Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Morning Arrives With John "Beltway Sniper" Muhammad and The Arrival of Dusk Is Heralded By Burt Reynolds In His Plum Dandies
Notes of An Aged Bookseller Told That Books Will Shortly Be Extinct
Ah, the snow day. Often slightly magical as long as there isn't ice in the mix or too many desperate drug addict sellers panicking at the thought of being cut off from the world and the juice for a day or two.
I'll never forget digging out my car AT MY HOME, many blocks from the store, when one of our pushier sellers saw me bundled up scraping at my car. He started a sales pitch of his books on me in the blinding snow without even knowing who I was. Then once he did recognize me he was like a pitbull who had just settled onto a good leg joint.
Of course a year later, when The City Paper ran a feature article on him as a long time repeat felon charged with rape and murder who keeps slipping through the disjointed jaws of the system, we discovered that he was something beyond a daily pushy seller of horror novels. Here we'd been haggling with and telling our correct buying hours to a man who had drained life itself from fellow beings. But at first when he started coming around I gave him the benefit of the doubt because he was selling and had obviously read Le Fanu, Maugham, E.T.A. Hoffman, M.R. James and Algernon Blackwood. Good stuff.
This snow day, a mid-sizer - somewhere in the 4" zone, started with the first customer being the guy who looks like John "Beltway Sniper" Muhammad coming in darting around and looking anxious. "I'm just going to leave my bag up here to perhaps deflect any suspicion you may have of my darting eyes and then wander into the back with my bulky coat and when I leave I will be walking like a hunchback who has a load in my pants. But do not get distressed, the square book-like humps in my shorts and back will only be true loads in my pants and exploded postules, nothing for you to be concerned about." At least John Muhammad's song and dances are brief. He doesn't do the added indignity of dragging them out so that not only does he decrease your stock, but he also attaches onto your time and pretends to be your bud. Luckily, the false "John" was followed by two friend Johns, cultural power hitters who shall be named in no more detail, other than one of them has and one of them used to have a long flaxen ponytail and both would look at home riding steeds through a lost kingdom. They circled each other quietly, giving each other sidelong glances. Suffice it to say that other than the tales the two Johns spun for me, one of them involving historic moments with Baltimore legend Ethel Ennis, the day drifted like the flakes outside as I dreamt of finishing my cyber thriller novel where the world turns out to be a chip inserted into a hedgehog which is the only thing of flesh that truly exists. Or something like that. Finally around 4 I acknowledged that Nature had beaten Retail thoroughly this day and even though I've been in this game for decades I still had a fierce battle with my conscience to close early so I could hit the post office. As I made peace and worked on counting out the drawer, in walked Burt Reynolds, the star of our stable of Duckville regulars who pride themselves on coming here for 20 years without buying anything. Impressive. But even more impressive than his withholding of his wallet essence was the fact that he was sticking to his plum dandy shorts, despite the blustery snowy weather. He is of the School of Playboy Jazz whose main tenet is that if a man is able to wear shorts on a daily basis he is one smooth badass dude. The irony was that when I told him I was closing early he was taken aback: "What, now?" "How much time do you need for your invisible purchases sir? Should one of our non-existent elves carry the many tomes and vinyl slabs to your jazzmobile?" He sulked back out and I slowly skidded my way to the post office. Beginning the day with John "Beltway Sniper" Muhammad and ringing it out in the gray dusk with the fading legend of Burt Reynolds.
Later that night I dusted off my sled, wired it beneath a Colt 45 truck with deliveries to make and for four hours I breathed the lightning cold air of the gods, my lungs and head exploding with true life.