Travels with Doris — Catching Up

September 27th, 2009

Okay, sorry.  I know how you were all biting your nails about when you’d get the next trip report, so here it is.

Leaving Kansas, Doris decided to put me on a series of back roads that ran through people’s rose gardens and driveways, and slowed from 70 mph to 15 with no discernible reason, unless you count children playing in the street.  Inevitably, I missed a speed sign, and the red-and-blue lights went on behind me.  I pulled over, envisioning a week in a jail cell with deputies who worked as extras on “Deliverance” until the cop came up to the window and said, “Sir?  In case you’re wondering why I stopped you?  You was doing 90 in a 55-mile an hour area?”  He spoke exclusively in questions.  He was about fourteen, plump shading to fat, with the rosiest cheeks I’d ever seen.  I showed him Doris and told him she’d been leading me through people’s living rooms, and he said, “Where y’all trying to git to?” and I said “Dallas,” and he started to laugh.  He said, “Hold on?” and went back to his car.

Five minutes later, he was back with his partner, a much older man whose skin looked like a new synthetic designed to allow people to lay burning cigarettes on it and let them burn to the filter without leaving a mark.  The young cop asked me to show Doris to the old one, and the old one started laughing and said, “Son, that thing’s tryin’ to take you to Santa Fe.”  Then he hit the young one on the shoulder, hard enough to knock him a couple of steps sideways.  Then they both laughed.  The old cop said, “Don’t you listen to that there woman,” meaning Doris, and gave me directions to the I-35 going south, and the young one handed me a yellow piece of paper and said, “This don’t mean you have to go court or pay nothing?  This is just a warning.”  And they drove off, and I turned Doris off and followed the cop’s directions to the I-35.

Then I drove south forever.  Texas is quite large.  Ultimately, I got to Houston and MURDER BY THE BOOK, one of the busiest and best-stocked mystery bookstores in the country, and thanks to everyone there for (a) being so nice, and (b) turning out the whole world.  I somehow neglected to take a single picture, but a terrific young novelist named Rachel Brady, whose first book, FINAL APPROACH, has just come out, took this shot of me unknowingly modeling the cover of my book.


It’d make a good T-shirt, wouldn’t it?  Thanks, Rachel.  Oh, and we sold lots and lots of books.  And then I had the enormous pleasure of having dinner with two new friends, Agelia (Meche) and Eric.  Meche is the niece of Alicia Aguayo, who is one of the two people to whom BREATHING WATER is dedicated.  And thanks for dinner, you two — it was a wonderful evening.

After Houston, I went to New Orleans, to Garden District Books, where the rainstorm I’d been towing around behind me like a kite finally caught up with me and produced a downpour of Bangkok proportions.  So attendance was a tad on the scanty side, although that just gave me time to talk to everyone and to meet a longtime correspondent whose name, Elora, I stole for BREATHING WATER.


The Garden District staff also recommended two books I’ve been reading ever since, Glen David Gold’s SUNNYSIDE, a novel about Charlie Chaplin (and more or less the whole world during Chaplin’s time), and Roberto Bolano’s monolithic 2666 (roughly 900 pages) which has pretty much owned my life when I wasn’t either driving, talking in bookstores, or writing.  What a book.  Only got about 50 pages to go, and I’m having withdrawal pains already, although let me warn you that it’s really, really grim for about 300 pages that detail the killings of some 200 women in Sonora, Mexico.

Then I made the extravagantly beautiful drive from New Orleans to Nashville, where I took about four days off to write and to hang around with my friend Robb, who was a member of Bread, won an Oscar, has written a bunch of tremendous country hits, and just generally underachieved.  He’s now living like a member of the baronial elite, if the baronial elite feed their own horses and, um, goats.  Here he is, being convincingly country.


And here he is, doing nothing in a country fashion on the porch in front of his barn.


He lives surrounded by dogs.  I also had a great dinner with him, his wife, Maddy, and his two kids at the house in town, which has smaller dogs and lacks goats and horses but is still pretty swell.

Nashville also gave me a chance to meet some other friends, including a clutch of mystery writers, but I’ll save that and the signing at MYSTERIES AND MORE for the next post, which will come more quickly than this one did, since I’m now in Spokane and heading for Seattle and the end of the road.  It’s been a phenomenal trip.

6 Responses to “Travels with Doris — Catching Up”

  1. Rachel Brady Says:

    Plump shading to fat. Love it!

  2. Cynthia Mueller Says:

    Hey – Robb ain’t “doin’ nuthin.” Clearly, he’s setting a spell. Can’t you tell the difference? Yeesch! You’re such a city boy!

    Good news! My neighbor’s copy of Breathing Water came yesterday! She’s busy reading and loving your story (and hating you a bit for making her cry).

    Glad to hear your trip is going well. Safe miles….

    My captcha: grand morpheme

    Hmmmm…I think I want some of that, but it sounds like it might be illegal in the great state of Nevada (without a prescription).

  3. Greg Smith Says:

    GPS and artificial intelligence? Not so much. I’ve had people try to use Map quest to get to my house and they’ve ended up in the front yards of people who have to rappel to their cars.
    It’s been loads of fun following your travels.
    I just finished Breathing Water and my lungs are killing me.
    Thanks for another great read, Tim. They just keep getting better and better.

  4. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Rachel — Thanks — the kid was actually adorable. Try to get off with a warning from the LAPD some day.

    Cynthia — He’s actually setting for a spell after choring, but I couldn’t bring myself to use “chore” as a verb. And let me know what the grand morpheme does for you. There’s probably a site selling it somewhere.

    Greg — Thanks for the niceness about BREATHING WATER, and the lungs line actually made me laugh, sitting all alone up here in my desolate hotel room in Seattle. Sob. But I’ll be home SATURDAY!!!!!!

  5. Larissa Says:

    Oh Tim, only you could find the two most amicable cops (one obviously intent on playing a Game of Questions) and get out of a speeding ticket like that. I’ll have to get a GPS and carry it around. Hehe. Well done. And as far as “choring” as a verb-I heard someone use “Swine Flu-ing” the other day…so there are worse crimes.

    So what’d you think of N’awlans? I believe you said it was the first time you’d been back since that whole Katrina thing happened.

    and my captcha is: Selma morose

    Poor Selma!

  6. Stefan Says:

    hey Tim, always glad to hear about yr travels. sorry it rained in the States but the folks in these parts (more specifically, Philippines and Vietnam) are currently settin’ a spell on the roofs of their houses. we’ve been getting the occasional half-a-meter to two-meters of squalls here in Hong Kong but we’ve got good drainage.

    i just HAD to list the captcha as it’s a blend of the sublime and the absurd:

    the permed

    WTF? as the kids say.


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