Long’s Gone

When you get older, you come to accept the inevitability that things you remember from your youth — whether it is TV shows, favorite athletes, failed breakfast cereals, or brands of beer — will vanish into the mists of time.

mt_long_book_demo_fs_3Still, it was weird to see recent photos of demolition equipment tearing down Long’s college bookstore, across the street from the OSU campus.  When I attended Ohio State back in the ’70s, Long’s was as much a part of the University as the Orton Hall chimes.

Everyone who went to Ohio State — and that covers a lot of people — stopped into Long’s, or its nearby competitor, SBX, to buy their textbooks.  Students would take their course syllabi, scan for the required texts, and then head to Long’s to get the books.  It was a crammed yet sprawling, ramshackle store that also sold OSU fan gear and therefore attracted a good crowd of Buckeye fans, which just added to the hustle and bustle of the place.

At Long’s you would learn that your college professors often wrote the textbooks for the courses they taught . . . and that the texts seemed to carry an awfully high price tag compared to some of the other books available.  But, what could you do?  It was a required text, and how in the world could you expect to pass the course if you didn’t have one?  Experienced students learned that it paid to get to the bookstores early, because with luck you could find a reasonably used copy of the text at a much lower price.  And then, at the end of the quarter — for it was quarters, not semesters, back in those days — you would resell your books to Long’s or SBX for pennies on the dollar.  Why?  Because it was a buyer’s market, and no college student wanted their apartment cluttered with texts from Philosophy 101 or Poli Sci 265, and you’d rather get a few bucks that you could spend on beer and pizza.  It’s not like you were ever going to read a textbook again, anyway.

In this simple way, Long’s taught naive OSU students some valuable lessons.  Buy low, sell high.  Brace yourself for a gouging.  And understand that the world isn’t fair.

Those are some pretty enduring life lessons, when you think about it.

Tricycle Times

One of the kids in the neighborhood left their tricycle out overnight, and Penny, Kasey and I walked past it on our morning walk.

From a quick walk-by examination, it looks like the basic trike hasn’t changed much since I rode one more than 50 years ago.  The big wheel with the attached pedals, the sturdy metal frame, the two small rear wheels — and of course, the streamers from the handlebars — all are pretty much the same as they were during the Kennedy Administration.

What kid didn’t love a tricycle?  It’s a simple piece of machinery that has produced a lot of unabashed joy over the years.  I remember my younger sisters ripping around their neighborhood on their tricycles, determined to go faster, ever faster.

Then, one day, your parents tell you it’s time for you to move up to a two-wheeler, where you would be teetering and farther, much farther, from the pavement.  You hated the thought, but knew you would have to leave the security of your firmly anchored tricycle behind.  So you stopped riding the trike, balanced ineptly on the bicycle, fell a few times and wondered if you would ever be able to do it — until one day you did it, and you’ve never forgotten how.

For many of us, letting go of the tricycle is one of the first great life lessons.