Friday, October 26, 2007

A DAY OF MAGIC

I would like to welcome guest blogger Allison to In Knitting News. The following is her much anticipated, at least by me, account of her experience seeing and meeting author J.K. Rowling.

Karen

Edited 10/27/07 to add pictures.


A DAY OF MAGIC

When: Friday, October 19, 2007, 7 p.m.

Where: New York City-Carnegie Hall


Before I talk specifically about the big event with J.K. Rowling I want to recap what the rest of the day was like in the city....feel free to skip all of this and get to the good stuff. It’s all a bit lengthy, but details can leave so quickly and I wanted to remember all of this special day…..so I guess I’m saying this is really for me….since I don’t have a pensieve or a time-turner!!!! ENJOY!


I awoke on Friday morning, October 19 in Newark, NJ at the Days Hotel. The forecast the night before had called for lots of rain, so I was a bit scared to open the blinds in the room. Sure enough it was overcast and dreary outside-but nothing could contain my excitement……

Nicholas and I left and took the shuttle from the hotel over to Newark International Airport, then the air train to the train station, and finally the train into Penn Station in New York City. We have made this trip many times and I am always amazed when you come off the train and into the station the number of people-it’s a constant flow and I must admit that I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of the activity this trip in. We found a map of the city (essential and my favorite thing!) and made our way north up 8th avenue until we hit 57th street and went west 1 block to 7th & 57th. Carnegie Hall is at the SE corner of this intersection…..as we were coming up the street I could see the flags stretched out from the building calling me to the destination where all of the fun would take place. At this point it was about 9:45 a.m.….as we came up to the hall we saw multiple school buses pull up with screaming children. These lucky youngsters were about to have their own reading with J.K. Rowling. It was so thrilling to see such little kids in the big city so thrilled to be there to see their favorite author…….after this we continued on our journey to pass the time till the evening.


Next went north one block to Central Park and cut across to the west far side….66th street, I believe. Nicholas is the organist at First Church Scientist, Columbus, here in well, Columbus. Last time he was in the city with his mom they had found another Christian Science church and we went in search for the same church this morning. It is a beautiful building….reminiscent of the church here in town, built in the late 1800’s. We went to the side door and got lucky because the custodian lady was in and said she would be happy to show us around. Turns out the whole church is under a huge renovation. It was initially Second Church Scientist. First Church had been sold and this church is to become First Church in NYC. Anyways, the nice custodian lady took us in up the marble stair cases, past the beautiful stain glass and into the auditorium (you’re reading correctly, auditorium instead of sanctuary)…..the auditorium is like a jungle gym. Scaffolding was up to the ceiling and the great organ was all covered up, protected from the dust…..really beautiful room and it was a great thrill to see it, even though it was under construction. Next the nice lady took us downstairs and into the Sunday school, class rooms, and reading room. Again-beautiful…you don’t get to see buildings built like this these days. It was a great treat and we said good bye and thank you at about 10:30 because we had LADIES to meet.

We made our way back across the street through Central Park. At this point the sun had actually come out and it was perfect weather. Cool, sunny, the leaves were all turning their various browns and reds. The park was not crowded-some runners, people walking their dogs, young families…..really nice and peaceful, and such a haven amidst the madness of the city….

We were scheduled to meet Emily D. and Kate H. at 11 in front of the old Plaza Hotel (think Big Business) right by the big gold horse statue. Emily I have known since freshman year of high school and Kate and I met in second grade in girl scouts! They are both great ladies and are living it up in NYC!!! Anyways, we met up with them-what a treat (!) and made our way across the street to FAO Schwartz…the famed toy store…..with the man in the big, red suit greeting you at the door. We came in to aisles of stuffed animals which finished with a huge exhibit of LARGE stuffed animals which were…..guess……Harry Potter themed!!! There was Buckbeak, Aragog, and Fluffy, to name a few!!! We were of course very excited! After making our way through the store we headed east on 58th, I believe and cut down Madison Avenue, back to 57th and ate at The Palace. The Palace is a diner and Emily informed us that Justin Timberlake has eaten there….so I was of course sold!!!! After this we headed over to Bloomingdales…pretty ritzy stuff! I was admiring the $200 scarves and informed everyone that my sister could make something twice as nice!!! (Thank you Allie!) After pursuing the shoes, jewelry, and furniture we said goodbye to the lovely Emily and Kate and made our way back to 57th street….it was nearly time to pick up our tickets!!!!



When we said goodbye to Emily and Kate it was about 2:15 p.m. Nicholas and I made our way west back down 57th and sat in Starbuck’s right next to Carnegie. At this point the rain had begun and there was a rainbow of umbrellas to see and try not to run into as we both got pretty soaked!!! My hair was plastered to my face and I think I was ready for an afternoon nap, so sitting inside Starbuck’s hit the spot!

At this point I should note that I was still in utter disbelief as to what was about to happen……numb……perhaps this was also due to being a bit and cold but it was still unbelievable to me.

During the fun of the rain Nicholas and I realized that we didn’t bring anything with us to put our books in to keep from getting wet on the long trek back to Penn Station. So Nicholas’s mom, Vicki, suggested that we find a drug store and buy big zip lock bags to keep our treasures safe when the time came!!!! (great idea too, it continued to be wet!)….So we obtained our bags and it was FINALLY time to head back to Carnegie to pick up the tickets.

It was now 3 p.m. and when we arrived at the lobby in Carnegie there were a bunch of people milling around and picking up their tickets….mostly young kids and their parents. I went up to the ticket window and gave the man my driver’s license and a second later he handed me two tickets…SectionT6, Row/Box 6, Seat 3…more on this later. Such excitement….and it was at this point that Karen called and I got to inform her that I finally had the tickets in my hands. We found our way to the seating chart and roughly found our seat location (more on this soon)….and went outside to watch all of the excited people. Everyone was taking pictures with their tickets, big smiles and lots of squealing. We stood outside for a while not knowing what to do because the anticipation was building by the minute and we still had 3 ½ hours left!!!!!

So we had to pass some time. We walked back down 57th street to Borders and wondered around the stacks. I am always looking for paraphernalia for the Harry Potter shrine and Nicholas is always looking for art books, so we passed a good 1 ½ hours there before we headed back down across the street from Carnegie. We ended up at Pick-A-Bagel, a sandwich shop directly across the street, east of Carnegie. It was great walking in there because there were already a bunch of people who were obviously going to the big event. I was particularly struck by a young family. The woman was reading the 7th book to her young son as her husband looked on. This little boy could not have been more than 10 and he sat transfixed as his mother read to him. I remember standing there amidst all of these people and hearing none of the noise because I was thinking about everything I’ve read over the years about how these books have gotten the children to read and reminded adults why they should pick up a book everyday if they can and enjoy the magic too. I was so touched.

We sat down and met two lovely ladies from New Jersey who had just taken the train in for the big event. They were probably both in their 50’s and were super excited to come and see J.K…..neither of them realized that this was a country-wide event and they both seemed a bit shocked that we drove from Ohio! Well, I informed them that there would be people there from Hawaii!!!! We said goodbye to the lovely NJ ladies and headed across the street. Already there was a large crowd/line forming outside Carnegie Hall....at this point it wasn’t even 6 p.m. Nicholas and I made our way into the lobby which was about full with excited people dressed up in Hogwarts robs, reading one of the books, finding their way to the ticket windows, taking photos, chatting with friends. You could feel the excitement in the air and by the time the doors opened at 6:30 p.m., the lobby was PACKED and you could see the droves of people waiting outside. There was of course a mass cheer when the men and women in red opened the gates to let all of the excited fans in!!!!!

Nicholas and I were some of the first people through the gates and we ran up the two flights of stairs as directed. It was virtually deserted when we made our appearance. We had to go down a long hallway to get to our seats and enter through a door on the left. Now this is when things really get exciting, folks! Carnegie Hall is two tiers of boxes, right on top of each other. We were in the higher boxes, third from the end to the right of the stage. Basically once I sat down I was looking over a very low railing at the very first few rows of the hall. Then when I looked a bit to the left was the stage and in the center towards the front was the throne for J.K. Rowling. The whole stage was dark except for the throne area which was in the spotlight; it was gold with a red, fancy cushion. To the right of the throne was a little table with flowers and a glass of water on it, I think. Under the throne was a beautiful rug-it was truly fit for a queen. Behind the throne was a very large screen which would eventually show us J.K. up close during the actual event, but when we sat down the screen showed us all of the books and various animations. Throughout all of this, before and after the event, music played from the movies-which were of course, wonderful and welcoming.

There were six people in our box. I was in the front, right corner………...directly to my left were a woman and her son, who was probably about 10. They had just driven down from Buffalo and had never been to the city before. The nice mom had entered and won this for her son. She told me how she hadn’t read any of the books, but decided to read number 7 in preparation for the big event. I of course immediately informed that reading 1-6 was absolutely necessary and would make the last book twice as meaningful…….but it was great to chat with both of them! Behind us were two teenage girls, both dressed in their Hogwarts uniforms, digital camera in hand!!!

Now as far as taking photos.....we were told initially that there would be no photos allowed at all. But I am telling you, every single person in Carnegie Hall had a camera. When we sat down initially it was flashes non-stop, until the big voice came on the loud speaker and told us that we were NOT allowed to take photos and if we didn’t stop, the event would not begin. Now the audience had to be told this THREE times and I swear even after that people were sneaking in some shots! Just to get this out of the way-we were not allowed to take photos as J.K. read and talked, which is of course respectful since she was on stage. We also were not permitted to take photos with her or in line, which is understandable as well since we might have been there all night!!!!


Just a bit after 7 p.m., Keith Olbermann, who is an anchor on MSNBC came out on stage to introduce J.K. He was funny and had some really poignant things to say about how the books have influenced so many people and changed a generation. By the time he was finished I was totally pumped. However, it was not only Mr. Olbermann’s introduction that had me all excited. From our seats we could see the side of the stage and J.K. was standing in the door holding the book-talk about awesome!!!! It was so cool to be able to see her in the wings.

Finally, dear reader, your suffering and perseverance through almost four pages is about to pay off, we are here!

J.K. Rowling came out to absolute mad, crazy, thunderous applause-and of course a standing ovation. It was absolutely amazing. I thought I was going to fall over the rail onto the floor because I was shaking so bad and my heart was pounding so furiously. J.K. came out-then quickly and gracefully sat down in her rightful throne. She seemed completely in her element and excited to begin her reading. J.K. told us that she had never read this part of HP7 in public before and that it was one of her favorite parts of the book-when Ron comes back to Harry and Hermione after leaving them in frustration on the horcrux search…..this announcement came with more thunderous applause! J.K. read from the chapter 19 entitled The Silver Doe, pages 378-387 of HP7. I was so impressed with her reading. J.K. used great inflection and did special voices for Ron, Harry, and Hermione. She seemed so thrilled to be reading and everyone really enjoyed it. I could have listened to her read the whole night….just like Jim Dale, but alas she finished at the very end of chapter 19.

Now it was on to the question answer session!!! The winners of this fabulous contest were given the opportunity to submit questions to Scholastic for J.K. Twelve questions were selected-and the lucky twelve who asked these questions got to sit in the front center row of Carnegie Hall. They took turns stepping up to the microphone-had an opportunity to say hi to J.K. and then asked their question. What a thrill for these lucky kids!!!! During the question answer session I scribbled away in my notebook-this will by no means be verbatim, but I will tell all of you about the questions and give some personal commentary. Also, it should be noted that J.K. spoke so eloquently and with such love for her characters and the books. She was so articulate and funny, interacted wonderfully with the kids, and the whole audience…..and it was great to see her so comfortable and poised on her throne.

I only wrote down where the kids were from who asked the questions-just to give you a sense that there were people there from all over the country! Again, please remember that I am paraphrasing and just giving an overview…..I’m sure full transcripts can be found all over the place on-line!

Now for the questions:

  1. Arizona-

Question: What is the one question that you always wanted people to ask you and never got asked?

Answer: What was Dumbledore’s wand made of!

Commentary: It was really odd because I never even thought about Dumbledore’s wand for some reason. J.K. goes to great pains to describe so many other important wands…..but how odd that she never told us about Dumbledore.

  1. Washington, DC-

Question: Did Neville ever find love?

Answer: “of course”….marries the landlady of The Leaky Cauldron, Hannah Abbott!

Commentary: I love Neville and was SO PROUD of him in the last book. Him taking out Lord Voldemort’s mighty snake was just so awesome….and Neville became such a leader! Neville got lots of cheers from the audience….like Harry he suffered greatly and really pulled through and did amazing things.

  1. Connecticut-

Question: How did you decide who would finish Bellatrix?

Answer: J.K. said with now hesitation that she always knew it would be Molly Weasley. She reminded us that Molly was a very powerful witch and there was “might hidden under the bushel”…and the fact that even though she always seemed to be in the kitchen cooking (which J.K. told us is harder than it looks!)-did not mean that she did not have great power. Dedication and maternal love were Molly’s “obsessions” as J.K. put it and Lord Voldemort was Bellatrix’s obsession……so how fitting that the woman who was obsessed with good would finish the woman obsessed with evil.

Commentary: At the end of her answer, J.K. talked about the importance of motherhood and how there is NOTHING easy about it. She is such an influential role model and I just think it’s such a great thing to be reminded of-the Weasley’s took such care of their children and Harry-and we all know that Molly was the glue!

  1. Buffalo-

Question: How different would the end of the series have been if J.K. had killed of Arthur Weasley, like she had originally planned, in book 5?

Answer: J.K. decided that she wanted to keep the Weasley’s as a safe haven for Harry, but at the same time wanted to show what war can cost children (example: Teddy loosing Tonks and Lupin)….

Commentary: I can’t even imagine how it would have been if Arthur had been killed in HP5-the devastation for that family and for Harry would have been great indeed.

  1. Hawaii-I do remember this little girl quite well, Maya, I think was her name-she was 8 years old and she was beautiful!

Question: What were Aberforth’s charges?

Answer: “make a goat that was easy to keep clean”

Commentary: J.K .was REALLY funny while answering this question. She asked Maya her age and decided to modify her answer in hope of keeping it clean for all of the young children! Go back and read about the goat in HP7-J.K. has a dirty mind!

  1. Colorado-

Question: Did Dumbledore ever find love?

Answer: DRAMATIC PAUSE “I always saw Dumbledore as gay”-J.K. went on to say that Dumbledore had fallen in love with the famed Grindelwald when they were teenagers. DRAMATIC PAUSE AND LOUD CHEERING!

Commentary: This is the question that the press and everyone else have been going on about-and I knew that this would get the most press. The audience seemed totally fine and excited. In fact, there were two gay men to our right who were standing up and yelling like mad. Dumbledore is J.K.’s character and she can have him be whatever she wants. I think it was fabulous and bold on her part to announce this and I was totally pumped because here is someone who was a great and kind man and truly made a difference for people. Dumbledore made a difference for us-take yourself back to when he fell off the tower at the end of 6. I know all of you said “what?” and had to go back and read a few pages, not believing that Dumbledore could be gone….being gay does not change this iconic character at all.

  1. New York-

Question: Can you learn parseltongue (example-like what Ron did to open the Chamber of Secrets)?

Answer: Nope can’t learn to speak to talk with snakes, very rare and is inherited-Ron was just mimicking how he had heard Harry speak.

Commentary: How about that kiss between Ron and Hermione during this scene in HP7 everyone!!!! Can I get a what what??!!!!

  1. Massachusetts-

Question: What did Dumbledore write in the letter to the Dursley’s to make them take Harry?

Answer: Dumbledore was a very smart man and appealed to Petunia to keep Harry since she had wanted to badly to be a part of the wizarding world.

Commentary: Another great layer in the story-who would have thought that Petunia would have secretly asked to attend Hogwarts? Very telling

  1. Georgia-

Ok everyone I really dropped the ball on this question-so get on-line and read it! It was something about Harry being a horcrux and I wrote something about being “destroyed without repair”…..? I thought all of this was brilliant…..Harry’s scar, Harry having to make the conscious decision to die and face his nemesis…..

  1. Texas-

Question: Why couldn’t Harry talk to Dumbledore in the headmaster’s office?

Answer: 1. Harry needed to decode the horcrux vs. hallows himself and learn to really THINK…..his greatest fault was being too reckless and acting to quickly-so Harry needed to figure this out on his own. 2. Put simply, it would have been too easy.

Commentary: Well J.K. makes up for all of this when Harry and Dumbledore talk in the train station…..what a great chapter…..Dumbledore’s candor and Harry’s insight were awesome!

  1. Chicago-

Question: Deatheaters compared to the Nazis.

Answer: Definite parallel there, also a parallel between the wizarding world and the real world. Also, the ministry parallels other “regimes” that we all know and love. J.K. said that the books are a “prolonged argument for tolerance,” and bigotry and don’t assume that what the press tells you is always true!

Commentary: This was another great moment for J.K. Everyone in the room understood where she was coming from and I think all of this could be assumed, dear reader, but it was great for the kids to hear, especially the part about don’t always believe what you read.

  1. New Jersey-

Question: How did completing book 7 compare to completing book 1.

Answer: “strangely similar”…..J.K. said that she has a great feeling of loss finishing 7, a “huge” sense of bereavement. She pointed over to her husband, Neil, and said that he had been “long suffering” through all of it.

Commentary: Everyone J.K. Rowling loves these books and LOVES the characters…..it was so touching.

Now we thought this was end of the questions…..but oh no! A representative from Scholastic came out on stage and asked J.K. if she would answer a few more questions. Well she did, four more to be exact…..but this time, the audience members didn’t know they would be called from their seats!

  1. Missouri-

Question: Does Malfoy owe Harry a debt?

Answer: In the epilogue Malfoy gives Harry the nod-and this shows that they can be cordial to one another, but Malfoy will never be kind to Harry because of all the bad blood there.

Commentary: I thought it was really interesting that all of the Malfoy’s survived-grace on the part of J.K., I think.

  1. Washington-This lady got to run down from the top balcony!!!

Question: What were the careers of Remus, Peter, James, and Sirius after the left school?

Answer: Remus was unemployable until Dumbledore. The other three were full time members of the Order and James was so rich that he supported Lilly and Remus!

Commentary: I thought it was really interesting that these four friends all died…..died in the name of war. It is really tragic, especially when you go back and read about them being at Hogwarts-so young and innocent (well maybe) and then all was taken from them be Lord Voldemort.

  1. Washington, DC-This lady was awesome-she was 63 and said that winning this contest was better than winning the lottery!!

Question: Did Hagrid get married and have children?

Answer: No. His dating pool wasn’t very large and Madame Maxine wasn’t a very good fit!

Commentary: So glad our friend Hagrid made it through the series. I know lots of people were worried that he wouldn’t and at the beginning of the HP7, I thought he was done for sure.

  1. Virginia-This was a mother and daughter….they were told to “come on down”-and the mom said that this was “much better than the price is right”….!

Question: Snape’s portrait in the Headmasters Office and would Harry come back to speak with him?

Answer: Snape had already abandoned his post, so no portrait…but “Harry would have insisted that Snape have his portrait on the wall”….but no, Harry would not have come to speak with him.

Commentary: All I have to say is “Albus Severus Potter”…..

“One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew” (758).

That ends the question and answer period! It was awesome. J.K. was everything I hope she would be-witty, personable, funny…..knows and LOVES the books. She took great time in answering the questions and I was so impressed with her speaking and words-completely down to earth too!!! Time to “limber up” to sign 2000 books!

Because of the location of our seats, Nicholas and I had a great view to watch the signing. They had the whole floor go before us and we got to watch from above as J.K. signed away and greeted fans. It was this huge production line-WAIT….? Did I mention this already??? 2000 copies of HP7 were stacked in front of the stage; it was quite a sight to see!!! Anyways, it was great to watch J.K. sign and say hello to everyone. She gave the kids high-fives and smiled the whole time and looked super excited. I felt like I was watching a movie and when it was our turn to go I had to bring myself back to reality!!!


We began walking down the aisle of the floor of Carnegie Hall and it was awesome….indescribable. They were playing music from the movies during all of the signing and as Nicholas and I walked down the aisle, they were playing my FAVORITE music from the movies-“Buckbeaks Flight” by John Williams, from HP3. This part wasn’t in the book, but it’s when Harry gets to rid Buckbeak for the first time and goes out over the beautiful terrain….great, lush music! As we got closer I could see J.K. quite clearly-she is a stunning woman. My heart was pounding and I began shaking again, just like before she came out for the first time. I knew that this would be a one-time thing….so when I got to her I simply thanked her for bring us such joy with the books. J.K. looked right up at me, smiled, and said: “oh that’s so nice, thank you….” and I turned, took my book (with authenticity sticker on the autograph page-the title page, I must add) walked back up the aisle and I furiously wrote down what she said to me!

Also, since I knew I would more than likely never get the opportunity again……as we sat and watched J.K. sign away, people were handing her notes (well the Scholastic people took them for safe keeping)….I decided that I wanted to write J.K. a note as well. In the note I thanked her for the books and all of the comfort and joy that they have brought me and so many people in my life. I told her that she handled death so eloquently in her writing and I was so moved when Harry realized what he had to do to finish Lord Voldemort and so many other times in the story when J.K. took the hard road, when she could have taken the easy way out. I told J.K. that my only regret was that my mom, who passed away before HP1 made its way over to the states in 1997, never got the opportunity to read this magical stories…..and be touched like I have been.

At 9:30 p.m. we began walking south the twenty some block back to Penn Station, through Times Square and I held my book tight to my heart and relieved the evening-not even noticing all of the people and noise. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and there are truly no words for my joy and excitement. I will NEVER forget J.K.’s smile, her accent (!), the anticipation in the room before she came on stage, and walking down that aisle with the music to guide my way…..

I finish with words from another story that has touched my heart and speaks of magic…the magic of believing and having faith. The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg, has been a favorite for as long as I can remember. It was published in 1985, so I was six years old and I know that you all know the story of a little boy who asks Santa for one bell from the reindeer sleigh. One the last page, Van Allsburg writes:

“At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me as it does for all who truly believe.”

The bell will always ring for me when I think of Harry and do not let anyone ever tell you that there is no such thing as magic because I experienced it on Friday, October 19, 2007.

Allison E.

October 26, 2007

3 comments:

Mary said...

What an absolutly perfect day.I felt like i was there with you when you told of your adventures.Thank you for sharing.Very well done

Lynn said...

So is it silly that your story made me cry?

JK is a beautiful person inside and out. Thank you for sharing that special day with us.

Just A Knit Wit said...

Aww you made me cry! What a wonderfully real and honest account of the day. Thank you so much for sharing.