Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lost in the Urban Jungle: A Place Where Hoarding Makes A Profit

 I didn't completely hate my time in New Orleans, nor was it entirely a series of misadventures. The bayous were beautiful and the winter birding was pretty good. City Park was my favorite place not only for the birdwatching, but the graceful Live Oak trees as well. The food was delicious with many entrees unique to New Orleans. My favorite breakfast spot was Cafe Beignet, the very same place featured on Alton Brown's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" (I don't watch food shows on TV so this one is lost on me. But there was a huge sign proclaiming this feat and proof on this website) where each morning I had a soy latte and beignets. The buildings and homes in New Orleans were unique and colorful with many housing local art stores, antique shops and used book stores.

There was one used book store in particular that immediately caught my fancy and I made at least 3 trips to this treasure trove of titles. In terms of book stores, this place was a disaster waiting to happen and I must confess that was part of the charm. There were books everywhere. Books spilling out of boxes on the floor, piles of books on the floor stacked nearly waist high. Books on top of shelves, some touching the ceiling. Books on counters and behind the counters. Books books books.

The store was something of an adventure to navigate around with stacks and boxes of books cluttering the narrow aisles. Bending down to look at a bottom shelf was more-or-less impossible, so I would bend from the waist and read titles hanging upside down. The shop owner claimed he was remodeling and said he would be happy to get a book from a stack or from the top shelf. I had no doubt he was willing to help, but I didn't want him to go through the trouble for a book I probably wasn't going to purchase.

The shop owner was reserved, almost unfriendly, when we walked in but seemed to relax the longer we were in the store and the more I gushed about all the different books.  I'm sure the 3 books I had cradled in my arms helped too. By my second visit he was more friendly, yet guarded, which was probably his personality. He mentioned book titles based on my interests and told me I could dig around in a giant box of books behind the counter that he had not yet put out in the store.

As I browsed the countless titles, I tried to analyze his personality based on his demeanor and appearance of the store. I couldn't help but wonder if his home looked like his shop. I guessed he was a hoarder (well, duh) who lived a solitary life and his passion were books. There were a few customers that came in during my visits and he was able to point them to an area housing a particular genre of books or even the location of a certain book based on their questions. I don't know how he knew where anything was in that place. Other than figuring out how he had the store organized in terms of genres, the place looked like a giant disorganized jumble of books. How he could quickly find one particular book in all those piles amazed me.

I've been to a lot of bookstores in a lot of places over the years and I have never seen a store like this. Maybe that's why I found it so charming. The store was the intimate expression of its owner and not the usual sterile and predictable set up of a library. The bookstore, albeit messy, was human.

1 comment:

  1. I would need hours and hours in that store. I bet there are some great finds for anyone determined enough.