"It's really one of the only places in the Castro that isn't focused on drinking or shopping,” says events coordinator Oscar Raymundo of his book nook on the neighborhood's main drag, A Different Light. Ambling down Castro Street, one really doesn't see too much geared towards the intellectual pursuit – punnily-named beauty salons, cheap bars, and spendy restaurants are far more evocative of the enclave's milieu. Raymundo would be the first to admit, however, that the bookstore where he works deals in a theme that plays a central role in Castro life: sexuality, and the varying ways in which the LGBT community lives the theme.
Inside the Light, you see the true meaning of this last sentence. A bin of DVDs cheerfully promising vivid anal sex scenes at quite reasonable prices. Evocative postcards, prints on the wall – and for the more literary minded among us, the books themselves. Raymundo says that A Different Light attempts to find “the stories that aren't told as often. A lot of books fall into this Chelsea, West Hollywood kind of scene – we want to find the stories that are more off the beaten track.”
So for those that are looking for a less mainstream version of gay sex, there is a chapter here for you. Tales of love in the urban rural south, the vagaries of a more-or-less polygamous marriage. There is lesbian lit as well, how-tos for a healthy, sex-positive life like The Ethical Slut and The Bottoming Book. Hell, should everything in A Different Light be considered fodder for lust and liaison, the store has tales for even the most esoteric of arousals: a volume of Harry Potter, captured on audio for to make possible the most effusive sort of literary enjoyment.
Raymundo says that the store wants to be considered a sort of “community hub,” a sentiment that is fostered by a steady stream of authors that make their way to the small store for readings and signings of books by grateful fans. America's favorite drag queen appeared here earlier in the year to promote Workin' It: RuPaul's Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style (sans “face,” to the consternation of fans who had lined up around the block to bask in her bleached blonde light), and recent appearances have included Axel Ironrod, creator of Tarquin and Paul, the studly protagonists of Ironrod's series Leather Masters and Slaves, as well as David Jedeikin, who talked about his book Wander the Rainbow, a self published account of the author's foray through the sex tourism capitals of the world (sort of like Eat, Pray, Love without the womenfolk or aestheticism.)
A favorite event of the event coordinator himself? Raymundo harkens back to the day when Aiden Shaw, “the most highly paid male porn star of the '90s,” lent his spark to A Different Light upon the release of the actor's fourth memoir. “He was surprising, really eloquent,” Raymundo says.
Johnnie Waters ups the freaky celeb factor at his A Different Light author signing
Of course, reality TV hosts and porn stars do not a “community hub” make. To this end, A Different Light is partnering with the Magnet, the SF AIDS Foundation gallery-lounge around the corner from the bookstore whose lobby offers free Internet access and a chance for neighborhood gay men to connect on matters besides $2 well drinks and $200 designer denim. The two organizations have created a bi-monthly book club (second and fourth Tuesdays of the month 7:30 p.m. at the Magnet) to dish on the stories that come to life within the walls of A Different Light. Again, still sexy. Most of the selections to date have been from authors making stops in the bookstore: John Waters, dashing through with his odd little ode to those that made him how he be, Role Models, made a stop through, and next week the gang'll be discussing Insignificant Others, a novel of the unraveling of a polygamous Boston couple (those exist?) by Stephen McCauley.
Upcoming author appearance:
Del Shores and the cast of TV's Sordid Lives
Fri/13 7 p.m., free
A Different Light
489 Castro, SF