Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Special Promotion: The Store

When I was a kid I was fortunate enough to vacation in the place I am fortunate enough to live now. Yes, i was one of them. This month, as we cruise through the height of the tourism season, I am looking back at the places I remember from back then through my eyes today.

Only in the summer does this sleepy town manage to stay open and awake beyond dinnertime. Up and down the street the ice cream stores and boutiques light up and stay open until 8 or 9 to catch the last few people coming out of the movie theatre or a restaurant or those last few summer tourists wandering down the street as the evening cools down. There is, however one notable exception. And I don't mean the auto repair facility on the corner. I am talking about the store across the street from the Worldwide Headquarters, because I don't want to actually name it or single it out we will just call it The Store, with all due respect to the gas station and convenience store change by the same name.
When I was a kid and we were on vacation we always took a day to come to this little town and walk the sidewalks downtown and shop all the little stores. One of the favorites, aside from the fudge store, was The Store. The Store is unique because one cannot really put a label on it. If you want to call it a souvenir store, that's fine, but how do you account for all the knives and fishing equipment they sell? You could call it a sporting goods store but how do you account for all the jewelry and trinkets they sell? You could call it a jewelry store but then how do you account for the large selection of cheap and tawdry hats and post cards they sell? There are also bear traps for sale. And moccasins. Every store in this town sells moccasins. It's like a prerequisite or something. Also, there are always those big blow up rideable rafts shaped like a crocodile or Shamu or a pirate ship hanging outside waiting to be bought.
Anyway, every night after The Store closes obscenely early at 5 pm, there are always groups of families that I see pressed up against the big glass windows looking at all the treasures inside. Usually it's the children who lead that charge. I see them super excited looking at some sweet carving knife or turquoise earrings or maybe a stuffed animal and they are always chattering in such a hyper manner. I can only imagine what would happen if they got inside.
I have been inside, though. Many times. Even now that I live here I find myself obligated to go inside at least a couple of times a summer. There is always an elderly person in there minding the store who will always strategically position themselves so they can see what you are doing, lest you try to swipe a postcard or something, which kind of makes me laugh. There is a smell to the place that is unique only to there: I have never smelled it anywhere else ever but it is sort of like a mixture of grandmas house and dust. That explanation is not even close to being correct, it's just something one has to experience. Everything is expensive there and most of it is stuff that is for sale there and has been for as long as I can remember so it is not even in style anymore. I would be surprised if the elderly people who run the store could still remember who to call to order new merchandise to sell. For serious, some of those hats in the rack have been for sale since I used to go in there when I was a kid, back when it was more wondrous and much less cheesy than it is now.
When you are a kid though, that place is the coolest. First of all, it looks like an Old West trading post. The front of the building has undergone some sort of modification way back in the days of yore to give it that theme, and it is still that way. Inside that neat little wrapper was an absolute bevy of awesome stuff. If you were a boy you went straight to the glass counter filled with knives or maybe back by the fishing stuff if your dad took you fishing a lot. There were pocket knives with little scenes carved into the handles, there were Swiss Army knives of every sort, and there were even giant Rambo knives that you couldn't even imagine what to do with. For girls there was and is a big center counter filled with cheap jewelry that you don't know is cheap when you are a little kid because it looks so sophisticated and exotic. Everyone looks at the postcards. Everyone plays with the funky hats, which when you are young are neat. Nobody ever pays any attention to the moccasins except to say "Oh, they have moccasins here" which you aren't surprised about because you remember seeing them there last year at the exact moment that you see them this year and that dumb remark starts coming out of your mouth.
I guess that it's kind of neat that a place can remain so frozen in time for such a period of years. With each progressive year it because less neat and more kitsch, and once you start living around here it becomes more of a non-entity. I don't go there unless I am taken there by someone from out of town, and in fact the store usually just gets in my way. It is exactly between where the Worldwide Headquarters is located and where I usually park my car, so sometimes I wish it were gone. But it also serves an important role as my weather vein; I look at the roof usually in the morning to see if it's raining or if it rained at night, or to see how much snow we've got since I went to bed. So I guess it's good for that.
Even if it isn't good for selling much in the way of wares anymore, it is still very obvious, with the numbers of people staring through the windows night after night, that it is capable of sparking wonder and imagination for people young and old, but especially the young. So keep on keeping on The Store, and I hope that someday some kid who is out there peering through your windows will be standing there with his kid feeling the nostalgia come rushing back when he smells that smell. Or when his kid slaps one of those silly hats on his head.

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