Thursday, August 4, 2011

Journey to Wordsworth

Journey to Wordsworth

No. Not that Wordsworth. Not the Lake District guy who co-wrote Lyrical Ballads with Coleridge way back in 1798. We're talking the Wordsworth Bookstore in Kitchener, Ontario. The one my sister, the former schoolteacher, gave me directions to in an effort to promote my literary career. See, Wordsworth (the bookstore) is associated with the One Book One Community endeavor in Waterloo region. While I was in Kitchener on my yearly visit to my sister (we'll call her Betty though Muddy Betty might be more appropriate) we noticed that the One Book One Community was asking for suggestions for writers to take part in their reading series for 2012. Perfect! I'm a writer. I've got a book! I can come to Kitchener, stay with Muddy Betty and do all kinds of readings.  But what would be really smart would be to drop by the Wordsworth Bookstore on my way to Peterborough, introduce myself and maybe leave a couple copies of Waking Up Gilligan on consignment. That way the powers that be could peruse the narrative and become wildly excited about its entertainment value for next year's readings. All I needed to know was how to get there. No problem. Muddy Betty to the rescue. She whipped out her teacher's retirement gift (an ipad) and briskly informed me that the bookstore was located on 100 King St. Two rights and a left and I would be on my way. 

Let me set the scene for the unmitigated disaster we all know is coming: It is Tuesday after the August long weekend. Scorching hot day. We played golf earlier on a course best described as a few fairways cut through steaming tropical swampland. At least a dozen of my most prized golf balls are currently incubating in the fetid ecological mush where no human is allowed to set his or her foot. It is about 4 PM, still achingly hot. My van has zero air conditioning. Heat mirages rise from the hot asphalt. Along with Kitchener's rush hour traffic, assorted young people wander the sidewalks, lost and searching for meaning in their lives. I now realize that these were Muddy Betty's former students, the ones she had given directions to over the years.

 I watch the street addresses carefully through the steaming haze. I pass 200, see a parking spot. I grab it. One hundred can't be far away and who knows if I'd find another one. Gripping two copies of WUG (each one weighs almost exactly one pound) I trek past Goodlife, past a parking garage, past where number one hundred should be. But there is no one hundred! Mystified, I stop. I feel the perspiration from my fingers insinuating itself into the paper fibers of the WUGs they grip. Soon my deathless prose will be dripping down into a charcoal gray smudge on the sidewalk. There can only be one possibility. Number 100 must be on the eastern side of whatever street is zero. It can't be far. It is away from my car but it can't be far. Besides, a little more walking probably won't kill me. I'll see a little more of the town. 

Inspired by this oh so positive self-talk, I resume my trek. I soon realize that I was delusional. In this heat, it is far. Very far. And guess what?  "Well, I'll be," I say to myself (I actually said something else but Muddy Betty's and mine mother taught us not to swear), "no one hundred again."  There is, however a bookstore a few feet away, called the Casablanca. I go in. The girl behind the counter looks a bit like a charmingly tattooed Ingrid Bergman. She looks up. Our eyes meet. "Of all the bin joints in all the towns in the world..." she begins. "Save it Sister!" I say brusquely. "What have you done with the Wordsworth Bookstore?" One look in those eyes and I knew she was the type that would level with me.
"Oh," she says. "That's in Waterloo. You've got to go another twelve blocks further. You're on the right side of the street, though."

Small mercies. Very small. If thoughts could kill, it is at this moment that my baby sister would be reduced to a mere splotch on the sidewalk.

The Wordsworth Bookstore was eventually reached. Though the charming young lady was helpful, I couldn't leave my WUGs on consignment and a "committee" would decide who next year's readers were. The quest for a reading in Kitchener-Waterloo continues, though one wonders at what cost? What if the locale of the reading is on King St.? Would I be able to maintain my sanity in a city which potentially has not one, not two, not three, but four identical such addresses? On a street that runs both east-west and north-south? And where does the selection "committee" meet? How do they find each other? The mind falters. Kafkaesque vapors overwhelm. Only one thing is stunningly clear: my little sister's name is mud.

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