The other day I was one of fifty count ’em fifty adults rounded up by the powerhouse principal of PS 124 in Chinatown to come down and talk to the 4th and 5th graders about our careers. A good friend has a daughter there, and she proposed me, I got an official invitation, and the next thing I knew I was schlepping four books in different formats — hardcover, two trade pb’s (one a foreign edition), and a mass market pb, plus a marked-up manuscript of the hardcover book, down to Chinatown at 7:30 in the morning. Luckily they had coffee, tea, fresh fruit, and whole grain bagels for the grownups as we gathered in the music room waiting for Assembly (remember Assembly?). I had a lovely talk with Jan Lee of Sinotoque, a terrific interior design and Asian antiquities concern that used to have a shop in Chinatown. I was distressed to see they’d closed and delighted to find they’re still in business, they’ve just moved. To Brooklyn, natch. A little more chatting with some other folks and we all filed on stage in the auditorium to be introduced to the entire 4th and 5th grades; then each of us went off to our assigned rooms, where, with one or two other adults, we explained ourselves to kids cycling through a dozen or so at a time.
I was in the library, again natch, sharing the morning with a cop. We had such a routine down by the end that we could have taken it on the road. That they were nearly equally interested in me as in him speaks very highly of PS 124. I mean, he was in uniform and wearing a gun. I, on the other hand, had that manuscript. It’s an entire ream of paper, and looks bigger because each page is bent and dog-eared in some way. Each time a new group came in and I got to the point where I picked it up and explained what it was I got dropped jaws and popping eyes. “That’s one book?” “All those words?” “Why did you write all over it?” I had a great time, though it was exhausting. By the time it was over, it was a good thing one of the other presenters was Wilson Tang, the owner of Nom Wah Tea Parlor, the oldest tea house in Chinatown (opened in the 1920’s). He brought lunch!