Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Elliott Bay Book Company

About a month ago, on a cloudy Saturday, I was bored and broke and cranky at home. I knew I had only a few hours that afternoon to pull myself out of this funk before the Sunday night blues set in, but I was restless and listless at the same time. "Self," I said, "we need a vacation. We can't afford a vacation, but surely we can do better than this." So I put on a hat and the suede jacket I'd just picked up at the thrift store, a jacket that makes me feel like pretending to be an English professor (I swear I even stand up straighter when I wear it), and headed out like a homing pigeon to a place I could find books.

Back in July, the first leg of Seattle's light rail system started service between downtown and the airport. The Spouse and I had been looking forward to this for years: in 2007 we bought our first house just blocks from one of the light rail stations in south Seattle. For almost 3 years we watched the construction progress, literally right out our front window: the road widened, the lights improved, the tracks laid, the stations built. And now we are lucky enough to be able to stroll to the station and zip away on a light rail train.

I love it because I am fond of trains, of course--but I also love the way it's opened up the city to me a little more. Yes, I could always have chosen to take a bus downtown. But the bus only ran every half an hour, and was notoriously unreliable, and took much longer to run the same distance. Now that the trains are running, I've started making more trips downtown for fun. In particular, when I discovered that Elliott Bay Book Company was only a few blocks from the Pioneer Square station, I started revisiting that grandly cozy bookstore again after years of neglecting it.

So that's where I pointed myself, that gloomy Saturday. I watched Seattle glide by out the enormous window of the light rail car, daydreaming about longer trips and feeling my mood lighten at the thought. When the train plunged into the tunnel below Beacon Hill, I craned my neck to gawk again at the lovely, luminous glass sea creatures suspended above the station platform. I tried to spot new details on the murals along the warehouses along the tracks in the SoDo area. And even the wet walk uphill to the Central library was suddenly just part of the fun, a damp interlude in my miniature getaway.

The library seduced me, as always, to stay longer than I'd intended. I had one book to pick up, but of course I found myself wandering up the book spiral, a scribbled list of Dewey Decimal numbers in hand. John Barry's The Great Influenza was checked in, and I pounced on it. One of Cherie Priest's earlier books was available, too. And I made a side trip to the children's section for a book by Sylvia Cassedy, having just re-read my copy of her book Behind the Attic Wall for the first time since probably 1988. (It's a strangely bizarre, otherwordly, sad story; I had forgotten everything except the sadness, which is what vaguely kept me from picking it up again, I think. I'm glad I held onto it all these years, anyway.)

Books safely in backpack, I strode back down the hill toward Pioneer Square, where I ducked into the Cherry Street Coffee House to use up the balance on a gift card. It was my first time at that location, and the cozy basement sitting room proved to be the perfect accompaniment to my rainy day excursion. I ordered my coffee and sat in the dim, quiet downstairs across from the fireplace, reading about influenza, with only a few people scattered at other tables.

When my coffee was gone, it was time to visit my final destination before I took a train back south. Elliott Bay Book Company's warmth welcomed me in from the drizzle, and I browsed happily there for awhile, heedless of the time--the true mark of a vacation. I ended up with an updated day planner for 2010, a postcard for a friend who moved away a few years ago, and a far more contented outlook than I'd started the day with.

I learned today that the bookstore is moving from their Pioneer Square location to Capitol Hill early next year, citing their declining business in the last few years. Though I'm glad they're only moving and not closing, I have to admit to a twinge of disappointment at losing such a convenient and delightful "vacation" destination of the last few months. I'm sure I'll still make the trip to their new location whenever I can--and I hope lots more people can spend lots more money there than I can afford to. But I'll always harbor the fond memory of my desperate in-town Saturday excursions to EBBC these last few months, and the way my visits there always seemed to put my head back on correctly again. Here's to a few more of those before the move--and to many, many more years of EBBC, wherever in Seattle they may go.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Day: late. Dollar: short.

Yes, a day late and (always) a dollar short, as me auld dad always says.

Nevertheless, here I am for another Holidailies!

It's been bitterly cold in Seattle this week. Didn't get above freezing today, nor (I think) yesterday, and they say it'll be down to 16 degrees tonight. Even on nights like these in our old house, the single overworked gas furnace in the hallway is turned down low, because otherwise I feel like we're burning cash all through the night. We have a down comforter and two warm bodies, and the Scrooge McDuck in my brain says that's all we should need to survive the night. To be fair, it is generally more than warm enough that way. It does make getting out of the cozy bed and stepping out onto the cold hardwood the next morning an exercise in gumption, though.

The Spouse and I try to be firm about keeping the dog off the bed, but let me tell you, on these cold nights when we first slip into bed, the sheets still cold, we urge her up onto the bed to help warm us up. That's right: she's our own personal furnace.