I found a small jar at a secondhand store the other day, labelled a “journal jar” and inside it was scores, if not hundreds of tiny slips of paper, each with a writing prompt on it. The idea is that if you write one of these ideas per day, at the end of the jar you’ll have an autobiography of sorts that you can collate and show people. Well I’m not sure I wanna do anything so mundane as write my autobiography, but having writing prompts is probably a good thing, so I am going to use some of them to make some entries here in my blog. But even more than that… As a writing exercise, and to get myself back into the swing of things, I am going to answer these prompts as best I can in one of my main characters’ voices over on my Author blog! Yup, two answers from one prompt, one here and one over at my other blog, which can be found at josielebeau.com, my new Author website. Hope you enjoy them both!
Question: Describe a trip downtown as a young person. Describe walking down the main street.
A: Well, I’m going to set this in Missoula, MT, since the majority of my youth was spent there, though not the entirety of it. When I think of myself as a young person, I always picture myself in Missoula. I can’t really picture a specific “main street” that stands out from the others, more of a “downtown” general feel. There was the library, that was always exciting, and I never came away from the library empty-handed even though I never had any money.
See, the main thing that springs to my mind about “downtown” is that it is a shopping district in most cities, and the thing about my youth is that I didn’t get to shop. So the two concepts don’t really go together all that well. So for me, “a trip downtown” as a young person would consist mainly of sitting in the car with one grown-up while another grown-up went into a store and did paperwork or purchased something they needed or accomplished something else important to a grown-up. It doesn’t incite any feelings of nostalgia or excitement in me, it was just a question of behaving until we got home, and maybe, if I was lucky, they’d need to go to the bank. If I was really good, and they went to the bank, and they remembered I was there (so well-behaved, but not invisible), then maybe I would get a lollipop.
Nowadays, the idea of downtown Missoula is quite thrilling. There are bookstores, coffeshops, herbalists, an import market, etcetera, that make it all a fun, entertaining day. But I’m not a kid anymore. As a kid, the exciting part, I’d have to say, was going to the library, because the bank was only sometimes, and only a maybe. The library, on the other hand, was always a treasure trove, jackpot, and gala celebration all rolled into one. I couldn’t get enough of the library. I saw a meme recently that talked about every book being a TARDIS (Dr. Who’s time machine, for those not in the know): it’s small and modest-looking on the outside, but on the inside, it’s much bigger, and can transport you anywhere in time and space. It’s really true. I love books, and always have. I have a Kindle, yes, but that’s just for convenience. There’s something special about an actual paper book that just can’t be replicated.
The Taj Mahal, when it was first built, was built with perfume, did you know that? They put perfume right into the mortar they made the bricks with. Truth. The whole building was scented. Now, it may have been a bit much at the time, I don’t know, wasn’t there, but I do know that smell is the most evocative sense we have for memory. Scientists have studied that, and I have no reason to doubt it, having experienced it empirically. Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that I think before they ever made the first Kindle, they should have Taj Mahal’ed it. They should have found a way to capture the smell of an old, musty paper book and mixed that scent right into the plastic case of the ebook. People would have paid ten times as much for it, I betcha. “NOW with REAL PAPER scent!”
I want a paper perfume. That would turn me on. They have “Old Navy,” why can’t they make “Old Library”? My mind just comes alive when I smell book. Yes, that’s the memory of my youth, and of “downtown.” The Public Library, which to me is as sacred, if not more sacred, than any temple or church.
Thank you for reading, and please be sure to stop by my Author website, which is now live, though it still has a few pages yet to be built, the main body of the site is up and running, and the blog is very much live. I have answered this same question from the perspective of my main character, Morgan on the blog over there, so please come and read and tell me what you think! josielebeau.com/wp is the place to find it! Hope to see you all there!