Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Founding Fathers, Loving Brothers

Back from Philadelphia and ALA (American Library Association) Midwinter conference. A lot of action. Some sight-seeing. Some business. Some relaxing. We got to see our good friends from Feiwel and Friends again and we got to meet our new literary agent, Rosemary Stimola, for the first time in the flesh. Very cool.

Upon arrival, we rushed over to the Rosenbach Museum and Library in the city's well-to-do Rittenhouse Square district. Neither of us knew much about the place, other than the fact they boast a Maurice Sendak gallery and they are currently hosting a showcase of "Really Rosie" drawings. It's a nice place. The Rosie stuff was cool, but apparently they also hold thousands of Sendak originals of all kinds (drawings, notes, sketches, dummies, etc.) that are to be displayed in a whole floor of Sendak. But not til this spring does it open. Shucks. The rest of the museum, pertains to it's namesake, the collections of the brothers Rosenbach. Eccentric turn-of-the-century (20th) collectors of many European antiquities. The museum is, actually, the former elaborate and high-dollar home of these brothers. One of the bros, A.S.W. Rosenbach, was a big book collector. A prized piece is an original manuscript of James Joyce's ULYSSES. The give a very cool and personal tour of the place. Julie and I picked up a few awesome prints/posters from the gift shop afterwards. A signed Sendak lithograph from "Go Tell Aunt Rhody", a poster for the Rosie exhibit and an older poster (with an awesome image) for a Sendak event that took place in Philadelphia in '95.

The majority of the Philadelphia visit was devoted to Julie's work on the year's best audiobooks for teens YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Assosiation) Selection Committee. She was in lots of long meetings, so I was often left to fend for myself for entertainment. We did a tad bit of sight-seeing together at times, but not a bunch. Alone, I wandered to and around the Independence National Park area. That's where the Liberty Bell and Old City Hall and what not is. Lots of cool "founding fathers" type history in this area (and throughout the city as well). I came upon this weird Benjamin Franklin spot where his old stompin' ground used to be. His home, his print shop, etc. "Franklin Court" it's called. This spot was lodged in the middle of a city block, so you have to detour down an alleyway to find it. I got lost once. There was an underground museum at this place where you walked down, down, down this ramp to get to this gloomy and dark and quiet and neglected collection of Franklin belongings, dioramas, anecdotes and a dismal movie theater with a gut-wrenchingly dated 20 minute film on the man. He deserves better. I mean, he was a fascinating person and the museum really needs a facelift. Needless to say, the place was so weird (I was one of about 5 people--including the two staff workers down there) I had to drag Julie back down there when she had time off. There's also this giant room with these phones on posts where you can "call" historic figures from all times and hear Franklin stuff. I think it was Franklin stuff. Julie and I are such germ-o-phobes that neither of us would pick up any of those phones, touch them, or breath in mouth germs or absorb ear germs from God knows who, from God knows when, from God knows where. (See picture at beginning of blog. Look hard and you can see Julie in the phones, at the back.) I was happy to stumble upon one of the city's many awesome public art pieces. Claes Oldenburg's big ol' rusty clothespin by city hall.

So, I did a good bit of walking. Enough to kill my feet and calves and shins. My feeling, afterwards, is Philadelphia's a cool place with lots of that old-time Americana history. But, the sad part, I felt, is that it's either strikingly wealthy, or depressingly poverty-stricken. Hurts to say that. Hurts to see it.

Anybody ever hear the Neil Young song, "Philadelphia" from the movie of the same name? So good. Here's a beautiful performance of the song.

Trip ended yesterday when we left town around noon. The big awards were announced. The Caldecott, the Printz, Newberry, Geisel, all those. Congrats to the winners.

Good to be home.


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