Monday, July 26, 2010

The Usual Suspects



[click to enlarge]


A batch of seven beautiful books, dated from 1881 to 1928, purchased yesterday morning at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. Prices from $4.95 to $9.95. Still grieving for the ones we left behind. My son brought home a similar stack.

While we were there, we visited the rare book room. We held books in our hands from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Outside, on the sidewalk, a gray-bearded man with a new mandolin lifelessly strummed the same two or three chords. People were giving him money. About twenty feet away, a homeless man was holding a sign at the corner, still awaiting his first coins of the day.

On the way home, we talked about how so many people take their existence for granted — that is, they are so sure they exist that the thought that they might not really be here at all doesn’t even occur to them. Such a strange, strange way to live.

12 comments:

Woman in a Window said...

You make me laugh, William, and then stop and realize that perhaps I shouldn't be laughing at all.

The scene with the two men and the street is unsettling to me. Two, three chords over and over again. This alone raises shivers. But then to have him receive money, and the other not! We truly live in a North American consumer society. As long as we're consuming...apparently. Strange. And just not right.

xo
erin

nouvelles couleurs - vienna atelier said...

I think for a writer to enter the bookstore is like a painter to enter the shop of colors, amazing heehhehe expansive... but exciting as a hunting dog in the woods.
Old things have a particularry charm, taking the history of their owners...

... the homeless, yes you know what I'm thinking about...
I hate the capitalist system, is a failled system

William Michaelian said...

Erin, the streets and sidewalks are always kind of surreal to me, and make me feel as if I’d stumbled into someone else’s dream. Which man offered more? Which, in his life hitherto and forever unknown to us, had already offered more? How and why do we choose between them at all?

Laura, that’s it exactly — when we went inside and I saw and smelled those books, my nostrils opened wide like a happy farm dog’s. And looking through the books, I did think of their previous owners, and read bits of handwriting like clues. As for the capitalist system, every system fails when we are greedy and dishonest. Honesty with ourselves and others is the only system we really need.

nouvelles couleurs - vienna atelier said...

yes, I mean this system focused only on production of money, people is considered only a machine to produce profits and there is no humanity...

William Michaelian said...

I understand.... and I think humanity is a tough weed: it sprouts up through cracks in the sidewalk....

Janice said...

William not only do these beautiful, old books hold stories between their leatherbound covers and the scent of years gone by...they have now seen the human suffering of the 21st century when they were taken off their shelves and brought out into the light of day from their snug and protected little world in the bookstore. Wouldn't it be great if we could rescue human lives as easily as an old book...

William Michaelian said...

Beautifully said. And such lives are captured between the covers.... Thank you, Janice.

vazambam said...

Good thing you rounded this rascals up before they could do more damage to an unsuspecting public.

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Claude. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

~im just only me~ said...

William, you make me want to spend money! Bad!

Alberto Oliver said...

If books have any kind of consciense, well, so they must be very happy to have ended in your hands William. Wondering what kind of stories they could tell,, but, what i am talking about?? certainly, a sensitive man like you could for sure listening for what they have to express just by touching their dusty covers.

why people deserve a certain fate?? it may be easy to explain with adults, but whenever i see a suffering children,, all my convictions fall to pieces and i have to rebuild them since the founds,,if possible

William Michaelian said...

Well, Cassie, at least you didn’t say “Bad dog” and swat my nose with a rolled up newspaper. Maybe there’s hope for me yet.

Thanks, Alberto. Somehow, no matter our age, I think we’re all children.