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Slightly Used and Gently Weathered

Thoughts on the value of being a used copy.

In my recent fiction writing endeavors, which I’m launching soon, I began to question my use of narrative. Did I want first-person? Did I want some creepy stalker-like third-person narrative?  Now grant you, I’ve already written the first chapter. For some reason, I like to overthink everything. I’ll second guess most things. 

It’s the same way with buying wine. Or bread.  It takes me exactly 22 minutes to choose a loaf of bread. It’s just how I am.  But if I am going to jump into this new project with a whole and pure heart, I better make my decision now because then there’s no going back.

Yesterday I debated, whether maybe I should jump in my car and drive to the mall and explore Barnes and Noble and see how the other “authors” do it.  But that would require things like keys, cars, and effort.  Then I remembered a used bookstore I had passed one day within walking distance from my house. Two minutes, a ball cap and a pair of sneakers later, I was out the door headed for Beers Books.


Let me make a quick distinction here.  It’s Beers Books, not Beers and Books, which I happen to think would have been brilliant.   But I made my way, pausing only once, stopped by the drooling Portuguese biker dressed in his full spandexed glory.  I say drooling literally, not figuratively.  I’m not sure what was up with that. But he pulled a rag from his spandex, wiping it away, just before telling me I’m a “sexy woman.”  Seriously, if you could have seen me yesterday you would have thrown rocks at me or likely given me a dollar. It was that bad. So I ended my conversation with the man by replying to his question with, “no I won’t give you a hug” and continued on my way.

I rounded the corner and saw this big blue face on the side of a building. It was the place. I just never noticed the big face before. I couldn’t see the sign but I saw the carts of books out front and well, there’s just something magical about a used book store.

I walked into this locally famous place. I had read about it on Yelp. I remembered reading there was a cat supposedly that roamed the rows of books freely.  I like intellectual cats.


But what I immediately loved was that the doors were open and this blustery day had blown a multitude of leaves into the store, scattered about down the aisles.  They didn’t care.  Let the leaves blow.

I have such a love and reverence for books. When I first walked in all I could do was gently glide my hands down the spines taking in the overall ambiance of the place.  I heard a couple debating “civil war anthologies” and I laughed as to how different of a conversation it was the previous weekend at the sports bar where the most intelligible repeated word was “dude.”

As I settled on my similar genre, I found a series of Diane Johnson books, authoress of Le Divorce, L’Affaire, etc., etc.  I overheard another conversation between two twenty-something women agreeing over Wuthering Heights being one of the more “wretched” books in existence. They compared the love between Heathcliffe and Catherine to having major painful surgery.

They obviously haven’t been in love yet.

But the books. Oh God, the books. When I find books with highlights already in them, I become almost giddy. I love seeing what other people find important. And as I made my way around the last aisle I found a section wholly devoted to Jack Kerouac, which is oh-so California. But I read a quick bit of On the Road and saw this.

“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing,”

I thought about how Jack Kerouac would have likely appreciated my indecisive ways. And I also started thinking how much I like my people like I like my books.

I like people who have been slightly used and gently weathered.  I like people who aren’t shiny and clean, but with a bit of leaves tossed about in their hair.  I like the people already highlighted. I like seeing what they’ve thought and imagining where they’ve been.

In this day and age, we put so much emphasis on the young, new, perfectly botoxed, and shiny! But I’d take a dusty person with wrinkles that tell a tale any day of the week. I realize there’s so much value in “used.”

People say used. I say experienced.

They say old. I say wise.

They say mad. I say brilliantly so.

I just wish people wouldn’t strive so hard for perfection when they are perfectly wonderful, in all their historied, messy glory.

And as I left, with the answer I had come for, I stopped and asked about the cat.

“Oh, she’s been dead, what is it now?” the bespectacled pixie clerk asked an older man. “Two years now.” He replied.

I told them how they still talk about her on Yelp, so she obviously had made quite an impression. Then added, “In that case, I’m sorry I brought up your loss!”  They laughed and thanked me as I left the store. And then added, “Come back some time.”

Oh, I will. I will.

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