Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Adventures of Gumbyman and The Crapstore

            I am a dinosaur living in a modern age. I cling to old ways like a toddler clings to his favorite stuffed toy or blanket. Perhaps it’s neuroses. Perhaps it’s the medications I’m on. Perhaps it’s a fear that once the old ways are gone they can never be retrieved. I recently acquiesced and bought my first laptop – not just a laptop, a MACBOOK. I must stress that the last computer I owned personally was loaded with Windows Millennium edition (and what a shitshow THAT was… for those of you blessed enough to have not experienced it, I must share that it was not even compatible with Itunes). And within the last year or so I also gave in and bought a “Smartphone.” I did buy it unlocked, off of the Internet, from England (it has a Euro and Pound key, but not a Dollar sign – fancy) and both immediately and intentionally befuddled the settings so that it doesn’t use the data functions, and my wireless carrier can’t detect it. Effectively, it’s like having an old school phone that looks like a Smartphone. What I’m trying to say here is that I DON’T LIKE CHANGE!
            I take greater issue with some change over other change. New England Patriots lineup? Don’t give a flying pig’s arse; I really don’t like American football. Change the menu at Friendly’s on the other hand, and I might throw a toddler-sized temper tantrum. It used to be the case that if you were to name a store something like “The Paper Store,” that store would sell paper. Seems logical, right? JoAnn Fabrics would sell, I don’t know, fabric? And Barnes & Noble BOOKSELLERS would sell BOOOOOOOOKS.  Sadly, this is no longer the case. It has become a point of needling irritation in my side, between the ribs. The bookstore is now a crapstore with a side of books. To make matters worse, they don’t even have the books that I want. I’m not talking esoteric, obscure, out-of-the-box wacky books. I’m referring to the classics, such as the poetry of Baudelaire, the complete dramatic works of Henrik Ibsen, catalogs of great artists such as ANYONE OTHER THAN Toulouse-Lautrec. It’s not that I have anything against Toulouse-Lautrec, but a lot has happened in the art world that was created by artists other than Toulouse-Lautrec… you know, like, maybe Monet, or Renoir, or… I don’t know, Da Vinci… But DAMMIT, THEY HAVE Toulouse-Lautrec, and Fifty Shades of Pornographic Vampire Trash, and psychedelic-colored Jonathan Adler pencil cases, and toddler toys, so it is ALL GOOD! And DON’T FORGET THE JUSTIN BIEBER CDS!
            Clearly, I am less than enchanted with the stock at Barnes & Noble. I am also not thrilled with their organizational skills. When I took the half step to move from the Drama section (a meager three shelves smaller than my person, where I erroneously hoped I could replace my copy of Jean Cocteau’s Infernal Machine) to the Poetry section, I discovered utter pandemonium. The shelves said “Alphabetized By Author.” There is absolutely no way they used the Roman alphabet to organize this section. Maybe it was a Romanized version of Urdu or Farsi, or better yet Hmong. I found Rilke between Apollinaire and Beowulf. A few shelves down from that were the works of Dante. I’m not sure, but I think whoever was responsible didn’t realize Dante had a last name. Then I turned around to the next shelf to find more Rilke followed by some C poets, then more Beowulf (I guess if you’re written by Anonymous that means you should be filed under many different letters so as not to offend), and a lot of Tomas Tranströmer, whom I like, but he’s no Baudelaire. Then I gave up. While I was wandering around, I overheard some employees discussing how they were going to make more room for the teen fiction sections. Great.
            I do enjoy that there is a Starbucks in the bookstore. I like a side of coffee with my books. It gives me a chance to decide if I actually want to purchase the goods or put them back. It also provides some interesting people watching. I’m not sure why, but bookstore coffee shops seem to be a feeding ground for society’s ultra strange in what seems to be their natural habitat. Yesterday I observed GumbyMan, sporting a green Gumby t-shirt with the caption “Gumby, buck naked since 1956” and also a pair of forest green sweat shorts. He dragged two tables screech to screech across the tile floor to meet each other and then assembled three chairs around the tables for himself, as if to sit in all of them at once. He pulled four different snack-sized bags of grocery store brand potato chips and a can of coke out of a plastic bag and arranged the items on the table before settling himself down in one chair. He really just couldn’t get comfortable or find an arrangement of chips that was agreeable. Then, out came a one inch tall stack of cocktail napkins, about six paper coffee stirrers, and two small packages of salt (the double tube kind with red printing on the outside) that had clearly been taken from a fast food restaurant. 
            I looked away so as not to stare, maybe for a minute. When I turned my head back, Gumbyman was gone. All four potato chip bags were torn open down the center like a book and emptied. There was salt sprinkled all over the table. All coffee stirrers had been used, but not in a liquid, and folded up and strewn over the potato chip bags. The coke was gone. And the books he had brought to look at were in a messy pile. THIS is what happens when bookstores stop selling books. People lose their minds and turn into Gumbyman. I cannot prove this with any scientific evidence, but how can we prove that it’s not true? Perhaps that is what he’s trying to say with his t-shirt? Gumby hasn’t changed in 56 years. The mega-bookstore did. And it sucks. Oh how I miss the independent bookstores…..  

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