Sometimes I dislike my neighborhood, it's true. Although I chirp on about the "bloom where you're planted" philosophy, and indeed I believe that, sometimes...only sometimes...I wish I was planted in Brooklyn, or Maui, or maybe even Charlotte? Wide swath, yes. My problem isn't with Maryland. I'm very fond of my small but mighty state, and think it's a great place to call your home, and I'm not foolin'. I travel around it with relative ease, and the reality is that I'm not stopped from going anywhere I want to go at this point. If anything, I'm in a good spot to tool around wherever I want, since we're close to most major sources of transportation and two large metro areas that provide me with more entertainment than I can even consume. My problem is mostly with my very immediate vicinity, and what I perceive as a lack of character, both in its architecture and its commerce. You know...there's the Coldstone Creamery, and the Hallmark Store, and the Blockbuster. Woohoo! We have small stores, but they're mostly boutiques and carry nothing that really interests me. I'm just not ready for Brighton yet, and have a suspicion that I will never be.
One thing we do have here is food. There are two completely awesome restaurants - one is Italian complete with a great house Chianti, and the other is South American/Mexican. This makes me extremely happy, because I really believe that restaurants can be the soul of a community, and by that I don't mean Applebees (which I heard described by a person from Scotland once as a "dodgy steak place," and that never fails to make me smile.)
The other night I went to Sol Azteca - the Mexican place - to get a carne asada dinner on my way home. As you imagine my entrance into the parking lot, please try for a moment to channel a moment of absolute joy, combined with total shock, if you can. You can, can't you? Are you there? Don't lie to me. For God's SAKE, you MUST have had a moment of joy at some point, no? Even without the shock? Can't conjure one up? GOSH! Put down the damned mouse and go out and find one. What are you wasting your time at this ridiculous keyboard for? Live it up! Time's a 'wastin'.
Hmmm. Anyway...was it good for you? (Haha! Sorry.) Anyway, yes, joy and shock, even a little bit of awe, when I pulled into the parking lot to get my AWESOME STEAK AND GUACAMOLE AND CHIPS AND HOMEMADE SALSA and saw this:
It was dark, but you get the drift. Just imagine a bookstore at night, awash in the aura of the streetlamps. And if you channeled that joy and shock properly while ago, you'll perhaps come close to knowing how happy I was to see a bookstore in my little, tiny, overcrowded town that wasn't a liquidation sale. You'll know a little better when I tell you that I've forgiven the proprietors (of a BOOKSTORE NO LESS!) for having a typo on their banner. Couldn't do it myself, but that's me - annoying, punctilious, spelling demon me.
Once inside and past the typo, I was jazzed to find that it was not just books! It's a used cd store too! And an independent cafe of sorts! In my little corner of the world! (that's pretty much how those thoughts were sputtering in my brain at the time, too.) It's called Second Edition Books, also something I might have chosen to put a little more prominently on the storefront, but hey...not my shingle.
I can't tell you how cool this was - so I told the guy working there instead, and he confirmed that everyone had been "so supportive." But what do you expect, when something useful and interesting opens up around here? I really hope they make it.
Part of the shock and joy was the addition of a bookstore to a suburban Maryland strip mall that already included a music store three storefronts down: Rocketeria, baby! Yes, not only does my little town have an independent bookstore now, but it also has an independent music store, where an extremely affable guy named Dave runs the show. My guitar teacher had encouraged me not to take my guitar to a big corporate store, because it's a good idea to support independent music retailers, and he was right. The night I stopped in, the nice woman working there told me to bring it back the next day for Dave to take a look at, which I did. He looked like Jack Black's older brother, with no apparent flair for slapstick comedy, but I bet he does has a screaming guitar solo in his repertoire. He won me over because not only did he not ask me if the guitar work was for my son or my little brother, which is how most of the guys at Guitar Center approach me (in a benign fashion - not hostile or anything, but still.), but he also fixed the neck partially for me right there on the spot, and told me that he needed more time to check it out and might have to send it out, because he didn't want to break it. And he also explained the problems with the neck to me like he expected me to understand, which is really nice. Now, my guitar was not expensive as guitars go. It hasn't been played a whole lot and I'm just getting back into it now, so it was cool of him to treat it like a thousand dollar instrument.
I love that these independent businesses are in my town, more than I can clearly say. It makes me feel good to support them, the exact opposite of how I feel when I throw my money into the gaping maw of corporate monsters like CVS. Plus, the people in both of these stores talked to me - really. Like, in full sentences, which also included questions about how they could meet my needs. This is unusual in the suburban marketplace - in fact, so unusual, that this is all it takes to get a loyal customer for life out of me.