Amy faced two hours of oral surgery Wednesday afternoon so I headed out in search of a bookstore somewhere near her dentist on Apperson Drive in Salem.
Didn’t find one in the vicinity. Borders, the chain of megastores that flooded Northern Virginia like a plague of locusts when he lived there, hasn’t hit the Roanoke area yet although there two Barnes & Nobles: One at Tanglewood and another in Christiansburg. While I don’t care much for chain stores, Borders has good coffee and a relaxing place to read.
While searching, I realized something you don’t find much of anymore — an old-fashioned newsstand.
Time was, you could find a good newsstand in just about any town. Often it was part of a coffee shop or cafÃ© with a lunch counter and some booths. You could pick up the morning paper, grab some coffee and talk issues with the locals.
Roanoke had a good one back in the 1960s on Church Street, although the name escapes me now. So did Salem, right on Main, near the county courthouse.
Some years ago, while working on a project in Kalispell, Montana, I found the perfect downtown newsstand — Norm’s News — which also served a great breakfast. The local pols and power brokers gathered at Norm’s each morning and you could learn more about what was happening in the Flathead Valley in a morning at Norm’s than from a week of research elsewhere.
When I returned to Kalispell a few years later, Norm’s was gone, replaced by an Espresso bar. Times change, not always for the better.
In high school, Rutrough’s Drug Store in Floyd had a small selection of magazines and newspapers and a soda fountain. Most people gathered and gossiped at the Blue Ridge cafÃ© (now the Blue Ridge Restaurant). They still gather there and breakfast on any given morning is always a good place to catch up on local gossip.
But my search for a bookstore or newsstand near Amy’s dentist failed Wednesday. So I stopped off at a hotdog stand, grabbed a three-month old magazine from the back seat of the Liberty and went inside for a cup of joe.
It wasn’t the same.