The Unknown: The Red Line.
  In Minnesota we got back to nature for three days. Then we got back in the car and drove for three more.

We had had to hike and canoe for two days to get to our reading at the Bookstore in the Woods, a bookstore in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area run year-round by forest rangers. It was in fact the only building in the entire preservation area, but it had been permitted because most hikers had trouble keeping their paperbacks dry. Amazingly, the store sold only books. For the hikers and canoers, carrying freeze-dried food and foraing and fishing were no problem, but the difficulties presented by carrying enough books on two or three-week expeditions, across rivers and through rain and mud, led to an aching desire for literature. The store had a fantastic selection (I bought a Dover Thrift Edition of Walden), but only one customer—a mountaineer from Manitoba who had canoed twenty-four days to make it to our reading. We would have given him a copy of the anthology, but of course there was no way we could have carried it two days on our backs through the frequent rain showers. We had had a great hike. We had had to carry Everclear because it had the lightest weight-per-drink ratio of any available liquor. Many a night we made our freeze-dried split-pea soup with Everclear instead of water; and then we swam, built a fire, passed out, or just gazed at the aurora borealis. It was indescribable. We could never find words to describe it. We just stammered and gaped. No words.

Then we hiked out, found the Winnebago, and just made it in time to our reading at Hungry Mind in St. Paul, Minnesota. We were unshaven, unshowered, and our boots were caked in mud. We hadn’t even bothered to remove the canteens of Everclear from our webbed belts. Afterward we had to say goodbye to some very kind admirers and drive all night to get to Shaman Drum Bookshop in Ann Arbor for our noon reading the next day.

We drove straight through. Z was no longer with us, having been arrested for driving under the influence without a license or pants back in Nebraska. So we took turns behind the wheel of the Winnebago, and smoked all Scott’s cigarettes.

After the reading in Ann Arbor we left immediately (with no opportunity to meet people and enjoy the city’s lax possession laws) to get to Books on the Square Ltd. in Providence for our reading the following afternoon, which was to be followed that night by a very prestigious gig to which we had been looking forward for weeks: Brown University.

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The Unknown at Spineless Books.