Stuck in the Rain, No Coffee: Life Unfiltered at New England Mobile Book Fair

In an attempt to soothe my conscience about only putting the best part of life on Instagram, and to give everyone who supported The Localist book and tour a little more insight into the adventures you guys faithfully funded and followed me through, I’m sharing a few behind-the-scenes stories about the pictures from my book tour — and telling the real stories about what was going on while I was showing you pretty pictures. Today’s is from my signing at New England Mobile Book Fair in Massachusetts.


What Instagram Said Was Happening …

It looks like I’d easily found a cute and quick lunch spot and was enjoying a light and healthy lunch. To complement my super-healthy salad choice, I seem relaxed with a book in a room full of natural lighting, because I do stuff like read during lunch instead of checking Instagram on my phone the whole time.


What Was Actually Happening …

For one thing, I was Instagramming … I was taking the picture. I did read later, but that book is about isolation, so it’s not as cheery as it looks in the photo. I was incredibly frustrated with this dumb salad because I’d arrived in early in Newton, Massachusetts hoping to find a local lunch place and coffee shop and was told there was no local lunch and the only coffee shops were McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts — the horror. (I realized later that Dunkin Donuts is based in Massachusetts and technically locally owned, but still.) Oh, and that natural light? It’s artificial — outside, it was cloudy and sleeting and snowing all day.


This day was one of the toughest of my whole tour, and when I see this salad pic I remember how much I was wallowing in despair when I took it. My plan for the day was to spend the morning exploring town of Newton (home of the Fig Newton!) with one of my best friends, Leah. We were going to grab lunch and coffee and head to the bookstore I’d been promised was adorable, then she’d drive me into Boston for a signing that night.


Well, Leah woke up that morning with labor pains and was in no shape to drive. Apparently she prioritizes “having a baby” over “hanging out at a book signing,” so whatever.* No problem, I just Ubered to Newton. That’s where I discovered that the charming, shoppable town I’d heard about was … the OTHER Newton. The Newton I landed in was probably a really lovely area, but it wasn’t what I expected, and it was sleeting on me and my 100-pound backpack full of books.


The Uber driver and I were both skeptical about the address where he dropped me off. I’d described a quaint bookshop, and this was a warehouse in a huge parking lot. I was 99% sure I was in the wrong place, but my fare was already really high, so I thought, “Yeah, why not, I’ll leave my only transportation and take a chance in a strange town in the freezing rain.” After two minutes of wandering, I finally found the entrance of what was indeed the place I was looking for: New England Mobile Book Fair.


I dropped my books off and asked the booksellers for local recommendations, and they pretty much just looked sad for me. That’s when I traipsed around for a bit, Googled the restaurants that I came across, discovered they were all chains, found out B. Good carries some local food, and decided that would have to be good enough. Everyone in that restaurant acted like I was the biggest weirdo ever and I still don’t know why, although I imagine it has something to do with my radiating gloom and straining my arm around for a decent Instagram picture while they were trying to enjoy lunch.


Happily, my day started turning around shortly after this. The salad was really good, and I got some coffee in my system (coffee from a chain isn’t my favorite, but it does the job). That bookstore that I was so skeptical of? It was wonderful. A warehouse filled with books is something that sounds great to me, but I was pleasantly surprised at just how many people came through the doors on a blustery day. (To be fair, “blustery” to a girl who spends most of her time in Alabama could very well be “balmy” to a seasoned Newtonite.)


The booksellers at New England Mobile Book Fair were some of the best I met on my whole trip, the selection was wonderful (I kept pulling books off the shelves near me to look through at slow moments), and I had some fantastic (and long) conversations with way more patrons than I’d ever guessed would come see a Localist in the middle of a weekday. Oh, and we sold some books, too. One of the booksellers even gave me a ride to the train station so I wouldn’t have to lug my heavy backpack through the rain, and I got to Boston safe and sound for my signing that night. Oh, and guess who showed up to that signing? My Uber driver from the morning. Either he thought my book sounded really interesting, or (perhaps more likely) he was curious about whether or not I survived.


Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local and Reclaim the American Dream, creator of 30 Days of Local Praise and co-founder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @crollwagen.


* Leah and her husband David were actually incredible during my trip, not only hosting me, but also shuttling me back and forth — across state lines, even. Their daughter was born shortly after I left, and she’s healthy and happy, probably in part because her parents prioritize her safety above my transportation requests.

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