before i came to rochester i went to barnes & noble about every month or so and had been for nearly fifteen years prior because my grandfather worked there. (to clarify: he’s still alive) his presence came to be associated with that place, strange though it may seem, being a large and largely impersonal chain of bookstores. when he wasn’t there, leaning on the second floor balcony, looking down at the entrance, waiting for me to arrive, i knew something was up. his wife and my grandmother died a few days later. he quit that job a few years back and i missed seeing him there for a while but last week when i returned to boston for some lab tests i visited the bookstore again and felt a much more conspicuous and possibly even more depressing absence: the books themselves.
the store is now about sixty percent full of things which are not books, mostly toys for adults (figurines from game of thrones and such). this is not a point of elitism; i have no problem with toys. but it is a painful reminder that the large bookstore of my childhood is slowly breathing its last as an institution and possibly as an idea. my knowledge of computers, my deep faith in the abilities of others, and my love for them were all ignited by books and experiences centered around stores like these. soon there will be no more hours spent memorizing computer magazines in the periodicals section so i wouldn’t have to buy them, no more churning through series after series in the kids section, even the once ponderously large YA section that was installed just as i aged out of the target audience has been compressed down to a few smaller shelves against the wall.