Saturday, November 11, 2023

Unexpected Weather Events in Missoula: The Trip in Review. And Kindness

Now that October is over, so too are my book travels until April when I'll be in Illinois visiting family, serving as an officiant for my brother's wedding, and squeezing in a few readings from Unexpected Weather Events while I'm at it.

On October 19th, I found myself driving to Missoula, which if there is ever a time to drive to Missoula, autumn is it. Even the drudgery of interstate travel could not take away from the beautiful changing colors of the trees. 

I stopped in Wallace, Idaho both ways because Blackboard Marketplace is a required stop for my family, or evidently when it's just me. One one end of the downtown building is the cafe that serves the best food I've ever eaten; in the middle is the coffee shop that sells good drip (and fancy espresso drinks if you do that) and in the seating area, floor to ceiling shelves of recent and classic books. At the other end of the building is a clothing store of familiar Northwest hiking fashion. 

Outside Blackboard Market in Wallace, Idaho (photo by me, Erin Pringle)

A moment of writing inside Blackboard Market/Todd's Bookstore and Coffee
Wallace, Idaho (photo by me, Erin Pringle)

Because I'd been driving for a while and then sat more as I wrote over coffee, before returning to the car, I roamed about and found EurekaSally Art Gallery. It was a swell place, and I was especially intrigued by the glass work of Sally J Utley. Thankfully, the artist had small pieces for sale and I took it upon myself to purchase several--as well as a pair of upcycled paper collage earrings by an artist whose name I don't remember. There's an online exhibit of several of the artists that you can view:

Artificial tree persisting in a rusty pipe behind a building
Wallace, ID (photo by me, Erin Pringle)

After this, I returned to the road in order to reach Missoula and my friend Melissa Stephenson. And I did reach her and had the chance to reunite with her dogs and lay on my back in the middle of her living room, talking to them and giving good pets. Before the reading, we went to Montgomery Distillery where I remembered watching Melissa give a talk with a few other writers several years back at a Montana Book Festival. 

Montgomery Distillery
Missoula, MT (picture by me, Erin Pringle)

I took a picture of the view, mainly because the moose's severed head was adorned with flowers, which seemed like a strange compromise or gesture on someone's part, and the Mike Meyers severed heads in the plants below seemed an interesting pre-Halloween celebratory choice. But juxtaposition, here we are. 

I then took my head to Fact and Fiction Books where I encountered the empty chairs I'd anticipated but had a good time reading beside Melissa Stephenson--despite (thanks perimenopause) breaking into tears at an especially moving part of my story "Valentine's Day." Thanks to the reader who came to see me and who has been following my career for many years now. I did not think that was possible. There is joy in the quiet of a bookstore of an evening.

Another salve for my sensitive and anxious heart was the interesting and kind bookseller Michael. A writer, reader, and also from Illinois but the upper parts. We figured out the distance from his hometown to mine. Far. Before the reading, he brought me water in a mug that said Woody in the script of Toy Story. I apologized for the turnout, and after the reading, I apologized for the crying. I helped fold the folding chairs and move the book displays back to their positions. Perhaps the ease of wheeling heavy displays of books led to my recent purchase of home bookcases on wheels. I perused the books by the register near where mine was on display, and realized that animal flipbooks are exactly the sort of book my preschoolers would love to look at. Mental note, check. Before I left, Michael asked if he could buy me a book. No one has ever offered such a gift. I accepted and watched him take it from the shelf, ring it up, and hand it to me. People are kind. That's good. 

With my friend Melissa Stephenson standing a few
feet from the exact location where we first met
Fact and Fiction Bookstore/Missoula, MT

Unexpected Weather Events on the counter at Fact and Fiction Books
Missoula, MT (picture by me, Erin Pringle)

The next day, I did some writing at Bernice's Bakery, which is my favorite coffee shop in Missoula and where I've set a series of very short stories that I tell my preschoolers. Their love for the stories has elevated Bernice's Bakery and Missoula in their minds as two VERY IMPORTANT AND FANTASTIC PLACES TO GO, and when I returned to home and school, they were excited to hear about my going. I was excited to return. 

Coffee, muffin, and writing inside Bernice's Bakery
Missoula, MT (picture by me, Erin Pringle)

A cool initiative called United Plant Savers that I saw in a side plot 
beside the building next to Berniece's, so I recorded it
Outside Bernice's Bakery (photo by me, Erin Pringle)

Driving home on I-90

Driving home on I-90


Unexpected Weather Events is available online and in brick-and-mortar. Please support these locations, especially the one nearest you.