Fargo

On cold days like this, when the wind rises in a battle against the house and trees, pulling the flakes out of the sky and piling them, no, tamping them down, in drifts across the driveway, I think of Fargo. Sometimes, I think of Minot, but I’m more familiar with Fargo. I had to take a business trip there recently, and it was snowstorm on the way in, and running from the snow on the way out.

It wasn’t all bad, though. It was a good week to catch up with work mates, the food was tasty, and on top of that, Fargo has a few decent book stores. All the places I travel, especially for business, I try to hunt down the good stores. Barnes and Noble and the other national stores are okay, but, really, I enjoy the treasure-hunting experience.

On Monday of that week, I was using my phone’s map app to find the best way to the hotel in West Fargo. In some ways, I miss the old paper maps, but roads change so much these days, the GPS does make driving that much easier. Still, the drive by drive has a couple of drawbacks, as I see it. In the first place, I enjoy history, so it’s kind of cool when I can see where a road used to be, and wonder why it was changed. If the road is local, I might even know about the change, like the county roads at Asbury, near Granite Falls. But, in some place unfamiliar, it’s nice to know this history, and the continually updated gizmo lacks that. More importantly, though, the turn-by-turn instructions get really bossy when one deviates from the pronouncements. When it is wrong, it gets worse. That’s how I ended up at Duluth Trading before reaching the hotel.

“Turn right on Veterans Avenue”, it said.

“I can’t”, I said. (Does anyone else talk back to the GPS thingy?). In actuality, though, I couldn’t. A right turn was to follow Ninth Avenue, if memory serves. Now, I could go left on Veterans, so I did. And you might know how it is, once you commit to a lane in a larger city. Once you take a lane, it’s yours. No changing until the next block or two.

“In 300 feet, make a u-turn on Veterans Avenue”, it said.

“Right, like that’s going to happen.”

Oh, wait, I says to myself. I’ll just go up to this next light, take a right, and drive past Costco. Oh, and hey, Duluth Trading. I could use a break; maybe take a breather.

I’m not much of a shopper, really, but I did feel better after browsing through the recently opened store. Online acquisition is convenient, but give me a face-to-face experience any day. My wife does pretty well online, but I guess I’m old school when it comes to clothes.

Anyway, upon leaving the store lot, I saw the hotel across the freeway. That was easy. For my part, I could tell stories about adventures in checking into hotels (and motels are worse). The place was nice, but after hearing “I’m with the railroad”, I was re-directed to “the other side” of the hotel. Hmmph. “Not good enough for THIS side, eh?” (I says to myself). Again, I refer the reader to the stories, but actually, the OTHER side, the Homewood Suites was quite nice, probably better than what I had expected. We rarely had fridges in the rooms when I first started, much less a full kitchen. So that was cool.

The people part is always good, though to be frank, I’m more of a quiet guy than I let myself think most of the time. Plus, of course, I’m away from home and miss my wife and family. A lot of these people I rarely see anymore have watched my back hundreds of times, and we’ve kept each other safe and alive. Seafood and steak makes for good conversation.

In case anybody’s wondering about the books, I’m getting to it. I was mainly looking for another copy or two of Aaron Copland’s “What to Listen for in Music.”  We have budding musicians in the house, and we also have a group of friends talking about the book. Thankfully, I had the LIBRARY THING app on my phone so I could look on my wish list when Copland’s book was nowhere except the new stores.

I found a couple of return worthy stores, in any case. I didn’t have time for more places I could have gone. The first store was, let me see, about ten feet by ten feet square. The picture on Yelp made it look bigger, but it had a decent variety for the size. In fact, I added to my Lewis and Clark books with Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose ($4), and a fun little book about various shops in London. I doubt I’ll ever get there, but for one dollar, it was a really good find. The store? Books at a Fifth in West Fargo, ND, just off of 13th Ave. South. I hope the store is there for years to come.

During my time at Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa, one of the well-known book stores in Des Moines, Iowa, was Bob’s Books. It was so well known that, if a student didn’t have the money to buy books from the college store, Bob’s may very well have bought the book from a former student and have it shelved according to narrow subject. The other store I found in Fargo reminded me of Bob’s. It was BDS Books, at 1200 1st Avenue N., in Fargo. Some people might think it looks cluttered, and I’m not sure the owner has the collection in a database, BUT it is a book lover’s store. I asked about the Copland, and he recognized the title. Sadly, he had just sold a copy.

“Hmm. Well, maybe I’ll see what I have in my wish list that you might have.” The first one I came to was “Blue Highways”, by William Least Heat Moon.

“Ah”, he said. “Now I do have that. That’s a great book.”

“I was hoping so”, I said. “I can’t remember where I saw the recommendation, but it has been on my list for awhile.”

“Well. He was having relationship troubles, see, and his job was eliminated. So, he goes on the road, on a cross-country trip.”

“Hmm”

“He writes about driving through North Dakota, in fact, on Highway 2. Broke down with his van, and a long ways from a parts store”.

“It is pretty desolate across that way.”

“Yes, and you’ll want to make sure you read the first part where he talks about the reason for the title of the book, and about where he gets his name…. Anything else lI can find for you?”

I glance back at my app, and figure how much I can spend. I had budgeted for a paper-back copy of “Blue Highways”, and this is cloth bound. Still, I did want to read it, and it was right there in my hand.

“Well, what do you have for anything by C.S. Lewis?” He takes me over to that section. I saw “Surprised by Joy”, and a set of the Space Trilogy that isn’t dog-eared and rabbit-chewed. Across the aisle, I saw Reformation writers I recognized and Catholic writers, too. Then, I wander to the biographies and history sections. Salivating, almost, I decide, “No, I’ll have to come back another time.”

“Come back again when you can pick up the Lewis, then”, he says cheerfully after I pay him.

D.V., I’m sure I will.