Now Playing: Cousteau--"How Will I Know"
My first years in Ann Arbor (c. 2002-05) weren't--despite the presence of some great work friends--terribly happy ones, but one place that always served as a silver lining for my existence was the downtown Borders on Liberty Street between Maynard and State. That location was the "flagship store," the whole business having been started by the Borders brothers a block away about thirty years before I moved to Ann Arbor. I had grown enamored of Borders during my time in Akron (1999-2002), especially as I bore a grudge against Barnes and Noble for being unjustly fired from my supervisor job in 1998, and I was delighted to find my new favorite such a central and long-standing landmark of my new town's erratically--if smugly and expensively--beating heart. Though my appetite for owning new books as opposed to reading them had declined considerably in that time for reasons stated in previous posts, I spent a lot of time and money there, and was happy to do so.
It's surprising how many fond memories I have of the place: acting on recommendations from the New York Times Book Review (which they used to sell separately--and I used to buy religiously--for 75 cents), one of which was Alan Furst's Dark Star, wolfishly devoured in one of the darkest corners of Conor O'Neill's on a busy Friday night; moping around aimlessly after a nasty day at Chateau Fluffy and learning to my retro delight that Asia of "Heat of the Moment" fame were playing live upstairs; meeting a lovely lady downstairs for one of the first actual dates I'd arranged in half a decade; and, of course, numerous crushes on the staff. There are probably others I can't remember right now, but it was always there, a dependable place to browse and learn. It was certainly representative of a big box chain, but I suspect I would have preferred it to rivals like Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million even without my regrettable experience with the former. There was always a comfortably shambolic feel to Borders that would have been anathema to Barnes and Noble, at least, and I don't think I ever had a genuinely bad interaction with a worker there. Especially in downtown Ann Arbor, many of the people had been there forever, even after the labor troubles of the middle aughties (which had a lot to do with the foreboding management changes), and for me at least, the "flagship store" might as well have been one of the many independent bookstores that dotted the local landscape (and was certainly preferable in atmosphere and lack of hostility to a place like David's). It helped that people like that tremendously dour gentleman who used to tend bar at the Del Rio worked there.
Last night's news, that Borders was liquidating and that all stores would gradually shut down through August, wasn't exactly unexpected, but I think people like me were holding out for some kind of last-minute solution. A lot of good people will be without jobs, and a culturally vital (if greatly ailing) downtown space will be lost. I was going to post a review of one of the books I recently bought there, but it's too depressing even for that. I'm there or pass by almost every day, and to think that it'll be gone is... unthinkable.
Thank you, Borders workers, and the best of luck.