The Breakfast Club Meets Just Before Supper in Highland Park

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by David R. Bloom

   The perfect reason to stay loyal to Highland Park occurs every last Saturday of the month. The Arroyo Book Club meets at the Highland Park branch library at 3pm, and it is a good reminder of how a strong community endures despite the changes all around.

   On a Saturday afternoon, in a perfect world, I would be best put to task out gallivanting around for the evening’s dinner. I might be searching, in my wife’s mind, for a favorite cheese, or perhaps even heading out on my own free will wasting time to seek the perfect apéritif. Passing the library at the right time two weeks ago was a welcome diversion from both.

   The book club meeting is held downstairs in the community room. I walked in sheepishly, feeling the pressure of a former failed student at Franklin High School coming home to a room full of people who in comparison were sure to be intellectuals. Most likely of the Mount Washington vine. There were a few folks at the back of the room, so I took a seat at the front, which had me facing away from them. Better to be a fly on the wall.

   Discussions behind me waned from children and gardens to books and deceased relatives. “We used to call it the ‘sixty-dollar orange,’” an elderly lady fondly recalled. It was she and her husband’s first fruit bore from a tree for which they paid $60 in total to plant and grow at their home. Her name is Socorro Taylor. She and her husband worked hard on that orange tree, before he passed away not too long ago. “This year 10 oranges came off that tree. It was a real bumper crop,” she says.

   Mr. and Mrs. Taylor went on to grow a grapefruit tree which never really produced much, but ever since Mr. Taylor’s passing has also kicked into overdrive and she now has enough to share with her friends.

   It was all enough to bring me in from the cold. I approached the table as Ms. Sarah Moore arrived in the door. She is the librarian at Highland Park branch as well as the leader, organizer and de facto referee for the book group. Just before she began speaking, I noticed a person’s head lean back to look at me from the other side of Ms. Moore. It was Mrs. Taylor. She was smiling ear to ear, offering me a grapefruit.

   The joy continued. Each one of us was encouraged to share our email address by writing it on a sheet of paper. There was perhaps one person who had not lived in Highland Park for at least the past 15 years, judging from the welcome feeling put out by the group members. It was like Highland Park’s version of The Breakfast Club. As we moved on to introductions in the round, the parallel was too much not to notice. As a former Franklin wrestler, I nearly blurted out that I was there doing detention for taping Larry Lester together, but I resisted.

   The group was a wonderful mix of die-hard Highland Parkers who just like books and also like meeting with good people to talk about stories from the book, and stories from home. It is delightfully simple. There was an elderly Asian man whom one could deduct was a longtime resident. He stayed for most of the meeting and then courteously excused himself for needing to depart early for home, carrying two grapefruits. A lady who was raised in Highland Park was also there. She comes from out in the Pomona area to attend the meetings at the site of the old library building where she studied as a kid.

   About 12 people in total attended the meeting. Comments on the book covered topics such as the author’s switch from first and second and third person accounts weaved throughout the story, to the significance of an end of story prayer. Afterward I walked home, and book club member Tim Mellin was heading the same way. Come to find he has lived near me for the past 15 years, he in back of KFC, and me across from the 99-cent store. My wife commented to me immediately following my arrival and debriefing that Mrs. Taylor’s grapefruits are sweet.

   If you wanted to find a casual meeting based on hometown camaraderie, the Arroyo Book Club meetings are a good starting place. Don’t fear an uppity crowd made up of persons who look down from the end of their nose. Cookies are passed around for free, and people don’t really mind that much if you grab yours with a napkin or with your bare hand. Grab a second one, they suggest. The goal is comfort and respect.

For more information about the Arroyo Book Club, visit: http://www.lapl.org/whats-on/events/arroyo-book-club-3


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