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News[letter] From The Happy Side

We’re writing this from Newport, Rhode Island, on day twelve of our March to the Sea, the trip we’ve undertaken to let east coast independent bookstores know about our book, The Sea Knows, and support them as we go. It’s been an epic road trip, filled with highs, lows, trepidations and validations.  

In one of the amazing bookstores that welcomed us in, I (Alice) came across a picture book and had to buy it, even though it would take up room in Petey (Alan’s PT Cruiser convertible, stuffed to the brim with two bikes, our luggage, books, and more). The book’s called, “All In A Day” (2009, Abrams Books for Young Readers, written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Nikki McClure), and it seemed to be telling us everything we needed to know. 

All In A Day by Cynthia Rylant, Illustrated by Nikki McClure

The book starts out by telling us that a day is a perfect piece of time to live a life, a day is all its own. We want to tell you the story of one day on our trip, weaving in some lines from the text as we go.

This day began in Chincoteague Island Virginia, and started out well as we headed north. We visited two lovely bookstores in Delaware (Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach). Then it was time to make our way to Wildwood, NJ. Alan had fond memories of going there with his family many years ago. After a nice bike ride outside of Rehoboth, DE we began the leg to Wildwood. Strange, we thought. It’s only about 30 miles, but Google Maps says it takes 2.5 hrs. Was there traffic? Nope – a ferry. So we waited for the ferry, had a drink, and enjoyed a windy ride to Cape May, NJ. As we got ready to drive off the ferry, it began to rain. We wouldn’t have time to make it to the bookstore we’d been targeting before it closed, so we punched in the address of the Beachside Resort on Atlantic Avenue to the GPS and began the drive in the pouring rain. 

Over an hour later, and in the darkness of night, Alan decided something was wrong when we saw the lights of Atlantic City glowing in the distance. Checking the GPS, we realized the GPS had directed us to Atlantic Avenue in Atlantic City, not Wildwood, and we’d passed Wildwood 45 minutes ago. We turned around, drove back the other way, and finally got to Wildwood, to our hotel. Except our hotel wasn’t actually “beachside” nor did it have any resemblance to a “resort.” We pulled into the only open space (next to some garbage cans), and walked over to the tiny glassed in office, packed with unmasked people, both in front of and behind the counter. Alan walked in, wearing his mask. I stayed outside, trying to find a dry spot to stand, but it was better than the tiny office. 

“Do you know where the third floor is?” a lost Dominoes pizza delivery girl (who looked no older than 12) asked me. There were only 2 floors in the building. “Sorry,” I said. 

Finally, after a long train of other people (picture drug dealers and prostitutes) filed into and out of the office, Alan got the key and we found the room. On the third floor. Of a yet more run-down building behind the first run-down one. Past more garbage cans, a smelly stairwell, to another pile of garbage in front of our hotel door. We stepped inside and were blasted by a wave of air so cold I couldn’t move. Alan stepped past me to turn off the air conditioner. I opened the windows. Then took a hot shower. No dinner. No blanket on the bed. We didn’t even bring the luggage up. I just wanted to sleep. And be done with this day. “All in a Day” says, “You can make a wish to start again…”  but my wish was only to go home.

The next morning, we rode our bikes down the boardwalk in Wildwood as a drizzle spat here and there. I was still ready to be done and go home. However, looking at the map, it turned out that Cape May is a cape, meaning that to go home we had to first go north, off the cape. And that was the way we had planned to go anyhow. So we decided to stop at the bookstores along the way that day before heading west and home. As we drove, the sun came out, the top came down, our spirits lifted, and beautiful beach towns (Stone Harbor, Sea Isle City, Surf City, Point Pleasant Beach), with wonderful book stores, welcomed us. Each were so excited about the book, and excited to meet us. The connections we made were great. 

By the time we got to Ocean Grove, NJ to stay the next night at a clean, lovely B and B, only twenty-four hours had passed since the night before, only a day, but what a change had taken place in my outlook. We’d given that day a new chance. 

“A day can change just everything, given half a chance. Rain could show up at your door and teach you how to dance.”

It’s been a heartening time, seeing these small bookstores up and running, bustling in the hearts of their communities. We’ve loved being part of the reopening, and seeing a smile on a bookstore owner’s face that wasn’t there before we walked in.  

In their lives, and in all our lives, each day brings forth a new hope and a new opportunity. When times are tough, we can all learn that the next day is a new day, with a new sunrise, and the last day is behind us.

“So live it well,” “All in a Day” concludes, “make it count, fill it up with you. The day’s all yours, it’s waiting now…See what you can do.”



Alice and Alan

Quotes From the Happy Side

"We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same." –Carlos Castaneda

Song From the Happy Side

I love the life I live, Willie Nelson

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