The __ Year Old Virgin

I’ll let you decide what numbers should go in the blank here…

Well, after years of consideration, hesitation, weighing the odds, checking out the possibilities and considering all the options, I finally got over my fears and just did it.  And do I feel much better now that it’s finally over!  Yes folks, today, for the first time, I used my brand new, first ever, monthly bus pass.  No more bus tickets for me!  No more fumbling for exact change, and no more weighing whether to cut a trip short because the transfer will expire in exactly __ minutes.  Complete freedom to cruise the public transit system!  Wow…  nothing like it, I gotta tell you.  Leaves me a little breathless just thinking about it…

So, to celebrate (and to break in the pass) we decided to go all out and do something really big.  Since we do live on an island, big is a relative term.  In the end we decided to go to Sidney.  Note: that’s Sidney, not Sydney, because for us to go to Sydney with a bus pass would require something akin to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, only on steroids.

Sidney by the Sea is just north of here, and pretty close to the end of our municipal transit system.  It’s also a wonderful little town of around 11,000 people, on the eastern shore of the island.  The lumber mill, the cannery and the traditional industries are gone, but Sidney has revitalized itself.  There’s a wonderful walkway along the ocean with a couple of small beaches (a little windy for swimming though, this being December and all) as well as the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre.  In our short, first trip to Sidney we  made some photographs, discovered some funky little shops and a couple of great art galleries, but our first impressions are that Sidney should be noted for two things:

1)      Coffee Shops.  I wouldn’t say there’s a coffee shop/ café/ espresso bar on every corner, but it certainly seems like it.  We lost count after the first four or five, and that didn’t include the bakery/ chocolate shop that also has coffee, tea, etc.  We sampled two.  The first one literally drew us in because of the scent of roasting coffee drifting down the street.  Our senses were assailed, and our bodies (willingly) followed.  Welcome to the Fresh Cup Roastery.  They have very good cinnamon buns there, but ask for two forks because you’re partner will want to share.  Later in the day we stopped at the Red Brick Café for lunch.  The Red Brick Café is all about comfort food – homemade soups, salads, sandwiches, good tea, and a comfortable atmosphere.  Both places are very good, but the next time we go to Sidney we’ll have to try some new places!

2)      Bookstores.  Sidney sells itself as a booktown andwith good reason.  There are at least a dozen different bookstores in Sidney, selling both new and used books, magazines, ephemera, maps, etc.  We didn’t make it to all of them, but not for lack of trying.  Bookstores are addictive for us.  The last time we moved we had 35 boxes of books, and that was only because we’d pared down quite a few.  It was with GREAT self control that we brought home only one book, a first Canadian edition of ‘The Voyage of the Stella’ by R.D. Lawrence.  I couldn’t list a favourite bookstore, however, and since we’ll have forgotten which ones we did get to by the time we get to Sidney again, we’ll just have to visit them all again! (heavy sigh).

Speaking of books, and before my brain starts to leak out all over the floor, I’m going to close this post with a passage from the book ‘Waking in Dreamland’ by Jody Lynn Nye (Baen Publishing Enterprises, pp.255-257):

“”Uh-oh,” the senior historian said, depair in his voice.  “We’re in trouble now.”

“Do you see Brom?” Roan asked, squinting into the crowd.

“No, it’s worse,” Bergold said.  “Look.  It’s a bookstore.  A big one.”

“Oh, no!”

Roan stared up at the brightly colored sign hanging over the sidewalk only twenty yards ahead.  A bookstore!  It was the biggest hazard of any town.  What could they do?  The route they needed to take to the market led directly past it.  He made as if to turn back and lead them on a more circuitous route, when the expandable aura of pleasure and joyful anticipation the bookstore exuded engulfed him.  The smell of cofee wafted past his nose  He rotated on his heel, facing the bright sign again, his mind clouding.

How nice it would be, he thought, just to browse for a while, perhaps sit and drink a cup of coffee and read . . . No!  What was he thinking?  He was on an important mission!  He had to save the Dreamland!  Perhaps there were how-to books on heroism in the Sociology section . . .

The others were falling under the spell too.  The pupils of Leonora’s green eyes spread across the irises as she stared at the sign.  Bergold was shifting his shoulder bag  as if to judge whether there’d be some room in it for a volume or two.  They all moved a step closer, and had the opposite foot raised to take the next step.  Roan tugged them back, and the spell broke momentarily.

“This must be a very good store,” Leonora said, clasping her hands around Roan’s upper arm.  “I can feel the urge from here.  Hold on to me or I’ll fall in.”

“So will I,” Bergold said.  “We’ve got to help one another.”

The urge to go inside was overwhelmingly powerful.  The siren call of the books was such a loud howling in his ears that Roan put his hands up to stop them.  Leonora put her head down against his shoulder, her eyes screwed shut.  If they fell into the bookstore, they’d be trapped for hours, pulled along by sheer curiosity to scan every title, or draw an especially tempting book off the shelf and read, lulled by a hypnotic, lazy atmosphere to forget about the cares of the outside world.  Their cause would be lost.

Roan felt himself moving forward again, his feet moving of their own volition on the pavement.  Stop! he thought at them.  Stop!  They could not afford to lose the day.  Brom was near, Roan could sense it.  The Dreamland, he had to think of the Dreamland, and the threat of the Alarm Clock!  But no, his feet refused to pass, started to turn in towards the doorway.

“We’ll all join arms,” Roan said, taking Colenna’s elbow.  She attached herself to Spar.  Bergold took Leonora’s other arm, and Misha held on to him.  “We’ll run across quickly.  That way, we won’t get sucked inside.”

“Hold tight,” Lum said, as the other guards linked arms.  “Ready?”

“Ready!” Bergold said.  They were within inches of the glass-and-green-paneled doors.  The pull was so strong.  “One, two, three, go!

Roan launched himself forward.  As the group hurled themselves past the doorway, they caught the full brunt of the attraction.

Succumb, the wordless song said.  You know you want to.  Everything else can wait.  The smell of coffee tantalized, cushions beckoned, the bright colours danced, book blurbs whispered in their ears.  Roan nearly hesitated in mid-dash.  He could feel the others faltering.

“Help,” Colenna moand.

“Right, then,” Spar said, stoutly.  As usual, the guard captain seemed unaffected by the unseen forces that paralyzed everyone else.  Spar marched firmly to the other side of the bookstore entrance, pulling his end of the line of people with him.  He set his heels against a paving stone, and heaved.  The others came flying toward him like corks out of a bottle.  Roan stumbled to a halt, trying to cushion Leonora from running into the wall.  He panted with exertion, a bead of sweat running down into his eyes.  Felan stood, gasping.

“There, now, you’re safe,” Spar said, putting an arm around Colenna.  “Are you all right?  My lady?”

Colenna leaned on his arm with a wordless smile, and Leonora nodded.

“My gratitude, Captain,” Roan said.  His throat felt dry from the cappuccino fumes.

“All part of the job,” Spar said.  He tucked Colenna’s hand into his elbow, and marched forward, his spine proudly erect.

It was only a little easier to walk away from the entrance than it had been to resist walking toward it.  All around them on the street were dozens of others without the captain’s iron self-control.  Roan feared for them.  Some were clinging to lampposts, fire hydrants, and each other, in an attempt to resist.  A woman, innocently walking a poodle on the other side of the street, was swept up by the seductive force and carried helplessly inside, the dog yelping behind her.

“It could have been us,” Felan said, sadly, watching her sail past.

“Come on,” Roan said, striding forward.  “We shouldn’t tarry.  It could pull us back.”

The outside wall of the bookstore was full of small glass display windows.  In the case just ahead of him, Roan noticed a title out of the corner of his eye, and turned his head to see.  “The Book of Love,” the gaudy cover read.  A good omen, Roan thought, squeezing the princess’ hand in the crook of his arm.  He continued to step purposefully forward, then had a sudden and irresistible urge to see the author’s name.  He stopped in front of the window.  The title was perfectly clear, but the bottom of the book was fuzzy, as if someone had smeared soap across it.  He started to put his hand through the glass of the window to open the cover and read the title page, when a cry startled him, and the glass turned invincibly solid.  He snatched back his hand.

“Come on,” Bergold called.  “The bookshop’s just eaten another pedestrian!”

“Don’t go back,” Leonora pleaded, holding on to him.

Now I’ll never know, he thought.”

*

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Mike.

P.S.  As both a photographer and a writer, books are important to me.  One of the best ways to be a better photographer is to look at the works of others.  I’m not talking about ‘how-to’ books; those have their place, but by looking at books of photographs you have the opportunity to ask yourself important questions, like “Do I like this photograph?  Why or why not?  What does it say to me?  What does it say about me? What’s the lighting, the composition, the colour, the form, the shape of it?”  When I was a clerk in the camera section of a department store, there was another clerk who worked part-time there but full-time as a photo technician for the Armed Forces.  He taught me a lot about photography, but one of the most important things I remember is that the first visceral reaction to an image is the most important.  We can go back and look at an image for minutes or hours, analyze the structure and the focus points and the technical aspects but what we see in the first 1/2 second or so is vital.  Listen to that.  Learn the feel of it. Use it in your own work.

As a writer, the same ideas apply, even though the medium is different.  Looked at differently, words are simply graphic arrangements of symbols on a page.  It’s the particular arrangement of these symbols that give their meaning.  To be a better writer, read lots of books from many different people.  Look at the structure of their sentences, and the pictures painted by their words, but also go with the same visceral response you get when reading.  Skim the page and ask yourself, ‘How does this make me feel?  Why?’  Your answers, your reactions are what’s important here.

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