Thursday, December 6, 2012

Shakespeare and Company

I have wonderful memories of the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris. Besides the ambience of the downstairs book store, the upstairs was amazing. One had to climb a narrow staircase fitted between sagging shelves loaded with books. You could almost miss the stair and felt like you were taking a risk to ascend it.

There was a single bed at the top of the stairs covered with a tucked in red wool blanket. A large purring cat was nestled in the center of the well used mattress. On the wall over the bed was a bulletin board where thousands of notes written on scraps of paper were tacked into overlapping layers ... thank yous to the shop from grateful visitors who were in one way or another helped by or impressed with the amazing book store. 

In the next room, besides the book lined, sagging shelves, was a young woman fast asleep on another twin bed with her backpack as a pillow. You could sense how newly arrived in Paris she was and how secure she felt in that safe place. A glass milk bottle was keeping refrigerated outside the window on a ledge between two buildings. 

In yet another room was a freezer chest sized cardboard box set on its side with a desk, chair, and typewriter in place inside. Someone was actually sitting in the box typing something. The rest of that room was filled with people involved in various tasks seated on overstuffed chairs and sofas, feet on coffee tables, coffee mugs on lamped side tables. 

It was based on that magical experience that Gregory and I realized how much we had missed by not running away from home in our youth to discover who we were or might have become in the Paris setting.

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