Saturday, November 28, 2015

Unexpected Journals

We all have THAT drawer, the drawer we dump things until we can find the proper place for them. But since we seldom find the proper place for those things, the drawer eventually fills up and we have to take a week or two off work to clean it out.
Like everyone else, I have a drawer like that. Several actually. But the drawer I finally got around to cleaning out yesterday was my pen drawer. Yes, I have a drawer devoted to pens only, and it had gotten to the point where I couldn’t close it any more. So yesterday afternoon I settled myself in front of the TV and began sorting through them.

That’s when I found something I didn’t expect.

For years I’ve been telling people I don’t journals, but my “pen and pencil” drawer turned out to be a journal of sorts, a pen-by-pen record of some of the places I’ve traveled to and the people I’ve met. Among them were the pens from various banks and credit unions, probably picked up when I was making withdrawals. (Deposits? In this economy, you have to be kidding.) But I also found numerous purple pens from Diamondback Drugs, where I pick up meds for whichever of my fur babies happens to be ailing. Other pens included one from the Moosehead Saloon, in Palmer, Alaska (more about that, later); one from Perry Lodge, in Kanab, Arizona (also more about that, later), and one from Bevara, which I’d picked up in Reykjavik, Iceland (more about… ditto).

I found dozens of pens from various hotel chains across the U.S., such as the Radisson, Sheraton, Hilton, Marriott, Holiday Inn, Doubletree, La Quinta, Best Western, and Ramada. Since none of those pens gave any hint of which particular city or state they originated in, I can only guess that they came from Washington, Oregon, California, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Washington DC, Maryland, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, and several cities and towns in Arizona. I do get around.

Those pens took me on a trip down Memory Lane.

The beat-up pen from the Moosehead Saloon reminded me of my trip to the University of Anchorage, around ten years ago, where the generous university president and his wife let me stay with them while I lectured at the school on the polygamy cults described in “Desert Wives.” While in Alaska, I visited the Moosehead Saloon (it has a stuffed moose head hanging on the wall, thus the name), where the friendly bartender gave me a keychain made by a “skin-sewer,” and I carried it until the hair finally wore off. (No, I’m not a vegetarian, although I feel guilty about not being one). I remember looking out the window of my room one morning and seeing a moose – a live one -- wander by. I found that exciting, since moose seldom pass my window here in Scottsdale.

Another stand-out was my memory of Kanab, Arizona, and the lovely, frozen-in-time motel where John Wayne himself once stayed. I’d picked up the pen while doing research for “Desert Wind,” tracking the footsteps of the various places Wayne stayed while filming “The Conqueror.” I remember the life-sized cut-out of Wayne in the hotel lobby. My husband took a picture of me with my arm around the Duke. That was about eight years back.

The most recent memory those old pens evoked was of Iceland, where I’d been doing research on “The Puffin of Death.”  The woman who rented me an apartment handed me the pen so I could fill out the residency form. She was from France, she explained, and had married an Icelander. Now she and her husband ran a hostel for travelers, as well as a couple of apartments in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capitol city. How best to describe those two weeks in the country formerly known as Ultima Thule? Enchanting. Awe-inspiring. Unforgettable. I hiked by glaciers, volcanoes, Icelandic horses, fjords, lava-strewn pastures… Words are simply inadequate to describe the beauties of Iceland.
But while sorting out the hoard in my pen drawer what I didn’t discover – and this surprised me – was that during my travels I’d only picked up one pen handed out by another writer, and that was the “Gumbo Justice” pen, given to me by Holli Castillo, who I think I met years ago at Left Coast Crime. Or maybe it was Bouchercon. And don’t ask me in what city, because I haven’t the foggiest. I attend so many conferences…

Still, from clearing out my hoard, here’s what I’ve learned about myself.

First: I’m a pen thief. Sadly, I’m a pen thief of cheap pens only, so your Mont Blanc and Cross pens are safe from me.

Second: I belong to a LOT of writers organizations, among them Mystery Writers of America, the Writers Guild, Sisters in Crime, the Society of Southwestern Authors, Scottsdale Society of Women Writers… the list goes on.

Third: I’m obviously pretty healthy, since I’ve lifted only two pens from doctors’ offices.

Fourth: I spend a lot on pet care.

Fifth: I travel more than I thought I did, although my pen drawer lacked proof of my sojourns in France, England, and Scotland. This leads me to believe that Europeans guard their writing instruments more carefully than do Americans.

Sixth: Judging from the number of pens from “inexpensive” hotel chains as opposed to the high-rent hotels, I’m really, really cheap.

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