Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I lost $200 this weekend.  Not gambling or in the stock market, but right out of my wallet.  It wasn't stolen.  I lost it.  Shall we start at the beginning?

When we bought our Tucson house there was only one problem I could foresee - there are no walls on which to put bookshelves.  An open floor plan with arches between the spaces to promote the sense of airiness and connection to the outside leaves the book lover - me - in a quandry.  I love the vistas from every room, but most of my books were relegated to boxes in the kids' bedrooms, closed up and set apart from my adoring eyes.  After a few months of tripping over them, of the cardboard reminding me that I wasn't in my Marin manse, with the library and the bedrooms lined with bookshelves, I took matters into my own hands and decided to turn paperbacks into greenbacks. 

I was ruthless.  Would I ever read this again?  Does it stand the test of time?  Do I have more than one copy?  If there wasn't a good reason to retain the tome, into the box it went.  When the whole process was finished, I had 3 stacks of packing boxes lining the walls of the garage.  Over time, I took them into Bookmans, the used book chain here in Arizona, and sold them.  They didn't want them all, but they took most of them and I was left with over $400 in never-expiring-credit.  The record keeping was simple - they gave me a receipt which I presented every time I shopped.  My purchases were deducted and a new receipt provided and so it has gone, year after year, purchase after purchase, since 2006.  Four years during which I never misplaced the receipt.  Not once.  It was always in the coupon envelope tucked into the mapbox on the side of the door, smiling at me every time I got into the car.  It was nice to remember my lost library in that way, imagining the possibility of new books without an out-of-pocket cash transaction ..... well, bookstores make me very happy.....bookstores that don't need my money are places of pure joy.

That changed last weekend.  I was wandering through Tucson's biggest Bookman's, the one on Speedway, waiting for Amster to finish with her client and join me at The Loft for The Girl Who Played With FireMy next class requires El Cid so I was wandering the aisles, looking for it in literature and classics and fiction and poetry, and generally feeling bathed in the wonderfulness of all those words just waiting to be read.  I'd secured the credit receipt in the middle of my zip-closed wallet, ready for easy access if the book was there.  It wasn't.  Amster called.  I left the store, drove to the theater, bought the tickets, watched the show, drove to dinner, paid there, too, and then we returned to my house where we sat in the hot tub and let the jets work their magic on our aching bones.  Amster woke from her nap on my comfy chair at 8pm and drove herself home to bed.  It was a wonderful day, with no mishaps except my inability to find the Penguin Classic translation of El Cid. 

The next morning I decided to try the Bookman's closer to home.  I opened my wallet, expecting to find the Bookmans receipt and return it to its proper spot and I found nothing.  I went to the car, looked in the usual place - nothing.  Retraced my steps, since my wallet was unzipped as I'd wandered through my house, collecting what I needed before I left for errands and the gym.  Nothing.  I got sadder and sadder, the hole in my gut growing larger and larger with every passing second.  How could I have been so dumb?  The receipt is like cash - without it, I am reduced to spending my own money instead of the  Bookmans' credits.  I'd held onto it for nearly 50 months  Where could I have lost it?  How did I not notice that it was gone?

I tried to console myself with the notion that anyone who found it could only spend it on books, and how could I be sad about spreading access to the wealth of  material contained within those stores?  But I was still pouting as I ran my errands.  Came home, unpacked the car, put the groceries away, and walked to the bedroom to change my shoes.  And there, in the hallway, was the receipt. 

How it fell out of my wallet there and not on the street or in the garage or the movie remains a mystery.  My smile was breaking my face and I fondled the paper as if it were a newborn.  I was beyond happy.  

And then I began to consider the situation.  Had I put the receipt back where it belonged as I left the bookstore and entered my car, I would have been spared that awful how-could-I-have-been-so-stupid feeling.  This was anxiety which was avoidable, which was within my power to avoid, which did not have to be in my life at all and yet there it was, sitting in my belly, making my heart beat sadly, and I had no one to blame but myself.

This is the feeling that I told the Cuters to remember the first time each of them lost a wallet.  We all agreed that it was awful, that we never wanted to feel it again, that before we began to rejoice we should take a moment and put the feeling in our permanent memory banks so that we would never forget to take care of our stuff so that we didn't feel like this ever again in our whole lives.

Obviously, I wasn't paying much attention to the lesson at hand.

And so, denizens, I am committing to a second resolution (you can find the first one here) for 2010... or, perhaps, for the 2010-11 School Year.  
I will put things away where they belong.

I'll keep you posted on my progress.  For now, I'm going to try the third Bookmans for El Cid.  After all, I have a $200 credit just waiting to be spent. 

First Sign of the Apocalypse:  I tried to link the words El Cid to Amazon.com so that you could own your own copy with the click of a mouse.  There are 24 results under books when searching for El Cid in English; the Penguin Classic translation of the poem is not among them.  Nor is any other translation of the poem available.  There are many iterations of the movie (Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren) but not a one of the written word.  (Turns out it's listed under The Poem of The Cid ..... not the title I'd ever heard before.  I suppose I should say "My bad" and move on, but then there was this, the

Second Sign of the Apocalypse:  9 of the 24 results under books were only available for the Kindle.  I'm sorry, you don't need power to operate a book.  The Kindle may be many things, but it is not a book.  Words are meaningful, powerful, convey a sense of the thing represented and I am offended on behalf of all bound volumes everywhere.  The Kindle is an electronic device.  It is not a book.


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