Fast Track to Harlem

Book whirl: Vendors meet readers on the streets of Harlem last July.
Book whirl: Vendors meet readers on the streets of Harlem last July. (By Candace Y.a. Montague)
Sunday, November 27, 2005

Candace Y. A. Montague of Ellicott City is the latest contributor to our Your Vacation in Lights feature, in which we invite Travel section readers to share the dish about their recent trips. It's a big, confusing travel world out there, and you can help your fellow travelers navigate it. Your hot tip can be the next guy's day-maker; your rip-off restaurant, the next family's near-miss. To file your own trip report -- and win a digital camera -- see the fine print below.

THE TRIP: A day trip to the Harlem Book Fair on Amtrak.

WHO WENT : I'm a wife, mother, graduate student and full-time teacher. Puuuleeeze. I needed some solitary confinement.

WHEN: July 2005

WHY: For the love of literature. I like discovering authors when they're up and coming. They seem more hungry and produce a better product in the beginning of their careers.

HOW LONG: 17 hours, 25 minutes, 6 seconds.

IT MADE IT ALL WORTH IT WHEN . . . an attractive new author flirted with me and let me take his picture. He even signed my book "Dear Candace, Thanks for last night." C'mon, we old married ladies will take a cheap thrill whenever we can get it.

TO AVOID LOOKING LIKE A TOURIST, I . . . studied the subway map online a week before I went. I was cruisin' like a real New Yorker. I even gave some real tourists directions. Couldn't blow my cover.

FAVORITE MEAL: The soul food at Manna's Restaurant on Malcolm X Boulevard. Green beans, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken -- yummy! I was looking for Grandma to be back in the kitchen when I was done. But while the food was awesome, the restaurant was extremely crowded. I took a carryout plate and ate at a bus stop.

COOLEST ATTRACTION: Major book publishers were present and set up with tents, including Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Time-Warner and Random House. Even Book TV was there.

THINGS I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: Street vendors selling bootleg copies of CDs and DVDs. How may times does a woman need to sit through a bad copy of a movie with popcorn crunching and commentary in the background?

THING I WISH I'D BROUGHT: Earplugs. Once the music and poets get started on the stages, your hearing is done for.

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