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Bookstores I've Loved and Lost

Oh come on, Red Room people--you want A favorite bookstore?  How can that be?  Bookstores are like chocolate, one for every mood.

That being said, here are my favorites:

Roski & Wallace in San Leandro (at least I think it was on the San Leandro side of E 14th St).  This store was amazing.  It was in a huge building that looked like old World War II quonset huts stuck together, or an autoshop that had been casually attached to a barn.  What decor there was was a homage to the Hudson automobile, which was why when the movie "Cars" came out, I actually knew what a Hudson was.  

***Good bookstores are educational on so many different levels.

Roski & Wallace (and no, I'm not sure I'm spelling Roski correctly) had the requisite bookstore smell--a faint overlay of mold atop an overwhelming atmosphere of dust and old paper--and had the quasi-requisite bookstore cat.  The building was enormous, with section after section of shelves packed tightly with used books.  I'd think I'd finally found the back of the store but there at the end of an aisle would be another section, branching off into the sort of limitless hyperspace attached to one of Heinlein's spaceships.  Patrons literally carried flashlights to see the titles on shelves tucked in the back of beyond, as the lighting at its best was fairly dim.  This store had everything, from every book you'd ever heard of to every book you'd never heard of to all those books your mother and mine would faint if they saw you reading them.  I could never cover the entire store in one visit, as I'd fall into one section and be unable to extricate myself before my bundle of cash was all used up.  So, I'd try to focus on different sections on different visits.  Dad introduced me to Roski & Wallace, one of the nicest things he ever did for me.

And of course there was Holmes Bookstore in Oakland.  Holmes wasn't as big as Roski & Wallace, but it had all the same creaks and groans of overburdened shelves and the same wonderful smell of old libraries mixed with a years' thick layer of dust.  It also had an upstairs, the proper sort of bookstore upstairs, one reached by a narrow wooden staircase that creaked as you climbed.  I went to Holmes once in uniform back when I was in the Navy, and when someone military found out, they couldn't believe that I'd gone there, especially in uniform.  Maybe the neighborhood was not considered to be the best?  Ha.  Like that or a uniform that stood out like a bloody knife on snow ever stopped a booklover in search of her fix.  My best find at Holmes was a tiny copy of Lorna Doone, a hardback about four inches by five.  That volume is still one of my favorite purse books--when I'm in a hurry and don't have time to select a newer book, I can always help Jan Ridd win his Lorna.

When I moved to Davis twenty years ago, one of the main attactions of the town was the plethora of bookstores, most sadly gone now.  In a small corner of the local food co-op, there was Berry's Books, an alcove of used books where I used tofind wonderful copies of James Thurber and E. B. White (two favorites) and some truly wonderful children's literature.  Berry's Books folded up shop shortly after I moved to town and I've never since found a store where the owner had the same sort of selection.

Gayle's Books lasted in town a little longer than Berry's Books did.  Gayle's Books sold new books, but with a twist.  Somehow, whoever was doing the buying and displaying knew me without ever having been introduced:  Every time I'd go in the store, on one certain table towards the front, there would be books I wanted badly but didn't until that point know they existed.  I found Langston Hughes' Simple stories, and Christian Science and Adam and Eve's Diaries by Mark Twain.  No matter when I went in that store, there would be a book I wanted on that table.  Gayle's Books would have had a lot of Red Room authors on that table towards the front.  I don't know who was doing the buying for that table, but whoever he or she was was a true friend to me and would have loved all of you.

And then there was Bogey's Books, which sold primarily used and remaindered books.  Oh my.  The absence of Bogey's still hurts my heart.  Bogey's was where I could find science books that taught me more than school ever did, and entire books in Middle English, and anthologies on almost everything under the sun.  Bogey's had the most marvelous poetry section, too, which included a display table where I always discovered a poet new to me.  Dad loved Bogey's, too; he said it was the only bookstore around where he could find good math books.  Sometimes, when he and Mom would come to visit, Mom would give me a kiss and come in to sit down, but Dad would give me a kiss and go off to Bogey's.  If I went downtown for something and came home a little later than expected, all I had to say was that I'd stopped at Bogey's, and the girls would understand.  Bogey's closed a couple of years ago.  The store space hasn't been rented and the sign still says "Bogey's Books," and I pine anew every time I pass it.

A day or two after the Loma Prieta earthquake, I was in downtown Oakland for reasons I don't remember and had some time to kill.  I wandered around, looking at the damageto the city, until I came across a used bookstore.  Books were all over the floor, with some shelves still entirely vertical but others listing to one side or the other.  People were stepping around piles of books, some folks shopping and others helping re-shelve.  I decided to do a little of both, re-shelving books in the cookbooks section, doing it one-handed after coming across a beautiful cookbook that I didn't want to take a chance on losing in the clutter.  (Dad liked that cookbook so much that years later, I bought him a copy when I came across one in a Sacramento bookstore.)

I miss Bogey's Books, and Berry's Books, and Gayle's Books (and still have bookmarks from all of them).  I miss Holmes Bookstore and Roski & Wallace.  I used to know every used bookstore between Sacramento and Monterey, but don't anymore.  Sigh.  I don't stop at bookstores very often these days, but that's entirely a matter of lack of funds.  Now that I'm working again, I hope to be able to start visiting them again.  And new books or used, I could no more choose a favorite store than I could a favorite daughter.



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Great tour Susan. Choosing

Great tour Susan. Choosing a favorite is not for me. I love them all like you. _____Michael

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Loved reading this...

I could smell the books and visited the stores vicariously through your fine writing skill.

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Michael and Sue, I'm glad

Michael and Sue, I'm glad you both enjoyed visiting these bookstores.  They were all wonderful and I'm happy that more people now know about the treasures that they were.