Monday, February 27, 2012

When I began Drinks With Nick, I envisioned a Julie Powell kind of thing for boys.  Instead of reading and eating with Mastering-the-Art-of-French-Cooking as an escort, we - you and I - would together drink ourselves through Jerry Thomas' Bar-Tender's Guide.

What I said then was:

You, me, and Jerry's delightful little book. What if we simply drank our way through it? Page by slaking page? How hard would it be to follow through on that endeavor? Not very, is what I'm thinking. So if you're with me - ah, come, you're with me, right? If you're with me, then let's go.

So that was the plan.  But then - life.  With my father so ill, and life happening all around, that's what I started writing about - life, our curious enterprise.

Do I still write about drinks?  Sure - because I enjoy them so much.  Alcohol is a big part of my heritage, a big part of the memories I have of my family - my grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins.  And my friends?  Oh, yeah - just a little bit.

I love the traditions - cultural and social - associated with drinks and drinking.  So I'll always have Drinks With Nick.

But - another big part of my life is centered around books.  I'm a bookseller - and will be until someone turns out the lights on that curious little enterprise for good.  Hopefully - for all of us - that won't be too soon.

And yes, I do believe the reports of the death of the book are greatly exaggerated.

Books abide.  If you find one in your grandmother's attic, all you have to do is open it and read.  But will the next generation's generation be able to turn on an iPad a hundred years from now?  No.  Because for all its elegance and beauty, that technology requires power and programming and care.  Throw a book into a corner, forget about it - even for decades - and it will always be waiting for you to do one thing.  Open it.  Did I say that already?  That with a book all you have to do is open it?  No power cord or Cloud needed.  How effortless would it be for you to read that floppy disc in your junk drawer?  Or the 8-track you saw at that garage sale?

I was reminded - not that I need a reminder - about how much books mean to me when I started reading A Bear Called Paddington to my girls.  He was my first love, the first book I remember really thinking - Hey, this is great!  Just me and a bear, sitting together in a Woodrow School library aisle.  My next door neighbor, Anne Young, was the librarian, and she let me spend as much time there as I wanted.

My oldest daughter?  She's right about the age I was when I first discovered that bear from Darkest Peru.

One of the things I love best about Paddington bear is that no one ever questions the fact that he talks.  Like Gregor Samsa's bug, it's just a given, and if you accept the premise, you're going to enjoy the ride.

Introducing my girls to the bear, and his adopted's just one of the great gifts made possible by books.  When I read the words on the label tied around the little bear's neck, when I read the words just as Mrs. Brown was reading them in Paddington station, when I read to my daughters the words - PLEASE LOOK AFTER THIS BEAR.  THANK YOU - that's exactly what I was asking my daughters to do.  To look after this bear the same way I had.

Will they love Paddington as much as I did?  I have no idea.  I do know that we, as a family, are all enjoying his adventures.  That the four of us, on Saturday night, were quietly sitting and reading on our couch when suddenly - Paddington started bailing water from the tub with his most unusual bush hat, and that when he did that, the girls laughed.  Long and hard.  The laughter of a four-year-old and a seven-year-old?  You could stop wars with that sound if they'd let you.

Here?  At Books With Nick?  I'll be writing about the good ones because I don't have time to waste on the bad.  So when the good ones come my way, I'll pass them along to you when I'm done - and you don't have to bother about returning them.  Just pass them along yourself when you're finished.

Happy reading.