Driving down Peachtree Road through Buckhead after an encouraging visit with my courtly cardiologist, I decided to see how the Barnes & Noble at the Peach Shopping Center is faring with the covid recovery.
Through the years, the bookstore was one of my favorite haunts, the last remaining Buckhead bookstore after the demise of Borders and Oxford Books.
While corporate owned, the Buckhead Barnes & Noble maintained the literary feel of an independent bookstore, through different shifts in retail strategy.
But, Covid ended my happy days of bookstore exploring. I hadn't been to the B&N since February 2020, when the pandemic panic was rising. On my last visit to the still packed and unmasked store, a customer's ominous coughing persuaded me that quarantine time had arrived.
Happily vaccinated and a member of the masked tribe, I decided to return to the bookstore to acquire a print copy of the New Yorker, which I'd been reading online for a few years. One of my favorite writers, Thomas McGuane, had published a short story titled "Balloons" in the latest edition of the magazine, and I wanted to read the piece on paper.
Also, I'd been considering subscribing again to the New York Review of Books and wanted to see how it was doing editorially.
Entering the bookstore, I noticed how empty it appeared. A few customers milled about, but the boisterous crowds of yesteryear had not yet returned. Some changes had been made to the display tables, but the rows of shelves looked the same. But I remained leery about returning to my old blissful browsing.
Hurrying to the magazine section, I was glad to see that the selection of printed magazines remained as strong as ever. I'd feared that the pandemic might have reduced the offerings.
Alas, the new edition of the New Yorker had not yet arrived. The special technology issue of the week before remained on the shelf, although it was Tuesday, the day after the magazine's publication date. After a quick perusal of the literary mags, I did decide to buy a copy of the New York Review, which had a special Arts section.
At the checkout counter, I asked a young woman with Gracie Allen charm when the New Yorker arrived, thinking a copy of the new issue might be available in the backroom. But, goodnight Gracie, she didn't seem to have even heard of the magazine.
So, off I went to read McGuane's story on my computer screen.