When I was 13 I Bought Dashell Hammet at Either Or Bookstore
On Friday nights we used to go to sushi in Hermosa Beach. It was my Mom, her friends and four of us kids. Two boys, two girls. We started going there when we were just finishing nursery school and we’d walk from their house to the sushi bar and then from the sushi bar to Either or Bookstore and then back to their house again. It felt like miles. It was just a few blocks.
Either Or had three storefronts. You’d enter on the lowest one because the street was on a slant and then when you’d finish up in that room you’d walk up two small steps to the next room and then two again to the top. There were plate glass windows, benches, carpeting, the smell of the beach and cats. I never loved the cats but I loved the combination of warm rooms and sea air.
I loved books and I loved sushi and I looked forward to those Friday evenings. On the best ones we’d still be slightly sandy and perhaps a little sunburnt from a day on the beach. The sunburn would leave me cold so I’d get to wear a sweatshirt in the summertime.
Sometimes my mother would be in a good mood and we’d get more than one book. Sometimes she’d be positively giddy from sake and I’d get as many as I could fit in my arms.
I remember the night that I discovered the mystery section at Either Or. I flipped through the first few pages of The Glass Key and I knew that I wanted to read this book. The mystery wasn’t in the pages of it, but rather in why adults loved these books.
I couldn’t wait to read adult mysteries. I’d long ago abandoned Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew. I was adult at thirteen.
So when I took the kids to hear my Kindergarten classmate read his newly published book at Skylight Books I wasn’t surprised when Jane picked up a book of poetry by Sylvia Plath. I wondered if she’d read it. It wasn’t an inexpensive book and I suppose I was so relieved that it wasn’t the Bell Jar that I just tossed a credit card her way and hoped for the best. I wasn’t giddy from sake but from a fellow Beach Kids’ success.
I was in Jane’s room this evening and the book has scarcely been cracked. I’m not sure it matters if she ever reads that book. I never read The Glass Key but I memorized it’s cover.