#833: The Missing Bookstore

August 23rd, 2017

Gone are the hobbit-hole passageways. Gone are the secret rooms one lingering after the other like a maze made of sociology texts and coming-of-age novels. Gone are the low ceilings and sense of being wrapped, buried or swaddled in book after book after book.

The new Seminary Co-op Bookstore is gorgeous. It’s open and airy with a massive collection under high ceilings. You have space to move, breathe, turn around without accidentally bumping knocking over an endcap of Very Hungry Caterpillars.

I thought we had come to the wrong place.

It had been years since the old location, the sunlit man behind the bookstore counter told me. Years and years. Somehow, I had missed it. Somehow, I never knew that the location of what I thought was one of my favorite places in Chicago — the bookstore in the old church — hadn’t been what it was for the half a decade.

“Our new store will allow us to improve what we do now and open possibilities to do new things not possible in our current situation,” the manager wrote on the store’s website in 2010.

They moved in 2012.

It was disheartening to realize what a poser I had been, thinking I knew about a store. I felt so sad that something I trusted to be there wasn’t, and that apparently hadn’t been for quite some time.

I don’t want to overdramatize, to cry “I thought there was more time!” but I thought there was more time. I thought I’d be able to bang my head on the low Seminary Co-op ceiling again. I thought I’d be able to dance one last country two-step at Carol’s Pub. I thought I would taste a Swedish Bakery sweet roll or grumble through a beer at Schaller’s Pump.

I assumed the treats of this city were permanent. I assumed the co-ops and country pubs I enjoyed would linger on a little longer. I assumed the pumps and bakeries I hadn’t got around to would give me a little more time to get there.

So what’s the moral? Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow the locally owned businesses will shutter? Appreciate what we had? Check Yelp business listings more often?

I don’t know if there’s a moral or just misplaced nostalgia. Can I really gripe about “the way things were” when I didn’t even notice they had gone?

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You are currently reading #833: The Missing Bookstore by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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