Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Booking and Biking

Preparations for a shopping trip on a bicycle can be hectic. Stick a rain jacket in your book bag or panniers, a lightweight paperback (Jane Austen will fit!) to read if your bike breaks down, and perhaps a first aid kit in case of spills. Fill up your water bottle. Put on jeans and some sturdy athletic shoes. It is unnecessary to wear the puffy bike shorts or special shirts, since you are shopping AND biking, not proving your athletic-trend acumen. Alas, you always forget to bring a comb, and your helmet hair is an odd mix of flat and flipped up. DO NOT LOOK IN THE MIRROR IN THE RESTROOM. There’s nothing you can do about it!

The indie bookstore is nearby, but it's a bore being followed around this tiny space by the suspicious employee. Is it your bike helmet or bag that convinces them you are a menace to society? The last time you were there you threw your bag down on the chair as a friendly gesture. "I come in peace - and I'll buy a book if you let me browse!" They must have had trouble with shoplifters, as they used to sit behind the desk and read. Still, there's something disconcerting about it, especially when you're in the mystery section, which is cordoned off with decorative tape saying CRIME SCENE.

Most of the bookstores in town are chains, though there were once nine bookstores here, according to a friend. Bicycling to chain bookstores can be quite a challenge because they are located on quasi-highways in the suburbs. Does that stop you? No. The bus ride is far too boring. Bicycling is energy-efficient, fun, and healthy, and it is possible to ride on side streets and trails, a fairly direct route that avoids traffic. There’s green everywhere - if only you had your camera - and cottonwood drifting. Stop for a drink of water. Did you actually forget your water? Oh no.

But when you get to B&N or Borders, there are no bike racks. Sad, sad, sad. You have to lock up your bike to whatever rail or No Parking sign you can find, like a cowgirl hitching a horse to a derelict post in a dusty Western town. With your bicycle helmet clutched in one hand, you don't look like the most influential customer (despite the thousands spent on books), and the info desk people don’t take you seriously when you ask why there isn’t a bike rack. (Actually, some think it’s a good idea, but know the corporation “has no plans for a bike rack” in the immediate future.) You pick up a coffee and get a kick out of the barista who asks “for here or to go?”, not realizing that the bike helmet means gotta drink the coffee first!

Then you pick up a pile of books and methodically go through them while you sit in a comfortable chair. The Katherine of Aragon biography looks interesting. Jane Allison's memoir, The Antipodes Sisters, looks good: you like this author’s novels. No, the Pevar and Volokhansky translation of war and Peace would absolutely drive you crazy: all the French appears on the pages with footnotes. Please! Translate the French already!

It’s a fairly nice trip. Sometimes you buy a book, sometimes not. The trauma? When it’s difficult to fit them all into your bike bag. Occasionally one has to ride with one’s bag open. But it's easier to shop for books on a bicycle than for most things.


Ellen said...

I'm too much a physical coward to go biking since (a long time ago now) bikes stopped being made with foot brakes. I can't glide along. I panic.

When I go to the gym in my boxy cotton shirts, three-quarter cotton slacks, heavy sneakers and socks, I don't look in the mirror either.

I wanted to say I've linked your blogs on Howards End and Jhabvala into "Ellen and Jim have a blog, two" today: I wrote a blog on Howards' End, S&S, and Beauman's book on Elizabeth Taylor.


Mad Housewife said...

The bikes with foot brakes were great!

I read your blog and loved it. Howards End fits the parameters of your Austen project neatly. I hope you can fit it into the book!

Mad Housewife said...

Ellen's blog on Howards End is at: