After returning to Stroudsburg’s record store to pick up a few more albums, I headed out to Bushkill Falls for a short, easy afternoon hike.  I couldn’t have asked for a nicer weekend in the Poconos: the leaves were lime and just-now amber and golden, the light filtered and luminous in that distinct October way.  The wooden walkways that criss-cross the falls and hillsides made me feel like I was in a northeastern Swiss Family Robinson (which was my brother’s and my favorite film as kids).

This was a walk of talking and taking stock of next steps and future adventures, and then stopping and standing stock-still because — how beautiful.


Street Art in Progress: Stroudsburg

Around sunset on my recent trip to the Poconos, I spotted these paint buckets in an alley off the main street in Stroudsburg.  The artists were partway through an outlined mural and, apparently, taking a break.  A few hours later, well after dark, I walked back by and spotted them on the scaffolding painting by headlamp.

Two fun glimpses into this artistic progress.

Bookshopping: Carroll & Carroll

On my weekend trip to the Poconos, I stopped at Carroll & Carroll Booksellers in Stroudsburg.  Walking down the main drag in Stroudsburg feels like going back in time a few decades: they have a bookshop, a music store, a camera shop, and just for good measure a homemade ice cream shop (called, delightfully, Sweet Creams.  Get the cinnamon.  It’s delicious.)


Carroll & Carroll has a terrific collection that encompasses everything from brand-new novels and hardcovers to standard-issue used books, to some pretty gorgeous antique editions.  And they’re all jumbled together in great, inviting piles.  Usually when I see bookstores mix new and used books together like this — at favorite bookstores like Boulder Books and Powells — the used books are incorporated into the new book shelves.  But Carroll & Carroll organizes the whole bookstore like a used bookstore, with bookshelves stocked two-rows deep and piles stacked on floors and in corners.  There will be two new copies of Rebecca Makkai with a tattered Malamud sandwiched between.  And in this bookstore, that absolutely works.

Perhaps because of the nearby college, or more likely because of the fabulous, sharp, witty couple that owns this shop, there’s a pretty impressive selection of whip-smart literature.  A whole row of Doris Lessing, a shelf of Proust.

And then completely random and unexpected extras.  I wound up in a great conversation with the bookstore owner about a book on pencil sharpening that turns out to be as fascinating as it is unironic.  (So many significant daily inventions are perfectly designed for the jobs they do, but are not quite world-changing, we marveled.)


The owners keep a wall of newsclippings about writers and books, mostly obituaries of great modern writers.  And it feels like a nice reminder of our shared enterprise, our community of writers and readers and booksellers.  A point of human connection with all the people who wrote the books we’re browsing.

Plus, for balance, some comics.

That’s what it feels like in this bookstore: that you’re discovering things every time you bend down over a bookpile or move the front row from a shelf.  Each time there’s something unexpected and delightful, engaging and challenging.

I really did have such a nice afternoon in Stroudsburg.  And just when I’d finished book browsing, I walked one block away and found this:

My week has been happily stocked with books and records ever since this trip.

Old Records

As I write one of the last stories in my book, I’ve been listening to a lot of music.  On a trip to the Poconos this weekend, I took advantage of a record player at the Airbnb house I rented — and a sale at the music shop in town — to stock up on a few records from the 1930s and 40s.  Yesterday morning I listened to some late-20s Bessie Smith recordings.  It felt good to listen to Bessie on this old album, through tinny speakers.  Music has wound up having more of a presence in this book than I’d anticipated.  I’m waiting to see how it manifests in this new story.