And Awaaaay We Go . . .

Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.  — Lemony Snicket

packingPacking for trips always proves a stressful time for me.  Though others might become bogged by shirts, socks, and appropriate footwear, we bibliophiles must decide on the number and type of books we can possibly stuff into our carry-on’s before we’re considered a threat to airline security.

This Saturday Dasad and I are traveling to the other side of the continent for what will prove our second major ‘roadtrip’ in the last four years.  California.  A week and a half.  One insured rent-a-car.  Dear God . . .  Other more road-weary travelers may shrug at such hyperbole, but considering my spring breaks never involved Cancun or Rio, devolving into enjoyable but group-centered family excursions, spending a week anywhere alone is quite exciting.  Needless to say, I hope I don’t drive Dasad murder-crazy.

Yet for the moment all is good.  Though preparing to pack this morning, I now face a crisis: deciding which tomes of my extensive collection to tote one-eighth the way around the globe.  Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind.  Mark Twain.  Sherlock Holmes.  Count of Monte Cristo.  Or Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Dagger Award winner.  I heard it was quite good.).  And then there’s my Naruto manga . . .   All I know is that I must bring something or stranded by earthquake or fire, I might find myself a little put out.

A library is like an island in the middle of a vast sea of ignorance, particularly if the library is very tall and the surrounding area has been flooded — Lemony Snicket

Ah hell . . . I’ll probably just end up bringing them all.  Worst case, I’ll try to slip a few tomes in Dasad’s bags before we leave.  He probably won’t mind if displace a few socks or jeans in the process.  The airline will simply lose it en route anyway, and then we’ll have an excellent excuse to replenish our supply (and perhaps a few new additions) at some California bookstores.  If I manage to make it back in one piece, safe travels and good perspectives to you all on your own summer vacations this year!

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. — Mark Twain

Economic Value

The man approached us while we stood in line, our arms plump with books like old-time school children – bibliophiles that we are. I had come to the bookstore early that afternoon to stock up on several new manga volumes. A story sickness had overtaken me over the last few weeks, and my visits to the neighboring Borders and Barnes & Nobles could not arrive soon enough. After copious cups of iced tea and several hours wandering the stacks – limited funds led me to gather twice my current wares and replace half – I found my way to the check-out counter.

. . . whether I should try peach syrup with my iced tea.

. . . whether I should try peach syrup with my iced tea.

Our visitor held aloft a $25 gift card and offered to give it freely in exchange for a twenty.

“You earn five bucks,” he explained, while my fellow bibliophiles gazed nervously at each other.

“How do we know that anything’s left on that card?” the woman behind me asked.

“I’ll stay in line and pay for whatever you have there,” he said. “It’s all there. Does anyone want it?” I kept quiet and stared at a woman on the cover of National Geographic, her face glimmering in gold paint.

“I have a twenty,” a man in the back spoke up. “I’m not much of a reader, but I suppose that my girlfriend could use it.”

The man filed in beside his newfound patron.

“I lost my job last week,” the man confided. “Right now, I could use the money. Books are less important to me.”

My turn at the register had come. I walked away, paid for my purchases and left the store. Getting into my car, I regretted not talking to the man. I had no hard cash in my pocket, merely credit, but I felt ashamed at my silence.

Throughout my life, fear has always been my bane – ice cream too, but let’s not get into that. Of course this is true of anyone (of fear, not of ice cream unless you’re lactose-intolerant). I fear speaking up, speaking out, making myself known to the world. Thus, often it is turmoil merely to announce myself to others. Especially when I feel that my voice will do nothing.

People often wonder why I read fantasy and manga. Most individuals assume – wrongly – that I have a penchant for dragons, unicorns, and cat-eared forest girls. This is not so . . . . well, I do like my cat girls. For the most part, these are mere decorations, trappings that give a story color or excitement. The true whimsy lies in the characters, those few chosen individuals full of courage, strength, and fidelity that they risk all for the sake of others. Therein lies the true fantasy; those noble souls, these heroes are akin to manticores and chimaras, the stuff of legends and myths.  Yet despite the impossibility for such creatures in the ‘real’ world, I continue to hope and prowl the bookstores. Perhaps one day a bit of their nobility will rub off on me in the reading.

I tend to get distracted.

Honestly though, in these tight times, I cannot say which is more important to me food or books. With my small paunch, I could probably last a week or so without meals, provided ample coffee or iced tea was available. Without caffeine, valuable reading time might diminish. There’s also a good chance of death too, which could really ruin that novel I’m reading.

I worry sometimes about a lot of things: the economy, my life, the arrival date for the next volume of One Piece, and whether I should try peach syrup with my iced tea. I mean, Border’s raspberry tea tastes quite good – unlike Nestea, which is actually lemon extract, excessive amounts of sugar, and toilet water – but I wonder if I should reach a little outside my comfort zone. No one becomes happy without being brave. Next time I visit a bookstore perhaps I should ask for something new, a mint-peach syrup combination maybe. It may confound the barista a bit, but the dissolution of weakness deserves the extra tip. Especially in these hard times, we need all the virtue that we can lay our hands on.

Biblio-fool

Short post today. After the past few weeks of – for lack of a better word – ineffective writing, I wanted to return to some old content and style. In other words, include the same nonsense; leave out the confusing rambles.

My journeys carried me to Borders today in search of a birthday book for my young cousin. A dangerous enterprise on the best of days (a perfect example of which welcomed us today with warm breezy weather, cloud-less skies, and no classes), bookstores always threaten to consume my wallet, the sacrificial lamb for my bibliophilia. For instance, no sooner did I find the perfect gift, Olivia by Ian Falconer, than my eyes wandered to the other picture books on the shelves. I considered additional gifts for my cousin such as Where the Wild Things Are or a book of poems maybe something by Shel Silverstein, the seeds of a childhood library and fantastic books for young readers (and adults alike). My hands tickled like a thief fingering his hoard, until my conscience – the prude – checked my actions. Originally, I set my price limit to fifteen bucks, and so conceding to the anxious groans emanating from my wallet, I returned the additional books to the shelves and sighed. On my way out of the stacks, a (cute) female employee stacking books nearby must have seen me and asked if I required any help. Anxiety must have stamped its mark on my face, and I wonder now if she saw me as a potential pervert, this twenty-something guy hovering and mumbling to myself in the children’s section.

Politely I declined and shuffled off with my – *sigh* sole – book, only occasionally glancing back at her slender figure (I am human after all.). Now at this point, I should have adjusted my blinders and made a beeline to the check-out counter; however, my inner voice of reason, momentarily distracted with its minor victory, allowed me to browse. I wandered through the young adult section for the latest Crispin novel by Avi. Irritated at not finding it, my frustration coerced me through the maze of Self-help and Gardening sections to the manga, where I picked up two new volumes (Spiral and School Rumble, in case your interested). This satiated my urge some, but now I required absolution from my geek guilt (Definition geek guilt: noun. That worried feeling of approaching the check-out counter with an armful of clearly odd, unusual (i.e. geeky) merchandise in public). Subsequently, I picked out two books on short-story writing for buffering, paid, and left . . . . after stopping at the nearby coffee stand for a refill on refreshments.

In summary, I ended up leaving having paid for five books and only – thankfully – two iced teas (Seattle’s Best Coffee constructs the best coffee milkshakes on the planet with real ice cream, no less; the ecstasy is almost too good to withstand.). Such is the nature of my bibliophilia. In my defense, the stories simply call out to me. Louder and with more brilliance than even the smoothest coffee milkshake or story-time Siren could ever sing . . . although in truth it is a lonely addiction. Maybe next time, I might invite the beautiful bookseller out for coffee. I might just amass the courage, unless of course I spy that Crispin novel first. Courage may embody the foundation of romance, but man cannot purchase coffee with an empty wallet. Perhaps we can muster a rousing conversation over cream and sugar packets . . .

“Courage, determination, and hard work are all very nice, but not so nice as an oil well in the back yard.”
— Cooley Mason