I don’t know what came over me, but I’ve done it again. In a moment of weakness, I regressed about 15 years to a time without gadgets or mobile devices and opted for the old, tried, and true technology I grew up with. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I buckled under some internal, instinctual pressure and bought paper books. I haven’t done something like this in so long, it merited an entry in my journal.
It was a rainy, holiday Saturday and I had nothing better to do than browse the aisles of one of the last, local bookstores in the area. Miami is down to about five of them after most of the retail and independent bookstores either shutdown or have gone out of business.
Bookstores used to be my old stomping grounds, my churches, my places of worship where I found solace and joy from work and long boring days. When I lived in New York City, Sundays were reserved for browsing and shopping my favorite three or five bookstores in the Village and Union Square area. I’d spend a good part of the day looking for novels and stories that would dazzle and thrill me. Later, I’d sit in a coffee shop and flip through the pages of my new purchases anticipating the characters and adventures I was about to meet and partake in.
Over the years, the bookstores and places to find good yarns started disappearing, buckling under the pressure of online retailers and non-readers. I am, in part, to blame for their demise because when e-readers became convenient and portable, I traded the paperbacks for gadgets and began reading stories on screens instead of paper. I’m one of those readers who now carries his entire library in his pocket, and to be honest, I don’t mind taking out my iPhone or Kindle in a park or a waiting room and picking up a story where I left off.
Yesterday, however, something came over me and I wanted—needed!—to read a book the old fashioned way. I yearned for paper; I wanted to feel, touch, smell a printed page the way I used to when I became a reader. I missed the sound a turn of a page makes, and how cozy a paperback book feels when it rests comfortably in my hands. After a brief lunch with a friend, I drove to the closest bookstore and spent a good part of the afternoon browsing the fiction, Sci-Fi, and mystery aisles until I settled on a thriller that promised adventure, and a storybook classic of literature which I always wanted to read. Holding both books in my hands reminded me of the time when I used to look with anticipation to the wonders and thrills one could find within the covers of a book. The feeling took me back to my high school days where I spent more time with my nose close to the ink of the books I was reading than any prom, party, or weekend activity all my other friends indulged in.
My yearning for paper did not stop with the books I purchased up. On the check out line, I found a box of stationery I had to have. Imprinted with the Yin / Yang symbol embossed in metallic ink, the blank cards felt like personalize stationery I could use for thank you cards, short letters, and personalized notes to friends. I’m a fool for snail mail and stationery. Though I don’t write as many letters as I used to, nor mail anything other than greeting cards when the occasion or holiday warrants it, I’ve always felt stationery to be a necessary part of a gentleman’s personal items. I still receive letters and notes from a few close friends who personalize all their mail and I aways tell them how happy I feel every time I receive one of their notes. Here, I found a box with cards that harks to my Oriental medicine studies and clearly represents what the last three years of my life and future represent.
I came home elated, feeling about 20 years younger, though the feeling was not reflected back at me in the mirror. However, after pouring myself a cup of tea, the feeling of turning a page, of smelling a book’s pages, lured me back to the intimacies and pleasures of readings and the magic one finds within books.