A visit to Barnes & Noble
Wednesday, February 3 2021
It’s 2:55 in the afternoon. I sit by my desk with a cup of coffee procrastinating. I need to work but have watched three YouTube videos instead: a couple taste testing frozen desserts from their local supermarket in Rio, “GoPro HERO 7 BLACK Tutorial: How To Get Started,” and the quest of a man eating 10,000 calories from American cereal only. The last one is exciting because he’s British and it’s the first time he was able to plan a food challenge with all American breakfast foods.
I write this in the hopes it will get things started. I have my camera ready and am about to walk to Barnes & Noble. I’m telling myself I need to get Moliére’s Don Juan, for a class, but I just want to walk around. I printed a copy of Don Juan about an hour ago and it’s already in my bag.
Ashley says we have news from Dave, our accountant, who wants to know if we got stimulus checks, how many and on what dates. I ask if we’re going to get taxed, Ashley says she doesn’t think so. Dave is asking again for my 1099 client forms “ASAP” so I’ll have to tell him again that I have none. He doesn’t seem to want to believe I’m a full-time student.
For a while I’ve been telling people about the idea of visiting Barnes & Noble. Now I’m afraid to do it. I’m thinking too much, I shouldn’t have said anything. I’m preparing to leave like I’m going to take a test, looking at essay books as if to memorize formulas. “It had been like dying, that sliding down the mountain pass. It had been like the death of someone, irrational, that sliding down the mountain pass and into the region of dread.” I’m just going to Barnes & Noble.
I keep thinking, what if they see the camera, if they see the camera I might have to lie and say it’s not on. “You see, I usually carry a camera as a pendant like this, dangling around my neck, attached to a lanyard.” None of this has happened and may not happen at all.
I’m inside but can’t see anything for a few minutes, I’m too concerned with the recording. I’m taking notes on my phone.
Next week I’ll look into the history of Barnes & Noble to find out it’s the bookseller with the largest number of retail outlets in the U.S.. Barnes & Noble has 627 stores in all 50 states. I wouldn’t have guessed that their headquarters is on Fifth Avenue, in New York. That sounds fancy and it doesn’t feel fancy in here but looking around I realize the store is trying to be fancy.
I remember Barnes & Noble signs being green with gold or white type. Here the signage is blue because this is the Yale Barnes & Noble. More accurately, it’s “The Yale Bookstore, a Barnes & Noble college store.” In “Barnes & Noble,” the “and” is always an ampersand.
I’m looking at the Yale University authors shelf, right by the entrance. I see A Farmer’s Guide to Climate Disruption, The Euro and the Battle of Ideas, The Wine Lover’s Daughter, and Love Drugs, the Chemical Future of Relationships. On shelf next to it there are books written by people who didn’t go to Yale. From Silk to Silicon, Permission to Feel, and What are Biblical Values? There is one last copy of Breathe In, Cash Out.
I’m still close to the doors trying to get my footing with this camera. When I concentrate on the shelves, I can relax by looking at teddy bears, blue t-shirts, green t-shirts, white collared shirts, blue bags, white bags, sweatshirts, hats, hoodies, water bottles and umbrellas.
A blue laminated sign tells me to “Please note: masks must be worn while inside the store.” I’m wearing a mask. It’s blue with a white Y on it. We got these at the start of the term. You can spot the Yale student by looking at their mask. That’s how we recognize ourselves and how other people recognize us at a distance in New Haven.
Back at home the dogs are probably sleeping. They have no idea there is a Nest camera looking into the living room so I can check on them when nobody is there. I remember first getting it five years ago when I lived in an apartment in New York with no doorman where I would get packages taken from the door all the time. I don’t know what I was thinking getting a camera would do but the effect of having one seemed to change people’s minds about messing with the packages. If you google “Nest,” you’ll find the company’s site with the slogan “Create a Connected Home.”
There’s a sale, “25% off short sleeve tees.”
Where I stand is a big moment for the Moleskine brand. The notebooks are located on the main floor. There is a table on each side of the staircase, and a rack of plush figurine keychains by each table. Two signs say Moleskine. You can get pads that say Yale on them or that say Harry Potter on them or that say nothing at all. You can pick what color you like best and the kind of page you like best between plain, ruled, squared, or dotted. I think most people like their pages ruled but soon I’ll learn the best-selling kind of page is plain.
“30% off National Campus Bestsellers Paperback”
In front of me there is a table with a sign that says “BE SMARTER” and the books How to Be Human in the Digital Economy, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and Hacking Life, Systematized Living and Its Discontents. Close by there are plush toy keychains in the shape of dogs, unicorns, giraffes and bears.
Maybe I’m thinking of stolen packages because incidents like this have been happening on my block lately. The other day the dogs went to sniff a cauliflower and some apples on the street. When Ashley and I stopped to investigate, it looked like the produce had come from an open box further down the road. It had been abandoned a few feet from where it was delivered. We brought the cauliflower back to 122 Canner.
Many of our neighbors have something called a Ring, a doorbell that doubles as a camera for your front door. On their website, the company claims to “protect your home & watch over what's important from your phone with video doorbells, indoor & outdoor security cameras, alarm systems & more.” These “ands” are ampersands like the one in Barnes & Noble.
All footage captured by Ring is rendered with a logo on the screen. On the internet I’ve seen videos of burglaries, dancing delivery workers, and wild animals perusing, brought to us by ring.com.
I’m on the second floor, looking at frisbees, ties, button-up shirts, key tags, and golf balls. There is a sale, “25% off entire stocks of hats.” I grab a blue plastic cup.
There are bandanas, flags, dog toys, dog clothes, koozies, face masks and pomchies. I’ve never heard of pomchies before. “www.pomchies.com, a fashion accessory, washable, fashionable, comfortable, patent pending”
When I look up at the ceiling, I see an image of a Yale student reading and if I look up again and around, I can see images of students dancing, playing, reading and going down a set of stairs. I know these are Yale students because their clothes are blue and white and sometimes say Yale on them. In the last image, the stairs are still but the students are blurry because they must have been going fast when the picture was taken.
YALE MY HAPPY PLACE!
There is another sale, “25% off entire stock of hats.” This time “exclusions may apply.”
In the basement, there is a big area for snacks, drinks, medicine and other bits and bobs you’d find in a general store. I think back to the YouTube video I watched before coming here, with the British guy eating the American cereal. There seems to be a big trend on YouTube of people filming their daily meals to make videos titled “What I Eat in a Day.” I remember recently watching one by a man named Nick Bare, a former U.S. Army veteran and entrepreneur who is the CEO and founder of the brand Bare Performance Nutrition. He usually eats English muffins with peanut butter and fruit for breakfast, and some sort of ground meat with white rice in the afternoons. He alternates between chicken, bison, elk and beef.
There are wine and shot glasses. A table with the sign, “IN THE MEDIA” displays Trump, China and the American Revival, The Rise of the Warrior Cop, Inside the NRA, and Mad at the World. From here I also see Losing the Long Game, and an oversized book titled I Want to be Where the Normal People Are.
“Paperback Favorites,” “New in Science.” Why Trust Science? Designing Your Work Life, Eat Sleep Work Repeat, Religion in the Rise of Capitalism.
The clothes on this level are UNISEX. HEALTH AND BEAUTY. Instant Lunch Hot & Spicy Chicken Flavor. I grab a packet of Smart Sweets so I can, in their words, “kick the sugar but keep the candy.”
I hear an announcement for Amanda to call 143. “Amanda to call 143.” Emerald Two-ply paper towels cost $ 1.79. I see paper cards under the sign, “cards friendship and love recycled paper greetings.”
Thinking of you
I want to hump you
Honey, this card contains your to-do list: Me.
Nothing much happening here... just sitting on my ass and thinking of you
Birthday special friend
From the cat birthday
Dude. Happy birthday.
I don’t think I want this cup anymore.
Back on the main floor, there is a plaque with the words GRAPHICS & DESIGN. Not Graphic Design but GRAPHICS & DESIGN. This “and” is an ampersand too.
SCHOOL SPIRIT SUPPLIES
There is a shelf with products from the brand Kikkerland. I think I’ve only seen these at Barnes & Noble and airports. I can’t be here anymore and haven’t even gone through textbooks or sportswear or toys or the party games with cards that can help you be social at parties.
I’m leaving my cup next to a Grecian Bottle. It’s a puzzle made of a glass bottle with a wooden stick and a metal screw locked inside. It turns out the origins of glassmaking are shrouded in mystery and if we take everything out of the bottle we can unveil the secret of Greece’s true genius.