Monday, July 19, 2010

this post really is just about a bookstore

I always have to pass it before I know I'm close; navigational doubt fills me every time I attempt the trek.

It's one of those obscure, hard to find, unless-you-know-the-correct-U-turn-to-make kind of bookstores.

Musty and dank, with aging carpet and fluorescent lights, the store quietly welcomes you with the solitary ding of a bell upon entering. No looks up to see who's come in. The only distinguishable staff sits behind the counter, immersed in her novel. A black pen tucked behind her ear, barely emerging from her wiry, peppered hair is the one mark of employee-ship.

There's no Starbucks or Seattle's Best cafe, no plush arm chairs for trendy Mac-Users to own. I come armed with a Tervis Tumbler, sloshing around with this morning's stale coffee, french vanilla creamer and half-melted ice cubes. My own version of a summer's drink.

I start at the beginning, the Florida section, where high-gloss and stunning photography make the front-facing displays. I already bought my bird book, so I'm good for now. Working my way past the horizontally stacked novels that line the entire east wall, I weave through shelves spilling over with mostly yellowing paged books.
I'm not sure what I'm looking for, but it's not

Self-Healing and New Age,


or even Cooking.

I stop at Classic Literature, due to a sort of obligatory deference I feel towards the names of the Great. It's a Shaw-thing, this respect for the Classics. One reads them, because that's what they're owed.

With the coming of motherhood and its demands I've increasingly excused myself from that guilt. I know I should get a kick out of Oscar Wilde, but in all honesty, I don't. And, like sushi, I don't have the time or money to spend becoming accustomed to the taste.

I settle in Christian, curious to see what my peppered hair friend and her coworkers decided fares as Christian work. That in and of itself is pretty entertaining, but it quickly passes and I move on, still asking myself what it was I wanted.

This journey through the bookstore is much like a treasure hunt, except that I'm not sure what the treasure looks like. I always believe there's a diamond or two in the rough and it's up to my discerning eye to discover them. There's an art to the search--I can't stay in one section too long for fear of getting too narrowly focused. Then again, I can't move too quickly per chance I might skip that One Book my quest is promised for. I move along, with an intentional pace, head tilted just so in case my treasure’s title isn’t placed at eye level.

I ended up carrying a Julia Alvarez collection of essays, along with a promised-to-be-witty book on grammar (I am that nerd) both to the counter. A 25 cent pelican bookmark begs to join and gets thrown into the mix. I ask Peppered Hair what she's reading and she quotes me an author I've never heard of (but might have if I cared more about the Classics). I smile, thank her, and take my generic plastic bag of books out the door.

Uneventful to an outsider, yes.

But for a soul so deeply moved by words, their mere presence in the inconspicuous labyrinth of ideas, persuasions, and stories that I affectionately refer to as my

Used (Beach) Bookstore,

leaves me with a comforted sensation, much like what comes from having met with old friends. The satisfaction of having discovered two good books, with pencil scribbling on the inside flap of a price of (at least) 50% off, having both been read and loved before me, is worth the trip even before I open the books.

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