Second Ring

guy bought a sasquatch book with a few stills from the famous big foot footage taken in the Seventies, and then proceeded to fill me in on
the true story. I can't really remember it all, but it went something like this:

"See... some people think this photo is fake because you can see a leather pouch here around the creature's waist. Now the reason we get goose-bumps is because we used to have hair all over our bodies, and you know those wooly mammoths were hairy too and they found vegetation in the mouths of these frozen ones that was tropical, so that means they lived in a hot area just like gorillas in the equatorial Africa have long hair because it dissipates the heat. That's why we get goose-bumps.

"Now when Admiral Bird was in the South Pole, he discovered these deep caverns and he went down into them to explore and he found these creatures living down there he described as hairy men. Because when Cane killed Abel and was cast out, he said, And I shall live in the Earth, not on the Earth. Follow me? (I'm leaving out a very long explanation of how all the bones in plaster castings of Big Foot's feet show that the creature's feet bones are all broken, and how Cane, for some reason, also had all the bones in his body broken by God.)

"So basically, we were all really hairy long ago, but you see we used to live longer back then because the Earth had a layer of moisture in its upper atmosphere that moistened the Earth—that's why it never rained—and a layer of 03 oxygen covered the surface of the Earth and experiments with plans show how they live longer on 03; so did we. That's why everyone thought Noah was crazy. Not because he built a boat in the middle of the desert, but because it had never rained before. (I have heard the theory of this moisture layer from fairly competent sources, as well as the no rain theory.) And no one had ever seen a rainbow.

"Now the deep caverns in the South Pole had been full of water too, and all the water came up as well as falling from the sky, and that's why you find sea shells on mountain tops. Now God put a mark on Cane and said Unto him I shall put a mark on thee lest when a man sees you he shall try to kill you. That means God was protecting him, and when, you know, a hunter has been in a helicopter and had his infrared scope on the Big Foot, for some inexplicable reason, the helicopter has just broken apart. This has happened three or four times."

There's more, but I've forgotten it.—tor

"This store sells some nasty ass crap!"

T he crazy guy who buys math and science books came back to pick up the books he had placed on hold. Actually, he came in to tell me he couldn't buy them yet because he didn't get his check. I told him no problem, we
could continue to hold them.

Then he said, "Riding on the bus makes me stain my underwear. Those shocks are bad on the bus," at which point I had to dive under the counter to straighten the hold shelf because I could no longer look at him without cracking up. The guy left, and I stood up to see Tom, who used to work here and was the surliest clerk ever, looking at me with a look of incredulity combined with disgust and I did crack up.—ac

G uy came in and stood in the magazine section. He didn't actually look at the mags, but stood still with one arm outstretched, holding some papers. He stood there statuesque for maybe about ten minutes, without moving.
Then he left, leaving behind this list on the floor:
Things to Bring Next Meeting —Wed. 10:30
—Pill container
—List of what you're spending $ on
—Emerald House orientation 10:15
Big Blue house 17th & Howell

O ld man with spots on his bald head is nearly drooling over one of the Taschen $30 sex books on the display rack on the counter. I am getting tired of men coming through the store, stopping at the counter display
rack, the Lesbian mags, the Sex section, then leaving without saying a word. I just went around the counter to help a customer and I see this Bozo actually has a magnifying glass.—ac

S o this guy comes in, makes eye contact, has a book on The Fantastic Artwork of Boris Vallejo. Wanders through the magazine rack, picks up Playboy and Penthouse, among other things, then wanders the store, comes back to the magazines, then brings Film Comment to the counter.
Film Comment has a feature on "The Fight Club" and
he asks if we have any books on this, pointing to the words "Fight Club" on the cover. Traveling at the speed of thought across the vastness of my imagination, I try to figure what exactly it is he wants.

He opens the magazine and says, "I don't know how to put it, books on, like this..." he says, pointing to some stills from the movie.

I say, "Books on how the movie was made?"

"No," he replies. "On this..."

"You mean books on fighting?"

"Yes, on violence, too I guess, with words and pictures."

I point out the gruesome Japanese sex film book on the counter which he looks at, but says, "That's a little too much for me."

(Here comes the punchline.)

To which I reply, "Well, there's always the daily papers." —gfk

At  about five minutes until closing on Friday night an older man in a plaid shirt, baseball cap, and little mustache came in. He said what he wanted "wasn't really a book" —it was a book with nothing in it. I reached over
the heads of the surly hipsters going through drugs (one of whom I had bought coffee from this morning at the 4 Angels where she was just as surly) to get the small pile of blank books and brought them over to the counter.

The old guy, hands shaking, found one he liked. I range up $4.89, but his wallet was empty. He said he had a hundred dollar bill in there earlier. I offered to put the book on hold for him. He gave me his name—Robert Cap—but then he exclaimed, "It's in my boot!"

He leaned over to extricate his hidden cash and something fell out of his shirt pocket. "Oh, I'm dropping malt balls all over," he said.

Finally he pulled out a twenty from the boot. "You won't forget Robert Cap!" he said. Later when I was closing I saw four or five malt balls rolling around underneath the front of the counter.—ac

man bought Plants of the Gods and asked me several times if the title of the book was going to be recorded with his credit card. I said several times that it wouldn't. He said he works for the government and, believe him,
they keep track.—ac

prim woman comes in wearing a long coat and small, wire-framed glasses. She asks where the romance novels are. Rather than roll my eyes and tell her we don't carry that shit, I ask if she would join me in a glass of verdant burgundy, a candlelit dinner, a cruise along the bay
under a full moon, where I will push my lips into her full, soft mouth, followed by a tryst beside her grandmother's four-poster, where I will push her down in a billow of downy-fresh linens, grip her trembling white thighs in my strong, manly palms, and in a furious, sweaty, passion-filled, lustful rage that will bring a crimson rouge to her enlivened nipples and cause her to throw her head back in a wild cacophony of enticing marvel, I'll finger-fuck her G-spot until I blow the top off her world!

She got kind of stiff and wide-eyed for a moment, and then left.

Just kidding.

I told her that the store was just too darn small and we can't stock everything, and well, gosh, romance novels were one of those things we just didn't have room for; but we do have a full fiction section, and she's sure to find some love stories there. She looks around a little and asks where the books on witchcraft are.

I show her Metaphysics and she looks there for a while, then confirms her stupidity by asking if this one that she had in her hand was the only one on magic. So I go through, reading the titles and pull out the ones having to do with magic. She explains that she just wants something else who is interested in the subject, so he won't be steered wrong. Shall I recommend LaVey?

Eventually she asks if there's a store around that has "figure candles" and things. I tell her of Edge of the Circle, right down the street, and she wanders off, chatting about how she's used up all her figure candles currently. Maybe Satan will grant her a new haircut.—sc

Why I love college kids.
"You ever read that book Maus? It friggin' rocks!"
He then flips up his shirt (as leaving)
"Look man, I'm not stealing anything...Ha, Ha!"

E very ten minutes or so, a small group of fifteen-year-olds will open the door, approach the counter like they're trying to sneak past the living room with beer on their breath, and ask where Raver Books is.

Apparently, if you're fifteen, you don't know how addresses work. They're wearing floppy hats and long-sleeved sweatshirts and bell bottoms and big ugly tennis shoes.

They have all been white and fresh-scrubbed. Homeless youth can't afford the cost of X; Mommy doesn't have that kind of cash to swipe.

I finally asked what the deal was, after I reached the point of merely mumbling with my mouth full and gesticulating in response to their inquiries, and was told by a waif in an overstuffed vest and beach hat that they were giving away tickets to a rave. Quelle surprise.

God, I am so glad they're not our customers.—sc

K ill All Sales Reps--Slowly.

More evidence that sales reps are actually infiltrating alien agents: Two middle-aged persons, the guy is wearing a dark, cheap suit and has

close-set beady eyes to match. The female is blonde, German in inflection, and in a tan trench coat.

She's carrying some binders. She does the talking while Mr. Beady-eyes confirms her statements, much like a Mafia heavy. They are both chewing gum incessantly, with their mouths open. The pitch is that they're from AT&T here to "fix" any problems we may have had.

We had some problems, all right—they billed us for some long-distance company's service that we did not want, did not ask for, and was very pricey and it took 40 minutes on the phone to straighten it out. They want to see the bills. Beady-eyes says that's the most common problem, while Fraulein Fixer denies any understanding of how AT&T could hook us up with someone else.

"Are the statements here?" she asks. I'm not showing them statements, and this looks like a sales call, and "I don't deal with sales calls without an appointment," I explain.

But they are not sales persons, they both smack gum and explain. They are "customer service representatives," here to fix problems. Well, that spells sales person to me. Mr. Wood Chipper was not on duty.—sc

T he collection agency across the street is mysteriously called International Mercantile. We've been neighbors for six years, and this is the first time I've learned their name. They've always just been,
"The Collection Agency Across the Street," occasionally attracting obscenity-screaming victims of their collections out on the sidewalk.

A new worker there just came in and spent $40 on the I-Ching, Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud, Three Pillars of Zen, and she put her name on the request list for any Aleister Crowley. I asked her what her job was and she said it was doing collections for Target. She said it's pretty easy because mostly she's just calling people who missed a payment or were late; nothing hardcore.

She lives up by Northgate and was very excited by our bookstore, kept saying how glad she was that we were here and what cool stock we have.

One of our regular customers also works there. He buys High Times and has to make sure he gets a bag because the company would be upset if they saw he had a magazine on drugs, heavens. Though when he bought Death Scenes: A Homicide Detective's Notebook, full of graphic and grisly photos, he passed it around the whole office.—ac

C hristmas Eve. 4:30 p.m. We are closing at six. A crazy couple is in. He shuffles around suspiciously, moving away whenever I get near him as I walk around the store or help other customers. She has decimated poetry and philosophy, pulling out about thirty books and piling them up on the filing cabinet.

I am really hoping she doesn't try to pay with a check. I have learned from experience that frenzied buying and paying with a check do not bode well. I asked her if she was Christmas shopping and she said, "No, they're for me."

He's got fidgets like Mr. Fingers (a homeless guy whose been "eighty-sixed" for shoplifting, whose little fingers are always frantically waving in the air in front of him like lobsters in a tank), and is interested in the lesbian books. He's carrying around Bitch by Elizabeth Wurtzel and a Malcolm McLaren book.

She's going through history now, and has asked for books by Howard Zinn and Buckminster Fuller. Her pile grows and grows.

"Do you give a discount to people who buy fifty books?" she asks, adding Chomsky to her pile.

I ask what her payment method was going to be. She says check or VISA. I say I couldn't take a check for such a large amount. I sigh with relief at the mention of the word VISA.

She says she's going to do a "triage" but that she will buy 75% of the pile. She's about 50, wearing a short denim skirt, bare legs, hooded sweatshirt and jacket. He's wearing a letterman's type jacket, glasses and jeans. He's probably in his early thirties.

5:30 p.m. She's pulled about 100 books...

At 6 p.m. I tell them I'm closing up, I have a Christmas Eve dinner to attend. The woman goes out to her car to get her wallet. The guy stays behind. "Sometimes my Mom gets carried away," he says.

She comes back with her wallet and credit card and starts sorting through the pile, setting aside some books she doesn't want to purchase. She explains they are from Coos Bay, Oregon and they are getting ready for The Millennium. They already have water and fuel. Now she's got books.

She ends up buying about a thousand dollars worth of books and I give her a ten percent discount.—ac

S tarting the New Year right: A young Asian man comes in wearing cowboy hat, torn jeans, a big cowboy hat, and a wide leather belt. He is tall and lanky and has long hair.

I've noticed that people who spend a lot of effort on their appearance usually don't have anything to spend on anything else.

So he asks where art is and I tell him and he goes over and looks through a few things, and then takes one book, choosing a stool to sit down on to examine it. Pretty soon he pulls out an O'Keeffe and is looking through it for some time. He brings the book, a large paperback, new copy, to aisle one and pulls out a piece of paper from his jacket and while holding the book open with his other hand, begins to draw.

"You know, this isn't really a reference library," I tell him.

"I'm just making a sketch," he says.

"Well, you've got a new book there, and it's only $9.95 anyway. But if you're looking for books you can sketch out of, using new books in a bookstore is probably not the best idea, because they don't stay new-looking for very long."

He seemed understanding and returned the book to the shelf, leaving silently, making no verbal claims to special consideration due to his special outfit.—sc

W hat is with this question where people ask if this is a library? This guy in a trench coat comes in this afternoon, slicked back black hair, dark puffy circles under his eyes. I mean, he did look like he just awoke
from a hundred year sleep beneath a toadstool, but still, where is this land where we look like a library?

It was everything I could muster not to tell him, "yeah, it's a special library where you have to ride a pogo stick when choosing a book, and then, if you read the book really quickly, this becomes a public swimming pool and you can invite all your friends! Bonehead, go back to TVland!"

So of course he wanders to the back of the store and stares at a couple of books on display before he wanders back outside.

"What does one do in a bookstore? Where's the channel selector, man? Where's the Twinkies? Can I buy gas here?"—sc

T wo well-dressed women came in and spent nearly forty minutes browsing. I asked them to drop their bags when it was certain that they were walking into the stacks. Only one of them dropped a plastic sack,
but they both kept their purses.

It got fairly busy and as they seemed content to browse, I didn't pay too much attention to them. Before they left, one—the one with the louder voice—made the comment that she wasn't going to buy a book (Inside/Out: Lesbian and Gay Theories) simply because she felt intimidated and uncomfortable because I watched them (too closely?).

I apologized and merely pointed out that shoplifting is a problem and we don't have a policy of discriminating per se, but that we ask people to check their bags, etc. I didn't follow them around, didn't even ask them if they needed help because they seemed to know what they were looking for. Of course, if they come in again (they said they wouldn't), I will be highly suspicious.

They were both about 5'4", the particularly disgruntled one had long black hair, rather attractive, dressed in a long black coat. The other with a pleasant smile had curly hair under a knit cap, horn rimmed glasses, yellow leather jacket. Personally, I think they were paranoid because I don't think I was harassing them, even subtly.—nk

young black man came in looking for "something humorous for a woman who's going away on a long trip."
"A novel?" I asked.

"No, a postcard," he replied. "I'll just look."

He picked out a postcard with a black and white photo of Dylan Thomas looking forlorn and peering out through some dead tree branches. Then he stood at the counter and wrote out what he wanted to say on the back of a bookmark, asking me to spell these words: exoticism, hypnotized, entranced, possessed.

His cell phone rang (the ring was "Yankee Doodle Dandy") and he was called away to lunch by the exotic woman he wanted to possess him.—ac

M an and woman were going through the science section. The woman had a big pile of books on the floor. After a while she lay down on her back and held the books up over her head to look at them. I kept watching
her in the mirror. She took some larger books and put them under her head, legs crossed as she lay on her back with her feet on the shelves.

I went back and said, "You guys...I can't have you lying on the floor with books for pillows and your feet on the shelves."—ac

guy asked me why we file philosophy and religion in two separate sections. "Religion is a philosophy," he said. I asked him what he was looking for. He said some funky Asian name and the title, The Middle
Way, a Buddhist book.

I thought about his comment and decided to check his awareness level/status by commenting, "If I had my way, I'd file everything under fiction." He smiled.

He bought three books and tossed out a quote from one of them for me: "The blood of my enemies tastes better than mother's milk." Wow.—tor

S weet fellow looking everything like he just left an AA meeting walks in with a cup of Burger King goo and makes himself at home on the first aisle where we put the books to be shelved. I go back there at one point to haul down all the Burroughs because a dude buying Bust magazine wants to see the selection and move his cup,
straw poking obliquely out of the top, from the center of the aisle. He stays there, cross-legged, paging through something big for a good long while, leaning against the shelves on the wall.

Not many people are in, so I don't care much. After about 45 minutes he comes to the counter with the book I've watched him carefully replace in the box sleeve and asks how much this is. Its a big book all right, and I drop it back out and look on the first white page, upper right hand corner and read the price to him: $110.00.

The book is Patmos, a huge glossy survey and picture book of an ancient monastery, filled with full-page color photos of intricate tile work, flat-faced Christ figures hanging on golden crosses thousands of years old.

"Patmos, where is that?" he asks.

I read the first couple of paragraphs of the intro and it mentions the Byzantine Empire, Turkey.

"Looks like it's in Turkey, somewhere in the fertile crescent there," I tell him.

"Yeah, well the reason I ask is because look at the handles on these swords," he says, flipping through the pages.

"They look like snakes—that's the occult or something, isn't it?"

We put the book back in the slipcase and he retrieves his Burger King container, and somewhere in Nebraska, a half-stunned steer hanging on a meathook wails in pointless cold grief as his legs are sawn off by a guy who just wants to get home.

What do they teach in A.A. meetings? Where are we, anyway?—sc

G ang of three artistes has come into the store. One wears flip flops (its about fifty degrees and I'm shivering in my boots and sweater). One has red baggy pants, red turban, and carries a ukulele. The other is an Asian
girl with hair up in a turban thing.

Artiste #1 asks for Rumi books, goes through Mushroom books, and is now sitting on aisle four. Turban man sits down with a photo book, his ukulele in the aisle. The girl played with a lighted globe and now is sitting on the floor reading magazines. Flip-flop boy actually bought Cunningham's Magical Herbs.

Asian girl is doing something mysterious on the floor (her bag is blocking my view). I think she is rolling a cigarette. One hour later, after sitting on the floor in metaphysics, the girl buys a Mayan tarot deck and a book. Next day I vacuum up small pile of tobacco leaves from in front of magazine rack.—ac

B lack kid in dirty jeans and stained and worn hooded sweatshirt comes in looking for anything on motorcycle repair. We don't have much. But I show him the section and he sits over there a while, eventually shuffling
over to metaphysics.

He pulls a book off the shelves there and is reading for a while. I'm keeping a pretty close eye on him because he's holding his sweatshirt funny, and he's a poor kid; profiling out pretty well. Eventually he comes up slowly to the counter and dejectedly puts a trade paperback on the counter, asking if there's any way I could come down on the price.

He explains he's got to buy a battery for his bike and he needs this book, all the while looking more and more hopeless. I look the book over, its in print for $14.00, we've got it price $7.50 and its in perfect shape, a recent publication, so I tell him while we dicker sometimes, this seems like a pretty fair price to me.

He drops a twenty on the counter, saying reluctantly that he needs it. I ring him up and he drags his heels out the door. The book was How to Defend Yourself Against Alien Abduction. Yow.—sc

F riendly pudgy guy in baseball cap came in and asked where our psychology section was. He was looking for Co-dependent No More, which we did not have. He came up to the counter a few minutes later
and asked if the owner's name was Michelle.

"No," I told him. Then he said he met someone named Michelle on an AOL chatline.

"Are there many independent bookstores in Seattle?" he asked. I imagined him trudging from store to store asking for Co-dependent No More in his quest for Michelle.—ac

handy note I found in a book. I thought it should be read, memorized, and practiced by us all:

  • eat and take vitamins
  • dress clean clothes
  • fix hair
  • fix lunch.
  • get quarter.
  • turn off all lights
  • &TV
  • brush teeth
  • turn on alarm.
  • lock door.
  • —tor