Baltimore Does Its Thing

People Are Awesome; Rally For “The Book Thing” Post-Fire at Clavel Fundraiser

Written by Nina Lerner. Pictures and companionship by Katie Robinson.

Earlier in March, beloved used book hub The Book Thing experienced a devastating fire. Most of the books were ruined or damaged, and the entire structure of the building suffered — the entire place needs to be stripped, have new drywall put in, all that horrible contracting stuff, etc. In short, a lot of work needs to be done before The Book Thing can be back on its feet, moving 50,000 books each month to happy new owners.

So what does the city of Baltimore do when a wonderful business that gives away free books needs help? Why, combine its two favorite things, of course: helping local organizations and drinking!

On April 13, Clavel hosted a fundraiser for The Book Thing. Two special cocktails were offered and half the proceeds went directly to rebuilding.

Cash only was actually super inconvenient. We had to scavenge between the seven of us for enough bills! Lesson learned for the next fundraiser.
Dr. Faustus on the left, Sula on the right.

Dr. Faustus was slightly bitter and blended smoothly like a margarita. The mezcal was clearly present but did not overwhelm the drink, as the ginger and sweeter coconut balanced out the flavor. It was probably the less strong of the two drinks but was by no means light on the booze. Would absolutely drink again!

The Sula was a more typical fruity cocktail sprinkled with bitters (which prevented the sweetness from becoming too much). You could really taste the strawberry lemon oleo, and the rum added a nice aftertaste. It also had some delicious, floating slices of rum-soaked strawberries. And it was pretty strong. All around a great drink.

The whole atmosphere of the evening was incredibly pleasant. The weather (though uncontrolled by Clavel) was perfectly balmy, the slightly cool but calming weather after an early spring day. The drinks were just right: tasty and effective to say the least. The setting was lovely; people gathered around the outdoor seating area of the restaurant, and it became sort of a general mingling space. The people of Baltimore sat and stood with their friends drinking, laughing and snacking on Clavel’s yummy appetizers, all while helping their community. Though it hardly seems like work! (My friends and I got the chips & guacamole, and it was so good that we had eaten it all before I even thought to take a picture. Now that’s telling.)

Further, the whole event flowed very naturally — there was no one shouting rules or directions, but everyone figured it out. The owner of The Book Thing, Russell Wattenberg, and an organizer for the fundraiser were around to direct people to the proper place in a low-stress way. Worked like a charm. City. Okay, I’ll stop.

And the results of the night? They made $4,000 off the drinks, meaning The Book Thing gets 2,000 big ones. (Baltimore can certainly drink.) At $10 a pop, at least 200 or so people came out to this event. On a Wednesday. For something some might consider to be nerdy. But I think it’s pretty freaking cool.

Shout out to Baltimore for combining elegant drinks with responsible local business practices and compassion. Is that too long for a city slogan?

Nina Lerner is a writer, filmmaker, New Yorker, dog lover and chronic disappointment to her parents. She writes for the JHU-based comedy newspaper The Black and Blue Jay and once had a glamorous, unpaid summer internship for a talent agency in NYC. She loves the theater, horrible sports teams and Paul McCartney. Her parents are actually very proud of her.


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