More and more information is seeping out about the demise of the Borders book chain and, from the sound of it, Borders’ failure was self-inflicted and expected by those in the know. The Atlanta Booklovers Blog featured a link to a story in The Stranger that was especially enlightening. Written by a former employee at the Boston store, the piece touched on numerous corporate missteps and gaffes, not the least of which was the management’s attitude shift from very cool and high quality to very corporate and bottom line. I loved shopping at the Buckhead Borders and that blog post was like the autopsy report that explained why a friend died. Just desserts or not, losing any bookstore is like losing an acre of rain forest, so, in the spirit of speaking no ill of the dead, or the bankrupt as the case may be, I want to share my best Borders moment.
In the late spring of 2007 I visited my brother and future sister-in-law in Los Angeles. The trip within this trip was an excursion to the bay area that we’d planned so that we could visit the major league stadiums in Oakland and San Francisco. We stayed at a very nice hotel near Union Square on the fringe of the Tenderloin district and I was thrilled to find a big, beautiful Borders store only three steep blocks up Powell Street.
Our first full day included breakfast with one old friend, an afternoon Boston-Oakland baseball game, and dinner with two other friends. They had to get their little boy to bed so I had a couple hours of early evening light and a big city at my disposal. I took the train back to our hotel, fetched some postcards from my hotel room, and headed for the Borders. I got a tea and a snickerdoodle cookie, found a seat in the cafe, and began writing to friends.
And to each of those friends I couldn’t help but write ‘Guess where I am writing you from?” I was in one of our most literary cities, surrounded by books, writing! Yes, only postcards…but writing in any case. As I worked at my cards, the sunlight faded and the lights of the buildings outside grew brighter. Somewhere out past those lights were Coit Tower and Fishermen’s Wharf and Alcatraz and streetcars and the Pacific Ocean. Suddenly I felt that I was in a very enviable place. I would visit City Lights book store the next day but for that evening the second floor of a Borders felt like the best possible place to be.
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