A look at Gulfport Barnes and Noble since reopening during pandemic

I’ve renewed my trips to the Barnes and Noble in my hometown of Gulfport, Miss., since the bookstore reopened its doors last month.

The thing is, I don’t go there as often as I did before the damn coronavirus and I don’t spend an hour or two there like I used to. It’s more like 20 to 30 minutes.

Sure, as always, there’s plenty of cool stuff to look, such as the books pictured in the featured image at the top of the post, and people still browse as much as they want, but I can’t stand empty spaces and that’s what I’ve noticed the most during my occasional visits since 5-17-20.

Empty spaces, I suppose, are part of corona precautions and that’s appreciated. I want to feel safe and not be at an elevated risk. I saw “elevated risk” a number of times on a covid form I signed before I decided to cancel a dentist appointment two weeks ago. The two words elevated my corona anxiety and I took them as a warning that I need to reschedule.

Since this post is about a bookstore and not the dentist office, perhaps I need to explain what’s wrong with empty spaces at my Barnes and Noble.

Spaces that used to have chairs, tables and benches are empty. Empty spaces are uninviting. You don’t expect me to sit down on the floor to relax and leaf through a book or two or a magazine or three for two hours, do you? That’s not a comfy experience.

And thinking of empty spaces, why am I also thinking of the Traffic song “Empty Pages”?

So much for my prized prose. Let’s look at the pictures I took while at the store.










If I had an editor, they would probably tell me to write captions for my fine examples of photojournalism, but I don’t have an editor and I believe the pictures are self-explanatory.

I might go back to the bookstore on Tuesday, 6-9-20. As I finish this on Sunday, 6-7-20, at 6:43 p.m., I need to see how soon Cristobal clears.

Whenever I return to Barnes and Noble, I will continue to honor their corona rules and I will follow guidelines I developed for myself.

My own rules:

Never touch printed material without using the store’s hand sanitizer as long as the sanitizer doesn’t have the scent of a stinky ol’ bass pulled from the Tchoutacabouffa.

Never cough through my mask.

Never sneeze through my mask.

Never sniffle through my mask.

Make sure my nose is under my mask, though my nose isn’t disgusting.

Make sure my mask isn’t covering my eyes.


The nose rule references a tweet the actress Jane Levy made on Monday, 6-8-20-, and it’s so good, I’ll share it with you to close out this post.

How many of you miss lollygagging in Barnes and Noble?

It’s been seven weeks since I went shopping at my Barnes and Noble at Crossroads in Gulfport, Miss.

It was a Friday night and I bought a copy of Mojo Magazine’s Collectors Series: Bob Dylan 1941-1973 Revisited.

Now I’m stuck at home with the Barnes and Noble blues because of the store’s temporary closure.

Almost two months without a trip from my home. Damn Covid quarantine and self-isolation.

I miss my daily Barnes and Noble visits. The store’s Facebook page says “you can still get your books with curbside pickup through our buy online pick up in store option on bn.com, or by giving us a call at the store.”

And window displays have a similar message.

You know, I have no enthusiasm for the curb. I prefer being inside the store.

I miss lollygagging.

I miss the browsing.

I miss seeing the new book titles.

I miss seeing the new issues of magazines.

I miss the music.

I miss using Shazam to ID songs.

I miss the banter between sellers.

I miss the buzz of the cafe.

I miss the homeless.

I miss the chairs.

I missing sitting in one.

I miss the regulars.

I miss my friends.

I miss the conversations.

What about you?

Image credits: All photos by John E. Bialas, with filters from Snapseed app

Write corona song parodies to fight stay-at-home boredom

I suppose with all this extra time during the coronavirus stay-at-home quarantine, I need to be reading more books and writing more often about books.

I’ve failed. I have been writing. Silly stuff, though. Maybe it’s funny. It’s up to you.

Actually rewriting. Taking classic songs and adding COVID-19 keywords to make them part of the lyrics.

It eases my anxiety about the disease.

I do this on my Facebook posts and I will share eight of them right here.

March 24, 2020


March 26, 2020

Above: Empty parking spaces at Crossroads Shopping Center

March 28, 2020

I wonder if Elton John and Kiki Dee will reteam Sunday to debut their new coronavirus grocery shopping song “Don’t Go Taking My Cart.”


March 31, 2020

Simon and Garfunkel are redoing one of their classics for the coronavirus. It starts like this: Homebound, I wish I wasn’t. Unable to leave my house for a tour of one-night stands. Every stop was neatly planned and I had my suitcase in my hand. Now only silence before me.


April 1, 2020

Livin’ on Quarantine time
Livin’ on Quarantine time
Gonna set my watch to it
‘Cause you know I’ve never been through it
Livin’ on Quarantine time


April 4, 2020

He’s a real COVID man
Sitting in his COVID land
Making all his COVID plans
He’s a bit like you and me
COVID man please listen
The world is at your command


April 4, 2020

Tell me that you’ve got everything you want
And your Birx can sing
But you don’t get me
You don’t get me
You say you’ve seen the seven wonders
And your Birx is green
But you can’t see me
You can’t see me
When your prized possessions
Start to weigh you down
Look in my direction
I’ll be round, I’ll be round
When your Birx is broken
Will it bring you down?
You may be awoken
I’ll be round, I’ll be round
You tell me that you’ve heard every sound there is
And your Birx can swing


April 7, 2020

Well the quarantine’s got me down
I can’t get out of town
One thing I can do
And you can too
I’m going back to
Boozin’, boozin’ boozin’


The songs referenced:

“Love The One You’re With,” Stephen Stills


“Crossroads,” Cream


“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” Elton John and Kiki Dee


“Homeward Bound,” Simon and Garfunkel


“Tulsa Time,” Don Williams



“Nowhere Man,” The Beatles


“And Your Bird Can Sing,” The Beatles



“Houston,” Dean Martin

Harrison County Library System lists branch closures

Sarah Crisler-Ruskey, director of the Harrison County Library System, posted a message on the HCLS site that “we feel that closing is the best course of action to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to help protect patrons and staff.”

I saw the message on Monday, 3-16-20.

The HCLS oversees nine libraries on the Mississippi Coast and all will be closed for at least four days beginning Tuesday, 3-17-20.

Crisler-Ruskey said in her message that “this closure could be extended according to how the situation develops.”

The image at the top of this post is a screen snip of a Google map on the HCLS site and the map shows the branch locations.

I got my library card last year at the downtown Gulfport branch on 25th Avenue and I learned that one of the perks of having the card is access to Hoopla, a digital service for borrowing ebooks, audiobooks, comics, movies, TV shows and music.

I have the Hoopla app on my Hewlett-Packard laptop, Apple iPhone and Apple iPad, and Hoopla will remain open 24/7 during the virus crisis. Looking at the bright side of life, I believe it’s time to start reading one or two of the titles on my ever-growing TBR.

If you use Hoopla, I would like to know what you think of it. I welcome your comments.

About the odd Barnes and Noble email to customers

Barnes & Noble sent me an email after 8 p.m. on Friday, 3-13-20, and I read it on my iPhone while I just happened to be in its store in Gulfport, Miss., only a few miles north from my home.

I thought maybe I was getting an unprecedented deal to remain loyal to B&N during the coronavirus crisis. You know, because I have frequented B&N stores since 1994, perhaps 80% percent off a purchase to distract me from all the overwhelming news about the disease.

Dream on.

The email, which I hope you can see at the top of this post, was related to the pandemic, but in an oddball sort of way, it didn’t mention the coronavirus and the message ended before it ever got started.

It’s like a B&N employee in public relations or marketing hit send before the writer was finished with the email.

I kept tapping my iPhone screen to see if there was more, but nothing else was there.

On Saturday, 3-14-20-, I went to the help section of the B&N website and it has a message that delivers what customers want to know.

I took a screenshot of it to share with you.

Unlike the email, the website message is a noble corporate effort.

OK, now I’m feeling a lot better, though I wonder if the email sender is OK.

Songs heard on a soothing Saturday night in the bookstore

I enjoyed leafing through the new James McBride novel “Deacon King Kong,” the 2016 Rachel Cusk novel “Transit” and the latest issue of the Paris Review while I was at the bookstore in Gulfport on Saturday night, 3-7-20, but what really caught my attention was the recorded music the store was playing on its overhead sound system.

I had to resort to the Shazam app on my iPhone to ID the artists when I was in the store and then at home on Sunday afternoon I went to YouTube to come up with a playlist of the songs I heard.

I’ve listed the songs in the order I heard and identified them.

“To Go Home,” M. Ward


“Amie,” Counting Crows


“Two of Us,” Aimee Mann and Michael Penn


“T-Bone Shuffle,” T-Bone Walker


“Every Night,” Jason Collett


“Sunday Morning,” Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs


“See See Baby,” Freddy King


“Rhiannon,” Best Coast


“Touch of Grey,” The War On Drugs


“Moon River,” The Innocence Mission

Most of the songs have something in common and all soothe the soul.

Can you guess what most of the songs have in common? I welcome your answers.

Featured image credit: Courtesy of Canva

A woman tries to panhandle a reader in Barnes & Noble

A basket of books in Barnes & Noble in Gulfport, Miss.

I sat in a chair in one of my favorite spots in the middle of Barnes & Noble in Gulfport on Friday, 1-31-20.

It was 5:15 p.m. and I was in the area of the bookstore that has two brown hardwood chairs and a small black table between them. The seating arrangement is in front of the Personal Growth section and just steps away from the cafe.

I had a copy of “Agency,” William Gibson’s new novel, and was intending to read the first five pages until I sensed a person walking toward me.

I looked up and saw a 40ish blonde woman in casual attire carrying a basket that had eight books and I assumed she was going to sit in the other chair, place the basket on the table and browse through the books.

Instead, she stood in front of me and tried to panhandle me.

She asked if I would give her $12 to help her pay for the books in the basket. She said she works at the Applebee’s down the road and if I gave her the money, she would reimburse me if I saw her at her place of work.

I told her I had no money and that if you have the time, you can read for free in the store. I do that all the time, though I’ve never read an entire book in Barnes & Noble. I believe a seller would have me arrested for a breach of etiquette.

After I declined to give the woman $12, I never saw her again, although 15 minutes later, I noticed she had left her basket on a display table across from where I was sitting. I took a picture of the basket, which had about half the books I saw earlier, and I have the photo as the featured image for this post.

I was unable to get past the first two pages of Gibson’s novel because the woman had distracted me.

I considered telling a seller about my experience, but I left the store without saying anything to anyone, though I texted my wife and daughter about what happened.

Maybe the next time I’m in the store, I will tell a seller about the panhandler.

Now, I would like to hear from you. How would you have dealt with the incident? Would you have reported it and how would you have done that?

6 of the best signatures in 2019 B & N signed editions

OK. This is my first 2020 post about books, but I’m going back to the 2019 holiday shopping season to show you six of the best signatures in the Barnes & Noble signed editions launched before Black Friday.

One week before Christmas, I was in Barnes & Noble in Gulfport browsing through signed editions and judging the quality of the penmanship. Bad signatures were easy to find and I documented six of the worst in my Dec. 13, 2019 post. Please read it after this article.

In my in-depth study, which I completed because of my ample retirement downtime, I came up with a ratio of bad to good signatures and my unproven calculation was 6 to 1.

You know, when it’s that one-sided, it’s unfair to expect book lovers to purchase a memoir or a novel in which the author scribble-scrabbled their name. If the signature is illegible, give me at least a 60% discount and then I might think about buying the signed edition.

So now it’s time to move on to what I liked. I found good places to hide from the sellers at Barnes & Noble to take pictures of six of the best 2019 B & N signed editions and at home, I went to the B & N website for snips of the book covers. I’m hoping I broke no laws during the entire process.


Atticus

In the poetry section at the store, I noticed the name Atticus and figured he must be a Greek scholar or a Roman scholar before I looked at his latest book, “The Truth About Magic,” and saw it was a signed copy.

I realized Atticus is a 21st-century man and it’s impossible that he is a contemporary of Sophocles, who died in 406/5 BC without leaving us any inscribed manuscripts for our perusal and pleasure.

Attticus is a Canadian Instagrammer who has written three books of poems and the Globe and Mail published an interesting profile about him in 2017, saying he “has kept his identity under wraps, even as his poet persona has exploded.”

Atticus merch may never be under wraps. At his website, you can shop for Atticus clothing, Atticus prints, Atticus accessories and Atticus wine. His books are also available, and while you’re visiting the site, you can check out his podcast.

I’m getting off the track. I’m supposed to write words about his signature, so here I go: Sure, it’s abstract, but abstract art is beautiful and his autograph is exceptional signature art. Holly Black, a gallerist who consults Christie’s, might say the signature has the spirit of the early Renaissance, when “a signature was the perfect way to differentiate your talent from that of lesser peers.”


Flea

That’s not Flea as in Fleabag.

That’s Flea as in the bassist the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the signature appears in his atypical rock memoir, “Acid for the Children.”

Can he not write cursive? I don’t know, but I like the doo-hickey under his name. It’s artful, original and relatable. You know, if he can do that and get money for it, I can do that, too, but my scratchy symbol will be free, just like this blog.


Jeannie Gaffigan

Gaffigan is a comedy writer and producer and the wife of comedian Jim Gaffigan and they are the parents of five children.

Her signature appears in her memoir, “When Life Gives You Pears,” which Publishers Weekly describes as “a surprisingly hilarious story about surviving a brain tumor.”

I admire her for writing her story and I also admire her handwriting. Her signature will help sell copies, not that I need a signed one for me to read “When Life Gives You Pears.”


Lora Koehler

I’m sorry the letters above the signature impeded this fine example of photojournalism. The angular nature of the autograph made it a daunting challenge for me.

Koehler is a children’s author and librarian who lives in Salt Lake City, and her signature is in “The Little Snowplow Wishes for Snow,” which she created with illustrator Jake Parker. The book is a sequel to their 2015 best-seller, “The Little Snowplow.”

In South Mississippi, many people wish for snow this time of year, though I’m not one of them, and we have no snowplows of any size. We have air conditioners and ours is running at 72 degrees as I write this.


Pat and Jen

Pat and Jen are best known as YouTube sensations because of PopularMMOs, their Minecraft-inspired channel.

They also have two graphic novels and their latest is “PopularMMOs Presents Enter the Mine,” for ages 8 to 12.

My 8-year-old grandson might understand this stuff. I don’t.

I appreciate the signatures, their Christmas colors and Jen’s J flair.


Andrea Barber

This is the prettiest of the six signatures featured in this post and it appears inside Barber’s memoir, “Full Circle: From Hollywood to Real Life and Back Again.”

Barber is an actress and 1980s and ’90s children remember her from the sitcom “Full House.” Her most recent TV show is the “Full House spinoff, “Fuller House” on Netflix.

I love that Barber wrote her signature in blue because that is my favorite color and I’ll give her a pass for the way she wrote her last name. I like the way she wrote her first and the little symbol she put above it, though I can’t tell if the mark is a butterfly, a flower or a butterfly flower.

You can get the book now at the B & N site for 50% off, which is $13.50. Heck, the autograph alone would be worth more than $13.50 to me.


In my Dec. 13 post about the six of the worst signed editions, I gave clues but I didn’t reveal the identity of the writers and their books. Now it’s time to do that. You’ll see the clues and the terrible signatures if you missed them the first time and the book covers will be the reveal.


Get back, JoJo


Sprinting for the scissors


10,000 hours of practice and this is the result


MAD-oh


Barry bad


Name sounds like album


What do you think about the 2019 Barnes & Noble signed editions? You’re welcome to comment on any of them, not just the 12 that I wrote about.

I will appreciate your replies.