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Thursday, 2.17.05: The Un-Cosmopolitan

Some days I get that feeling that I truly have become one of those mythical people who retire from the Big City to open their small town shop. Bill's Bait and Tackle. June's Jolly Junque Shoppe.

A couple of movies come to mind: the one with Diane Keaton (high-powered woman inherits her sister's baby and she [fast forward] starts selling jam or something in a country store). And the other one with Jack Nicholson (workaholic cop forced to retire in the middle of a big case opens up a gas station in the country -- he really is still on the case, of course).

These movies are irrelevant to my situation (hers is about feminism, his turns into tragedy), yet they reflect some kind of American archetype. A coming of age story is about the small town kid moving to the big city. A coming to your senses story is about abandoning the big city and scaling down.

Filmmaking feels like a second career -- youthful and urbane. Shopkeeping feels post-career -- dowdy and fussy -- but, as I've said before, I'm loving it. Sitting here in my sweatpants and green checked flannel shirt over a mauve turtleneck, I'm definitely dowdy. But I am sitting in a Herman Miller Aeron chair, so I get urbanity points for that.

And the fussiness! I've definitely slipped into the Marion the Librarian mode. Brisk sales plus middle-age memory fatigue requires me to keep track of things just so. Invoices with my checklist stapled to the lower corner. Folder for those waiting for payment. Pile for those paid & mailed, waiting to be recorded on the spreadsheet. Folder for completed sales. Procrastination on any of my self-imposed bureaucratic steps quickly results in a frustrating sense of disorganization and loss of control.

But my stock -- every item -- is so fascinating to me that the fussy little structure I've built around it feels pleasant, like pasting odd-shaped memorabilia into a bound scrapbook.

I'm glad I don't run one of those small town collectible shops in physical space. I've walked through too many and find them depressing. The good stuff disappears quickly and all you see are the dusty leftovers. The shopkeepers are long past dowdy and always seem to be watching television. Were they once energetic and motivated by all their exciting little treasures? Oh, I don't want to go there...