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The coolest book event of all time

By JOHN E. BIALAS

Something that brought me immense joy in 2020 was the magical convergence of New Orleans, Melba’s, books and Matthew McConaughey on Nov. 24, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

McConaughey was on Facebook Live and Zoom from Austin, Texas, for a lively Q&A with fans who went to Melba’s to receive a free copy of his memoir, “Greenlights,” which was published in October.

It was the coolest author event of all time because of the excellent questions and the entertaining answers, a 60-minute exchange during lunchtime at the 24/7 restaurant on Elysian Fields. All time means all my time since 1951, the year I was born, so all time to you probably means something different.

And if you need to know what makes McConaughey cool, I’ll quote Joe Gross of austin360.com from a story he wrote in 2019:

a casual charm embodied by the phrase he adopted from his breakout role in “Dazed and Confused” — “Just keep livin.’ ”

I’ve had dinner at Melba’s a few times, just not this year because of home isolation in the pandemic, and I always order baked chicken, corn grits and baked macaroni. The next time I go there, I’m going to make room for the 9th Ward gumbo.

My last meal at Melba’s was on Dec. 19, 2019, and at my table I took a picture of my usual bountiful choices served in a to-go tray.

Melba’s is one of my favorite places in New Orleans, not only for the tasty food but also for its Lunch & Literacy initiative, a program the restaurant’s owners, husband and wife Scott and Jane Wolfe, established in recent years.

Here’s a Melba’s Facebook post I enjoyed seeing on Nov. 27:

Did you know? Melba’s is the only place in the world where you can- Buy a book – Get a Free daiquiri. Eat and Read at Melba’s.

I used my Amazon gift card, one Patty gave to me for my birthday on Nov. 20, for my copy of “Greenlights,” and though it remains on my long list of unread books, I intend to read it soon.

Perhaps one day, I will bring it to Melba’s and read it while I’m there, paying homage to that special day the Tuesday before Thanksgiving in 2020.

The video of the McConaughey book giveaway remains on the Melba’s Facebook page and I plan to watch it again.

Featured image: Screen shot of Melba’s customers at the Matthew McConaughey virtual book event