The road cut through the mountain side like a machete revealing a path swing-by-swing in the jungle. Our van rumbled with the friction of each blade stroke against wood. Above us, the jungle tried swallowing the mound of earth rising toward the heavens while down the slope below us the rainforest lapped gentle against the side of the road.
Beneath the volcano, we drove on in silence. No birds danced under the glowing sun nor were the monkeys willing to converse with us as they had at Arena Del Mar. It was a silence only disturbed by the whispering wind of bated breath as we took in the view from the van window. Would the volcano awake? It was a question that we soon found the answer too.
The sleeping three year old in the backseat erupted, splitting the silence with a melodic “Holy crap!” The entire vehicle jumped, startled by physical and verbal life our awe had taken on. We laughed unaware that this was the dress rehersal for when the volcano danced and lit his pipe the next day. We would be laying in the pool so while his hips couldn’t shake us, his pipe put on a memorable show.
The bookstore’s location between the exotic Chinatown and rows of sensual strip clubs embraced the atmosphere of wonder that a traveler feels when they enter the shop. Those that walk beneath the wooden doorway are privy a miracle in the age of bookstore chains and Amazon. One of the largest selection of translated Latin American literature that you will find in an American bookstore is in between the classic section as you first walk in and the mostly grassroots literary magazines and self-publications area beneath the stairs, a reflection of the diverse racial makeup of San Francisco and it’s rebellious citizens.
City Lights Books’ rich history is arises from its home as the 1950’s birthplace of the Beat generation. This history lesson can easily be deduced by the store’s location next to Jack Kerouac alley. However, Ginsberg alley might have been more appropriate as it was the first press to publish his controversial work, resulting in the trial of the owner and publisher of City Lights Books. Literature won that battle and probably the war. This heritage is carried on in the now famous Pocket Poetry series that the store puts out. It renders the Beat Generation museum down the road obsolete unless its sole purpose is to be a tourist trap that roots out the heretics that would soil these hollowed halls of books.
There is little wonder that poetry room on the top floor beheld a silence that isn’t forced by a sign, employee or patron but instead is derived from the respect reader’s found as they loose themselves amongst the numerous volumes that the room holds. Every turn of the page is a Sunday worship service that redirects straying minds to the divine message that each individual hears. Each time a book closed, patrons leave as born-again missionaries to whom only true believers listened.
The man sat with a wine glass in his left hand and a dog leash in his right. He wore a sophisticated charm that could have been home at any extravagantly overpriced boutique. From his cafe chair he would use one of the oldest tricks in the book to gain the attention of the young beauties that wandered down the avenue. Waiting for the opportune collision between overly friendly animal and stunning woman, he would let the leash go slack.
Bending down the typically floral clad lass would have her hands occupied with his squirming black and white spotted dog at her feet, while non-covertly shooting a glance at who could be so careless as to let their dog be so emancipated. The ravenous man would meet their gaze in measure, though his desires were hidden beneath layers of cologne, practiced smiles and the exotic fragrances of bustling cafes and stores surrounding them.
Cyclically the woman would giggle, “what a gentle giant,” as the Dalmatian’s tongue danced around her hand. Thumbing the painfully empty spot on his finger where his wedding band used to be, the man would smile back, “He is. He doesn’t even go after my ex-wife.” This would quickly be followed by an awkward laugh from all involved although the man never understood why they laughed. The gorgeous woman would take her leave, forcing him to watch as she walked away once more.
He felt fortunate that restaurant always kept his glass half full. Otherwise, the man wasn’t sure how much more of this vicious cycle he could take. Life on the avenue pandered on, leaving him sitting with a wine glass in his left hand and a dog leash in his right.