The Last Book Store
No more block parties in LA …
These last couple of weeks I've been craving a good read. The last book I completed was a classic, that I absolutely loved and fully intend to review on Radical, but it took me longer than I would've liked to finish it. Back in my teens, when life was a lot less busy, I'd sprint through all 7 of the Harry Potter books in less than a week and have time for an extra read by Friday.
With books on my mind, it felt natural to share with you my experience with the most fascinating book store I've ever visited to this day. This post is a story within a story, it's a little wordy but worth the read. Especially if, like myself, one of your resolutions is not only to write more but to read a lot lot more this year.
We were lost in Downtown LA on the 4th of July. The streets were plastered with red, white and blue, from flags to balloons to glitter and stars. I was dressed in a white cape-like jacket that day, just for dramatic effect. My friends and I decided to hit up a Block Party in Downtown. I come from Cairo … we don’t have block parties; as a matter of fact we don’t even have blocks. We have streets. Period. Buildings haphazardly stapled together, compounds at best.
It took us two bus rides and a metro line to get there. I’d never been on the LA metro system; it was as deserted as Venice was flooded with weed and Rastafarian men. I loved the peace and quiet … even for just a moment.
When we arrived on location, at the centre of the "block" was a towering mountain of red white and blue balloons woven together to form what looked like a huge croissant. We walked to the food trucks area for a dose of street cuisine … sketchy but definitely worth the churro dipped in about 10% caramel and 90% butter sauce. Not up to par with a Disney churro, but I felt satisfied.
The block party was no party at all. It was a bunch of people scattered across an area of land – insert correct mathematical measurement for the term “block” – mostly families and various groups of live music playing.
We needed a new destination. Two bus tickets and a metro ride had to lead to more than this … it was LA. There’s always something to do.
One of my friends mentioned that he’d been wanting to go to this underground bookstore, full of old best sellers and new classics. I asked him what it was called. He replied, The Last Bookstore.
I was sold. We pinned the location on Google maps, it was three blocks away, and headed over.
“The Last Bookstore” was etched out in bright orange neon lights on an Italian Renaissance inspired building. The whole block was wrapped in vine leaves. We crossed the street, entered the store and instantly I was transported into the second half of The Pagemaster – an epic animated film about a young human boy who is transformed into an illustration and spends his day jumping in and out of and befriending books.
The Last Bookstore was enchanted. Shelves upon shelves arranged diagonally to leave a perfect circular sanctuary in the center, where worn out armchairs housed old homeless men and women who came to sleep in for the day. Absorbing the fairy tale like magic that was this space … everything looked interesting. I was distracted. I am distracted just thinking about it. Where do I begin? The record section was sprawled across the bottom floor, next to the ceiling to floor window sills that allowed natural sunlight to bounce off of the cellophane of freshly wrapped batches of vinyls placed in every other row.
The walls were a chocolate mahogany brown, with gold appliques and obscure artwork placed haphazardly on the walls. I was Belle and this was my library. It was anyone’s library. His, hers, yours; all you had to do was find it. The back of the store housed an old rustic brown leather coach and two arm chairs perched on an elevated step, much like a small stage. A reader’s stage? An actor’s stage? An author’s stage? There were dead plants on the window sills.
There seemed to be an exclusive second floor, but I was too enthralled by the first to even care. I spent 5 hours there that day. Almost missed the 4th of July fireworks display, and bought three books, a record – mostly for its cover artwork TBH – and some vintage trading comics for my brother.
It took me 20 minutes to figure out where the checkout counter was, only to discover that it was in the exact centre of a 1m high stack of old encyclopedia volumes. I left the place knowing that I have now visited the Atlantis of bookstores and will never be impressed by anything less ever again.