I love me some books. I love the way they feel, the way they look, I even love those old, smelly books that have been abused and neglected by time. Hard back, soft back, cheap paper trade or expensive Italian leather, I love them all.
My second favorite place on earth is a bookstore. I could simply get lost in one; lost forever and I wouldn’t care. In recent years the major store chains have begun adding a coffee shop, such as Starbucks or Seattle’s Best, to their in shop offerings. Comfy, faux leather library style chairs suggest the perfect reading environment for society’s hurry up and wait consumer. It is a virtual paradise of caffeinated beverages and intellectual stimulant. Or it would be if it weren’t for all the noise.
I dropped by my local Borders superstore today after depositing the wee girls with their mother for a court ordered visitation. Saturdays have become one of my favorite days of the week, simply because for an entire eight hours I do not referee any fights, wipe anyone’s nose or behind, and my blood pressure stays at a level 120 over 80. A few hours spent in the womb of a bookstore sounded like the perfect afternoon to me.
The store was crowded, but that’s okay, it meant less sales people to harass me. I browsed the new release section, smirking at some of the titles; Be the Pack Leader: Use Cesar’s Way to Transform Your Dog, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, and who would want to miss, I Am America(And So Can You). I didn’t purchase any of these fascinating, I’m sure, titles, I simply moved on to greener pastures.
See, I had a plan. I knew what I was looking for and planned to do very little browsing and a whole lotta coffee sippin’ and reading in the privacy of my very own faux leather chair by the window. Making my way through the fiction section my plan nearly fell apart as I pulled first one than another title from the shelf. Neither book was on my list, but they looked…interesting. I forced myself to return these treasures to their proper place (don’t you hate people who don’t return the book to the correct section of the shelf?) and moved on.
I wasn’t in search of literary gold, I was in search of a laugh and recently Laurie Notaro makes me laugh. There is just something hysterical about a woman who tells it like it is, be it drunk and thinking she’s hot, to feet in stirrups with the exam door open, or a QVC addicted mother, that simply cracks me up. Frankly, she is me, only she’s funnier (and she gets paid to air her dirty laundry).
Having found my treasure I made my way upstairs to consider a book about writing books or The Idiots Guide to Making Money Writing While Still in Your Jammies. I had chosen to shop at a Borders store that was unfamiliar to me, so finding the writer’s section was a bit of a challenge. After a brief search I finally located it past the Science section, just left of the Travel Section, buried in a corner filled with Strunk and White and The Bedford Handbook .
My brown eyes caressed each text on style; I smirked at the books on grammar, and winked at the painless writing offerings. I was happy. It was quiet. There were books. All was right with the world.
I noted that there was music being piped through the store speakers. Now, I am not opposed to “canned music”. I’ve been known to sing (under my breath, in deserted grocery store aisles) to Barry Manilow tunes just like everyone else has (don’t lie, you know you do!). But when I’m in a book store the only tunes I want to FAINTLY note playing in the background are those of Bach, Debussy, or Grieg. What assaulted my ears is not allowed to play on my car radio and certainly never to be heard in a busy bookstore on a Saturday afternoon.
Barracuda from the 1980 album release by the rock group Heart was rocking my world, or at least annoying the crap out of me. I tried to ignore it, “You'd have me down on my knees Wouldn't you, Barracuda? Uggh. Focus, I willed, focus on the text in front of you, young padawan! “If the real thing don’t do the trick you better make up something quick, you gonna burn it like a wick, aren’t you, barracuda?”
It ended, the final stream of sound drifting off into the word work, umm, I mean wood work. A quieter, more ear pleasing piece took its place and I returned my attention to the lovely spines before me. I was just about to pull an intriguing title from the shelf when I was interrupted by a soft foot step to my right. Glancing over I saw a short, bearded little man. His red stripped bow tie was askew and he grasped a walkie talkie in his small hands.
“Is there something I can help you find?” he asked.
Smiling with courtesy, his blue eyes twinkled at me waiting, breathlessly, for my answer. My flat stare should have warned him that I was NOT a rookie. I was exactly where I needed to be and if (IF!) I needed any assistance I would have hunted him down like a teenage girl in search of the perfect prom dress.
“No thanks. I’m good,” I smiled and turned back to the shelf.
“Ahh, books on writing. Are you a writer or aspiring to be one?” He queried.
I rolled my eyes towards heaven and prayed for a lightening bolt to strike me dead, or at least make him leave me alone! I gave him a polite, but clipped answer; “been published, looking to improve my skill,” smiled sweetly, hoping he would move on to the woman who was loudly (!) exclaiming that she couldn’t locate a single travel book for Punta Arenas. Sadly, he too was an ambitious writer and was preparing to dazzle me with his portfolio when the loud woman, on her way to Chile, noted his employee badge and quickly made her way over to us. She whisked him away, leaving me to bask, once again, in my solitude.
I chose my book and made my way back downstairs, allowing my nose to lead the way to a cup of freshly ground coffee. Placing my order, I looked around, seeking the perfect faux leather throne in which to ease my weary bones into. But I had ignored the warning signings when I first entered the store. This was Saturday and the joint was packed. There was no room at the inn for me. Yet, I would not be throttled.
I simply thanked the Barista for my coffee, paid for my books, and took the only seat available to me. The one located in my car in the packed parking garage.