Sunday, May 01, 2016

A Day at the Races

Perhaps not surprisingly, I survived yesterday’s Independent Bookstore Day “Champion Challenge,” though there were a few moments, especially late in the afternoon, when I could hardly imagine the thought of unbending myself from the car and venturing into yet another Seattle bookshop. The photograph above, taken about halfway through the expedition, shows me (second from the left) at Island Books on Mercer Island with store employees, other Challenge participants, and my two teammates, James Crossley (third from the left, with the old prophet-style beard) and Matthew Fleagle (third from the right, in the glasses). As I noted previously, the goal here was to visit at least 17 of the 21 participating indie stores. If we could accomplish that task by the close of business on Saturday, we’d win a one-year, 25 percent discount at all of those retail outlets.

To give you a sense of this adventure, here are a few stats.

Time we started out: 7 a.m., when the three of us met for a hearty breakfast at Pete’s Egg Nest in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood. We traveled in a rented orange, very compact Fiat 500.

First bookstore reached, by ferry across Puget Sound: Eagle Harbor Book Company on Bainbridge Island at about 9 a.m.

Total number of ferry trips necessary: 2, one from Seattle west to Bainbridge Island, and the second from Kingston east to Edmonds (which is north of Seattle).

Number of books purchased along the way: 2, including a 1977 paperback copy of Ross Macdonald’s The Far Side of the Dollar, boasting cover artwork by Mitchell Hooks and bought at the Seattle Mystery Bookshop.

Number of books I really wanted to purchase: probably in excess of 30, including 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, by Eric H. Cline, and Richard Russo’s brand-new Everybody’s Fool (his sequel to 1993’s Nobody’s Fool).

Number of bookstores visited yesterday that I had never popped in on before: 3 (Island Books, Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery, and Ada’s Technical Books and Café—all of which I’ll return to later).

(Left) Celebrating the end of our day-long journey, at Elliott Bay: Nothing says success like tequila in a paper cup.

Number of times we had to stop for gas: 1

Number of complimentary cookies ingested during the excursion: plus or minus 20

Number of complimentary chili dogs ingested: 1, at Book Larder, a cookbook store in the Fremont neighborhood, where author Kathleen Flinn was promoting her latest work, Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir with Recipes from an American Family.

1 lesson learned, in case I ever do this again: take water along! Hours into the trip, I realized that I was severely dehydrated and had to rush into a quickie mart for bottled refreshment.

Number of wrong turns: maybe half a dozen, most of which involved our trying to locate Liberty Books in Poulsbo. At one point, James’ smartphone seemed so confused by our twisting peregrinations, that it finally begged us to make a U-turn. Now!

Number of bands encountered: 1, at Mockingbird Books, a children’s store in the Green Lake area.

Number of tequila shots drunk: 1, at Elliott Bay Book Company on Capitol Hill, where we concluded our circuit of shops at 8:30 p.m.

Number of bookstore visits required to earn our 25-percent discount: 17

Number of bookstores actually visited: an overachieving 19

Number of hours spent on the Champion Challenge: 11.5

Number of times I asked myself, “Why in the hell did you join this crazy escapade?”: 0. It was actually a delight from start to finish. I recommend it to any book nerds who can spend an entire day discovering, or rediscovering, some of the dozens of independent bookstores Seattle offers.

I understand that at some point in the next two weeks, all of us who completed this competition will be asked to gather together to celebrate our accomplishment and receive our discount certificates. I expect to learn then how many people were actually running the course. In 2015—the first year this Challenge was mounted in Seattle—42 participants finished. It’s hard to know exactly how many people did the same thing this year, as many of the Seattleites visiting stores yesterday had set themselves a more modest goal: three bookstore stops only, which entered them in a drawing for mystery prizes. Judging from my own experience of the day, I’d guess that the number of people calling on at least 17 stores doubled this year.


Matt Fleagle said...

It was great having you along on such a worthy quest and in such a cool car. The rest of the folks in your top photo, taken at my favorite book store, are, Cindy of Island Books on your right, Sean of Powell's books next to James, Katie of Random House next to Sean, my old friend Marni of Island Books in front with folded hands, and Laurie of Island Books on the end next to Marni.

Gram said...

I'm afraid I would want to spend too much time in each store to make it past 5.

James said...

"[A] delight from start to finish." I second that emotion and was glad to share the road with you.

The Fiat was orange, though. I miss it already.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Hah, I must have had the sun in my eyes the whole time. I saw the Fiat as more red. Oh, well, I've changed it to orange in the story.


Susanne said...

That sounds like my kind of day - how lucky that there are so very many independents in your neck of the woods. If I weren't reading this so early in the day, I'd salute you with a bit of spirits in a paper cup. As it is, Coke Zero in a can. Well done.

James said...

While you're editing, can you make me taller, younger, and better looking?