Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The New York City Bookstore Walk

This is the first of what could wind up being two or three posts about our trip to New York at the end of March—so when I say that “Monday was cold and rainy,” that’s referring to March 25th. I didn’t get as many pictures as I thought I would (and none at all on the cold and rainy day described below), but there is a batch from Central Park that I will get around to posting at some point.

Monday was cold and rainy. Jackson had thrown up the night before, after we got in, and was running a fever. Our plan had been to hit the museum with my uncle (who used to work there and remains “connected,” if you know what I mean) and then maybe spend part of the rest of the day looking for coffee shops and bookstores; but Jackson wasn’t going anywhere. You might think that would derail all of our plans for the day, but you would be wrong. We did have to cancel the museum (which was unfortunate, because my uncle had to catch the train home later that afternoon, and so would not be able to join us when we did make it to the museum, the following morning), but Mom was willing to look after Jackson while Amy and I went out.

I underestimated the walk, or we could probably have hit a few more places. If you plug the address of our hotel and the address of the bookstore I most wanted to see into Google Maps and then bang the tab for walking directions, you get a blue line that basically goes straight down Broadway for almost four miles, and the omniscient computer brainoids at Google think it’s going to take you an hour and sixteen minutes to get there on foot. In the Monday morning rain and grey. Fortified by crappy coffee. (I’ll mention the names of the coffee shops we hit during the trip at the end of this, but I won’t go into any details, because there aren’t any details worth going into. I did a better job of finding a good coffee shop in Covington, Kentucky, than I did on this trip to New York.)

I did not plug the two addresses into Google Maps until after we got back; by then we were curious about just how far we had walked, given that my pedometer had gone over 20,000. I knew roughly where St. Mark’s Bookshop was before we headed out, and that was it. A walk is a walk, though, and even if it was cold and rainy, it was still New York City. I might have passed on a walk here at home in weather like that, but here at home we don’t have Times Square. We don’t have the Empire State Building, and none of our libraries, to my knowledge, are watched over by lions on the steps. That’s what you run into when you slice through New York City down Broadway. Amy mentioned something about the U.N., too, but by the time that came up we were no longer in the mood to look for anything new.

The literary karma gods are going to lay the smackdown on me if I say that St. Mark’s was disappointing, so I definitely will not say that; but I was shopping for literary magazines, and despite having the most extensive selection of literary magazines I’ve ever encountered, many of the issues on the shelves were out of date—sometimes by a couple of years. I avoided looking at actual books because I’m still trying to get rid of more books each year than I bring in (and literary magazines still do not count), and so spent most of my time in an odd little zone there in the literary magazine section, trying to decide how much money I wanted to drop on how many magazines. I thought vaguely about how I would transport the literary booty back home, but guessed that that would take care of itself somehow.

(Interesting aside on train travel. None of our bags was ever inspected once, at any point on our journey. Between the three of us, we had eight bags on the trip out and nine bags on the trip back—because all the books and literary magazines I bought had to go somewhere, and that somewhere was an extra canvas grocery bag I picked up along the way. All three of us had a suitcase and a backpack, and the other two bags were my mom’s carry-on and my laptop bag. The ninth bag going back was the canvas Zabar’s bag I bought, which was filled to the brim with books and literary magazines. All of those bags went into our two roommettes on the train and into adjacent seats on the commuter train. The closest we came to checking anything was when they put the suitcases in the baggage hold of the bus on the Indianapolis-Chicago legs of the trip.)

I wound up spending almost fifty bucks on four magazines: Fence, which came to my attention by way of a response by its editor to a Boston Review symposium on binaries in poetry; Analemma, which I had heard of from a post on Vouched Books that offered a free subscription to that journal as a prize for posting a comment on its blog; Hobart, which I had never heard of, but which contained a short story called “Sex in the Afternoon”; and Fourteen Hills, which it turns out I may not have had any good reason at all for picking up. I could easily have spent another half an hour and another almost-fifty-bucks and taken home four more random issues.

Alas, though, it was getting late in the afternoon, and we were both starting to think we should get back and check on Jackson (even though Amy had already called to check in and heard from Mom that Jackson seemed to be fine). I had every intention of going directly back to the hotel, and so decided to take the most direct route, straight up Broadway. However...about two blocks away from St. Mark’s, straight up Broadway, is the Strand, which we had missed on the way down because we had drifted over to 2nd Avenue. I had wanted to see that bookstore too, along with St. Mark’s, but thought I had run out of time. Since it was there, though, and Mom had said that Jackson was fine, it seemed sort of silly not to go in. So we did.

Oh...man. The best bookstore I have ever been to is the Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle. #2 is up for grabs, though; and if it’s not Book Corner down in Bloomington, then it might well, after only one quick visit, be the Strand. In fact, during that one quick visit, I saw only one of the four levels. I’m not sure there’s any way to determine how many of the purported 18 miles of books I looked at, but it can’t have been much. I wound up buying a tiny hardcover copy of Fox in Socks to read with Jackson, and a paperback copy of Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus, by Greil Marcus, the first—but not last—books that I would buy on the trip.

And then we really did walk back to the hotel, back up Broadway with a slide up 7th Avenue to take a gander at the Carnegie Deli. I was going to mention briefly the coffee shops we visited while we were in the city, but as I started to write about them, I realized that I might actually have enough for a whole post on just coffee shops. I wasn’t sure that was going to be possible, and so hadn’t originally planned on it; but now I think it can be done. Of course, it took me a month to crank out this first post about the trip, so who knows how long the subsequent posts are going to take?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Photos from the New York/New Jersey Trip

I posted the first small batch of photos from our recent trip to New York and New Jersey. They are of Jackson meeting his second cousin Nicholas at Aunt Gloria and Uncle Tom's house in Jackson, New Jersey.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Deep Thoughts #94

Rush is finally getting into the so-called Rock and Roll “Hall of Fame,” and the genii at Rolling Stone get the Foo Fighters to induct them?