The Massey Boulevard location of Wonder Book and Video is closing at the end of the month. They’re relocating to a bigger facility on the Dual Highway, next to where first Zaire’s and then Ames used to be. The new place opened January 1 and the old place doesn’t close until the 31st, so for a few glorious weeks here in Hagerstown, we have two Wonder Books.
Ashley and I paid a last visit to the old place last night. It had been partially gutted, all the DVDs and most of the VHS tapes moved to the new location, nothing left but stacks and stacks and stacks of old books, and some new ones. Empty wooden bookshelves, worn and dusty and brown, leaned against the wall where the new DVD releases had been, for sale $25 apiece. I thought about getting one, just for a keepsake. Maybe I’ll still go back and buy one before they close up forever. Maybe I won’t.
Books were on sale, everything for $1. Ashley found a Joyce Carol Oates novel she incredibly didn’t have, so she got that; I found a translation of a Chinese novel called One Man’s Bible that looked interesting, and a few screenplays. I used to find screenplays there all the time. For awhile back in the late 90s I would go there every week and find new screenplays – not bound, published copies, but actual manuscripts, bound together with brass fasteners. I bought a copy of the script to Full Metal Jacket like that. Holding it in my hands, a copy of an actual script that an actor or a director would hold while shooting a film, made me want to write screenplays myself. I did – wrote nothing but for awhile, with mixed results. Starting tomorrow I’m taking a screenplay class, which I once swore I would never do, but Professor Clark recommended it to me, so what the hell?
When Wonder Book first opened in Hagerstown it carried a pretty decent selection of comic books. I had a subscription there when I was a teenager; it’s where I got all my Batman comics. I got my comics from Wonder Book during the post-Knightfall years, when storylines like “Legacy” and “Contagion” ran through all the Bat-titles, producing a few good stories here and there (including this awesome “Legacy” tie-in in Shadow of the Bat by Alan Grant), but mostly just giving me an excuse to buy titles like Azrael and Catwoman that ordinarily I’d never read. The comics must not have sold too well, because over the years the selection shrank from large enough to occupy an entire corner of the store, to a slightly smaller assortment that took up about half a wall in front of the checkout, to a little shelf that had pretty much just Superman and Spider-Man stuff, until finally the comics were gone altogether. The comic store in Hagerstown, Atomic Comics, sucks, so after that I either drove to the Wonder Book in Frederick or ordered my comics online from Midtown.
Ashley and I got our books. The cashier carried them behind the counter to bypass the security scanner and had them for us at the exit, and we took our books and left, probably for the last time.
After that, we drove across to the new place. It’s nice. A lot bigger. The bookshelves are the same old dull brown wood, which is nice; the DVD shelves in the middle of the floor are gray Formica and very modern looking, which I hate. We bought a few books at the new place too, even though they weren’t $1 apiece, and rented some movies, just to christen the place. It’s nice. Once they get everything moved in and stocked, it’ll be a hell of a bookstore. It won’t have the character of the old place, but I hope someday it will.