Whenever I'm out of town I try to hit an independent bookstore and find a favorite 3rd Wave Independent Coffee shop. This serves two functions. One, is that I get something to read and somewhere to read it. Secondly, it basically helps me get my bearings around town and geolocate the more culturally palatable neighborhoods. The journey is just as important as the destination, to excrete my first platitude of the day.
We have three kids in college, spread out across the South- and Midwest. Ally at Rice in Houston. Will is in Boulder at Colorado. And Virgil in their first semester at Washington University, studying Art at the Sam Fox School of Art & Design. So I've had opportunities to check places out and honestly there's nothing I love more.
Surprisingly, St. Louis - or at last the neighborhood we we were staying in which is Wash U and Forest Park adjacent - is very enjoyable and has everything I need. And what I/we need is. 1) a place to run. 2) coffee 3) grubbin' vegetarian/vegan food. 4) some semblance of hipster/progressive culture, with a bookstore as one of the focii.
When we visit St. Louis we've stayed on Pershing which is a street of aging Apartment houses just a block off of Forest Park. As urban Parks go, Forest Park is impressive. It's got a golf course, Zoo, French-influence landscaped areas around the St. Louis Museum of Art and the Missouri Museum of History, ballfields, ponds and streams and miles of trails. It's 1/3 bigger than Central Park and running the outside loop clocks in at about 6 and 1/2 miles.
And right at the corner of Skinker and Forest Parkway, katty-corner is Kaldi's Coffee. These folks really have the quality control dialed in, particularly because they are a local chain with a number of shops. A coffee shop is best judged by their espresso and their cortado (also called a Gibraltar) and both are excellent here. The espresso is dark and full without bitterness and a full crema. The drinks are skillfully and thoughtfully made. I like a coffee shop where they take their time (without fumbling) and don't rush. At this particular location they pace themselves and pay attention to each drink. They also have food and a little bit of Wash U swag. It answers the old Chiat/Day question of how big can you get without getting bad? in the following way: With a number of stores through the City and a regional direct and in-store distribution, still about as good as it gets.
And finally, to books. As you know, the endangered independent bookstore was suffering an extinction level event, but the number has stabilized. In St. Louis, the literary survivor would be Left Bank Books in the Central West End. We visited on the afternoon of Saturday, October 30. I was looking for books on the Royal Society's Shortlist for the 2021 Science Book Prize but this particular smallish bookstore had no science section, so I wandered around a bit and found Motherless Brooklyn - a signed copy no less.
It's amazing what you can get for $5.50 these days. People will pay 3 million at auction for some of a jackass' tweet, and I can get an actual book signed by a genuine genius of an author for the price of a quad cappuccino -- both of which have more value to me than any NFT. "But I digress." The book is set in 1980's Brooklyn, I think. Modern. It's about some kids that grow up in and orphanage who are sort of adopted as the muscle and gang of a small time wise guy. The wise guy gets killed and the lead character - smart, tough, has many of the traits of a classic gumshoes except he has Tourettes syndrome, sets to work unravelling the plot and all the connections.
If the book bumped its head, got knocked out and had a dream, that dream is the movie. It's an Ed Norton project, and well done. He transposes the story to 1950's and gives it sort of the classic gumshoe-HarlemUptown vibe. Completely new story. Our hero still has Tourettes, but Ed Norton does a good job of not going "full retard" and giving the character charm and motivation. In some ways, the logic just tracks better if the verbal backflips of being inside Lionel Essrog's head aren't there to entertain and amaze. So you can experience both, and it only adds to the love.
On the themes of Mothers, etc. Heading out tomorrow morning to see my mother. She's starting to lose a little cohesion - perhaps her Hippocampus, the seat of memory, is affected, but she is coming closer and closer to living in an eternal present. I can't say I'm looking forward to being on a plane, or being away from my wife, but I'm doing it. Bye for now.