I love bookstores. I always have loved them. Whenever I visit a town for a day or more, I find the bookstore if there is one. I love bookstores more than I love libraries. The reason is simple: I can walk into a bookstore and walk out the owner of a book or an armful of books. With libraries, you have to return, at an agreed-upon time, whatever you borrow.
I hate returning books; I want to keep all of them. Many people spend much of their money on their homes, others on their beloved vehicles or pets. I spend a lot of my income on books. For me, to own a book is to own a piece of the world. A book, name your pick, is a glimpse into humankind's place in the universe.
As I write, I'm in a state of sadness, if not mourning. Borders, the bookstore chain, is no more — its 411 stores out of business. I feel as if I've lost a member of my family.
Yes, I continue to visit other bookstores, new, used and hybrids, independents and chains. And, yes, I buy books online, and I even read a few on my Kindle when I'm traveling. There was something special about Borders, a kind of funkiness that I've never found at Barnes & Noble, the nation's largest chain.
I loved Borders' eclectic nature. In addition to books and other publications, I could buy music and films. And, yes, I could buy a beverage and a snack to enjoy in a comfortable seat as I read.
All book lovers have a favorite store. Mine was Borders in Fort Lauderdale, my birthplace. Every time I went home, Borders was a destination. It had one of the best, if not the best, locations of any bookstore in the country. It was at Sunrise Boulevard on the Intracoastal Waterway that flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
Over the years, I introduced hundreds of other people to the store, which was less than a mile from Fort Lauderdale's beautiful beach. It was a multilevel building, its west side a few yards from the water. One of the greatest attractions of the place was its cafe that served wide selections of coffee, tea and pastries. It led out of wide doors onto the Intracoastal, giving some credibility to Fort Lauderdale's nickname as the Venice of America.
Like many other customers, I would buy a book or a magazine or a newspaper, buy something from the cafe and find a seat outside under an umbrella near the water. On the other shore, expensive boats were docked near condos and apartments. As you read, other craft, some of them magnificent yachts, plied to and from the ocean. An occasional passenger, perhaps a tourist from a faraway place, would wave to us landlubbers or salute us with a beer or a cocktail.
These were special moments, when I would set aside what I was reading and imagine myself on a yacht sailing to new land.
One afternoon several years ago as I sat on the water reading, a boat named Rainbow's End docked a few yards away from the store's back entrance. An elegant couple stepped onto the shore, went inside and came out with drinks and magazines. I watched as they sat beneath an umbrella and read. Only at Borders in Fort Lauderdale, I was thinking.
On my next visit to Fort Lauderdale, I learned that I could catch the water taxi from downtown to Borders. It proved to be the most interesting and pleasant trip to a bookstore I'd ever had. We stopped at restaurants, bars, hotels and shops on the Intracoastal.
At the Borders stop, I browsed the stacks for a couple of hours, bought an anthology of Wallace Stegner's essays and read outside until the taxi arrived for the return trip to downtown.
This routine became a ritual each time I went home for more than a day. That now-shuttered Borders on the Intracoastal Waterway was an essential part of my life.