I like to read. It follows that I like bookstores. I’m not picky: If it’s got books, great. My kind of bookstore. But if it’s got used books, oh my God banana pants, fireworks from my heart and eyes.
In New York there was Shakespeare and Co. right down the street from the building in which I took Astronomy 101 (my first and last F – in college!). I spent many a rainy afternoon in there, browsing through books about depressed lonely girls, knowing I looked like an advertisement for Prozac. It wasn’t a used bookstore, just an independent bookseller with wonderful dark, wooden shelves, warm lighting, and that smell only certain well-loved bookstores have.
Then in Berkeley, I discovered Moe’s, a four-story behemoth of used books. They had a small selection of diaries, postcards, and new and notable best sellers, but I loved Moe’s for the breadth of what it offered in terms of literature. I rediscovered the classics, only because there were so many versions, sold by English majors past – or perhaps those people from other majors that dabble in English courses and, unlike English majors, could actually bear to part with their books. Moe’s stands today because I, along with dozens of other literary hopefuls, bought ten books every other week. (I say dozens because we Moe’s frequenters often saw each other’s familiar faces). There is nothing I love more, in a used bookstore, than opening front covers and seeing a very affordable price, usually a 6.- with a dash, very euro style – on the title page.
If I miss ANYTHING about Berkeley, it’s that bookstore, and the other two I frequented – Mrs. Dalloway’s on College Ave., purely for browsing, and Half-Price Books and Pegasus in my final semester because Moe’s, on South Side, was simply too far to visit as often as I’d liked. But Moe’s – I carry the memory of its familiar red and white striped sign and its endless, bountiful shelves in my heart of hearts.
I didn’t intend to go bookstore browsing in Chicago, but Alicia and I were waiting for an Improv show to start and wandered past this gem. I noticed it, but didn’t ask to go in, but was relieved when Alicia grabbed my arm and said, “HEY! Let’s check this out!”
You can tell a lot about a person by what they look for in a bookstore. Alicia called out right away, “Do you have any books on organic farming?”
I thought about the books I had yet to read at home and the pain I’d cause myself if I were to go on one of my usual book-buying binges and have to haul all the loot home. I love books. I love used bookstores and believe we should support them absolutely – all bookstores, actually – but my carry-on would stay a carry on. I wandered through the shelves and thought how much Bookworks reminded me of Moe’s.
I went up to the register and asked the man, “Do all you used bookstores know of each other?”
I said, “Moe’s? In Berkeley? Have you heard of Moe’s?”
He shook his head and I was disappointed in him. But then he furrowed his brow.
“I know of Pegasus in Berkeley.”
I almost shrieked because it was like meeting someone in another country and realizing you have a mutual friend. I went to Pegasus, located on the same corner as a bus stop for the 51. I would stand on the corner and wait and wait, and the damn bus would take forever, and I KNEW I would miss the bus if I went into the bookstore, but I’d go in, start browsing, and two 51’s would ramble by. That’s life.
If I were a denizen of Chicago, Bookworks would be a frequent haunt, a good friend.
Instead I was a tourist:
|I realize the filters I put on this photo make it seem like a haunted, prison library. (“And from that pipe is where ole’ Johnny Scarface hanged himself…” ) But it was much warmer than this. But I do like haunted prison libraries.|
|Crazy postcards. If this turns up in your mailbox and someone writes “I’m thinking about you,” they are creepy, and also, probably me.|
|“Practical Chess Openings,” vs. “Impractical Chess Openings.” Story of my life.|
|I kind of wish I bought this.|
I don’t know who’s creepier: he (with his crazy receding hairline and half-assed mullet) or me, furtively snapping a picture from a stand filled with children’s books. Probably him.