“The book American Gods wishes it was.” --Despina Durand

Thursday, July 22, 2021

KISMET IN PRESCOTT



Emily and I have been feeling restless lately, the need for impromptu road trips keeps overtaking us. This time, after coffee and quiche at a place I won’t mention because they have been getting too crowded lately, she looked at me and said, “Let’s do something!”


It was as if a djinn was whispering in her ear.


Soon we were on the 89, past Wickenburg. There were still Trump flags dotting the rural landscape. Trump country, with roadside datura.


We ended up in Prescott, poking around the Whiskey Row antique shops, not really expecting to find anything, just fooling around . . .


I was disappointed in a bookshelf where I had found interesting oddities--counterculture relics, ancient pulp fiction, accounts of cannibalism--in the past when Emily blurted out, loud and serious, "Ernie, you have to come over here!"


I rushed over expecting to have to rescue her from some unlikely situation, but there she was in front of another bookshelf. She was pointing to an impressive set of books. It was the 1950 edition, leather bound, of Sir Richard Francis Burton's translation of the Alf Layla wa Layla, or The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, popularly known as The Arabian Nights, with all the fascinating footnotes, and all but one of the supplements. The price was $75 dollars.



I've wanted this set of books ever since I checked volumes from the West Covina Public Library in my 20th century youth. Reading Tahir Shah’s account of acquiring a copy in his own Arabian Nights further stoked that fire, but it was a "one of these days" things. 


Now that I'm a Medicare card carrying senior citizen, I realize that putting things off can mean it will probably never happen. I didn't hesitate. The incomplete set was very soon mine.


Kismet was in the air.

 

Then we went to lunch to celebrate. Whoopie!

 

We had ordered, but before our meal could be cooked, it was announced that there was a computer outage, and the restaurant would only be able to accept cash. We didn't have enough cash for what we ordered.



I hung out at our table while Emily did a run to the nearest ATM. She came back empty-handed. The outage had knocked out the internet in the entire city of Prescott.


If it had happened about an hour earlier, I wouldn’t have been able to make my purchase.


Guess it was just meant to be.


Luckily, they let us change our order to something that took just about all of the few bills the two of us had on us.


Somehow, we made it home without running out of gas.


Later, I did some Googling I found out that complete sets go for around $400. Copies of single volumes are about $30. 


I’ll have to keep an eye out for the missing volume, but that just gives me another excuse to go out and have more adventures.


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