The Last Book Store and a Poem for Collecting Memory and Words
Miss Snow had a lovely friend, Miss Gorey, from the mythical land of the Midwest come to town and as part of her mission to give said friend the “L.A. experience” invited us along the to the Downtown L.A. Artwalk. We began the evening at the food truck rally, circled with Miss Snow’s friends among them the Book Butterfly and her mother, also visiting. We stood chatting in a Y in the rows of trucks. This turned out to be an ideal place to be, as we kept getting food samples from the truck workers and at one point were all give bottles of some sort of super water, which I had to have Gibby decode the ingredients for me. Essentially the drink was part water, part energy drink and not fit to give to children under twelve years of age. Why one would give an energy water to a thirteen year old is beyond me.
Agreeing we could not live on samples alone, Gibby and I explored the various trucks and settled on Takoyaki, Pork Steambuns, and, thanks to the Book Butterfly’s mother, amazing giant waffle covered in whipped cream, chocolate, banana, caramel, and possibly peanut butter. Satiated and hydrated with energy water, we set out on the Artwalk.
Truth be told, the exhibits of the Artwalk were all vastly outshined by the place that the Book Butterfly led us to. It’s called the Last Book Store and it’s a glorious two story high used book store with artists’ studios, a knitting room and best of all, a magical place called “The Labyrinth” filled with books all for $1 a piece. If I ever have to live in Downtown L.A. that is where I want to work. No question.
We ventured upstairs where Miss Gorey and Miss Snow excitedly pounced on the knitting room, filled with a rainbow of skeins and hosting a knitting class. I wandered on, as I am apt to do, to look at various book sculptures, when I heard the melodic clicking of a typewriter in use. I followed the sound until I came to this sign:
Sitting at her typewriter, focused on a tiny slip of paper, was a woman with fantastic curly hair, large owl-like glasses, a fantastic mod dress and white stockings with a floral welt. Is it safe to say I fell a bit in love?
I immediately fell in line, turning over subjects in my brain.
Once upon a summer, I and a friend I called Absinthe did something very similar to raise money for our writers’ group. We sat at a table, piles of blank paper at our wrists, our fountain pens at the ready, waiting for someone to drop a bill into a jar and give us a subject. My friend preferred the free write customers, not liking being pigeon holed as a writer. I liked the people who gave me subjects like “write about cows”. There was a young woman, tall and elegant that asked me to write about dancing. I still remember the poem I wrote for her almost ten years later, though I made no copy.
It was about how dancing can take the soul from the body and make it visible to the audience, about how people dancing together share their soul and heart with the music and each other until all is blended together, indistinguishable as anything else but dance. I was proud of the poem, my best of the evening. When I gave to the young woman, she skipped away without reading it, but she returned moments later, cradling the page to her chest, tears in her eyes. She placed another bill in the jar, kissed my cheek, and waltzed through the crowd.
I wanted a poem like the one I had given the dancer, something that would wrap around my heart and remind me to treasure the things I love. So when it was my turn with the poet at her typewriter, I asked for a poem about “Collecting Memory and Words”. The poet gave me a small smile and set to work.
The thing that amazed me about her was how quickly she composed the poem. That small slip of paper filled up in less than a minute, prose stamping on the page with the rhythmic punches of her typewriter. When she was finished, she pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and asked,
“Do you want to hear it?”
I nodded. I listened. The poem was lovely, exactly what I wanted as a talisman to myself. It now sits folded in my wallet, a daily reminder, and I will type it up for you at the end of this post. In the meantime, we will continue on, as I did, to the next room.
The next room was an artist’s gallery of beautiful, imaginative, and a little dark art. Miss Gorey picked out a few prints for herself and I had to sit on the chez lounge because, well, there was a chez lounge in the room!
The next room was a lovely hodgepodge of antique knickknacks and I picked up a very belated birthday present for a friend. Then, on to the Labyrinth!
The Labyrinth had many book sculptures and archways which I swear I will get pictures of the next time I am there! I was a bit overwhelmed by it all, so Gibby and I cruised through. Miss Snow found some very intriguing pre 1950’s psychology books and I vowed to return when I was more suited for book hunting.
We made our way back towards our cars and were stopped by some people offering chalk and asking us to contribute our own art. Gibby made the necessary mark:
At a lost for what to draw, I did a clumsy doodle of a bobby sockser. I really need to come up with a logo for myself, any suggestions?
Having made our mark on the Artwalk we said our goodbyes and promised to meet up for some swing dancing that Sunday.
I promised you the poem, and you have been very patient. I leave you with the words I now carry with me every day.
Collecting Memory and Words
To lay down the path
with curve of letter,
with the count of images
and a dictionary of all
that can be recalled.
So that we can move through it
never with an empty pocket
and not without the ability
to call all sacred and worth
a shelf to store it on,
a book to write it in
a mind and heart to hold
it all always.
June 13, 2013