Celestial reckoning… that’s how they go… by the stars…
-Robert James Waller
Time and again I have an affair with books, waking up mornings with sunlight and specks of sun dust in my hair, my arms straddled on the bed with a book that just that night was a stranger to me.
One lazy Friday afternoon I goaded Alvin and Mace to go to a bookstore specializing in old and used books. It is the start of summer and we try to regenerate our brain cells after being fried everyday by the tropical heat. We dabble in works that give mind that matters.
What started me on a wild goose chase was an article in the Sunday Inquirer about small bookstores. As a self confessed bookaholic, I usually scout for quaint out of the way bookshops that cater to my atypical bordering on the absurd taste. The latter remark, compliments of a friend of mine who obviously is much younger and has a different perspective when it comes to books. The bookstore I was seeking was named “Angel’s Thoughts” or so it said in the article. It was situated in the then Marikina Shoe Expo which was now called Cubao Expo.
Cubao was the place to be in the late 1970’s.It was where I found Pancake House and San Mig Pub which was designed like a British pub. But now Cubao is transforming and has yet to find itself and its place under the sun.
Small bookstores are not as ubiquitous as we want them to be owing to the fact that mega bookstores are the Holy Grails where people flock and enjoy their cappuccinos while browsing the newest blood sucking juvenile hardback saga or meet their dates.
It reminds me of the Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks flick (You’ve Got Mail) where two book owners fight it out for a much coveted supremacy in the business.
Back to that afternoon in Cubao and the sweltering heat-it was about 3 pm- that left patches of sweat in my armpits and what have you, my two friends and I braved the humidity and unfamiliar locale. Alvin and Mace, book scavengers both, were hopeful that maybe this jaunt would give them serendipitous finds.
What we first laid our eyes on was Zeitgeist bookstore. It was not an inviting place though we saw some books lined up on the walls. We skipped that for the more alluring “Reading Room” which we found out to our amusement was where your fortune gets read by a spiritualist.
The mystical air was palpable that we moved on knowing that our sensibilities were unprepared for esoteric pursuits.
We noticed that most shops were closed and were to open later at 5pm. The façade was incredible. Old-world but unassuming, it was a blend of avant-garde and bohemian art.Definitely an artists’ haven.
At the cul de sac was an authentic Italian restaurant called Bellini’s.
We entered the restaurant wanting to taste coffee and Italian ambience for the elevated mood that we were in.
We saw the restaurant owners busy with some people. Lights surrounded the place. There was a television crew in the restaurant and rumor has it that Jessica Soho was going to appear anytime that moment.
The luscious cakes looked so decadent. The entire place exuded a relaxing atmosphere. Unfortunately, they couldn’t serve us since the restaurant was going to be featured on a TV show and was actually going to be closed for a while. We escaped at the side door but not before we could take a glimpse of the memorabilia that was paraded on the walls interspersed with tendrils of painted grapevines. It was particularly difficult to wrench Alvin away from the door. He was already imagining the quiche in his mouth.
Out in the afternoon sun again we moved next door, Libreria, to the elation of the book chasers, meaning us.
An eye-catching room filled with books spilling on the floor, on the walls, on the coffee table, and the ledges and other spaces available was on view. But we still had to wait for 5pm for it to open.
The glass that separated us from the books turned misty by the heavy breathing of my companions who were looking at the array of tomes and the coffee brewer. Oh, to be able to reach out and touch those pages…
To fulfill our hunt we went back to Zeitgeist, where Mace found a series of science fiction books and I bought a previously owned Wuthering Heights for my daughter, Bronte, yep, named after the famous sisters.
We ended up in the vintage shops where one can buy trinkets, antiques and ukay stuff. One shop was called Karma, which meant fate, and I guess this trip wasn’t so bad after all, because although we had not found what we were looking for, we found a small corner of this world worth discovering.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time
Zeitgeist – a pervading feeling or mood of a certain era or generation