October 30, 2011
I just wrapped up my last few book events of 2011, finally touching down in the Kootenay region in the mountainous southeastern pocket of BC. Known for its mix of European immigrants, industry, and a draft-dodging hippie counter-culture, it’s an area that I’ve wanted to tour the book to from the beginning, so I was happy to finally be able to swing through this beautiful area this weekend. Here are some of the highlights:
I flew into the little town of Castlegar where I hopped into a tiny rental car with an unlockable trunk, and hit the winding, gorgeous highways and byways of the Kootenays, ribbons of blacktop stretching through river valleys, mountain passes, time zones and tiny picturesque towns. First stop…
Located in the eastern Kootenays, this town is also hosting a concert for my wife Jill in exactly a month, so I had my first experience of seeing my book event posters side by side with her concert posters. My reading was at a nice, big, bright independent bookstore called Lotus Books that has been there for years and years. Lots of people came out and we had a great time fueled by wine, snacks and laughs. A highlight was meeting a plane crash survivor / physiotherapist / Scottish gent who was extremely enthusiastic and complimentary of my stories. After the reading I chowed down on a delicious venison stew courtesy of Heidi’s Restaurant. Thanks, CranBOOK! (Trivia fans: hometown of Steve Yzerman!)
Trail is a blue-collar town known for its huge smokestack smelter on the bank of the Columbia River, its Italian community, and many famous hockey teams and players. This afternoon’s book event was at the Crockett Book Company, the only bookstore in town, deep within the mall up on the hill. The bookstore overlooked the food court and thus it was a bit of a challenge trying to read stories over the general din of mall people eating. That said, a small crowd of friendly people came down, mostly CBC Radio fans, their attendance and attentiveness appreciated. Afterwards I was able to chow down on at The Colander Express, a famous Italian Trail eatery, while getting the stink-eye from a couple of mall rats. (Trivia fans: hometown of goaltender Cesare Maniago!)
This is my kinda town. In fact it reminded me a lot of larger version of Lund, up near Desolation Sound. This ski village is up in the Monashee Mountains, right along the US border, and is the home to a beautiful little store called Café Books. They put on a great event for me – a packed house of my kinda people… lovers of life, laughter, and beer. Café Books supplied both beer and pizza for the patrons, and I had the pleasure of chatting with all sorts of Rossland residents, including a true character named Angela, one of my seasonal neighbours up in Desolation Sound. Thanks to everyone at Café Books for a fantastic night! (Trivia fans: hometown of John Turner, our 17th Prime Minister of Canada!)
Winlaw is a tiny hamlet located deep in the Slocan Valley, home to about three businesses, one being Jennie’s Book Garden, a lovely, comfortable little bookstore, run by Jennie, who hand picks every single book sold in the store. Of all the bookstores I’ve visited across the country this past year, this one is certainly one of the best. I could have spent hours in there, going through all of Jennie’s very intriguing personal picks, and hearing or reading about the reason why that particular book sits on the shelf. It’s a great compliment that my book is one of them. Also, awesome Tintin selection! (Trivia fans: Winlaw is also home to the Cedar Creek Café, a live music venue and organic restaurant).
If Rossland reminded me Lund, Nakusp, located on the sandy shores of Upper Arrow Lake, reminded me of Powell River. It’s a little bigger than Rossland, and more of a mix of blue-collar workers and folks who have moved there to retire, just like good ol’ PR. The Nakusp Public Library put on a great afternoon book event for me in the local log cabin community centre, which came complete baked goods brought by attendees. The chocolate chips cookies passed my taste test with flying colours. And you know it’s a good book reading when the mayor shows up. Thanks also to the very comfortable Frog’s Leap Bed and Breakfast for the much-needed crash pad.
Thanks to everyone in the Kootenays for making me feel so welcome! I’ll be back to do the other half of the region in the spring!