I had a nice jaunt to San Francisco last week. My wife and I were celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary (yes, we were child bride and groom) and we decided to make a splurge of it. We stayed in the Union Street Inn, a lovely B&B, the best part of which was drinking white wine and sampling cheeses during the pre-dinner hours in the sun-dappled garden. At times like this I give in and admit I am a complete hedonist: I could spend my life sitting in gardens, reading books, and sipping tea and other libations. I swear to you I was switched at birth. If there is some Panamanian-born Duke somewhere who actually pines to do 8 loads of laundry a week, please contact me as soon as possible.
One of the other pleasures of the trip, beyond being in the presence of my beautiful wife and being free of the constant cries of "Dad?!" from every quarter, was a revisit to the City Lights Bookstore. City Lights was founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It has all sorts of Allen Ginsberg and Beat poet history and is a lovely warren of book stacks with a sweet, sweet selection of books. If you want your international fix--Japanese, Indian, Middle Eastern--you'll get it there. It's not the sort of place you see the likes of a Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck screed, nor anything mass-market--though they did stock Steig Larsson's Millenium trilogy. (Yay for them!)
I love grazing in indie book stores like this one. Nobody bugs you when you wander in (hello, Borders? Can you change your egregious policy of having your wired handmaidens stalk customers through the store with "can I help you find anything?" bleating like a broken record?!) and you get the feeling they wouldn't mind if you browsed for hours. In fact, I liked it so much I bought the t-shirt.
In Portland, we have Powell's which is, no joke, a city of books. Sometimes I come over a bit faint when I pass through Powell's--it's like falling into the world's largest smorgasbord after you've already had a substantial dinner. My own local, in Multnomah Village, is Annie Bloom's which is much more manageable--sort of the cheese and wine in the sun-dappled garden effect. I hope these type of book shops never go out of fashion. The world would surely be a much less lustrous place without them.
Where's your favorite book shop? Let me know so I can add it to my book tour itinerary. (One can but dream, eh?)