Friday, July 20, 2007

Harry Potter, Or A Good Night's Sleep?

Tuesday, July 10th, 11:59 p.m.

The question wasn't if I was going to get in line for the next instalment of the obnoxiously successful Harry Potter and the Whatever Movie is Next... series. It was only a matter of when. I have a thirteen-year-old who lives on this planet. It's Death, Taxes and Get-in-line-for Harry Potter and the Whatever Movie is Next...

A better question would be, "Which line am I willing to stand in the longest?"

I've never been one to stand in lines. I always believed the DMV has chairs there specifically for me. Amusement parks, with their one-and-a-half hour waits in line for a one-and-a-half minute payoff, has never been that hot a ticket for me. Given a choice, I'd be eating fried chicken in New Orleans Square, not standing in the burning sun in anticipation of another go-round of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

The same with movies. Movies come and go, and lines of movie-goers come and go with them. And standing around for hours on opening night with a bunch of strangers who already know the ending of the movie, while I lose sleep on a work night, is not my idea (maybe my kid's idea, but not my idea) of a great time. And drinking cold coffee from the Starbucks on the other side of the Promenade just to stay awake long enough to fall asleep in a Lazy-Boy theater seat with the stub of a $12 ticket tucked in my shirt pocket (for the buy one-get one bowling coupon at the Gable House) loses something in translation between the age of thirteen and... old.

So, which line will I to stand in?

This one.

After I spend several leisurely hours browsing through the 30 or so books I've always wanted to read, then relax at a cafe table, enjoying a spinach-mushroom Strada while sipping a really, really big iced coffee, I stand in a line of another kind.

Friday, July 20th, 11:59 p.m. Inside Barnes and Noble Booksellers, People, faces familiar to each other, gather together, probably for the last time.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the 7th and last book in the series authored by J.K. Rowling (not some junior screenwriter who would "really like to direct some day"), will be released to the reading public as the clock strikes midnight. This night, hundreds of fans, readers, will be the first of hundreds of thousands who, at the stroke of midnight, will receive their copy of the final installment of a story that, to date, has sold over 86 million copies.

Barnes and Noble, as well as Borders stores, Vroman's in Pasadena and a host of smaller, local bookstores, will host events on the night when the whole world finds out what fate awaits Harry.

Here is a short list of L.A. locations offering some kind of Harry Potter activities.

Skylight Books will let you make your own Book 7 book cover, and offers an all-night reading party that goes till 9 a.m. Saturday. 10 p.m., 1818 N. Vermont Ave., L.A. (323) 660-1175.

At Borders Torrance, the Grand Hallows Ball will include a life-size Harry Potter checkers game and a 15-foot snake cake. 9:30 p.m., 3700 Torrance Blvd., Torrance. (310) 540-7000.

Other Borders stores in the area will be holding similar but smaller Grand Hallows Balls at 9:30 p.m., including a Harry Potter spelling bee and the "Great Snape Debate".

Book Soup is giving away copies of the book with the purchase of a $100 gift card. 10 p.m., 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 659-3110.

Storyopolis is holding a Diagon Alley Party and games till the late, as well as an autographed print by Mary GrandPré, the books' illustrator. 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., 12348 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. (818) 509-5600.

At Barnes & Noble stores there will be events from 6 to 10 p.m. These Midnight Magic parties include photos with a Harry look-alike, magic shows, and trivia scavenger hunts. Use the store locator at

At Vroman's, bands Wild Youth and Dirty Spanglish will perform, in addition to storytelling, crafts and face painting. 10 p.m., 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. (626) 449-5320.

Any of those lines are worth giving up a good night's sleep for, because reading always beats a movie, no matter how much stuff gets blown up. Big screen, summer blockbusters are often little more than over-long video games, or music videos with 100-page scripts written by the same junior screenwriter who "would really like to direct someday". And for an event that promotes literature for my thirteen-year-old, video-addicted son, well... I would drag him to that.

If I had to.

My son's plans for the weekend involve locking himself in his room and finishing Deathly Hallows before he walks face first into a spoiler before finishing the book.

Besides, a book like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would sure pass the time sitting in one of those chairs at the DMV.

Copyright © 2007 Bill Friday

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