A BOOK TOO FAR
Some days, the gentle addiction drives me. Seldom do I drive It.
But today, Sunday, is too beautiful a day to merely go to the
supermarket and purchase vittles. The day would be just a little
more perfect should I happen to pass by a flea market on the way
to the store, and look for something old and resonant and nostalgic
This gentle addiction has driven me for six decades or more.
Taking a wide turn and ending up at the former Fair Park monthly
flea market, I stick my toe into the old moldy atmosphere, attempting
to ignore the nearby ghastly brick and glass structure that is replacing
the park’s raceway/state fair stands, imagining that, in a couple of
decades, the new building will be as run-down and unkempt as the
previous one. The City has a way of building brand-new well-financed
venues, then ignoring them for years.
I suppose the reason that the monthly flea market survives is that it is
being ignored, too. Worst thing you could do would be to race around
tidying up the place, putting in a/c and heat, painting it, lighting it, cleaning
the restrooms for a change. If that happened, the market would have all the
charm of a K-Mart, and I would have to drive further afield to find
But today, I am lucky. The flea market is open for business, a few old-time
dealers still lug their wares inside, an occasional entrepreneur attempts to
hustle you with new things you could get cheaper at Dollar Tree, and here
and there, if you look real hard and know what you’re looking for, you can
spot a treasure.
Here’s the LP/tomato man who always tries to sell old recordings, comic
books, paper ephemera, printer paper, toys, movies, and—tomatoes. I buy
the last of his tomatoes, then spot a few books he’s got on display and is
about to re-box for the long trip home. Hmm…this has a “buzz” to it, the
look of a book published before acidic, self-destructing paper was
mass-marketed. I weigh it in my hands, its dark embossed cover looking
a little weary. The book falls open to the all-important title page, and here’s
what I see: REPORT OF THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY
TRANSMITTING A REPORT FROM THE REGISTER OF THE
TREASURY OF THE COMMERCE AND NAVIGATON OF THE
UNITED STATES FOR THE YEAR ENDING JUNE 30, 1857. Published
under act of Congress of September 16, 1857, in Washington, D.C.
645 pages not counting index, pages filled with charts and graphs and
data that somebody could just not live without, back then. A nice little
item to trigger your imagination, pop you into your time machine, and
make you wonder about the printing process, the computerless hours
of research and massaging of information, the typesetting done the
hard way—by hand, and backwards! Proofreading was still in vogue
back then, so you find few mistakes within.
Well, at least this is a real book, assembled by author and editor and
proofreader and printer, and distributed to those few people who could
understand such things. The book has its own fragrance, its own ambience,
its own story, a story recorded 150-plus years ago and alive today in my
very own hands!
I told you it is a gentle addiction, didn’t I?
The book will enter the store tomorrow and join its bookish family on
my shelves, waiting for the astute collector to discover it among all the
other solitudes in my little universe
© 2010 A.D. by Jim Reed