Bookstore People: Whispers and Words

Whisper is the author of the book of poetry “I Have Arrived.” When you see her at Classics, it will be the first Saturday of the month and she will be reading her poetry in the back of the store at the Capital City Open Mic.

Whisper once said, “Poetry saved my life!! It rescued me from off of that ledge! One more ounce of negative energy and I would have jumped.”

Photo: U betta werk!

Barbara is a Scrabble players’ Scrabble player. She plays on Friday nights and some Saturdays in Trenton at Classics Books, Tuesdays in Princeton and through FaceBook. A two-time Classics Tournament champion, Barbara is tough to play—but fun. She never gloats (well, almost never) and is pleasant to play if you are good or a beginner.

She is also an accomplished artist, turning parts of the bookstore into a gallery of her photos and paintings.

When you see her at Classics, she could be anywhere–at a Scrabble board, hanging her artwork or ringing up customers during the week.

Barbara’s most common quote?  “Bingo!”

Photo by Bruce Bentzman

Neighborhood News July 2013

TD Bank

TD Bank (corner of Warren and State) has a summer reading program for kids.  Read 10 books, get $10 in the kid’s bank account.  Trenton kids: get the program flier AND FREE books at Classics (4 West Lafayette).  Our Saturday hours are 11 to 4.

The Big Easy

The Big Easy (120 South Warren) has weekly specials, which you can see here:!/your.big.easy?fref=ts


The hotel across the street from Classics is now known as the Lafayette Yard.  It was previously known as the Marriott.

Classics Books

Scrabble is not just for Fridays anymore!  The fourth Saturday from every month, Classics (4 West Lafayette) will be hosting Scrabble from 2 to 6, if we get enough people.  RSVP at


Support Your Community by Shopping Local

Another reason to support your local used bookstores.  They support you, your favorite restaurants, your schools, your churches, your neighbors, your nephew’s football team, your community choir.  The big box stores or Internet sites?  Not so much.

$100 spent at a local bookstore brings $45 worth of economic activity in the local community, while $100 spent at a large bookstore chain brings only $13 back to the community.

For more information, visit

Kids DO Read!

Every so often, I run into people who complain that children don’t read books anymore.  These statements are always partly true disappointment, partly self-congratulatory, and partly of that human impulse to mythologize the good old days. 

The truth is that the good old days weren’t all that good.  The overall illiteracy rate in the United States in 1900 was 10.7% (30% for African Americans), according to the National Center for Education Statistics.  100 years later, in 2003, the CIA estimates a 1% illiteracy rate in the United States, thanks to mandated public education and the ongoing battle against discrimination. 

Of course, even if kids are now more able to read, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are reading. 

Turns out the naysayers weren’t finished being wrong.

When I brought 8 boxes of books (of all types—classic lit, mysteries, history, business, science, etc) to Trenton High West and set them in the cafeteria for students to take for free, Shaquasia Fuller (the student who helped organize this) emailed me an hour after lunch to say that all 8 boxes were gone, all voluntarily taken by Trenton High School students (except for one book by Anthony Trollope.  Sorry Anthony!)

For National Night Out, when the Alexis Durlacher of the Trenton Police Department got a box of books to give away to Trenton kids alongside plastic toys provided by NNO, Alexis reported that the books were all gone before the plastic knicknackery.

The Trenton Books at Home Program distributes thousands of books every year to thankful teachers, parents and kids.

So, grumpy people, who long for the good old days, should confine their statements to the price of gas, when poker games that included more variations than Texas Hold ‘em and when Firefly was on the air.

Here’s a repost about a girl who loves to read so much, the library had to order more books because she had read everything on the shelves!


Neighborhood News April 2013

Settimo Cielo Delivers

Hidden Trenton’s Best Restaurant in Trenton, Settimo Cielo, now delivers!  BUT only if you are at Classics on a Friday night (6 pm to 10 pm)!  It is great when a guy in a tuxedo shows up and gives the Scrabble club a little class.

Read the New York Times review of Settimo Cielo here:

New Lunch Buffett

Chef Damon at the Archives Restaurant has a new lunch buffet with a resigned garden salad bar across the street from Classics (weekdays 12 noon to 2pm).

Mystery Neighbor

The windows of Classics old location on Warren Street is now papered over as if work is being done inside.  Here’s hoping for a Michelle Lorrie’s cheesecake!

Photograph by Scott Miller
Photograph by Scott Miller

Lucky 13th Classics Scrabble Invitational

For the first time in its new location at 4 West Lafayette Street in downtown Trenton, Classics held its 13th Annual Scrabble Invitational, where the top 16 players from 2012 met to battle it out for the title of Grand Champion!

After a rousing America the Beautiful, non-lip synched by Trentonian Cherry Oakley (as befits all great sporting events), and after 5 consecutive rounds of play, the winner was determined.  Last year’s Grand Champion, Trentonian Megan Iurilli and number-one seed, Trentonian Eric Maywar, failed to make the final four.

The winners were

  • Tim Walker in 4th Place
  • 2-time Grand Champion Bruce Gross in 3rd Place.
  • 4-time Grand Champion Daniel Robinson in 2nd Place
  • and the 2012/1013 and Current Grand Champion is Barbara Keogh

Scrabble is played at Classics every Friday from 6:30 to midnight at 4 West Lafayette.  All skill levels are welcome.


Love, Scrabble and Bookstores

Najah Masudi once asked me if there were any love stories about Classics Books.  There are.  Little did she know one of them was about her own daughter!

Dan Robinson and his wife Sarah Ohls play Scrabble at Classics Books.  Sarah taught Dan how to play Scrabble years ago, and since then he has become the most feared player at the club on Friday nights.  They are often each other’s most dangerous competition: Dan has won the Annual Classics Scrabble Invitational Tournament three times; Sarah has won twice and earned a commendation from Trenton City Council for her skill.  But despite this bare-knuckled rivalry, their love is strong.  They have two young children and they are still married.

Kimberly Brennan uses Scrabble at Classics as a love barometer.  One cannot put on airs while they are being beaten by a 12 year old. So, she brings dates to the bookstore to test their mettle. It’s like placing a new ingredient into a stew pot and seeing what flavors come out. She’s brought four dates so far and is curious to see if the fifth one is the charm. 

Kallah Masudi once had this boyfriend, brought him to a bookstore, and found that he didn’t like to read. She filed him under “C” for “CU later!”

Here’s a short story about love and Scrabble by Ganga Moongilan.  The year was 1978, the year of the horse, and also the year in which all of the stars in all the galaxies aligned perfectly and two babies were born. One of the babies was born in India and the other in Poland, two lovely bundles of joy and poop for their lucky parents to feed and feed some more. As the two grew up in their respective lands and cultures, playing and frolicking about, little did they know that their parents had bigger ideas for the respective families’ futures. Thus, sometime in the late 1980s, when clothing styles were rather questionable as most of us can see by looking at our family albums, just as the two children were ready to take their frolicking up a notch, they were unceremoniously whisked away on big planes and transported to America, the land of promise and immigration. One ended up in Chicago, the other in New Jersey, which raised their chances of meeting to about one in one million. Eventually the Indian child moved to New Jersey as well because apparently New Jersey was the place to be at that point and time in history. The two blossomed awesomely, approximately 45 minutes from each other, one into an Americanized Indian woman, the other into an Americanized Polish man. They went to school, worked at jobs, and did many things their parents would greatly disapprove of if they ever found out. They even hung out in the same neighborhood without ever meeting. Eventually though, all of those same stars in those same galaxies that aligned perfectly in 1978, aligned again in 2010, and the two met for the first time, a meeting that mathematically should not have had the slightest chance of ever occurring. Yet it did happen, and eventually led to a pretty exciting romantic connection that led the two of them to stumble into Classics Bookstore on a random Friday night. They literarily stumbled too because earlier in the evening the two of them enjoyed a responsible amount of adult beverages. They sat down to a game of scrabble, and the rest is history.  The End.

Of course things didn’t really end with the initial scrabble game. Afterwards they visited the bookstore a bunch more times, sometimes to play more scrabble, sometimes to buy some books, and sometimes to just say hello. It’s a nice place, you know. And the two still work jobs, and read books, and do things their parents would greatly disapprove of if they ever found out.


Bookstore People: Activists and High School Students

This is part four in my series of cool bookstore people.  Links to the other installments can be found below.

Darren Freedom Green

Darren Freedom Green is a Trenton community activist of the first order.  He maintains an active FaceBook presence, calling people’s attention to civic issues and steps they should take to get involved whether finding their voice at City Council meetings, or supporting Bruce Boyd’s work with youth, or stepping up in emergency situations (like when elders needed help getting water and other basic needs met after an emergency), or volunteering to help make the walk home from school a safer time for our kids.  He hosts a Trentonian broadcast highlighting community members who are working to benefit Trenton.  He is one of the hosts (with Yolanda Robinson) of On the Reel Radio.  And he is a big booster for the Trenton Books at Home Program, that provides free books to kids in Trenton’s struggling school district.

A great Freedom quote: “I miss My Beautiful Grandmother who is no longer physically here. She NEVER placed any of the Babies in a “kids room.”  She made ALL of the FAMILY sit together.  She didn’t talk foolishness, or gossip, but she poured the history, the legacy, the TRUTH.  NOT of us coming from slavery, but of the pyramids, Mansa Mussa, and the GREAT KINGS/QUEENS of Mali/Kemet. She NEVER allowed us to disrespect ourselves, for she said ALL represented ONE FAMILY.”  

Kallah Masudi

Kallah Masudi is a student at Foundation High School.  She grew up at the Classics Scrabble Club.  Starting when she was 9 years old, Kallah was never afraid to mix it up with adults on the Scrabble board, holding her own with Trenton’s best.  She currently holds a club record—most points for a non-seven letter word.  A lover of anime and manga, she introduced me to Deathnote, which was really good!

A great Kallah quote-requote: “We are number one.  All others are number two…or lower.”

Earlier installments of Bookstore People

Scrabblers and Playwrights:

Poets and Lawyers:

Scientists and Photographers:

Classics Stays in Trenton, Moves to 4 West Lafayette

Classics Used and Rare Books moved Saturday 15th of September, 2012 to its new location at 4 West Lafayette.  35 people moved 15,000 books and 60 bookcases in 10 hours.

4 things we learned during the move

  1. Aside from moving bricks, moving books is the heaviest.
  2. Not as many books had fallen down behind the cases at the old store as we guessed.
  3. Don’t move a particle board bookcase with the books still in it.  (Most of this knew this already!)
  4. Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do something (like move 15,000 books in one day).  All you need are friends and a stubborn streak.