Good Results and a Bookstore

WINSTON-SALEM, NC – It’s not every time I’m at a doctor’s office to receive good news. Most of the time, and rightfully so, I’m sorta scolded by doctors saying I smoke too much (not like there is any good way to smoke), my sugary diet is something to be desired, I should exercise more, etc., etc., etc. Not to mention that scary, nervous-like feeling I get when having to be at a doctor’s office or hospital, to begin with.

Always expect the worse, I tell myself. That way I am prepared for the worst. Discoloration on a patch of skin is cancer. Not knowing the day’s date could be memory loss or brain damage. I’ve gained too much weight since my last visit – psychological problem of eating away anxiety; dropping too much weight in a short period of time – CANCER! Weight fluctuation, hell, who knows what that could be… confusion, maybe. Is my blood pressure going to be too high? Is it going to be too low? Is my heart pumping in a proper function? Is it too fast? If it is, is it because I’m nervous? Or, is something really wrong with me. Are they going to draw more blood? Will I have to provide a urine sample? A stool sample?

And there is always the possibility I will be defensive, and uncooperative in a mean and difficult way.

BREATHE! I tell myself. BREATHE!

(Why do I have to sweat so much? Do I smell? With a shirt soaked through with sweat and beads of perspiration running down my face, surely, makes me look like some kind of nervous freak, representing, very much, an animal cornered. A very arduous creature refusing to let down his guard.)

Yesterday, though, and the day before that, both doctor appointments went very well. So well, in fact, Dr. G__ told me to keep doing what I am doing. That was probably the best thing I have heard a doctor say, besides “All done.” The good news about a cyst I have in my brain is equally good: it’s benign, not causing any issues, nor did the specialist think there ever will be an issue.

After the appointment, since we were in the big city of Winston-Salem, Tara and I thought it would be a good idea to check out a bookstore. Living in Wilkesboro does have the disadvantage of not having the luxury of a good bookstore, independent or retail chain. After searching on her phone, Tara found a store close by.

Bookmarks, located at 634 W. Fourth St. #110, is “a literary arts non-profit that cultivates community by bringing people of all ages together with books and authors who educate, inspire, challenge, and entertain.” That is what is written on the webpage, at least. It has been far too long since I walked into an actual brick-and-mortar bookstore, browse through various titles, and make selections I normally would not specifically look for online. And online shopping is 90% of my shopping – for almost everything, except food, of course.

I swear and should send me Christmas cards… or better discounts.  

Upon entering the store, with a kid’s joy in my heart, I immediately started thinking of titles and authors and subjects to look for. The store was by no means huge, but nice enough in its size to offer a variety of books to choose from.

What Joyce Carol Oates books did they have to include on my bookshelf dedicated to her? Would there be a new author I would discover and admire and fall in love with their words? Would my books ever be lucky enough to be sold in such a place?

(Turns out, my books were not welcome to be sold there. I inquired about it. I was told no books published by, or their affiliate CreateSpace, which I find to be very prejudiced. Especially when this very store strongly expresses its openness to all types of people, their individual philosophies, sexual orientations and the like – yet, since my book was published by, I guess, competition, my titles are blacklisted. I remember a time when I would curse the very name of such institutions and their iron grip on an author’s possible success. I remember a time I would threaten, whine, complain, and be in a generally foul mood, focusing my mental energy on how to disturb this bookstore’s very existence. But, I’m too old for such things. Now, with my life being as blessed as it is – and the fact, no matter what stores will, or will not, ad my books to their inventory, I wrote them. They are available for purchase and, MOST importantly, I AM SILL WRITING!)

No matter. I was still going to buy some books from the store. Just because they are narrow-minded, doesn’t mean I need to plow away at the same field. And the experience – not to mention the score – was a good one. Bookmarks even had a restaurant and bar, located on the opposite side of the building where Tara and I enjoyed our lunch of sandwiches and fries. The bartender was even interesting. We argued and discussed books. (Tara secretly squeezed my hand very tightly when the slinger of drinks started to insult Hemingway, as if to say, Honey, do not punch that man.) What the hell. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, I do get tired of people dogging Hemingway. Just because they don’t understand the wonderous images and sheer dedication that great and doomed man had, it does not excuse NOT giving credit where credit is due. And Hemingway, above ALL others of that great generation of writers, deserves recognition.

* I have, as a matter of fact, just received a Hemingway shirt in the mail. It has a picture on the front of Ol’ Papa leaning over a notebook, pen in hand, working away. I wish I had been wearing the shirt while “discussing” books with the bartender.

After lunch, we walked outside and around the building. There were great, large paintings on both sides of a bright alley. We took pictures of ourselves. We laughed and asked someone to kindly take a picture of the two of us.

At the store, I bought Tara a ring. It’s a large, wide-band ring. The classic illustration of the Mad Hatter from Lewis Carrol’s classic and absurd novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, drawn by Sir John Tenniel (circa 1865), sits in the center of the ring.

The hat in the illustration is painted on one of the alleyway masterpieces, as well.

(“How is a raven like a writing desk?” repeated over and over in my brain that day. The riddle without an answer, posed to Alice by the Hatter at his gleeful and insane unbirthday tea party with the March Hare and Dormouse.)

And I could not leave without my picture taken next to the Honorable Hobbes, the stuffed tiger/imaginary friend of Calvin in Bill Watterson’s much-loved comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes (November 18, 1985 – December 31, 1995.)

It was, for me, at least, a magical day. One of those days where things seemed to not just go well, but so well one asks themselves how they got so lucky in life. And, oh, how lucky I am. I know I have rolled the dice one too many times in the past… sometimes, still, in the present. But that is a part of a great life. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Thank you, Mrs. Tara Locke, for such a life.

(Can’t close out this column without a little controversy. Can’t let everyone think I’ve grown all mushy before I’m 40.)


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