PLACES bookshop opened in a studio at Rosewood in Topanga this past December. There was a fine mist of rain that morning, the soft opening for the imminent sky river. I could take a breath and drink the air, taste geranium, pine and rosewood.
I was the first to arrive at Karolina’s opening and appreciate how tucked away it is. On one side, Rosewood, with an exterior reminiscent of the sultry corridors of Marrakech; on the other, Froggy’s—the historic hall, restaurant and watering hole that is now only open a handful times a year. Turning down the driveway next to Froggy’s, I realized I took for granted the sake margaritas and surprisingly vibrant fish tacos you could once get there.
Karolina Palmer, the founder of PLACES, had never lived in a town without a bookshop. Other than the library, and a couple of gift shops carrying some books, there hadn’t been a book shop in Topanga for several years. Having one again adds to the cadence of life here.
On a table outside, beside a warming spread of food, was a collage and menu Karolina made. It described the cozy offerings for the opening: spiced carrot, ginger, and black sesame loaf; lemon, plum, olive oil cake; leek, red cabbage, feta frittata; toor dal with charred broccolini and pink radish. Also thoughtfully included was a brown rice garlic congee with ginger, cilantro and chili, and a gluten free pear skillet cake. People sipped on hot drinks and mulled wine.
To take away there was fresh roasted masala spice and buckwheat teff seed loaf made by hand. A table of delights, surrounded by chatter. Quite suddenly, I was in the mood to celebrate.
On the shelves of the bookshop I found familiar covers. It was like seeing old friends — Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, a personal favorite, as well as On Beauty.
“I would happily read Zadie Smith’s grocery list. I love the way she dissects culture,” Karolina shared.
Nearby was The Volcano Lover by Susan Sontag. A torn page with a portrait of Elbert Hubbard, American writer, and artist rested on a shelf, its edges seemingly crisped by candle flame. Elbert, a philosopher who famously shared his view that all good men were really anarchists, had a difficult life as a publisher and thought leader in the early 1900’s. My favorite line of his: “The love we give away is the only love we keep.”
I feel safe in a room full of stacks of books. And safer yet in the company of cookbooks. I think it could be true that nothing horrible has ever happened while reading a cookbook.
A week or so after the opening, I found myself anticipating the next happening at PLACES and joined in the holiday shopping there. Folks with a cafe called Sightglass on Seventh Street in San Francisco were there to serve coffee, and I could almost hear Divisadero Street sipping it.
The event coincided with the anniversary of the death of thirteenth century Persian mystic and poet Rumi. To honor him, my neighbor invited a handful of us over to an acoustic set by Tim O’Gara, and to share a vibrant Persian spread. We broke some uuof Blake’s Topanga Mother bread, along with a traditional sangak we picked up on Ventura Blvd. It was large enough to nap in. I also couldn’t resist picking up Persian saffron and pistachio ice creams. Another thing that could be true; you don’t need to get on a plane to explore another country, a community bookstore opens a window on the world.
“I fell in love with Topanga the moment I landed here,” says Karolina. “I love how simple my life feels. Meeting friends at TLC and Endless Color for a bite or heading to Space art + supply for a beautiful experience are so much of what anchors our community. Book shops have been a touchpoint for me in every place I’ve lived and spent time in. I seek them out when I travel so I can anchor myself into the place I’m visiting. I have spent countless hours in them pursuing comfort, relief, and wisdom.”
PLACES is located at 1111 N Topanga Canyon Blvd
You may be interested in PLACES’ book club currently visiting The Agony of Eros by South Korean-born German philosopher Byung-Chul Han.
To order bundles of books to gift firstname.lastname@example.org
To order eats by Karolina @saladdaysmeals
Topanga Mother loafs @TopangaMother