Going to Philadelphia this past weekend was a sort of homecoming. It’s in Philly that I met SMITH cofounder Tim Barkow on the first day of college. Who can forget a guy who by way of introduction says, “My name is Tim. I like to paint sneakers.” He was a geek before I knew that word, with a personality that was just about the opposite of mine, probably why we’ve been working together even since, going all the way back to our college magazine days. A million years later, young Rachel Fershleiser would bounce from Brooklyn Heights to West Philly herself, and later into our world of SMITH. Good times.
Rachel and I rolled in the city on a rainy Friday, had the pleasure of meeting up with Andrew Schwalm from the storytelling organization First Person Arts, then were pleasantly surprised that plenty of people showed up at the Barnes & Noble in Rittenhouse Square for the reading. We did our story of the six-word project thing, but what we always love most is everyone else’s six words. From “I looked it up on Wikipedia” by a sassy teen, to the pitch-perfect “Bring a date to my Shiva” from a silly sixtysomething, the joy and genius of short, short life storytelling was all around.
On Sunday, we found ourselves at the Philadelphia Book Festival, honored to be invited to an incredible two days of readings. We commandeered the Poetry Pavilion, prayed the rain wouldn’t come, and held a six-word slam that even my pop got into. His six-word memoir is one the crowd in the tent related to all too well: “Phillies: 25 Years. Still no Champagne.” Later, my dad and I heard masterful storyteller Mark Bowden talk about his book, The Best Game: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL. Headliner Barbara Walters, a living legend whose six we would die for, brought the festival to its sweet, soaked finish.