After an hour of braving LA traffic, LA drivers, and LA freeway interchanges, I found myself behind the wheel in front of the Last Bookstore. After half an hour more of circling round and round the neighborhood, scratching my head over the various paid parking lots ranging in in no discernible pattern from $3.50 to $21 and frightenedly crossing the invisible line dividing downtown LA’s bright, boutique-filled neighborhoods peopled by jaunty night shoppers from unlit, shuttered shops, dark masses pushing carts and huddled in the tunnel for a night’s sleep but a crosswalk away, I ended up parking at a lot that was both dark and far from where I want to be. (Confusion and fright evidently don’t help with navigation.)
But my enthusiasm remained undampened! “All this labor will only make reaching the sweet, honeyed land of the bookstore all the sweeter,” I righteously told myself. Now safely(?) parked, I self-motored with all haste to the corner of Spring & Fifth and stepped inside the Last Bookstore faster than Mark Spitz flip turned around the end of the Olympic pool.
And thought that I had stepped into the wrong place. Is it possible that in my haste, my adrenaline-addled brain mistook a night club for The Last Bookstore? Back outside, I checked the sign again. Yep, the scrawl reads “The Last Bookstore” alright.
Through the door again, more gingerly this time. I see — or hear now — why I had mistakenly thought that I had mistaken the place for a night club before.
Music was blasting out of a drum set, two saxophones, three electric guitars, and one amplifier, its dial turned to the maximum. From its source in the middle of the store, the sound pierced into every spore that lines the contours of the space; the bookworms, if there were any, came blasted straight out from the bindings of the books; they smash into each other, the high velocity of the sounds pulping their bodies into smithereens; the remnants of their worm-ness careened around the air to finally lodge themselves into my ear drums.
For that I thanked them. They were providing partial covering for whatever hearing I left have. Completely disoriented now, I cannot tell what the band is playing, leave alone form any judgment on whether I like their music. I only blindingly perceived that they screamed a lot and that the crescendo to their set was the screech, “SHE’S PREGNANT”.
To this day, I still don’t know if The Last Bookstore looks anything like what Flavorwire magazine shows it to look like. I don’t know if The Last Bookstore has any books. Due to all my visual, olfactory, and tactile capacities being shut down and their blood supply rerouted to support the overwhelmed auditory system, I didn’t see any books. But they could’ve been there, and they could’ve been wonderful to behold. Alas, I beheld them not, and all I osmosed from this cultural experience was rude shock and the thought that LA — even its bookstores, elsewhere a refuge for the fainthearted — was too cool for me.
(Image taken by Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times & reproduced by Flavorwire in its beautiful bookstores feature.)