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Booking by Book Boulevard
A digital bookcase adds no extra weight to your phone: a case for e-books when on the road or at home
Darting out from the living room, chasing my brother, I was pretty sure the kitchen was down the narrow passage to the right. Or was it straight?! But he must not have been heading to hide amongst the crusty dishes sitting on the dilapidated kitchen table that needed to comfortably seat six but instead was a congested three-seater. The pant leg reported back to me all I needed to know. He flitted left instead. But to Tommy’s demise, the left passage circled back to the living room. Ha Ha! Quick thoughts. Quick thoughts. Keep chasing or double back the way I came and mount a surprise attack hiding in the books? Double back.
My grandfather taught camouflage classes in the Army. If only he had been alive long enough to teach me how to blend in with old dusty leather bound books, I would have had it made and been able to stage a sneak attack on Tommy as he rounded the corner up ahead. But alas, I had to make do.
Someone from above may have been able to see the train wreck coming, but neither of us down on terra firma could hear it. All the ancient books must have been deadening the sound. I was sprinting down the home stretch of the straight away, and Tommy had just rounded the corner with the mustard rug having just passed kachina corner a few feet behind the couch.
Wham!!! We both went flying. Good thing we were both wearing our Toughskins, those wonderful jeans marketed for all those 70’s parents with scrappy rascals like Tommy and me who were tired of patching knees, for we crashed hard into the guardrails on opposite sides of the hallway. Never before had a Class F-5 tornado of books ever been seen in those parts. Covers bent and pages torn, the dusty books lay sprawled out as far as our little eyes could see as if we had stumbled across a library book sale after a twister had first gone through and reorganized everything into a chaotic mess. Dust devil indeed. “Looking for the Mystery section? Over that mound of hardcovers over there, around Encyclopedia bend, and it will be the large heap on your left. Dig down though, there at the very bottom! Here’s a shovel.”
You see, both of my grandparents were book collectors. And not just that, they were writers as well, by profession. A passion for the written word gone wild, they accumulated more books than they knew what to do with. Renting out a portfolio of unused corners of garages scattered throughout their hometown in Northern California, they expanded their library system into several branches that stored an untold number of volumes. They may have been the OG hoarders when it came to books. My grandfather, on his visits to Berkeley, would make pilgrimages to Moe’s and Cody’s used bookstores to see what he could find, trade, buy or otherwise ogle at.
The problem grew out of hand when the garages were full and the bookshelves banded together to put up no vacancy signs. There was no space left for them. Where were my grandparents to go from here? Being resourceful remodelers living on writers’ budgets, the “way out” must have been just as apparent to them as it was to Tommy and me that morning as we were chasing each other through the tortuous twists of towering tombs! Yup, in desperation, there was nothing left for them to do but to pave the way with books. Stacked on the floor to heights that were greater than my small stature, the “vertical book shelves” popped up in any remaining spaces throughout the house like skyscraper infill projects. Maximize Density! That was the name of the game.
My brother and I had collided at the intersection of “Living Room Lane” and “Coffee Table Court” and we could already hear the sirens of the authorities wailing around the corner as they came speeding down “Bedroom Boulevard” wondering what their kids had done to cause the big ruckus. Good thing they had extra pairs of Toughskins back at home base in case the accident scene was too grim.
So I had to tread lightly when I showed up many, many decades later (perhaps five?) to my mom’s house in Berkeley with “all” of my ultralight gear and had to ask her if she had any books I could borrow. Since I only hit the road with digital books when in ultralight mode, and I would be at home for the better part of a week, it would be nice to hold a book made of real paper. Did she keep a stash of books anywhere? Of course not. She had rubber banded back the other direction from her parents having seen what happens to book hoarders. Only books checked out of the public library for her! The books would be so much happier going back to their own home after paying a short visit to spend some time sitting in her hands.
I, too, have adopted an approach to minimize book clutter. To save on weight and space when traveling, I typically only read downloaded Kindle books on my phone. I’ve tried bringing small, compact books to bring along with me, but they often take up way too much valuable real estate, end up being too quick of a read, and of course contribute to total pack weight. Not to mention the hours I’ve spent perusing through the racks of local book stores back home and while on the road not looking for that elusive Mystery section, but just simply scanning the inventory for tiny compact books no matter the subject. “Where’s your skinny and light section?”
Nope, I don’t line the inside of my backpack with books, or stuff its empty corners with them. Only the vacant blocks of memory on my iPhone get infilled with books, especially near the corner of “Gigabyte Grove” and “Battery Boulevard.” That way I’ve always got plenty of books with me for a quick pitstop read when I want to rest my feet sitting on a park bench, and they don’t weigh a thing.
Being nimble on my feet with that compact ultralight pack on my back and that book-laden iPhone sitting in my pocket, I might just be able to deftly dodge any incoming big pack backpackers that may come tearing around the sidewalk of that skyscraper up ahead sitting on the corner of “Featherweight Freeway” and “Heavyweight Highway.” Without packing a physical book, I can spritely dodge left, duck right, leap up, and stop, drop and roll. Heads up window washers, take a look below for you shall see that I no longer need to bring an extra pair of Toughskins on my ultralight adventures.