Some might call me misanthropic. I prefer selectively social. I don’t yearn for a steady stream of human interaction. I take pleasure in the solitary act of long-distance running. I fill my mornings at my antique roll-top desk, writing about the world with only the occasional feline chin-rubs as interruption. My introverted tendencies make me seem standoffish, but it doesn’t mean I don’t like people; it just means I’d rather not stop for a twenty-minute chat in the grocery store while buying my milk and bread.
When I do feel the need to balance internal dialogue with actual dialogue, I walk the sun-dappled streets to Kingfisher Used Books for an afternoon cappuccino. Kingfisher is not like other coffee shops where hipsters with eyebrow piercings and Celtic dragon tattoos crank the latest Twenty-One Pilots album. The rhythm of afternoons at my preferred coffee shop is not an assault on the senses, but rather a gathering place where the town’s eccentrics gather to wander the shelves, sip their favourite drink, or engage in limited small talk.
Owners Joe and Katherine Fraser seldom ask anymore what I would like to drink. Whether I plunk myself down on a second-hand couch (where I’ve fallen asleep more than once) or sit at a Formica table with mismatched chairs, or whether I nip downstairs to rifle through the travel memoirs or stand at the back of the store in front of the odd and rare section full of leather bindings and faded gold-flake lettering, they know I always want my usual. In the back of my mind, I can hear the grinding beans and frothing milk and, if Joe’s not too busy, he comes and finds me to hand me my drink.
But Kingfisher is not just about a good cappuccino. It is also, as the name implies, a used bookstore. But, unlike the world famous Powell’s Books in Portland where everything has a specific place and every sub-genre is mapped out for the customers’ convenience, Creston’s used bookstore is like a treasure hunt. It is a place of discovery. Among the antique televisions and kitchenware, children’s artwork, instruments, jars of costume jewelry and almost-uncrackable safe, it is a strange milieu of books from all genres – all in a state of organized chaos. It is this organized chaos that makes Joe and Katherine’s shop so unique. It gives all of us that live in a perpetual state of organized chaos a place to feel comfortable.
Like Eliot’s Prufrock, I have “known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, / I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”. Over the years, I have played checkers and then chess with my boys as they drank Italian sodas, and then chai lattes, and then cappuccinos as they grew from boys into men. I have discussed housing prices, local politics, and secret huckleberry patches with the poets and madmen who come in, as I do, for their weekly allotment of carefully planned social interaction.
Kingfisher Used Books is a place where, on any given day, I could walk in for an injection of caffeine and walk out with a book on Irish fairy tales or a guide to Tibetan Buddhism or a turn-of-the-century Shakespeare. It is a place where I don’t need to make excuses if I’m feeling one way or the other – if I’m wallowing in self-doubt or celebrating small victories. Among the dusty tomes and the regulars who follow their habitual patterns, I feel like I belong somehow. And that is everything for someone who finds the world a peculiar place.
Place: Kingfisher Used Books