Drifting round a downtown bookshop, looking for something to read.
« The Mystery In Space Adventure. »
The title screams at me from the shelf in lurid letters.
That sounds a half decent book. I pick it up and begin to flick through – nothing but blank pages.
« Excuse me »
« Yes sir how can I help you? » replies the bright, young lady sales assistant.
« I wanted to buy this book, but I’m not sure it will be a good read? »
« And why is that sir?
« Well all the pages are blank. There’s no print, the book is empty
« Oh sir! » chides the sales lady. « We don’t sell empty books. We pride ourselves on all our books being full of exciting and interesting stories»
« Yes, that’s as maybe, but this book is quite definitely empty – unless it is written in invisible ink.
The book lady takes the book and flicks through it.
« This could be a good story, » she enthuses « it’s just that you haven’t written it yet. »
I am a little bemused. I thought that the whole point of buying a book was that it already had a story written inside and ready to read.
She tells me that this is a new concept in travel books.
« You write the book as you go. » she says
« I beg your pardon? «
« Well, when you buy a travel book, you are simply reading about someone else’s travels or journeys, which don’t always correspond to your travels. I mean, imagine you buy a book about travelling across the United States before you start a similar journey. Then you go on your travels and they don’t live up to the account in the book, you feel disappointed, so we recommend that all travellers buy a blank book and fill it up as they go. Don’t rely on someone else’s adventures, write your own.»
The concept is still lost on me.
« So this space adventure book for example. Are you suggesting that I take it into space and I write my adventure as I go? »
« Yes »
« Do you sell many space adventure books? » I ask
« Hundreds of them » she reassures me
« So you mean that there are hundreds of people who have bought this space adventure book in your store, and who are currently travelling around space writing down their adventures. »
« Oh yes » beams the book lady. « You’d be quite surprised how many of our customers are currently zooming around space on interplanetary adventures. »
« But surely you need a big rocket to get into space and a spacecraft to fly round in. »
She points to the DIY section – « Over there sir – How to build and launch your on space rocket, another of our best sellers. »
I suppose if I am going on a space adventure, I’ll need some kind of map. The book lady pulls a rolled map down from the shelf behind her and spreads it across the counter.
« It’s blank »
« I know sir. It’s like the book; you fill it in as you go. »
« Yes, but I want a map that will tell me where I am going. »
« Oh sir. » laments the bookshop lady; « If you know where you’re going then that’s hardly an adventure. »
I’m not sure if I want adventures, but it would be nice to get away from this freezing snowbound small town.
I’ve got one friend who’s just gone to New York. Not quite sure if that is a real adventure though – it’s just going where other people have been before. The whole point is to boldly go where no man has been before.
Mind you, I had another friend who spent an afternoon in an Ikea furniture store, that doesn’t sound so adventurous in itself. The real adventure starts when you get home and try to put the furniture together.
I’m still fixated with this space adventure, but I’m not quite convinced. I suppose I could get a friend to help me build the rocket in my garage, and I could probably launch it from the end of my garden, but it’s jus the whole idea of space. I mean, space is big. I’m not really sure that there is much out there and you’ve probably got to fly a long way before you get anywhere that is worth visiting.
A few days on the moon might be nice – I could touch down near the Sea of Tranquillity and have a lunar beach holiday. Mind you when the fist astronauts touched down there it was hardly St Tropez or Copacabana – it all looked kind of dry and dusty. I’m not sure if there’s even any decent sand to build a sandcastle – I won’t be taking my bucket and spade.
Come to think of it, if I wanted to go somewhere flat, barren, secluded and uninhabited, there are plenty of places around here I could go all within easy driving distance.
It’s quite reassuring, going somewhere close by that you know is nowhere. Sometimes, you are even pleasantly surprised at finding something unexpected when you get there. It sure beats the disappointment of going somewhere far away and finding nothing much when you get there.
A few years back, we drove down to Barcelona with friends. They raved on and on about the Sagrada Familia – have to see this – once in a lifetime … When I finally stepped up in front of Gaudi’s unfinished cathedral.
« It’s not finished yet » I remarked « and it’s ugly » I added.
Oh, but the sheer joy of disappointment after the long road to cultural wonderment. While everyone else crawls around the monument with gushing gab and cameras photographing every last brick, I can nip off and do something more interesting, like visiting nothing, because all the « nothing » that makes up a place is far more interesting than the one big small something that we all came to see.
So, I’ve bought « The Mystery In Space Adventure » book, but I’m not going into space, I’ll write it from the comfort of my own home.
« Has anyone who bought the space adventure book actually ever come back yet to tell you about their adventures in space? »
The book lady gives a sheepish grin.
Space adventures? Far too dangerous for me. I’ll write a story about going to the middle of nowhere, where there is plenty of space.