Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sign of the times

Returning from an afternoon walk on Saturday I looked across Westwood Blvd and saw this banner over the front of the Borders store in my neighborhood. I'm not a big bookstore shopper, but many's the time I have made the short walk over there to shop for a gift or just browse through the shelves.

That it lacked a western section (books or vids) kept me from spending much money. But it was good to know the place was there. So it was with some sadness that I joined the crowds inside scanning the shelves where everything was marked 20% off.

I went through the whole store, upstairs and downstairs, where nothing much caught my eye. My inner English major was both startled and relieved to see maybe 20 shelves in the Lit section completely bare. It was good to know "literature" was finding a home. All the time I was thinking, "You have to take something, even if only as a memento."

Then I got to the 19th-Century History section, and there a voice inside me said, "Here. This is what you want." A half hour later, I walked out with four books: David Laskin's The Children's Blizzard, T. D. Griffith's Deadwood: The Best Writings on the Most Notorious Town in the West, William Leckie's The Buffalo Soldiers: A Narrative of the Black Cavalry in the West, and a so-called "pulp history" by David Talbot with illustrations by Spain Rodriguez called Devil Dog: The Amazing True Story of the Man Who Saved America.

I waited a long time on line to get to a cashier, who turned out to be a new resident from upstate in California, and we joked about adjusting to life in Los Angeles. She even asked if I had a Borders rewards card and optimistically scanned it when I did.

Then I left, with my bag of books, and it was like taking something from a friend who is leaving forever. . .


  1. There was a time (mid to late 90s) when I spent countless hours in Borders. Not so much in the past five years or so because they catered to the very latest novels and I was searching for those rare birds.

  2. Its a shame. But the on-line scenario has done for many books stores here too. Waterstones, one of our biggest, has an on-line section. Its the way of things unfortunately. But glad you got the books, a memento of the loss of the past, and a guide, a guide to show just how much is lost, when people fail to use what is there. In the words of a famous song? "You dont know what you`ve lost, `till its gone!"

  3. I know that store. How depressing. I would think that the Borders would have done well there considering the demographic of the neighborhood. I really hope that it doesn't get replaced by something like a CVS Pharmacy.

  4. Even though I don't like these big stores much, I have spent countless hours in them, particularly when I'm traveling. There was a Borders in Tacoma, WA, that I used to go to all the time back in the 90s.

    As for your choices, writer Duane Swierczynski, who really knows his stuff, raves about that Devil Dog book, here:


    I want to get it!

  5. One of my writing groups meets at Borders so I hope they don't go under. I've bought quite a lot of books there over the years

  6. It is a sign of the times and I am partly to blame. Years ago I would go to bookstores for reference and Ideas, couldn't pass one by and always came out with a purchase. (graphic designer by trade) Now I just go online, easier, faster and more current. But with sacrifices, leaving my desk, interaction with others and just being out in the world. I know, unfortunately, more bookstores will disappear because of people like me.

  7. I like Borders and the BN store, just like I used to like B. Dalton and that other store that went out of business (name slips my mind). Your selections sound great.

  8. I am so expecting this to happen to the one six blocks from here. I hate it.

  9. Ron,
    Glad you found a memento or two...

    I remember with aching nostalgia the very first Borders in Ann Arbor. An exquisite place of refuge for the reader and writer and intellectual wanderer. Watching Borders expand and turn into the Barnes & Noblesque place it did become scared me a little--this seemed inevitable. But everything old is new again, so we shall see...(hoping the store doesn't turn into a Banana Republic, or worse, headquarters for some Tea Party candidate.

  10. David, Borders went for middle of the road and left me on the sidelines, too.

    Cheyenne, the big stores here have become dinosaurs.

    Leah, there it is...

    Laurie, CVS has already invaded the neighborhood. The number of empty store fronts in Westwood reminds me of what's happened to Main Street merchants in small towns everywhere. Strange to see in the middle of affluence.

    Chris, I checked out Duane's comments. I'm in complete agreement! Hope you can find a copy.

    Charles, hope so, too.

    Christine, now don't go blaming yourself.

    Oscar, like I said, "dinosaurs"...

    Patti, you may have to go down there and contribute to the cash flow to keep the doors open.

    Amy, I don't think the Tea Party is a big risk here, but then anything can happen. These are strange times.

    Anne, Ha!