The twenty-something guys looking back at me from the other side of the counter wore similar expressions that even now I'm not sure I've interpreted correctly. Either my chipper greeting was a bit too much - less intellectual and cool than is customary in their not-exactly-chipper bookstore (but not in a bad way) - or they hadn't seen a lot of smiling women before my friend and I arrived.
Turns out my copy of Bird by Bird would indeed have to be replaced, and it needed to be replaced yesterday. Having just purchased a small fortune in beads to prepare for the upcoming series of seniors workshops I began teaching again this morning, I didn't relish the thought of spending unnecessary money on a book I already own. As a way to cut my expenses, I'd thought of Edward McKay's, a solidly established used bookstore in town that's rarely let me down. Friend, however, reminded me that there's also another used bookstore across the street from Guilford College. Closer to home is always good.
I've always meant to go there. Never did before yesterday. It's called Empire Books and one of the first things I noticed as I entered this cozy business through the back entrance was that someone had built all their shelves. Uniform, richly stained, simple: these wooden shelves looked like something my Daddy or Granddaddy would have built. These shelves endeared me to this store, even before I knew if they had any books for me.
Moments later, standing at the front of the store, greeted by friendly-but-reserved book dudes, I hoped they were gonna' pull out some quality customer service and help me 'cause I wasn't sure where to look for "books to help writers write better, but not necessarily in the way you have to write better to get an A in an English Lit class." The taller, blonde one, came through first. I decided I'd just been too enthusiastic with my greeting and had probably interrupted their mood, throwing off the energy of their earlier working rhythm. When I asked where a section for writers might be, book dude immediately went into action mode and joined me on the customer side of the counter. My books could be in one of a couple of places, he informed me. Well sure, I realized, there could be a section for literary criticism and another for creative writing. And any other number of categories your local bookstore owner might choose to establish. I offered to give more detail and he gratefully accepted. Oh! He immediately recognized my title, and was confident they had a copy, too.
I'm likin' this place even more. Now if he's right, let's just hope the copy isn't too worn and that passages I wouldn't have highlighted aren't highlighted. He did even better. The copy he found for me was "like new" and guess what? The price was only $3.50. Oh yea. Which left me willing to peruse a tad more. Two hardback copies of Stephen King's On Writing were nearby, equally clean and untattered. The copy I read several years back was a borrowed copy. $5. Mine!
At the counter, having paid for my happy new purchases, both the book dudes agreed that it's not every day they're able to find every title on a customer's list right off. I told them I was thrilled, and that I would return. They suggested I should be prepared that sometimes they might not have what I want, but genuinely assured me they'd help me try and find what I want. I joked back that it was too late. The bar has been raised, and not only am I gonna' tell everybody I know, but I'd also be blogging about it.
So here you are. The I'm So Happy I Found My Books At Empire Books On Friendly And Recommend You Try 'Em Out Too blog entry. Not only are the book dudes endearing, but they have tons of books, great tunes (I should have asked...they were playing something I would not mind one bit hearing again,) and a huge, fluffy cat was curled, sleeping in a chair in the front window.
What more could I want?