Monday, August 10, 2009

Borders, Westwood: A bookstore in decay

Many of you know one of my favorite places to be in all the world is a bookstore. I love being surrounded by books, names and titles of things I have read or look forward to exploring. I love it so much I used to work in one and enjoyed every painful second of it. So when Boyan asked me if I wanted to go to Borders with him it was more a matter of letting me know we were going rather than asking.

The parking lot of Borders in Westwood has always been a bit daunting. The ribs of the structure, covered by curdled asbestos, creek and shake as if by driving down into the lot you are entering the lungs of a cancer patient who has been smoking for eighty years. It's hot, muggy, uninviting. But you make the journey because at the end of it you are rewarded with the golden fleece, a plethora of books with a wide selection of publishers, topics, and languages.

We took the small barren elevator to the first floor and stepped out into our wonderland. But like Alice in the rabbit hole were transported into something strange and unfamiliar. The tables that held book suggestions, new releases were filled with young adult vampire books. I surpassed this area and went to the fiction section, only to notice that several stacks of books were missing, replaced with benches where people, I can only guess, were expected to sit and peruse. But peruse what? The book shelves themselves weren't fully stocked -- stacked cover forward rather than binding out -- most of them best sellers. In fact, row upon row was filled Michael Chabon, Jodi Picoult, and Meg Cabot as far as the eye could see.

I left the area and went to the Young Adult section, or should I say, the vampire section. An entire wall filled with nothing but black covers dripping with blood, flowers, moons and wide-eyed pale faces.

Upstairs the situation was worse. The music and movie section of the store had been reduced to a third of it's size. A black curtain separated the back of the store which once had a vast music selection.

The book store itself was pretty empty, uncharacteristically so for a Saturday night. Where were the young couples that came to impress their dates? Where were the mother's dragging along their children to look at picture books? Even the bum population was minimal, all took up camp in the lower north corner of the store, the only place on the first floor where there were chairs.

The staff that was there that night was tiny, maybe ten people where on a Saturday night they used to employ almost double that amount.

The most daunting thing was the quiet. A book store should be filled with light background music, punctuated by browsers questioning book sellers, squeals of children, a muffled laugh between lovers. Instead there was silence and silence breeds silence. Where in a library silence can be comforting, in a book store it's paralyzing.

I told Boyan we had to leave. It was too depressing to stay.

I predict that the borders on Westwood will fall to the same fate as did the one on third street by January 20th of 2010. And when it goes, I will remember the place I used to work, filled with young smiling people who loved books, music. Not the borders I saw this weekend. A desecrated carpus of something that used to be beautiful. A place that was alive.

Do not fear death so much, but rather the inadequate life.


Christina Gubalalalala said...

I have not been back in about a year, ever since I attended an in-store for work and saw what had happened to the music section. It makes my heart ache. :(

Ruth said...

That makes me sad, that particular Borders holds a special place in my heart

ke said...

Me too Ruthimus. Me too.