Chequamegon Books

Friends, let’s talk bookstores.  We’ve done this before.  There was the time when I studied abroad, and ignored things like the Famous Sights of Paris and Munich in favor of their tiny, English bookstores.  Like this one.

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And this one.

There’s also Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books in St. Paul, which I try to duck into whenever I can (admittedly, part of the draw is hope for a someday sighting of the man himself).

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There’s Half Price Books, which, while somewhat lacking in that cozy bookstore charm, has filled most of my bookshelves because it’s so cheap.

But then there’s my very favorite bookstore, which I had the good fortune to visit last weekend.  I’m only able to go about once a year, as it’s 3.5 miles away from my house, in tiny Washburn, Wisconsin.  Might I introduce Chequamegon Books? (pronounced sheh-wah-meg-an)

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Please note that were you to walk forward down the sidewalk and then turn left around the edge of the building, and were you to continue to walk straight after that, you would find yourself at the edge of Lake Superior after about ten minutes.

I love this bookshop most of all because it’s so familiar to me.  I’ve been getting books here since I was young enough to promise my mother that should she purchase my pile for me, I would pay her back come next allowance.  Chequamegon Books introduced me to Anne of Green Gables, to Betsy Tacy, to the Mary Poppins series.

Most recently, I found the entire His Dark Materials series–in near-new condition–for fifteen dollars. I nearly cheered as the owner was ringing them up, and then, having flippantly declared that I didn’t need a bag and could carry them out, saw that it was raining thick and fast.  So, I did what every gleeful owner of a new set of reads would do: I stuck all three books under my shirt, eight months pregnant-style, and sprinted to the car.

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It’s one of those bookstores that makes you feel intelligent as soon as you walk through the door.  You don’t merely feel as if you’re among readers, but you feel as if you’re among readers who challenge themselves, who discuss what they read, who appreciate the smell of one part coffee one part dust one part yellowed pages as much as you.  It’s not a snobbish place (they do stock the likes of Twilight, I noticed), but it’s a place that makes you want to dive into a classic novel, to scrawl notes in its margins.

Chequamegon Books stacks books horizontally.  It embraces the crammed, the hour search before you unearth the book you’re destined to take home, the handwritten signs, the small wooden chairs placed randomly about should you need to rest while you comfortably browse the lower shelves.

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There are also actual shelf ladders that actually roll across shelves.

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I walked right under this ladder, forgoing all superstition.  Shockingly, I haven’t sustained any major injuries since.  It must be part of the magic of the bookstore.

Chequamegon Books is a peaceful, earthy place, and one of my favorites in the world.

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Home for the Weekend

Typical Saturday at home, complete with:

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1. Spotting Fabio at Whole Foods.

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2. Generally drooling at Whole Foods.  How I love this place.  I would have taken a better photo of the salad bar or the fresh meats, but people were starting to eye me with suspicion.

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3. Lunch at Cossetta’s, where I hid from the parking lot attendants, hoping they wouldn’t remember the time I took up two parking spots with my massive truck, and then ate/talked for two hours with friends while remaining blissfully aware that “the girl with the massive truck” was being paged over the speakers.

4. Dessert at Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books, which I evidently frequent.  Just kidding about the dessert.  Not kidding about this book, which I giggled over, but couldn’t actually justify buying, mostly because it’s a ‘show’ book more than a ‘read from cover to cover’ book.  What I did buy was Keillor’s Good Poems for Hard Times, because I love Good Poems, American Places so much.  I’ll admit that I’m a little afraid of poetry.  Have been for years.  It’s getting better slowly, but I still appreciate a good anthology, because someone else has already claimed that the poems inside are respectable and worth reading.  I feel free, then, to go around quoting this Robert Bly, or that Walt Whitman, confident that what I’m quoting is profound and beautiful.  Or, at least Garrison Keillor says it is.  And who’s going to argue with that?

5. Walk across the frozen lake with Mom and Dad.  And Ruby, of course, who galloped about, sometimes taking a rest to walk in the snowmobile tracks behind Dad, sometimes veering to sniff at an abandoned fishing hole cut in the ice or a piece of log jutting above the surface.

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In other news, I hiked smugly after taking this shot, convinced I had captured something pure and lovely and perfectly lit.  And then I saw the smudge of finger in the corner.

The Hazards of Crafting

We didn’t go Black Friday shopping, per se.  Mom and I patrolled Grand Avenue in St. Paul, where we did some (utterly justifiable, I tell you!) damage at Pottery Barn, Patina, and at Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books (new location).  We may have also made an unrecorded Caribou Coffee stop, and we may have had to return ten minutes after leaving to retrieve mom’s sunglasses.

We swung home in the late afternoon to pick up my sister, who was back from her Target shift.  She’s currently taking an introductory clothing design/construction class at UW Madison, and needed to go to the fabric warehouse to pick up supplies for her final project.

I am not a crafty person, my friends.  There was an embroidery phase in middle school, and a knitting phase in high school, but both were short-lived, and neither produced particularly exemplary results.  To me, then, this scene looked rather bleak, and bordered on terrifying:

 

The labyrinth of fleece.

Tassels the likes of which I’ve never seen. If Quasimodo ever decides to do some remodeling in the belfry, I think these would serve him well.

Taken before being nudged out of the way by a woman who clearly respected the subtle distinction between cotton 111 and cotton 112 (a magnifying glass was produced for color confirmation).

“Why so cheap?” Holly wondered, peering dubiously over the rim of the barrel. The plastic circles glinted ominously, and Holly quickly decided that there must be something buried beneath, something that fed on the fingers of unsuspecting crafters. Just then, her sister Amy thrust her hand into the barrel. “Noooooooooo!” Holly screamed, not pausing even as two women in green smocks dragged her toward the exit.

Searching for F. Scott (and other adventures)

I’ll keep this brief, as I have an awful lot of story writing to do tonight.  I’m at seven pages, which has seemed like a huge accomplishment these past few weeks, but not anymore; I’ve just done my math and realized that seven pages is not even halfway to fifteen pages.  And fifteen pages is what I need.  I also need them quickly so that I can edit and make more drafts before actually turning the thing in.

My day, although only briefly mentioned here, was wonderful.  Mom and I took our show on the road at 11:30, and returned at 5.  Here’s what we did (in and around St. Paul):

1.  Ate at The Nook, a bar/burger joint that has been featured on everyone’s favorite show, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.  We both ordered the Juicy Lucy with sweet potato fries.  Deliciously messy, let me tell you; I had to dive under the table a few times to hide the fact that there were gobs of hot cheese clinging to my chin.

2.  Hunted down Garrison Keillor’s bookstore Common Good Books.  The first thing I appreciated was that the poetry section was front and center.  The second thing I appreciated was the framed photo of F. Scott and family.  The third thing I appreciated was that the place looked like this:

The fourth thing I appreciated was finding a copy of Mr. Keillor’s “Good Poems, American Places,” signed by the man himself (which I bought, obviously).

3.  Got ice cream at Grand Old Creamery.  Half a scoop of chocolate peanut butter, half a scoop of raspberry lemon sorbet, and I was a happy camper.

4.  Hiked from Grand Avenue to Summit Avenue.  Summit Avenue is the street I want to live on some day, when I’m a grown-up lady English professor with enough books to fill a proper library.  Summit is lined with old, frosted Victorian mansions.  It used to be (and still is, I suspect) the classiest address you can have in the Twin Cities.  James J. Hill’s house-turned-museum (which I drag my family to once every few years) is there, and the Catholic Cathedral, and the Governor’s Mansion.  F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in a few different houses on Summit.  Having learned this, I may or may not have jumped out of a moving van in order to take a few pictures of his former residence.  I may or may not have followed up with a James Bond roll into the bushes.

I’m not a stalker.  I’m just a fan.  Really.