When I was a young girl, going shopping in Boston was a rare thing. It meant going “into Town”, which to my mind seemed light years away from the suburb of Saugus where I grew up. It involved planning which bus and then train to take, and had my mother going through the unenviable task of corralling two pre-teen girls (myself and my younger sister) and keeping us from wandering off while she shopped.
By the time I was a teenager, though, Mom had gotten a job in Boston, and I was given permission to come in and visit her and shop on my own. However, leave it to me to not follow the route of the typical teenage female. Nope, I never bothered looking for clothes, and I could have cared even less about shopping for shoes.
Boston meant bookstores – lots and LOTS of time spent in bookstores.
Downtown Boston in the 80s and 90s were my stomping grounds, and I had a very set pattern. First was Barnes & Noble in Downtown Crossing for a hour or two (sometimes three) of wandering the stacks, sometimes buying, sometimes looking, mostly just being IN there and being surrounded by that bookstore vibe and feeling happy. School problems faded, my parent’s marriage, which was dying right in front of me, became something I’d think about later. I was in my element, and that was all that mattered.
Waldenbooks, right down the street, was next. It was smaller, and loitering about just looking wasn’t as feasible, since you tended to get The Look from salespeople that said “Are you going to buy something or not?” Still, it was books, and that made it fun.
No trip in Town, however, was complete without a stop at Lauriat’s. Lauriat’s top-floor was where they sold all the newer books, along with stationary and other things. The basement level was the bargain area, with a very nice occult section where I spent hours going through books on astrology, Tarot and other things that I KNEW my family (read that as my father) wouldn’t a) get or b) approve of.
We all choose our own forms of rebellion. That was mine.
There were smaller stores as well, in Quincy Market, with was a short walk away. Housed in the buildings on the left and right of the main building (which has every kind of food you can think of, and some that you can’t), a lot of those places are now offices, sadly. When I used to visit there, however, there were a myriad of quirky smaller stores. One of which was a bookstore that leaned more towards fantasy items, especially Dungeons & Dragons material. Guess who spent a lot of time (and money) in that establishment.
Teen years gave way to becoming an adult (or me faking my way through acting like a grown-up for the most part), and with those years came Borders Books, which also opened up in the Downtown Crossing area. This was a revelation – how had I LIVED without this wondrous place I’ll never know. Borders was the first place I ever tried an Italian soda (strawberry), and if I tallied up the amount of time and money I spent in that franchise, the amounts would probably be staggering.
And then… it all started to fall apart.
As a confused teenager and as angry woman I saw bookstore after bookstore close. By the time it was Borders turn to shut its doors, I though I was numb to feeling blue about the passing of yet another bibliophile hangout. Boy was I wrong.
I made what turned out to be the COLOSSAL mistake of going into Borders during its final weeks, and the sadness was beyond palatable; it was downright crushing. They were selling everything, even the fixtures, and the atmosphere was like shopping in a funeral home.
Hell, I think I’d have felt better if I HAD been shopping in a funeral home.
Every single salesperson looked so downcast that I wanted to run up to each and every one and give them a hug. Don’t even think I bought anything that sad visit, I just wanted to pay my respects and leave.
Will the bookstore ever completely fade from existence? I certain hope not. I know that Kindle Fire, and all the other electronic books are great and can hold a ton of books, blah blah blah…
But give me a quiet corner, a soda resting on a table loaded with paperback and magazines, and a couple of free hours, and I’m happy.
That’s not too much to ask, for is it?