In my ongoing quest to find new venues and different ways of sharing Monument Road with readers, I found myself at Meadowlark Garden Center, our neighborhood garden store. The reading and semi-reunion was hosted by two former classmates, Janis Nowlan and Frank Nelson, as well as owner Ann Barrett.
Back before the 2008 real estate crash, Ann had plans to open a coffee shop in the bright and lovely cottage on the property. But tough years followed as homes were foreclosed, consumers hunkered down and big-box consolidation in the garden store industry continued. The savings for opening the coffee shop went instead to keeping the business going.
I share this because part of my reason for doing this book and promoting it to readers is to highlight the culture and people of the west who are fighting the samenification of America by running independent businesses that bring something unique and personal to their communities.
Monument Road won't make me rich. It won't even pay me for my time in an economic sense. But writing it and connecting with readers and the places that serve them has enriched my life considerably.
For example, no matter how many units I might move on Amazon, I could never have encountered the following:
A woman I'd never met was one of the first to arrive. She said, "I was destined to buy your book yesterday, read 40 pages and decided I had to come."
Of course, I had to ask why.
She said she received a call out of the blue from a former neighbor who now lives in Wyoming. "Why are you calling me?" she asked.
"I'm returning your call," the woman said.
"I didn't call you."
"Yes, you did."
Eventually, they worked it out that a butt dial had started their reconnection, and the woman in Wyoming (a classmate of mine who'd received a mailing) told her friend about the reading coming up on Thursday.
Then there was the gregarious fellow who said he was in my class, though I couldn't place his name or face. He finally clarified that he had been in my history class. I prepared for some anecdote about the Russian History class we'd taken together, but then he said I had taught the class.
That wasn't me. You're thinking of my younger brother, Steve.
No, it was you, he insisted again and again. (This was late afternoon and the beverages had not flowed far.)
He finally accepted my word that I'd never taught high school history.
Later he told my host Janis that she had failed to understand what I was doing in the book. I'm happy when Monument Road provokes discussion and brings out conflicting points of view, but as a general rule, women like men to have read a book before they start explaining it.