Sunday, March 12, 2006

The sorry state of the sorry state I'm in

Listening to: Public Enemy, It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Sundays do me in. I leave Manitou Springs at about 8 in the morning to drive east, though Colorado Springs, to the northeast side of town where I work. My first group starts at 9, a second group at 11:30; later groups at 4 and 6, which means, with clinical notes, I don't usually get out of the office until 9 PM. Those of you who work 12-hour days as a rule may think I'm a bit of a titty-baby but it's draining to run four therapy groups in a single day. By the time I return home, I'm a Zen master, perfect in my mumen ("no thought").

My second group ends at about 1:30, giving me two hours before I need to check in my 4 o'clock group. Since I'm a half-hour drive from Manitou Springs I'm better off hanging out close to the office, finding a place where I can stuff meat and bread into my face while keeping my face within the proximity of a book. Any book (pretty much), I'm not too picky when I have two hours to kill.

Unfortunately, I failed to grab something on my rush out the door this morning and when my break rolled around at half-ish past one, realized I needed to find something to make my two hours tolerable, something to help me escape the morning's rigors of picking client's minds and the crusties from the corners of my eyes. Considering my office lies within a obscenely long stretch of suburban strip-mall self-sameness, there should have been no problem finding a Borders or Barnes & Noble or some other chain and ball-gag attrocity that passes for a book store in these Godless times. So I drove - and drove - and drove - and found nothing.

Nothing. Not a book seller anywhere. In two miles of taupe-tinged monstrosities blended with the blandness of the housing developments behind them, not a single store catered to the literate. I shouldn't have been surprised but, oh, I was appalled. Between big box retailers, botulism shops, and minor players like karate schools and pet stores (eight - count em' - EIGHT!), not a single store selling books, just shit, miles and miles of SHIT, big screen shit and smaller than last year's shit, shit on a stick and shit in a shot glass, Eleven thousand-some feet of all kinds of shit to buy but by god if you need to feed your mind, you're shit out of luck because no one's selling that shit along the shit streets of Colorado Springs.

I looked out over the miles of McMansions and wondered what went through the tiny minds if they never read, what causes the uninformed to slap W'04 stickers on their SUVs when they got a winner and rip those same stickers off when something like Katrina brings to light what dim bulb shined the warmest in the voting booth. Dude, THAT was a mistake.

Disturbing as this sounds, my own story has a happy ending. I found a Goodwill - hey, they have books - and figured I'd just look past the Danielle Steele and Ann Coulter and dig in the crevices. Naturally, I found a bunch of old text books (i.e. anthologies) but I also found some actual BOOKS, y'know, stuff to read, for the sheer joy of making my lips move and not feeling like I was meeting some Lit class requirement. Dostoevsky, Twain, Kingsolver, Irving, Nabakov, Gogol, etc., I was kind of shocked by what I found.

The stack of books I walked to the register with was reckoned to be about 17 bucks, about 10 bucks more than I could afford; another ten bucks worth or so was left back on the shelves. Anticipating the damage (it's always much more than I calculate in my head - just ask any local music store owner who's heard my bitching), I was floored when the cashier said, "Uh, 90 cents."

Wow. Not just that I was standing at the register looking at books I'd cradled like a baby I couldn't afford to have but suddenly I realized I'd hit a very minor (but somehow, meaningful) lotto jackpot. Let's have another baby, I thought.

Might as well - in territory like mine, you grab it while you can, you never know when the rabid goons will sieze books and put a torch to them. After all, I live just down the road from James Dobson. The fact that one can take a day's walk down the road, in the middle of a city, and not see a single book store, should be reason enough to figure Fahrenheit 451 isn't just because we got global warming.


landismom said...

Wow, that's pretty depressing. (Although, good call for you on the Goodwill--I never would have thought to go there for books.)

Shari said...

It really is amazing to see the priorities for sale, isn't it? My only consolation is that a Big Mac only holds ya for a couple of hours and then you need another one... and Flipper only lasts a couple of months before most parents scramble to avoid the whole "life-after-death" conversation by replacing him. But good books go home and grace shelves and windowsills for as many years as readers can open them and be surprised anew at what lies within. So maybe it's not a dearth, but just representative of low turn-over. ^_~ And yes, my nickname is Pollyanna.

I'm so glad you found the Goodwill. Salvation Army has been feeding my Marquez and Eco habit since high school. Go just after a semester ends at the local university - lots of students dump their English books just then and you can find some treasures. ^_^

Natsthename said...

I cannot believe the numbers of books at the Goodwill store. (And record albums, too!) Just think, you "saved" a book from living in that store and gettin' all musty smellin'! Yay for you!

bonnie said...

"Let's have another baby" - I know the feeling well regarding books AND little ones.

I'm not a fan of James Dobson, either.

My family loves the thrift shops for books. Seattlites pride themselves on being well-read and our thrift shops prove to be treasure troves of great literature.

But, 90 cents?! You know how to squeeze a penny!