I don’t know how I got up the nerve. I guess it was that Borderlands Books was so comfortable, three small rooms filled floor to ceiling with books. Fantasy and science fiction jammed the largest room. The sunny front room was crammed with horror. The entry room, which also housed the cash register, contained all the new hard covers the store had to offer, along with a wall lined with collectibles.
Claud introduced me to the proprietor as the publisher of Morbid Curiosity. Behind the counter, Alan Beatts, the owner, grew visibly enthused, going on at length about how much he enjoyed reading the magazine’s first two issues and how much he would like to carry them in the store.
That was better news than I’d hoped, but I didn’t stop there. The words came out of my mouth without a conscious intention behind them: “I don’t know if you’d be interested, but I think it would be fun to have a reading of stories from the magazine.”
Alan waved at the copy I’d placed on the counter. “Do you think people would admit in public to doing this stuff?”
“Claud’s already said he would read.” I smiled at him. “I should be able to collect up two or three other victims.”
“I’ve been wanting to do events,” Alan said. “The basement is quite large. If I can get it dried out, we could fill it with chairs. It’s got a dungeon atmosphere that would be perfect for your magazine.”
We settled on the weekend of Thanksgiving. I went home and sent some emails to the contributors, who bowled me over with their excitement over reading their confessions live. I just needed to figure out how to promote the event…
Fast-forward. The Saturday after Thanksgiving turned out to be a propitious choice. The Guardian featured the event in their calendar, encouraging people to ditch their relatives and support the new local zine. Everyone who wasn’t eager to face the Christmas hordes at Union Square turned out at tiny Borderlands Books, ready to be entertained.
The reading started late because Alan had to add more chairs. The 20 he’d initially set up quickly filled, and the 10 after that. When he ran out of seating, people sat on the cold cement floor and lined the dank brick walls.
I sucked miserably on a bottle of water. I hated speaking in public. I’d never hosted a big reading before. My previous experiences had been at a tiny horror convention in Denver, where the readers often outnumbered the audience. I’d made a terrible mistake and now everyone in San Francisco was going to know what an idiot I was.
Alan bounded up to the podium and began the sweetest, funniest, most wholehearted introduction anyone could hope to hear about her brainchild. Then he smiled at me and turned over the mike.
I thought I was going to die. I’m sure my heart missed a beat or five. But there were 50-some people jammed into this dark, chilly basement to see my show, so damned if I wasn’t going to give them one. I pasted a smile on my face, walked up to the podium, and said, “Thank you all for coming.”
That was November 1998. Since then, I've hosted readings and art shows in the basement at the old Borderlands location on Laguna Street, in the new store on Valencia Street, and in the soon-to-be-opened Borderlands cafe. The staff has been hugely supportive and helpful, to the point that I gratefully acknowledged them in the Morbid Curiosity book. I've worked at Borderlands behind the counter, filled in at their table at conventions, and made lifelong friends in the shop. Borderlands Bookstore is the best bookstore in the world.
Causes Loren Rhoads Supports