Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The End-of-the-Road Bookshop

I went to a crazy English-language-used-bookstore today and saw my first kooky ex-pat. He runs the bookstore, I'm assuming, which is basically just a decrepit little shop with piles of books in absolutely no order on tables. There was a strange, cluttered kitchen in one corner, the counters overflowing with what looked to be stale bags of pastries and dirty coffee mugs. He directed me to the back room when I asked about travel guides, and part of the back room looked like basement storage--part of the ceiling was even open to the outside. There were a couple of broken, low-to-the-ground armchairs and a small table supporting a beer bottle and more dirty mugs. Not quite the cozy place it could be, the shop instead felt like the inside of someone's attic or a haphazard flea market stall. Or just a big room where boxes of books were dumped out and forgotten. It had an end-of-the-road look, like the grizzled backpackers on the Ramblas.

The bookshop owner was listening to something called "Stupid Videos" on his computer, very loudly. "That IS stupid," he said after each video finished. "They're right, that's really stupid." The only other person in the shop asked him what he was watching, and he offered to write down the website for her. She declined.

Among water-worn guidebooks from the early 90s, stacks of mysteries and romance novels, and a huge shelf full of old textbooks and academic materials, I found three Muriel Spark novels, which I brought with me to the counter. "A fan of Spark," he observed. "Your first time here?" I said yes, that I lived nearby and would likely see him again.

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