This poster isn’t an order: Take Time to Read, really

Signs, signs, everywhere there’re signs.

“Hey, don’t yell at me!” I say to another flashing sign around Renton. Something I seem to do more frequently than I’d like to admit.

Especially, the sign on Duvall Street. When it flashes angrily at me, it feels personal.

“Jeez-Louise, I’m slowing down,” I chide at the flashing-metallic-digitized-solar-panel-control-freak that thinks it can tell me what to do.

OK, so I admit I have some issues with authority.

Given my distrust of signs/authority, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw my first full-color gigantic book cover poster on the outside wall of the Service Linen building.

To a writer and lover of books, it was like seeing something sacred on a grill cheese sandwich. I spied two more book covers pedaling down Third Street.

I was happy.

Works of art in Renton that have nothing to do with the history of coal mining — not that there’s anything wrong with coal mining (well back before we knew there was) – and didn’t cost the city thousands of dollars to purchase.

According to the King County Library System, it’s called “literary art” and downtown Renton is crawling with these amazing book covers.

“These outdoor community galleries of book art and audio narrative is an innovative way for the public to interact and engage with books and reading in a surprising, fun way. Placed by the King County Library System in collaboration with community organizations and local businesses, more than 100 literary artworks will mark the first-ever book cover walking tour. Each poster is accompanied by an audio tour guide available by cell phone or MP3.”

It was art, literary art and it was love at first sight. Until I read the fine print. At the bottom of each sign there were these four words.


Technically the sign was telling me what to do.

Too late. I was smitten.

I’m a writer. I love to read. Yet, I’m pressed to find the time to do so. Same song and dance as most people.

But I hadn’t even TAKEN THE TIME to read my good friend Dori Jones-Yang’s new book, “Daughter of Xanadu.”

Suddenly, I wanted to TAKE TIME TO READ in Renton and I wanted to start by celebrating Dori’s book! And what better place to do both than at a charming wine bar in downtown Renton.

Gene Sens, the owner of The Red House, has been around Renton a long time.

Sitting with Gene was surreal. Appearance wise, he reminded me a little of The Godfather if The Godfather said things like . . .

“That’s what Renton needs, more CREATIVITY.”

I realized you really can never judge a book by its cover.

Gene was beginning to remind me more of Andre Breton, the father of Surrealism, than the Godfather of Renton.

Surrealists developed methods of liberating imagination through art and literature.

“I don’t want to freak you out,” Gene paused. “But I want to have a Second Line parade on Third celebrating life through a living funeral.”

Sitting at the table across from me I was intrigued by Gene’s passion for creativity and the white swirls on his blue shirt. The designs on his shirt were mesmerizing, reminding me of Rorschach test blots – there was a pattern in the random flourishes.

By the end of our chat, I realized the swirls on Gene’s shirts were shape-shifting Unicorns!

Later that evening, I Wikipedia’d Second Line. It has been called “the quintessential New Orleans art form — a jazz funeral without a body.” How creative is that!

Come celebrate taking time to read with me, if you want, at the Red House on March 29, 4-6 p.m.

I love suggestions! If you know of people or places in Renton that surprise, delight and inspire the community, drop me a line at Also follow Carolyn on her blog,

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