I just popped over to Bookstop at lunch. It’s dangerous for me to go to a bookstore because I always spend too much money and bring home books that I don’t have room for – or, I should say, books that I don’t have shelves for. I can always find a place to stash them. There’s a lot of bitching in this blog about the demise of old Houston. Or what I consider to be “old” Houston – everything’s relative. Every time I go to Bookstop, it pains me to think that it will be at the least closed down and at the most torn down in the not-too-distant future. I wandered around today, trying to figure out what it is that I like about that store, what makes it so much better than a big, bright shiny Barnes and Noble. Was I just following an inner-looper angsty script?
NO. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to bemoan its doom. Beyond the fact that they almost always have in stock whatever I went in there to buy (plus a bunch of other stuff I wasn’t planning on buying), they’re in a recycled building, something that rarely happens in Houston. And because they’re in an old movie theater, there are lots of nooks and crannies, a must for any good bookstore.
[City Lights in San Francisco elevates this to an art form. There are rickety little stairs you go down to get to one of the rooms, and when you get to the bottom stair you feel like you’re..somewhere. Not in a generic sense. In an “arrived” sense.]
To buy plays, for instance, you have to go to the upper level, take another short flight up and then go down a short flight to a little room. (Maybe I like stairs to be included in the book buying experience.) You like to have a moment with your books before you buy them, and it’s much better if you have some privacy to do so. You can take your time skimming the book or sniffing the cover or whatever your ritual is without having to worry about the people sitting at Starbucks watching you over the tops of their lattes. Yes, Bookstop has a coffee shop. But the tables are on an aisle, they aren’t pointed at people shopping for books, and it doesn’t seem like an integral part of the operation. Starbucks at a B&N takes up 1/8 of the space. (And yes, I realize B&N owns Bookstop.)
Today I was somewhat restrained. I bought a book for my dad (ignore that, Dad – act surprised when I see you tomorrow), a book for myself and a blank journal. Even though there are probably three or four blank ones at home, if a journal catches my eye I buy it. Sometimes I like to write in a well-worn notebook, and sometimes I need a fresh start. The journal I bought is pretty big and is bound like a book. Its hard cover has a chicken on it. How could I not get it? There will come a day when I need to write something, and that something will only be happy being written in a large chicken journal.