I had signed the book), planning (the book was placed prominently because I had just signed it) (and it is possible he was looking for it thanks to an interview Harper publicist Meredith had arranged prior to the tour), and good old fashioned human commonality (fatherhood, affection for books, coffee, esthetics and fictional pigs), I met a nice guy and we shared a hearty conversation. Plus, carpenters who read are cool.
Thank you to everyone who arrived and spent time in the chairs at Toadstool Bookshop in Keene, N.H., last night. This was a lively bunch. They came primed with questions, and one gentleman was even familiar with Ed Krejci, the dear departed owner of Ed's Shoes in Chippewa Falls, Wis. I wrote about Ed in Coop:
Once a year at the end of summer we went to Chippewa Falls to buy school shoes from a store owned by a man named Ed, who kept seconds and overstocks in the back for families just like ours. When we got home with our shoes, we'd bail out of the car and rip around the yard, convinced that this year's tennies were the speediest ever. "These have good treads," I'd say, cutting sharply like a running back.
As a native of Chippewa County, Wis., I knew immediately that the gentleman in attendance at Toadstool last night was legit when he pronounced Chippewa as "Chip'wuh." Outsiders pronounce it Chip-a-wah and are sent directly to Leinie's Lodge
for re-education. Additional citizenship tests include the pronunciation of Leinie's (rhymes with hiney) and the ability to spell Leinenkugel's after drinking three Leinenkugel's.
Also in the audience were two local volunteer firefighters. One of the great gifts Population 485
has provided me is the ongoing opportunity to meet fellow firefighters and emergency medical responders all across the country. It's an honor to be part of that crew. In St. Paul, Minn., my pager is sitting in my car, waiting for me to arrive from the airport and switch it back on as soon as I hit the proper county line (note to self: Chief Three is also eagerly awaiting your emergency first responder license renewal, due by June 30). It is impossible for me adequately to express the import of my involvement in fire and EMS over the years, but apart from becoming a husband and father I designate my 12 years of service with the New Auburn Area Fire Department as the single most meaningful experience of my life. Indeed, the highlight of my year so far came last April when I unexpectedly wound up helping my old department fight a wildfire
. These days my schedule allows me only a handful of calls per year, but that pager is a direct link to reality and mortality and an essential means of keeping one's priorities straight no matter how wildly glamorous (Brattleboro Super 8, anyone?) his book tours might become. So hang in there, Chief Three, I'll get that license renewal in, and see you sometime soon, probably at 3 a.m. in some ditch.