Friday, October 26, 2007

The New Barnes and Noble; the old Rust Belt Books

In the past two weeks, I visited two bookstores that were new to me. The first, Rust Belt Books, is within walking distance of my new apartment (yes it is, I proved that on my day off, although I didn't walk there when I visited it, because it was night and it's not THAT safe over here). The second was a new Barnes and Noble. I'll start there.

I remember when Barnes and Noble first came to the area. It had supplanted my family's favorite store in the world, The Village Green. Some lottery winners choose to travel the world. Others pay off their debts or buy fancy cars. I think if anyone in my family had hit the lottery, we would've gone straight to Village Green and bought everything that even mildly interested us. One day we went there and it was called Barnes and Noble instead. I was impressed with the classy atmosphere but surprised at how dark it seemed inside compared to the airy Village Green. They opened up the Barnes and Noble closer to my ancestral home later that year. Surprisingly, they've never upgraded it one bit since then, and I don't think I was even in high school when it opened. It didn't have a music section or a coffee shop or any of the stuff the newer ones have. They built a whole new one across the street with all that stuff. It opened on Tuesday and we went to the party.

I especially wanted to go since the Buffalo Public Schools received a portion of the evening's proceeds. I purchased three books, only one of which was for myself, and spent a good hour wandering around. I'd been looking forward to the evening and was disappointed to find (although I really shouldn't have been) that there wasn't anything to see. It was exactly the same inside as the one I used to frequent in my former town, and while I got a good feeling from supporting education and starting my Christmas shopping, it didn't get me excited or stimulate my mind.

Rust Belt Books did, however. I drove over there with the idea of just exploring my new surroundings a bit. They happen to have a parking lot adjacent, so I parked there and went inside. They had tons and tons of used books, interesting-looking ones that I'd never heard of before, some old favorites so good that I wondered why anyone would sell them, bizarre sci-fi from the 60s, blatant propaganda pieces from other eras. There was a mini-music festival in a back room, funny liberalist bumper stickers by the register, a cat, a chick sleeping in the front window. The woman working spent as much time outside talking to the derelicts as she did talking to the customers inside. You could tell she was the type of person who'd probably give them whatever food was left from the music festival, without judgement, just because she knew they'd be hungry.

Yet sadly, I didn't spend any money there. I don't know why. I saw stuff I wanted. I think I was afraid that they didn't take debit cards. But in re-reading all of this, it got my mind going much more than the slick new Barnes and Noble. It made me want to drain my bank account and fill my brain. I walked by there the other day and noticed their Halloween window display juxtaposed books like Frankenstein and Earth in the Balance. Clearly, they didn't just hang whatever Corporate sent them out there.

Several years ago, my friend's parents closed their antique store. He told me about working during the closing sale and getting snotty with a woman who remarked how sad she was that the place was closing since she loved to come in and browse. He snapped back that they were closing because of too many browsers and not enough customers. Since I'd hate for Rust Belt Books to meet a similar fate, ever, and since I can control no one's behvaior but my own, I vow to my blog readers, to go back there within a week, with cash, and buy something. I'll let you know what I get. If any of you reading this can, you should visit your local indie too, before it disappears.

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