Of Soccer Books and Independent Stores…

“The pages that follow are dedicated to the children who once upon a time, years ago, crossed my path on the Calella de la Costa.  They had been playing soccer and were singing: ‘We lost, we won, either way we had fun.’”

-Dedication page of Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano    

I was browsing yesterday in The Battery, a marvelously idiosyncratic used book and vinyl record shop in South Pasadena when the little volume with the intriguing title jumped out at me.   Nowadays, after starting TWB, anything having to do with soccer catches my attention since I’m always searching for suitable blog material.  I cracked open the spine and discovered that the book, published in 1998, consisted of very short essays about the game, and that each of these essays was accompanied by a wonderfully weird graphic.  The book’s small size (it’s not even 8” tall…) and blocky font gave it the feel of a children’s book, thus my curiosity was even further piqued by the author’s name — Eduardo Galeano.   Eduardo Galeano?  This accessible ode to soccer couldn’t possibly be scribed by the fire-breathing leftist Uruguayan writer of the same name, the author who writes about South American history and politics and who is celebrated throughout Latin America?

The question burning in my brain, I approached the man sitting at the register and asked him if he knew if this were indeed the same Galeano.  He didn’t know off-hand, but my inquiry seemed to ignite his own curiosity so he jumped online and in a couple of minutes we had our answer: yes!

Caught up in the successful resolution of our search, we introduced ourselves.  I ended up telling Rich West all about Travel With Balls and he shared his story of learning about the developing world’s passion for the game by watching kids play soccer when he was traipsing around Guinea back in his early 20s.  Before I had even left the store, Rich was on youtube watching our TWB video, and by the time William and I arrived home he had already “liked” us on Facebook! 

As the delightful words from Galeano’s dedication page attest, Soccer in Sun and Shadow has some wonderful gems to share.  I will be writing more about the book in a future blog but what I really want to celebrate in this one today is the independent store, because that also has to do with Travel With Balls. 

Those of us who Travel With Balls in the broader sense do so to discover and appreciate different experiences. But more and more our territory  is diminishing.  Increasingly, cities in America, (and even countries in Europe) all depressingly seem the same because they have all come to be dominated by the same major chains.  It really doesn’t matter if you’re in Los Angeles or Indianapolis, a Barnes & Nobles is a Barnes & Nobles is a Barnes and Nobles.  (The same mind-numbing and soulless conformity is found in franchised restaurants…)  Our ruthless and never-ending societal demand for greater efficiency, economy and expediency is rapidly killing off anything that is authentic and truly worthwhile and we are left with an impoverishment of experience.  

It is my belief that my wonderful encounter with Rich West could only have happened in an independent store.  Unlike chains, these stores seem to be owned and staffed by people who are intensely passionate about what they’re selling and care as much about human interactions as they do about commerce.  If we want to continue to have a world where we can Travel With Balls, we should support local businesses.  (There is also a compelling economic argument to be made — check out http://www.the350project.net/home.html)

Peace & Blessings,