Yesterday, I was so wrapped up in remembering my beloved first comic book shop, Andromeda Bookstore, that I completely forgot to write about Piccadilly Square. I also neglected to mention the State Street Arcade and Woolworths as well.
Once a week during the summer, when I was around the age of fourteen, and my brother Jeff was around the age of ten, we would walk from the La Cumbre Junior High area all the way downtown to Andromeda Bookstore with several stops along the way. We would oftentimes try to coordinate the very long walk with the June gloom so that the time spent under the oppressive summer sun was minimized and we would be a little less roasted, but the heat was oftentimes unavoidable.
During the summer, we had a slight amount of extra money above our small allowance from various dog sitting, pigeon and chicken feeding, and lawn mowing jobs that we could find and goddamnit we were going to buy some comic books. We would pass the market on Mission Street, which I believe was called Fernando's for our return trip, and walk through the stretch of boringness until we finally hit the State Street Arcade.
The State Arcade was a massive video game arcade located across the street from the Granada Theater and it had every cool video game that we could imagine. Jeff and I would set aside a couple of quarters so that I could play a quick game of the nigh impossible Bagman or Mario Brothers, and Jeff would play some sort of animated video game that had something to do with Lupin III called Cliff Hanger; we were usually done in fifteen minutes or less. Like Twilight the movie, going to the State Arcade was an exercise in restraint and on occasions abstinence (which I would need to be involuntarily familiar with for years to come). I was usually angry that the crab had taken Mario into its clutches or that the cops had captured the bagman attempting to steal the gold bag, and the temptation to cash in another dollar to give them another go was excruciating, but we would generally just watch a couple older kids play before making our way to the next stop Woolworths.
We would usually only spend about five minutes in the now long dead Woolworths to check out their toy section, and wander around the fairly beat up department store. The lunch counter that many people seem to remember fondly, was always admittedly enticing, but we had places to go and little money to do anything with, so we were quickly on our way. One thing to note is the once great Earthling Bookstore later replaced Woolworths and Jeff and I always stopped by to check out the science fiction section and the huge selection of magazines were simply awesome--we both agreed that we wished that we lived there.
Our final stop before the glorious Andromeda Bookstore was Piccadilly Square. Piccadilly square once stood where the ever droll Paseo Nuevo (which translates to either "new walkway" or "same old shit as every other city in the US" depending on the language you are translating from) which currently forces chainstores to close due to the high rents. At the time, Mel's was just around the corner and Piccadilly was odd in that it was comprised of a store collective that was open air with very few walls. A single step inside and we were greeted with women's dresses, a few feet later, we were in a separate purse area, then men's clothes, then jewelry and so on. The building itself was...duh...a big square and I believe that it occupied the better part of a block. Jeff and I would head to the second level first, where there were odd pieces of furniture that we wished our mother could afford and a room of science or illusion (I vaguely remember this) was upstairs and we would check out the mirror tricks in complete awe. The real prize, however, was downstairs near the center where the game shop was and Jeff and I would look at the various chess sets, play with the metal logic puzzles and drool over some of the Dungeons and Dragons type items; over twenty years later, I would be working for the game store. Finally, there was also a candy shop that we would idle over, but we rarely ever bought anything.
From there it was on to the ultimate destination, Andromeda Bookstore, where either the majority of our funds would be absorbed or we would leave empty handed, with no books of interest having been released that week. The walk back was very long, doubly so if we had nothing to show for all of our efforts, but there was one final stop before we made it home...Fernando's.
Fernando's was a little liquor store on Mission Street that still stands, although it has changed names. This store was the best. Jeff and I would pool our resources, and buy whatever we could afford ranging from the following items: Blueberry or lime Slush Puppies, extra-spiced potato logs, Willy Wonka Dinosaur Eggs, Daredevils, Wacky Wafers or Volcano Rocks. This final stop made the entire trek worth all of the effort, especially if I had a Micronauts or Miracleman comic and Jeff had his Daredevil. Ah...the good old days.