On Saturday morning October 27, 2012 I got into my beautiful black Kia and took a ride up the Black Canyon Freeway–destination Prescott, Arizona. I tried to get there once before this year, but wound up stopping at Arcosanti. This time I successfully navigated the road construction–very confusing cloverleaf the state is building–imho, a big disimprovement to what was already there–made the crazy left turn and headed west from Cordes Junction to Prescott.
Prescott used to be a large town with an Old West atmosphere–a small city full of cheap motels, antique shops, art galleries, and trading posts. It still has all those things, but is now totally surrounded by miles of suburbs and strip malls. In addition to Prescott itself, there is also Prescott Valley and East Prescott. Prescott was twice capitol of Arizona, once from 1864 to 1867 and again from 1877 to 1889. Since 1889 Phoenix has been the capitol and most important city in the state. The city is sometimes called the Mile High city (yeah, like Denver) because it is 5200 feet above sea level. The city was named after William H. Prescott, an American historian who wrote some truly epic histories of the New World. The 2010 census population was about 40,000 people, but it is the center of a metropolitan area that contains more than 200,000. With a lot of traffic on the roads and suburbs sprawling in all directions, it feels like there are hundreds of thousands of people there.
I drove through town on what used to be the main drag, Gurley Street, and parked near the Sharlott Hall Museum. Then, I disembarked, had some breakfast in a nearby cafe, and walked around town for a while. This is not an organized tour of the city, but just things I saw as I ambled around.
I left home without any breakfast, and so I was very hungry by the time I got to Prescott. I also needed to use the facilities, so the cafe was a logical first stop. Prices are a little higher in these places than they are in fast food joints like Wendy’s, but the food is much better. I ordered a Denver omelette, a delicacy I haven’t had for several years, and coffee. They were good–plenty of real food. There went my calorie count for the day.
Fortified with breakfast, I went out and immediately found the true cause of my visit to Prescott. I remembered there was an old bookstore in this part of town, and I wanted to see if it was still there. Yes, it was.
While I was inside the shopkeeper asked me if I was looking for anything in particular. I mentioned Edgar Rice Burroughs and Otis A. Kline, and was introduced to Marilyn, the shop owner, who told me that the better, rarer stuff was downstairs. I talked her into letting me go downstairs with her and found a basement crammed with old treasures not really much different from the stuff upstairs. She had a computer down there, and could look to see if she had anything that would tempt me. I asked her about Talbot Mundy, and she came up with a thick novel called “Old Ugly Face”–a tale of mysticism and espionage on the India-Thibet border set in the 1930s–not in very good condition and she wanted $55 for it. That was too much, but I might try to find it via inter-library loan. I asked for various other authors, most of whom she didn’t have, but she did have one by Aleister Crowley. This proved to be the find of the expedition, and for $35 I acquired an excellent magician’s manual.
I am such a dabbler. After spending the money on it, I hope I can find time to read this book. There is no chance in hell that I’ll ever be able to practice magick the way Crowley describes it.
I found a second book that I wanted in the Book Nook, PETER AND THE SHADOW THIEVES by Dave Barry and Riddley Pearson. This Children’s novel is a continuation of the adventures of Peter Pan as imagined by modern authors Barry and Pearson. Actually there are at least 3 or 4 books in this series and they are prequels to J. M. Barrie’s work. Barry is notable for his humor, Pearson for his thrillers. It seems like an odd team to do Peter Pan stories but they are surprisingly effective together. I read the first one, PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS about a decade ago, and when I saw the second one I bought it on impulse. Peter Pan has always been one of my heroes.
I spent more than half an hour in the bookstore, and it was very pleasant. Such places are packed with treasures, and I’m sorry I can only afford to take maybe one or two pieces when I find them.
Leaving the bookstore behind, I walked into the central touristy part of Prescott. I also came to visit the antique stores, trading posts, and galleries. I love that kind of stuff, though I have neither money to spend on it, nor places to display any such loot. Oh well, a man can look and admire without buying. I also planned to get my day’s exercise walking around downtown.
Nothing else worth mentioning happened. I walked back to my car, and drove home, getting confused again at the Cordes Junction turnaround, but quickly correcting and heading south. The whole trip took about 7 hours. I got my exercise for the day, two old books, and a pretty rock. And I’m wondering where I can go next time the wanderlust overcomes me.
If you’ve ever been to Prescott, Arizona, or any other old town where you can find rundown bookstores and plenty of characters hanging out in the local diner, why not leave a comment?