Monday, September 17, 2007

Bookstore Adventure

There is this old book store in downtown West Allis that we've driven by no less than a million and one times. It looked, from the outside, like it was brimming with books and stuff, and the hours seem to vary and be "unstated" as in, not posted anywhere. Sometimes we'd drive by at 9 pm and they'd be open, sometimes closed.

Well, this Saturday after dinner we drove by and sure enough, the open sign and the other lights were on. Like I said, we've driven by this place a lot, but never went in. Well, we decided to check it out.

As we walk in we see an old lady sitting on a box or crate of some kind. She looks like a gypsy, with a wig, tiara, and miss-matched poofy loose skirt and blouse, along with some scarves tied at her waste and some kind of kerchief on her neck. Seriously - I am not making this up. Craig thought she was a homeless person that they'd let sit inside, since the night had turned unexpectedly chilly, to wait for the bus or something.

Directly behind her was a wall about 7 feet tall of books. To her right and left the same, going from the wall behind her to the door on her left and from the door to another wall of books that went into the store on her right, so there was a narrow entrance between the walls of books to go in.

Once inside the smell of old books and mold, along with a hint of cat litter, wafted. There were narrow isles and books upon books. It was somewhere between 2500 - 3000 square feet, I'd guesstimate. Most of it impassable. There were rows and rows of books, old records, sheet music, magazines... Just tons and tons of stuff. It looked like at one point they had some organization, but eventually they got too old and the amount of books too large, for them to continue with the effort.

Towards the back of the store was an old guy who we'd assumed was maybe the owner or one of the owners of the place. He sat in an old, ratty looking chair reading a Hustler magazine. There were stacks of old Playboy and Hustler magazines near him. I guess that is their way of keeping the kids out of the "nudie books" - have the old man there reading them and keeping an eye out. There were more of those magazines near the door too, just sitting on the floor.

The books went from floor to almost ceiling everywhere in this shop. The floors were warped and uneven - in spots I was afraid the worn carpet was the only thing keeping me from falling through. The ceiling was dirty with evidence of leaks and bad wiring evident. At the end of some isles there were stacks of empty books, laundry baskets, milk crates, buckets, and even tossed about old chairs.

Craig and I split up as we investigated this odd old book store. When we got home and talked, it turned out that the two of us, in the same store, had found completely different things. I think you could bring a half-dozen people in, give them 30 minutes and have them leave, and then find out that none of them saw the same things. There's just that much and all in a state of delicate chaos in which by grabbing one book a waterfall of books could collapse upon you at any moment. Some of the books were priced, some not. Some moldy, some not. I found a book on communism from the early 1960's. Craig found a book called, "So you Want to be an Airline Stewardess," he didn't look at the date, but from the cover it appeared to have come out sometime in the 1950's. There were stacks of vinyl records - even 45's. Piles of sheet music. Dictionaries and encyclopedias that were 30 years old. Fiction, nonfiction, romance.... but I did not see a single graphic novel or comic book, which kind of surprised me.

Craig found an old book on speed reading and decided to pick it up, since he has always wanted to learn to read faster and comprehend more. We did not see any kind of register or sign of where to go to pay for items. So, we walked back towards the door and asked the old gypsy lady where to pay. She said we were to pay her, and she took the book and scribbled on a piece of paper in a notebook, saying the total was $3.12. (personally I thought the price was too hight) Craig gave her exact change - which was good because we could not tell where she'd have any kind of change, as there was no register evident. Then she ripped off that sheet of notebook paper and handed it to Craig, along with the book, reporting that the paper was the receipt (pictured). Clearly no way of tracking sales in this store!

It was the most dilapidated, disorganized, dirty book store I was ever in. But, it was kind of fun because it was such an adventure. I've never seen anything like it. Now we have to go back and dig around again, just to see what books are hidden behind and under the front rows.

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