Sunday, March 22, 2009

ST LOUIS!!!!!!

The last time I read at Left Bank Books in St. Louis – for Days of Awe or Memory Mambo, I don’t remember, but certainly years ago – the bookstore’s future seemed precarious and I actually had an escort back to my car. This time – wow! – the neighborhood surrounding Left Bank has been transformed into the hip part of town: restaurants, antique shops, boutiques. And Left Bank itself is renewed: flushed with light, expanded, its shelves full and colorful, the staff young and professional. I could hardly believe it was the same store – and I couldn’t keep from grinning.


“We’re actually expanding,” said Kate, one of the booksellers. “We’re working with a developer and opening a store downtown.”


Was Left Bank Books the only indie store in the world to be doing so well? Just a few days before, I’d heard the news about the closing of Stacey’s in San Francisco, which had been widely recognized as the country’s largest independent. And every indie I know has had trouble in the last few years, whether it’s because of competition from the internet, chains or just feeling the ripples of the economic downturn.


A cheerful room of folks came to the reading at Left Bank, including local teachers and students, a few folks I knew from Chicago, a friend’s mom, and the parents of one of M’s best buds, Michael and Mary Beth, who were also my hosts for the night.


They were most gracious, and after the reading, we went back to their house for an informal get together with some of their friends. The best part came, however, after everyone left, when Michael and Mary Beth told me about their lives, especially how they’d founded a radical Catholic collective. That night, I slept beautifully under a framed poster of the Grateful Dead.



That's Michael and Mary Beth in the pic above, and this is their house in St. Louis, where I stayed.

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