When I read the book Time Was Soft There, I felt a kind of kinship with The Shakespeare and Company Bookstore. I cannot say if it was because of the writing, or just the idea of the place spoke to me in way that made me feel like I belonged, or whether some past life experience saw me there, or if I just wish I had been born at a different time where my writing sensibilities would be more at home. Currently, I kind of side with the last one, though I tend to rotate through all of them.
I guess we all harbour dreams of being on hand for seminal moments. Mine favour musical and literary moments. I would have loved to be there hanging around City Lights when Howl was read for the first time. I would love to have been the first reader of The Sun Also Rises. I would love to have been there when the Who formed, or Zeppelin played under the Yardbirds moniker for the last time. I would love to shared a drink with Kerouac at a jazz bar.
This could go on, for a long time, and if not for my weary head, I would. I should rest, but I had to get some of this off my chest before I could sleep.
How did this get on my chest in the first place?
I looked over at one of my fellow commuters who was also reading on the bus. I couldn’t make out the title of her book, and I didn’t ask her (She was young and I didn’t want to come off as a dirty old man). I did notice that her book bag was emblazoned with the name of the bookstore.
Of course the bookstore is famous. Travelers, readers, writers and so many others know of its existence. I am not naive enough to think it was my little secret–and I do believe that I have visited the place with my friend Chris on our travels in Paris and London. However, if just for a moment, I did feel as though my secret was out. I felt as though I lost something; something I never had, in fact.
Maybe we all want that niche place that while popular and successful, it seems that no one knows about. I’d call it not the best kept secret. I’ve got a place or two like that in Japan still. Someday, I may see them again.