A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Friday, June 30, 2006

The Book Tape Lady

I'll go to Northampton, Massachusetts on the flimsiest of excuses. Today's excuse was tagging along with friend Priya, radiologist turned full-time knitting grandma. She needed yarn and pattern for number one grandson Oliver's Christmas sweater, and I needed to get away from this computer for a few hours and celebrate the completion of a proposal for what will be (if I get it) a very lucrative writing assignment.

We picked a table on the sidewalk at the Fresh Pasta Company so we could enjoy the brilliant sunshine and do a little people-watching. Noho's probably the best place on the East coast for that. It's also a great place to buy wool....Northampton Wools is so popular, it's spawned its own satellite shop just for baby yarn. NW's owner, Linda Daniels, is knitter to the stars. She's made sweaters for Charlize Theron, Halle Berry and Michael Caine to wear in movies...designed a whole knitted wedding gown and other amazing items...and is a patient teacher.

But I can barely knit and purl, and don't have any grandchildren, so when the intricacies of six stitch cables with twisted ribs for a toddler-sized aran pullover became TMI, I wandered outside to people-watch some more. I was tired from eating all that wild mushroom-and-gorgonzola pizza, and the stoop was full of overflowing baskets of yarn on sale, but I found a fanny's-worth of space on the bottom step and sat down. From there I could watch the passing parade of cars, trucks, motorcycles, bikes, jogging strollers, and pedestrians.

My zoned-out reverie on the many modes of mobility was soon broken by a large shape blotting out my sun, and a monotone seemingly directed at me.

Hello would you like to buy a poetry book, said the shape.

I looked up. A large woman loomed over me, wearing a long dress and sandals and carrying a basket full of little books.

No thank you, I replied, and the shape shuffled off. Missed photo op, I thought. Perhaps it was just my disadvantageous position on the bottom step, but she seemed to have had a definite presence. I resumed my inventory of transportation modes.

Not ten minutes later, the shape came shuffling back from the other direction. Hello would you like to buy a poetry book, she intoned, as though she had not just asked me.

No....would you like to have your picture taken? I replied.

Sure, she said, and I aimed my new toy at her and snapped. The sun was to her back, her face was dark, she didn't fit the frame, but I didn't want to fool around.

Would you like to see my book? she asked, holding out a copy of Weeping Willow, by Jessica Kavanau to me. Decent cover, and professionally printed. I flipped through, skimmed a couple of poems. They weren't half bad.

I am the Book Tape Lady, she announced. I have sold fifteen hundred tapes and eight hundred books, by myself, like this.

Do you belong to a poetry group? I asked her. No, she said, I am alone. Do you ever read at open mic events? I pursued. Rarely, she answered. How long have you been doing this? I continued. Years and years, she said.

I haven't got any money, I told her, handing back the book, or I'd buy one from you. And I was telling the truth. Directly from an author is about the only way I do buy books these days. She was not Ms. Personality, but she was a real person. And she was putting a lot of effort into making her voice heard.

It's not enough for a writer just to write. There has to be a reader, so it's two people connecting, brain to brain. And, damn it, if the readers won't come to the table, let's go out on the street and round them up! That's what the Book Tape Lady seems to be saying.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

She started in Holyoke.

Then came to my town In Easthampton.

This lady is a street person, seeking money for wine. She hangs in local bars and drinks away her sorrows.

Next time, offer her a cookie. Or
perhaps a hug. She is craved for
attention. She is seeking help.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Alicia said...

Just wanted to say this is the funniest blog I have ever read!! I love when i spot Jessica Kavanaugh on the street. Back when i was in college, i purchased tapes from her...and more recently, i have purchased poetry books and a small poster (yes -- featuring none other than Jessica), which hangs on my office wall.

1:39 PM  

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