So I used to go to the Super Crown by my house all the time when I was in high school. It became sort of a ritual for me, whenever I was feeling in the dumps, not getting any work done, or just needed a break and a walk to refresh my mind, I’d head out, usually around 9 o’clock at night, and spend a few hours sitting on their comfortable couch seats (or on the floor, when those were occupied) reading the first few chapters of some book, usually technologically related. The only one I remember finishing entirely at Crown, in several visits, was ENIAC: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the World’s First Computer, though I know I peeked into a bunch of others on telecommunications, AI, Unix, CS, etc. My thinking was that it’s good to expose myself to just a little bit of a something that I didn’t know anything about, and I’d walk away refreshed by the new knowledge. I treated the bookstore as a library (incidentally, the French word for bookstore is librairie, so you can’t blame me there), and even took little notes of the things I had learned along the way, in part so that I could return to the page I read up to the previous time. I bought books, there, too, when I had the cash - Cliff Stoll, Steven Levy, Robert Pirsig, Daniel Quinn, Tim Berners-Lee, many others, too; I usually keep the receipt in the book (and would write the same sorts of notes on the receipts).
It became a really familiar place, the same classical music, the same new book smells. I never really had to talk to anyone, or say anything, so it very much became a place where I could go and clear my head, just sort of process my thoughts. Then it went out of business and closed, which really made me sad. Luckily, Tower Books, nearby, had just started operating, and though it didn’t have as large of a selection, I migrated over there, and got used to the music, atmosphere, and the staff there. So Tower, too, became familiar with time, and they were open till midnight, which suited my fancy more. Going down there at night became a ritual, whenever I was feeling uninspired, I’d just head over to there and immerse myself in some new book, if only for a few hours. I think I’m kind of different that way. If you’ve ever been in a bookstore with me, you’ll know that I always want to stick around for a while, even though I usually have no specific book in mind, I just like to go and sit and read something new for a while. For example, I always like to drop by Borders whenever I’m on University in Palo Alto, but also usually overlook that whoever it is that I’m with, whether it’s Elaine, or Philip, or Jon, doesn’t have the same approach to visiting bookstores.
Cody’s Books on Telegraph closed earlier this year, though Moe’s is still around. Now Tower’s closing up shop, I just walked around the all of the empty shelves and saw very few books that’d be of any interest to me. Ended up picking up two DVDs: Before Stonewall, and Брат (Brother) for $6 each. It’s really makes me uncomfortable and sad knowing that I won’t have that little place to escape to, anymore. I’m not a big fan of changes like these.
Originally published at Paul Ivanov's Journal. Please leave any comments there.