Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Books, and Then More Books




You know we're not the type to turn down a free event, especially one focused on literacy. So, despite a driving rain and the pull to luxuriate at home, I made plans last Saturday to hit the African-American Book Fair at Community College of Philadelphia. Aaron whined about wanting to stay home, and Amy had mercy on him and granted his wish. So this was a father-daughter production, which was good, because it was fraught almost from the beginning, and Aaron being with us would have almost certainly led to a meltdown on his part and homicidal thoughts on my part:

1:00p - We slip and slide our way to the subway station and then wait a little longer than we should have for the El. When it arrives, it's packed to the gills. There must have been a delay. We cram our way in, transfer at City Hall, and board the Broad Street Line. At Race-Vine, it is announced that Spring Garden is closed due to renovations. I grab Jada and dart out of the train and resign myself to a seven-block walk instead of a three-block walk.

1:30p - After some difficulty, we find the building the fair is located in. We then proceed to wait almost a half-hour to get in. The place is full and then some. While this is undoubtedly a good omen for the future literacy levels of our city's children, it puts a damper on our enthusiasm.

2:00p - The lines continue once we're inside. Lines to get free posters, lines to see authors, even lines to buy and pay for books. The place is buzzing, the sound system is booming, and I am starting to wilt. We're not there long before I hatch a plan to bring Jada to Barnes & Noble, since it is close to where we plan to pick up the bus home. Maybe I might even splurge for a book or two there. Ah, who am I kidding: even for the sake of my kids' education, I am reluctant to spend a dime.

2:30p - Serendipity: as we come down the hill south on 18th Street, I realize we are just a block from the main branch of the Free Library. Emphasis on "free." We head there, make a beeline for the children's section, and Jada revels in books stacked to the ceiling, first choosing three to read on site and then three other ones to check out.

3:00p - Now it's my turn. I spent a lot of time at the library when I was a kid, and 90 percent of what I did was read baseball books. I see no reason not to relive some of my childhood, so I drag Jada to the sports section, plop her down at a nearby table to look at her books, and luxuriate in title after title from familiar names like Roger Angell and Bill James and Roger Kahn. A homeless man dozes nearby, and I hold my breath hoping Jada doesn't ask the obvious question: "Why does it smell bad here?"

3:30p - Checkout is surprisingly difficult, but soon enough we are on our way down the hill and into Center City. We grab the 42 bus home, Jada delighting in her books the whole way home.

4:00p - Wet clothes shed and new books stacked on the coffee table, Jada and I sink into opposite ends of the sofa, noses buried between pages, while Aaron watches TV upstairs and Amy makes dinner. Now this is a Saturday afternoon.
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