Of course you knew it meant World Book Night. I knew it, my friends knew it. Come on, really! You didn’t know? Well,… I guess I’ll take the time to explain it to you.The official date of the event was April 23rd, 2012, but it really started a week before. No…, I had been planning this for weeks, so I should say it all started that fateful Wednesday in March.
Every Wednesday finds me in the town of Multnomah Village. This is actually an area of Portland, Oregon, but it has a certain charm and oneness with the community, so most people consider it a small town unto its own. ‘The Ship’ tavern is full of Cubs and Bears fans, where the ‘fight song’ is played, and sung loudly after every score. The Village has a parade once a year where people decorate their cars and ‘somebody of note’ will sit in the back and throw candy to kids lining the streets. Actually, it’s only one street, the main drag, and after two blocks you pretty much run out of road, and town for that matter ( I never said it was a big parade ). Once a month there is an art-event called ‘First Friday’. The various shops stay open later and most have sale-items placed out on the sidewalk. The ‘Fat City Cafe’ has an all-you-can-eat spaghetti feed, ( yes, kids are free ), and the little bookstore ‘Annie Bloom’s’ usually has a reading by some local author. For me, this town has everything you need for a black & white 50’s movie. The little kids peering through the glass at the candy store, old ladies quilting after hours at the bead shop ( yup, a store that only sells beads ) and people waving to each other from across the street. You can even play ‘Bingo’ at Renner’s Bar & Grill. It almost makes me want to put on a Pat Boone album and have a glass of milk,… almost. There is one other thing that Multnomah Village has, and it really gets me going. Old style rock-n-roll baby, YEAH!.
Wednesday night is free music night at ‘O’Conners Bar & Grill’. The band that plays is ‘Johnny Koonce and The One More Mile’ ( yes Mabel ). This is the same band that played back in the seventies as ‘Johnny Koonce and The Gas-Hogs’. They play songs that I know all the words to and will even do an instrumental medley of ‘surf tunes’ just for me. Ahh….., makes the 2 bucks I spent on that Pabst beer I’ve been sipping all night, seem even more worthwhile. During the band’s break, I usually wander outside to have a smoke and look into the window of the bookstore next door ( hey, I read….a little ). One night they had a display of 30 books with a sign stating “How would you like to give twenty of these books away, for free?” Well!, Boy Howdy!, You Betcha! I went inside to sign up.
Now….., you didn’t exactly get the books right then and there. Seems you had to apply. I left the store with a small flyer stating to contact the website for more details. This is the point where I would usually lose interest and toss the card in the next trash can ( I am a good citizen ), but not tonight. Something told me to hang on to this scrap of paper, no bigger that a bookmark, until I got home. So I did. My computer was my first stop later that evening and I found myself faced with three essay questions. Basically, they wanted to know how, when and why I wanted to do this crazy thing. Pish-Posh I thought to myself,… I’m a writer,… essay questions, …no problemo ( It wasn’t always that way ). You see, back in high school I was a true/false test taker or at the very least A,B,C or D as a choice. Essay questions would send a chill through-out my body. I hated them! But not this time. I hit the send button when I was through, and I had a warm, fuzzy feeling about what I had written.
As in all good stories, time passed. Then on that fateful day, that glorious wonderful day, the day all the birds were chirping and the sun was warm. YES! my friends, THAT! day. The day I got my letter saying I had been chosen as a ‘World Book Night’ giver. I was to be one of thousands of volunteers to help give away one million books world-wide on a single night. The e-mail I received was well written and I felt wonderful just reading it. I re-read it every so often just to get that feeling again. Several more e-mails were to follow with the mechanics of how everything was going to work. I was to receive 20 copies of Maya Angelou’s, ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’. There was a party one week prior to the event at Annie Bloom’s bookstore where UPS kindly shipped my books. Myself and 35 fellow givers met for champagne and cupcakes ( a very nice combo and I highly recommend it ). We left with our boxes of books tucked under our arms, ( I was hugging mine ) and the feeling was one of elation ( or was that the champagne? ).
Now, you would think that champagne and cupcakes would be enough happiness for anybody, ( I was very happy ) but the best was yet to come. I mean, there was still the giving away portion of the event. It also seemed that they had a no-show in the pick-up-books department, so I also ended up with the book,‘Bel Canto’, by Ann Patchett. My next decision was to figure out how to give away forty books in one night. Solution, I fudged a bit. I started giving them out right away ( don’t tell anyone ). Oh Rats!, I guess I just did. Anyway,…. I managed to make the forty books last until the ‘official’ day that I was supposed to give them out, so I didn’t feel all that bad ( maybe just a little ). Everybody I gave a book to, seemed to get in the spirit of the event, which was to read the book and pass it on to a friend. I have received many a thank you, and I look forward to doing it again next year. Maybe you will join me? Of course, I may have to remove the “I fudged a bit” remark from the story. You never know who might actually read this piece. See you all next April. Don
“I love the fish at Albertson’s…, I always get a bite!”, by Mark