The Living Room Bookstore and Cafe

Vibes & Vices

AJ Freeman

At the risk of audacity (who, me?), I will type that it might come as a surprise to some that I’m not exactly a formally trained writer.

Now, I can confidently identify parts of speech–nouns, adverbs, and the like–and I’m especially comfortable with my first language because, as my 6th-grade teacher Mr. Campbell can attest, I used to recreationally read the venerable dictionary turned out by the insufferable Noah Webster during class. This practice, meticulously curated in my formative years, has given me an intuitive, functional understanding of how to do this thing here with the words n stuff.

On the other side of the coin, I have only the most tenuous grasp of how to diagram a sentence…a phrase like “Clause as Predicate Nominative” makes my eyeballs switch shifts, and if you tell me my participle is dangling, I just might th–*voice in earpiece* excuse me–yeah this is AJ…oh, I wasn’t…it was just a gramma…ah, okay…you’re right, sorry.

That last riff was preemptively cut short by Tribune brass, but we can safely wrap up the intro by saying that in performance speak, I’m way more showman than technician in the writing realm; my affinity for language and the written word stems from spending large chunks of my three short decades nose-deep in some book or other…so naturally, the siren song of a setting such as The Living Room serenaded me from its seaside station in the city’s Marina district.


The Vibes: Family legend says I learned to read around the age of two, astonishing other passengers on bus rides and family errands by reading street signs and advertisements out loud after what had to be truly tireless training from both parents at home. My memories of being a toddler are fuzzy, but I’ve been reading everything that would stay in the same place long enough for as long as I can remember for sure, so sure…I believe it and you can too.


And so, I floated through the front door of The Living Room that afternoon eager to embark on the boundless quests of intellectual discovery that can only come with a few free hours and a room full of books. Shop owner Kelly came out of the cafe toward the back of the house, past a set of salon seats in a rich #2E5090 Bluetiful (a shade which matched the highlights in her hair) and into the reading area to greet me with a smile as wide as daylight.

“I just wanted to create a space in this neighborhood where people could come in and feel comfortable while enjoying a good book,” she explained as she led an excited tour of the premises. “I want to build a community around books and the people who love them.” Oh, I certainly do love them.


The Vices: In the time of Gutenberg–just six or 7seven people ago, considering the current maximum human lifespan of about a century–a book was a rare and precious work of art that the average peasant may never have laid a filthy medieval finger upon.

The Church, by far the richest entity in Renaissance Europe, could afford to finance the great works of art that endure in human culture today, constantly commissioning sculptures, paintings, frescoes, and other ostentations crafted with the finest materials in the hands of the most skilled craftsmen of their time.


Even this endlessly enriched organization found books to be in short supply in the dawn of moveable type…an extremely wealthy parish might be fortunate enough to claim ownership of a single Bible, long the only printed book in English (which explains it still appearing on bestseller lists after all these years). Indeed, the transformative invention known as the modern book took about 150 years to reach every populated continent after the first pages rolled off the presses.

Today, in mind-boggling contrast, these once-priceless treasured lined the walls of The Living Room; the vulgar wealth of an ancient king’s tomb reborn as a public park for the mind.

Like the pineapple, such a collection of texts from practically every genre imaginable represents a luxury once wholly inaccessible to the masses evolved into a basic element of mankind’s shared inheritance to those who give history its due consideration.


These things and more Kelly, booktender Sergio and I bandied about over refreshing glasses of ginger lemonade. “I gravitate toward spiritual books, they speak to me…reading them helps me see the world around me more clearly, helps me gain perspective.”

A book that I recently read by the title of “1491” had a similar effect on me…it was a paperback I borrowed from my buddy Sean a while back that explored a more accurate image of life in the Americas in the pre-Columbian era. Inaccurate images of primitive savagery and vast woodland expanses untouched by human influence are discarded like the propaganda they are, replaced by documented details of advanced agricultural techniques, systematic hunting practices, and highly developed animal husbandry.


Great societies such as the Olmec, Maya, and Mesoamerica’s Triple Alliance as well as northern native peoples mastered their landscapes with the unmistakably human touch, developing techniques and technologies that modern engineers are still working to understand.

Even the egalitarian societal structure of indigenous tribes served as inspiration for the former Pilgrims and future Revolutionaries to light a torch of liberty that would burn (slowly) for centuries afterward…haven’t you always thought it seemed a little off that these random, largely illiterate villagers dreamed up a whole new vision of government in their spare time after living under absolute monarchs continent-wide for like the last 500 years?


I gushed at even more length about the book in between bites of a cheese bagel spread thickly with homemade sun-dried tomato flavored cream cheese (you were right Shannon, it tastes exactly like a pizza bagel!), extolling its instructive virtues and novel connections while lamenting the fact that I couldn’t loan it to her…can’t lend the borrowed, them’s the rules.


Serendipitously, another copy of the book somehow appeared in stock at The Living Room the day after my visit and Sean encountered a hardback “1491,” making the book officially mine to lend. This really happened, and a triple-verified social media post stands as public record so there.


The Verdict: It sounds childrens’-cartoon cliché to speak of the magic contained within books…but, as with “the power of friendship,” it can often ring true…it definitely did after my visit here. My love affair with books has been lifelong, and I would venture to say that most aspects

of my personality stem from the interminable volumes of perspective I have taken in through reading. I can surely see myself spending many an afternoon hanging out in The Living Room…maybe I’ll catch you there.

Info: Av Paseo de la Marina 245, Marina Vallarta

AJ Freeman on Email
AJ Freeman
AJ Freeman is an adventurous spirit, serial friendmaker, and general enthusiast. He lives his everyday life hoping to demonstrate the nearly infinite potential for discovery and wonder on this small wet rock orbiting a dim yellow star in the backwoods of the Milky Way.