You may not know that about me.
Back when I didn’t have children to feed.
And I had time to wander around used bookstores. For hours.
I have a Daphne Du Maurier. Truman Capote. Chaim Potok.
No, I don’t have To Kill A Mockingbird. Have you seen the price tag on a first edition of Mockingbird?
None of my firsts cost me more than $100.
But I enjoyed collecting. Not for profit. I simply collected what I loved. Isn’t that what a collector should do?
Well, that’s exactly what Roger Carlson did. At one of my ALL-TIME-FAVORITE used bookstores in Evanston.
Bookman’s Alley. (And yes, it is down an alley.)
Sure, there were books. But there was so much more. Uniforms. Artifacts. Crazy stuff that made you go, “Hey, look at this!”
Before Harper was born I would hang out there. Looking for Zane Grey books (for George). Sheet music (for me). And any beautiful editions of my favorite books. I found a first edition of Watership Down at Bookman’s and a lovely edition of 84 Charring Cross Road.
And I dreamed of being able to afford the books that sat behind his desk.
When Harper was old enough, I took her to the shop. Roger and I both explained to her that she had to look with her eyes and be very careful with the treasures in the shop. He was so lovely to her. That kept me coming back.
On one visit with Harper she found an incredible little book about cats in Egypt. This was during a season when she was fascinated with Egyptology – so finding this children’s book was quite a score. She paid for it herself.
She was officially a collector.
I realize that small book stores like these are being threatened by big box stores and Amazon.com and such, but, honestly, I think there’s a bigger issue here.
We don’t seem to have much time to wander and explore these days. I, for one, am very scheduled and calculated – rarely out for a window-shop with a cup of coffee. Aside from my visits to Sal Val and Goodwill, I don’t give myself the time to poke around in a shop like Bookman’s, searching for, well, nothing exactly.
Bookman’s Alley reminds me of that time in my life and even challenges me to find the time and the right shop in order to take up that habit again.
Roger, the last time I saw you, I was packing up to move to Pittsburgh. You graciously re-purchased my first edition of Watership down that I had picked up from you a year or so earlier. We had just gotten killed on our home sale, and frankly, I needed the cash more than the book.
I think I actually told you that.
And you didn’t hesitate.
Evanstonians, you are losing a treasure.
I’m miles away. And even I am sad.
Thank you for the hours of leisure, Roger. Gone are the days when I would wander in and just hang out. Without checking my watch.
Bookman’s Alley will be missed.
Blowing a kiss.