Thursday, August 23, 2007

That enchanted bookmobile, or, 826 Boston

Two summers ago, I walked into the then-neon basement caverns of 826michigan. Erik handed me scissors and a pile of old sewing pattern packets, and said: "We're cutting them out," pointing to the stylishly old-fashioned figures on the fronts, "like paper dolls. We're giving them names. And occupations."

I've told this story a thousand times, but only because I still can't believe it really happened. That summer, before college started, I became the first intern at the brand-new Ann Arbor writing center, 826michigan, and I'd been waiting for it all my life.

That's only barely an exaggeration. Since 15, I'd regularly considered running away from home to intern at 826 Valencia, the pirate supply store / mysterious writing center for the 6-18 set, founded by Dave Eggers of McSweeney's-and-A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius fame. Alas, 826 Valencia was in California and I was in Ann Arbor. And, I was still in high school, where prolonged and passionate leaves of absence are not encouraged.

So imagine what happened inside my head, the kinds of cartwheels and happiness explosions, when I stumbled upon the 826michigan booth at the Ann Arbor Book Festival. It was like 826 had found me, like some enchanted bookmobile. So I signed up and I spent my summer days there, and I was heartbroken when I had to leave for college. My friends there—my very dearest friends—gave me all their favorite books as a going-away present. As I packed for college, I put all those books in a white cardboard box, drew an octopus on top in purple marker, and stowed it in the trunk of our rental van. No matter what, I knew, it would get to Boston safely.

That enchanted bookmobile didn't stop there; when I arrived at school, I found out that Boston might get to be the next 826 location. I held my breath; I made phone calls. And then, school caught up with me, and I lost track of where the plans were. Months later, it came true: 826 Boston was coming.

And now—this is magical—it's here. When the nice reporter from the Boston Phoenix called me for her article (826 Boston in the Boston Phoenix), I knew that joy was imminent.

Going to Boston this time, I have a feeling that my heart's not going to break. In fact, it might even whisper a silent hurrah.

(Beautiful new article about 826michigan in the Toledo Blade here.)

1 comment:

tea cozy said...

oh my god diana, thank you x10000000000000000 for posting this. nice blog, by the way. also, will you show me around 826 michigan when I COME TO ANN ARBOR? (this is aem, btw, intrepid daughter of the driver of a REAL enchanted bookmobile)