Wednesday, September 9, 2009

If you tire of chains and the polished cleanliness of links

One of the boons of Denver city life apart from the muffled sound of nocturnal emmissions from downtown trains and the proximity to the Rocky Mountains is, The Tattered Cover Book Shop. By its name one would imagine it would literallly stock a plentiful supply of second hand, tattered covers. But this is not so; it's a classy place.
Like the golden dome resting on the state capital building, the Tattered Cover is a Denver icon. The carpet itself, spotless as it rolls its way down the regal staircase, could have come from any one of the Queen's lessor palaces. But for my taste, it's a little too prissy, a little too clean. It's like the room in my mother's home that was reserved just for guests—somewhat relaxed in a polite, formal way but not a room where one could comfortably pass gas in.
Personally, I prefer the chipped paint work, the creaky staircase and the handmade shelves of Powell's books in Portland, or the casual anarchy of Foyles in London, both of which offer an impressive array of used, tattered covers.
Long gone from Denver are the edgy used book stores that used to congregate on shady street corners or hide out in the middle of obscure blocks and provide refuge in coffee and books to the social unrests in our community.
But there are some holdouts yet. My own neighborhood, the Highlands, which is not its true name, as it was appropriated from the original Scottish Highlands down the hill on 32nd and Zuni with its twisty little lanes and its Argyle Place and its Fife Court. Apparently, the Scottish Presbyterians, having grown tired of the debauchery and oysters of downtown, got all martyred up one night, doused themselves with puritanism, settled the place upon the hill and created an alcohol free zone which they dutifully named, Highland Park. They stocked it with chickens and churches and prode themselves on clean living and lack of passion. So much for their Highland whiskey roots.
But, back to my neighborhood—the false Highlands. The true holdout here is West Side Books. Featuring both new and used covers and sometimes live jazz. Not a place to go if you know what you want. It's better that you don't. It's a place where time stands still and wisdom beckons. And it has remnants. Remnants of what this town once was. Long before the arrival of Narnes and Boble. Before Starfucks, before the Coors Lite and the obese Diet Pepsi stadiums. It's a place to go, a third place, a western place, where there is yet dishevelment, still a little rough and tumble, a place to graze in this once cow town become sports town with its new found facination for cleanliness and cute customer service.

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