Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Way Back Wednesday: Reading Material

The pandemic has made travel more challenging and, though I got to shop in my favorite indie bookstore last summer, I haven't been to a train station -- let alone NYC -- in over two years. Maybe that's why this post earned a spot as a Way Back Wednesday feature.

And maybe that's why a bookstore features prominently in the novel I'm working on. 

I love big city train stations - well, at least the few I've been in. They're like miniature cities, with shops, eateries and people coming and going. When we got to Penn Station two weekends ago, I wanted to explore, but my family just wanted to find a taxi.

On Sunday afternoon, though, I got my chance. Having spent a good chunk of change in NY, I didn't wander far, but I couldn't resist the newsstand.

In part, I blame the freelancer in me, always on the lookout for a new market or a fresh read, but the truth is, I've loved bookstores for as long as I can remember. As a teenager, I worked as a page in the children's room of our local library. Then, a year or so later, I got a job working at a used bookstore a few blocks away. I spent more than four years working in my college bookstore, and even after I had a full-time, grown-up job, I spent a summer working at a local Encore Books.

But newsstands are a different animal. Maybe I'd find them less fascinating if I'd grown up in New York, or another city where I depended upon them to get my Sunday paper or my TV Guide. But in an age where our magazines come to our doorstep, newsstands are as rare as independent booksellers.

I've never actually bought anything at a newsstand on a city street, but I can't resist the appeal of its train station cousin. Such a variety of reading material on so many subjects, all neatly categorized and collated in top to bottom stacks of glossy, compact volumes that tuck neatly into a purse or briefcase.

When I was growing up, my dad used to stop at a newsstand near us for a Sunday paper from time to time. A cross between its city street and train station counterparts, it was similarly crammed with titles I was too young to appreciate at the time. Still, as I write this, I can picture it - or at least the way I remember it - in my mind. Thick Sunday editions of newspapers were stacked on the floor, tucked beneath shelves of magazines, neatly categorized by subject matter.

Come to think of it, maybe what intrigues me about both train stations and newsstands is the infinite sense of possibility each possesses. Standing in the middle of either of them leaves me with the sense that I can go anywhere - literally, figuratively or both - and that, although there is so much to explore, it is right there, just beyond my fingertips.

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