Our intention, on Saturday, was to stop by the Milwaukee Mile and catch some of the Indycars doing time trials for Sunday’s AJ Foyt 225. Unfortunately, the race seems to have grown some. We stopped attending the yearly Milwaukee Mile race sometime after the jerks who own the Indianapolis 500 nearly destroyed Indycar racing and sent a lot of fans over to NASCAR.
But Indycar kissed and made up this year and instead of two different and watered-down racing leagues, they’ve united under one.
Anyway, years ago we used to go to the time trails for free. Parking was free. And you could wander around the track facilities for free, looking at all the merchandise. And getting in to the track itself to watch was relatively inexpensive, just a few dollars.
Now people want money just to park. We were driving around hoping to find a spot to park on the street for free. It seemed hopeless, but in our travels we came upon this used bookstore we didn’t know existed. My family loves books. I think we’ve spent several hundred dollars in the last month over at Half Price.
So we were all eager to see this place.
As we entered, this little old bag lady was sitting on the floor near the entrance. She smiled and we passed her without thinking about it. Later we discovered this was the owner of the store. There were so many books she didn’t have room for a desk. Didn’t have room for a cash register. Didn’t have room for anything but books.
This place was a bibliophile’s dream and a OCD’s nightmare. Bookshelves stuffed to the ceiling with books, in many instances, several rows deep. Sometimes they weren’t even on bookshelves, they were just stacked in the aisles of the store, aisles that were narrow and mazelike because of all the books.
Some of the stackings were precarious to say the least. Both my kids managed, inadvertently, to cause an avalanche of books by merely placing their hands on an unstable bookshelf.
My first thought was this just going to be just another foray into Half Price Books world, where they only keep books they think they can sell. Very few rare books. Very few unpopular books. Very little by unknown writers.
I was wrong. I started glancing in the sci-fi section, pulling down stacks so I could look behind them and I immediately noticed a book by John Jakes. John Jakes, for those of you who don’t know, used to be a great fantasy writer, one of the original members of the sword and sorcery resurgence back in the 60s and 70s. This was before he sold out and started writing all those mainstream books about the Civil War and other historic fiction.
This was a copy of Brak the Barbarian. I’ve been haunting Half Price for decades now hoping to find a copy of Brak. So I kept searching, spurred on by this and found another Brak. Then I found some “Thonger” books by Lin Carter. This was a series where he emulated Edgar Rice Burroughs-style of adventure.
And I found some Man From Uncle books, written back when the television series was popular. I was in Geek Heaven. We left $40 poorer, but no way did we even scratch the surface of that store. We will have to return to its musty corridors again, to continue the search for treasure.
Oh, and that elderly lady? She hand-wrote the receipt, tallying up the cost in her head, only accepting cash or check. And lest you think she’s an easy mark, she knows her stuff. I had found a copy of Babe Ruth’s vinyl release “First Base” (yes, they have old vinyl records, too). I thought it would only be a few bucks, but she recognized instantly it was a rarity and said it was worth $20.
She’s cagey, that one.