NASHVILLE—It is snowing on the first day of my book tour.
Sometimes when people hear the term “book tour” they immediately think fancy schmancy. Well, believe me, this tour is extremely fancy. Nothing but the best for us. The hotel we stayed at last night, for example, recently installed several brand new top-of-the-line mouse traps.
We’re calling this the “Snow Tour.” Which is a only joke because the snow here in Nashville only lasted for a whopping four seconds before Davidson County officials brought the snowfall to a halt, penalizing flurries for accumulating without a building permit.
Needless to say, I’ve never done an official book tour before. Though, I imagine it sort of works the same way the Tour de France works. You ride across the country, enduring sleep deprivation, stinking to high heaven, straddling a seat that’s about the size of a Snickers bar. Luckily, our van’s bucket seats are a little bigger, more like a Baby Ruth.
My wife and I will be living on the road for nearly a month. This means that we will be wearing the same clothes day after day, doing our laundry in hotel sinks. So if you happen to see me while on tour, make sure you give me a big hug because I’ll be smelling great—provided you like the smell of Limburger cheese.
Speaking of Limburger, I should mention my book.
I started writing it a couple years ago during a vacation to Lake Martin because my wife had gotten a great internet deal on a lake cabin. Well, at least that’s what we thought. Come to find out, it wasn’t a deal.
For starters, the cabin wasn’t even on water. It was located on a remote part of the lake that hasn’t seen any actual water since the Paleolithic era. The lake had receded WAY back so that the porch was overlooking miles of fudge-colored mud and dead fish that were all frozen solid within the muck. Yes, frozen. Because that year it was snowing in Alabama.
And the hits kept coming.
When we arrived, we discovered that the word “cabin” was a term of endearment. This “cabin” was in fact a “1983 trailer camper.”
When I turned the key in the lock, the key broke off in the door. So I tried to force entry through a bedroom window with a tire iron and ended up ripping off my thumbnail in the process.
The maintenance guy was no help, he was a fourteen-year-old boy who came moseying out of a nearby camper wearing pajamas. His mother owned these cabins. He inspected the lock for a few seconds and finally said,—this is a verbatim quote—“Bro.”
So it was turning out to be a great vacation. My wife and I waited for help, sitting in the cold for about an hour. Our saving grace finally came in the form of a locksmith, and soon we were able to fully appreciate the interior of our “cabin.”
We discovered that it was colder inside than it was outside because the walls were about as thick as sheets of Reynolds Wrap standard aluminum foil. There were cobwebs, mildew stains, and a funky smell so strong that it made Limburger cheese smell like pure joy.
We saw a rodent scurry across the floor carrying a Bud Light and a pack of matches.
“Have a great vacation,” said the locksmith.
In the end, our trip turned out okay. We got plenty of peace and quiet. I took lots of walks and breathed in fresh air. The only real annoyance was that when we wanted to get a cellphone signal we had to climb on top of the camper roof and throw our phone at passing commercial airplanes.
This was the same weekend I began writing my memoir. Each morning I would sit on the little sofa and write. On my right side was my dog, Ellie Mae. On my left, a rodent the size of John Travolta.
The first morning of writing I saw a blue heron swoop from the sky and land on the lake. Which might not seem like a big deal to you, but it was to me. First of all, it was freezing outside. What was a heron doing here?
Secondly, throughout my life blue herons have always reminded me of my late father. I always thought he resembled one when he was alive. This is why my book, which is about my father, has a lot of herons in it. There are even herons on the cover.
These birds have always shown up at the strangest and most pivotal times for me. In fact, before I left home for Nashville yesterday morning, I saw a heron standing at the edge of the pond near my house.
I know this probably doesn’t mean anything to you, but to me it’s pure magic.
Anyway, my life has changed a lot since that cold day on the mud of Lake Martin. My dog has since passed. I have gotten a little older, and a little dumber. And I finally finished that book.
My wife and I will have several long days spent on highways, roaming the American Southeast with our entire lives packed in the backseat. We’ll be covering thousands of miles, visiting small towns and little bookstores, eating many gas-station burritos. And I’ll be counting every heron along the way.
If I happen to see you in the days ahead, I certainly hope you like hugs.
And Limburger cheese.