Small, Strange Businesses

Kage Baker absolutely loved to shop. When she had no money, she went window shopping and made lists for when she did get money. She never carried her own credit or debit card, nor even kept them in her desk – an idle hour on her computer could turn into a budget-devouring shopping trip.

She liked getting boxes delivered, too. But delivery men hated our house,  especially given Kage’s preference for living on upper stories …

Christmas was a great time for Kage. Before we began working Dickens, she had me drive her to favourite malls or department stores, where she would spend a happy afternoon working her way through her Christmas list. It was always enormous – she was one of 6 true-born and a few foster siblings, most of whom had also promptly had offspring; she was a several-times-over honourary aunt, too. The pile under our Christmas tree was always huge – at least until we took most of it over to someone’s house on Christmas morning.

Even before Black Friday became a national holiday – and before Small Business Saturday sprang up in defense of local merchants;  or non-shoppers established a stay home and hibernate counter-movement in defense of comfy sloth – Kage liked to tour her favourite local stores.We lived in so many peculiar small towns, full of very odd stores: old, strange stores that sold exotic shells, micro-distillery jams and lotions, paper made from seaweed and rose petals …

She ranged from Halcyon to Cambria-By-The-Sea when we lived on the Central Coast, a 50 mile arc through vineyards and meadows full of white cattle and egrets and matillja poppies … from the post office  across the street from the Temple of the People (you could buy essential oils and activated crystals in both places), via the lead soldier store by Moonstone Beach to Heart’s Ease Nursery: the small businesses Kage favoured outshone Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. And they were real.

When we lived in Los Angeles, we made a day trip to the Farmer’s Market on Fairffax each winter. Now it’s attached to the ultra-posh Grove, and I haven’t been back yet … but I’m hoping it is still stone-floored alleys where the rain leaks through the canopies, alleys lined with tiny bizarre shops and strung with miles of aromatic green wreaths and huge crimson satin ribbons. We’d eat hot chestnuts and sloppy French dip sandwhiches, sip exotic fresh fruit juices and cups of hot chocolate … we wandered about buying strange things that sparkled, or perfumed the air, or shed unearthly lights for the people on our lists.

It’s got the  the widest selection of improbable foil wrapped chocolates, too – want crickets? Lady bugs? Robots? Edible Legos? Farmer’s Market’s got you covered.

You know, Dear Readers … I was gonna post an itsy bitsy excuse of a blog today, explaining I had gone out for a Small Business Patronage trip with Kimberly and worn my self right out. And I did do that, too. I must recommend, in fact, a place here in Atwater Village called Potted – it’s been selling garden doohickies of diverse sorts (mostly gorgeous pots)  since I was a wee girl and had to go through the shop with my hands firmly in my pockets: so much glass! So much clay! So much glittering potpourri!

(Now that I’m a grownup, though, I get to touch things. And advise other people to come out here and see this wonderful place. Kimberly and I bought a squirrel feeder with a roof, and wildflower bombs, and felted wool mistletoe, and a glass Brussels sprout ornament. As you can see, there’s something for everyone … )

Anyway, I started this and got dragged into the stream of Memory, and why even I enjoyed shopping when it was in magical places like these.  So I’ve gone on and on, and now all I have to say is: go to the small, hidden places. Go to the shops you found behind an old wrought iron forge one afternoon, and marked in your memory; go to the narrow, crooked streets and the shops with hand-lettered signs and a plate of strange cookies on the counter. Go find perfume distilled in someone’s bathroom; scarves knit beside a sea-coal fire; cards painted in someone’s solarium, and hand-lettered by someone else with a brass nib and a peacock’s feather trimmed to a pen-staff …

Go find magic, Dear Readers, and give it to the ones you love.