No tags :(

Share it


When I travel, I search for two things: an independent book shop and a good vintage clothing store. If I’m going to leave some coin behind, I want it to support things worth caring about: books, vintage clothes and the small business owners who earn their keep from selling such things. Yesterday, I found all the above in St. Petersburg’s Grand Central Art District.

Our first stop was Haslam’s, the largest independent book store in Florida. I went straight to the Florida collection and chose Sunshine Paradise: A History of Florida Tourism, although I was mightily tempted by Carl Hiaasen’s latest book, Dance of the Reptiles, a collection of the Florida native’s editorials for the Miami Herald. (We might go back for that. Yes, I could buy it on Amazon, but since his book aims at the bizarre side of Florida, where is the fairness in that?) Haslam’s is a sprawling place that’s been in business since 1933. I saw a splendid variety of new, used and antiquated books, and counted only two cats on the prowl. In a store that big, there were probably others.

Why do books and cats go together? It’s one of the great mysteries of the universe. The fact that they do caused me to work in a library rather than a book shop, at least for a time. Of course, some public libraries DO have cats, but most lean toward accommodating the wider public. That precludes the presence of cats, in deference to people who have allergies (like my husband) or people who are phobic (like me.) Yes, we’re misfits in the reading world. We might have stayed longer, but the cats were getting on my nerves and my husband’s eyes were starting to swell. Those handicaps still couldn’t keep us from enjoying the rare treat of Haslam’s.

Across the street, I found nirvana: the Artpool Gallery, a shop with local art, handmade jewelry and the choicest vintage goods I’ve seen in a long time. I wanted something small that totes easily in a bag. For a while, I agonized over whether to buy a silk scarf, a beaded clutch or a vintage brooch. I succumbed to the last, which I’ll wear tonight on a navy merino wool sweater to see our friend Jesse perform in The Mikado.

The Artpool Gallery had a ravishing collection of vintage shoes. They reminded me of how people lusted for shoes in Europe during World War II, when leather goods (and other things) were rationed with coupons. In The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Juliet Ashton’s publisher tries to convince her to write for a literary periodical by promising his shoe coupons as part of her payment.

When Juliet is asked to dinner by the dashing Markham V. Reynolds, she is thankful that she has recently purchased her first new dress in four years. She describes it as the color of a ripe peach, and I wonder just what color that is–the inside or outside of a peach? I drooled over several vintage dresses at the Artpool Gallery, but unlike Juliet, I didn’t need them. In four years, I remember that I’ve acquired several new dresses and walk away thankful for having everything I need and much of what I want.

Besides that, I aim to be more like Juliet, who treasures books more than dresses. When a library is bombed, she sprints away from her post as a fire warden and toward the blast, as if she could singlehandedly save the library’s books from destruction. She also cancels her wedding when she finds her fiancĂ© has cleared her bookshelves to make room for his trophies. “How dare you!” she cries. The love affair disintegrates when Juliet realizes that any man who doesn’t share or understand her love of books is no match for her.

My husband and I often read together for hours. I wasn’t wise enough to screen him for this trait, but now I wonder if we could survive as a couple if we didn’t share a love of reading.

Have you ever spurned a potential mate over such a fundamental difference? Any regrets? What book would you rescue from a fire?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.