July 15 - September 5, 2007

Finishing in Albuquerque, New Mexico, my literary tour of the lower 48, in 52 days all on, as some of the drivers put it, the Big Dog--Greyhound.

All photos and interviews have been posted (finally) and.... I've even flipped it so it reads chronologically! You can meander through the states in the order that I did or go to "Readers By State" on the sidebar. You can also do a search for your favorite book and see who else likes it, too.

Thank you to everyone I met along the way--it would have been impossible to successfully complete my journey, and have a good time without wonderful, wonderful people who took care of me, gave me advice and, this was up there with Niagara Falls, The Grand Canyon, and the roller coaster in Atlantic City--let me give them advice.
Thanks again!

p.s. I've begun photographing San Franciscans again and am posting at

San Francisco, CA -- My Living Room -- Preparing to go -- June 29, 2007

The results of my Sticky-Note-the-US Dinner Party:

As with any project, input is key. I invited an intimate crowd--just enough to fill my little living room--of smart, creative friends over for chili and cornbread to brainstorm, if given eight weeks to explore the country and photograph people reading books, where they would go.

The stickies yielded everything from a wacky Key West home roamed by the descendants of Hemingway's six-toed cats to a practical visit to the Greyhound headquarters.

But it wasn't just stickies that the party yielded, there were also questions. The big one--why?

I'm not quite sure what the impetus was, if it was the tug of armchair traveler envy I felt while reading Melinda Henneberger's If They Only Listened to Us: What Women Voters Want Poiticians to Hear, in which the author traveled around the United States interviewing voters, or if it was my friend Sasha Cagen's return from Boulder's World Affairs Counsel and declaring, "we live in a bubble," if it was my two-year anniversary of working at a bank or if it was simply unquelled wanderlust, but the need surfaced: I needed to leave the comfortable surroundings of San Francisco, a town I've loved and lived in over the past five years.

When I was twenty-three and I got this feeling, I felt it necessary to test myself physically and traverse the Pyrenees, lose myself in the woods, break down crying on tree stumps and carry a pack much too heavy for my hundred-pound frame. Now, at thirty, I feel a need to do this.

I've never been to the Grand Canyon. Never been to Graceland. I'm not well-read, and I crave to be well-read. I'm a slow reader, and sometimes it feels like I'll never catch up. I need to acknowledge that pain and agony and solitariness of writing is worthwhile. I like to talk to strangers. I like adventures. And this is the right adventure for now.

When I return, I wonder:

Will the hipsters on Valencia Street feel more or less familiar?
Will my friends seem more or less familiar?
How will I want to change my life?
What I will have gotten out of it?
What books will I need to read?
What will I want to write about?

Thank you for reading.

San Francisco, CA -- Preparing to go


On my way home from a goodbye brunch, up and over Bernal Hill to the Mission District, after borrowing the perfect sized backpack from my friend, Sasha, I solicited packing advice. Who wouldn't after seeing such a well packed cart. The secret--separate compartments. Sasha's bag (the blue one on the ground) has these.

But, the cart isn't meant just for admiring. He collects the bottles and other recyclables to earn $400, which is necessary to apply for citizenship so he can get work legally. A year and a half ago he and his wife, who works caring for the elderly, moved here from the Philippines. When his cart is full--every couple days or so--it brings in about $25. His favorite book? Nothing in particular, just what he used to study English with at City college when he had the time and money to take classes.

Packing thanks also goes to Rai Sue who helped me weed down my gear. The functionality of a compartment is no good if you can't get the zippers closed.

My Favorite Books (at least for the next couple months)

While I had originally intended to do this trip entirely on friend recommendations (see yellow stickies below) and stranger recommendations, near the end I panicked and did a reality check. Books are always a good thing.

My friend, Jenny, gave me this 1,000 Places to See Before you Die guide by Patricia Schultz. I bought the Lonely Planet guide partly out of loyalty (I worked for them briefly a couple of years ago), but mostly because it was thinner than everything else on the shelf of the bookstore....and it gives bus station information. The "Romantic Seine" journal is a souveneir from Korea and a gift from my friend, Anhoni, who is, coincidentally, working on a novel about L.A.--stop #1 on my adventure. I have an assignment to photograph the bus station so she can add detail to a scene!

Not photographed is After Dark by Haruki Murakami, which was a gift from my sister.

A milestone!

In the midst of packing I completed 500 postings of PeopleReading, which is mostly in San Francisco and mostly people, though some sculptures, murals, and advertisements snuck in. Still, its a milestone. First San Francisco, now the country. What's next--the world??? I'll start enrolling in language classes.

That said,
I am emotional and I will miss you, San Francisco.... and my friends, as well.

Also, goodbye Ritual, goodbye peaceful Sugarlump may there be free wireless throughout the U.S..

San Francisco, CA -- Greyhound Terminal --July 14, 2007

The day before my departure

At the Greyhound terminal, downtown San Francisco

Purchased my sixty-day Discovery Pass and visited the gift store where you can buy postcards, medication, shot glasses and, of course, books. What else would people need when embarking upon a bus trip?

As it's San Francisco, it is fitting to find a title regarding gender and sexuality--Unspeakable, the Rise of the Gay and Lesbian Press in America, by Roger Streitmatter.

At the counter I met Mike, who told me about how Howard Hughes made his money--prompted by my $645 Discovery Pass expenditure--and named his favorite book, the Bible, specifically Romans and the Psalms.

With him was his coworker, reading Kindred, by Octavia Butler.

Her daughter was reading it for an English course at City College and gave it to her when she was finished. Their family moved to San Francisco from Burma six years ago.

When she reads, she reads in tandem with her Burmese dictionary so she can make notes on the parts of speech and meanings of the words.

Her favorite book--she doesn't have one, she just likes to read to study English.

San Francisco, CA --Greyhound Terminal -- July 15, 2007

Reading Escape, Stories of Getting Away, edited by Lena Lencek and Gideon Basker. It's the "fun stuff" she's readng in between a book about the social history of family violence. She bought the book for its title--it's what she needed.

She works in theater arts and that is why she is studying the social history of family violence. She takes an interdisciplinary approach. I'd wanted to hear more about this, but she let me know that she needed to return to her escape.

San Francisco, CA to Los Angeles, CA -- Greyhound Station -- July 15/16, 2007

My Seat Partner

In Oakland I was joined by...my super fabulous seat partner. I hope I always get this lucky. In the eight hour ride to Los Angeles, I slept for nearly have of it. He sang himself--and consequently, me too--to sleep with songs by the Brazilian band Djivan (I think that's what he said. When I google it it comes up as an Armenian musician but I'd thought he'd said Brazilian.)

His favorite author of all time--Paulo Coelho. Coelho, he said, with the knowledge of someone whose first language is Portuguese, means Rabbit. He also said that, though Coelho is a best selling author, he read an article somewhere that says that a lot of people don't finish his books. They just sit on the shelf.

Another favorite Brazilian author--Jorge Amado, who he described as writing soap opera-like stories about the history of Brazil.

He is also reading The Power of Now, which he's discussed with his nine-year-old daughter, who has no problem with living in the now. Children, he said, don't have to worry about paying the bills.

Heading into L.A.

Early in the morning, heading into Los Angeles, sharing the road with mostly just the truckers.

Los Angeles, CA -- July 16, 2007

Arrive Los Angeles, CA 7:50am Monday, July 16
Depart Los Angeles, CA 11:10am, Tuesday July 17

The night before I left town, my friend Francis called to say he was in my hometown, Helena, Montana...a few weeks earlier than my anticipated July 27th Helena arrival date, for my mom's birthday. He didn't, however, arrive by Greyhound bus like I will. He came on foot through unpaved, likely treacherous terrain.

In the beginning of April he began walking the Continental Divide trail from New Mexico up to Canada and intends to “yo-yo” the trail, returning back to New Mexico in the fall. I’m doing the antithesis of what you’re doing! I explained on the phone, imagining my body atrophying at the back of the bus, becoming a hunk of margarine as I head into the south, butter as I cruise into the Midwest and regressing into into a puddle of melted lard as I head into the sweltering south. But, after walking all over L.A. today--sometimes double crossing and circling--I'm convinced that, while my goal is not as lofty as Francis's, we are, in a literal sense, on a parallel adventure. We're both yo-yoing the U.S.. You can find his book, Hike Your Own Hike on this Continental Divide website.

My abundance of walking was due to my unplanned itinerary. I was too busy saying goodbye to San Francisco to think about L.A., until I got there. And, as with anything, it takes a while to get the kinks out. I was hoping to have photos that showed the character of Los Angeles--the Hollywood sign in the background, a lovely beach or even a movie star, but failed completely. This is not a big deal. What matters most, anywhere, is the people and its the people that will be continue to be the focus of this project.

Los Angeles, CA -- North Hollywood Greyhound Station -- July 16, 2007

Reading El Conde de Montecristo, by Alejandro Dumas.

Also reading Mi vida, by Bill Clinton.

Her favorite author--Cuauhtemoc Sanchez, who has written La Ultima Oportunidad, La Fuerza del Cecid and Valor Sobre El Pantano.

She also loves the Chicken Soup series. She tried to get her children, ages 16 and 20, to read Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, but they weren't interested.

Los Angeles, CA --On Sunset blvd, heading toward UCLA -- July 16, 2007

Reading Signs of Life in the USA, Readings on Popular Culture for Writers, by Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon, while trying to write a paper that's due in half an hour. The book discusses the objectification of women, how, sometimes, in advertising, a woman's body is shown but not her face as if she has no identity.

His favorite stories--bible stories about David....he took the time to tell me the story of David and Goliath, explaining how, before a battle they would often take the strongest man on each side and have them fight each other first and how, when Goliath was brought out, no one wanted to fight him...except for little David who was bringing his brothers food for the strength during the battle.

He also likes Spiderman comics.

Los Angeles, CA --Hollywood, outside Roxy theater on Sunset Blvd. -- July 16, 2007

Reading Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. This is her third time reading it. She picks it up again whenever she needs to feel good, that feeling of being able to stand by something, because she doesn't see it around her in real life. Reading it makes her more honest with people. It's weird, she says, but in a way I want the characters to approve of me.

She also likes The Fountainhead; "girly stuff" like Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice; Joseph Heller's Catch 22; the Harry Potter books; and David Sedaris. You have to read Me talk Pretty One Day she said and went on to describe how she'd been laughing out loud in public.

If she were to write her own novel, it would be loosely based on her family. She has four sisters and three brothers and they all grew up together in L.A. They were raised to respect people and they were often very close knit and not very social outside of themselves.

All of her sisters, except one, who likes Anne of Green Gables, considers Atlas Shrugged their favorite book.

Los Angeles, CA -- UCLA Medical Center Deli -- July 16, 2007

Reading Goya, by Robert Hughes, about the painter. He prefers to read nonfiction, especially history. He is also reading a book about World War II battle called Leyte Gulf. He wasn't in the battle himself, but he was nearby. When he reads fiction he likes short stories set in Spain, by Hemingway.

Has he ever read anything that has helped him pass through a stage of his life? No. And, he's not going to start now. He was on his way to get a bone scan and refuses to educate himself about cancer because that's not going to help anything.

Los Angeles, CA -- Will and Ariel Durant Branch of the Public Library -- July 16, 2007

The man at the information desk said he never really noticed what people were checking out, but that he gets asked for the bestsellers, the Grishams and Daniel Steele which he remarked was popular with the Russian population.

Wendy, the children's librarian didn't comment on the popularity of any books at the library, though did say that they have a large selection of Russian language books because the neighborhood has a high Russian population.

One of her favorite children's novels is Bat 6, by Virginia Euwer Wolff. It's historical fiction and is about what happens to children when adults don't discuss the nature of prejudice.

She's just finished reading Farewell Fifth Avenue, by Cornelius Vanderbilt. It's a biography of what he did during the depression--he walked outside his bubble and toured the country to see how it was affecting people in other places.

Los Angeles, CA -- Melrose Ave. -- July 16, 2007

At Ferro E. Inc. -- Artistico in Iron and Crystal

In a shop on Melrose, while in search of a cafe called Elixir from one of the sticky notes, I decided to abandon my pride and duck into a shop to ask for directions. He makes custom chandeliers for well-to-do clients in the Beverly Hills, wrought by hand, individually crafted. It was truly an amazing store.

His favorite author is the lyricist and writer for the band, Rush, Neil Peart, who has written four books about bicycle and motorcycle touring. We sat for a long time and talked while I recharged--it was hard adapting to the hot L.A. weather after cool San Francisco and being out and about all day instead of sitting behind a desk at work, navigating bus lines instead of just getting on and off the Bart train at 24th and Montgomery Streets.

Later I will try to add a few lines here about what he told me about Neal Peart.

Los Angeles, CA -- Teahouse on Melrose -- July 16, 2007

From the first sticky note....the tea garden on Melrose Ave, formerly known as Elixir.

Reading Be Honest, You're Not That Into Him, Either, Raise Your Standards And Reach For the Love You Deserve, by Ian Kerner.

The woman on the left: Has been reading the Gossip Girls series. It's like eating a cupcake, she said. It's done in two days. You get into the characters. There's boy drama, school drama. It's a guilty pleasure. She's read all nine books so far. The last one came out in April and she savored it a little longer, reading it over the span of a week, but she's bummed because the next one won't come out until October!

If she were to write a book herself it would be a self-help history of fashion how-to book.

The woman on the right: She likes to read romance novels, breaking them up with comedy when she's feeling stressed, like The Man Who Ate the 747, by Ben Sherwood. It's ha ha cute, she said.

Her favorite book--The Italian. Another favorite book is Endless Love, by Scott Spencer. The characters, she said, are so messed up that, when you compare them to your own life you feel good. There's a guy who obsesses about a girl who lives in a broken home and they have a relationship, but it's an unhealthy relationship.

A book that helped her get through her high school years--an autobiography of Grace Kelly. You see this woman who you would think is so perfect, but she's not and her imperfections make you feel it's okay to be imperfect.

If she were to write her own book, it would be about her life and all the drama in it. She's the black sheep of her family.

Los Angeles, CA --Bodhi Tree Bookstore on Melrose Ave. -- July 16, 2007

I talked to the staff about what people were reading, interested in, buying these days. #1 on the list for the week ending 7/13/07 was Life's Too Short to Have Tantric Sex: 50 Shortcuts to Sexual Ecstasy, by Dr. Judy ; The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne; Abraham, by Esther and Jerry Hicks; books by the Indian mystic Osho. Popular among women has been Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

The manager (I think he was the manager): He recommends two great books by Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which is about individuality and going against the flock and the Illusions, a mental science book about how reality is what you focus on in an experience.

A woman with the most amazingly long, thick hair (maybe she was the manager?): She likes
The Mysts of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley--she's really into into feminine mystique and the goddess. It's a fictionalized account of the time of King Arthur. She also loves The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffinegger.

And, at the register, reading The Spirit of Aikido, by Kisshomaru Ueshiba.

He has never done aikido, but is thinking about taking it up. His favorite book of all time--Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda.

Los Angeles, CA --A French restaurant on Melrose, Ave. -- July 16, 2007

Reading the first "movement" of A Dance to the Music of Time, by Anthony Powell. There are four movements, each containing about three books. The books describe the lives of four men, their love lives and their professional lives. The books must be read slowly to fully appreciate them. Powell, he said, does subtlety and understatement better than anyone.
One of his favorite books--The Code of the Woosters, by P.G. Wodehouse, a great British humor writer. It's about a gentleman of leisure and his valet, Jeeves.

He is a writer himself, writing comedy and features. He worked on 40 Days and 40 Nights.

Los Angeles, CA -- Hollywood -- July 17, 2007


I woke up in the morning wondering if I should depart Los Angeles without ever seeing the Hollywood sign--am I a complete failure as a tourist?

But, while I was running to the bus station--I was cutting it close, living by the motto of using as much wireless time as possible--I looked up and, there it was. Ha! My initial plan for this trip was to try to capture the character of the cities I visited within the photos, something I hadn't done the day before. Now, admittedly, I did have to ask this kind woman, who I met at the bus terminal and who just happened to be a book dealer, to walk two blocks down the street so I could get this sign in the photo. And, admittedly, the sign is so small and smoggy that you have to squint, but it is there.

What's she reading? Don't ask, she says. It's not a leather bound Mark Twain, she apologized and then amended that even book dealers should not be held to a high standard all the time. Her favorite books--anything by Kurt Vonnegut. She just got back from traveling in Europe to discover that he died!

I will be, when I hit Indianapolis, Indiana, Vonnegut's hometown, be paying my homage to the author.


While the above shot is completely lacking in integrity , the one below is just as it was. We were running back to the bus station (my bus was five minutes overdue to arrive) when, right in front of us, was a man reading The Iliad, propped up on a newspaper box! He was just closing it as I was getting my camera out and, as I didn't have the time to explain that I needed him to open it back up for the picture, I just took it as is. His favorite book--Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo.

Los Angeles, CA --Downtown Greyhound Terminal -- July 17, 2007

Her first words to me, when I described my project and asked if I could take her photo were these: I read so I don't have to talk to people.

Reading A Measure of Faith, by Maxine Billings. She bought it where she buys all of her books--Walmart, for the price. She got this one for $4.84. She goes about twice a month and buys about fifteen or twenty books--black authors, historical fiction, erotica. Yes, you can buy erotica at Walmart.

Her favorite book--Malcolm X by Alex Haley, who also did the Roots series. People were riveted, she said, when it first came out and, now that it's been re-released, people are still riveted. They just stared airing it on Sunday.

She reads all the time and has books all over her house and in all of her cars so that she will always have something to read. Since she retired four years ago and spends her time traveling, returning home just long enough to check up on her plants. Inevitably, when you travel, you have to spend time waiting, but she doesn't mind, in fact she likes it. All the more time to read.

San Diego, CA -- July 17 & 18, 2007

Arrive San Diego, CA 3:30pm Tuesday, July 17
Depart San Diego, CA 10:45pm Wednesday, July 18

Warning: While I'm on the road there will be more misspellings and grammatical mistakes than usual. I've made the decision not to look up when to and when not to hyphenate, etc. and instead spend my time wallowing in the American landscape.

San Diego, CA -- Pacific Beach -- July 17, 2007

Reading The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. She borrowed it from the brother of a friend. Recently she read Nineteen Minutes, by Jodi Picoult.

Her favorite books--Corelli's Mandolin, by Louis de Bernières and The Inn at Lake Divine, by Elinor Lipman which she described as a nice story about a Jewish girl.

She and her friends are visiting here from Dublin.

San Diego, CA -- Pacific Beach -- July 17, 2007

Reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling. She likes how descriptive it is, but wishes it wasn't so long! It's 870 pages.

What else has she read lately? Nothing. She reads only the Harry Potter books. Why? She doesn't want to miss out on what everyone else is enjoying.

What she's gotten out of reading this series--if you don't go out or go to a party, you can still have a good time, and reading is good for you!

Her favorite book in the series is the third one. She thinks Ron is a goober and finds all the characters extreme.

If she were to write her own book it would be a travel novel about weird and outgoing friends traveling around the world.

San Diego, CA -- Pacific Beach -- July 17, 2007

Reading Heard That Song Before, by Mary Higgins Clark, which she got from the library. She likes light mysteries.

Her favorite authors are Mary Higgins Clark, James Patterson and, most recently, a new author, Lisa Jackson.

Her favorite book--Each Bright River, by Mildred McNeilly. It's about the settling of Washington and Oregon and she's read it about twenty times.

San Diego, CA -- Pacific Beach -- July 17, 2007

Reading That Summer Place, by Debbie MacComber, Susan Wiggs and Jill Barnett.
She just finished reading The Sky is Falling, by Sidney Sheldon and picked this one up because the price was right. Usually she likes reading biographies.

Her husband is reading the Colin Powell book.

San Diego, CA -- Pacific Beach -- July 17, 2007

Reading Kaffir Boy: An Autobiography--The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa by Mark Mathabane, who recently gave a presentation a workshop she attended. She works with at risk kids.

In her free time she doesn't read teaching books, and instead prefers authors like Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, who wrote The Dirty Girls Social Club series. There's only three of them, she said and wished that she would write more!

Her favorite book of all time is The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. She's read it over and over again--she likes the intrigue, the romance and the story of human perseverance.

If she were to write a book it would be a collection of stories about her students.

She's here on vacation from Phoenix with her brother who was out surfing but is the middle of reading War and Peace.

A book that's changed her life--Radical Journeys for the Inward Bound, by Andrew Weil and Tolly Berkin, who has a fire walking institute north of Santa Monica. She hasn't tried it yet, but would like to. The book talks about how to use the earth and the land to connect to the universe; for example, doing extreme sports like fire walking or rock climbing without ropes. These are things, she said, that would appeal to her students...and her brother. They are extreme.

She likes to clip out the little book blurb on the back page of the Time magazine and hang them around her house. She's excited about a book they featured by an Afghani female author.