TRAVELS WITH DORIS

August 28th, 2009

Day 2 of the Neverending Tour, mile 566, and I never would have made it without my traveling companion, Doris. I’ve never seen Doris, but I know exactly what she looks like. She’s small and thin and dresses in black, draws her dark, graying hair back in a tight bun, wears big black-framed glasses, keeps a cigarette permanently screwed into the right corner of her mouth, and has curvature of the spine from sitting bent over maps 24 hours a day.  Oh, and she’s got steel teeth.

Doris lives in my Garmin.  My Garmin tells me, a person with no sense of direction whatsoever, how to get exactly where I’m going.  She never gets snippy, she doesn’t mind repeating the same direction twelve times, and, unlike my wife, she doesn’t scream, “He’s swerving, he’s swerving” every time a car occupies the lane on either side.

Doris has, at long last, brought me into the future.  I arrived tonight in Tucson, a city about which I know two things:  it’s in Arizona, and it’s hot.  I decided I wanted a steak.  I opened the laptop, went to Yelp for Tucson, chose a steakhouse, got in the car, and gave Doris the address. Total time elapsed: four minutes.  And the steak was sensational, even if the place was named Daisy Mae’s. By the way customers at Daisy Mae’s write deathless messages on one-dollar bills and staple them to  the wall. There must be $1500 stapled to the wall in the main dining room.

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After four signings in LA — Small World Books, The Mystery Bookstore, Mysteries To Die For, and Book ’em — I pointed the car South and gave Doris the address of my brother Mike, in Laguna.  Stopped for lunch with him and his beautiful wife, Kathy, and met their adorable three-year-old grand-daughter, Kaylie, whose favorite sentence, said with total certainty, is, “I’m Kaylie.”  Then we went into the Sawdust Festival, where Mike’s work is on sale.

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Mike is the incipient geezer with the post-Vogue fashion sense.  He was selling the whole time I was there.

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This does nothing like justice to the work.  I should have given Doris the camera.

Then I drove to San Diego, where I did the famous Bangkok multimedia extravaganza to an appreciative, if not overwhelmingly large audience, and slept in a Motel 6 bed with covers that had apparently been woven out of those cardboard Christmas trees Afghan cab drivers hang from their windshields in New York.  The smell chased me out of bed at seven this morning, and I drove Silver, my new car, seven million one hundred thirty two thousand eight hundred and eleven miles to Tucson.  Passed towns with names like Ocatillo, Plaster, and Gila Bend (when Gila monsters are a selling point, you know you’re not in a really top ZIP code).  As I passed Plaster, the temperature in the car was 68 and outside it was 116.  Thank you, Silver.

And tonight I did an, um, intimate event at Clues Unlimited here in Tucson, and a sweeter store I’ve never been in.  Then Doris took me to Daisy Mae’s and home again, and here I am.

Tomorrow, Phoenix.

6 Responses to “TRAVELS WITH DORIS”

  1. Jay Fishman Says:

    Interstingly, is Doris ubiquitos? A few years ago we took a tour of the St Nazaire and Lorient area with Ian Alexander of the War research Institute. That is where the submarine pens are located (a hobby 3 of us do every other year) He called his GPS Doris as well.

    Enjoy you books. We are going to Taihland and Siem Reap in December for my 60th.

    J

  2. Jay Fishman Says:

    pardon the mispells. Can spell can’t type

  3. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Jy — The world is a mysterious place, and I wouldn’t put it past MY Doris to have the ability to be in many places at once. Omnipresent, that’s Doris.

    The European trips sound fascinating. You don’t mention whether this is your first trip to SE Asia, but I’m delighted to hear that you’re going to see Angkor. I think it’s the most beautiful thing ever built by human hands.

    Thanks for dropping by.

  4. suzanna Says:

    Hi, Tim

    It’s wonderful to get a glimpse of your life on the road. And I’m glad Doris keeps you on track, well fed, and amused. Mike may be a little casual for Vogue but he sure can paint!

  5. Lisa Kenney Says:

    Can’t wait to see you and Doris! Just caught your update that you made it to…ahem…Pueblo, where believe it or not I have actually spent some time. Get out of there, man! And don’t let her get too bossy. Oh, and we call ours “Bitchin’ Betty”. She’s not nearly as charming when she keeps saying “please proceed to the highlighted route” as the charming “Emily” was when we went to Scotland last year. Of course I did the driving there and was afraid for my life the entire time 🙂

  6. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Soozie and Lisa, I love both of you guys. Mike DOES NOT go online, or I never would have described him as an incipient geezer. The fashion description would give him no problem.

    Lisa, I told you on the phone that Doris is learning to pronounce Spanish. Kind of freaks me out, actually. Next thing you know, she’ll be smoking in my car.

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