Wednesday morning February 9, 2011, dawned bright and clear, the air crisp as a mint dust jacket. Our first destination was Serendipity Books in Berkeley, Peter B. Howard, proprietor. Why not start out at the top of the book food chain?
I had been to Serendipity a number of times, although my last visit had been almost ten years earlier. Most of my visits occurred during my stint from 1995-1997 as director of the book department at the San Francisco auction house of Butterfield & Butterfield. This experience, albeit outdated as to current events, made me the default team leader for the trip. For Douglas Adams, my biblio-cohort, this was his first visit to the Bay Area in search of books.
Peter Howard, doyen of literary booksellers on the West Coast, still presided over his shop—if just barely. Terminally ill with pancreatic cancer, he was physically frail but his mind remained sharp. Peter was present when we entered the shop around 9:30 am. The place was crowded. Peter sat just to the right of the entrance in one of the main isles, wearing his beret and loosely fitted plain blue tie and white shirt, comfortable pants and black tennis shoes, holding court with fellow booksellers, collectors and general admirers. His long-time assistant, Nancy Kosenka, was busy doing most of the legwork and invoicing for purchases.