Where Have All the Bookstores Gone…?

With the closing of the Borders book stores I am fearful that others will follow. I need my tactile book-in-hand fix.  Amazon doesn’t do it for me and neither do the one-dimensional Nooks or E-books. I need the book cover to flirt with me, the inside jacket to draw me in and the inky scent of words to intoxicate me. I always give a book a once-over during the courting process.

For many years now I have regularly shopped for books at my local Barnes & Noble. When I enter the store at 9:00 am every Saturday morning I love to see all the books before me waiting like a massive orchestra for its conductor. I greet each section and then the libretto starts.

On these days you would find me browsing, investigating, brooding and dilly-dallying to my heart’s content. I like the fact that there is nothing ‘E’ about my visit. It is up front and personal.  Mano y mano. I need to wrestle with the pages.

 My Barnes & Noble store stocks DVDs and Music CDs as well as a large assortment of books to choose from. If they shut this store I may need to go on life support due to a binding withdrawal.


Strike an Arc

Several years ago, actually, many years ago, I worked as a welder. In those days I was doing everything that I could to make myself valuable in the work force. Sitting and doing the same thing over and over again day after day was not for someone like me. I tend to get bored very easily. And receiving the same paycheck every week wasn’t helping things either. I was motivated.

The company I was working for at the time was a manufacturer of heavy equipment. They hired me as an electrician and a nuts and bolts person. At that time I did whatever I had to do to earn a living for my kids and myself. Data entry and accounting type jobs wouldn’t pay enough. Welding, on the other hand, would make me more valuable to my employer so I went to a local technical school and enrolled in a welding course.

The welding class met Tuesday and Thursday evenings in the summer. Borrowing a welding mask and some welding gloves from work, I set off for class each week. It was after a couple of sessions that I was able to strike an arc and create a puddle of metal at the end of the welding rod.

Soon, I could tack weld and stitch seams: Square butt joint, V butt joint, Lap joint and T-joint. I learned oxyacetylene welding, brazing, arc welding, MIG welding and TIG welding. And, I learned how to handle a blow torch (oxyfuel cutting). To cut through slabs of metal: turn the acetylene on, ignite and then turn the oxygen on, adjust the flame and then slowly pull the torch though the metal. When I was done cutting, I shut off the oxygen first and then the acetylene. Blowing through 1” thick metal plate made me feel like superwoman with super heated vision.

After my first night of class I came home and looked in the mirror. The area of my skin that was not covered by my welding mask, the gauntlet gloves and my shirt was lobster red. I was terribly sunburned from the light of the arc welding corona. I went back to class covered up.

Later, on the job, I wore coveralls, leather sleeves and a welding cap, turned backward. When one of those hot sparks went down my shirt I would jump up and down trying to get it out of my clothes. Even though I did cover up, I still have small white burn spots on my arms and neck from welding spatter that found its way around my protective gear.

Welding had its difficult moments. Imagine arc welding metal plating on a 90 deg. Chicago summer day completely covered head to toe. Yet, as a welder I was paid more. I had more negotiating power in my hand’s muscle memory. This brings me to the reason why I am reminded of my welding days.

Riding on the train to my current job, I am reading a compilation of short stories titled, New Stories from the South, 2009: The Year’s Best edited by Madison Smart Bell, copyright 2009. The first story I come across is Muscle Memory by Katherine Karlin.

It surprised me that someone was writing about welding and describing the process so accurately. It also surprised me that it was a woman who wrote the story from her own experience.

You don’t have to be a welder to enjoy the story of Destiny becoming a welder (and not just a tacker). Its also a personal story about victims of Hurricane Katrina – a story about challenging yourself in the midst of challenging circumstances. A good read and a good work ethos for anyone.

Sunday Morning

  Sunday morning.  I am seated at my favorite breakfast place, a restaurant near the Fox River.  The 199-mile tributary runs through the middle of our small suburban village. It is throttled by an overflow dam just north of the main street bridge.  Below the dam the shallow water moves sluggishly south.  From where I sit I can see the bridge and its three stone arches spanning the affected river. And I see, now, that it is raining.

I came here alone, as usual.  The owner had again asked me, Table for one? I had again answered, I am with book.

The family owned restaurant has delicious food and not many people seem to know this.  I am usually the first person to arrive on the weekends.  When I enter the owner’s daughter also greets me.  She seats me at the same table that I have dined at for the past two years – a windowed corner space.  Sitting here, I view the river. It appears motionless this side of the bridge.

I brought with me today Samuel Beckett’s book Three Novels:  Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable.  The contemplative Malone Dies fits the mood of this desultory day. And, though I don’t ascribe to Beckett’s perspective of seeing life as being random and meaningless and art as its redeemer, I do like his prose style and especially today. Impounded with mordant loneliness, I need to break out of these thoughts somehow.

My reflections are soon interrupted by a hand picking up my water glass and another flooding it with ice water.  A new girl stands at my table – a pimply sixteen year old.  She wondered aloud, Do you know what you want?  I told her, Coffee and a cheese omelet.  She asked, unsure of what she had heard, What?  I repeated my request.  The second time I spoke it loudly and with grand hand gestures as if I were speaking to a foreigner.  Thereupon she scribbled what I believed to be her response.  After ten minutes a cheese omelet appeared and I was relieved. For a moment I thought Beckett might be right.

The rain is falling steadily now.  The white noise sound outside my bound-up thought is comforting. And for now, space and time are held in check.  But my loneliness has become a cesspool.

© Sally Paradise, 2011, All Rights Reserved