Thursday, June 7, 2012

Capturing Imagination.

The place was called Gibson's Bookstore if anyone cares to remember it. Gibson's was a great place for us Auraria students. Gibson's did a few things favorable for college students: the price of books was lower than the campus bookstore, and they also paid a higher return on used books.  At the end of the semester when the droves of us sold our books back for beer money, you know the place was busy. And now that I think about it, this is probably why the place closed down. Either that, or something else. The place was on Larmier Street and the rent there must have been high. Or, it is possible that they just could not compete with the volume that the campus bookstore enjoyed. But these suppositions are beyond conjecture at this late date. Gibson's has been gone for about 15 years, and that means it's been gone five times as long as it was ever in operation.

It was May of 1995. I had been enjoying months of homelessness after the great house fire at 1065 Pennsylvania in February. I really did enjoy the homelessness. I had places to go, school and work mostly. I also had a place to spend the summer. I was on my way to summer camp, and there was no sense in signing another lease. I was a poor college student, after all, and sleeping on sofas, in dank basements or in dusty attics was good enough for me. I was just trying to save a little money for a little trip between the end of school and the start of my job at summer camp.

Her name was Lynne. We were good friends. We had similar views on life. We spent our days at school. In the spring of 1995, she was graduating. I was just reaching the halfway mark. We decided that we would take a trip somewhere together. It was a trip for her graduation. Our plan: Mexico City. It was the beginning of my love affair of the city which would be an on and off thing for the next 6 years.

I went to Gibson's during the final days of school. I sold all of my biology books, all of my chemistry books. At this time of my life, all I wanted to be was a botanist. Occasionally, I remember this fact and wonder what my life would have turned out like had I just stayed the course and avoided the confusion of words and phrases favoring cells and chlorophyl? But at the 'sell back' counter in the bookstore, I wanted as much money as I could get for beer and snacks once we hit D.F.
“How much?” I asked.
“$125.50,” the counter man said.
“Wow,” I said.
“Yeah?” he asked. “You taking summer classes?”
“Naw,” I said. “I'm going to Mexico City.”
“You ever read Dandelion Wine?” he asked.
“No,” I said. I wanted to tell him how Susie Sheldon had read it when we were in the ninth grade, but I thought the better of it. I remembered her really liking the book, but in the ninth grade, I was not a reader. “Who wrote it again?”
“Ray Bradbury,” he said. “It's the prefect Mexico City book.”
Ray Bradbury? Yeah, I had read some of his books, Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man. I was familiar with him and his books. “Do you have a copy here?” I asked. I bought the book new for $6.99. I took it to Mexico City with me. It's been one of my favorite books since.

It takes me back in a strange way too. I can remember my exact location and state of mind with every Bradbury book I've ever read. Sure, Dandelion Wine in D.F. But there are others: The Illustrated Man I read on the bus. I read it on the 76, 4, 9, and 16 lines between my apartment downtown Denver to my bonehead job framing pictures in 1992. R is for Rocket I read in Portland, Oregon in the long miserable months of 1999, spring. Fahrenheit 451 was on my lap in the fall after I got out of the Army and I waited patiently for my friends to get out of classes so we could go do things under the Boulder sun. October Country I read over countless cups of coffee on the back patio of the the Monroe Street house in the spring of 2006. Mark Dragotta and I read Now and Forever: Somewhere a Band is Playing and Leviathan '99 together back in 2010 when our talk of Umbrella Factory Magazine was overlaid on our scorn of our work in the service industry.

Unlike the other writers who I've read extensively at smaller intervals, I have spaced my Ray Bradbury reading experience over 20 years. And perhaps like Colonel Freeleigh, human time machine in Dandelion Wine, this writer will be my time machine of all the life I've lived over the last twenty years.

Mr. Bradbury, today I read about your death. And today, my gratitude is with you, your books, your words.  

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