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Avril Haines, new CIA #2, ran indie bookstore remembered for ’90s ‘erotica nights’

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For the baby boomers, it was weed-smoking and hippie hair do’s that came back to haunt them; for the millennials, it will be some youthful social-media hijinks and maybe some body art. But now that Generation X is coming into power, we’re getting some vivid flashbacks to ’90s alternative culture.

Avril D. Haines is the White House lawyer just named deputy director of the CIA — and in the mid ’90s, she was the co-owner of an independent Baltimore bookstore/cafe that, for a while, hosted “erotica” nights.

It’s a quirkier resume than you generally find among Beltway super-achievers of her generation, who often went straight from college to Capitol Hill or Wall Street or Harvard Law. Haines, 43, instead had a stint as an urban entrepreneur, running Adrian’s Book Café — named for her late mother — for several years between graduating from University of Chicago and moving on to law school at Georgetown. During those years, she served as president of the Fells Point Business Association, according to Baltimore Sun stories at the time, and was active in the neighborhood preservation society.

And then there were the times that Adrian’s welcomed patrons for the occasional readings of high-toned erotica over chicken tostadas, according to a May 1995 Baltimore Sun story exhumed this morning by the Daily Beast.

In the Sun story, Haines explained that she was hesitant about the concept at first, “believing the works were more akin to pornography than art” — but she reconsidered after reviewing the literature and realizing “what she had been buying often fell into that category,” including well-regarded authors like Milan Kundera and Isabel Allende.
“We were terrified who might show up,” she told the paper. “We thought it would be a bunch of dirty old men.” Instead they drew a benign group of young hipsters and middle-aged suburbanites. “Erotica has become more prevalent because people are trying to have sex without having sex,” Haines explained. “Others are trying to find new fantasies to make their monogamous relationships more satisfying.”

On the erotica night attended by a Sun reporter, Haines got the ball rolling, reading from an Anne Rice fairy tale about a handsome prince amorously awakening a sleeping beauty. Patrons then were invited to read their own spicy stories.

So! How about that? In another Sun story, Haines was quoted talking about the challenges for indie bookstores as big chains moved in. Unclear when Adrian’s closed; the address now belongs to a computer store. Haines graduated from Georgetown Law in 2001. Updated 3 p.m.

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