Familar Topographies

Sometimes a place just fits, like it was custom-designed for a particular moment and state of mind. Yesterday morning this place was the basement of City Lights bookstore in a section entitled “Topo/Graphies” where I found myself during my last few hours in San Francisco, a city where I’ve come to feel at home in the last few days.

Sunday morning I got up early to wander around for a while before catching an afternoon flight back to Boston.

After grabbing a coffee and bagel, I walked up Grant through Chinatown and before long a familiar voice hollered my name from across the street. There stood Lad Tobin, my dissertation chair from BC, waiting for a ride to stay with relatives in another part of the city. Our chance encounter gave the city a familiar feel, and we chatted for a while as if we were standing between Carney Hall and McElroy at BC, as if the tourists jostling past us were students rushing between classes.

After parting ways with Lad, I made my way to City Lights with the intention of picking up a copy of Lefevre’s Production of Space, but when I couldn’t find a copy in the basement philosophy section, I began browsing other shelves nearby. As I turned around, the first shelf I encountered as called “Topo/graphies” and it didn’t take me long to realize that this shelf was designed just for me. To my amazement, it was full of books on technology and place, a hand-picked reading list for my dissertation that I began to transcribe furiously into my notebook in the few minutes I had before heading back to my hotel. Next time I’m in San Francisco I want to find out who designed this shelf so I can thank him or her in my dissertation acknowledgements page.

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