Sunday, September 27, 2009

On intentions and interventions

Consider yourselves ditched. I got up early this morning, ready to write a blog (before doing lots of tedious stuff like laundry), but then a neighbour reminded me of something I had completely forgotten about in my frantic attempts to finally finish my archive work this week (with success – yay me!). Today was the date the National Book Festival took place in Washington, D.C. I saw posters for this in the beginning of my stay here, and I always meant to go, but since it wouldn’t take place until the end of September – two thirds into my extremely long stay in America – I filed it away at the back of my brain. All of a sudden, two months have passed. It feels unreal that I only have one month left before I go back home. Needless to say, I ditched writing my blog this morning because I went to the festival instead.

[Short side note – I’m writing this while watching Finding Nemo for the millionth time – and I’m now at the part where Marlin is riding with the sea turtles. I adore those creatures. Oh, and the seagulls! Dude, I’ve got to stop commenting before I end up writing a movie review rather than a National Book Festival blog]

The festival took place at the National Mall, and it featured an impressive number of famous authors either speaking, signing or both. According to the poster, the festival was free and open to the public. This was the main problem with the arrangement. Since I had forgotten about it, I hadn’t planned well enough to be able to leave the house particularly early, so I wasn’t in D.C. until about noon. The festival started at 10 am, and in those two hours a significant crowd had managed to gather. There were people everywhere: standing in lines to buy books; standing in lines to get to hear some interesting author speak about some interesting topic; standing in lines to get in the lines to have their books signed. Just as I was about to make up my mind if it was worth getting in one of those lines, I felt the first few raindrops.

[“Just keep swimming!”]

I decided it wasn’t worth it. I had even brought a book I recently read and liked (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) to potentially have it signed by the author (Junot Diaz), but as his line was insanely long, I settled for having seen him from afar and wandered on. I got a free tote bag, I saw John Grisham (also from afar) and I left the mall. Instead, I figured I might have my own personal book festival in one of the big downtown bookshops. I was, after all, feeling some considerable withdrawal symptoms since it had been a full week since I last visited a bookshop.

I believe I have previously touched upon my at times nonexistent sense of direction. Today, however, I surprised even myself. Washington, like any citiy where there streets are numbered in one direction, and alphabetized in the other, should be relatively easy to navigate. Considering this, and the fact that I have walked quite a bit in Washington during these two months, I felt confident enough that I didn’t even bring a map. To illustrate just how sure I felt that I knew my way around, let me give you a direct quote from myself, approximately one and a half month ago: “I love walking in D.C.! It’s like impossible to get lost!” No need to go hungry – I’ve got words to eat…

I knew where I was going, and I knew how to get there. And I still managed to walk in the opposite direction – twice! How that is possible – since the opposite of the opposite direction ought to have been the right direction – is beyond me, but all I know is that I ended up almost falling into the Chesapeake Bay. Twice.

[“I speak whale!”]

Luckily I was able to retrace my steps, get on the right side of the mall, find the bookshop (once I walked in the right direction it was easy), and indulge in the pleasures a combined coffee-, book-, CD- and DVD-shop offers.

One final weird thing happened to me today. It’s not just a small world, it’s a tiny one. In that crowd of thousands of booklover, whom did I see other than one of my fellow researchers from the archive? That is, ex-fellow. As mentioned, I now consider myself done, finito, never goin’ back (well, never say never, but at least I don’t intend to spend every waking moment there anymore. I’ve got what I need. I hope). I figured it was about time to leave when several staff members now not only had memorized my name, but also were able to pronounce it properly. Who knows, maybe sending one of the researchers after me was the archive’s way of saying goodbye?

[Nemo and dad are happily reunited, so I think this is also my cue to say bye-bye for the night]


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Nemo is a great movie!

And the festival sounds marvelous. Wish I could be there to enjoy it...I'd make a day of it. And get lost, too. :)

Mystery Writing is Murder

Cruella Collett said...

Before you know it, you'll be one of the authors having people get in line to get in line to have you sign their book, Elizabeth :)

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