Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A barn and its secrets

In need of a 30” kick plate for a fridge – any colour, any style – I made a pit-stop just off my Streetsville-Hamilton rural express route to visit one of my favorite merchants.

It looks like a typical farm except for the vast collection of used home building materials gathered at one side of the massive three-storey barn and the two little tent-signs at the entranceway – one of which reads, Builders Bazaar.

Inside the barn lay endless rows of used doors, windows, and bathroom and kitchen fixtures. Fridges – none. Kick plates – nought.

“While I’m here, I’ll take a peak upstairs, Greg, though I’m really not in buying mode these days.”

“Go ahead, but you’ll find it messier than usual.”

That was hard to believe. Navigating the upper floor had always been a challenge.

Up in the loft things looked as usual. The extensive labyrinth of book-crammed bookshelves lay riddled with the usual hurdles. Open boxes of books and loose stacks of books and fallen stacks of books made every step a peril.

But there was one difference.

The longest straight corridor, flanked, of course, by shelves of books, was no longer capped at the end by yet another bookcase. The maze now had an exit. Darkness lay beyond. And perhaps a giant hunk of cheese?

Naturally I approached, thereby discovering that weak light from a few bare bulbs did indeed illume the features in this place beyond: More and more and more bookshelves, these ones arranged in neat rows like a library, but teeming with books in no apparent particular order. And all along one wall – boxes. Fifty or more – labeled in marker, Hard Cover, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Literature…

I spent a long time wandering here, thinking.

I love books. I love reading them, writing them, searching for them, buying them, holding them, shelving them, cataloguing them, talking about them, writing about them, looking at them.

Suddenly I had to marvel at my own newfound capacity to grab hold of the world, to slow it down, to see the paths and possibilities before me and the freedom and confidence to participate however I choose. Perhaps this is how a lot of people are. But for me, it’s new.

I went down finally and talked to Greg. The fire inspector has demanded changes be implemented to his merchandising and storage layout. His stock is non-catalogued. His online presence is weak. His ability to fill specific customer requests is sporadic. He has only so much time. He’s getting older. His only helper, his wife, is also aging and working the book loft has become too difficult given the circumstances of her health. He confessed there are another ten thousand books on the third floor. He estimates forty thousand in his collection. I suspect that’s an underestimate.

We talked about books and writers and poetry and happiness and freedom and kindness.

I told him of my giving notice to the corporate slave-master to whom I’ve been providing database services for the last six years. I told him of my shedding possessions and stepping out into the world on my own terms – looking to be useful in ways that are honest and real.

He shook my hand and wished me good fortune. I told him that I would be back.

I may be back soon. I may have found another project. Another way to be useful in a real way.


Chris Benjamin said...

been watching Black Books lately - you seen that? absurdist british comedy, zany disorganized bookstore owner hires common sense bookkeeper, antics ensue, store owner's insanity rubs off on bookkeeper.

this post reminds me of that but more down to earth. sounds like a great investment of time, go for it!

Crushed said...

If he has a medieval literature section, I'd be interested. there a number of texts I'm after that I can't pin down, and don't exist online.

Anonymous said...

I can totally see you in there, helping out.

Anonymous said...

OH and FYI the knickers were washed, lol, don't worry.

Roger said...

lets see... at 2 hrs a day
cataloging 60 books an hour
divide by 40,000

you are looking at 333 hours of entertainment...

go for it

Anonymous said...

And a minute is "minute" in the presence of true literature. Interesting how interpretation is. I felt my heart racing as you walked down that aisle the new found excitement, the books that bring such joy... hmmm another gift which falls at our feet truly blessed

Fantasy Writer Guy said...

Wow. Such a boring post and it gets six immediate responses!

Wood Man -- I think I'd pace myself at 300 books per day or 1500 per week. That would mean completion in six months which is a nice time frame and would allow me to avoid the winter months. The barn is not heated.

Benji -- I avoid television but if I get a glimpse of that show I'll give it a look.

Crushed -- If he has any medieval material I'm not letting it out of my greedy little hands!