On July 16, 1969, I recall quite clearly Elaine Jakes pitching on the floor in front of her television set with a small group of friends—including Sheila, Sallie Bailey and Emily Ward at least for a few minutes of that early morning event—for the Apollo moon launch. This “breakfast-bun watch party” occurred in Elaine and Sheila’s small flat, as Delores Davis was wont to call it, at 14 W. Bridge Street in New Hope, Pa, just behind Villa Vito‘s wonderful Italian restaurant, famous then and now for its abundante “Mangia Platter.” But no one was thinking about that delicious dinner special at that moment, not simply because it was early in the morning—8:32 to be precise, when the launch happened—as the launch itself, along with Elaine’s delicious grilled cinnamon buns, was all that anyone was thinking about.
By 4:00 p.m. on May 25 of 2015, however, all I could think about was the very Mangia Platter that had not been anyone’s mind on that morning of 1969. Why? Because I had been in front of wonderful Farley’s Bookshop on the corner of Ferry and South Main, where Jen Farley had helped me set up my table for what was to be a launch of a less fiery sort, in this case merely a book launch, specifically that of The Curious Autobiography of Elaine Jakes. It was not merely old friends who had known Elaine who bought copies of the book but a new cohort of folks taken by the title or the book cover: to name a few, a charming Swedish expat and now resident of New Hope, an itinerant biker and his wife, a lovely young woman who looked forward to reading it on the long drive back to Arkansas. (Don’t worry, she was not to be the one driving).
One of the more telling moments came when someone who did not buy a book said curtly, “Who was Elaine Jakes anyway? Why should I care about her?” Such an excellent question! I answered it in just a sentence or two: “She was an ordinary person who discovered along the journey that life really is astonishingly extraordinary. She was who you, with a little luck, might just become.” And that my reader, is simply why I write this blog—that you might share in the extraordinariness of one human being’s life and thus find the same for your own—and want to share with you something of the joy of the book launch, complete with pictures and warm hugs from new friends and old—(thanks picture takers and makers, Keith and Jeanette, Marion and Betsy and salesperson extraordinaire, Kathy!). It was, all in all, a great day, if not quite as spectacular as the Apollo XI mission’s lift off, nonetheless exciting on its own terms and, unlike the moon mission, this launch was followed by a wonderful dinner at Villa Vito’s—thanks Ursula!—involving a mounding Mangia Platter with homemade white tiramisu. A day that I hope that you, my dear reader, may enjoy sharing in, if of necessity only through this blog. Thanks for your readerly support, and if you can get to New Hope any time soon, be sure to buy a book at Farley’s and then go over to Villa Vito’s on W. Bridge St. and treat yourself to a superb Mangia Platter!