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view from the bookstore window…

December 16, 2012


Scraps of Paper…

July 2011:

“The fog blowing in off the lake has shrouded the new and shiny condo tower down the street and the refracting sunlight in the glass is creating a real-life moment of impressionist art. The condo tower appears to be floating, disappearing, coming back again. People are stopping outside my store window to take pictures with their cell phones and digital cameras.

A woman comes up to the counter. She is buying a book on meditation and reflective thought. Gibran’s “The Prophet”.

  I comment that it is nice that people are taking pictures of the tower.

“It’s just fog,” she says with a surprising vindictiveness in her dismissal of my comment.

I look at her more closely and realize that she is an angry skinny woman with a Starbucks cup in one hand, and her cell phone in the other.”

I don’t think the book is for her. ——

March 2012:

“I love that the parking meter authority on my small patch of Queen St. West is a 5’6” little man, who always thinks (and acts) like he is just one horse-riding lesson away from being Napoleon.

The obvious consequence of his absolute demand that he be respected to the absolute letter of the law, is that everyone deals with him like he was an absolute douche-bag. —–

June 2012:

“I was cycling to work, down the tree-shaded back streets behind Darkhorse Cafe, when I see a middle-aged man helping his very old mother walk to his car. The car door open, ready to receive her.

The old woman looks absolutely miserable, and slovenly, and pathetic. Overweight, jowly, and reeking of bitterness. She was the self-indulgent Monarch nearing the end of her reign.

She looked like she was the absolute opposite of my in-law grandmother who had recently passed away.

Esther had a smile that came from somewhere in the middle of the universe, where all good and pure and wonderful things come from. Esther lit up a room, and she knew it. Esther lived in art, and laughter, and good conversation.

The first time I met her, was for her 90th birthday, and it was like standing in the presence of an energy beam.

She just recently died in her sleep – which, is to die in your dreams – where her warm memories mingle with the colors of her life. 

This woman on the street, however, should watch, that her son doesn’t accidentally drop her in front of the bus – which, by the look of his irritated and exasperated face as I cycle by, could happen at any moment.

I keep cycling. I don’t look back. Just in case. —–

August 2012

“Nobody notices the juxtaposition of books I sometimes assemble on the display tables of the bookstore. A biography of Einstein beside a book about God.  Or Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas beside Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide. Richard Dawkins beside Michael Behe’s Intelligent Design Theory.

There are few small amusements in life – especially when one lives in non-communicative Toronto, but one perseveres as best as one can.

Once a man had noticed that I had stacked a big pile of King James’ Bibles beside an exactly equally tall pile of the Atheist’s Handbook. Both piles towering over the rest. He said he got a small chuckle out of it – and said he’d be back.

The bookstore is straight across the street from the Much Music/CTV downtown studios, but I’ve never had a celebrity come into the store. All day long I look at Marilyn Denis’ big happy face – everyday she stares at me blankly – always smiling. But I’ve never seen Marilyn in the flesh.

I’ve watched Jeanie Becker (of Fashion Television fame) hail a cab. She was in a foul mood that day – no autographs, thank you very much! – get lost, leave me alone. But hey, I thought to myself, it’s gotta be tough being Jeanie in the fashion world. When she was younger, no one took her seriously, and now at her age, everyone in that world pretends they don’t know her.

Glamour is a very small window anorexics have to squeeze through. And Jeanie was never a model. Not even a photographer. She was only ever an acolyte with a microphone, one of the many barnacles of the fashion world, who gave ’80’s and ’90’s teenaged boys lots of T&A to stare at before internet porn came along and ruined titillation for everyone.

One of my favorite customers is the Asian tranny who comes in every Friday night. She has legs that go as high as my eye-balls, and brilliant implants that remind me of tight sweaters in the middle of winter. She has a thing for art books and Coco Chanel.

I love watching the reactions she gets from the other customers. Most women think her little skirts distasteful, while, when I look at the men, their faces range from awe to fear.

Conversely, of course, my worst customer is the kleptomaniac who terrorizes all the downtown bookstores (banned from all of them). He’s got a “thing” for books. But he’s a complete idiot as well, for he simply comes in (if you don’t catch him first), opens his knapsack, and starts filling it with books.

The bookstores no longer bother calling the police – who simply send him to CAMH – where he’s back on the street in a  day or two. So now I just yell at him and he runs out the door. Leaving his pile behind. —–

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