The Beats go on


I am fortunate enough to live in a small town that not only has the very best coffee shop in the world (seriously, people come from all over), the very best pizza place in the world (people come from all over and beyond), and the best indie bookshop in the world. Plus, I get to run in the snow in the winter, like this morning when a couple of inches of fat flakes fell from the sky just long enough so that I could take a selfie post-run, with my lashes and the bill of my cap thick with white powder.

And speaking of the best indie bookshop: I spent a lot of money there last week, scooping up presents for family, and lingering over the extensive collection of Beat literature. Not just books by Beat poets but also books about the Beat poets. For a small bookshop, they had a lot of books about the Beaterati.

I like the bookshop, and I respect and trust their taste, so after a little browsing I decided on Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums because I like Buddhism and travel and I once was kind of a bum, albeit a privileged one with a 401(k). (Yuck, that sounds so pretentious and completely unself-aware, but there it is.)

As I unloaded my haul at the register, I mentioned to Danny, the bookshop owner, that I guessed they must be big fans of Beat literature, given their extensive collection. He grinned, of course we are, and then told me about his very favorite Beat poet, and the book that changed his life. And before I could stop him he had presented me with that very book and wouldn’t let me pay for it. I did just spend a small fortune there, so I guess that’s fair? But more than that, my heart skipped a beat because how often are you gifted with a book that has changed a person’s life?