I stopped in my favorite used bookstore the other day.
Chop Suey Books is between forgettable Cary St. store #214 and forgettable Cary St. store # 215. For my simple wants, it’s the only place worth stopping even when the famed “French Film Festival” is afoot.

I walked in and said, “What’s up?” as if a 40-year-old fat guy could really be cool. The man behind the counter gave this Amish farmer hearing Rap look…complete with beard.
He replied, “Hey ya…”
Rough hewn bookshelves filled with well-worn books hid most of the wall. The floor creaked beneath unpadded carpet as this Charles Bronson-looking Tabby checked for shoplifters and literary vagrants. It smelled of the Chinese take out the Amish Farmer kept eating.
Upstairs there’s more books but I found what I wanted on the first floor. I picked up a Bukowski short story collection while Charles Bronson rubbed my ankle with an uncomfortable biblical knowledge.

I love used bookstores for several reasons:

–They’re cheap.
–Dog-eared pages tell you what’s good. Not marketing companies.
–Crazy ass student art books everywhere.
–The coffee is better than Starbucks and is usually free.
–Better choice of heavy mojo writing and lighter fare.

The Bukowski book, Tales of Ordinary Madness smells of incense. It sat on a shelf long enough to cause the spine to crack each time the book is opened. Maybe a pot smoking Rasta wannabe kept it around too long. Or a sincere meditating guru once bought it new and finally ‘donated’ it to the cause of literacy. I don’t know. That’s part of the mojo.

A used book offers better value because it not only tells the writer’s story, but the readers’ as well. I’ve got books where one entire passage is underlined.
All come to mind as I read, reread and wonder about the reader who left their mark. My copy of Miller’s Sexus is inscribed:

Dave, I ran out of my own words. So I’m sending some of Henry’s. Mark. Jan 14, 1990.

Part of the fascination with reading & writing is the apparent paradox. We typically read alone and write alone, yet, reading and writing connect us to others. We are alone and connected. The used books I buy give a deeper connection than the stale brand new copies found at Burnes & Ignoble. They tell me somewhere, someone opened the same book, read the same words and in many cases, made notes… Sometimes you find an old bookmark. A credit card receipt. A phone number. Many of them are stamped by libraries. School libraries. University libraries. Prison libraries. I dig the Prison Library stamps.

I found myself reading one day and wondering what some Death Row inmate thought when he read Slaughterhouse-Five.
That’s something Vonnegut didn’t write into the novel, but it was there all the same.

And so on…