Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Birthday: Back to the Future, Books, and...a Basket of Beans.

Ernie Cline and his Delorean.
So my birthday passed a couple of weeks ago, and the party person I am...I celebrated by working.  I traveled to Austin to attend a bookseller luncheon with Ernest Cline, the author of the upcoming novel Ready Player One, a book that celebrates the joyfully geeky 80's culture.  How enthralled is the author with period pop culture?  He spent his book advance on a Delorean (the Back to the Future car) and then installed a flux capacitor.  I have no 80's music nostalgia at all, but I do love me a vintage video game, and on the drive home that afternoon I recalled that my first Nintendo was a joint birthday gift the summer that we turned 11 (the joy of the twin joint gift, joint birthday cake, joint birthday party), a gift we never expected because our parents disapproved of video games.  Coincidentally, our great grandmother died that day too, but the Nintendo seemed more significant. 

Most people won't give me books for special occasions because I already have so many.  Two notable exceptions growing up were a couple of Christmases for which I received the Anne of Green Gables box set and a copy of The Hot Zone.  Both impacted me--Anne gave me a smart, outspoken "kindred spirit" to follow on adventures, and The Hot Zone...reinforced my monkey horror.  It's still the scariest book I've ever read.  Nothing says "Merry Christmas Lizzie!" like monkeys carrying Ebola into the US; I dreamed about bleeding from my eyeballs for months after reading it.

Gianna and her friends occasionally will have book exchange parties, an awesome idea.  Each person brings a copy of a book that possesses special meaning for him/her, and then the participants talk about the books, why they're special, and then exchange.  I think Gianna brought Kathryn Harrison's The Kiss.  (She might not have, but Gianna loves this book.  Nothing says "Party at Gianna's House!" like a literary memoir about an incestuous relationship.)  One of the best parts of my job involves finding readers for the advance reading copies of forthcoming novels, and occasionally I will love a book that I'm also selling so much that it feels like I'm sharing a personal treasure with a fellow book lover.  There's a little novel just published called The Upright Piano Player, a quiet, contemplative book in a perfect package that redefines the idea of summer reading.  One of my colleagues called me to ask if I'd read it back before our sales conference months ago, and through his enthusiasm it became an overall rep favorite.  It deserves a wide readership.  Check it out.

My sister and I don't exchange birthday gifts most of the time.  It just seems strange.  We do typically get together around the time of our birthday, usually for an Astros game (though I'm a book nerd and she's an aerospace engineer, we both love baseball).  We going to see the Astros lose to the Red Sox in a few days. 

And the Astros games bring me around to what Gianna gave me for my birthday.  Between innings, Goya, the Mexican food company, sponsors a shell game contest on the jumbotron involving a baseball hidden inside a can of beans and shuffled around.  It's hilarious.  Even better, though, is the prize for the lucky fan who gets to play: a gift basket of Goya products.  I think it's awesome--go to the game, win beans!  I have wanted to be the lucky contestant for years.  My pal Gianna has attended enough Astros games with me over the last few years that she knows of my gassy obsession.  And then she surprised me. 

That's every Goya product Gianna could find.
It weighs about 30 lbs.

Never mind that I don't cook; I'm going to display this prize on my dining room table for years.  The Antiques Roadshow will visit my area in 2041 and I'll haul in my gift basket and have it appraised, and they will marvel at it.  I will bequeath my Goya gift basket to a literacy foundation and they will take my vintage beans and sell them for books and create the Liz Sullivan literacy center and in the lobby will be a mural of fart-inducing products, books, and Gianna and it will be magical.  Like the musical fruit.

Give books for birthdays.  Save the ozone layer from noxious gasses and other beany perils.

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