Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Too School For Cool

My son is entering middle school this year and when a letter came from his school listing the various school supplies he would need for the upcoming year I was excited to get back to doing some back to school shopping. Number 2 pencil? Check! 3 hole hole puncher? Got it! Pencil case? It's in the bag! He seemed nonplussed and puzzled by my enthusiasm which he did not share. I remember that getting school supplies at the beginning of the school year was always the best thing about the new year starting up again. I don't remember the name of the store where we shopped as kids for these things but I do remember it as being a small, tight store with wood plank flooring. I think it was owned and operated by an older man who had been there for years and had full knowledge of each object on every shelf. While there, the likelyhood of running into other classmates, friends or neighbors was great. Many were strange but few were strangers.

While there may be places today in New York like the store of my memories they are few and far between and most are not open on the weekends. And that is how we found ourselves at a Staples in Brooklyn on a rainy Saturday. If there is any joy or poetry to be found in the act of shopping, and I imagine there is, then Staples one, true, great success is that they have managed to find a way to completely obliterate it. The big box store felt like an over crowded, tired airport terminal a few days before the holidays. The shoppers were frazzled, irritated, slightly confused and indifferent towards each other. There is such an absurd, abundance of stuff there that to try and take it all in in one big breath too quickly is to risk collapsing spastically in the isles in a state of dazed and paralyzed confusion. The one and only Staples employee assisting the herd of befuddled shoppers was a young, energized, horse faced kid with a long, mane like, pony tail and a number of fresh Jean-Paul Sartre quotes tattooed on his arms. He was constantly galloping the store's perimeter in a calm and determined way pointing out the approximate whereabouts of the endless variations of binders, looseleaf paper and composition books. I'm guessing he was stoned. At least I hope he was. I added to everyone's shopping pleasure by standing in the center of the crowded isles, making pictures and snapping away in paralyzed, spastic, oblivion.

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