Grace Paley

Grace Paley, MCPL Celebrity Judge (2005)

I remember waiting at the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, PA, to meet Grace Paley in April 2005. I stood at the front of the greeters’ line by the escalator preparing for our first face-to-face meeting; holding her travel itinerary in my left hand while vigorously shaking my right to avoid the undesireable, obnoxious-sweaty-palm-handshake. I wondered to myself if I would even recognize Grace when she emerged from the platform below. After all, I had only seen her (in physical form) from afar at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival the year before and there she stood at a podium hundreds of yards away. It was night. We were under a large tent. There was magic in that chilly autumn air. Or so I remembered.

Not long after that, the vast waiting room faced with marble and coffered ceiling painted gold, red and cream became the backdrop for alchemy. There she was – all four and a half feet of her.

We made our way to my car, which was parked at a meter out front, and before you know it, we were off to the guest house at Arcadia University in Glenside, PA, where she would stay the night. After I helped her in with her things, I departed. When I returned just before the awards ceremony was scheduled to begin, I found a very busy, very determined Grace Paley searching through luggage for a boarding pass. The contents of her purse strewn across a disheveled bed.

I assured her it would surface, eventually, and we quickly shuffled out of the room headed for Grey Towers Castle.

As Grace leaned into the passenger seat of my car, her legs turned out and she planted both feet squarely on the ground. She pulled out a small tube of lipstick: Russian Red, and applied bold color to full carnation lips with steadfast precision and without a mirror.

To my surprise, she then took both of her hands and rubbed the ruby red from her lips all across her forehead, chin and cheeks and said, “This is how I get good color on my face.”

Read more about Grace Paley here