California being what it is and the Bay Area being California-times-10, most folks aren't from around here. Northern California has always been a magnet for the wanderer or those looking for a change. It's what makes us awesome. All that intelligent, creative, daring flotsam and jetsam washing up on our Pacific Brace and deciding to call it home.
Because of this, I often get asked where I'm from. I reply that I was born in Oakland and raised in Hayward. I am a novelty for most. That rare creature, a Bay Area native.
Having lived in Hayward, and being like almost all native East Bay denizens, I had a chip on my shoulder about San Francisco. It was never SF or The City, it was 'Frisco. Precisely because we all knew the ire it raised. Of course in the 70's we had the Oakland A's and Raiders, winners of the World Series and Super Bowl long before those trophies were ever raised in San Francisco.
But I digress.
In Hayward, we had something else no one had. A cool, funky and fun used book store that I knew as the Book Shop on B street. This magical place had already been around two decades before I visited for the first time in 1982. I was 13 and the visit changed me and how I viewed the word "used" forever.
Like most teens, I felt "used" was something to be avoided. This was amplified for me because I grew up poor. Hand-me-down clothes and government cheese and butter were staples in my life. While grateful for not having to go without or go hungry, I still longed for things that were owned by me first.
I had been given a ten speed bike from one of my cousins the Christmas prior and this was one recycled gift I didn't care who owned first. I reveled in the newfound freedom a bike afforded. It made the long trek to school easier and downtown and Southland Mall accessible.
I also had my own pocket money. I had started delivering the Dollar Saver once the bike came into my posession. A local penny paper full of coupons and adds for small home-based businesses. My route was huge, 500 papers for which I was paid $15 every two weeks.
I felt like I was rich.
One warm spring Saturday, not long after my 13th birthday, I ventured out on my two wheeled steed to the bookstore I'd seen so many times from the back seat of our old Chevy Nova. For those that don't know downtown Hayward, B street was a busy road that was at the heart of town. Though Hayward was a town of 85,000 when I moved there as a child, B street had a classic small town America feel.
I parked my bike and walked in, the 30 dollars cash I had in my pocket eager to spring forth. The store was exactly as I imagined from the backseat of the family car. High shelves lined with books upon books upon books. As I walked through the aisles, a smile grew upon my face as I realized, unlike the library, I didn't have to bring back the treasures found here.
There I found what I came looking for. A copy of To Kill A Mockingbird. I had seen this same book new at Southland Mall for $12.99. As I turned back the cover to find the penciled in price of 6.00 I had the immediate realization that "used" wasn't such a bad thing after all. As I placed a few more books on my stack, I saw that my money was going to go a lot farther here than at any new book store.
As I took my stack up to the counter, a wizened gentleman look down at me and smiled. "Found some treasures did you?" he inquired. "Who knew knowledge could be so cheap?" I replied. He winced and corrected, "Inexpensive. Knowledge young man is never cheap." The truth in his words proved by hard won experience, have lasted with me.
We completed the transaction and I left with a backpack full of books and some money still in my pocket. More importantly, I learned that the value of new or used was all in my perception. I'm so grateful that the Universe gave me that object lesson so early in life.
So now here I am. An owner, along with my husband, of two used book stores that carry the name of our favorite book. The very first book I bought with my own money in my hometown used book store nearly 35 years ago.
In my previous blog post about Harper, her amazing book and the inspiration it provided, I noticed a single word comment posted on our stores' Facebook page. It said simply, "Beautiful". Someone at the Book Shop liked what I wrote.
Sometimes, the Universe leaves you in awe.