We are connoisseurs of birds, bookstores, and breakfast burritos. Since most of you who read this blog love birds, we don’t need to explain that attraction.
Breakfast burritos may need a word though. A breakfast burrito, for those unfortunate enough not to live in the southwestern United States, consists of scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, hash browns, and chile; all rolled up in a flour tortilla. Note the spelling: It is “chile” not “chili.” Only cretins spell it with a final “i”.
If you eat the burrito in your car on the way to work or take it home, the chile is only inside the tortilla. But the best way to eat one is at the restaurant so you can have it “smothered” in chile. Personally, we prefer green chile, but it is not irrational nor immoral to order it with red chile.
The world’s best breakfast burrito comes from Casa de Benavidez in Albuquerque, New Mexico. If you pass through town, get one. Your order will be taken by Mike Hertzog who is a professional. You need not waste words telling him that you want “a breakfast burrito with bacon and green chile.” All you need say is, “bacon, green.” He’ll take care of the rest. If you are dining in, you can add “smothered.” Other than that, save your breath.
The second best burrito can be found at Tia Sophia’s in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Unaccountably they make you order the individual ingredients, which is like telling a bartender you want a “gin martini.” Since there is no other proper kind of martini except one made with gin, it is redundant to order a “gin martini.” Rather like saying, “The Rio Grande River.” E.B. White called the martini, “The elixir of quietude.”
Which brings us to books, another elixir of quietude, and the world’s best bookstores. There are more of those than breakfast burritos and it is not possible to objectively rank them. It is a subjective exercise. Everyone has their favorites and every community of any size has one. And think of places like New York City, the greater Boston area, and London. You could spend a lifetime in all the great bookstores in just one of those cities.
But, like everyone else, we have our favorites. Notably, all are small and locally-owned. Many are close by. Bookworks in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where stacks of books are always on the floor, a sure sign you are in a world-class bookstore; The Collected Works in Santa Fe, Moby Dickens in Taos, and our best used-book store, Coas Books in Las Cruces. Our favorite used-book store is, of course, Powells in Portland, Oregon. Going to Powells is like going on a camping trip into the wilderness: You should always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return so help can be sent if you fail to come out. Coas Books is much smaller, but has a nice selection of old birding books. We went there on a raid just last week and sitting on the desk right now are two old Roger Tory Peterson books, a Golden Guide to Gamebirds, and a book of Eliot Porter’s bird photography.
At the top of our list of bookstores, especially since the demise of the Chinook in Colorado Springs, Colorado, sits Rakestraw Books of Danville, California. Rakestraw is where you go to make discoveries. The owner and staff read voraciously but with discrimination. Then they stock the store with good books that you might not find otherwise, especially in this time of crisis in the book business and the near extirpation of book reviews in newspapers.
We suppose there might be a bad book in the store somewhere but we’ve not found it yet. And if there is a “best-seller” in the store, it’s because it actually is a good read, not because some publisher paid for the shelf space. The nature/birding section is small, but useful — the store’s strength is fiction, books that you take with you when you travel and don’t put down. And, if you need books for children and don’t have the time to keep up with children’s literature, they have the best.
If all that isn’t enough reason to travel to Danville and go to Rakestraw’s, here is one more: It’s less than an hour to Yellow-billed Magpies which live only in Northern California. You can add a Lifer and take home some good books too.
Rakestraw’s only drawback? You can’t get a decent breakfast burrito within 1,000 miles.