So much of the allure of downtown is the excitement of the unexpected. The city’s ability to surprise is as important as the amenities and joys you assume. First Friday often holds at least one, if not many such unexpected turns.
A recent view through the window at Union Avenue Books, Knoxville
This time, the twist for me happened at a place I’ve been watching closely: Union Avenue Books. The Knoxville News Sentinel previously reported an expected April opening. After papering over their windows (which I took personally), the covering had recently come down and through the windows a book store slowly emerged. From what I could see from the window, early April was not out of the question.
Left to Right: UrbanWoman, Miranda Clark, Jinx Watson
Then came First Friday. Near the front window of the store a table held two boxes of wine, presumably one white, one red. My pulse quickened as the lights came on and food slowly covered the table. What could this mean on First Friday but an open house, right? Open house followed by an official opening Monday morning was my guess.
Soon the store filled with people. Not just any people, these were people I knew. Two of my neighbors were inside talking to Flossie (one of the owners and another old friend of mine). I saw people I knew from my most recent round of college classes, colleagues with whom I had crossed paths over the last many years. These were my peeps! An open book store in the neighborhood filled with old friends; this had to be a good thing, right?
After I’d been inside a few minutes catching up, making small talk and reveling in that bookalicous vibe, I realized someone had placed a sign on the door that said, “Private Party.” I even heard my dear freind Flossie say, “That’s good. We should have done that earlier.” Could she be refering to me? Et tu, Brute?
Jack Gantos (on the left), Flossie (yellow sweater) and your new bookstore!
I crashed. Honestly, it was with the encouragement of the people gathered. Miranda Clark, director of the Children’s and Young Adult Literature Center at UT and Jinx Watson, the former head of that great program and retired professor in the Information Sciences Program both said I could have bacon, so what could I do? I mean, the bacon was thick and crisp and covered in molasses. Really.
Jack Gantos at Union Avenue Books, April 2011
I love being surrounded by books while mingling with people who write and love books. It was a great surprise in my evening and a highlight of my time in the city. I absolutely cannot wait for April 28 to get here. Just don’t tell my mama that I’m running around town crashing parties. She always told me that was rude.