As a young teen, my little brother and I would spend hours each week at City Lights Bookstore. While living in the Northern California town of Santa Rosa, my brother would beg me to take him to City Lights on the weekend to find fascinating books for class reviews, reports, and high school assignments while he attended Montgomery High School. City Lights inspired us. City Lights had all the answers to our literary questions long before we knew of Poe, Wilde, Kerouac, and Leo Tolstoy. City Lights made us want to read. The books introduced us to the authors. So we drove three hours to San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge in traffic only to return to Santa Rosa on a busy Sunday in holiday traffic along the hectic Highway 101 for one simple reason – City Lights. Sound crazy? My brother was an intense student! Now decades later, I live in Las Vegas, Nevada, but take my friends, visiting relatives, and young eight year old son to City Lights upon entering the City of San Francisco to inspire him to read. As soon as we fly in, we drive to the corner of Columbus and Broadway to learn about the writer, publishers, respect the publisher’s journey, find out about journalists, new book writers, and to learn as T.S. Eliot reminded us in his essay Tradition and the Individual Talent, “Someone said: The dead writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did. Precisely, and they are what we know.” T.S. Eliot insisted the dead writers are that which we know. But how would we be introduced to them if not for the founders of special places like City Lights? I can speak for myself, I would know nothing if it was not for the inspiration of bookstores like City Lights in San Francisco. Those books energized us. The authors became our mentors. Lessons learned are that which I know because City Lights taught me so much. Each time I visit the San Francisco landmark, I come away with an important light. I wish, I hope, my eight year old boy learns lessons from City Lights. I hope when we visit from Las Vegas he always comes away with something from City Lights visits the way his uncle and father came away with important literary inspirations.

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