Monday, November 29, 2010

Central Book Exchange

Central Book Exchange
2017 S. 1100 E.
SLC, UT 84106
(in Sugarhouse)

Remember the 1998 movie “You’ve Got Mail” in which Tom Hanks plays the CEO of a large corporate book chain at war with Meg Ryan’s character who owns a historic, individually owned bookshop? Whether you sympathize more with Tom Hanks’ character or Meg Ryan’s, you’ll find what you need on 11th East in Sugarhouse. Since I identify more with Meg, I bypassed Barnes & Noble on 23rd south and walked down a block or two to Central Book Exchange, the original used book source in Sugarhouse since 1968.

When you walk into a well-tended used bookshop, you know you’re entering the inner sanctum of a true booklover. There’s no need to present your official bibliophile identification card; your initiation and acceptance is immediate.

Used bookstores always have the most unique titles on display, and Central Book Exchange is no exception. One of the first books I spotted had a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger on the front and was entitled “Terminator & Philosophy: I’ll Be Back, Therefore I Am.” I was also seriously tempted by a gorgeous coffee table book in the Foreign Language & Travel section, "This Spectered Isle: A Journey through Haunted England.”

Another great thing about used bookstores is that they cater to a local audience. In the Nature/Adventure/Outdoors section, I spotted “Best Hikes with Children in Utah” as well as the national bestseller “Into the Wild.”

In the children’s section I found a gorgeous illustrated version of the children’s classic “Wind in the Willows.” I couldn’t leave without it. It appeared to be brand new, but I got it for a steal at $9. I also treated myself to the first in a recent detective series entitled “Maisie Dobbs.” Original cover price: $15. I paid $8.

Lastly I chose two books on tape (both mysteries) to listen to while I paint my living room. One of the workers saw me squatted in the audio book section, sorting through their piles, and offered to bring out still more audio books they had in the back. This is one more thing I love about used bookstores…the owners are always glad to assist and offer personal recommendations.

At Central Book Exchange, I found books in almost every category to satisfy anyone’s literary appetite. Avoid the madness of holiday lines and pseudo sales. Make your shopping experience a satisfying one; visit your cozy Central Book Exchange in the historic Sugarhouse shopping district.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday Traditions Shared

Thank you all for writing in with your comments about Black Friday. I noticed that responses ran the gamut from enthusiastic shoppers to those who prefer to stay under the covers Black Friday morn.

The following are a sampling of responses:

"I do nothing. It's my favorite things to do."

"I will fight for my freedom, the right man, the underprivileged, but will not risk life and limb to fight for a piece of plastic and metal."

"I have participated in all aspects of Black Friday at some point...except the tradition which strangely allows one to chop a tree from the forest in order to decorate for the holidays."

"...chocolate calculators--the only kind I would want to buy!"

"Two words: online shopping"

...and yes, C, you can hop on a plane and come and visit! I made my annual trek to the bookstore this year. I managed to get out with only 3 books and basket full of sweets, but sadly, no chocolate Texas Instrument calculators.

But whether you dodged Black Friday or not, odds are you still have some Christmas shopping to do. So I'm going to re-double my efforts to bring you the coolest, most unique spots to buy a one-of-a-kind gift. Stay tuned. Next week, I'll feature a used bookstore in Sugarhouse and the unique antiques/junkyard in American Fork.

I know there are a lot of festivities going on throughout northern Utah. Do you know of a great concert/festival/event/party, etc. that you'd like to promote? Let me know and I'll try to at least make mention of them on the blog.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Black Friday Cometh

Black Friday approaches.

It sounds so grim, doesn’t it? I feel it ought to be said in funereal tones with a somber bell tolling in the background. Around the corner comes a man pushing a wheelbarrow and staggering under the weight of its grim contents while he cries “bring out your dead!”

Enough of that.

Black Friday is the happiest day of the year for those in retail because it means their bank rolls will finally be “in the black.” The day after Thanksgiving is the biggest—and most stressful—shopping day of the year, and most people have their own unique way of observing/surviving it.

I’d like to hear yours. How do you observe Black Friday? Do you see the first rays of pale morning light through the slit of your tent outside the Best Buy? Do you rush through the aisles of Joanna’s Fabrics, pinking shears in hand, fending off frantic fellow crafters? Or do you roll out of bed around noon and munch on sandwiches made of leftover turkey and cold cranberry sauce while loftily considering the sad state of our materialistic society.

If you tell me yours, I’ll tell you mine.

Ever since I was eight years-old, my mother and I have hit the BYU Bookstore annual 20% off sale the day after Thanksgiving. The memories I have from these shopping trips are a stronger incentive to me than any discount could be. This is where mom always went for books and art supplies for the little crafting kits she used to make for us.

Christmas gifts I’ve received from these outings include my first (abridged) copy of Little Women as well as Ballet Stories and my favorite childhood book A Very Young Dancer. All of these treasured items are still on my bookshelf.

I made some of my earliest purchases here too. I couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 when I bought my mom a cheap blue plaque with a puppy on it, wagging its tail, with the inscription “I can't make ends meet without your end.” Don’t ask. I’m don’t know either. I just liked the puppy dog, and I was sure my mother would love it. Apparently she did because it’s still on her wall in a corner of the room.

My brother and I used to be dazzled by the array of chocolate and candy the bookstore always stocked this time of year. I still am. When I was 10 or so, they had chocolate computers! Yes! Little Texas Instrument-type computers (about the size of a calculator) entirely made out of chocolate! I knew that this was the perfect gift for my father. When I was 14, I bought my Dad a mug with the slogan “How ‘Bout Them Cougars/Football Champs.”

I am planning to go again this year. My mom and I will troll the tables of books, peruse racks of calendars, and size up the sweaters. We’ll stock up on chocolates and toffee for friends and neighbors, and I’ll get my favorite lebkuchen cookies from Germany.

What will you do this Friday? Leave a comment and tell me about your traditions (or air your views on the degeneracy of a society that tramples for toys). And next week, I’ll post some of the most unique ones on my blog.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hunting.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veteran's Day Bro

I'm going to take a detour today. Usually I visit fun, out-of-the-way places and report back to you from the figurative road. But because today is Veteran's day, I'm going to pull over and reflect on one of the greatest blessings I've been granted--the safe return of my brother from two tours of duty in Iraq.

I don't come from a military family. I'm a gen X-er which means I was born too late to appreciate or understand Vietnam as it was happening. War is a completely foreign concept to me...or it was. My bro's enlistment exposed my family and I to a whole new reality and culture.

This would be a truly interesting and educational blog entry if I could tell you what it's like to be a Marine and what it's like to experience combat conditions. Unfortunately, I can't. My bro doesn't talk a lot about it, but he did tell me about hearing the sirens, yanking on his gas mask as he hit the floor of the bunker, lying in the dust and wondering what the inhale of each breath would bring.

I had intended to share a little civilian perspective, but I find it's hard to write about my personal fears and thoughts without sounding too maudlin. It takes a better writer than I. But I'll summarize by saying I still remember those anxious hours, days, months, years--listening to the news, hearing about the casualties, knowing which divisions had suffered losses, and begging God on my knees, 'please not him.'

I know that's not fair to ask. My bro came home. My family was incredibly fortunate. I know that God was listening to my prayers. But what if he hadn't come home safely? What if he hadn't come home at all? Would that mean that God wasn't listening? No. I know that God would have solaced my family and I; it would not have been the end of my bro's adventures and service. He, and we, would have gone on.

But for each family who has lost someone, please know that every time the news makes that announcement, I stop and shed a tear. I think of you, whoever you are, and I get on my knees again and ask God to comfort you.

My bro is one of the most compassionate people I know. He has a great appreciation for beauty. He has a strong sense of courage and amazing mental and physical discipline and endurance. It takes all of these qualities to experience suffering, fear and violence and still retain your humanity.

Bro, I'm so glad your home. I'm so proud. And this is coming from your flower-loving sister with slightly hippie-ish tendencies.

Thank you to all of the veterans and active service men and women who combine courage and discipline with humanity to become heroes we can really look up to.