There's a nature park not so far from my house. It's a beautiful place and I walk there whenever possible. Like when the temperature is well below sixty degrees. Across the street is a shopping center where there is the AMC 24 Theater, where I like to see movies. There is also a Books-a-Million there. On weekends I like to walk, and then go to a movie. If time permits, I drop in the bookstore too. That was my intention today.

I drove up and the writing was on the wall. Well, more precisely it was on the window: CLOSED. It can't have been closed for long and I didn't see or hear about any Going Out of Business Sale. It was just...gone.

It saddens me on numerous levels. Bookstores are sacred places and every time one of them closes, the world is a sadder, lonelier, place.

I never minded the chain bookstores as much as others did. That's for one very good reason. We never had any independent bookstores in my area. There was one I remember, but it was one of those little-old-lady places that has more knickknacks than actual books.

I always shopped at the chains. It's not like I had a choice. We had WaldenBooks and B. Dalton Booksellers. I loved B. Dalton the best, so of course it was the first to go. Dalton was the only place near me that sold David B. Silva's The Horror Show. I used to buy it there, as well as The Twilight Zone Magazine and Fangoria.

I had WaldenBooks after that, and I liked it. Then in the 90's, we got a big Barnes and Noble. I loved it. I went every single week.

Sometime around the year 2000 the Books-a-Million opened its doors. That was the year I was married. I distinctly remember buying a couple of paperbacks just before the wedding. Money was tight and I should not have been buying books, but then we never could resist that, could we? The books I got were Richard Laymon's The Stake, and Bentley Little's The Town.

My ex-wife and I camped for our honeymoon and I enjoyed reading The Town while I was on it. If there was a happier, more content time in my life, I sure don't know what it was.

Later, we'd go out to eat on Friday nights, and then hit Books-a-Million. The ex and I would get coffee (tea for me) and the kids would search the books and play in the children's activity area. Those were the days, my friends. How I wish they never ended.

But children grow up. Relationships crumble. Bookstores close down.

At least there's still a Barnes and Noble and I'll do my best to help keep them in business. And the AMC Theater is there, where I saw a terrific movie this morning. Sure I hate that it closed down some venerable independent theaters, but at least there is a place I can go and watch a movie on a big screen with a real, actual audience. If current trends persist, I won't be able to say the same about going out and buying a book. The saddest thing of all is how few readers seem to care.

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