Archive for September, 2011

a world without borders


The first bookstore experience I truly remember, aside from buying a Goosebumps book a week at the grocery store when I was in the 3rd grade, was in a store called Dalton’s in North Olmsted, Ohio. I was in the 7th grade and I knew I wanted to start reading again, but in the face of such a wide selection, I didn’t know where to start. Somehow I made my way to the fantasy section and noticed a neat cover with an armored dwarf, an elf, and what I thought at the time to be a terribly ugly woman (I would later realize, much to my dismay, that it was actually my favorite male character in the series). I read the synopsis on the back that talked about dwarves, elves, and a race of creatures with wings of flame, and I was hooked.

borders in Crocker ParkSince then, I have spent more time in bookstores in the Cleveland area than I care to admit. Foremost among these bookstores was Borders Books & Music. Red lettering on a large brick wall with vines growing up the side. Oddly placed from my perspective, with me not realizing for years that I was really walking in from the back end of the store and not the main entrance (once I was inside I didn’t really pay attention to the outside world, so you’ll forgive me my prolonged ignorance on the matter, I hope). This was where I came when I had finished a novel in a fantasy series and needed the next one in line. This was where I came on weekends to dwell for hours at a time, until I realized that I had four or ten books in my hands, all of which I knew I couldn’t buy. This was where I came at times for just a little peace of mind in a fast-moving world.

Borders represents a hugely important role in my childhood and development, however corny that sounds. This was where I grew to love the written word, where I learned the value of books, where I discovered my own passion. One of my favorite things to do would be to go to the fantasy section, find the books whose authors’ last names started with “H”, and imagine my name there with all the rest:

Jeffrey Michael Hirz, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

I would daydream about having my name on the shelf next to the likes of Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, J.R.R. Tolkien, R.A. Salvatore, and all the other legends who have inspired me through their work. I eagerly anticipated the day I would share valuable bookshelf space with them, simultaneously competing for the reader’s attention and complementing their presence with my own.

But now it’s gone. Borders is out of business, and a place of personal solace has disappeared. Sure, there’s still Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million and all that. But it’s not the same. Borders, for me, was there from the start, nurturing my intellectual growth and unwittingly stoking my passion. Frankly, for all the money I poured into that company I’m surprised they went under. Figured my weekly contributions would keep it afloat. I must have been mistaken.

So I bid thee adieu, Borders Books & Music. Thank you for the many years of invaluable service provided, knowledge imparted, and passion jumpstarted.



the smell


The smell.

That’s what I always notice first about the rain. Not the feel of it on my skin. Not the sound of it on the tin awning outside the window. Not even the sight of it drifting in sheets through the orange glow of the solitary streetlight. It’s the smell that sends that wholesome reverberation, starting at the nose, throughout the body.

There’s a purity to the rain, to water. Perhaps it’s the analogous “washing away” of filth, of past sins. We feel clean after water has touched our skin. We feel either energized or refreshed (or both). Whether it’s a hot shower, playing with bubbles in our bath as children, or midnight skinny dipping with friends in the lake. No matter the source, the disposition, or the quantity, there’s a purity and a constancy to its effects on the allegorical soul.

I enjoy the simple pleasure of standing in the rain on purpose. It’s not that I feel purified or some such nonsense. It’s just nice to feel the steady rhythm of nature’s beating drum on my skin, in my hair, on my lips, reminding me that no matter what happened that day or night, the world continues to function, much as it did before I drew my first wailing breath, and much as it will after the memory of my existence is forgotten. The rain allows me to reflect on the inconsequential events of my life, and just be content to have experienced anything at all. Thus am I able to make peace with my own inevitable death.

But no matter what, even after the last drop evaporates from my skin, even after the last pattering sounds its final dirge on the tin awning, and even after the last faint glistening reflected in that streetlight glow disappears, no matter what, the smell lingers.