Third Ring

Man just tried to pick me up: "I'm a refrigeration technician. I work 4:30 to 12:30. Want to see me later?"

"No thanks," said I.

His name was Aldous or something similar. Also, he asked to talk to me as he was standing by the Sex section.

"I'm working," I said.

A big ugly guy, he did not seem unduly rebuffed by my lack of interest.—ac

Asmall group of Japanese came in the store. As they stood giggling while trying to figure out the categories, reading the blue signs on the ends of
the aisles, I asked one what they were looking for. They didn't speak much English.

I asked if she knew the title. She said, "no."

"The author?"


Then she said, "I'm looking for a book that has three hundred pages."

T his morning I cleared off the free racks, removing out-of-date free papers and fliers, squinting in consternation at glossy DJ cards trying to find what the hell the date was on the slick cards with tiny type on ecstasy-
induced swirly backgrounds. The free rack can get to be quite a mess quickly with people putting their fliers on top of others. Constant vigilance is needed to pare away bad corporate advertising.

Then this afternoon a chubby balding man came in and started putting something on the rack. I ignored him until he took a Polaroid camera and snapped a pic of his display. I looked up.

"I have to take a picture of it," he explained.

"What is it?" I asked.

"Oh, its just an advertisement."

"Can I see it?"

He handed me a card for some Internet site with a cockroach on it in orange and yellow made to look like CliffsNotes.

"We don't want these," I said.

"I don't care," he said, "stuffing them back in his pack. I just had to take a picture."—ac

My favorite Saturday game is to watch the 'junkie' looking for books to steal.

The 'Count Smackula' look

middle-aged guy dressed from head to toe in denim wanted to know if we had any Bibles, always a bad sign. I showed him the few we have and he exclaimed, "Perfect."
He brought up a standard black leatherette model with The Bible emblazoned in gold letters across the front.

"This will work for the photo shoot I'm doing," he said, "because you can see the title. Now all I need is a bad Catholic girl, know any?" He guffawed.

He then asked for a paper bag, "the smutty kind". I gave him one of our pink and purple "Charlotte's Dress Shop" bags from the fifties that we scored at a garage sale. He made some more small talk while I tried to make my way outside to water the flowers.—ac

person with long red hair wearing a tuque came in and asked about selling books. Gave her/him my spiel about bringing things in for credit while Tim's here, or for cash when Sean or Amy's here. Kept
thinking s/he was pretty androgynous.

S/he was older with longer nails on strong hands—I'm thinking, male/female? Does it matter? S/he just wants to get her books out of her aprtments, says he/r. Then s/he tells me what s/he has: Time-Life books and Jock Sturges collection (complete with a signed first edition of his first photo collection).

Then s/he launches into a discussion about public morals. Mentions one book was printed only in Japan and still has the slip band on it that the Japanese publisher put on it to keep people from opening it in the store. Not crazy or anything, just odd. S/he kept bringing up subjects like bestiality and the innocent-nudity-of-youth.—nk

guy asked if we sold refrigerator magnets and asked if I knew where he could find really cool refrigerator magnets.

I said, "Ah, no."
He bought a High Times and three postcards. I asked him if he'd checked out the Broadway Market for the magnets.

He said, "Man, I guess I could, but it just kind of popped into my head that I need refrigerator magnets."—ac

I'm  sure you've heard them all before, but today has quickly begun as a day of questions. It all started when I unlocked the door and the
guy waiting outside came in. I had a Beethoven String Quartets CD in.
He asked, "Is this what you call classical music?
I said, "No, this is chamber music."
He said, "Oh," and browsed the postcards.

Some other questions I've had today:
Is the roommate referral place around here? By the way, do you need a roommate? (No.)
When did the bilingual bookstore go out? (They're two blocks up the street.)
Why did they move? Do you own the building? (No.)
Who made them move? (From the U-District?)
No, from here. (They were never here.)
They were here last Christmas. (They're two blocks up the street.)
Did you used to work for them? (No.)—dw

was in a bad mood—I couldn't get Quickbooks, our accounting program, to come up via the network in the office. So then I had to write payroll checks up at the front counter and while I was doing this, a  twenty-two
year old in a suit carrying a briefcase came in. My solicitor alarm went off immediately.

He asked if we took credit cards. I said we did. He then started to go into a spiel about his credit card company.

"I'm not interested," I said. He continued with his spiel.

"I am not interested," I said again, trying to concentrate on Quickbooks.

"Even if we can save you money?" the guy (who was actually pretty cute, with a goatee) said brightly.

"I don't want to talk to you," I said again, this time pointing out the door.

He left, mimicking me on the sidewalk: "She doesn't want to talk to me."—ac

"I've been hitchhiking since I was ten months old."
"Are you gay?"
"The road is a hard life."
"My friends call me Paradise."
"I've broken almost all the ten commandments."
"Oh shit! I think I've lost my dad's credit card!

Q uestion of the day: "Do you have a copy of Basketball Diaries without DiCaprio on the cover?"

I find two copies and present them.

He says, "I lost my other copy, but I like to read it over and over 'cause it reminds me of all the crazy shit I did when I was a kid, but I have to have a copy without DiCaprio 'cause I never looked like that."—dw

U nattractive man in skirt (dressed as a woman, not just a man in a skirt) came to the counter.

"Can I ask you a question?" he said. Smoke came out of his mouth. "Can you get me a really good deal on Bibles?" More smoke came out.

"We don't have that many Bibles," I said. "What we have are on the bottom shelf there in religion."

"Can you get more for me?" he asked.

"No, they don't really come through," I said, wanting to end this conversation. A customer was behind the guy waiting to buy something.

"Because women keep asking me for Bibles," the guy went on. "I don't push it or anything, but I like to give them out."

"Try the thrift stores," I said, and turned to help the waiting customer.

"Where are your Bibles?" the guy asked.

Once again I pointed to the bottom shelf in religion. He wandered out without bothering to look at the Bibles, obviously just wanting to bore me with Bible conversation rather than actually purchase one.—ac

man called yesterday asking if we would be interested in the Bidgood photography book. I didn't know who Bidgood was, but when he said it was a Taschen book and it was Gay Erotica, I said I'd be interested. I
checked the price on the computer—it was $59.95 new. I told him we'd sell it for about half that and I could give him $15.00 credit.

He said he got the book where he worked as a driver because the box was damaged. He wanted to get the book out of the house because he had some adolescent nephews coming to visit.

So today he came in with the book and a list of books he was after. One was called Conduct Unbecoming a Woman. He said he had heard about it on NPR. We didn't have that, but the others he wanted were classics: 1984, Animal Farm, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Catch 22. He didn't know who the authors were. He said he didn't read much, but he understood these were classics and he wanted to read them.

We had them all except Catch 22 which is hard to keep in stock. As I was running around pulling titles, he said he was impressed that I knew all the authors. I've been doing this a long time, I told him. Finally he got an Into the Wild, used up his $15.00 credit and kept saying he thought he got a good deal.

"You think you could really sell this?"

He eyed the Bidgood book he had brought in skeptically. I flipped through it—lots of pink-lighted naked boys on cheesy sets with butt cheeks displayed. The book had a glossy pink hardback binding.

"Oh yeah, I'll put it in the window," I said. I suggested he bring his adolescent nephews to Pistil when they arrived, but he glanced around and said, "I don't know about that."—ac

Mr. Impressive:
"I don't read books, I just collect them...expensive ones
—what are you doing tonight?

O ld woman with ridiculous eyeglass holders springing out in purple plastic like some psychedelic antennae came in.

"I need a map of England," she demanded.

"We don't have maps. Do you want to see the travel section?" I asked.

She said she did. I lead her to the back of the store to travel, having to climb over this guy who took some free papers to read back there for some reason (he also came in and asked if he could leave his two black bags up front and when I said he could, he did and went outside again, with no explanation, for about ten minutes, leaving me wondering about possible bombs.) We got to the Travel section and I showed her the European travel guide section.

"I don't want a book. I want a map", she stated.

"Well, then you'll have to go where they sell maps," said I.

"I want a travel agency," she said. "Do you have a phone book?"

I decided right then I was not going to look up a damn travel agency for her. We go back to the counter and I hand her phone book, pencil, scrap paper. I gave her directions to Council Travel on Broadway.

Then she wanted to use the phone to call them. There's a phone booth next door, I told her, at which point she marched back outside to hubby waiting in the SUV at the curb, not, I noticed, going next door to use the phone.—ac

D ude comes up to the counter after looking around for a while and asks if we have that book about those three boys who were tortured and killed by their older schoolmates in the Midwest. I have no idea, but he's got a smattering of a title, and after internetting for a while, I get it. He stands at the counter like an oversized
lackey medieval bridge-keeper more interested in watching the fish in the stream, a heavy young guy with his shirt riding over his belly and a silly cap, representing a supposed but non-existent predilection for the counter-culture.

So we go back to True Crime, where some 150-200 different titles are in stock and of course its not there because it's a new book and we didn't bother to order it because its just another cheesy True Crime story, much like the 200 I'm looking at.

So I say, "You know, if you look through here a little, I'm sure you'll find a book or two about children being killed."

He hung back there for a short bit, and then wandered up to the front.

I tell him, "Bailey-Coy, the new bookstore down the street, probably has it."

"I'll go there," he says, and leaves.—sc

Sherman Alexie just came in and bought Oliver Stone's Platoon and four mystery/thriller type books, one of them a Sarah Paretsky. I signed him up in the book club and did not let on that I knew who he was. He
stopped and looked to see what we had of his books in poetry and fiction, I noticed. Luckily, we were stocked up from the Poetry Festival.—ac

A  guy in a baseball cap kept trying to engage me in inane conversation while I was trying to do quarterly taxes. He said things like, "Do you have any books by Robert Creeley? I want to see a book by Robert
Creeley because I want to look at a picture of him. I want to look at a picture of him because I saw a picture of him on another book and he had one of his eyes shot out. Does he really have one of his eyes shot out?"—ac

Middle-aged guy with split lower lip bought a postcard. I rang up the sale, as it came directly after another, without even looking at him. Someone was waiting behind him as well.

He mumbled something about his money and I looked down at his three quarters. One of them is new, or a bicentennial edition or something, and he asked me if that is worth a dollar as an unrecognizable coin. I told him it was worth three dollars because its a chicken quarter where George's wig is accessorized by a roosters comb. He looked closer and I told him I was just kidding.

He wanted me to look at his postcard of a woman's head in three panels, wearing three different colored wigs, and give my opinion as to whether the three are the same person. Then he asked if I thought that this was a gay bookstore.

"What, this one here?" I asked.

He said, "Yeah," and motioned to the aisle where the gay and lesbian and transgendered sections are mostly down here.

I looked blank. He told me to be careful. I assured him I would.—sc

Sean and I were hanging around the counter when a decrepit middle-aged man in a dirty T-shirt and baseball cap and an unhealthy complexion wanted to know if we buy books. I told him that we weren't paying cash right now. He wanted to know what kind of books we buy, a bad sign in shifty-looking characters because it has been
known to encourage them to steal such books.

"What kind do you have?" I asked instead of telling him what we want.

He listed a bunch of pop-thriller authors like Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and Tom Clancy. I told him we had no interest in buying any of these authors. He asked again what we like to buy and Sean gave him a list: Literature, Art, Poetry, Metaphysics, Do-It-Yourself.

After the guy left, Sean commented that it was probably a bad idea to tell the guy a list of categories. Sure enough, about an hour later he came back with a brand new hardback book of poetry by Jewel.

I'm not up on mainstream pop culture, but isn't she a teenage singer? Her blonde head filled the dust jacket. I just shook my head.

"I told you we aren't paying cash," I said.

"Not even for poetry?" he asked.

Somehow I was suspicious of his authenticity as a Jewel fan. He was pissy that I wouldn't buy his hot book and stepped outside, but then came right back in and asked if there's a K-Mart or a Barnes and Noble nearby.

"Not in this neighborhood," I said.

The K-Mart's out on Aurora. There is a new Barnes and Noble downtown, but I wasn't going to tell him where it is. K-Mart must be where he steals books from.—ac

Middle-aged dyed blonde woman with bad teeth came in and asked in a soft voice, "Do you have any books on Clint Eastwood or any pornography books?" as if the two topics are interchangeable. She
briefly examined the one Clint Eastwood book we had and looked at one book in the sex section before leaving without a word.—ac

The crazy man who buys science books put a couple of titles on hold. While at the counter he said, "I don't know why you haven't discovered a cure for AIDS by now, working here." This is the same guy who claims
that everyone looks like him.—ac

T he idiot from the other day who wanted to see a photo of Robert Creeley because his eye is fucked up (Robert Creeley's), came today again loaded down with his packed army rucksack. He brought up a Kinkos box and
proceeded to pull out three spiral-bound photocopied books he had authored. I told him that Sean was the one who decided on consignment items (its true!) and he works on Tuesday.

The guy then wanted a card. I gave him a bookmark and he spent five minutes writing Sean Carlson and Tuesday on the back of the bookmark, talking to himself about what he was doing the entire time: "I'm going to write Sean down. Is your number on here? What's the name of your store?"—ac

know this guy. He follows me around he store while I shelve, asking himself the same question over and over again, solving it over and over again.—tor