It was hot today. The weather station at San Francisco Airport recorded a high of 91 degrees Fahrenheit, and I’d bet it hit 95 degrees at our house. About the middle of the afternoon I saw one of our downstairs neighbors. We both agreed it was hot. She said it was so hot she was having a hard time staying focused on doing housework. I admitted that the heat had gotten to me and I had given up on housework.
Since I wasn’t getting any housework done, I decided I wouldn’t stay around the house. I got on the train, transferred to BART at the Millbrae station, and headed over to Berkeley. I walked up to Telegraph Ave., then threaded my way through the street-chaos generated by the resident freaks, weirdos, and college students of Telegraph Ave., making my way down to Moe’s and Shakespeare & Co., the two bookstores remaining on the avenue.
I turned into Shakespeare & Co., with its narrow aisles and mis-matched bookcases. As I turned towards the mysteries, a small bearded man stepped backwards and ran into me; I apologized, but he didn’t notice me at all, and continued asking the clerk, “Are these the only chess books you have?” The clerk said, “Yes, they’re all on that shelf.” The small man said, “But what about these here?” The clerk said, “Yes, those there, yes they continue down to that shelf.” I wandered from the mysteries towards the science fiction books. A young woman and her guitar blocked one end of the science fiction aisle. She answered her cell phone: “Hello? … Oh, hi! … I’m here in Shakespeare & Co, you know that used bookstore? … Yeah. I’m looking for something new to read. I was trying to read Kafka, but I didn’t like it, which is strange, because it’s this really well-written book, so now I’m trying to find something else….” I turned the corner into the pocket fiction aisle, and there was a small handwritten sign saying, “Hey, kid, don’t look up here, this is where the adult books are.” Sure enough, in shelves about seven feet off the ground, there were some forgettable mass-market porno paperbacks, back from the days when there was no Internet porn, including an old copy of Emmanuelle that smelled moldy. I eavesdropped on a conversation that the clerk was having with one of the customers; actually, it was more of a monologue, where the clerk analyzed the motivations of the 9/11 bombers, speculated that Osama bin Laden is probably dead by now, or at least in very poor health, and in his pleasing tenor voice gave details of the Jayce Lee Dugard case, including the fact that the alleged abductor, Philip Garrido, had been spouting some kind of crazed religious nonsense on the Berkeley campus when he was confronted by two campus police officers, and that was what led to the discovery of Dugard. This conversation motivated me to move on to the Political Science section, and then to glance through the titles on the True Crime shelves. I heard the customer say to the clerk, “At least she [meaning Dugard] will have a normal life now,” and the clerk responded, “Well, relatively normal, considering what she’s been through. Apparently she considered the guy as some kind of god. And she had two children with him.” I kept browsing for a while longer, but in the end all I bought was a collection of Chinese poetry in translations by David Hinton.
I walked across the street to Moe’s bookstore. The book selection was less entertaining. The people-watching was far less interesting. The only conversation I overheard had to do with Ackermann functions, and frankly I did not understand what the two guys were talking about. But I wound up buying more books, probably because I wasn’t distracted.