The other night as I was walking to my car through the soft warm light of Fells Point I was trying to discretely practice one of my favorite hobbies – looking into the windows of apartments. I just love to see what people are doing in the evenings – the light of night makes everything seem warm. (In fact, I wrote a piece about this very thing a bit ago -Issue 7, pg 19.) As I was strolling, I peeked into the windows of this beautiful apartment. All the walls were exposed bricks, and there was an older man, his white hair shorn close to his scalp, sitting in a wing chair. Across from him, resting in a letter box beneath a lamp, was a calico cat, her eyes set into sleep. I didn’t get a chance to see much else in the room – I wouldn’t want to be rude and stare, of course – but I imagined that piles of books were set on tables around the space. Bookshelves were tucked into corners. The place looked like a place I would want to live.
One of the things I miss most in large, chain bookstores is the possible presence of a cat winding his way among the shelves. In some of my favorite book browsing experiences, I have been in little shop where the piles of books and the warped shelves make walking straight ahead difficult and where I might cat a glance of a tail around the next corner, or a sheepskin bed set among the display in the front window. Something about cats makes them perfect for bookstores. (Although I must admit that I also really loved the St. Bernards that were in Deadulus Books in Charlottesville once when I went in there.)
Plus, so much of that kitschy cat stuff that people like to give me because I own cats (I would like to put this on the record for all cat owners – just because we love our cats doesn’t mean we want journals with them on the cover. Journals are not warm and furry. Enough said) often also contains books. I’m not sure where this connect was made. Perhaps cats have been mousers in monasteries since the days of illumination. Maybe there’s a genetic disposition between liking to read and liking to hold cats. Or maybe it’s just that one can read while holding a cat, unlike reading and walking my brother and sister-in-law’s greyhound. Whatever it is, cat people often seem to be book people. I’m okay with that, just please no more bookmarks with cats on them.