Pamela convinced me to go to Borders Friday night to pick up my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was an easy sale. I'd have a few hours of downtime the next day in San Bernardino, California. Trust me, there's nothing much else to do in San Bernardino, California on a Saturday morning. Unless you're Pamela.
I wasn't worried (well not much) about not getting a copy. I figured that Scholastic Press must have made history with the number of books in a first printing; Harry Potter Book Seven has to be the most widely anticipated novel in history! So I left the house at 11:00 pm, already a bit tired from a full day's work.
"My" Borders is in West Hollywood, just down the road a pace from where Pamela studies dance and takes pilates class. I've done quite a bit of writing and re-writing of plays and screenplays at the Seattle's Best coffee shop on the second floor. It feels like home.
Los Angeles is a weird town. I always think of metropolitan cities as "never sleeping." I guess that's just New York, but it still astonishes me how dead Los Angeles is after ten p.m. Borders looked cozy and inviting in the muggy dark. No sign of a line stretching out the front door: fantastic!
Inside the store is a different matter entirely. Gobs of people were milling about, excited yet sleepy-eyed, awaiting the big moment!
I quickly found out where to go first, and soon found myself in line number one: the line to check in. This line extended out the back door and into the parking lot, but only because the check-in table was just inside the door. Borders had an interesting system worked out, and I suppose it was as good a system as any.
The lady at the check-in table asked if I had a copy reserved. I didn't, so she gave me a slip of paper good for one copy of the book, and a little wrist band with the number "270" written upon it. At first I though it may be the lost wristband of Godric Gryffindor, and a likely horcrux for the Dark Master. Alas, it merely established my place in the "first come, first served" order.
I'm making an assumption here, because I don't know for sure. I believe that the folks with reservations had all the low numbers.
Now, armed with my wristband (and a cup of coffee from home) I milled about just a bit, and tried to locate line number two.
The idea was for us to all get into numeric order. It was just after 11:30, and arranging us all (I'd say about four-hundred people. I really wish I was overestimating) took only twenty minutes or so.
My part of the line wound through the magazine section, and I got to read up on house remodeling for half an hour.
Even after they brought the books out (I couldn't get a clear picture) we didn't move for half an hour. I'm not sure why. But we did eventually move, and it wasn't too long before I could see the registers! How exciting!
The line really started to pick up speed. We wound our way through the stacks, and I perused the many different titles around me, in all different genres. I'm a bookstore browser, but I usually have a good idea of what I'm after when I cross the threshold. This time, I had the opportunity to really let it all kind of sink in; the sheer number of titles is staggering!
There are the books I've grown to love, books I should love but haven't gotten around to reading yet, books whose titles I know but never plan on reading, and yet untapped treasures I have never even thought to pick up! Such a vast treasure trove!
Finally, the home stretch. The Borders clerks were becoming hoarse with every cry of "Next customer, please!" I could see the books, orange and green, in pretty little rows. I figured early on that they wouldn't give out wristbands if they didn't have the books to cover them. Imagine the riot that would ensue! Still, there was the fear that somehow they would run out before I got to the counter. Seeing the ample supply of books gave me my second wind! I sprinted to the lady who called out for me:
"Next customer, please!"
And I got this lady. The only one of the Border's crew to bother with anything resembling a costume. I forked over my dough (well ... my debit card,) got my Border's card discount, and at long last put my hands on the last book in the Harry Potter series.
I left the store, elated! It was only 1:00 am, and I was on my way home.
The next morning, Pamela and I drove an hour out to San Bernardino for Stiletto 2.5, a burlesque workshop and showcase. For the four hours or so she was learning how to make pasties and strip, I was submerged in the book. I read on it when we got home that evening, read on it Sunday morning, took a break to make a ridiculous yet relevant episode of Disembodied Animal Head Theatre, and finally finished off the book that evening.
All I can say is, this is the best of the bunch by far. Rowling has set a new bar for this kind of expansive, "big universe" fiction. Yeah, yeah ... I'm sure Tolkien's work is much bigger and badass-er. Rowling's universe is more approachable, and that makes all the difference to me.
She ties everything up in this one. As my friend Garrick Pass put it so well, " She tied up strings I didn't even realize existed until the knot was complete." Simply masterful storytelling.
Most importantly -- and this cannot be emphasized enough-- Jo Rowling got people reading. And what's more, she got people excited about reading.