Tuesday, December 6, 2011
More Book and Record Stores of the South
(Above is Jim Adams, proprietor and kind Bookman of Books Again)
It's a weird scene when you find yourself inside a bookstore defending books against the guy working behind the counter at the bookstore. But then, the store was closing and nestled like a hypo in a box of cotton balls in yet another strip mall in the exurbs? of Atlanta.
I got all hyped up when Everly and I pulled into the generic parking lot, got a space right in front of the bookstore that was close to Everly's sister's house and saw the closing sale sign in the window. Of course I first bowed my head and said a prayer for another fallen book soldier, but then again I was far afield from my home turf and perhaps I'd be able to feast on a stranger's misfortune.
But the friendly gent behind the counter seemed only minutes away from perhaps setting a match to all the glorious paper and strapping on his jetpack to go get in on some Wii (no disrespect to jetpacks or Wii. My little nephew Jackson kicked my ass severely at Mario Cart while Everly and I were visiting and I enjoyed every moment of it, except when Jackson yelled out "Sad Old Man!"). He excitedly told me how he had long ago gotten rid of all his books, records and cds and felt a trememdous liberation from it. Then a customer - who was buying books! - came up and happily told how her husband was a teacher and soon there would not be a single book in the school system.
Well, different strokes, folks, different strokes. Neither of these two book hatin' creatures who would soon slide into only cursory slothful scanning of cyber ink on a screen, easily skipping through parts they didn't like or understand, looked particularly liberated or unfettered, but then again I was doing my very best at the time to keep from having my bookstore loving induced BM while holding a big batch of paperbacks on the Muslim faith.
Apparently this store, "Once Again" - I have to say that overall book and record stores that we hit down South didn't have the most imaginative names - was one of a small chain and this particular location had never done too well from the get go. It definitely seemed to target the more upscale, but not necessarily deep bibliophile. Even with the 20% off a lot of the books were barely at half price and they had no hardback literature other than a few Franklin Library type leather bound items and some mainly bestselling crime novels in their bargain bins.
I did find a mint hardback of The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith (Hail The Dark Master!) and an early Modern Library hardback of Joyce's Ulysses in their small bargain area, though. Plus a few obscure books on Islam and Freemasonry.
But even degenerates clinging to old forms of physical culture can't live on boards and wraps alone while vacationing. In between book and record stores we hung out with the family - Missy and Dan and the kids, Jackson and Laurel. There is yet to be a photo taken by even the most wall-eyed nabob with a disposable camera that doesn't capture the powerful sunrays emitting from these folks. I bet they're even happy early in the morning, but that is only something I can speculate on, it being the strictest rule of my religious beliefs that I not rise before 9:30 unless to begin a trip or walk down to the beach or Grand Canyon. Luckily, Waffle Houses are still open 24 hours despite Kid Rock brawls and hoods using them as driveby ATMs.
When I successfully followed Missy's vehicle through a long stretch of terrifying Atlanta superhighway and we made it into Decatur and I saw this beautiful mural featuring The Ramones, I knew the day was going to get even better.
The main shopping drag of the area had some really cool looking ethnic restaurants and we popped into a shop that sold new kids' books and some toys. Jackson honed right in on a police car toy and Laurel began playing with the toy train village in the back. I not only saw that there was a beautiful new annotated hardback 50th Anniversary edition of the wondrous Phantom Tollbooth, but I also got to see a book clerk break into loud Broadway show-type singing in the middle of the store.
Once the kids got their fix, Missy took us wandering slightly off the beaten track to a book store she said she always drove by thinking I'd like it - Books Again.
This is the view when you first walk in. The kindly owner had just taken in a deaf white long-haired cat who I bonded with around the new arrivals. I immediately saw a hardback of Pasolini's Collected Poems and some nice philosophy in the new arrival area, so my spider senses were tingling.
Hours later when Missy and the kids were long gone and back home and Everly was done with her day at the Librarians' conference I was still working my way through the literature. Tons of Simenon and Highsmith firsts, an Arthur Clarke on Gnome Press and signed Paul Bowles! Needless to say, I'd used the available back bathroom twice and had disrobed down to my tee-shirt (with pants).
Come checkout time I had a long talk with the friendly proprietor, Jim, and of course it turns out friend Kevin Johnson of Baltimore's Royal Books is a regular visitor (sadly, with far deeper pockets than myself, damn him). Talking about all his signed Bowles - including a hardback first of Mrabet's The Lemon, signed by both Bowles and Mrabet. If you haven't read Mrabet, you need to. Especially The Lemon and Love With a Few Hairs - he told me that Bowles had come to Atlanta when he was a fairly elderly man for health reasons.
I left this fine shop two boxes of books heavier and snapped the photo at the top of this post of the shop's owner. I will hopefully get back there around Christmas when they have their December specials.
I can thank or blame Everly for getting me to legendary Wuxtry Records. It was rush hour time when we finally left Books Again and Missy had advised her that we'd be better off spending more time in Decatur before venturing back onto the snakepit superhighway.
I'd been to Wuxtry's Athens location many times many years ago, when my wig was large and cottony like that of Athens native Herr Stipe. This location did not seem quite as hopping as I remembered their Athens location. In fact a great deal of their rock section had the air of not having moved since the '90s. BUT! they have a wide, nice selection and I found some fantastic stuff in their international areas, particularly Brazilian. The guy behind the counter was even nice enough to psychically know my favorite New Wave/Punk album, putting on X-Ray Specs when I asked him if they had a separate area for Punk Rock.
It would have taken many more hours to go through all their rock, soul and jazz and Everly had been patient enough (even being so cool as to score me one of Wuxtry's t-shirts when I wasn't looking. She got it as a Christmas present for me, but broke down and gave it to me a few nights ago when I was wading in the dumps), so I had to cut myself off with a great stack of '60s and early '70s Brazilian gems, a sealed blues record on the Victoria Spivey label and a strange ambient noise album of a group called Twilight Memories of the Three Suns recorded live in Baltimore!!! How could I possibly leave that behind?