Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Ballad of No Book Stores on the Streets of Laredo

Moonrise over Laredo, Texas as the sun sets over its book trade.
Recent events in Laredo, Texas have compelled Tex Rex, King of the Singing Cowboys, to step out of retirement from his home on the range and croon the ballad of sad book-café about a big American city now scandalously - incredibly - without a single book shop; unbelievable but true.

As I walked out on the streets of Laredo
As I walked out on Laredo one day
I spied an old book shop all shuttered and closed down
Shuttered and closed down all night and all day.

I see by this closing that books have lost out here
That Barnes and pal Noble were the last to shut down
A sad state here that folks here now have a new dark fear
That books old and new have vamoosed from this town.

The 2-50-times-thousand who call this place our land
Are concerned that they’ll all look like dumb ignorant hicks
Thought just poor, Mex'can migrants, who crossed the Rio, hope grand,
To find better life in the hot Texas sticks.

That's not true, says the city's chief spokeswoman,
Xochitl Mora, who spearheads a "Laredo Reads" scheme
The people who breed here do read here, says the comely folks-yeoman,
But big business suits who sell books just don’t get what I mean.

The ol’ H.E.B. Grocery is what passes for book mart
(Is it possible, dare I ask it, that the owner is Heeb?)
Book signings occur near the Fritos and cook's cart
Right next to the produce and fine fresh-kill grebe.

Border town without Borders needs a bookslinger in saddle
Some dude (or dude-ess) who has books on the brain
Someone with moxie (from Biloxi?) who does not easily rattle
To start indie shop, own the book trade, and make it domain.

Fat chance, say the wise-men who know all the skinny
You’ll never compete with Net prices, oh no
Start this biz up, it dies, and you’re really a ninny
There’ll be a chorus of many to say, told you so.

But this burg in a county with mere 48% base lit skill
Still has 52% on the rolls who can and do read
They want culture that books bring to pedigree-need ville
They’re tired of cracks re: hayseed who can live sans book-feed.

They fear kids here with no books dear will not reach the mind's frontier
They'll soon lack the gumption to git up and go
So, desperate and anxious, they yearn for some book cheer
A hard-covered savior, tomes in large portmanteau.

Saddle up! Saddle up! And beat the drum slowly

As you dare the trade in this book-forlorn town
Play the dead march as you sell used books so lowly
Yet welcome here whether up or downtown.

And they beat, and they beat, and they beat the drums slowly, situation unholy
Events have conspired through no fault of their own
Beyond comprehension big-town papes nary mention

A big city without book stores is a city alone.

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