Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book Hunting in Ithaca, New York

Every year the Book Trout and her buddies plan an escape weekend to leave motherhood, wifery and jobs behind and just enjoy each others' company. We shop, eat out, sight see, and most importantly, reconnect with each other back at the hotel room accompanied by a bottle or two of red wine and a bucket of nail polish for our pampering pedicures. Over the years we've watched our friend Laura race in the New York City and Philadelphia marathons, shopped at outlet malls, gotten roped into judging a costume contest at a Mystery Weekend and attended a crafts fair in Vermont.

This year we planned our annual retreat in Ithaca, New York, a funky college town set among beautiful steep hills and 19th century homes at the southern tip of the Finger Lakes region. We arrived Friday evening and left Sunday morning and managed to pack in a lot of fun into our 48 hour pass. We ate out, shopped for crafts and clothes in Ithaca Commons, tooled around the Farmer's Market and Cornell Campus, attended an elegant opening at the Henry F. Johnson Museum of Art and, of course, squeezed in a lot of chatter and laughter.

The Ithaca Farmer's Market was a treat. Despite the cool drizzle of our November morning, we whiled away a lovely several hours admiring gorgeous displays of autumn vegetables, baked goods and artisan crafts. While slurping up my Cambodian noodle breakfast and lugging my clanking bottles of hard cider I was drawn to the artwork of Alice Muhlback. She paints moon faced figures on wood, including this great bookish artwork entitled "Altered by the Words" that I really coveted.

I was able to convince my bibliophile buddy Linda to break away from the pack and search out Autumn Leaves Used Books, a triple-decker bookshop with a vegetarian cafe upstairs, books on the well-lit, well-populated main floor and used records on the lower level. I was pleased to scoop up several titles that my customers are looking for and of course, several for myself, including a hardcover of Brian Jacques second Redwall novel "Mattimeo" and "Heat" by Bill Buford, about his apprenticeship with chef Mario Batali.

Autumn Leaves bookseller Rick Sage was a delight to chat with and was kind enough to let me snap his photo while admiring a coffee table book about Tijuana Bibles. Linda was also delighted to snag the collected poems of Allen Ginsberg, who, she related to us all later, she caught at Madison, Wisconsin coffee houses reading his poetry (with harmonium accompaniment)during her wild, go-go-boot-shod teenagerhood.

There are a number of other used bookstores in downtown Ithaca and the surrounding hills to explore another day, and I have since discovered that Ithaca has great literary value as the setting of many novels and as the home of some cool authors, so I hope to return soon for some more exploration and book hunting. The Tompkins County Public Library also hosts a twice-annual book sale which is billed as the third largest in the U.S., so other book hunters may want to take note!

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