(Sometimes it’s tough to feel at home in your own city. Which is why I’ve given myself a challenge: each day, for forty days, I’m going to find *one* thing I love about this place. And then I’m going to tell you about it. If you want to follow my journey, start here. Today is Day Thirty-Three.)
I suppose when most normal couples go out on a date, they see a movie or eat at a favorite restaurant.
T and I are different. When we want to spend some time together on a chilly Saturday, we meet up at our favorite little ramshackle book temple, Givens Books in Salem, where we wander through the dusty shelves without speaking. We watch motes swirl in the yellow light from the big front windows. We sit down on the floor with our legs crossed and our heads bent low, some antique volume open on our laps. After an hour or so, we regroup with an armful of texts. We haggle, debate and whittle the pile down to less than five. And then we go home with our purchases, make coffee, and read.
It’s our idea of a perfect lazy afternoon.
I have to admit, Givens doesn’t fit everybody’s conception of a favorite bookstore:
The paint is peeling.
The floor tiles are crumbling into dust.
The shelves sag under the weight.
Meanwhile, loose-spined old leather-bound books sit in piles on chairs, or spill out over the tops of boxes and crates on the floor. Really, the whole place feels a little bit like a librarian’s version of Jenga.
But that’s what I love about it. Nothing feels stuffy or snobby or hurried here. There’s no good place for my usual perfectionism to get a foothold. Meanwhile, arrangements are just haphazard enough to invite slow browsing, so I always stumble over some precious treasure I didn’t plan to encounter. Like today, when I discovered an old coffee-table volume of Georgia O’Keeffe, and a pretty hardcover collection of Rumi’s poetry.
And I always say: books are books, and people are people. (People are the real thing). Still, a new book always feels like an old friend.
I am grateful.