Saturday, 4 December 2010

Dream of a Bookseller

Dream of A Bookseller

Dennis Gaymes looks along the street where his bookshop is located. On any business day there are streams of people and schoolchildren making their way on foot or avoiding motorists and resident vagrants and drug addicts.
Dennis Gaymes thinks too many children are
and parents need to be empowered

Gaymes sees this as the perfect location for a street in his city to be dedicated to learning and education. Ironically, the official name of the street is Paul's Avenue and St Paul the apostle is the educator-in-chief of the gospel. Upstairs in Gaymes Book Centre, where there is a view of the surrounding community, Gaymes explains that the capital of his country, St Vincent and the Grenadines, needs a centre where educational activities can happen outdoors, an open market encouraging trade in ideas and knowledge.

He speaks with passion, driven by memories of a misunderstood childhood where he was slow to learn because educators did not understand that he learned differently, Gaymes later found out that he was dyslexic: he has problems reading. His two bookstores carry several titles promoting good parenting and helping parents to understand their children's needs. His stores also proudly carry the widest selection of books written by Vincentians and books about St Vincent and the Grenadines.

In Gaymes' dream, Paul's Avenue hosts regular events featuring speakers on current affairs, or published authors. There are regular fairs on Education Avenue and all activities would integrate the residents of Paul's Avenue and aid their return as fully functional members of society.
This could be the Education Avenue of
St Vincent and the Grenadines

Gaymes is sensitive to the effect of drugs or neglect on people. He is from a loving family, but when he was not yet four years old he ate the highly poisonous fruit of the Belladonna plant which grows on the island of Aruba where they lived. That incident contributed to his learning disability.

After having to live through physical punishment in primary school for slow learning and then have his younger brother leave him behind in secondary school, he was able to qualify as a telecommunications technician and worked for Cable and Wireless for 25 years.

"I cannot study in isolation, he says, "I have to see the whole."

He went through a painful job separation and tried to start another way to make a living, including selling chickens. In 1996 his cousin, Trinidadian educator and writer Wesley Furlong, asked him to deliver some mathematics books to schools in Kingstown. He did, and the community called for orders. Knowing nothing about the book business, Gaymes rented a shop in 1996 started selling school books.

Peter's Avenue from Gaymes Book Centre 

Later, when Furlong started writing for a Vincentian market, Gaymes collected photos and publications about the nation for him, which led to a personal interest in carrying books written by Vincentians.

"Local books have a connection directly. It has value and it also has relevance, so I started collecting local material....A book to some people is like God, Writing is not something that people thought could be done; or that it came from heaven, like the Bible," Gaymes says of how books used to be seen by local people.

Courts of Justice and seat of Parliament
Across from Gaymes Book Centre is also a place where
the homeless while away the days.
The idea of Education Avenue has been germinating within Gaymes for several years. He watches hundreds of students and young people walk along Paul's Avenue and its peculiar features seem portentous. Along its length are the Courts of Justice, seat of Parliament, a prison, and the electricity company.  He sees the small open land beside the prison as a perfect space for readings and lectures. What a better way to captivate young people into an idea than to put it where they can reach it, where it is within eyesight and where their feet must trod?

The new public library in Kingstown
will be fully functional soon