Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Cowboy Story Returns


This week I'm back on tour to Denver, Tucson, Scottsdale, and Houston. In other words, Cowboy Country here I come. And so I decided to write something about cowboys--because with the way I'm feeling about what's going in in Greece these days, I'm afraid I'd be lynched there should I say what's on my mind.  If you want to hear those thoughts, catch me on tour. :).

So, cowboys it is.  But as I started to write about Denver I had this deja vu sensation (yes, EvKa, all over again), so I looked back through my old posts and sure enough found one I'd done on this very topic in February 2011. Times have changed for sure.  Denver is awash in construction but great care appears to have been taken toward preserving much of the old architecture.  And the iconic Tattered Cover bookstore will soon be under new ownership...but by book people, not venture capitalists. 

I'm re-posting the piece because it says things that bear repeating on not just lovely Denver but loyalty to independent bookstores.  

Yes, the details of this visit are a bit different.  I'm staying at a different hotel--one that used to be the Colorado National Bank and some might say is more vaulted than it deserves--and I'm definitely older than even the piano player recalled in his comment repeated as the penultimate line of this post.  But Denver and its environs is still enchanting. Just ask Barbara whom I dragged to Boulder and then made stand in the background for this photo looking east from the Flatirons.  

And we both bought shirts at Rockmount Ranch Wear, still going strong after 107 years.  So, here goes...

I want to write about cowboys.  Probably because I’m in Denver, about to head back east after a month or so on the western leg of my book tour.  I like Colorado, always have.  Bought three authentic western shirts at a store close by to where I’m staying.  It actually started the western look and is a hallowed stop for “folks in the know,” like country western and rock stars.  The shirts will go nicely with the boots I bought in Houston…and the matching belt.  If only I could sing.

Rockmount Ranch Wear, Denver
At the moment, though, I’m sitting in the atrium lobby of Denver’s venerable Brown Palace Hotel where a month ago, as a highlight of Denver’s 105th National Western Stock Show (as in cattle, not Wall Street), the prize-winning bull was paraded into the lobby.  He’s not here at the moment, though I haven’t checked to see whether he might be hanging out (ouch) in the adjoining decidedly non-vegan restaurant.

I first came to Colorado in the early seventies, fell in love with the mountains, and camped out here during the late summer for many years.  Lowell Thomas said it best, “I come to the Rockies to recharge my batteries.”

I stopped my pilgrimages a half dozen years or so later when I found a farm back east that sparked the sort of feelings I had for a place I knew near Golden, Colorado.  A home away from home, so to speak.  Then I discovered Greece and all bets were off.

Still, there is a unique magic to the Rockies and I could use some of it at the moment.  The tour’s been a great success—two live TV and four radio interviews in Denver alone—but after five weeks on the trail, this ol’ cowpoke has come to a conclusion he just has to share.

BUY BOOKS.  And I mean the printed kind.  And I don’t care whose they are, as long as you buy at least one hardcover or two trade paperbacks a month from your local independent bookstore.  That is, if you still want to see them around your neighborhood this time next year.  These days, I’d be surprised if most independents don’t qualify for not-for-profit status.

They’re battling not only the e-book frenzy and a no disposable income for books economy, but landlords looking for more.  Yes, the stories I’ve heard over these last few weeks are anecdotal, but considering the size of the bookselling community, two or three stories here and another few there begin to add up to a groundswell of evidence.

Baked by Murder By The Book, Denver
This isn’t about writers protecting their outlets.  It’s about communities protecting themselves.  E-books and piracy issues are not the source of the problem I’m talking about.  It’s the people who love books and can afford to buy books who chose to purchase them elsewhere.  Either online or for cheaper prices in places I need not mention.  Fine, continue to do that, but don’t forget to buy from your local bookstore, too.  Or three.

I know, I’m preaching to the choir and it’s all been said before.  But it can never be said enough.  If you want to hear it differently, since I’m sitting at the moment in cowboy central, permit me to put it this way: Let’s not let another local bookstore [née sheriff] ride off into the sunset because the town folk won’t back it up.  There will be no new one coming to town.  If you’re lucky, you might find some fancy-pants operator way over yonder, but don’t bet on it having any idea who the hell Lowell Thomas was.

Brown Palace Hotel, Denver
Time for a bit of humor.  I’ve been typing away on my laptop for over an hour, sitting in this massive hotel lobby as far away as possible from a piano player valiantly (and adeptly) plugging away for the same amount of time.  He just walked over to me and said, “Hi, you don’t recognize me but we met in Mykonos a couple of years ago.  I’m a friend of so and so.” It was the perfect tiny bit of ego tickling I needed to get my mind off the dark and dreary.  Then he added, “It took me a while to recognize you, you look older.”

I still tipped him.

— Jeff


  1. I'm not sure who's supposed to be "still going strong after 107 years." Is it the shirts? The ranch? You? (I *know* it's not Barbara, it's obvious she ain't a day over 22.)

    And why, in all these selfies, are YOU always in the foreground and Barbara's WAYYYYYY in the background? Give her the phone, man, let HER take the picture. She's not only the better photographer, she's the better photographee.

    But hey, she's still following you around, so you must not be doing EVERYTHING wrong.

    Or, as Yogi might have said, "If it ain't broke, you haven't taken a selfie yet."

    1. If any one would know what Yogi might say, it's you Boo-boo. :)

  2. If only I had known! I would have buzzed right down to Denver to say hello. I live in Fort Collins now. In fact I was in Denver Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday I attended a friend's signing and Thursday night I went to monthly meeting of the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America. See you at LCC.

    1. Thanks, Charlotte, I thought of dropping you a note but realized you're such a good friend you'd actually have come...and I'd have had to be entertaining. :)

  3. i think it;s cool. Remember all that wisdom you've gathered. I'm in the middle of Devil and whew, You hitting all the buttons!

  4. You definitely had a Rocky Mountain high going for you out there in the Ol' Wild West. Hope the tour continues to go well. Sorry we won't see you in AZ this year - it would be interesting to hear your observations on Greece.

    1. We're in Tucson at a terrific Inn and will be missing you in Scottsdale for sure, but your gig at your stone house on the hill above the Ionian sea is a grand excuse. As for my observations on Greece they are evolving more rapidly with each new day's revelations.

  5. Your story beats mine. A friend emailed me to say that he had just called to register for the Gretna Green writing course I recommended. The receptionist at the hotel asked him who had given him the details. 'Caro Ramsay,' he said. 'Oh,' said the receptionist to him, then to A N Other at her side of the phone. 'Was Caro Ramsay no' that lassie done fur murder?'

  6. Thanks for the reminder, Jeff. I have a personal policy of buying at least one book (usually morel like four, because I'm not good at "decisions") whenever I'm in an independent bookstore, but it's been a while since I visited one, and I'm overdue!

    Also...I adore Colorado. It's one of my favorite places (though I have to admit, I've never run into an acquaintance from halfway across the globe while there).

    I hope the tour is going well!

    1. The acquiring books fetish we share, Susan, can get a bit weighty a half dozen bookstores into the tour. Especially with Barbara getting in on the buying. :)

      And yes, going well, thank you.