I pulled into the dusty parking lot of the old bookstore, The Bookery, located in the small town ofSocorro, a place butted up against the US-Mexican border. For some people reading this, well, you know exactly where I’m talking about.
You know the sound the wind makes when it blows through brown cotton fields this time of year; you’re familiar with the smell of wet adobe after it has rained. You know that this is one of those places that epitomizes the saying: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
For everyone else, well, Socorro is one of the many stops along the Mission Trail; everywhere you look there are remnants from the past. Right in front of The Bookery, for example, rests a historical marker. The building is known as “Casa Ortiz” and some sources indicate that it was built in the 1700’s. Across the street is believed to be the first movie theater in the entire area.
The mid-day sun is deceptive; it’s not cold enough to see your breath but your nose will turn red if you stay outside too long. As I make my way along the front walk to the porch sits a woman named Margaret, who runs The Bookery. It’s the only independent bookstore inEl PasoCounty.
Margaret is a self-proclaimed hippie from another generation, a free-spirited soul one seeks out to gain knowledge from, get a good book recommendation or just hear a nice story. Chances are pretty good that even if you don’t want to hear a good story, well, you’ll hear one anyway.
“You want to hear something funny?” she says with a rasp. It’s her signature opening line; there’s laughter in her blue eyes and, like the piles and piles of books inside the bookstore, from local authors to national best sellers, you know you’re in for something good.
In my case, she wants to see my book, Night Rhythms, to see if it’s worthy to be on her store shelves. I’m not sure what to expect, I’m a bit uneasy but it’s a visit I have to make. It’s sort of like my first time going to Confession, hoping that I can remember all my wrongs as well as all the prayers I was forced to say afterwards. Margaret begins to flip through the pages, takes a deep breath and says, “Why don’t you go inside and walk around for a few minutes.”
Has she dismissed me? Or does she do her evaluating alone? Is she messing with my mind?
Inside the store there are trinkets of all kinds, shelves full of colorful books, decorations, puppets and artwork. I’m in a time capsule, I mutter to myself. I see that she carries the books of some of my local author heroes who have inspired me, people like Ben Saenz and Sergio Troncoso.
She calls me back outside to the porch. Actually, she called me Carlos, but given I was the only soul in the place, assumed she was talking to me. Nevertheless I didn’t take it as a good sign.
Margaret lit a cigarette and offered me one the way a Russian officer does to a prisoner before ordering the execution. It was at this point when I expected to hear the bad news.
“Listen, I’ll order some copies of your book and recommend that teachers have it in their classrooms, too,” she said. “But you have to promise me that you’ll do a reading here.”
She went on to explain how business has slowed for her, how she won’t be around forever and that The Bookery needs to thrive when she’s long gone. The rumor now is that The City of Socorro is looking to purchase the store and hopefully keep it open. For those who have not visited her, I encourage you to do so – especially if you are a teacher (can you say, “Discount?”).
There aren’t many places like The Bookery left. I strongly encourage you to support it any way that you can. It’s one of those places we can’t afford to lose.