On Exhaustion and Bookstores

So, here’s another Friday. For city employees, it’s a three-day weekend (Monday is Veteran’s Day here in the U.S.). A friend asked me what I was going to do over the weekend and I told her my plans. Then I said, “No matter how long the weekend is, it’s never enough time to do everything that needs to be done.” And while I stand behind that, I also am trying to slow down my pace. I’ve been going, going, going at break-neck speed the last couple of years, and, while I have accomplished much, I also realized that pushing yourself too much only leads to exhaustion and crankiness.

Things will get done when they get done.

Don’t get me wrong, if I have deadlines, I will work to meet them. And if I have things that need to be done, I’ll do my best to do them in a timely manner. I’m of the “Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?” school. I want to get things done and off my plate so that I can focus on the next thing.

But I will not kill myself anymore. I simply can’t do it. And I find that running doesn’t get you to the finish line faster than walking. Too much crashing and burning along the way. It’s the old tortoise-and-hare scenario. I need to take care of me, and I have learned that the hard way.

On a completely different note, I’ve been so wrapped up in my own stuff that I’ve totally missed on some news. I just learned that Bent Pages, the lesbian-owned bookstore on Staten Island here in New York, has shut down. This happened back in March and I am ashamed of having learned of the news just now. It makes me sad because one by one, gay bookstores have closed down in New York. I mean, New York! Home to one of the biggest gay communities in the U.S.  A Different Light went dim years ago and Oscar Wilde closed its doors a few years ago. I don’t get it. What’s happening here?

I understand that the World of Amazon and other online sellers have drastically cut into brick-and-mortar sales and e-books have made it even worse, but you’d think that a specialty niche store would somehow survive, especially in a place like New York, where there are actually brick-and-mortar stores still in existence. I guess it’s because the gay and lesbian market is so small to begin with.

It’s still sad. I mourn the loss of physical bookstores and I mourn the loss of gay bookstores even more. Two markers of pre-21st-century life are disappearing. Things change, to everything, and all that, but the loss of this particular thing, in my opinion, can never be viewed as a good thing.

Browsing the categories of online sellers will never be the same as perusing the spines of books, reading their titles, and picking them up to read the back blurbs. Typing “Amazon.com” or “Barnesandnoble.com” in an address bar will never measure up to walking into a bookstore and smelling that new book smell, that paper-and-ink aroma that is unique to the printed word. Following links to different categories is not the same as going from one section to another in a book store and seeing all the options and experiencing the sweet agony of having to decide which ones to buy and which to reluctantly slip back onto the shelves. Hitting the checkout button does not elicit the same satisfaction as holding a bunch of books in your arms on the checkout line and walking out with a wonderfully heavy bag of new purchases.

Nope. It will never be the same.

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5 thoughts on “On Exhaustion and Bookstores

  1. No, R.G. buying on line will never be the same as walking into Chapters.. which is the major book store here in BC..and walking out later with new books to read. .. Sadly there are very few bookstores here that cater to the gay and lesbian audience.. In fact, i can only think of one local bookstore and that would be Little Sisters. and even their book selection is rather limited.
    as for slowing down, trying to avoid burnout.. yes that is a good idea.. and good luck with it.

    1. Hi, k. Unfortunately, it’s the same story everywhere–about both bookstores and burnout. In fact, you can even equate the decline of bookstores with the decline of your health–you don’t always think about them much when they’re there, but you miss them when they’re gone.

  2. Hey R.G. – me too. One of my favorite activities used to be Saturday mornings at a used book store in my neighborhood. I’d walk the 2 miles from home, find some treasure and then sit at the coffee shop next door indulging in a blissful morning. I moved a long while back. The other day, I drove through the old neighborhood. I was shocked, sad and more than a little ashamed to find the store had closed. sigh…

    1. Hi, mesaraven. I know how you feel. The times when I’ve walked by spots where favorite bookstores used to be and discovered that they were gone, I felt bereft. It’s even more devastating now that there are so few left. Each one that disappears is like another cut to my soul.

  3. Right there with you. I love bookstores. I love going to different bookstores around the country, too, and engaging in that bookstore culture in each region. Online is sure easy, yeah, and as a writer, allows me to sell to markets overseas (which I never thought would happen), but it’s just not the same.

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