Tag Archives: Powell’s Books

Tuesday Scatter: arts world in brief

  • Hot licks and good times with Andy Stein, Padam Padam
  • Closing the books: Powell’s layoffs, Looking Glass R.I.P.
  • Patrick Page plucks praise from “Spider-Man” carnage
  • In the room with Egypt’s fierce cultural protector
  • Alexis Rockman and good news at the Smithsonian


By Bob Hicks

Hot licks and good times with Andy Stein, Padam Padam: My old friend and neighbor Jaime Leopold dropped me a note about his friend, Andy Stein, a fiddler who can often be heard on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. “Andy has been compared to jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli and he’ll be performing in a duo with Conal Fowkes, a Wynton Marsalis alum and wonderful pianist from New York,” Jaime said.

Jaime wanted me to know this because Stein will be performing Feb. 19 at Tabor Space. And as it happens, Jaime’s own band, Padam Padam, will be opening. If that sounds self-serving, I suppose it is a little bit, but mostly it’s not, because Jaime simply loves music, and when he knows good music’s coming ’round the bend, he likes to spread the word. If he says Andy Stein is worth going to see, I’m taking him at his word.

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Seattle’s Elliott Bay Books writes a bold new chapter

Good news for travelers to that sprawling town on Puget Sound. Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Company isn’t going out of business, after all: It’s relocating in the spring from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill. Melissa Allison has the story in the Seattle Times.

logoAt 20,000 square feet, the new building (at 1521 10th Avenue above downtown) will be smaller than the one in Pioneer Square but will have more shelf space because of better layout. Plus, it’ll have lots of nearby parking and good foot traffic day and night. And it won’t have the Pioneer Square grunge factor or the business-killing onslaught of baseball and football fans to the nearby stadiums on game days.

Elliott Bay has anchored this part of town for 36 years, and if it isn’t quite on the level of its fellow independent, Powell’s City of Books in Portland, it’s been an outstanding book store and a great place to hang out. I love its warrens, its smarts, the walk down that giant stairwell to get a cup of coffee downstairs.

The place feels civilized, an oasis from the intransigent seediness nearby and the commercial clatter to the north, although it is itself of course a commercial enterprise. The place has personality, and in a different building that will change. I’m guessing, though, that store and customers and new space will adapt to one another fairly rapidly.

Every now and again I take the train to Seattle, and I’ve loved being able to walk from the train station up to Elliott Bay to see what’s new, and also what’s old. Like all good bookstores, it’s a comfort and a stimulation.

I won’t be walking up to Capitol Hill, so my visits to Elliott Bay will probably become less frequent. But I’m thrilled that the store has found a new and hopefully friendlier location.

Much as I admire and enjoy it, Elliott Bay Book Company isn’t for me. It’s for the people of Seattle (including the illustrious and well-read OED, Mr. and Mrs. Scatter’s Older Educated Daughter). May it live long and prosper.

Merry Chriftmas, one and all: Feaft like lords and ladies

Now Chriftmas comes, ’tis fit that we
Should feaft and fing, and merry be
Keep open Houfe, let Fiddlers play
A Fig for Cold, fing Care away
And may they who thereat repine
On brown Bread and on fmall Beer dine

(Virginia Almanack, 1766)

I have discovered, of late, a dangerous aisle at Powell’s City of Books.
More accurately, I have discovered the center of an aisle, in the cookbook section, beyond the volumes by celebrity chefs (where, among the Paula Deens and Mario Batalis and the occasional Peg Bracken I Hate To Cook Book you can sometimes find an old copy of one of Vincent and Mary Price’s grand collections of old American recipes or recollections of their adventures in great world restaurants) and before you hit the Great Big Collections of Foolishly Complex Recipes From Famous Magazines.

Here, in the middle, is a small row of shelves labeled collectors books (aren’t all books in a bookstore for collectors?) and on the shelves sit a continuously rotating selection of scruffy old volumes. Some are from the beginning of the last century and most are of little consequence but every now and again the shelves yield a true find for anyone interested, as I am, in the history of foodways and its interconnection wth the daily life of the past. It was here I found, not long go, the daftly entertaining 1938 Cheddar Gorge: A Book of English Cheeses, edited capriciously by Sir John Squire and peppered with delicious illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard.

More to the seasonal point, here is where I found The Williamsburg Art of Cookery, or, Accomplifh’d Gentlewoman’s Companion: Being a Collection of upwards of Five Hundred of the moft Ancient & Approv’d Recipes in Virginia Cookery, a 1966 reprinting of a book originally copyrighted in 1938, which was itself a collection with commentary of receipts and reminiscences from the 1600s to the mid-1800s. This is where I found the quote from the Virginia Almanack at the top of this post. And it’s where I found this report, filed by “Monfieur Durand, a Frenchman journeying through Virginia in the Chriftmas holiday Seafon in 1686″:

We were now approaching the Chriftmas Festival. Milor Parker was, as I have faid, a Roman Catholic … He wifhed now to pafs Chriftmas Day in Maryland, and as we were only five or fix Leagues diftant and had no Defire to leave him, it was agreed that all fhould go to fpend the Night with Colonel Fitzhugh, whofe Houfe is on the Shore of the great River Potomac

Mr. Wormeley is fo beloved and efteemed in thefe Parts that all Gentlemen of Confideration of the Countryfide we traverfed came to meet him, and, as they rode with us, it refulted that by the Time we reached Col. Fitzhugh’s we made up a Troop of 20 Horfe. The Colonel’s Accomodations were, however, fo ample that this Company gave him no Trouble at all; we were all fupplied with Beds, though we had, indeed, to double up. Col. Fitzhugh fhowed us the largeft Hofpitality. He had Store of good Wine and other Things to drink, and a Frolic enfued. He called in three Fiddlers, a Clown, a tight rope Dancer and an acrobatic Tumbler, and gave us all the Divertifement one could wifh. It was very cold but no one thought of going near the Fire becaufe they never put lefs than the Trunk of a Tree upon it and fo the entire Room was kept warm.

As your guests plow through the Great Blizzard of Aught Eight to get to your holiday table,
may your fiddlers and clown and dancer and tumbler also arrive safely and happily. Even if it takes them 20 Horfe to get there.