owl in winter

owl in winter

Monday, October 22, 2012

Have You Ever Fallen in Love with a Town?

I'm here to tell you, I believe I've fallen in love with a town, irreversibly so, I think. I didn't mean for the photos to be at the bottom but, there they are, and I'm sorry you have to scroll down so far to see what I'm talking about.

I've lived in Springfield, Missouri, heart of the Ozarks, since 1995, and I never paid a lot of attention to it, except for the fact that I lived here and I had certain places I shopped and certain places I went and I worked here and slept here. Back then, I had no idea about Springfield history...and really didn't care. Springfield is a fairly young town as towns go in the United States and so, the history of it just didn't matter to me then.

So, I'm not sure where this thirst for history comes from but, for about two weeks now I've been obsessed with Springfield history. Okay, I can tell you where it stems from, if you're interested.

Six, maybe seven years ago, I was house hunting and I knew what I wanted. I wanted age, I wanted history, I wanted charm. And, thus and so, there was an open house listed for a property I'd driven by numerous times and wished was mine. The price was pretty good, actually, and I could have done it. It wasn't out of my range. And so, there was an open house and I went and fell completely in love. The place was on its last legs, seriously, having been neglected and abused through the years but the agent told me the house had been built in 1892 by one of the founding fathers of Springfield, and low and behold, there was a painting hanging over the fire place that had been done when the house was young and beautiful, and I loved it. I loved every inch of that place.

But, I was scared. What if it was a money pit, what if I wound up with more than I'd bargained for, what if, what if, what if? The day I made my mind up to put in a bid for the property, the agent told me he'd just sold it to someone else.

I was crushed.

Now, a couple of years later, the house went up for sale again. I hadn't been idle during this period. I drove by many, many, many times and watched the new siding going up, the new windows, the shutters, doors, etc., and I thought, I will never be able to live in that house. I won't be able to afford it. But, as things go in real estate sometimes, the current owners couldn't sell the house and I prayed and prayed and prayed it would not sell and that somehow, I could come to own it. Somehow. I prayed for a miracle. I even brought my parents to see it. My mother said, "I can see you living in this house. If you really want it, you have to make it happen."

Didn't happen. The owners finally auctioned the house off and someone with more money and clout than me won it.

I can't tell you how much that bothers me.

So, anyway, somehow when I was researching Springfield, one thing led to another and another and I thought, well, can I find out something historical on that property, the place I love (still) so much??? And so, I searched on that property and what I ended up uncovering was a treasure trove of history. So much history on Springfield, things I never knew and never would have known had I not snooped and searched and read all kinds of stuff.

I can say today that I've walked all over the Sheedy farm north of Springfield, and I've also walked the mysterious estate on Lake Springfield, and I've gone through the Pythian Castle numerous times, and paced old streets, stared into glazed window glass on Commercial Street, I've been all over this town searching for any remnant of that time gone by. I've read articles on family disputes ending in murder/suicide, I've read about Wild Bill Hickock, um, upstanding citizens such as the Phelps family and others, I've devoured anything I could find on this town. I said to my dad on Saturday, "Did you know Springfield had electric trains?" He looked at me as if I was speaking Greek but that's okay.

Did you know that my first law office job was in one of the most historic buildings in Springfield, The Holland Building??? I didn't know it was such a big deal.But I love it!!!

Have you ever fallen in love with a town or a place?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Wake Up Barnes & Noble!!!

So disappointed today when I walked into Barnes & Noble and discovered all the big, comfy, reading chairs interspersed throughout the store have been replaced with a single row of uncomfortable wooden chairs placed under the big picture window...oh boy. Once I would have burrowed into one of those big chairs cradling the next best book in my arms and I would have whiled some time away, absorbing a new book, and maybe even listening to some great music, which B&N used to sell as well. I wish they still did. I remember buying Keb Mo's latest CD because I heard it playing, for the first time, on B&N's overhead. I mean, suggestive selling, of course, but it worked. No music at B&N now.

Come on now.

Today, to add insult to injury, a squirrel (maybe) caused a transformer to blow just before opening time, causing B&N to run on emergency power, which meant flickering lights, no cash register, no Starbucks; only that awful steel nook pod in the middle of the store seemed to be lit and even that was sort of a low, gloomy light.

One of the sales people who seemed to recognize me as a constant haunt, stopped me almost as soon as I entered the store, explaining and apologizing in her broken English, and just wanted me to know what was going on, and how it was all beyond their control but the whole situation was being worked on.

I located JK Rowling's latest novel, sat down in one of those wooden chairs and read several chapters. Good book; I want to read more but not in a wooden chair, thank you very much.

Okay, well, I can't fault B&N for the transformer blast but I can say to B&N: do you really think wooden chairs are sufficient for book lovers??? Do you really mean to invite genuine readers into your store with these things here, these spartan Puritan Sunday-go-to-meeting-ramrod straight-butt cramping chairs??? Who would sit THERE to read for pleasure? I mean, is there an answer to that?

I remember Walden, the Heritage, J. Dalton, Borders (of course), and a host of other bookstores that have fallen to B&N, and I know in business these things are bound to happen; however, B&N, do you see the wolf at the door, that wolf called Amazon??? Get with it, please. Competition in the marketplace is crucial to the entruenership that America was founded on. If you don't get up and fight, none of us who write and want to be recognized for writing have a screaming chance!

What is your perspective on Barnes & Noble? Do they need to change their strategy, their selling points, their "look?"