Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Best All-Purpose Bookstore On the Planet: Elliott Bay Book Company and Me

My new super book hero: Kenny the bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Co.
Friday was a day of the very bitter followed by the very sweet.

I started my day with an 8 AM meeting (not my time of day) and then off to Uptown Espresso to try and catch-up on a pyramid of papers that still needed grading. From here, it was down to campus for a noon meeting. However, due to a bizarre incident, all meetings were cancelled and I had just enough time to drive back to the city to meet my friend, Ann. Perhaps due to my lack of sleep, the stresses of the day, or just plainly too much driving --- I felt on the edge of tears that afternoon.

Depleted from the day, I wandered into Elliott Bay Books. I had wanted to meet the new bookseller in charge of Elliott Bay's display for A Poet at Your Table. Kenny was busy stocking the poetry shelves when I arrived.

We chatted about how best to feature the 10 Washington State Poets (Agodon, Austen, Lebo, Flenniken, Gailey, Bender, Davio, Whitcomb, Spaulding-Convey, and Rich) and then when I mentioned that I would be reading on Sunday, February 23rd, Kenny checked to see if Cloud Pharmacy had arrived in the store. In no time at all he and Karen had located my books, priced them and had them stocked on the shelves.

The grief and anxiety of the day melted off my fingers as I was asked "if I minded" signing a few books so that the  "autographed copy" sticker could be affixed to the front. Together we tucked postcards and A Poet At Your Table Flyers into the books. Karen offered to take my picture as this was the very first bookstore to have Cloud Pharmacy for sale.

The first time I visited Seattle was in 1995. It was a one night stand on my way up to Hedgebrook but the friend of a friend I stayed with said I had to check out Elliott Bay Books --- she said it was as good, if not better than Powell's. When I walked into the old store on the corner of First and Main, I had a palpable feeling rise up in me: if I lived in Seattle this bookstore would be my home. Five years later I moved to the city and the first place I learned to drive to was Elliott Bay (the second place was Richard Hugo House and Open Books soon followed).

What I want to say is this: throughout our 19 year relationship, Elliott Bay Books continues to win my heart over and over. That first feeling of walking though the door and knowing I've come home has never left me. If you're coming to town for AWP or if you live in Seattle but have yet to discover the Elliot Bay Book Company; make sure you wander in.

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