Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Turning Crack to Sugar, While Salvaging a Family

I've been mostly riding the fiction Ferris wheel lately (except for Cheryl Strayed's wonderful Wild, and the David Millar's cycling memoir), so I decided it was time to get back into the nonfiction pool. The book I chose was Sugarhouse: Turning the Neighborhood Crack House into Our Home Sweet Home, by Matthew Batt (or Matt Batt, if you will).

Of course, I felt that I'd made a good decision selecting this book when I read the quote from Cheryl Strayed on the back: "Winning, funny, and crackling with life, Sugarhouse is a can't-put-down chronicle of a bad house gone good and a good family gone in directions the author didn't expect. Matt Batt's book about glue, grace, gumption, and the grit it takes to keep on living is an unforgettable and sweet read." Pretty hard not to pick up a book that Cheryl recommends.

After suffering through a season of loss, Batt and his wife Jenae decide not to call quits on their young marriage but instead purchase a dilapidated former crack house in the Sugarhouse section of Salt Lake City and attempt to resurrect it, despite their complete lack of do-it-yourself or home-ownership experience. Dizzy with despair, doubt, and the side effects of using the rough equivalent of napalm to detoxify their house, they enter into full-fledged adulthood with power tools in hand.

They decided it was time to take this step because, after renting a multitude of apartments, they realized that most of their peer group had taken big steps into adulthood: "You're married, you're getting older, and your parents are looking more and more like the grandparents they are pestering you to make them. It's getting embarrassing. Your pathetic renter's mailbox -- the one with three former tenants' names crossed out -- is stuffed with your friends' baby-shower invitations. Just a few months ago, right after my grandmother died, five different people mentioned the world 'ultrasound' to me on the same day."

They had suffered a mean spate of losses ("...adulthood had just coldcocked us."), having lost Matt's adoptive dad, Matt's beloved grandmother, Gram, and Jenae's grandfather. "These losses were devastating in their own ways, but Gram -- her death was utterly unacceptable. All bets were off after that. Our best couple-friends were getting divorced. Doctors detected a strange mass in my mother's abdomen, and, not to be upstaged, my grandfather started having trouble with -- among a raft of other things -- his colon. It all seemed to be happening at the same time, on the same day, every hour on the hour."

"Between the birth announcements and the death certificates, we couldn't tell up from down. even the simplest facts and dates became obscured, irrelevant. All we knew was that everyone but us was dying, getting divorced, or having a kid, and we were stuck with our hands in our pockets waiting for the band to start. Life and death were coming for us, and we could either dig in, settle down, and try to defend the home front, or agree to shake hands and walk quietly away from the line and go our separate ways."

Rather than parting, Matt and Jenae went all in. After losing out on several better houses they'd made offers on, they end up buying a FSBO (for sale by owner) from a guy named Stanley who drove "...the kind of car driven by, I imagine, someone who has a cellar full of Spam, Fanta, guns, and ammunition." He also wore shorts so short "that one pocket hangs below the ragged hem, and I worry for a moment that it's not his pocket."

The house needs work. A LOT of work. And neither Matt nor Jenae have any experience along those lines, nor do they have the finances to hire people to do everything. The carpets all need to be torn out and the hardwood floors revived; cabinets, counters, and sink replaced; oh, and all the appliances too; and the furnace, water heater, windows, and garage door. And something needs to be done about the smell: "It reeks like a state fair Porta Potty during a heat spell and a sanitation strike. I check to see if my nose is bleeding."

Amidst all of the renovation challenges, Batt is also dealing with the disintegration of his family. His mom is still deeply mourning the loss of Gram, her mom. And his grandfather seems to be going off the deep end. A lot of drinking is involved. "It is the day before Christmas Eve, and Gram is not here. Therefore, there will be no Christmas, my mom has decided. 'We'll just get together,' she says, 'have some burgers.' No one believes her. As soon as Jenae and I touch down in Wisconsin, we begin drinking competitively. And while there is no making up for drinking competitively with Gram, there is still drinking. I am not proud. Neither am I sorry. Everywhere we go is an empty chair. You have never seen so many empty chairs."

I don't want to tell you how it all ends up, and if I don't stop now I probably will. And I'll probably end up quoting half the book or more, because every page I turn I find another paragraph that knocks my socks off. You'll just have to see for yourself. But I'm pretty sure you'll love it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pauls Toutonghi Reads July 25th

We hope you can join us at 7 pm on Wednesday, July 25th, to hear local author Pauls Toutonghi read from and discuss his recently published novel, Evel Knievel Days.

Toutonghi was born in 1976 to an Egyptian father and a Latvian mother. His writing has appeared in Granta, The New York Times, Zoetrope: All-Story, The Boston Review, Five Chapters, One Story, Sports Illustrated, Book Magazine, The Rumpus, and numerous other periodicals. He received a Pushcart Prize for his short story, Regeneration. His first novel, Red Weather, which tells the story of a young man with Latvian immigrant parents, growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, came out from Random House in 2006

His most recent book, and the book he'll be reading from on Wednesday, is Evel Knievel Days. This coming-of-age novel introduces us to twenty-year-old Khosi Saqr, half-Egyptian, being raised by a single mother, and living in Butte, Montana. Butte is the hometown of motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel. Deciding that he doesn't fit in in a town of people who can't pronounce his name, he decides to take his own Knievel-like risk and go to Egypt in a search for his father -- and for his own identity. What he discovers in Cairo is much more startling than he expected it to be.

Portland/Miami author Diana Abu-Jaber had this to say about the book: "Beautifully written, Evel Knievel Days takes readers on a wry, irresistible journey. Toutonghi has written a spellbinding novel full of heart and startling humor."

Benjamin Percy, author of the Oregon-based novel The Wilding says, "This coming-of-age story spans the globe -- from an Evel Knievel festival in Butte, Montana, to the protests in Tahrir Square. Evel Knievel Days enchants the reader with its ghosts, recipes, and plucky, know-it-all hypochondriac of a narrator -- and his travels in search of his father and himself."

And the irrepressible Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain says, "Evel Knievel Days is so good, I want to dress it up in a star-spangled jumpsuit, leap it over the pyramids of Giza on a Laverda American Eagle 750cc motorcycle, and watch it stick its landing before an audience of millions in downtown Butte, Montana. This is one you shouldn't miss."

After receiving his PhD in English Literature from Cornell University, Pauls moved to Portland, where he is a professor of English at Lewis & Clark College. He and his wife have two-year-old twins. He has taught a class on the rock 'n' roll novel at the college and is a big fan of early blues, early early folk, and old country music, including songs by Kitty Wells, who passed away this week at the age of 92.

Recently, Jeff Baker wrote about Pauls in The Oregonian's "Where I Write" series. He was also recently interviewed by Dave Miller for OPB's Think Out Loud program. Alan Cheuse reviewed the book for NPR's All Things Considered. If you are unable to attend the reading, you can purchase his books from us through our website.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Coming Clean on My Addiction

I am an addict. There. I've said it. It feels so good to come clean. To be more specific, I find myself addicted to the Tour de France. I don't know how it happened: I'm not an athlete and I don't cycle -- I don't even like Lycra (and it certainly isn't a good look for me).

It started three or four years ago -- who knows how I fell down that slippery slope. But now I find myself once a year setting my alarm for 5 am (or 3:30 or 4 for the mountain stages) so I can get up and watch each day's stage, for the three-week race. I know that each stage is replayed later in the day, but my addiction requires that I get up and watch the first showing.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a morning person. Nothing persuades me to get up at what I consider to be the wee hours of the morning, except an early morning airplane flight (something I avoid like the plague -- in fact, I avoid all flying like the plague, because it's become intolerable).

This year not only am I watching the Tour de France, but at the same time I'm reading a newly published memoir by a TdF cyclist: Racing through the Dark: Crash, Burn, Coming Clean, Coming Back, by David Millar. The book offers a vivid and arrestingly (pun intended) portrait of Millar's life in professional cycling -- including his soul-searing detour into performance-enhancing drugs, his dramatic arrest and two-year ban after admitting in 2004 that he took the banned blood-booster EPO, and his ultimate decision to return to the sport he loves to race clean. Millar wrote the book himself -- no drugs for him and no ghost writer either.

It's great to be reading a behind-the-scenes look into the sport of professional cycling while watching the Tour de France. In fact, the other day -- twelve years after winning the prologue on his Tour debut -- David Millar won one of the stages while I was watching. (Of course I was watching; I haven't missed a stage yet!)

Stage 12 was a 140-mile ride from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Annonay-Davezieux and featured two big mountain climbs -- and I mean big mountains. (Are you kidding me? How can these guys walk, let alone talk, after cycling that long and that hard? And then do it again the next day?) It was the 35-year-old Scotsman's first TdF stage win since 2003. "I'm an ex-doper and I'm clean now, and I want to show everyone that it's possible to win clean on the Tour," Millar said.

I love everything about the Tour de France except for the contingent of hooligan spectators (reference: European soccer/football matches, where inevitably someone gets killed) who are becoming increasingly bold, obnoxious, and interfering. Just the other day, some spectator(s) tossed carpet tacks and nails onto the road, causing at least 30 punctured tires. One rider was forced to drop out of the race after breaking his collar bone when another rider crashed into him after he had stopped to help a teammate with a flat tire. In a display of the sport's code of honor, race leader Bradley Wiggins persuaded the rest of the pelaton (for the uninitiated, that's the big block of riders) to slow down and wait for the "tacked" riders to catch up.

I mean really, who needs to see drunk boys in Speedos or fat suits running along the the road and falling all over themselves as the cyclists pass by? Or the fans who wave large flags at eye level into the road. Or the fan who waved a flare too close to the cyclists and burned the arm of Wiggins. The riders (most of them, anyway) follow a code of sportsmanship during the race. I wish the fans would too.

But, I digress. Crazy, rude spectators aside, I love everything about this sport. So if I seem a little bleary-eyed when you see me in the store, just know I haven't been out carousing but instead getting up before the newspaper arrives to cheer on the cyclists. And if you too become a fan of the sport, I recommend David Millar's book.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Super Sale This Weekend!!

We're so excited about the upcoming NE Broadway Summer Super Sale! At Broadway Books it starts this Friday at 10 am, when we open, and continues on Saturday and Sunday. This is the only time of the year when we sell special readers' editions of titles, and we donate the proceeds to Literary Arts for their Writers in the Schools program.The books are available at an astounding price: $4 each or 3 for $10. In most cases we only have one copy of each of these titles, so come early and often for the best selection, as we replenish the tables.

Just to make it even more exciting, we're also offering hardcover fiction at 25% off!!  That makes a hardcover book almost the same price as a paperback, without the wait! And, if you spend $100 or more at one time, we'll give you a Broadway Book's 20th Anniversary canvas book bag!!! Believe me, they are styling -- and practical. We will have a variety of other miscellaneous items on our sale tables, to make room for all of the new fun items we'll be getting in this Fall.

A new twist this year is that many merchants (including us) will be participating in the Backstage Pass program, in which you earn Backstage Passes by making purchases from participating merchants which can then be redeemed at other participating merchants. Coupons redeemed at our store will entitle the bearer to choose a free greeting card with the purchase of a book. Passes can be redeemed at participating merchants through August 31.

In addition to great bargains, the weekend includes music and dancing, food and drink, and fun activities for kids and adults. You can read details about the weekend below, and check out the NE Broadway Business Association's website to learn about specific participating businesses. We look forward to seeing you!
[Caveat: I have NO idea why the text below is formatted the way it is; I apologize for my technological inadequacies if they impair your ability to enjoy the reading of this material. sjm]
 2012 NE Broadway Summer Super Sale

The Northeast Broadway Business Association (NEBBA) presents our annual Summer
Super Sale July 20-22, 2012. The festive atmosphere makes it easy to enjoy one of the
city’s most diverse business districts. Visitors can take advantage of amazing opportunities -- up to
70% off of selected items on the sale weekend; additional discounts and gifts with the new Backstage Pass;
activity areas featuring free live music and a beer, wine and food garden; a health &
wellness fair; a pet fair; and a family fun zone. There’s something for everybody!

Special thanks go to our Summer Super Sale sponsors: Venture Portland, NEBBA,
Tixie, Furever pets, Great Wine Buys, Dana & Gary Griggs/Windermere Realty, Kitchen
Kaboodle, McMenamin’s on Broadway, and Minuteman Press.

Highlights of the Event Include:
KICKOFF PARTY 5:30-8:30pm

 At the Tixie Music Stage, NE Broadway and 21st Ave. (at the 2100 Building parking lot)
Last year’s evening event brought out hundreds of people to enjoy a great summer
night and we expect no less this time around! The 2012 Kickoff Party features local
favorites The Jon Koonce Band and The Knuckleheads on the Tixie Music Stage in the
2100 Building parking lot. Great Wine Buys, Broadway Grill and Brewery and Hop Haven
will be on hand to offer beer, wine and food, and the music is FREE! The party starts just
after work at 5:30pm, so grab the family, bring your friends and your dancing shoes –
everyone is welcome!
5:30-6:30pm – Jon Koonce Band (rock)
7-8:30pm – The Knuckleheads (rhythm & blues)

Use one of our three pedicabs or shuttle van from 11a-4pm to easily travel to the various
event sites and to all of your favorite shops and restaurants!

21st AVE. BLOCK PARTY 11:00am – 5:30pm
NE Broadway and 21st Ave. (at the 2100 Building parking lot)
There’s something for everyone at this all-day summer party! The Tixie Music Stage
will present live music of all types, while local restaurants will have food & drink for
purchase. The Health and Wellness Fair offers great info on health care and exercise,
and NE Broadway businesses and area non-profits will provide information about their
services and community involvement.

TIXIE MUSIC STAGE SCHEDULE (at 21st Ave. Block Party)
Noon-1pm – Lloyd Jones (blues)
1:30-2:30p – Tim Wilcox Quartet (jazz)
2:30-3:00p – Big Monti Amundsun (rock & blues)
3:00-4:00p – Crown Point (rock)
4:00-4:30p – Big Monti Amundsun (rock & blues)
4:30-5:30p – Jack McMahon (rock)

FAMILY FUN ZONE 11:00am – 4:00pm
NE Broadway and 12th Ave. (between Safeway and Newport Seafood Grill)
The Lloyd Center Family Fun Zone will have balloon artistry, face painting, a pop-a-shot
game, kids crafts, music and the Buffalo Wild Wings' mascot. Blazer's mascot Blaze
appears from noon-2:30! Hosted by Lloyd Center, Newport Seafood Grill, Buffalo Wild
Wings and Billy Heartbeats.

PET FAIR 11:00am – 3:00pm
NE Broadway and 19th Ave (outside of Furever Pets)
Hosted by Furever pets, the pet fair features deserving pets available for adoption from
non-profit rescue groups: Oregon Humane Society, Greyhound Pet Adoption NW,
Animal Rescue & Care Fund, & My Way Home Dog Rescue. The Feral Cat Coalition and
Fences for Fido will share the good work they do for pets in our area. To help raise
money for these organizations, there will be fun games to play, along with prizes. Local pet-related
businesses will also be there. New this year: seminars on pet nutrition and herbs
for pets. It is sure to be fun for your pets and family!

11:00am – 4:00pm NE Broadway and 21st Ave
A great collection of professionals will be on hand to help with health and wellness needs
to help you look and feel great. Find out more about exercise and nutrition, chiropractic,
massage, hair & beauty and more. Participants include Brenn's Blend, Zama Massage,
Asha Integrative Wellness, NW Women's Fitness Club and NW Personal Training,
Hallmark Opticians, Alvis Chiropractic, Lloyd Athletic Club, Phagan's School of Hair
Design, Paloma Chiropractic & Massage Therapy, Acupuncture on Broadway, Jane
Conboy - Virtual Gastric Band, and Sonus Hearing Care Professionals.

16th Ave. between NE Broadway & Weidler
The Irvington Farmer’s Market brings fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, cheese, many
gourmet delights, plus great hot and cold food to eat. Enjoy flamenco and other Spanish
music from Jeffrey Trapp while you shop and browse.

11:00am – 5:00pm
The last sale day features merchants offering great last-minute deals up and down the

Visit www.nebroadwway.com and click on the Annual Events tab.

Friday, July 13, 2012

An Intimate Evening with Cheryl Strayed

We are beyond thrilled to be hosting Cheryl Strayed on Tuesday, August 14th, at 7 pm, for an intimate evening of reading, chatting, signing (and singing), and perhaps the partaking of a few beverages. Cheryl is the author of the novel Torch, the memoir Wild (which you might have heard of), and her newest book, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, a compilation of some of her Dear Sugar advice columns from the online magazine The Rumpus.

This will be a ticketed event: You can buy tickets at our store for $14.95 (the price of the book). On the night of the event you can exchange your ticket for a signed copy of Tiny Beautiful Things. Each person who attends the event will need a ticket. Tickets will go on sale Friday morning, July 13th, at 10 am. We're open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm, and Sundays from noon to 5 pm. We will be selling a limited number of tickets to this event, so don't delay coming in to get yours.

Sugar -- the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, who was revealed this spring to be Cheryl  -- is the person thousands turn to for advice. Tiny Beautiful Things brings the best of Dear Sugar to one place and includes never-before-published columns and an introduction by Steve Almond, the original Sugar.

Here are some quotes from Dear Sugar columns: "Acceptance is a small quiet room." "Forgiveness doesn't just sit there like a pretty boy in a bar." "Walk without a stick into the darkest wood." And my personal favorite: "Be brave enough to break your own heart." I went right to the final entry in the book, the essay that gives the book its title, and was blown away by the beauty and compassion and honesty and in-your-faceness.

We hope you can join us for this sure-to-be wonderful evening. The store will close at 5:30 pm that day and will reopen at 6 pm for people with tickets. You can call us during business hours at 503-284-1726 if you have any questions, or email us at bookbroads@qwestoffice.net.