I'm back. Had a great time in Washington DC, which I had never visited, and was so intrigued with it that I of course started accumulating books about it, as I am the kind of person whose imagination about a place is only really sparked once I've been there. Thanks to my sister's previous knowledge of the area around Dupont Circle, I visited Kramerbooks & afterwords-A cafe a couple of times, and I thought I'd say a couple of things about that. I don't know if it's because of my longstanding former job at a bookstore or just because I'm a reader, but I get a pretty good feel for a bookstore right away. Some bookstores have the "it" factor and some don't, and you can sense the energy of a place that has this right away. Even having worked in one, I don't really know how it's done, but some places, the books practically leap into your hands. If I hadn't had to travel across country with already stuffed luggage, I would have done a lot more damage there than my finances really allow.
Kramerbooks & afterwords- A Cafe-- has taken the idea of the coffee shop attached to a bookstore to a new level, in that it also has a bar, and a quite impressive bar at that. I was left to my own devices the last night I was in the city but had espied the casual nature of the bar on my previous visit, so had no problem walking in and as asking for a good IPA. "I know just what you want," the very able bartender said, and indeed he did. It turned out to be Evolution Craft Brewery Lot No. 3, and perhaps I had a bit too much of it, but it was the last night of my trip, and YOLO, a term that was expounded upon at my nephew's graduation ceremony, although the student speaker was using it to say that you only live once so you might as well serve others, not drink a lot of beer.
There was a book signing going on in the room next door, though I never did quite figure out of what, but a lot of very happy people drifted into the bar and drifted out again, and I felt perfectly comfortable reading my book--I think it was Drama City by George Pelecanos, one I was very happy to be reading in the city it is set in--in a space that seemed to accommodate both the social and the solitary in an easy way.
Let's just say that a bookstore with a cafe is great, but a bookstore with a bar is genius. I probably wouldn't have made the impulse buy of This Town, a great Washington tell all by Mark Liebovich if not slightly under the influence, but it turned out to be a good choice and a good time to read about Washington as a kind of Versailleslike court, which frankly, I never got near enough to feel the emanations from . And it kept me happy for many hours as I winged my way back across the country. It's a bit ironic that only last night, after watching a Daily Show which featured an interview with George Stephanopoulos, in better times, you might say, even though it was only a couple of weeks ago, and then saw a Daily Beast piece about how he had fallen afoul of some of the rules of Washington in contributing to some Clinton project. After reading this book, you only wonder that it doesn't happen more often, as the way people move into and out of the public sector and the private sector, and observe some lines drawn while ignoring others makes it a very complicated dance indeed.
As I purchased my book, I said, under the influence of beer, but also my happiness to be there, "I used to work at a bookstore on the West Coast and this is a great bookstore." The clerk seemed a bit taken aback by my statement and replied, "Really?" I said "Yes."
Unfortunately my pronouncement, though accurate, probably counts for very little in such rarified waters as these.