I had a bunch of books that I needed to get rid of. I know, my librarian friends, and bibliophiles will gasp. But I had to. I put many of my favorite books in storage in my daughter’s attic, and brought all my crafting books, and the various religious books, a Bible, the Dhammapada, Siddhartha, my Loren Eisely collection, Annie Dillard, stayed with me, there were however a handful of books I didn’t want for various reasons. One a book of Contemporary Art with an absolutely vile, pornographic cover painting by Eric Fischl, of a naked woman, lying on a bed with her legs spread wide, while a teenage boy looked on. When I bought the book it was wrapped in plastic and there was a paper covering the well executed painting. But I couldn’t even pick it up to look at it. It was just too distasteful to me. There are a number of used bookstores in this city but my favorite by far is called Books and Memories. They buy, sell and trade used books.
Maybe I have told this story on this blog before, if I have I am sorry for repeating myself. One winter I went into this bookstore, which was once owned by an older couple, one of whom was a teacher. The place was just overflowing with books, almost like a hoarders bookstore. There were stacks of books piled all over the store, which, for all intents and purposes covers a full store frontage area a half a block long, one row house wall knocked down to make a passageway to the next row house. It was close to Christmas, and I was looking sort of half assedly for a book by Anthony Bourdain, any book would do, but I was truly not committed to putting money on the table. The store was brutally hot, and I was sweltering in my down jacket. My daughter and I made our way down to the dank dungeon of a basement where the cooking books were, but I grew impatient with the disaster, the musty smell, the overwhelming heat and quickly returned upstairs, whereon the patron asked had I found the books. I said no but that is okay. He told me to wait, urgently, insistently, and so I stood there for several long minutes sweat pouring from my brow, and that sticky ick feeling of being too hot of it being dark and having never been home after a long day of work, dinner a diet cola and an oatmeal cookie weighing heavy in the stomach. He came up, checked on everyone and told me again to wait, no no I insisted, please it is okay. He more forceful than I telling me to remain exactly where I was standing. We went back and forth like this for a half dozen rounds before he scampered off to the dungeon. The moment his back was too us and his body and gone around the corner that had at least 30 books stacked high all around it, I reached out with my witches claw hand and grabbed my daughter garbed in a similar puffy coat, hers turned to the reverse side so we did not quite match. Lets get out of here, I hissed to her, and like minded the two of us made a made dash out into the street.
The streets were wet and clogged with salted slush and gritty water, the fine combination of salt and sand that is sprinkled on our hilly winter pavement. And as soon as we had emerged onto it rushing to get into our car, my daughter cried out, oh my god I am so glad we left, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. And as we quickly jumped into the car, I uttered I feel like I stole something, with that mad dash of a getaway. And at the same time we both said, you know we can NEVER go in that store again. It was not long after that some younger hipper, tattooed artsy types bought and refurbished the place, getting rid of many of the ugly and dangerous teetering piles of books. Thank God, because we both go there regularly to look for classics, and art books, and whatever other treasures we can find.
There is this feeling for me whenever I am in this store, a feeling that if I look right, there is a book that will perfectly fill the void inside of me, a book that will take all my angst and troubled mindedness and ease the furrow in my brow. That suddenly some extraordinary book will leap in front of my eyes and I will emerge from the store, a changed person, because this book is in my hand. I think it is a spell that someone has cast on the store, it is so profound.
I think though that it is the ordinariness of life that we should seek, not the extraordinary. The stories of television, of movies, of books are all of extraordinary moments, biographies of extraordinary people, philosophies of extraordinary thinkers, religions and politics of extraordinary leaders. But you and I, we are so ordinary are we not? There is nothing about my life that warrants the thought of extraordinary. I am not an extraordinary writer, artist, mother, teacher, lover, woman, daughter, sister. I am not special, I am simply myself.
I carry out my small purple stool, avoiding the leftoever damp drenching downpour of the morning, slate still dotted with puddles, I place it where the warm autumn sun will shine on me, but I face out onto the lawn with the thought of wondering what creature will appear before my eyes. I note a dozen or more lady bugs flying around the shed, two dozen box elder beetles like a scene from the Amityville Horror on the window frame and then not two feet from my face a pair of chickadees brave the feeder. I call to them, and they continue to bravely fly onto the feeder, uncertain of my only good intentions. See this moment is not at all extraordinary. It is just another autumn day. I am just another ordinary observer.