"Do you know of a good bookstore around here?" I asked the cashier as she handed me an enormous spinach salad and slice of cheese pizza at this unfamiliar restaurant in this unfamiliar town. We had found this low-slung eatery in the downtown area, sandwiched between Thai cuisine and a bar, if I remember correctly. The Thai food had been nixed.
Youngest and I were on a late summer Explore, his choice.
I thought he would choose the Water Slides with Friends idea as his one excursion out of town before school began, not the Go to a New Town with Just Mom and Stay in a Hotel with Pool idea. But he chose me, or more likely, he chose the hotel, pool, and promised trip to the mall idea, as I, being a staunch anti-Mall kind of Mom, will acquiesce only rarely.
One of the first buildings I noticed when we arrived in town. On the side mural, floating on the puffy clouds and barely visible in this shot, are two painted heads of Jerry Garcia and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gazing benevolently down on all the peaceful brothers and sisters of this small metropolis.
By the time we arrived at the pizza place, we had already shopped, stayed overnight, wandered around the local mall, and bought Willy Wonka candy treats out of a clear-fronted vending machine with tubes and slides for our candy to roll down before dropping into our plastic tub which we ate while window shopping some more. Just like that one, our sentences grew longer and more tangled, with dangling participles, interrupted phrasing, and finally, giggles and hiccups, the more we chewed these sweet-sour, alien-to-any-natural-process tidbits.
Youngest had also stood in the mall's indoor Hurricane Simulator cylinder, a sorry simulator we agreed, as his hair barely mussed and he was able to stand perfectly upright in supposedly 80 mph winds. It was nothing like the weathermen we'd seen on the hotel television that morning, braced on the east coast beaches, who couldn't remain upright much less keep their hair groomed, in the less than 80 mph winds and storm surges they were reporting about.
As we munched on our pizza slices, we commented on sights seen, on the hotel's bonuses and it's shortcomings, what with the 11th floor vertigo we'd experienced, before the conversation tangented into the somewhat frequent wonder at high-rise dwellers who comfortably sleep each night so far removed from the ground.
Snicker away, high-rise dwellers, I had to face away from the window to settle my roiling mind and stomach before I finally dropped off to sleep in that 11th floor hotel room.
Back at lunch, all things verbal soon deteriorated, as they will when traveling with a thirteen year old, to a full five minutes of Youngest's teasing about the fat ticks (pale pine nuts) I was eating on my spinach salad. He even went so far as to grab one particularly blood-sucking-looking pine nut and clutch it against his neck, pretend panicking as he fake pulled it off, complete with silent screams and blood-spurting gestures. I went along with these hijinks, appropriately timing my eye-rolling, remembering those Drive You Wonka candies we'd shared -- 80% to Youngest, I might add.
While on our last meander, planned for after our meal, we needed to find a bookstore -- a must for two devoted book lovers as intimately familiar with our small town's bookstore inventories as we are. Now, with directions in hand from the pizza lady along with assurances that we'd love this place, we hopped in the truck and took off, driving the full....200 yards or so it turned out....to the bookstore, tucked in an unexplored, nearby side street.
Youngest and I hopped out -- down really, this being Husband's too-tall truck we were driving -- and crossed the street toward the shop in the bright afternoon sun. We stepped through the threshold of the bookstore into the comparatively muted light of the shop, where our eyes took a moment to adjust, before our jaws dropped. Our heads swiveled as our eyes swept the interior view, then caught each other's gaze.
"I've never seen a bookstore quite like this..." I remarked, as a gleam, and slight confusion, arose on both our faces.
"See you in ten minutes, right here at.....aisle 4. And don't forget your budget!" I annoyingly add.
...and he was off on his own, an explorer searching new interiors.
I know ten minutes sounds absurdly short a time for browsing in a new bookstore and choosing titles with promise, but I also knew ten minutes was plenty of time for us, if necessary. Without the time limit, we'd wander around, our eyes and brains perusing, absorbing, practically slurping up written pages, absent to all other life needs, until we were forced out on the street at closing time.
Now alone, I turned and took in the line of tall, narrow, thickly mullioned windows stretching across the front of the high-ceilinged, partially bricked storefront, then I drank in the mirroring rows of tall, narrow, mahogany-hued bookcases completely covered with...
Not only were they enticing me from the full-but-mostly-orderly bookcases that lined the store's perimeter and filled the interior with towering, symmetrical rows, but the books -- new books, used books, old books -- also filled up the aisles, entire lines of haphazard stacks, as if growing like volunteers along the bases of every single row of shelving. Piles and piles of tantalizing titles and covers, all rising from the otherwise tidy and polished hardwood floors.
Cluttered bookstore heaven... discordant and delightful all at once.
I am a sucker for this kind of atmosphere: books bought and sold in older buildings, usually Independent Bookseller shops, filled with intriguing nooks and crannies as this one seemed to contain, creaky wooden floors, filtered light rays beaming across high ceilings, inviting cushioned benches placed here and there, partially filled with pale, hunched, mesmerized devotees....ahhhh.
My kind of people.
My kind of shop. Although I had never seen the floors covered quite like this before.
I had to stand in the back of the shop and sneak a couple photos. I had to.
Within seconds I had gotten my bearings and was deeply ensconced in the Modern Classics section, little interior mind bubbles bursting in delight as I found copy after copy of longed-for titles among my mental list of authors to read more of. When I realized that most of the finds were in those book piles on the floor, I knelt down and began to build a quick stack of my own potential purchases.
Not more than five minutes had gone by, when, as I stood back up to hoist my ten or so very important choices, I heard Youngest behind me.
My eyes lifted to see Youngest, an impressive stack in his arms exceeding my own by a good half dozen books, standing before me.
Without a word, we glanced at each other's Must Haves, then glanced back down at our own Must Haves, set them all down and began editing. When each personal tower had been halved in number, we silently loaded up and headed for the checkout with smiles on our faces, over a dozen books claimed, quest fulfilled, time to head home.
The entire book shopping event took eight minutes.
A new record.