The Old Crow Book Release

(My new book about the Old Crow Book Club is available through

It was a Wednesday afternoon and I took a stroll through the neighborhood. The cherry blossoms craved to bloom, but the cold weather wouldn’t allow it.

My mind felt cluttered with thoughts of all I had to do once I got the print run of The Old Crow Book Club back from the printer in McMinnville. Which was the next morning.

There was Mark, co-founder of the Old Crow Book Club, sitting on his usual sidewalk. The last time I’d seen him, about a week ago, he looked near death, but denied my urgent request to call 9-1-1 and the Street Response Team. Later, I regretted my non-action, but Mark was adamant and lucid.

So, it was much to my surprise and relief that I saw Mark reading a book while also smoking a Swisher Sweet and drinking a can of malt liquor.

I asked him what he was reading. He told me, The Odyssey (for the fourth time!), a hundred-year old edition he had rescued from the bookstore’s recycling bin. It occurred to me that Mark was undoubtedly the only human being in world history who had read The Odyssey multiple times while smoking a Swisher Sweet and drinking malt liquor.

We briefly discussed the Greek classic. I then told Mark about picking up The Old Crow Book Club the next morning. He perked up. I told him I’d swing by and give him the first copy.

“It better be signed,” he said.

“I’ll sign it,” I said.

I briefly told Mark I didn’t know how he and other members of the book club might react to the contents of the book. I wasn’t nervous about a possible negative reaction, but his opinion mattered to me, so I wanted the straight shit once he read it.

“I’ve always loved everything you’ve written,” he said, “especially that zine about Joe.”

Over two years ago, we had met because I saw him reading a book just as he was now. Then, a few weeks later, I saw him reading one of my books in front of the can/bottle recycling machine. He’d discovered it in a street library. We’d gone on to establish the book club and become friends. My discussions with him about literature were the most interesting ones about literature in my entire life.

“Mark,” I said, “whatever happens, if your reading the book changes your mind about anything related to your homelessness, like wanting to get into housing, I’m ready to try again.”

We had tried last summer and totally failed, but it wasn’t Mark’s fault. He was ready then; after that debacle, he was not.

“I’ll let you know,” he said.

And with that I walked away. I’d see him tomorrow and the sequel to The Old Crow Book Club would begin to unfold on the very sidewalk where it had all started.

I knew something for certain about what happens when one of my books is released: the better stories related to the subject of the newly-released book, are always better—ALWAYS—than those that made it into the book. It is true as gravity and the heartlessness of the Republican Party.

The morning drive to McMinnville on Highway 99W was hellish. How people tolerated this every morning and evening for a commute or just getting around was beyond me.

I listened to an old mix tape from the Nineties. Nirvana still had some kick left. I wondered who Cobain would be if he were alive today.

Everywhere along 99W for 40 miles were homeless people pushing grocery carts full of possessions, straggling around, living in tents or derelict RVs along roadways, driving duct-taped cars that were clearly domiciles.

I arrived in McMinnville and saw elderly homeless men and women shuffling through neighborhoods and the downtown commercial district. I saw more zombie RVs. Here I was about ready to pick up my book about homelessness and its subject matter was all around me and moving in dirty mono.

The 2000-print run was ready for pickup. I have a 20-year relationship with this family-owned Oregon company and they have always provided incredible service. It’s always nice to spend my publishing money with an Oregon business and help employ Oregonians. I wish I could do it more.

I tore into one of the boxes and fished out a copy of The Old Crow Book Club. It looked fantastic! A couple of dudes helped me load 17 boxes of books into the Subaru. They barely fit. I thanked the crew and drove away.

Now the hard work really began. How do you get a book out to readers? There are dozens of ways, but with this particular book, I was distributing it almost exclusively through street libraries around Oregon. There is a phone app that shows you all the registered Little Free Libraries in the world and Oregon must boast more capita than any other state in the nation. There are almost 30 in my neighborhood alone!

I would do the bulk of this distribution, but I planned on hiring some members of the book club to distribute copies around the area on foot. I was also going to hire another homeless man with a vehicle to help me cover the tri-county area. (If anyone wants to support this unique distribution effort, please go to nestuccaspitpress and make a donation. It will pay to hire these homeless men to assist me.)

Mark was set to get the first copy, but now it would be the second one because a receptionist at the printer simply had to have it after she overheard me describing it.

So I gave it away right there. She wanted to pay, but I said read it, then stock it in your nearby street library.

I hit 99W and headed for home. I thought about consulting the library app for immediate distribution, but I wasn’t in the mood to look at a phone and ruin the moment of celebrating the release of a book.

Traffic slowed a bit in Lafayette and I spotted a street library near a park of this tiny agriculture and wine community. I pulled over and stocked it with the Old Crow book and some of my other titles. Five feet away on a bench of a bus shelter, a homeless person was asleep or passed out inside a sleeping bag. A couple backpacks rested under the bench.

So yes, Lafayette has at least one homeless person.

I considered leaving a book near the person, but didn’t want to spook whoever it was.

By the time I made it home, it was pushing noon and I was starving. I decided to treat myself at a pizza joint with a lunch special and pint of beer. As I ate, I wrote in my journal and outlined the distribution plan for the book. I also signed Mark’s copy of the book and thanked him. I called him a friend.

After lunch, I drove to Mark’s sidewalk. He was there, reading and smoking a Swisher Sweet. Sean, another member of the club was there, too, with a large bag of cans.

I walked up to Mark and presented the book.

“Oh wow!” exclaimed Mark. “The cover is great.”

“I really like the way it looks and feels in the hands,” I said.

I raced to the car and retrieved a copy for Sean. I handed it to him.

He held it like a spiritual text and immediately thumbing through it. He said nothing.

I took a photograph of Mark holding up the book, but not before he pulled back the cowl of his hoodie and spruced up his hair. A homeless man was primping for a picture! That should tell you right there that hope still exists.

It was almost two years to the day Mark and I had met exactly where we stood now. I remarked about that.

I briefed Mark and Sean about the upcoming plans to gather members of the book club for a pizza and (not malt liquor) beer launch party down by the creek. I also said in the coming weeks I would be paying them to distribute the book to all the street libraries within a two-mile radius.

Sean said, “Matt, I may just have to celebrate your book with some Old Crow.”

That made me laugh.

I looked at Mark perusing the book. What a funny feeling it must have been for a man to be handed a book about himself by the author who wrote it. I know it was pretty overwhelming for me—certainly a first in my writing life.

And as I stood there, it dawned on me that it’s never good for an author to have any expectations for a book upon its release. I’ve been burned and disappointed before and thus, learned my lesson.

But…I did want something from this book. It didn’t matter if Mark liked it or not. My wish: I wanted him to read it and decide to try and get off the streets. We both knew he wouldn’t last another year out there.