Flipping through the channels recently—a rare event these days with DVR and Hulu—I came across You’ve Got Mail. I am only slightly embarrassed to say I stopped to watch a few minutes and just a bit more embarrassed to admit I had actually seen it already.
For some reason the movie has a holiday appeal to it. It’s probably just the deep sentimentality of the film that gives it a yuletide vibe. For me the non-romantic plot of the movie, a quaint bookstore closing shop in submission to a Barnes and Noble-esque superstore also triggers Christmasy thoughts. No, not because I am an indecent person that rejoices in the misery of the underdog but rather, because around the holidays I feel nostalgic for the quainter things.
The holidays evoke images of a family by a warm fireplace, decked in cozy sweaters—a longing for simpler things. You’ve Got Mail is chock-full of nostalgia-inspiring artifacts. The rise of the book and media superstore makes you miss the family bookshop. Hell, the dramatic irony that the superstores would soon be displaced by the likes of Amazon makes me miss sitting at Barnes and Noble with a cup of Starbucks. The title of the movie itself seems like the calling of a time forgotten. When was the last time you were notified by AOL that you had email? I bet the mere mention of email sent you rushing to your Blackberry or iPhone to refresh your inbox for the third time since you began reading this post.
Meg Ryan’s character sums it up, “My store is closing this week. I own a store, did I ever tell you that? It’s a lovely store, and in a week it’ll be something really depressing, like a Baby Gap. Soon, it’ll be just a memory. In fact, someone, some foolish person, will probably think it’s a tribute to this city, the way it keeps changing on you, the way you can never count on it, or something. I know because that’s the sort of thing I’m always saying. But the truth is… I’m heartbroken.”
Okay, I am not advocating ludditism or the adoption of some sort of anti-change socialist ideology. I am merely suggesting a brief pause this season to remember some of those simpler things from the past that might have made you smile.
In the spirit of quainter times, I am listing a few nooks in bustling cities where you might reinvigorate your cheer for the holidays:
New York Bookstore: Shakespeare & Co.
- Not exactly a mom and pop shop, but drop by the NYU location for a little indie bookstore charm. You probably won’t find Meg Ryan here, but you might just discover that perfect holiday read or last minute gift.
Boston Coffee House: Espresso Royale Caffe
- Try a Spanish latte while finishing up your shopping on Newbury Street.
San Francisco Artisan Foods: Ferry Building Marketplace
- Not exactly a hidden treasurer but still a treasure indeed. Great variety of tastes for any palette.
Barcelona Bar: Pipa Social Club
- Chances are if you’re in Barcelona around Christmas, you’re looking to let loose a bit. If you have the willpower to step away from the dance clubs for a night and experience something a bit more tame and intimate, check out this hidden smoker friendly bar.