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I am blessed to work across the street from the marvelous Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver. The Tattered (as we so fondly call it) has tiptoed in and out of my life in Colorado up until now.
Decades ago, ex-Pat took me to Denver early in our dating years. At that time, the hip, trendy place now known as LoDo was still a long stretch of abandoned warehouses that served rail freight companies once upon a time. There were no sidewalks, only weedy and cracked asphalt streets. He boosted me up onto one of the old concrete loading docks because I wanted to see what it felt like up there. Homeless people were sleeping in ragged heaps in the deserted doorways. It was very quiet. There was a dangerous feel to the place. The two holdovers from the area’s glory days were Union Station, Denver’s railroad depot, and the Tattered. Entering that magical bookstore was like being transported into a fantasy come to life. It felt old and full of treasures, with creaky wooden floors and cushy deep chairs. We didn’t stay, as Pat wasn’t a fan of bookstores, and I suspect we were in search of champagne, but our brief visit remained bright in my memory.
Even though Boulder is only 25 miles distant from Denver, it was not a place I went often, until I started working downtown. About six years ago, I tried taking Kelsea to the Tattered, and I couldn’t find it. It was as if it had vanished. I thought I knew where I was going. I even looked it up on Google Maps. But it completely eluded me, and I decided that it must have gone the way of all flesh – or of many independent bookstores – and closed. The updated Tattered Cover, locate on Colfax Avenue in a former record store, was a disappointing shadow of my memory.
In some secret space of my mind, I believe that it had hidden itself from me on that day, using a building-sized invisibility cloak. I didn’t need it then, and so it was not available to me.
A year later, I stumbled upon it one lovely blue Saturday when I was downtown, after I had turned my life upside-down. I wandered around inside, completely bewildered, because I knew that I had been here before, and I knew that, the last time I looked for it, it had been gone. But yet, here it was. And here I was, baffled, but delighted.
After a cruel turn of events, when my life again capsized, the ropes I tossed out pulled me to this job across the street, where most days, I have the pleasure playing with words, and I am privileged to call myself a writer. I still make the distinction between the writing job that pays, and my own writing, which doesn’t, but I am a writer regardless. A dream come true, even if it is not right now exactly how I would have dreamed it.
The Tattered has played a large role in my courtship with MKL, which really started from another of those lifelines I tossed out back when I was drowning two years ago. We work at opposite ends of the 16th Street Mall, and so we have lunch together nearly every day, which has allowed our relationship to bloom in a different way than if we were having only weekend dates full of playing and passion. We have had a chance to talk more than most couples do when they are dating, perhaps more than most couples who have been together for many years. Tattered, where they now serve soups and sandwiches, coffee and tea, has been one of our favorite destinations, and the staff all know us there, and think we’re adorable. When one of us shows up without the other, we usually have to explain.
This morning, I stopped in to see if I could find an impulse card for him. None of the cards felt right today, but I did. I had been feeling anxious, as I have been feeling for some days now, and being in the Tattered soothed me. I found books to add to my “Desiderata” list, along with a sense of peace and quiet delight.
I have gone there to shed tears and to find silence. I have felt heartbreak and joy within its comforting walls. I have listened to favorite authors, found friends, and reveled in the feel and scent of books.
If a place can be an anchor, the Tattered is one for me. Not an anchor in the sense that it keeps me from moving. An anchor in that it provides me with a sense of timeless security, of stability. It reflects my past and my future, breathes whispers of my parents and the places I was raised, and reminds me that there are always new words waiting to be discovered, some of them my own.
I am sorry I missed this tonight. But it did convince me to buy the book for MKL. Wish it was one that I had thought to write. Genius. And perhaps a somewhat fitting photo of the day given the just-released Time Magazine cover.
Quote of the day: “Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and a richness to life that nothing else can bring.” – Oscar Wilde
Long, rolling, empty roads edged by pasture
The sound of a sign being gently buffeted by the wind
Growing up immersed in books creates a lifelong connection with the written word and the pages upon which those words rest.
As the daughter of two librarians, I have been surrounded by books for my entire life. Our house was full of them, floor-to-ceiling shelves lining both sides of the front hallway, shelves halfway up two of the four living room walls, an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling shelves in the study. Shelves in my bedroom, in E-Bro’s room, in the dining room, in my parents room. They were everywhere. I think my Father actually read all of those books.
I spent time in at my Father’s office from near-infancy, and shelved books for a few hours after school in my teens. I loved the old books, the smell of ages, the tissue-fine texture and sound of the pages, the soft, delicate leather of embossed covers – and the millions of thoughts that so many souls had taken the time to write, to share.
The physicality of a book is, for me, still a large part of the reading experience. I love used books, the older the better. The feel of holding a book, turning pages, having it fall from your hands once you sleep, cannot be replicated with an audiobook or a Kindle or something similar. Who has not finished a journey through a book, closed the cover for the last time, and held it to their heart, reveling in the feeling of quiet peace, power and transformation gained from the tale?
A good bookstore (preferably used) is a place of refuge for me. After the deaths of each of my parents, I found myself gravitating towards bookstores for solace at the end of many days. A turn down an aisle would lead me to traveller’s journals, another turn to classics, yet another to histories, to recipes, to biographies, to mysteries. Aisles became isles for me, each offering an escape to a different delight, even though I might have to dig a bit to find the treasure hidden within.
My once-favorite used bookstore has now fallen out of favor. For years owned by a proprietor who was friendly to customers, curious about all books, and who would buy almost anything brought into the store for trade, he sold it to family members who are curt and stingy and have sucked the charm out of the shop.
A place on Pearl Street has become a pleasant haunt, run by an eccentric man who sits in a veritable cave of books behind a glass top counter. He seems to know every volume in his huge hodgepodge three-room shop. It’s the spot to go to for something old, unusual or unexpected.
The primary independent bookstore in Boulder has started selling used books as well – mostly newer publications. While the store has always been inviting, the addition of the used books makes perusals and discoveries there even more intriguing. It’s a large, airy place, with comfortable chairs and its own personality, unlike the Borders and Barnes and Noble chains, which, while cushy-seated, seem soulless in their energy and offerings.
Curiously, I did not marry a reader. Pat has only read a few books since he left school, though he reads newspapers and magazines. Most books just cannot hold his attention. I can’t imagine the quantity of books we’d have had if he HAD been a reader. But Kelsea is a reader, voracious, like me. I read her her first book, One Leaf Fell, when she was eight days old.
Kelsea and I have both said we’d love to run our own bookshop one day, and she dreams of going to live in Hay-on-Wye in Wales, used bookstore capital of the world, where she can browse and read to her heart’s content. I myself would be happy just reading and writing, taking pictures and walking on a beach for the remainder of my days.
One of the blogs I drop in on from time to time is http://madbookcollection.blogspot.com. The author is cataloging his extensive collection on his blog. I don’t know why it so intrigues me, but it does. I suppose it’s the notion of another bibliophile, one who has had the privilege and luxury of keeping his books, rather than borrowing or reselling them, that appeals to me. Would that I could have such a library myself.
I still have shelves of books at Pat’s house and shelves of books at the cottage. Those at Pat’s are ones I can’t part with, but have no room for in my little house. Those in the cottage are mostly unread, patiently waiting upon the shelves for their turn, their time, which is when the mood strikes me. There are dozens in queue, and more added more often than I should, given my meager income at the moment. Someday, I will have a white room opening onto the sea with floor-to-ceiling shelves on three walls to hold my books. Then perhaps, I will finally be home.