Books (and Books) Everywhere, but Not a Drop to Think

Searching the cultural ghetto for a clean, well-lighted place for books

No business license? "As long as you don't make a lot of money, you can operate without one," Berman offers hopefully.

"Sometimes, I'm here later," he muses, kicking back on one of two yellow couches in the center of the store. "Sometimes until midnight or 1. Last night, there were about seven or eight people hanging out." Running the bookstore is more of a social experiment for Berman, a Fort Lauderdale native with an established network of like-minded associates.

"I don't have a huge stock," he says, "but I have some good books on my shelves." And he does. He's got a nice photography section. Oddities like Re/Search Publications' Bodily Fluids and Bob Flannigan: Super Masochist. A decent alt-lit selection, including Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, and William S. Burroughs. Then there's Lester Bangs' Psychotic Reaction. "All at good prices," adds Berman.

One day, we're going to wake up and there will be no alternative like Disassociated. Your shrink-wrapped John Grisham paperback will be retrieved by a mechanized forklift at Best Buy, wedged between pallets of Huggies pull-ups and Fruit Roll-Ups. Until then, Berman's bookstore, like independent book and record stores all over the country, will survive as part of a dying breed.

"I just want to stay low-key, just word of mouth only," Berman says. "That's how I want to do it. I hope it takes off, but if it doesn't..." His voice trails off. "I lived in a van for two years, so..."

Down by the river?

"No!" Berman laughs. "I'm not Chris Farley. I've just adopted ways of living well."

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