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Fifth Annual Christmas Literary Extravaganza

The Southeast Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Highlandtown will host several writers from Baltimore.

". . . the lot even paved like a desert, the door

                                to the dining room a back door, the front door

                                lost in the lights . . ." 

                                              —Afaa Weaver on his beloved Crabtown
                   

A sleigh full of poetry, prose and music will land at the Frank Zappa statue in East Baltimore this Saturday when Rafael Alvarez, the literary pied piper of Highlandtown, host an afternoon of holiday entertainment at the Southeast Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Alvarez, author of the Christmas tale "Aunt Lola"—heard each year at this time on WYPR, 88.1 FM—will serve as master of ceremonies for the event, which begins at 2 p.m.

A variety of pies will be on sale to benefit the Edgar Allan Poe House, a treasure beyond words now under threat of municipal budget cuts.

The afternoon opens with Ralph's brother Danny reading an essay on what Christmas Eve was like when he was a kid with a wiffle haircut in 1968.

"Twice a day while my father worked, my mother would take a wooden T shaped board and push the fermenting mash down to the bottom of the barrel," writes Danny of the family's autumn wine-making ritual that preceded Christmas. "The mash would bubble and gurgle as the natural yeasts in the air did their work. After several weeks the mash was ready."

Then comes the great Timmy McFadden, a guitarist, songwriter and true son of Catonsville (he lives atop a Frederick Road candy store) best known for his work with the Baltimore-area band "Reality Jones." McFadden and partner Dave Hayman will play a selection of originals and Christmas songs.

McFadden and Hayman will give way to the poet Dean Bartoli Smith, who will read the holiday story "Boxes."

"I knew his sales pitch, the one that hooked my sister when he worked the concession at the duckpin bowling lanes. This usually meant he was going to ask for money," writes Smith, who holds a 1989 graduate degree in creative writing from Columbia University and can recite Paul Blair's career statistics as an Orioles' centerfielder with one arm tied behind his back. Bartoli Smith's best sportswriting is being collected in an anthology titled, "Bleeding Orange."       

When Muddy Waters played nightclubs, his band would take the stage for a number or two sans the boss man and then the announcement would come over the PA: "IT'S STAR TIME, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. STAR TIME!" And then Muddy would come out and burn the house down.          

As will Afaa Michael Weaver, the star of the Fifth Annual Christmas Literary Extravaganza in Highlandtown.

Weaver came out of an early integrated neighborhood in East Baltimore back in the days when men still went to work in factories to make a living wage. He worked at Sparrows Point and the old Procter & Gamble soap house before writing his way to a professorship at Simmons College in Boston.

Known in literary circles as "the black Walt Whitman," Weaver is thrilled to be appearing before a Baltimore audience during the most emotional of the seasons.

Want more?

Visit the best parts of Weaver's Mobtown memory by clicking here.   

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