Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November 18, 2009 – So long Waldenbooks, Cigar Box Ukes, and Free and Legal Downloads

The company that owns Borders Express and Waldenbooks stores is closing 200 of its outlets, including three in this area. Borders Group of Ann Arbor, Michigan, is shutting down the Waldenbooks store in the Cranberry Mall, the Borders Outlet in the Prime Outlets at Grove City and the Borders Express store in the Millcreek Mall, Erie.

The proper hipster thing to do is to greet this news with schadenfreude while bemoaning the death of the independent book stores that the chains, in theory at least, drove out of business.

But, I remember what it was like growing up in a flyspeck town where chains like Waldenbooks were a godsend.  We didn’t have, and couldn’t support, an independent bookstore.  Sometimes I would hear my mother or a friend talk of their dreams of owning a little bookstore, but these were the fantasies of bibliophiles, not business people.

I spent Christmas gift certificates at Waldens, buying magazines and Dungeon and Dragon books there and sneaking glances at the pre-polybagged Playboys.

When my wife and I were dating and living in Western Pennsylvania, even as late as the mid-90s, heading off for a roadtrip tone of the Borders superstores in the Pittsburgh superstores was a delight.  Overwhelming!  So many books, magazines, foreign newspapers.  The Sunday Times!  I was in grad school and working for an Internet company at the time.  We were both “worldly” but to be able to drive to the city and go into one of these stores was like a homecoming, a relief from the small town in which we didn’t fit and from the meth head who lived on the other side of our duplex.  Visiting those chain stores was an extension of the way I first felt, walking in to Waldenbooks as a pre-teen and teen.

This isn’t to say that indie stores haven’t been important to me.  they provided me with jobs in Boston and other places.  And even as I was walking through the doors at Waldenbooks, As a typically self-absorbed teen, I was picking up used copies of Sartre and Camus and Kierkegaard along with X-Men comics at the Erie’s Books Galore.  Used books for less than a buck – spoiling me for ever buying too many books new.

And the soon to be closed Waldenbooks had its drawbacks as well.  The titles were expensive and the inventory limited.  No matter how many times I dropped by and said, ‘Hi, I’m Michael.  I’m a local writer and it would be great if you could stock some of my titles – I’d be glad to promote it anyway you’d like.” I was always met with blank stares.  The staff, although unfailably friendly, was never very knowledgeable about the product they were selling, and some of them, pretty strange (perhaps a pre-requisite of working in a bookstore…)

So, I greet the demise of our little chain store with sadness.  But, times have changed, I still browsed there, but hadn’t bought a book there in years having switched my purchasing to Amazon because of the inventory.  Waldenbooks,  I’ll miss you, but not very often.

Lots of music in Meadville this weekend:

The Allegheny College Wind Symphony, under the direction of Lowell Hepler, will present its annual fall concert on Sunday, Nov. 22 at 3:15 p.m. in Shafer Auditorium on the Allegheny campus. The concert is free and open to the public.

The concert will open with Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture,” followed by Holst’s “First Suite in E-flat for Military Band,” Jerry Bilik’s “American Civil War Fantasy” and Norman Dello Joio’s “Scenes from ‘The Louvre.’”

Stamateris will perform “Adagio e Tarantella” by Ernesto Cavallini. The program will continue with “Nitro” by Frank Ticheli, “His Honor March” by Henry Fillmore and “The March of the Belgian Paratroopers” by Pierre Leemans.

The Allegheny College Civic Symphony, Chamber Strings and Select Strings will perform their annual fall concert on Friday, Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Henderson Campus Center on the Allegheny campus. The concert, which is free and open to the public, will include a wide variety of music.

Allegheny College students Sara Odioso, Kristyn Gumpper and Alyssa Gumkowski will perform in a voice recital on Saturday, Nov. 21 at 3:15 p.m. in Ford Memorial Chapel on the Allegheny campus.

The recital, which is free and open to the public, will feature duets, trios and solos from art song, oratorio and opera repertoire. The pieces will be sung in several languages, including Latin, Russian, French, Italian, German and English. Ward Jamison, professor of music and director of choral activities at Allegheny, will serve as accompanist. Vicki Jamison, adjunct instructor of music, will provide translations for foreign language texts.


Titusville Community Arts Coalition is holding a Holiday Art Attack in the Downtown on Sat. Nov. 21 - times vary at each location.

Adrienne Grafton is a former Venango County resident who is making metal art and jewelry near Pittsburgh

New Castle’s Hoyt Institute of Art is featuring the work of ceramists Eva Zeisel through the end of the year.

Cigar Box Nation features plans for building a cigar box ukelele and stand up bass (pdf).

The Akron-Beacon Journal looks back to the time when Akron hosted the national Hobo convention.

The Pixies are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their Doolittle album by giving away a free live EP.(via)

Free and Legal Downloads:

  Sharon Van Etten live at the Union Pool on November 7, 2009

  Share the Love Mix (autoplay) (Wolf Parade, band of Horses and more)

  Beastie Boys Uncheck Your head remix

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