A Pointless Drive

In two weeks I am having a baby shower for my daughter.

So yesterday I went shopping for her baby shower gifts. I bought some baby outfits and a little snuggly bunny. And of course, I bought books. Well I bought one, and I have one on hold down at that dreadful Barnes and Noble in CT that I will pick up when I am in Enfield tomorrow.

The book I bought at my regular Barnes and Noble is the complete collection of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne, a beautiful hard cover with a blue satin ribbon marker and the original illustrations. The other, which they didn’t have but which the sales lady was nice enough to call around to area stores to look for, and reserve in Enfield for me, is a complete collection of Beatrix Potter. Judging by the price, I’m assuming it will be of similar quality to the Pooh book.

I chose to get these books because my daughter, like myself, is an avid reader and I know she will enjoy reading these books to my grand-daughter starting at a very early age. It’s never too early to start reading to a child.

But finding these book. Wow. The last place I really wanted to end up yesterday was Barnes and Noble. I like it there, but I go there on a fairly regular basis and I really wanted to shop for books someplace a little more interesting. So first I made the half hour trek north to, what was at one time, my favorite indie shopping haven. Northampton.

Now, once upon a time, I’d say maybe ten or fifteen years ago, Northampton was the place you could go to find anything you might be looking for, or even to find something you didn’t know you were looking for until you saw it. It was just block after block of independently owned bookstores, new age shops, consignment shops with some of the most interesting second-hand stuff imaginable, army surplus stores, handmade crafts and jewelry, music stores, *adult* shops, not to mention the restaurants. It was just an awesome place. You could park your car for the day and shop or sit on a bench and eat ice cream or enjoy a meal or even just walk around and enjoy the sights and sounds of a carefree and creative college town. Back in the 90s my friend and I would go up there several times a month and just have the best time.

But now, everything seems gone. I miss stores like Beyond Words, a bookstore which also sold crystals and oils and incense. It seems most of the stores now are expensive clothing boutiques where, if god forbid you’re not a size 2, you will never fit into anything. Other than that it’s mostly restaurants, pricey organic juice/coffee bars and a few art galleries, spas, fine jewelry stores, shoe and purse stores, and doctors and lawyers offices. It definitely seems to cater more towards the upscale crowd now. It’s lost a lot of the bohemian hippy vibe that I used to love. From what I hear it still has a pretty active club scene at night, but I’m not much into clubbing these days. My boyfriend and I go up there occasionally to eat at Fitzwilly’s or the Teapot and then we’ll walk around a little and maybe buy a couple of things if anything catches our eye. This is the first time I’ve gone up there strictly for shopping in a long time tho, and I think it will most likely be the last. I’ll still go up there to eat and I’ll go up there for Pride day. But I don’t enjoy shopping up there anymore.

Unless it’s at Raven Used Books.

I did stop in at Raven. I love that store. For those who have never been there, it’s a little used bookstore in the basement of a building near Thorne’s Marketplace. It’s just a couple of rooms with floor to ceiling book shelves packed with books, and books piled on top of the shelves, and books stacked on tables and chairs and on the floor, and its dim and narrow and cave-like. It’s just the awesomest place ever to creep around looking for something unusual or obscure. I resisted buying anything tho, cuz I needed to save my money for gift buying.

I also checked out Booklink inside Thorne’s. It’s a small but very nice two-level store with a coffee bar. I’d been in there before, last summer, to buy a book for my two grandchildren who were up from Texas at the time. They sell high quality children’s books and I thought they might have what I was looking for, but didn’t. And of course the children’s store, where a few years back Id originally seen the Beatrix Potter collection I was looking for, was unfortunately long gone. Theres another bookstore further up towards the college, but it was very cold and windy and snowing and I didn’t want to walk that far in the cold when the likelihood that they would have what I was looking for was close to zero.

So, after a fruitless search for non-existent book stores and paying too much money for a thimble sized cup of mint hot chocolate that tasted like toothpaste, I trudged back to my car thru a swirl of wind-blown snowflakes and made my way to my inevitable destination of Barnes and Noble.

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