Sunday, August 26, 2007

Book Worming

If this is Day One of the great trial that will be my life in St. Louis, then I’m not fairing poorly. Actually I’ve had some rather mediocre days since my arrival, but those were unofficial.

After getting up at eight thirty and not ea
ting all morning, I had achieved something novel by one o’clock in the afternoon: hunger. I understand that other people, even people of means, allow their bodies to slip into this state on a daily basis. Not me. I usually eat too much and then eat again just as my organism enters the initial stages of recovery. I know it’s gross and wrong, but I’m afflicted. Anyway, this special circumstance set the stage for a good meal at one of my favorite St. Louis lunch spots, Pho Grand, with my mother, Deborah Miller.

I can’t attest to the authenticity of the place. Almost all of the diners were white and I didn’t see tendon or tripe options in the pho section of the menu. Nonetheless, the duck leg vermicelli soup was tasty. I also had an iced coffee, which I took as an opportunity to consume a serving of sweetened condensed milk with more self-respect than dipping my finger into a tin can in the confines of my kitchen generally affords.

As my mom and I got up to leave, a fat guy of about fifty called me over to his table and asked, “Young man, how did you manage a date with such a beautiful woman?” I played along with his creepy game and said, “She gave birth to me,” then smiled disingenuously and left. Good for Mom.

After lunch we drove further down Grand Avenue into South City towards Carondelet Park. Along the way there were a few surprises like the Afghan Market and some gutted fast-food restaurants. We admired the brickwork all around us and felt like we’d never seen the city before. Apparently St. Louis brick is a big thing, or at least it is for this guy, who has devoted a whole blog to it.

Our destination was the 2007 YMCA Book Fair at the Carondelet Family YMCA. This is a massive, six-day book fair with, like, a million books. The event benefits YMCA literacy programs and is in its thirtieth year (not surprising considering their level of organization).

The admission fee was ten dollars on opening day, which clearly distinguishes the rare book hunters from your casual buyers. We were two days late for the once-in-a-lifetime stuff, but Mom and I managed to purchase twenty-one books for twenty-six dollars and sixty-seven cents. I bought three Spanish grammar books that I will aspire to open for the rest of my life, some classics like David Copperfield and Middlemarch and the book Jarhead because I met the guy who wrote it in St. Petersburg. Another good find was a hardback edition of The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which is one of my all-time favorites (thank you, Edan).

In hopes of making this blog more appealing, I’ve just decided to add a contest element into the mix. If you’ve managed to read this far and are interested in owning your own copy of the The Secret History, just be the first or only person to email me and I’ll mail it to you, gratis.

Here we will conclude the day’s posting (not that this will happen every day) with a second (!) spectacular offer. If you have any pertinent information related to the Midwest, an anecdote you’d like to share, or perhaps some artwork, a restaurant, or a failing non-profit that you would like to see ineffectively advertised (for free!) on the Internet, please contact me ( and that will happen. Thanks for believing.


Anonymous said...

So witty - wonder who you inherited that from? With love from your book worming pal.

Edan said...

Great new blog, Ryan!
Thanks for the shout out, by the way!
It's terrific to have another distraction from my own stupid writing.

Dad said...

And I thought that by purchasing a Blackberry I was "with it" technology-wise. Guess not. This is cool, SonnyBoy!

possum said...

Boo yah. Glad you made it back safely.

august said...

Hooray! I'm jealous watching you stroll through the void. Good reads. Talk to you soon.

Kiki said...

Hey I'm still in Iowa City. Stop by anytime, fellow "middler!"