I woke up this past Sunday morning with a bit of an urge to take a drive out to my local comic book store in Smithtown, Long Island, which is rather odd, seeing as how I've lived in Henderson, Nevada for over 10 years now. I've been a comic book person since I was around 12 or so, but I haven't taken a regular trip to a store in maybe 6 or 7 years or so. I still buy things, but almost always trade paperbacks that collect old books that I liked or original graphic novels. Either way, it's nearly always things that go on bookshelves. And all of those things are available online, or at big bookstores. I very rarely buy a single comic book anymore, and I just as rarely go into a comic book store anymore. But I occasionally miss it.
When I was living on Long Island (against my will...), the best store for me was about a 40 minute drive further out east in Smithtown. Since it wasn't exactly next door, I would just go out once a month on a Sunday morning, and make a nice mini day trip out of it. It was a pleasant experience to actually be DRIVING on the Long Island Expressway (LIE), as opposed to just sitting there, or stopping and starting every 15 feet, and having a small internal celebration if you were able to achieve a speed in excess of 20 MPH. When you aren't muttering about the appalling lack of progress due to too much humanity being cramped into too little real estate, you could come to realize that the LIE actually was a nice and fairly scenic route. And then, having to travel about 10 minutes north of the LIE to get to the location of Fourth World Comics in Smithtown, the road and the journey became even nicer, almost like wandering thru the countryside. Again, it really helped that there was no pressure about making a deadline, no having to be there by a certain time, and no other mass of humanity all trying to get to the same place as you at the same time.
The destination was also quite cool as well. Fourth World is one of the better comic book stores I've ever been in, and I've visited plenty, and even worked in several, including one in downtown Manhattan, located just East of Broadway, South of New York City Hall, in the shadow of the Twin Towers. I was already living in the Las Vegas area for well over a year when 9/11 happened, so I had fallen out of contact with the people at Chameleon Comics & Cards. I worked there for most of 1992, the first year of it's existence. Amazingly, despite their incredibly close proximity to the Twin Towers, the store survived the disaster, both physically and financially, and it is still in operation today. But being a Wall Street location, one of the pricier districts in an already financially-obscene area, the store is a very cramped and tiny place. While Long Island isn't exactly a cheaper area, at least there is a little more room to build out, so Fourth World was in a much physically bigger location. The store must be close to 100 feet front to back, so merchandise was able to be spread out, a greater variety of it was able to be stocked and displayed, and there was a little bit of elbow room as well.
And then, to really enhance the overall relaxation experience of the day, I'd make the return trip on a different road. It would usually be the Veterans Memorial Highway leading into the Northern State Parkway, which at that point is just a 4 lane tree-lined winding road meandering thru the hills that only qualifies as a Parkway because the speed limit is 50 and there's a barrier between the opposite directions. It's a really pretty ride, quite enjoyable if you're not dealing with millions of angry people trying to get to a job they hate so they can pay for the lives and debt they've trapped themselves in.
While I do enjoy the ability to be able to find just about anything ever published via the online experience, every once in a while I do pine for the days of yore, when a pleasant drive thru the countryside would lead me to a nice store that had some really cool books that I still enjoy today.
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