Sunday, May 29, 2011

Closing Chapter 5 - All Skate

Reflections on my Time as a Bookseller
Chapter 5 - All Skate

photo: Laura Vona
When I entertained my minions during  one of our many celebrations of the Harry Potter novels I told the crowd manically, “There is magic everywhere!”  I would proceed in a drunken stagger, as a defrocked teacher from Pigpimples School of Wizardry and Refrigeration Maintenance, to create potions (think, volcano in a beaker with baking soda, food coloring and vinegar) and generally make a combustible mess proclaiming the natural miracles all around us. My finale would be a soda rocket ignited indoors.

“Not only do these treats have the ability to transform an individual into a maker of fresh, they can, with a little Transformium Sodaruptus, Sharkbait Brew Ha Ha and  Bippity, Boppity, Boo… show us the magic all around us!”   

With a wave of my cape I dropped in the Mentos into the bottle and a geyser of soda reached for the ceiling of our store. Fans go wild! The true magic was that the words of an unemployed woman written in a coffee shop could create such fervor over books.

We have sold much of our bookstores magic to the walls. Fixtures have disappeared as if invisibility cloaks had been draped all over. Still between the empty stacks and the shelves devoid of titles, a little magic remains hidden amongst the dust bunnies.

Our café was a Mecca for the literate and disenfranchised. It was there we had a slew of coffee house events, musicians, poetry slams, author signings; whatever we could dream up to have us stand apart from the run-of-the-mill. It has been reduced to a way station for the last lonely fixtures up for grabs, no magic here save for what the entrepreneurial minds will re-purpose these remnants into.

One of our stellar events that bonded the employees to one another and to our community were poetry/prose reading events we called Borders Bards. While I coined the phrase, all of the credit goes to one employee, Laura Vona. I have refrained from tagging any specific person during these chronicles but here I need to make an exception. Laura was not just an exemplary employee. For as long as I have known her, she has been a force of nature, a Gaelic storm of boundless energy. Her passion for the arts is infectious, her positivity makes my Pollyanna pale in comparison, and she possesses such a selfless dedication to all that is right and good that I wonder at times how we can even see her at all.

The Bards was her baby. I exploited the event, just as I have admittedly all my employees, to bring my novel to fruition, think a writer’s group with an audience needing to be entertained. Laura gathered everyone in the community, from teens to seniors, to read from their hearts. Despite the quality of their craft, the emotional sincerity and courage each brought to the events was nothing short of magic. 

They are but memories now, mostly unpublished, moments lost in this building’s past. Still, the walls resonate those words spoken as well has the words read, purchased and dreamed. I had been too busy in the day to day minutia of closing a store to feel that power. 

That was until I saw it, magic, captured on video like a lumbering ghost, a trick of light and imagination captured in the green incandescence of a ghost hunter’s night vision goggles. Where it came from I know not where. It starts with a static shot of the gutted carcass that is our store just days before the doors would close forever. I was familiar with that backdrop; it brought a lump in my throat, which I swallowed only to have it gnaw at my gut. The camera moved through the empty space, floating on air, providing an ethereal tour through the facility.
Then I heard the sound, breaking the vacated silence. It was familiar, childhood recollections of cavernous halls, sawdust strewn floors and an amplified voice from above announcing, “All skate!”  The chatter of roller skate wheels whispered as they sped up. The sound was as whimsical as the whirr of a hamster wheel. I smiled and continued watching. The visual passes shelf after empty shelf in a giddy stampede. 

Then the caution tape that was wrapped around closed sections of the store came into view. It kept the public from danger and kept thieving hands from giving purchased fixtures a five-fingered discount. ‘Danger, Do Not Pass.’ repeats across its side. The image rushes towards the tape at the far end of the building, full throttle. The message is not heeded and an instant before the screen is enveloped in yellow, the skater ducks beneath and ‘Ta-da!’ we are on the other side. The wheels dance on the floor reclaiming balance, almost applauding the feat and continue to ride in graceful sweeps through the emptiness where our bookselling selves once lived; a jubilant celebration of being in the moment. 

After one more euphoric run around the circumference of the store the video ends facing the door as if challenging the viewer to walk through them. The doubt about the future, the fear of loss, and the challenges on the other side of those doors are stripped of their strength. 

I will look back on my memories of this store and the unbridled whimsy of that video as I move forward with my life. The wheels of inspiration will propel me forward as I stand on one leg, wheels a chatter, my other leg stretched out horizontal behind me, my arms outstretched on both sides as they cut the rush of the air, my face forward and raised high with a smile, always a smile.



  1. And so we all roll face first out of the frame and out of the picture. It's time to roll the credits, sweep up the popcorn and get ready to show the sequal.

    We had a deep pool of talent working at our Braintree Borders store. Think of us as lake of Diet Coke. Our store was full of magic but I wonder if it didn't keep the magic in. Your soda rockets used to hit the ceiling. We talented fizzy folks are out now. Let's load up a really big bottle and when we drop the Mentos in let's try to hit the moon.

  2. Love the Harry Potter analogy, July 21st 2007 will go down in my personal history as one of the very best nights of my life. I was only working part time a few hours a week at the store the night Deathly Hallows was launched but I fed off the magic like it was a drug. I'm pretty sure that night was the start of my life changing career switch from office drone to apprentice magician practicing along side the best of the best.
    Although it is sad that the ship that launched us all on our individual adventures is now lies skuttled at the bottom of a corporate sea, I think Curtis has a great point.
    We are all now symbolic graduates of Hogwarts Braintree Annex, and our magic, a serious force to be reckond with, is no longer contained. : )

  3. Oh, congratulations, Stacey! You all are the perfect example of one door closing and many more opening..I can't wait to see what wonderful things happen to you.

    Thank you, so much, for the wonderful kindness you showed me as an author. We had fun, right? and sold some books. And now, we shall see.

  4. Stacey,
    Your blog is as magical as your Mentos moment, and I wish for you and all of your co-workers, AKA - magician's assistants, a future as special and charmed as the unforgettable memories you provided to so many debut authors, myself included, and so many avid readers.

    Thank you for everything, your kindness, your enthusiasm, and your infinite understanding.

    And remember - anything is possible now! Chase your own dreams with just as much energy as you helped us chase ours!