Monday, April 26, 2010
One Thousand Free Books
My wife saw the ad on Freecycle.com and called the people who posted it, John and Kate. They sounded like old hippies, gave us directions, and said to come on out any time that afternoon. They had about a thousand old books they’d read over the years, and they had to get rid of them. They needed the space. We got out there pretty easily. The directions were generally clear and easy to follow. The books were outside on their front porch, about eight boxes of them. They were in decent shape, not destroyed or really damaged, just very weathered. Together, my wife and I compiled about a box of them to take. They had a bunch of Henry Miller, Norman Mailer, Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Vonnegut, William Burroughs, Franz Kafka, Jack Kerouac, and such. I loaded up on that stuff. I don’t know what my wife took. She only reads books that are about gay vampires. I think she’s just into it for all the blood and buttfucking. That’s really what she likes to read about. I didn’t see any of that stuff in there, but she must have found some. It’s amazing how often that stuff pops up. They encouraged us to take more. While we were digging, Kate said it broke her heart to give all these away, but they just didn’t have the space for them anymore. I said, “Uh huh,” as I kept digging. I felt crass, digging through their things like a looter. Picking and choosing. John said something about being a photographer, taking pictures of the homeless and posting them online. He talked about a conversation he had had with a homeless guy at one point. It motivated him to take up a collection of socks and bologna sandwiches. It reminded me of a phase I had gone through about six years earlier in which I was photographing the homeless. I’d just give them cash, though. A couple bucks and I take a snapshot. Socks, bologna sandwiches, or cash. Same difference. I didn’t mention it. I hadn’t gone there to talk about charity. I hadn’t gone there to moralize.