Ordinary Joy

The Prompt:

Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year? (Author: Brené Brown)

There isn’t incense burning or a chorus of angels  singing as you walk through the doors.  There are no priests or monks or stained glass windows filtering the midday light  in dusty shafts through the air.  No candles burning, no latin incantations.  No robes or divine Scooby Snacks, no vessels of blessed water or baptismal founts…but it IS my church.  There ARE commandments (Thou Shalt SHHHHH!, Thou Shalt Use a Bookmark, Thou Shalt Put Thy Fucking Cellphone AWAY…et al. )  And (blasphemy!!!) I DO hold no gods higher than the knowledge contained within.

I speak to you, dear reader, of that Mecca of all things  used and bound, that promised land of the written word: Half Price Books (specifically, the HPB located on E John in Capitol Hill, Seattle).  This, my friends, is not your grandma’s used bookstore.  Put away all notions of creaky floors and musty odors.  You’ll not find precarious stacks of unorganized tomes or dimly lit basement caverns paved with moth eaten carpets.  Dream instead of an impeccably catalogued and merchandised warehouse of two levels, packed with floor-to-ceiling shelves of books on every topic you could list.  Though organized in a similar fashion to that anti-Christ, Barnes and Noble, HPB boasts a larger selection which is, most importantly WAY CHEAPER!

The Old Man and I stumbled upon one of these on our way home from the outlets one weekend as we stopped to grab a bit to eat.  I discovered that it was a chain shortly thereafter as I began my new job in Seattle–4+ years ago.  It just so happened that my region contained what I’ve found to be the best one.  This particular HPB is within spitting distance of Seattle University and Seattle Central CC.  The residents of this portion of town are young, educated, and artsy.  This, to my delight, means a higher quality of book is being traded in/sold here, and I’ve never made a trip with something in particular in mind and left empty-handed or disappointed.

This store feeds my most basic need: the overwhelming compulsion to READ.  I am a reader; an avid inhaler of all things written.  I will read the ingredients off of the back of a can of Campbells if there is nothing else around.  I dream (literally) of one day owning a house replete with white built-ins in each room, filled to capacity with books.  The joy I get from organizing and cataloguing my own limited supply is outrageous, fullfilling, settling, rewarding.  I’ll never own a Kindle or a Nook because of my snobbery and tactile need to feel actual paper pages between my fingers.  The hardcover’s heft and the portability of a paperback, those are my drugs.

The trouble is, I’m also quite cheap.  Miserly actually.  I hate spending money.  If there is a need for us to buy something high in value–even if I’ve saved for it and started a separate account for the sole purpose of stashing away money for that specific thing–I will leave the store before looking at the final total or seeing the money changing hands.  It makes me ill and anxious and I can never quite justify the expense.  And books are expensive.

So, when I first discovered this store, this heaven, this children’s candy shoppe for adults, I almost peed myself with joy.  I can walk in its doors with $50 and a cloud over my head, and walk out, three hours later with a smile on my face and 14 or 15 new volumes to pour over.  HPB is my ordinary joy.  Walking up and down it’s stacks–Fiction, History, Biography, Autobiography, Sociology, CounterCulture, Poetry, and then Clearance to see if anything in my hand can be found for $1 instead of $5–I browse away the world outside.  No matter what I’m scowling over at that particular juncture, I can find peace in this store.  It’s like a gigantic retail hug padded with words and bindings.

Books are my fix.  My pleasure.  My joy.  My guilty indulgence.  And Half Price Books is my dealer.

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11 thoughts on “Ordinary Joy

  1. Sooo jealous! I live in newly minted suburbia, in AZ, and HPB’s are few & far between. Everything near me is a SuperChain, including the book stores. I got a nook for my birthday in May, and I’m sorry to say that it’s not nearly as satisfying to fall asleep with an electronic panel on my face as it is to wake with ink on my face. I actually read less now, and I too long for a house full of white built-ins filled with books. One of my greatest extravagances has always been book shopping.

  2. I admit, I’ve been quick to forget the joy in the physicality of books in favor of the convenience of ebooks. But I’m still taken by the romance of places filled with books, and having been to one of these stores, I heartily agree with you that they are a place of joy!

  3. HPB is indeed chain store crack for the book loving people….we stop at the one near Indianapolis when he pass through, and it’s a place my wife loves because there is more than simply books inside.

    I love the way you write these posts and I am thrilled our paths crossed via Reverb10

  4. Geez! I feel like Australia is the back of nowhere now, at least where I live. I want one of those bookstores *nods head* I can’t say that I’ve turned to reading ingredients to feed my fix, but I am one of those rare individuals who will happily read instruction manuals cover to cover… twice.

  5. “Books are my fix. My pleasure. My joy. My guilty indulgence. ”

    And the church said…AMEN. So with you on this. We don’t have HPB here (because the UK just sucks when it comes to certain aspects of retail) but we do have a gem of a used book store that nobody else seems to frequent and it is heavenly. I could live there if it supplied chicken wings and water.

  6. Oh, God. I’m so jealous. Our big UBS closed here last month–what remains are a bunch of smaller places in strip malls and a few antiquarian dealers that look discreetly away when I enter the store. When I travel, I research UBSs before I go.

    • Half Price Books is another must. I don’t know where you are based out of, but I believe these stores start in Ohio and move west, going as far south as Texas. They are awesome and very inexpensive. If you go when you travel though, Make sure you stop at the post office for a couple of the large flat rate boxes…you’ll need them!

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