The Capitola Book Cafe
We learned last week that the bookstore where we met, The Capitola Book Cafe, is closing its doors for good. This was not a surprise, as we know people who are still involved, but it’s another relic of my history to go and it’s just too bad.
I have moved across the country several times over and every time I arrived in a new town the first thing I looked for was the bookstore. It was like that instant sense of “home” when I could find that store–I already knew everyone in there and in a way everyone in there already knew me. When I moved back to California, threadbare and limping from my last few years on the East Coast, The Capitola Book Cafe was one of the first places I went. I already knew it well from years ago, when I was a nanny living some blocks away and I thought all I needed to feel inspired or part of the world was a fancy cup of coffee and time to peruse a Frida Kahlo book. It was the early 90’s, so The Capitola Book Cafe had plenty of both. Now back in town a decade later, I often went to peruse the shelves aimlessly, to feel less alone, but really to ponder the plight of my life, which seemed bleak and lonely and confusing. One evening I sat on a stool by the biography section (of course!), with my journal on my lap, doing just that–worrying myself sick on page after page. I looked up and saw one of the clerks get ready to go. He was tall with a shaved head and glasses and he wore a gray hooded sweatshirt, which I watched him zip up, before waving to the other clerks and walking out the door. He looked like a drawing–the kind of drawing I used to make of part rock, part nerd boys. So I drew a little sketch of him in my morose journal entry and noted how much he looked like a drawing, and then went back to complaining on the page.
I didn’t know it, but I just drew a sketch of my future. Actually, while I was worried sick about what had and would become of me on that slow evening at The Book Cafe, I was sitting in a room filled of so many good things to come. I wouldn’t know it for another year, but the guy who just left, the guy that I just jotted down in my sadder than sad journal entry, was the love of my life. He was Graham. Behind the counter stood his best friend, someone who would become one of my dearest friends, Richard–and out of that would come several important friendships.
In that way, you could argue that Gus’ life began there. I sold my Great Gal Calendars in their calendar and card section and found some of the material that would go into the book version there. I gave a reading of my first book, The Artist in the Office, there. In the end, my habit of finding a bookstore was the thing that lead me to the best of my life.
The death of The Capitola Book Cafe was a long time coming, and I will be sad to see it gone the next time we are in town. You can buy books in the floating space of the Internet, happen upon interesting places, find like-minded voices, but you can’t smell the ink and paper from the shelved books, or see a famous poet get her daily coffee, or feel something like hope as you pull up in front of the glowing warm lights of the windows. As hard as a try, I have never been able to find true refuge in a web site, but I found it in The Capitola Book Cafe, along with every good thing that came after.