I may be (rather suddenly) a grown-up of some sort, but I’m still writing essays about what I did on my summer vacation, and I can’t say I mind.
I suppose this summer qualifies for a coveted position on the Whitworth English department blog because it was a singularly English-y time of my life (rather like all of them). My plans for the summer were to somehow find a job as a barista, which meaner critics of the English major would call “living up to my potential.” Regardless, it seemed a nice enough way to while away the summer in Carmel, CA, a beach town full of quaint shops, dogs, and Texan tourists.
With my expectations firmly managed, you can imagine how excited I was to find a job at an independent bookstore, of all places—specifically, Pilgrim’s Way Community Bookstore and Secret Garden. Pilgrim’s Way has been around since the 60s, and hasn’t changed owners in twenty years.
That owner is Paul Fridlund, a man with the kind eyes and slow-moving calm of a manatee, who answered me in very friendly monosyllables when I came in to apply. His wife and now co-owner, Cynthia, is a firecracker with her own radio show and the paper-goods-conservation skills of a UC Berkeley Ecology professor.
When these lovely people agreed to hired me, I was invited into an entirely new world of books. See, Pilgrim’s Way used to be called Pilgrim’s Way Metaphysical Books. They’ve changed the name and added a lot of paperback novels to widen their appeal, but Paul and Cynthia’s hearts remain with their hearty metaphysical, new age, self-help, and Buddhist sections (not to mention an incense collection that would make the Himalaya mountain region jealous).
These sections were totally new to me, but I soon learned about Tarot cards, Vedic astrology, personality archetypes, and past lives. A hearty crystal and jewelry collection led me to recommend to a German tourist the cleansing power of citrine, or the general good energy of pink quartz. This is not the kind of stuff they teach us at Whitworth.
Of course, along the way I got to recommend a lot of John Steinbeck (a local celebrity), David Sedaris (a personal favorite), and James Patterson (because there just isn’t anything we can do about it—he’s everywhere). Between the books, crystal, and backyard spiritual garden, it was a busy and interesting summer. For example: my favorite customer was an old-timer named Scott Macbeth who ordered copies of Montaigne’s essays and delighted in recounting to me his adventures climbing Mount Everest.
What’s so great about this place, and why I wanted to tell you this story, is this: we have to remember that places like Pilgrim’s Way still exist. There are still quirky, eclectic stories in otherwise snooty beach towns. There are still places for English majors to feel at home, and find a way to pay their rent.
And I didn’t even make a single cup of coffee.
Ana Quiring is an English major specializing in British literature, writing, and compulsive book-buying.