50 cents

There is a little bookstore that sells used books, in one of the small towns to the north of us.  It is wonderful. And I mean wonderful in the anthropological sense, with is something that has been at the top of my list of senses, these days. The raving anthropologist in me has come out to play, gibbering and scratching out diagrams and charts in the corner, while everyone else is just drinking their coffee.

We are moving. Much remains to be decided, and there are about- oh- twenty thousand details to be worked out, but this much is sure: it will happen. (How do you like that for surety?) And so my anthropologist is thrown into a flurry, binoculars out, notepad, a stack of books from the library.

I want to capture every little thing that I can about this unique place that I now live in. I have become obsessed with the culture of the back country of California, here in the woods, and the hills that were logged in the 40's and 50's, by the rivers and the ocean.

And, so, walking into the bookstore again, I was delighted. It was dark, very dimly lit. The bookshelves stretched to the ceiling. The books on them were labeled and categorized nicely, but books were everywhere. In corners like driftwood, stacked on chairs, stacked in boxes, propped against any available space. There were animals everywhere, too, which was actually the first impression that I had when I walked in. The shop had the distinctive smell of many animals living together in a small space for a long time. There was a friendly dog who followed me around while I shopped, and put his head on my knee while I squatted to find something. And cats were flung around like the books, like something a wave dragged up on shore, only dry, and contentedly purring.

The desks at the front of the store were covered with papers and a couple of old televisions, more books and coffee cups, newspapers and pencils. I met the owner to buy my book and we talked to each other over the stacks of paper. He was older with a long white beard, wearing Carthartt overalls and a white t-shirt, a hat perched precariously on his head. Somehow, hoping that I would find a paperback edition of the book I was looking for, I hadn't brought enough cash with me, and I came up 50 cents short. "Oh, not to worry," he said. "This'll be fine."

In the center of the room there was an altar. Many, many religions were represented. It was the crowning touch to a quintessential moment for this region. The laid back commercial style, plenty of beloved animals, and a pasted-together collage of spirituality, set upon a formica table with a cat curled up on it.

The man was so friendly, joking with me about my many quarters, laughing about the shine his dog took to me. I love the people here, love their friendliness and I have been changed by living here. I took my book and one more piece of experience and left with a smile.