Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A long grey sedan is parked in front of the bookstore this morning. In the passenger seat, a boy of about 14 or 15 sits and stares up the street. The fifteen minute parking space allows customers to the television repair shop a chance to dash in and drop off whatever electronic device is on the fritz. The boy waits for his father to return. He looks sullen. Maybe there was an argument. It's an early June morning, and he's in his father's car in front of a bookstore. The boy's nose is a little to large for his face. Some body parts race to fit the growing frame, others tortoise to the finish. Pubescent torture. The only time the boy changes his gaze is when my husband unrolls the awning. Yellow and white stripes cheer, we say, but our bookstore is just a brief part of the landscape of this boy's mind.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Writing is hard. If you care about it and want to do it well, it's difficult. If anyone tells you that writing is easy, they are trying to sell you something, and it's probably software that "smooths" the writing process.

The lack of pre-ground cinnamon in the cupboard for your coffee means that you'll go to the trouble of grating it from cinnamon sticks. Why not? You've got the time. You're only writing. Instead of squishing the carpenter ant that is mapping out your writing space, you watch it bumble over the berber toward the snoozing cat. There's a lot of hair twirling and mosquito bite scritching (I draw little x's in the center of the bumps with my fingernail) involved with writing, and plenty of staring out into the sunny yard. Then finally, if you're lucky, something clicks, and off you go, smashing through letters. It's almost enjoyable, until your neighbor cranks up his plaid music and coughs like he caught a hornet's nest in his lung. You shut the door. The coffee is too strong.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Too Much Freedom

In a day and a half:

• I read two books
• Ate three kinds of fish (mollusks, shellfish, crustacean)
• Took note of shell shapes and seagull markings
• Watched the sunrise over the ocean
• Got a ridiculous, spotty sunburn in spite of the reapplication of SPF 50 lotion
• Caught someone's beach umbrella tumbling in the wind
• Took a Chardonnap
• Wrote nothing

Monday, June 13, 2011

Book Bonanza

This weekend we visited another independent bookstore with the intent to buy a few (or more) books to add to our inventory. I love to see how differently bookstores are designed. We visited one in Philadelphia a couple of months ago that was very orderly -- the shelves were handmade wooden boxes stacked up to the ceiling and most of the inventory faced out. The grid-like structure was pleasing and tidy, if not a little Brady Bunch. The seller knew the worth of his books. We spent about $160 there, and left with a bag full of books for our store (and ourselves ... not everything makes it to the shelves here!). We didn't feel like we'd received any kind of bargain, but were happy to get the books we did.

Saturday's bookstore was inside half of a house. The door had a hand-written note taped to it that read, "I'm out, but come on in and browse. I'll be back in a minute." When we walked inside the owner was there, and had just forgotten to take the note off the door. "Hey, hi, welcome. There are books in all four rooms here, if you have any questions, just ask."

I hit the fiction first, and had an armload of books before I could get to the section marked "Affordable Shakespeare." The poetry section spanned two entire cases. We talked a lot with the owner of the store, and he invited us to have a look at the books upstairs that "just didn't fit on the downstairs shelves yet." He let us have first crack at what was up there, which was generous of him. In our conversations, we realized we were both not making any money in the bookstore business and our intents were similar - to get books moving and get people reading. I found some old Edward Albee paperbacks, a huge selection of John Updike paperbacks, some Kurt Vonnegut, a really old and yellowing pulp-ish edition of "Cannery Row" by Steinbeck, and several New Directions paperbacks. I get excited about old book cover design as well as content.

This morning I sat on the floor of the bookstore and priced the new books and stacked them according to genre so they can be shelved this afternoon. I found an unfinished crossword puzzle inside a children's book (all about teddy bears and kangaroos who start a circus), and the copy of the Vonnegut was well-loved by the original owners. They carefully "preserved" the cover by coating it with clear tape. There's so much to stocking an independent bookstore that I love - the smell of acid-ridden paperbacks, the Ex Libris stamp variety of book ownership, the little notes written in margins, the ephemera left between pages. I really enjoy finding books that I know customers who frequent the store will be interested in, too.

We spent about $140 in the independent bookstore we visited on Saturday, and we left a box of encouragements (Want one? Email me! They are free.), and sold the owner some used DVDs. "Oooh, the money is just flowing all over the place!" he said. We laughed, all in on the joke.

I'm working on the unfinished crossword, and filled out the "co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons" (Gary Gygax) and "Old NYC club birthplace of Punk" (CBGB). Harvesting for fodder? Six letters. _ _ Y I N G.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Money Suck Week!

The culprits: The vet's office with two cats (a duet of mrowls for the entire trip), and two trips to the chiropractor* for an injured back (a solo of howls for each ride).

Non-money related, less sucky details: At the vet's office an inflatable tick toy twirled above the examination table, little plastic-haired legs twittering under the air-ducts. A fun reminder of the dangers of parasites bobbing over our heads. The vet had a small white feather stuck in the scruff of his beard from the parrot he examined before he called my cats into the room.

The chiropractor keeps a water feature placed at the head of the patient table, so when you can't stand the pressure of the face-plant pose sqwooshing your skin into a forced grin, you can turn your head and watch water trickle. The feature is a series of plateaued stones, one layer shorter than the next up to the top where the water bubbles out from a tube that is hidden behind everything, but which circulates the pooled water into new cascades. Relaxing, until your neck starts to stiffen, and you notice the Magic 93 office radio music and start to think about how it's a pity money doesn't work like this simple water feature - flow in, flow out, flow in. Or is that how laundering money** works? I'm not sure.

Pain makes you think short, jabby thoughts.

*Yep, I am scratching "acrobat" off my mid-life career change list.
**Also any jobs in crime.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

I had heard the birds are in the Middle East, wondrously important ... I see!

The pale cover of her bird notebook was laced with a network of wrinkles from sharing space in her purse with a buckled wallet. A red bookmark skimmed between the pages in a spot she didn't intend to mark. She'd kept track of all the birds she'd seen in her lifetime since she was eleven. This was one of many of her travel notebooks, and every year on New Year's Eve while everyone else was toasting and kissing, she was transferring bird names into the lifetime list she kept in a hardcover journal. The barometer of her year was not how many birds she'd spotted, but which varieties. In 2007 she spotted two cactus wrens in Tuscon, and added a common nighthawk, Chordeiles minor, too, when she'd nearly tripped over it during an evening walk. It looked a lot like bark, and blended in well, perhaps too well, with its surroundings. Next year, she was sure, would be the best. A trip to Uzbekistan promised the Blue-Cheeked Bee-eating Hawk, larks, Clamorous Reed Warblers. This year felt like an abbreviation of her twelfth year. She'd not strayed far from home. Her list was a series of brown finchy burns across a suburban sky when what she wanted was wonder and importance, a riot of colors.
Sketch #4 in the Visitor's Book at an Art Gallery Series. The titles of the sketches are the notes left by the visitors.