CHAMBLIN'S/JAX/ZOO: THE FULL STORY
Zee Front of Zee Place
Dogs 'N' Refugees
We made it safely back to Tallahassee from our Chamblin’s pilgrimage, despite Hurricane Dennis and car problems. The hotel we stayed at was full of dogs: refugees from the Panhandle and Alabama. Little dogs, big dogs. Yappers and snappers. The hotel was kind enough to accommodate the canines along with the owners fleeing the hurricane. Few enough cats, alas, but some very cute miniature collies.
Chamblin’s lived up to my last memory of it (2004: a quick detour after a conference for work). The extra space creates an odd mirror or doubling effect after years of being used to about half the space. Those aisles leading off into infinity—do they really, or am I about to slide through the looking glass?
The Blessed Stacks
This time, however, the objective was slightly different. We came to sell or trade more books than we would bring back with us, the house beginning to show the strain of our collection. We brought six huge boxes of books (thank God they had a dolly or I would have killed my back getting them inside) and then about ten department store bags of books as well. Three hours later, when they’d finally gone through all of them, they’d decided to take about two-thirds and we had over $600-worth of credit—the most we’ve ever had at any bookstore.
Then the buying began. Or, I should say, the bemused browsing. As you can kind of see from the expression on my face in the photograph above, the place has a strange effect on me. I always feel overwhelmed. They’ve got about a dozen rows of mysteries. Another couple dozen of hardcover fiction. A huge classics section. A huge trade paperback and mass market paperback fiction section. A ridiculous history section that is divided by country, with Europe taking up a whole wall. So where to start? How to strategize so as not to lose energy or focus? How not to get distracted by pretty shiny cover in the corner? Eventually, you just say “screw it” and wander aimless as a ghost through it all, your systematic approach shot to hell. And that’s when you find the really interesting stuff.
Ann Takes a Break
One thing we did do is concentrate heavily on the graphic novels section, since they were more expensive and thus we could expend our credit without bringing too many books back into the house.
We did three hours in Chamblin’s, then broke for lunch at a place Ann had found called Pastiche. Great modern cuisine with a French twist, and some good German beer for balance. Sweet potato fries to die for.
Suitably refreshed, we went back to Chamblin’s and spent another three hours. (When you look at books in a confined space for such a long time all at once, you begin to get giggly and cynical about titles and dust jacket descriptions. By the last hour, I was scowling and laughing at just about every description, because so many sounded so much the same and most were so dreadful.)
The Holy Cash Register
By then, we were pretty punch drunk, so we took our acquisitions to the front, added the stuff we’d already left behind the counter, and wound up spending about $370 of our credit and getting the rest in cash (less 25%--the deal for cash instead of credit). We promptly spent our ill-gotten booty at the Chart House for dinner, which was well worth it. More great food, in an awesome location on the water and stunning high wooden beam ceilings and innovative architectural design.
The Jacksonville Zoo
The next day, we spent a nice afternoon in the drizzly rain at the Jacksonville Zoo while waiting for our car to be fixed. For the first time, we saw meerkats in the flesh. They were fuzzy little things looking up at us with sad, wise eyes. The rain had frizzed them out and they were all puffy. They looked as if they didn’t understand why it was raining so much on their desert. (Oddly enough, they were Hidden—at the back of the part, behind a gift shop, over the railroad tracks, over a little bridge, and the exhibit unmarked. Maybe the meerkats wanted it that way?) I have to admit that even though I always knew they were small, finally seeing them that way made me rather incredulous in their ability, in anybody’s version of the future to be ferocious or to have aspirations of taking over the world. What incredibly retarded moron would go so far as to write a far future SF novel with vicious intelligent meerkats in it? That’s the question I kept asking myself. I also had to restrain myself from jumping over the wall and embracing my little fuzzy brothers and sisters. Somehow, I managed to. (We also saw leaping lemurs, warthogs, poison dart frogs, giant anteaters, tiny Asian deer, and capybaras. If only there had been squid I would have thought I’d died and gone to heaven...) The only disappointment was the giraffe overlook. When we climbed to the top, we found we were looking out over a scene of utter muddy devastation, with dozens of uprooted trees and tree stumps amid the mud. “Did the giraffes go on a three-day bender and trash the whole place?” I asked the attendant, who was standing uncomfortably behind a display showing the difference between a giraffe skull and a mouse skull (there’s a big difference, believe it or not). She explained that the crafty giraffes had somehow been using the trees to either block or storm the gates. This answer did not satisfy, so I came up with my own explanation: the giraffes were part of a punk rock band and after their last concert, they and the audience had just gone to town on the place.
One last note about the Jacksonville Zoo. It’s lovely, but don’t believe them about the existence of turtles. Any time a turtle was listed as part of a habitat, there was no turtle. I mean, no turtle. And no place for the turtle to hide. Just...no turtle. Not in the South American section. Not in the African section. Not anywhere. Every last turtle in that joint was missing in action. I have no theory to account for the lack of turtle. I don’t know what went down, but maybe it had something to do with the nefarious giraffes. (Also, something odd was up with the wallabies. Apparently taking their cue from the raucous giraffes, they had taken over their enclosure. The first set of doors was locked and the wallabies were actually inside what in a spaceship would be the second pressure-locked doors protecting the crew from the vacuum of space. Looking inside the enclosure from outside, you could see the fences, and the paths next to the fences where visitors were supposed to walk. All overrun by the cocky wallabies. It was another kind of insurrection, and apparently the zoo keepers weren’t interested in messing with the feisty wallabies. Instead, they’d just closed the whole area off, and now the wallabies were their own visitors, using the paths to gawk at themselves.)
Books at the Landing
Back to the books, though. Earlier Sunday, at the Landing, I found an even more valuable cache of books: a remaindered bookstore outlet had taken the place of the chain bookstore that had been there the last time, and they had a huge couple of tables of UK/Canadian trade paperback fiction. I found perhaps the most interesting novel I’ve come across in awhile: Patrick Ness’ The Crash of Hennington. We also visited the San Marcos Bookstore and picked up a few good mystery novel.
But more on The Crash of Hennington and the other books below, with the traditional yearly Chamblin’s Acquisitions Round Up, which, I’m afraid, I will not be hotlinking to Amazon descriptions. If you see something you like, you will, I’m afraid, dear reader, have do the work yourself. (Normally, I’d do it, but novel revisions await.)