Sunday, September 27, 2009

Black September...on the National Mall?

As we made our way down to the National Mall for the Book Festival, I couldn’t help but think about Black Friday, and all the madness associated with that ever popular day-after-Thanksgiving shopping spree. You’ll understand why soon!

As soon as we got onto the Mall, it was already so busy with people wandering around everywhere (hint #1!). (Sometimes I’m still so naïve and forget that I do live in the Nation’s Capital, and the significance, and crowds, that go along with it.) I just had no idea what kind of madness this festival would attract since this was my first time attending. Well, it attracted quite a large one to say the least!

My 2 friends, Katie & Jess, and I formed a game plan pretty quickly. Katie & I knew we wanted to see Paula Deen, and therefore we knew we had to buy one of her books. We headed over to the Borders book sales tent, and quickly found the table with her books for sale. Since this was my first time attending a book event like this, I didn’t know what the limitations were for the author to sign them. Would they personalize them? Was there a limit to how many they would sign? Fortunately, I had asked the Borders staff member milling around the tent. She informed me that while Paula Deen would sign any of the 3 books they offered for sale, she would only sign those books if you had purchased the Cookbook for the Lunch Box set. This was a book for kids! It put bit of a damper in my plan. Aside from personally wanting to meet Mrs. Deen & have her sign a cookbook for myself, I also wanted to get Joel’s brother a signed copy of The Deen Family Cookbook. (His brother is now in culinary school, inspired to take such a career path because of his love for the Southern Belle.) The Borders staffer didn’t know if Paula had a limit on the books she would sign, so I only bought those 2 books – 1 for Joel’s brother, and then the children’s one for my niece. No offense to Paula or any other diehard fans, but I already spent $50 on just those two purchases, I wasn’t chancing buying a third book that she wouldn’t sign.

After all that hoopla in the book tent, the three of us headed over to one of the tents where James Patterson (woo hoo!) was giving a talk on his children’s book series. While I have no interest in those, I do love Jimmy and his Cross series so it was worth it just to see him anyhow. Really, if Patterson knew my obsession with his fictional character Alex, he would totally want to hire me as his assistant. (Because I didn’t want to let my current employer down, I decided not to reveal this bit of info to Jimmy.)

Me & Jimmy

After Jimmy was done speaking, Katie really needed to get her cup-o-joe, so we started to head in the direction of Starbucks. This was also in the same direction where the author’s tents were for the book signings. Now, where does my reference to Black Friday come in? Paula Deen’s tent was set up next to John Grisham’s, so we wanted to check out the line status. Well, as you probably have guessed by now (since you’re smart and I tend to be naïve in most cases), Johnnie’s line was at least 200 people deep at this point, and he wasn’t due to be at his tent for at least another hour and a half! Ugh! It was only a little after 10 AM and Paula Deen wasn’t set to sign until 1 PM, and she already had a small line of about 20 people approximately 2.5 hours prior to her signing! CRAP! How was I going to see her give her speech, and then get a guaranteed spot in line for that southern-style John Hancock?!

John Grisham

There are always sacrifices that have to be made for events like this! Just like during Black Friday where you can’t be two places at once (or three….or six!), so you try to bring other team members on board to stand in lines for you at other stores while you’re at another store at 3:00 AM waiting to snag two $300 laptops (regularly priced at $800/ea) when they open at 8 AM. Well, alas, I certainly could not be at her tent to hear her speak, AND be in line to guarantee that I would get her signature, so I had to make that dreadful decision – I stood in line.

I mean, heck, my objective was to get a gift for Joel’s brother, and to get pictures of her and I (which didn’t happen FYI). The authors were only scheduled to sign for one hour, and Mr. Grisham was such a nice man that he extended his an extra hour and he STILL didn’t get through that line of people. The line just continued to grow and after 2 hours it was cut off. How sad for those folks who didn’t get to fulfill their dream of meeting the famous author! I was not about to let that happen with Paula, so I took one for the team and stood in line for 2.5 hrs to meet her. While I’m happy I got her signature, and I understood the rushed process in order to do so, I was still disappointed that I didn’t get my picture with her! Also, we all learned about 10 min prior to her signing that she would sign any book you brought – no need to have that Lunch Box book – which by the way, I learned it was pre-signed after about an hour of standing in line (a fellow “lineman” told me that while we awaited our 2 seconds of southern lovin’.).

In the end I did not get to see any other authors but the ones I mentioned above – I knew Jodi was counting on meeting me (I’ll try to see you in Bailey’s Crossroads next time, I promise!). I still had a good time though, but next year I am going to scrap the signatures and just hear the authors talk. I’d rather have that experience instead, rather than the rushed 2 second-cattle herd through a line. I would totally recommend the Book Festival also, which I learned was started by Laura Bush during her hubby’s presidency. Neat! It was a great experience to share in the love of books with so many people, and get the opportunity to see those people who help you go away to another place in time with their amazing books!

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