When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.
– Desiderius Erasmus
So, I tried the Bookstore Method again last night, against the recommendation of at least one of my readers. Honestly, it’s not working well for me, in spite of what my therapist tells me about how well it works for his other client, who, in fact, originated the process. I’m not sure if it’s that I’m too picky, or just too cowardly, but the pickings always seem slim. Here’s how it went…
I glide into the store as casually as a desperately lonely man can, trying to look as completely uninterested in anything in particular. I glance at the sale books in the entrance way and pick up a departure for me, Dirty Little Secrets, which looks like a freakish combination of a chick book with an action thriller. Way, way outside my normal reading and perfect to get me into the nonconventional mindset I’ll need to survive the night. Then, I browse through the first tables of new books and see The Ethical Assassin : A Novel, which established a grim, little theme for my chances. So, now I have two books about murder and mayhem in unusual settings, right? Must be time for the magazine section! Yea!
And, as I prowled over to the glossy rags, I remembered I was there to find a date, not spend money I don’t have on books I won’t read for months. So, as I pickup the latest Writer’s Digest, I start watching for likely ladies out of the corner of my eye. (See, I’m being all sly-like, so I can sneak up on them and pounce when even I don’t suspect it!) Sadly, there were only men around the row I was in, so I loop around and see Plaza Magazine, which caught me with the headline “Japan Issue: Capsule Living With Kurokawa”. I mean, with my total fascination regarding all things Japanese, how could I resist? But, still, no groovy chicks, so it was on the next row for Blender, because I need to update my musical taste if I’m going to date. After all, I’m told the hottest of the hotties are into music. Personally, I wouldn’t know. Thelonious Monk aside, I don’t know squat about music or what’s musically cool right now, so, for all I know, I’m hip as all get out. I doubt it, but, still, you never know. I’m hoping that if I hold on long enough, I’ll swing around and be retro again. That was when I saw her, grabbing that Blender. She was dressed down in running gear, casually flipping through a magazine and leaned up against the end of the row where the movie magazines are. But, she seemed a little tense, so I watched her out of the corner of my eye while pretending to scan the movie rags. Forgetting my purpose for a moment, I spotted one of my obscure favorites, Asian Cult Cinema. The current issue was Thai Cinema, so I leaned over to get it, startling the poor, nervous cutie reading her magazine. Then, I saw why she seemed tense. She was looking at the latest Sports Illustrated. You know, the Swimsuit Edition? Yeah, so, either she’s really cool and just checking it out for, uh, actually, I have no idea why she’d be cool and checking it out. She’s a chick. If I understood chicks, I wouldn’t be blogging this, I’d be cooking her breakfast. My bet was she was a lesbian. Why? Because, that’d be just my luck. Anyone want to take that bet? Yeah, me neither.
So, then it was a quick tour through philosophy, where I saw On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt. It’s a short one, so I picked it up to read while I had my beverage of the evening. After that, I popped upstairs to the language section. I wanted to grab a Vietnamese Dictionary & Phrasebook because I’d “Wink”ed at a Vietnamese girl on Match.com and I thought learning a few words of her language would be cool. Especially because I love language and she could totally correct my mispronunciation of the complicated, tonal language. (Sadly, she opted out on me, but, at least I have the book.) So, then it was over to the writing section to see what they had to help me with my pitiful plots. I found The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises That Transform Your Fiction, which appealed to me because that was about when I got the idea for the best story I almost sold o many years ago. And, just because it was funny, Plots Unlimited caught my attention. Of course, it’s a total gimmick book, but I bought it anyway, again, because it was funny. And, as long as I was indulging in a little retail therapy at this point, I decided to check out some music by way of the martial arts section. I love martial arts philosophy because it’s so practical, so when I saw Be Like Water: Practical Wisdom from the Martial Arts, I knew I had one of my minimum four spirituality books for the year. And, about that time, I noticed The Best of Dave Lowry, who is one of the world’s best writers on the Japanese martial arts. This book collects the best of his Black Belt magazine articles in one place. Very cool. So, then it was music, I was in a funky mood, so I went looking for something with an edge. What I found was Past, Present & Future [with Bonus DVD] by Rob Zombie. Hey, I don’t have a kid who’s too into Goth music in my house right now, so, I can indulge in some heavy metal. What do you want from me? It’s actually great music to do aerobic workouts to. Honest. Besides, while finding Zombie, Gimme Fiction by Spoon caught my eye. I know nothing about it, but I have a vague memory that someone, somewhere thought it was good, so I figured I’d take the risk.
So, now, totally weighed down with books and magazines, I head over to Smarmy Lad in the Hell of Mediocre Coffee. He, of course, goads me with his hypercaffinated, but artificial, cheeriness, trying to rush me so he can do two orders at once. But, as I mentioned, I’m in a mood, so I give him a hearty “Yeah, I’ll get back to you in a second on that”, which, I’m pleased to say, threw him off his game. Ha! Take that slacker boy! And, I got to stand there with a giant pile of heavy books showing off my muscle while pretending that holding forty pounds of books in one outstretched hand is no big deal. And, finally, just before my arm completely failed, he came back and took my order. Instead of my usual Italian Fascist Blend, I had a kinder, gentler iced mocha chai. While I was paying, I had to endure his lengthy sales pitch for Border’s new marketing, er, “discount” program.
“I’m not sure if you’re going to get all those books tonight, but you’ll get a…”
“Yeah, okay, fine. I’ll take it.”
“Great! You know you’ll really save! And, you’ll start getting the better coupons!”
“Why, you’ll even get coupons for the Cafe here!”
“Yeah. Great.” So, pretty much at this point the easy sell has really upset his little apple cart and he has no idea that he can stop babbling. I decide to stop listening instead. Easier and less likely to make me want to lobotomize myself with a knitting needle. But, I survive the process and sip my frozen mocha chai while I read On Bullshit, both of which were surprisingly good. And, then, it’s getting late and I’ve pretty well given up on actually meeting someone, so, I head down to the cashier with my books. When I check out, I get the book that actually brought me out to the bookstore, No Plot? No Problem! and beat a hasty retreat home, while listening to Rob Zombie.
And, what did I learn last night? Well, I learned that, while this might be a proven method for one guy, it’s not working for me very well. I learned that following through even when I’m not in a good mood does not produce the best results. But, most importantly, I learned something about myself. Something best summarized by a quote from On Bullshit:
“Our natures are, indeed, elusively insubstantial – notoriously less stable and less inherent than the natures of other things. And insofar as this is the case, sincerity itself is bullshit.”
And, that, kids, just about sums up my day yesterday. Today has got to be better. Right?