Cataclysmic Proportions

Due to some personal reasons which I do not wish to divulge the full details of on the internet, I’ve had a craptastic start to this week.  Life, however, plugs on whether I’m ready for it or not so, notwithstanding, I’ve been trudging forth into the semester trying my darndest to not let personal junk get in the way of my work.

This task has been made monumentally easier by the presence in my life of one individual.  A guy who is quickly becoming the third most reliable man in my life (behind Shakespeare and my dad, of course).  A guy who knows what I need, when I need it, and isn’t afraid to give that to me.  A guy who’s sensitive, adoring, and utterly enthralled with me.

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Jerry.

Jerry is a giant black Maine Coon.  Jerry technically belongs to my roommate.  Jerry has two younger “siblings” (Boris and Natasha) who are also black Maine Coons but due to being malnourished in their first three weeks of life have remained adorably tiny (for Maine Coons).

Jerry helps me with my reading.  Whenever I snuggle up on the couch with some articles, my iPad, or a book I need to finish, he obligingly curls up on my chest and keeps me company until I’m done.  He even encourages me to read more since, when I think I’ve hit my threshold, I have to re-evaluate moving based upon how comfortable Jerry looks.  And as long as I’m stuck on the couch, I may as well charge forth with the reading, right?

Jerry helps me with my writing.  When I sit at my desk for any length of time, he curls around the corner and hops up into my lap to sleep while I tap away at whatever it is I’m working on.  Same rule applies as with the reading; more work gets done because Jerry deems it so.

Jerry keeping my desk warm

Jerry even keeps my desk warm for me when I’m not there.  I have frequently caught him sleeping on my computer chair carpet when he thinks that I’m not around to work at said computer chair.

Jerry knows when I’m upset and has, in the past, benched me for my behavior.  Too worked up to answer an insipid e-mail about some research problem?  Jerry makes sure I pet him a good long time before I can leave the couch.  Requiring a lift because I’m feeling mopey and really need to shake the bad mood and get some work done?  Jerry cuddles me and purrs at me until he’s sure that I can handle what it is that I need to do.

I’m really not sure how I ever got any work done without a cat to tell me to do it.  Despite

Jerry helping me work

the fact that they shed everywhere and leave hairballs where I can step on them before I’ve had my coffee in the morning, I am mightily appreciative of all that the feline companions bring to this household.

Thanks, Jerry.  You’re really saving my week.

Adventures in Bookland

In the latest greatest episode of my literary adventures, the other day I took a road trip with my favorite book-hunting companion.  The journey was both arduous and epic (not the least because we first had to swing through New York State to deal with some post-move housekeeping).  However, our final destination proved itself more than worth the trek.

Picture a quaint stretch of land in the middle of nowhere Connecticut.  Add paths, flowers,

resident kitty posing for a shot in front of the Haunted Bookshop (and pirate ship!)

goats (yes, GOATS!), and free-roaming cats.  Now, add books.  Carts and buildings and shelves full of used books.

Ladies and Gentlemen, you have just pictured yourself The Book Barn in Niantic Connecticut.  The Book Barn has been on our radar for some time as a point of interest and, as avid used-bookstore-goers, we have been wanting to take a trip down for ages.  The opportunity finally presented itself and I have to say this place is truly impressive.

The mountains of used books, of course, make it a find in and of itself.  They have three premises; the Original Book Barn, Midtown, and Downtown.  Midtown and Downtown are traditional bookshops (worth a visit in their own rights as long as you’re in the neighborhood), but the Original location is the real reason to drive out.

Path with gargoyle and bridge

Used bookstores are places with organic character.  As books are fetish objects in their own right, lop a bunch of them together in any one place and you’re bound to create something.  There’s something mysterious and wonderful about a pre-owned book.  One always wonders where it’s been previously, why that scrap of paper was important, whose initials are scribed into its inside.  The older the book, the longer the story.  Yellowed pages with torn binding deserve as much respect as octogenarians and have almost as many stories to tell.  I can’t help but imagine piles and piles of books as whispering bastions of archaic wisdom, simply waiting for someone to listen to them.

Every used bookstore is unique.  Each finds its own way to display its treasures, but most share a few common elements: over-stuffed shelves, that unique smell that only old books have, a fair amount of dust (even if the place is clean), and (believe it or not) cats.  It is the way these elements are combined which give a true feeling for the place.  I’ve been in dank corners brimming with so many books that you have trouble getting to any of them, cavernous warehouses with multiple floors, and one-room hole-in-the-walls which still manage to pack in so many objects of interest that it’s difficult to find your way around.  However, until this week, I had never been to a used bookstore that manages to create and instill the sense of magic which I feel is pivotal to the experience of purchasing a book.

Every corner of the Book Barn has something you wouldn’t expect to find; and not just the books.  The buildings and carts carry uncanny names (like “The Haunted Bookstore” and “The Outhouse”).  Flowering garden paths beckon you to stay a little while and explore, while shaded benches with free-for-use games invite you to sit down with a book and read for a bit.  The local cats add their own spontaneous character (pointedly referenced to the casual observer by the complete-with-pictures “Book Barn Cat Hunting Guide” provided at the Book Barn’s entrance).  Refreshments are offered free (with suggested donation, of course) in the main book barn building (they only serve regular coffee and laugh at those requiring decaf).

Perhaps most importantly, the place doesn’t take itself seriously.  Signs and quotes are

...there wasn't actually a dinosaur section. Somehow it didn't detract from anything.

plastered on unexpected spaces, usually with amusing additions which make them worth reading.  The sections are noted with a certain degree of loving irreverence.  Themed props remind you if you stand in “Purgatory”, “Hell”, or “The Haunted Bookshop”.  And GOATS!?  …. did I mention the goats?

In any case, this place is a hike from just about every corner of the civilized world.  It is, however, well worth the travel time.  We are most certainly planning a return trip (though perhaps this time will find other sources of amusement around the book shop so that our time spent at the destination will at least equal our travel time).

Have a happy weekend, folks!

Next week, by the by, I will be vacationing.  I may or may not get around to posting about pertinent anecdotes, but I will most definitely return the week after.  Stay cool!