So first of all, as a semi-voracious (years ago moreso) book reader I want to say Congratulations to an independent bookstore for making it all these years.... glad you are having a party! You have a couple more year to go until you are of "official" retirement age so please don't give up!
I came to learn about City Lights back in college, as most people do, especially those studying English in Denver do, because of our tie to some of it's most famous denizens and authors.... you know...Jack ... Allan.... Mr. Ferlingetti (although he didn't live here that I know of, probably visited Colorado at least). And always thought... man if I had the money I would go there.
Because I haven't ever actually gone to San Francisco I have only visited via pictures and online. I bought some first edition Ginsberg chapbooks back when I was in college and they are now in storage, but it was a complete thrill to call the store and order. It was almost like I was there, but not.
When I was in high school and college I was lucky enough to go to the original Muddys and that was as close as I got to the bohemian spirit I imagined City Lights has. I bought a couple books downstairs at Muddys and certainly more than a few from it's daughter Paris on the Platte (ps the bookstore is now a wine bar sadly... once that change happened... I gotta say... I never really went back, it just wasn't the same). Nothing so memorable but I am sure at the time enjoyed.
The closest thing I can think of now that in this modern era that would match the feel of what City Lights does that is here in Denver would be Mutiny Information Cafe. Jack Jensen started it many years ago and our acquaintance friends, Matt, Jim and Joe took it over several months ago. I have to tell you .... every time we go in there we find a treasure. We really love what they are doing. It's a wonderful place.... check out their facebook page to see what's going on and if you are in Denver... go in. I don't want to give too much away but I got a pretty amazing Miles Davis record that has been on my wish list for YEARS (I never found it on cd even... Joe knows his shit and gets GREAT stuff in there). I have THE ABSOLUTE BEST Jack painting and a DIVINE Matt painting (I didn't get it at the store but still....). They are rotating a great group of artists through for showings too.... seriously.... if I didn't know how great these guys are I would wonder how they do it... but they are amazing and they love what they do and you can tell. They are "breathing new life into 'dead formats' according to Jim" and we are all the better for it. I wonder if any of their activities would include a writing group? I bet someone could make that happen...I would go.
Whether it be a piece of art, a bunch of really amazing records, a cool book or a fanfuckingtastic conversation... it's what I imagine a great bookstore to be and they do it there. It's what a Denver Indie bookstore is. If SF has City Lights.... Denver has Mutiny.
We loved Powells when we were in Portland... it's giantness was amazing and completely made me remember the joy of reading a book... with paper and not just pixels on a screen. F turned a corner from visiting the music section and I was standing in the middle of the S bookshelves in the Fiction area and staring... he asked me what I was looking at and I whispered... "books man.... books". It was a magical moment.
Tattered Cover here doesn't really give me that feeling so much anymore. I haven't walked in and found what I have been looking for, for years....and that is sad... they try but it's lost it's lustre. They don't appear to be a new bookstore anymore, their shelves are full of used books too now. I get that it's hard to survive on $24.99 tomes but it's still hard to find what I have on my huge wish list. And that is sad. It used to be I would walk in for my wish list book and walk out with 10 more bargain books. I don't even try to attempt that there now. It's sad. I want them to survive too.
I would go broke if I lived in Portland. Powells would bleed me dry. And I love the idea that that is possible.
We need to go to City Lights. I need to go to San Francisco. Get back to my college literary dream.
And reading that City Lights is turning 60... just made me so happy and even more of a personal pledge....I hope we can make that happen.
So the point?
yeah books rule. physical. hand held books rule.
Pick one up. Smell the paper. Go to that locally independent owned bookstore somewhere in your town... pick up a book. Open it. Smell it. Yeah go ahead... put your face right up in there... smell it. That is knowledge baby. And it's important.
Keep reading. Step away from the internet.... seriously... right now... go and get a book off your shelf and open it... go ahead... open it... get lost.