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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Death of a Tales, Man!

posted by on March 25 at 19:55 PM

I walked into Twice Sold Tales on John St., off Broadway, just now, for the very last time. The building it inhabits will be a pile of dust, very, very soon. Right now, it looks like this…

(photo by Miss Barbara Pomer)

…and soon it will be gone entirely.

Let us pause for a moment to remember Twice Sold Tales the way it was, and by “the way it was” I do not mean “they way it has been lately”, which is retarded.

And by retarded I mean that they did not quite ever recover from the square footage they sacrificed when The Bush Years crashed down on the economy’s head like a lead boot and they were forced to dry-wall the poor old bookstore in half. All the aisles were smooshed together and it was impossible, by God, to browse comfortably.

Someone’s ass was always in your face, or rubbing up against your ass, and as delightful as this sounds on paper, it was never (oh, never!) the ass you wanted in your face. It was always that other guy’s ass. The guy whose ass you wouldn’t even want to rub with somebody else’s ass. And to expand upon this assy theme, the place began to smell like ass, too—cat ass. Big cat ass. The biggest. Lots of them. You know what I’m talking about.

Now, please to not misunderstand: I adore them damn cats; they’re what made the place so darling. So quaint. The cats always kept out those “allergy” types completely, and aren’t they always just so fucking annoying? Of course they are. So. But when the place shrank, the cats’ butts did not, and apparently they all exist upon a diet of road kill, and, well…disaster.

What I’m trying to say is that it got all too cat-assy and small. Thank you.

ANY-hoozits, there once was a day when Twice Sold Tales was big and roomy and only moderately assy and it was the most wonderful place to browse books and scratch cats in the universe. It was enchanting when mixed with a latte and a Sunday afternoon, and it was a respectable place to meet cute boys. (Twice Sold Tales had an enormous Gay Interests section when gay was still interesting, and a huge Theater Section when theater still mattered, and all this was when Capitol Hill was still gayer than the Easter egg that Charles Nelson Riley laid, so, the place was cruisier than an MX missile. That goes without saying of course.)

And that is the day I beg you to remember. That big, roomy, only moderately assy, gay, cruisy Sunday day.

It’s all over now.

Sure, Twice Sold Tales isn’t vanishing completely, only skittering down Denny a few blocks, and the move really can’t result in anything but an improvement….but still. I can’t help but feel just a little bit sad…


RSS icon Comments


Cruisier than a Tomahawk missile. The MX was more MIRVy than cruisy.

Posted by elenchos | March 25, 2008 8:10 PM

Adrian blew me once in the "occult" section. He doesn't remember it.

Posted by Paulus | March 25, 2008 8:26 PM

If you really went to talk about Twice Sold Tales "the way it was", then you need to talk about the little stall at the Broadway Market that Jamie ran in 1989.

God I'm old.

Posted by old timer | March 25, 2008 8:34 PM

don't i?

Posted by adrian! | March 25, 2008 8:48 PM

or... Curiosity seekers, you'll have about 8 weeks in the new place before the stench of cat pee permeates the joint.

Posted by oneway | March 25, 2008 8:49 PM

Hey, I remember that bookstore from a visit to Seattle a long time ago! I always meant to go back and find it. I don't remember any cat-ass smell, but I do remember there was a really good bagel place nearby -- New York-style bagels. What the hell was it?

Posted by Irena | March 25, 2008 8:52 PM

Oh, man.

I used to go in there when it was open after hours on weekends and the clerk had a bottle of Scotch behind the counter, and range through the fiction and the poetry, drinking the Scotch out of a little plastic cup and feeling the full thrill of youth and literature, and the possibilities of the city then. Pure sweetness. I spend a decade buying hundreds of books there and then sold the remaining half of them right back when I split for Mexico.

As great as the expansion was, there was the coolest little record store in that nextdoor space briefly in 94-95 where it seems junkies would put their vinyl on consignment - I picked up a completely immaculate copy of the Germs' 'GI' for $15 and was like, what the fuck? and the clerk shrugged and said, "Junkies need junk." Picked up Wire's 'Pink Flag' there too original pressing for something like 20 bucks.

Awesome that Ellen Forney is doing the art for the station. Life goes into new forms.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | March 25, 2008 9:03 PM

Will they still have the list of stupid questions people have asked them hanging on the wall behind the sour looking clerks? Do you still get a complimentary glare just for walking in the door? Do you still get to wait at the register for five minutes before given the opportunity to buy stuff from them? Do they still sigh when you ask them to help you find something?

Fuck, I hate that place. I'm the fucking Buddha of loving kindess when I'm shopping, and I got treated like garbage both times I went to that shit hole.

The kitties are cute though.

Posted by toasterhedgehog | March 25, 2008 9:13 PM

amen - everytime i went in there, i felt like i was an asshole. i'm like, can i buy a book and they were like, no but you can fuck off!

Posted by joey | March 25, 2008 9:24 PM

Soon to be condos, I assume?

Posted by Art | March 25, 2008 9:26 PM

I'm not sad at all. Back in the early 90's, I bought a first edition Bukowski from them (Love is a Dog from Hell), and they neglected to inform me that it contained an anti-theft metallic sticker on a page near the middle. When I returned, I asked them to remove it, but they didn't want to risk damaging the book. Therefore, I very carefully attempted to remove it while the clerk watched. Well, after the minor damage, they wouldn't give me a refund (even after I pointed out that they could put a new sticker in the exact same place as the tear, and try to sell it to the next sucker). They wouldn't satisfy me with answers as to why I wasn't informed of the sticker before my purchase, why they didn't remove it after I had purchased it, or why they didn't disclose to their customers that they were defacing books in an attempt to prevent theft.

Ahh, but the next few hours of explaining this story to everyone attempting to enter the store provided a little bit of relief. Until they called the cops, that is... Fucking fascists; I hope they go out of business soon. (Yes, this grudge is 15+ years old; I'm patient.)

Posted by mmbb | March 25, 2008 9:27 PM

I feel like part of the problem. In my 20s, TST was a frequent haunt. Now that I'm in my 30s, married and living in Ballard, I only ever go there if I'm eating dinner on Capitol Hill for some reason, maybe once or twice a year. I'm sorry, TST!

Posted by earinc | March 25, 2008 9:41 PM

@10: nope, a transit station. And TST is moving into a new location only a few blocks away, so it's not even going out of business or anything. Really, there's no real sadness, other than the slight melancholy of change.

Posted by Abby | March 25, 2008 9:47 PM
Posted by banjoboy | March 25, 2008 10:15 PM

Irena @6: You may be thinking of Noah's Bagels. They're still around and just as good as always. By the way, don't you live in Victoria? Munro's is the best bookstore in Canada, although there's one in downtown Whitehorse that runs a close second.

I'll miss the old place. In the last few weeks I found some first edition classics for a fraction of what they're probably worth. And the musty smell of old books and cat pee was part of the ambience one will never find at Borders or Barnes & Noble. I even felt like a sell out when I started going to Half Price Books a few blocks away. Looking forward to seeing the new location.

Posted by RainMan | March 25, 2008 10:28 PM

I just like how they had a "manly things" section, from which I got a nice book on woodworking.

Posted by Mr. Joshua | March 25, 2008 10:33 PM

Nice place, but I sympathize with @8 a little - the neverending barrage of signs telling you WHAT NEVER EVER TO DO!!!!!! WE MEAN IT, ASSHOLE CUSTOMERS!!! got annoying after a while.

Posted by tsm | March 25, 2008 11:03 PM

I'd inevitably stop in here when visiting a friend in Capitol Hill whenever I was in Seattle, and couldn't get past the archway with books they both recommend and revile before getting the fuck outta there because of the stench of cat piss. I would never buy a book from there, solely because I do not want that stink on me or anything I hold dear.

Posted by Tdub | March 25, 2008 11:08 PM

When I was a teen I used to take the bus into Seattle and spend long stretches amongst the shelves. I'm sure they rolled their eyes at yet another youngster buying up all the Sartre and Vonnegut. I'm feeling that slight melancholy of change, as Abby@13 so nicely stated, but that will fade quickly once we get light rail.

Posted by madamecrow | March 25, 2008 11:24 PM

Used bookstores and record stores were so rad before the internet.

Posted by Trevor | March 25, 2008 11:26 PM

I know that, by general assent, any logic that blames Bush for anything is to be accepted without proof. But the idea that Twice Sold Tales problems were because the "Bush Years crashed down on the economy’s head like a lead boot" is just too ridiculous.

In the past few years, workers' wages have stagnated (not "crashed"), but the picture for businesses, including small businesses, has been pretty good. An established small business halving its square footage as a prelude to closing your doors entirely has not been a typical story by any measure.

Twice Sold Tales problems have much more to do with its abysmal customer service (see #8, #11, #17, #18 and even #7) than with the general economic picture. Continuing to abuse your customers when other shops are treating them better and Amazon is competing in the used book space is not a great business plan.

Posted by David Wright | March 26, 2008 12:13 AM

Can someone just tell me what has happened to Capitol Hill? It used to be so wonderful and vibrant and full of gay boys cruising and life. The last time I was there it was run down and lacking in gay boys cruising. Granted, I was there quite a while ago...but when I lived on Capitol Hill in the early 90's it was so wonderful. Maybe I am remembering wrong? I was a bit psychotic then.

Posted by Kristin | March 26, 2008 3:06 AM

Ah yes, "retarded" - always the hallmark of a brilliant writer with a firm grasp on the English language. Tell me "Adrian!" (pathetic exclamation mark yours ) what hits the ground first, your slackjaw, beer gut or raisins?

Posted by Angela | March 26, 2008 6:14 AM

will not be missed - the stench - and the rude help were total turn offs - have not been in the door for a decade

also they were very cheap, REALLY cheap when buying books, barf to the owner.

rumor is she collected big time from Sound Transit, but to hear her tell, it is all doom, gloom and poverty, barf number two.

Posted by Jack | March 26, 2008 7:22 AM

that place stunk worse than a bumbershoot drum circle.

all those fat lazy cats.

Posted by SeMe | March 26, 2008 7:29 AM

@21, At some point it becomes the "people should buy from us because its the right thing to do" business model and that's pretty much doomed to failure.

Posted by Giffy | March 26, 2008 8:04 AM

TST stopped being cool when they fired the guy who worked the graveyard shift and stopped staying open all night on weekends.

For all I know they had a good reason to fire him, but still. As a night owl who spent many a late night browsing the stacks (with the after midnight discount, too), the hours cutback combined with the space cutback made the store a lot less useful.

Posted by litlnemo | March 26, 2008 8:24 AM

I went in for the first time while visiting Seattle a couple weeks ago (after remembering the "somebody stole their kitten!" post on Slog), and was treated pretty shittily. I figured I'd breached some unspoken taboo that I'd missed because I'm not from Seattle. It's reassuring to know that locals get treated just as badly.

Posted by Christin | March 26, 2008 8:40 AM

@22, Cap Hill stopped being cool and gay sexy years ago. I remember when TST, and the Broadway Market were the BEST places to cruise cute guys. (and how about that book store at the Broadway Market? huh? and they also had the GAP and nothing is more gay than the GAP) Now, Mayor Nickels has transformed it into a dumping ground for homeless street kids and drug addicts with the occasion homophobe on Friday or Saturday nights.

How can Seattle seriously call itself a gay friendly city anyway?

Posted by Andrew | March 26, 2008 8:43 AM


She did collect bigtime from Sound Transit, and her plan to do so was years in the making. I first heard her bitching and complaining and planning how much she was going to soak ST for while having a slice at Pagliacci six years ago.

Capitol Hill is no longer fun, cruisy, or gay. As an oldtimer (I moved to the Hill in 1993), it's really depressing to see all the street/drug rats and crappy stores that have taken over.

Posted by cinenaut | March 26, 2008 9:26 AM

Stinky. And a crappy, crappy bookstore, with lame stock coming apart at the seams. A great place to go if you're looking for 1980s workout books or ripped dust jackets. The smell, the rude clerks, and the mentally-ill owner having some kind of a fit or breakdown by the register were just bonuses.

Posted by Fnarf | March 26, 2008 9:33 AM

Does anyone know what's happening to some of the other businesses in that block -- Everyday Music? The piroshky stand?

Posted by David | March 26, 2008 9:47 AM

I walked in at 3 a.m. looking for an obscure novel. The clerk was smoking a joint. I found the novel.

I could swear this happened on a weekday—wasn’t it briefly open 24 hours on some weekdays?

Posted by BB | March 26, 2008 9:58 AM

Whatevs. I too remember Jamie from her Broadway Market days.

I've kept a careful eye on some long-term used bookstores, like TST and Horizon and, back in the day, Shorey's. My observation is that used bookstores that don't purge stock from time to time or re-invest profits to keep their stock of good books up eventually just become less useful as used bookstores. When TST was in its prime, I could go there and find something close to what I was looking for. But the last couple of times I went into TST (and the last few times I've been to Horizon), they just have the dregs of 20 years of very occasional bad purchases, building up until those bad books completely fill the store.

As far as customer service, I never had a problem at TST. But I'm not one of those people who thinks good customer service includes smiles and ass-kissing.

Finally, the reason Broadway sucks is because it used to be good: the rush of foot traffic and income that came with the early 90s culture boom resulted in landlords overvaluing the real estate and pushing out all the places that gave Broadway its character, as well as preventing anything new and good from going in. That's what happened to Seattle generally -- it's why theatre and live music are dead in Seattle too. Nobody can afford the rent for a venue.

Posted by Judah | March 26, 2008 10:22 AM

it's moving into my building! im stoked. and maybe this will forestall any condo-going.

Posted by lar | March 26, 2008 10:27 AM

wow...hating the new SLOG design 'cause I wrote a brilliant comment and it didn't TAKE and now i'm pissed...that's all...

oh, in a nutshell, my previous comment pointed out that not only do neighborhoods change, individuals change, too. All you yuppies and hipsters whining about how much the Hill has changed and how awful it has become, are looking back through Lasik'd tinged eyes at a time when you were young and grungy yourself and didn't mind that everyone else was also young and grungy. Yes, the neigborhood has changed; it has to in order to survive, but let's be frank; you've changed more than the neighborhood has.

Oh, and all those divine gay boys walking hand in hand and cock in mouth in the glorious 90's? They're either dead, relocated to SF/LA/NYC/Tucson or living in West Seattle townhouses with their potbellies, 401ks and latest husbands...

And I've never been a huge Adrian fan, but since he's stopped doing his inane column in the print edition and dedicated himself to longer pieces both online and in print, his writing has really improved and I find myself, (gulp) enjoying a lot of his pieces...scary.

Posted by michael strangeways | March 26, 2008 10:31 AM

Tucson? Really?

Posted by Fnarf | March 26, 2008 11:56 AM

@23 Thank you.

Posted by Retarded! | March 26, 2008 12:14 PM

well, Tucson is more of a dyke thing, but yeah, Tucson is kinda of a hot and accessible to Mexico, its drugs and hot Mexicans.

Posted by michael strangeways | March 26, 2008 12:19 PM

Adrian, you don't always get the ass that you want--you get the ass you need.

Posted by My Other Car's the Tardis | March 26, 2008 3:04 PM

Rainman @15,

Yes, Noah's! I wish we had one in Victoria, though Mount Royal bagels do a fine job if you like them Montreal-style.

Munro's only sells new books, but yes, it's good, especially the poetry section -- Doug makes great recommendations and will order in anything you want (I was just there on the weekend to get John Ashbery's latest book). And of course, it's cool that Mr. Munro is Alice Munro's ex-husband. But mostly, it's just a beautiful store. In the winter when there are no tourists around it feels like a church, as all bookstores should.

Posted by Irena | March 26, 2008 5:22 PM

TST was once a really great bookstore -- quirky, well-stocked, informed employees -- but it was a great store DESPITE the owner. When Jamie wasn't throwing a customer out, yelling at an employee, or cursing out someone on the phone, she was corralling a customer (often me) and blubbering on about her boyfriend, her rashes, drug use in the neighborhood, or something or other. All I wanted was the latest Margaret Atwood, not a face full of foam and a soap opera headache.

Posted by Marion | March 26, 2008 6:49 PM

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