The only consolation for a failed kayaking trip is books and coffee


Yesterday we were supposed to go on a kayaking trip in Three Rivers, Michigan.

I’ve been dying to go kayaking all summer. I love kayaking. Kayaking was my first foray into outdoorsy nature stuff. Paddling down a river in deep woods fostered my love for being outdoors and going on adventures. After discovering kayaking my first summer in Michigan and loving it, I branched out to camping and eventually hiking. But kayaking will always have a special place in my heart for its simplicity, tranquility, and the great scenery.


On the Au Sable River in Huron National Forest, 2013

After that first summer when I got hooked on kayaking, I went at least 5-6 times each summer. Give me a warm summer weekend and I’ll be floating down a river. But so far this season I haven’t gone once. Lots of factors: we moved to a house in the beginning of August, and moving is such a huge production. I also had an odd work schedule this summer where I had to work several weekends. We attempted to go kayaking several weeks ago but we decided to turn around and head home because it was rainy, windy, and cold.

So we planned a kayaking trip with our friends who live in Kalamazoo, an hour and a half from Lansing. They suggested a place in a nearby town called Three Rivers. They had gone before, and said that it was a pretty good kayaking river.

The livery was called Liquid Therapy, very near the downtown area. Our friends told us to be at the livery by 2pm, because their website says that you have to be in the water by 2pm. We showed up at the place 2:12pm. Why were we late? Well, it could be attributed to a whole lot of factors: when we woke up that morning it was freezing cold so we decided we didn’t want to go kayaking (but eventually changed our minds mid morning), Kory went to a 10:30am Aikido class, I went to the farmer’s market, I demanded we stop at Panera to get food, etc etc. Doesn’t matter- we showed up twelve minutes past 2pm. Our friends had gotten in the water at 2pm, and were basically just around the bend waiting for us to catch up.

The kayaking rental lady wouldn’t let us rent kayaks. She said they don’t let people in the water after 2pm. We argued that our friends just got in the water 12 minutes ago, and they’re waiting for us, so….but she was intractable.


Oh, the disappointment! We had gone all this way! Our friend was ready to murder someone (namely, either Kory or me). I couldn’t believe our plans to go kayaking was foiled yet again. Summer was practically over, and it’s only going to get colder.

I was seriously bummed out. I already felt that this summer was disappointing in terms of our outdoors stuff; we hadn’t gone on nearly as many trips as we should or could have. Le sigh.

So now we had to figure out a way to pass 3 hours until our friends got done with their kayaking.

On the way to the livery, I noticed a huge bookstore in the small downtown area. I suggested that we go there to wait instead of sulking in the parking lot.

The name of the bookstore is Lowry’s. It’s in the historic downtown area of Three Rivers, which is a tiny town as far as I can tell.

Here’s where the crushing disappointment of the failed kayaking trip had a silver lining: this bookstore is an absolute gem. For fuckin realz. I’m amazed that I’ve never heard of it, and amazed that this bookstore exists here, in this tiny Michigan town in the middle of nowhere.

It’s a used bookstore and it is huge. It had like 4 large rooms filled with floor to ceiling bookshelves, and a basement too! Seriously, this place was big. The biggest bookstore I’ve been to in Michigan. Their website says that they are the third largest bookstore in the state.

Have I mentioned that I love used bookstores? This is one of the best I’ve been in. Why? Their huge inventory, sure. Seriously, I could have spent a whole day in there. Maybe more. Aside from that, the books are organized really well. There’s also a lot of space between the shelves. Many used bookstores feel cramped and disorderly, but not Lowry’s. Three people can walk abreast down an aisle, no problem.

Their prices are also cheaper than other used bookstores I’ve been to in Michigan. A similar book that I could buy in Ann Arbor’s Dawn Treader for $9 would be like $5 in Lowry’s.

Here’s my haul from Lowry’s. The vampire books are Kory’s.


Jane Eyre $4 ; Women in Love $3; Hound of the Baskervilles $5

Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books, but I only have a paperback. I have this weird thing where I want to my favorite books, especially classics, to be hardbound. I’m pretty OCD about how my books are organized and displayed – you can read about it in this post! I’ve read The Hound of the Baskervilles years ago, but to be honest I got the book because it was a beautiful book. Ha! Does that make me shallow? I do love Sherlock Holmes though. After I finish it, Women in Love will join my two classic erotica books, Story of O and Little Birds on the shelf. Story of O is what Fifty Shades of Grey (not that I’ve read it) could be if the writer had any writing chops or made any attempt to write literature. Ha!

Do I sound like a book snob? Not really, I will read trashy memoirs like this, which is the equivalent of bad reality tv.


Smashed, Story of a Drunken Girlhood: 50 cents!

I also got this vintage hardcover for only $5 for my vintage book collection. I dont think I’ll ever read it though. I buy vintage books and pulp fiction for the covers.


Kory got these because she loves vampire anything.


Vampire Academy graphic novel $4.50; I,Vampire $2.50

7 books, including 2 hardbacks and a vintage book for only $24.25 with tax! I’d say that’s a steal.

Lowry’s is also pretty proud of its independent bookstore status and is fighting the good fight against giant retailers like Amazon that are a  threat to indie booksellers and brick and mortar bookstores. I’m not going to deny that I buy books from Amazon, but I also strive to give my money to independent bookstores as much as I can.

So after discovering this gem of a bookstore, the day didn’t seem like a total failure. It’s only natural, really. My favorite leisure activities are camping, kayaking, reading, traveling and drinking coffee. So if the outdoor activities fail? Books are pretty much the only thing that can come close. But let’s not forget the coffee.

Because it’s such a tiny town, the only place to get coffee after 2pm on a Sunday was McDonald’s or Biggby. So after Lowry’s, we head to Kalamazoo to hit up the café with the best coffee in town: Water Street. I had a soy caramel latte, and it was legit, y’all.


espresso goodness

At that point our friends finally got out of the water and we arranged to meet them at another bookstore, Michigan News.

Michigan News is an independent bookstore in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It’s pretty tiny- there are only three aisles in one room. It’s also not a used bookstore; the books are full retail price.


Michigan News mostly stocks bestsellers. I was talking to the owner and she said that she stocks the top 50 on all the major categories in the New York Times Bestsellers list at any given time.

The cool thing about Michigan News is that they stock only one copy of every book, and when someone purchases a book they buy another one to replace it. This lets them keep their overhead down because they don’t have to store overstock, and this also makes it a lot easier to browse for books because you don’t have to sift through multiple copies.


I bought two books that I’ve already read. The Phantom Tollbooth is one of my favorite books ever, but that book along with all the books I owned before I turned 22 is in my parents’ house in the Philippines. I wanted to have Coraline because I felt like rereading it and getting spooked around Halloween. Also determined to complete my Neil Gaiman collection in a year or so.

We went to a Peruvian restaurant called EL Inca  for dinner and deserts at Chocolatea. The Peruvian food was pretty good, and I was surprised. Chocolatea has a large assortment of loose leaf teas and pastries and chocolates.

So yeah, the outdoors excursion was a fail but books, coffee, Peruvian food, and a huge cream puff happened. You lose some; you win some.

Merging our book collection: A cohabitation dilemma

After several days of unpacking boxes in our new house, I finally got to my boxes of books that would go on the big bookshelf in my office.

I was totally psyched about having my own office. We moved from a 2-bedroom apartment to a 3-bedroom house, so now Kory and I each have our own office. In our old apartment, the second bedroom was our shared office, which couldn’t hold all of our books. So for the 3 years we lived together in the apartment, our books were on separate bookshelves in the living room. I lived there first, so when she moved in, we just set up her bookshelves beside mine. For years, our respective book collection stood side by side like that.

So I’m unpacking the boxes, sorting books into different genres before putting them on shelves. My categories end up being: graphic novels, pulp novels, fantasy, sci fi, children’s classics, English & American classics, non fiction, chick lit, and Neil Gaiman. There are books that don’t really have piles to go with, so I group them by topic or “feeling”.  Junky by William Burroughs, Post Office by Charles Bukowski, Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey all went together. Because you know, they’re white men writing about drugs, alcohol, and madness. (Later I added Girl, Interrupted by Susana Kaysen because that didn’t really fit in with “chick lit”).



This is where I would put the copy of American Psycho and A Clockwork Orange

I get a little sad about how small my book collection is, relative to the number of books I’ve actually read. I borrow a lot of books from the library, and all of the books I’ve acquired before I was 22 are back in my parents’ home in the Philippines.

I think that a person’s book collection (or lack thereof) reflects a lot about the person and their personality. Whenever I visit someone’s home I always like to peek in their bookshelves. Obviously people don’t own a copy of every book they’ve read, but I think the titles we choose to purchase, own, and keep speaks volumes (geddit).


I have two cubbies in my large square Ikea bookcase that I delegate as a “place of honor”, where a book is displayed with its cover facing out. One is my small vintage collection of Oz books. The second cubbie goes to Neil Gaiman, my favorite author. I have all the Sandman volumes plus a couple other graphic novels, and four of his books – Neverwhere, Fragile Things, Good Omens, and Ocean at the End of the Lane. Ocean and The Doll’s House are displayed because they are autographed, which I acquired in person! I suddenly felt disappointed at my measly Gaiman book collection, considering he is my favorite author and I’ve read all his work (except for some of the children’s books).

I knew that Kory has a copy of American Gods, so I run upstairs to her office to stealthily swipe it from her bookshelf.


Dang I really need to buy The Graveyard Book and Smoke & Mirrors


As I quickly scan her bookshelves for American Gods, I spot the books that would complement my book collection nicely or beef up my smaller categories. Her copy of Pride and Prejudice obviously belongs next to my Jane Eyre. And I think my copies of Swiss Family Robinson, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in Eighty Days really ought to be combined with her Gulliver’s Travels and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I mean, adventure classics! Throw in a Rudyard Kipling book and we’ve got a stack we can be proud of.

I’m already formulating in my head what I’m going to say to Kory about how it just makes more sense to merge our book collections so that we can organize all our books by genre and author.

I know there’s going to be resistance, so I’m trying to prepare my rebuttal for each argument.

I know she’ll say that it’s going to be a pain in the ass to take down all the books and then sort them and then reshelve them.

So THEN I’m going to say, no babe, it’s not going to be that hard. We won’t have to take down all the books at once, we can just take one stack from your bookshelf and put it together with mine. I lean towards a bookshelf to inspect the titles more closely.



And that’s when I realize that her books are arranged crazily.



There seems to be very little rhyme or reason to the way she arranges her books. In a way that I can recognize, anyway.

It appears that my girlfriend’s system of shelving books is by size: tall thick hardbacks go on large middle shelves while the short paperbacks go on bottom shelves. Medium-size paperbacks also tend to gravitate to one another, and the plethora of poetry chapbooks are inserted anywhere to fill a crack.

I mean, how else to explain why the Harry Potter  hardcovers are just chillin beside  leatherbound copies of The Complete Plays of Shakespeare and The Works of Edgar Allan Poe ?

What did Doestoyevksy and Robert Frost have in common, exactly?



How to explain why The Origin of Species is flanked by The Zombie Survival Guide and The Aenid?


There were over eight or so Laurel K Hamilton books on random shelves. I itched to gather them up and put them all together with the Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, and Jim Butcher books- which were just scattered all over the place. Together they could form a solid urban fantasy category, filling 2 shelves or so. I mean, at the very least, the Charlotte Perkins Gilman anthology deserved to be put beside The Awakening by Kate Chopin.Why are they even on the same shelf as Pugs for Dummies and You Can Read Palms?


It’s strange that there is no formal system in the way Kory arranges her books, given that she is so much neater than me. I’m the messy one. I’m the one who leaves a trail of stuff in my wake, and she is the one who manages to keep our house picked up and orderly, despite my messiness.

Curiously, this is one aspect where our approaches are the opposite. I’m compelled to properly categorize, file, and display my books while Kory is satisfied with just putting them in one place.

Alright, so maybe merging and organizing our book collections will be a harder endeavor than I imagined because of the lack of organization in Kory’s bookshelves, but I still think it’s beneficial to do it. The books need to be categorized!

And it’s not like we haven’t already combined all of our other possessions. We merged our DVD collection when she moved in without a second thought. Our wardrobe basically doubled when we started cohabitating. Our gender presentation is more or less the same and we weigh within 5 pounds of each other, so we can wear each other’s clothes (although Kory has no interest in my predilection for Columbia hiking pants and Merrel hiking shoes, and I don’t rock her billowy skirts and hippiewear). Her many kitchen appliances (food processor, mixer, slow cooker, blender) was a welcome addition to my vegetable steamer and rice cooker.

So really, merging our book collections is the next logical step. Right? What good reason is there to keep our books separate?

Because I wasn’t up to the huge task of unshelving all the books, I thought about it for a while.

Being booklovers, our bookcases represent our identities as readers. While not displaying every book that we have loved passionately (who borrowed my copy of On the Road??), they do identify our tastes and preferences. A quick look at her shelves will reveal that Kory loves to read about vampires (except in mythos where they sparkle)- she has everything from Bram Stoker’s Dracula to the Sookie Stackhouse series (True Blood) to the Anita Blake series to literary criticism to vampire lore. I like a lot of American fiction from the 1920s- 1950s, and I comb used bookstores and thrift stores for vintage books from that time period. It’s part of my love for American pop culture nostalgia. Kory also likes to read a lot of historical fiction; I don’t have a single title.


With a MFA degree in poetry and as published poet, a fourth of Kory’s book collection is poetry. There are poetry anthologies so thick they could be used as door props, and more chapbooks than you’d know what to do with. The only poet I’ve ever really loved consistently is Edgar Allan Poe. She also has many many books about writing. Books on craft, structure, plot elements, etc. The extent of my nonfiction titles is a short stack of titles on weightlifting, camping in Michigan, and happiness.

There are also books that encapsulate a certain part of our histories. Kory’s copy of Pandora is a stolen library book, a testament to her rabid love for Anne Rice when she was thirteen and limited funds to acquire books. My copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology is new, but it’s meant to be a stand-in for the copy that I had when I was younger. I had read and reread that book so much that the binding disintegrated and all was left was a bunch of papers that I had to rubberband together. This book has the same exact cover and everything. A friend never returned my copy of one of my favorite books, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I was overjoyed to find the same edition of my lost book in a used bookstore.


Of even more value are the books that are annotated. It’s hard to find a similar feeling of intimacy that comes from reading your lover’s copy of Virginia Woolf and coming across the lines that she has underlined.


A Writer’s Diary, Virginia Woolf

After pondering about it for a while, I decided not to merge our libraries. Sure, it still niggles my OCD that our books aren’t compiled and organized by genre > topic > author > year of publication. But it’s clear that these bookshelves represent us. To combine them would essentially erase our individual identities as readers, an identity that we care about. Sure, our science fiction collection could be huge, but the nuances of our own personal tastes within that genre would be erased.

And let’s face it – we don’t need to do any more merging. Our shared wardrobe, similar speech patterns, and same Starbucks drink of choice (soy latte) all point to the horrifying reality that we already suffer from the “urge to merge”. In gay slang, the “urge to merge” refers to the phenomenon of two women basically morphing into the same person when they get into a relationship ( See the related term: U-Haul lesbian ). We’ve gotten dressed to go out separately and then come out wearing matching outfits enough times, that it’s clear we don’t need another facet of our life merged. We are all good here with the merging.



And so my paperbacks of Blood Canticle, Vittorio the Vampire, Blood and Gold, and The Vampire Lestat will stay apart from Kory’s hardcovers of Pandora, Memnoch the Devil, The Vampire Armand, and Interview with the Vampire.  How many people out there intentionally let a whole floor stand between their Vampire Chronicles?

For now, I’m satisfied with the knowledge that even though the books in our house are divided, an important piece of our individual identities remains intact.

Ann Arbor, a nice daytrip

So, not every weekend can be a grand adventure in the woods. In fact, grand outdoor adventures are pretty much the exception. I typically get to go on camping trips 3 or 4 times a year, and each trip is planned weeks or months in advance, taking into account vacation time, other people’s schedules, dog sitting, etc. Do I wish I went on adventures more? Absolutely.

The girlfriend and I love to travel, but since we don’t have an abundance of vacation time and money, we like to take daytrips especially in the summer.

One of our staples is Ann Arbor. It is about an hour away from East Lansing, and that makes it an easy weekend daytrip. This past Sunday after doing some morning errands, we hopped in the car and drove down to Ann Arbor to spend the rest of our day.

I like Ann Arbor because there’s enough stuff I like to do for a day that I leave happy and satisfied. We usually just stick to the downtown area, and I find it to be a relaxing place with a chill vibe. Ann Arbor is home to University of Michigan, and as far as college towns go, this one is pretty cool. I’ve lived and worked in college towns for the last nine years – Columbus, Ohio (Ohio State); College Park, Maryland (U. of Maryland); East Lansing, Michigan (Michigan State) – and I almost hate to say it, but Ann Arbor is best college town I’ve visited. Back in Buckeye country saying that is practically sacrilege, but it’s the truth. Ohio State still has the better football team, obvs.

Here’s why I like Ann Arbor:

It’s a pleasant walk. Downtown Ann Arbor, specifically the Main Street area, is a pleasant stroll. We usually park at the garage on Maynard street and meander down to Main Street. There are lots of interesting shops and hip restaurants, and sometimes you’ll even catch a street musician. I like it because the commercial district is pretty concentrated in several blocks, but it’s big enough that it doesn’t end after walking for 15 minutes.


Last summer I waited for over 5 hours to see one of my favorite authors at the Michigan Theater. I got his autograph on my copy of Ocean at the End of the Lane!

The restaurants. There are lots of good places to eat in the downtown Ann Arbor, even though I can’t say I’ve been to most of them. What we like about the food scene in Ann Arbor is there are so many more vegetarian options. There are two vegetarian/vegan restaurants in Ann Arbor: Seva and the Lunch Room. Seva is a sit-down restaurant and the food is pretty good. The Lunch Room is casual dining in the Kerrytown district, and I’ve only been there once and it was decent. We don’t always just go to those two, although it’s pretty fantastic that there are two vegetarian restaurants in a city as small as Ann Arbor. There are also so many more restaurants that have multiple vegetarian options. Our current favorite restaurant in Ann Arbor is Tomokun, a noodle place. They have great ramen and pho. The chow fun with tofu was delicious.



noodle spot





The treats. I have a raging sweet tooth, and Ann Arbor is the crack dealer. It’s terrible for my weight loss efforts, but every time we visit Ann Arbor I simply can’t resist the cupcake/ice cream/ pastry triumvirate of deliciousness. The Cupcake Station on Liberty street has dozens of cupcake flavors that they bake in the store from scratch everyday, and they always have one or two kinds of vegan cupcakes. Across the street is Kilwin’s, a Michigan-based confectionary and ice cream shop, and seriously that place just smells heavenly when you walk by.


so much yum


I can sometimes resist not going to the Cupcake Station or Kilwin’s, but every trip to Ann Arbor has to include a stop at Zingerman’s. There’s a deli where you can buy fancy meats, cheeses, and mustards; a place to order hot sandwiches, like my favorite, the reuben; and the bakery. Oh, the bakery. Seriously, I just love their pastries. You can’t go wrong with their croissants, and I recently discovered their bostocks. But it’s their éclairs that make me drive over to the Kerrytown distict each time.


Used bookstores. This is what I like best about Ann Arbor. I love, love used bookstores. They have more character than a Barnes and Noble or other big bookstore, and there’s a thrill with what you treasures you might discover. I especially love used bookstores that carry vintage books and pulp, and Ann Arbor has two. There are several used bookstores in the downtown area, but the best one is hands down The Dawn Treader. Rows and rows of books, decent prices, lots of vintage stuff, even a decent graphic novel section. And the fact that the name of the store is from one of my favorite book series ever is pretty great. Kory and I always spend a couple of hours at this store each time we come to Ann Arbor and leave with a stack of books each.


It’s not a used bookstore, but it’s worth mentioning here- Vault of Midnight is a pretty cool comic books store. I’m not into superhero comics anymore, but they have a decent selection of non-superhero graphic novels.

Another notable used bookstore is Kaleidoscope, which is on 4th avenue. It’s smaller than Dawn Treader, and they mostly have vintage books and pulp paperback, which I love.





The great thing about Ann Arbor is that except for Zingerman’s, all these places I just mentioned are all within walking distance of each other.

So if you plan to visit Ann Arbor and you only have one day, here’s my recommended itinerary:

  • Park at the garage on Maynard.
  • Walk around the corner to the Dawn Treader bookstore. Browse the books.
  • Cross the street to Tomokun and get noodles. I recommend the pho or the chow fun.
  • Walk down Liberty, pop into some stores that strike your fancy.
  • Go into either Cupcake Station or Kilwin’s. You can always get the cupcakes to go, but you’ll have to eat the ice cream right then. I recommend the Praline Pecan ice cream.
  • Turn the corner on Main Street and check out Vault of Midnight.
  • Lots of shops on Main Street to check out.
  • Also on Main Street is The Ark, which is an acoustic and folk music venue.
  • Dinner: lots of nice restaurants with outdoor on Main Street to choose from, but I recommend the Jolly Pumpkin. Great food and they have a good selection of craft beers if you’re into that stuff.
  • Drive 5 minutes to Zingerman’s for desserts and coffee. (Zingerman’s is also a good place to have lunch)
  • Also at Kerrytown is Aut bar, the one gay bar in town. Service isn’t the best, but it has a nice atmosphere.

chicken nachos at Jolly Pumpkin


Enjoy Ann Arbor!