Man about Willits: Source: The Willits News 1/19/2017
I love books. I especially love older volumes and the musty, used variety.
Back in 1981, Ted Turner, the founder of CNN and famous media mogul, was quoted saying newspapers would be gone in 10 years. I am guessing his assessment was probably based on the emergence of new technologies at the time, and on the rising popularity of cable television. Now, cable TV is all but dead, replaced by streaming services and other technologies.
I am a newspaper print guy and I realize that compared to the younger generation, I could be equated with a dying breed, the traditionalist who prefers the printed page to the shiny new gadget, tablet or e-reader.
The last few months have been pretty busy professionally for me, I am still getting acclimated to Mendocino County and to Willits specifically. There has been no shortage of significant events to cover since my arrival in the fall, but in the wake of last week’s storms and before this week’s ongoing precipitation, there was a lull in the weather. I stepped out of my office to stroll down Main Street, take in the sliver of sunlight and to walk to a favorite new destination: The used bookstore.
After a filling lunch at the Mexican restaurant near my bank, I popped into the bookstore to briefly disappear into the stacks for the balance of my lunch break. It was the perfect respite from the deadlines, interviews, emails and the other responsibilities of the typical work day.
Whenever I find a new bookstore I always make it a point to scope out the section on games looking for tomes on chess. Willits is pretty well stocked when it comes to the books I enjoy reading.
I have heard it said that there are more books printed on chess strategy, history, tactics and tournaments than any other topic, except perhaps religion and the Bible. I probably read that bit of trivia somewhere.
When I visit a library, I always head to the section labeled .794 under the Dewey Decimal system first, because I know that is where all the chess books are hidden, like rare gems in a buccaneer’s treasure chest. I also love biographies and screen writing books. Maybe my movie script will be completed in 2017.
Sadly, bookstores have been going the way of the dinosaurs, brick and mortar stores and mom and pop businesses replaced by Amazon, Google gadgets and technology. According to the illiteracy statistics compiled by the Static Brain Research Institute, based on research undertaken by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy last year, there are still 32,000 adults in our country who cannot read; 14 percent can’t read above a basic level.
A staggering 44 percent of U.S. adults can only read at an intermediate level of proficiency and studies have shown close to 20 percent of high school graduates are illiterate. I remember sitting in my high school French class reading “The Little Prince” in its original French and in my A.P. English class pouring through the works of Shakespeare, Orwell and other classics. I cannot fathom being in a classroom without the ability to understand the printed page.
I have always believed there is something irrefutably sad about a society where anyone can tell you the latest exploits of the Kardashians, but are at a loss when asked who wrote “Moby Dick” or to recite a line from Shakespeare’s 18th sonnet without pulling out their iPhone or asking the all-mighty Google.
Then again, I am “old school.” I sat in a freshman high school class learning to type the “home row” keys and just yesterday was having a conversation with a co-worker about the days when we needed a landline to be able to use the Internet.
I love books, the tactile nature of their texture and feel, and I even love the way an old book smells. The fictional librarian in the old Buffy show Rupert Giles said “books smell like knowledge.”
He said the problem with computers is they don’t smell. I think he was absolutely right. Conversely, I think my college journalism teacher was wrong when she adopted the mantra “print is dead.” Print and newspapers are alive and well in Willits, California and in Lake Jackson, Texas where I worked as a reporter two years ago and they are also still viable in Northern New Mexico where they are sold on street corners, much like they were a century ago. It looks like books and newspapers have some life in them yet. Ted Turner was dead wrong as a prognosticator, fortunately for us old souls who still love curling in a corner with a favorite book.