While gallivanting around NYC, we were too stingy to hire a cab, or too smart*. But by late afternoon, I was dragging my feet across Lower Manhattan after walking what must have been literally ten miles. I was waiting at the crosswalk when I looked up and--there it was--the red signage of Strand Bookstore. A crowd clustered around book bargain shelves outside. I could see the promising outlines of books from where I was standing. I felt this little jab in my chest, because Strand had just appeared out of no where, and this bookstore that I'd wanted to visit for ages was suddenly smack-dab in front of me.
It was like something out of a dream.
I'd heard of Strand before--mostly on the blogosphere--and I knew what a huge reputation it had. So when I saw the steady crowd entering and leaving--I knew this wasn't a chance I could miss. I'd be lucky if I made it to NYC again in the next ten years. So I ran inside before my Mom could stop me. The air conditioning** was like the icing on a cake.
Inside there was a whole lot of wood, and a whole lot of books. A crowd milled; the checkout line snaking from the cashiers to the beginning of the bookshelves. I'd honestly never been in such a crowded bookstore--except, in NYC-- everything's crowded. The first level was fiction--I took a quick glance before vaulting up stairs, passing an mezzanine to arrive on the second floor. I hadn't a clue where the YA section was, but at this point I was just trying to burrow my way as far into the interior of this bookstore, and hope I'd never be found. I felt like I could spend a week in there, buried in books, and be completely content.
I turned left and spotted a banner that read "Children & Young Adults." I'm sure I half-fell, half-sprinted in my eagerness to get there. The bookshelves were extraordinarily tall, reaching up to the ceiling--the top shelves only accessible to eight-foot-tall giants. So I craned my neck up, and craned my neck down, and knelt on the floor and craned my neck every which way to get a good look at the titles.
Once I'd spent maybe a minute there, I knew this was the best bookstore for YA I'd ever been in. It probably had ten times the selection of my local bookstore. And to top it off, the prices were all at discounts--cheaper the Amazon, cheaper than almost anywhere I'd been. I saw so many titles I recognized, but a whole bunch I didn't, and it was honestly quite overwhelming. Add in the fact that I knew my parents would find me any minute and tell me we had to leave, like RIGHT NOW, and I was sort of jumping back and forth in between shelves and raking through them in a crazed manner. I took a quick glance at the children's section--stared longingly at the sign that proclaimed that rare children's books could be found a level or so up--and vaulted back downstairs in search of lost parents.
But lo and behold--parents were miraculously engrossed in books of their own! So I frantically raced back up the stairs and started looking more at the YA section. I think at this point I knew I was in trouble--THIS WAS A SERIOUS DECISION, here. I had to buy something, but I didn't know what to buy.
Indecision is a terrible thing.
I looked for books I'd been wanting to read, looked for ARCs (as I heard the Strand was rumored to carry some). But sadly, there weren't copies of the books I'd been looking for a long time and hadn't been able to find--like Fighting Reuben Wolfe by Markus Zusak. Still, there was an ample amount of selection. Just as I was about to grab a title, my Dad appeared.
"Your Mom's already checking out."
Darnit. Darnit. Darnit.
So I leapt back down the stairs. The thing about the Strand was, that even though the lines were really, impressively long--they moved fast. By the time I got there my Mom was halfway through the line. I spent a few precious minutes sizing up the Strand bookstore bags they had, and then the very awesome t-shirts styled after book covers (They had ones for Catcher in the Rye, Lolita, and Slaughter-House Five, to name a few.)
Then I went billowing down the first floor again, and snatched up a copy of Italo Calvino's If On a Winter's Night, which has come up before on this blog (wahoo!) and that I wanted to read because it'd been sort of chasing after me for a while (blog mention, several real-life mentions.)
I got back and it was my Mom's turn.
Bespectacled Mom: "Are you getting the bag?"
Me: "Err. Um. *claws at price tag* It's only twelve dollars!"
BM: "It's a nice bag. You should get it. "
Me: "Urm. Um. Still...*stinginess overrides buyer's compulsion* Ummmmmmmm. *vacillates* I'll just get the book."
So my dad's book--The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century--was scanned. Mine was scanned. The worker slid the two books into a frightening shade of yellow bag.
And just like that, we were officially proud costumers of Strand Bookstore. I was grinning ear to ear as I stepped back into the sweltering heat and into the mob-crowd populating NYC.
All in all, my Strand experience was a little panicky, and quite a bit rushed. I think that maybe we were in there for fifteen minutes. To be fair, my Mom would have stayed longer if there were any chairs, which there didn't seem to be, and fifteen minutes of standing after walking nonstop the whole day was pretty painful.
I don't know how I'll make it back to the Strand, but next time I think I need to set aside a few days so I can spend some quality time in there, haha. And I'll actually buy books--I had to keep my load light, since we had a ways to go until we got to the train station. :)
And now, the end result...
1 abbreviated Strand experience = 2 books + 1 strand bag + 1 overexcited blogger.
* traffic in the Big Apple quite honestly scares the crap out of me. It's like you're battling for your life at every moment, haha.
** It was about 100 degrees outside. *dies*
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