Last week, I realized that I hadn’t ventured out of a two-block radius of my well-trodden flight path in my new home for some time. While the road to the grocery store and a few choice old friends’ houses were well trodden, pretty much every other road in the area was not. So, I called up my favorite partner in crime and we went bookstore spelunking in Cambridge.
We started in Harvard Square where we hit Raven Used Books which was a small-ish basement store. Their premises in Northampton is much more impressive both in terms of shelf space, as well as selection.
We then proceeded to the Harvard Book Store which I perhaps should have been more impressed with. Mixed amongst your standard textbook sections are varying fiction sections as well as a large stationary area. Downstairs are used and overstock books, which is wonderful for those of us who just like to browse the tomes. Also, I was rather
amused at their… er… extracurricular section. Somehow I felt like anywhere associated with a major university, much less a major university as prestigious and snooty-by-reputation as Harvard, would have left said shelf out of their plans… or at least designated it to the back of the room where hopefully the casual observer would miss it entirely. The fact that said shelf was there seemed like a coup against society and amused me thoroughly.
We then proceeded to Rodney’s in Central Square which was, by far, the best find of the day. Two entire floors of used and rare books, some awesome hand-crafted shelving units for sale, nifty post cards and note cards, and way cool vintage theatre posters along the wall in the upstairs. In terms of location, selection, and atmosphere I would say that Rodney’s took the cake for the day.
But then… adventure struck.
Sometimes you know when you are about to walk into an adventure. More often than not though you just have to be open to the possibility and it will find you. This was one of those second-case scenarios.
You may have determined by now that my partner-in-crime and I are absolutely and wonderfully obsessed with used bookstores. So, naturally, we leap at the opportunity to investigate a new one. On our way home from Rodney’s, I noticed a sign on the side of a building proclaiming “Revolution Books”. My partner and I waffled slightly about whether another bookstore was called for on that particular day, but then I noticed that there was a parking spot DIRECTLY in front of the building. I turned to my partner, the query in my eyes, and he nodded. We both knew what we had to do.
I pulled the car into the spot and we got out, curiosity overcoming perhaps our better judgment. We glanced back at the sign and realized that it was not a storefront or really over any recognizable entry into what looked like your run-of-the-mill retail-space-ground-floor-with-offices-above Boston building. There was a barber shop and an assortment of other normal things occupying the space where our bookstore should have been.
Then we noticed a white sheet of paper with the words written in thick marker: “Revolution Books open: second floor”. It hung over a door which we recognized led to the next level of the building. I looked to my partner and he assured me that it would be fine. Of course it would be fine. We were in Cambridge, for crying out loud, not some third world country.
I opened the door to let him in and he took point, ensuring that we weren’t about to be jumped upon by bookstore boogies. I reached to close the door after me, but realized the entry way was so small that we would have to climb several of the stairs before us before we could be out of the door’s way.
Perhaps the narrow hallway and tiny entry was simply to deter those who were not of stout enough heart to brave the shelves of what would surely be the greatest used bookstore ever.
We walked the stairs and crested the top into a small hallway that held several offices which advertised various private practice style services: a therapist, an accountant. We looked to each other, our certainty wavering, but the candle of excitement still burning behind our eyes.
That is when we saw another hand-printed sign which pointed our way to “Revolution Books”. We followed it to the second door, tucked into the back corner of the floor. Judging by the size of the building, whatever was behind this door couldn’t be much larger than a one-room place…
The door was cracked open and we did see bookshelves behind it. There was a giant portrait of Che Guevara plastered on the door. Before I had a chance to back-peddle, wondering what kind of place this truly was, we were beckoned in by a man who sat directly across from the door. “Come on, in we’re open.”
My companion, too polite to decline the advance, led the way in.
The room was probably the size of my bathroom. There was a single double-sided bookshelf creating two rows of books, and a second bookshelf against the far wall. A grizzled aging hippie sat at a table with a red tablecloth and piles of pamphlets. “Small place you got here.” My companion said.
“Small place, with a big message.” The man replied with a smile.
I began to look around. Suddenly something clicked. The red tablecloth. The Che portrait. The titles of these books. The name of the store.
I had somehow managed to stumble into the underground base of militant Communism in Boston.
And my Partner in Crime is a Republican.
I was standing in the underground base of militant Communism in Boston with the only Republican in Massachusetts.
Needless to say, we had to get out…. Fast. My partner and I exchanged looks out of the sides of our eyes and tried to noncommittally sidle closer to the door. This would have been easier if the man behind the table hadn’t been eagerly watching our every move. As it was we were lucky to escape with our ideals intact and without any pamphlets to throw out on our way down the stairs. I don’t quite know what would have happened if we had actually been forced to speak while in the bookstore.
Not that I don’t admire Che Guevara, just that I’m sure those who frequent said bookstore wouldn’t want anyone revealing the secret location of their underground base. Rest assured, that secret is safe with me.
…Hopefully they won’t read this. And if they do, they should know that I’m ready for them when they come for me. My roommate has cats. Large cats. Large attack cats. And I haven’t yet mounted my sword collection on the wall (hush, I’m a geek, it’s useful in case of zombie holocaust, rampant scary liberal hit men, or Mormon missionaries).