distinctive hiss of an aerosol can. Peering carefully out
the window, I saw a fellow tagging and another looking out.
What a lark.
||was about 2 p.m. on a Tuesday. I was waiting for the
phone company to hook up a line in back and so had the
window open at the back of the store, when I heard the
They looked to be about 16. I noted the clothes of each and
slunk up and called 911 telling them all I knew. I could hear
them calling code numbers to cars as I held the line. Efficient
folks down there at 911. Moments later, the group, five of
them, came up the stairs beside the store and were waiting
for a couple of minutes at the bicycle rack. They're all dressed
in super-baggy clothes and a couple of them are wearing hooded
jackets, other than that they look like perfectly clean-cut
youth, just getting out of school, messing around on their
way home. They strolled casually away towards Broadway, the
arterial down the street.. I stood at the door, just my nose
peering past the frame, careful not to be noticed, and watched
them walk straight down the street. Just then a bicycle cop
rolled up in his little helmet and his short pants cop outfit.
He pulls to a near stop, but still standing on the pedals,
with his butt up in the air and hands firmly on the metal handlebars,
noticed my view and asked nodding, "That them there?"
He did not even stop rolling as I confirmed his suspicions,
then departed quickly. I was feeling a little uneasy at this
point, the thrill of the catch having passed, but the scene
was certainly getting more interesting. I was shocked at the
cop's speedy arrival. Maybe 30 seconds passed, I am still
in the doorway and I can see the bike officer has jumped on
someone and I can see a few figures running in various directions,
one is running full speed diagonally across Broadway and our
street, Pike. Another 30 seconds pass and here comes a cop
car from the opposite direction on Pike, on the wrong side
of the street and with lights ablaze. Another mount goes by
and another cop comes around a corner at full throttle, sirens
wailing. I saw at least seven cars responding, streaking past
under heavy acceleration, long after the flock of boys were
moving as fast as their overpriced tennies would carry them.
First I was fearful, then aghast, then overcome with mirth.
I came back inside and could not stop giggling. Never have
I seen such an overreaction to such a peccadillo of a crime.
About an hour later the same bicycle cop who rolled by initially
came back later to inform me that the perpetrators had videotaped
their crime for posterity, so chances were good I would not
have to trudge down as a witness so the store could be tagged
for the next five years in revenge. He said also that he hates
taggers, enunciating the word "hate" with real passion--apparently
a view shared by much of the force. So next time we're getting
robbed, or I am chasing down some fuck with a book in his
pants, when I expect to see an officer in some 45 minutes
to an hour, I'll just yell "Taggers, taggers" and
watch the sky light on fire.
that would be me. He started to tell me about some "free"
online listing of merchants he was representing and I interrupted
him to say I was busy and could he just leave the information
and if we were interested, we'd contact him. Of course this
confounded and annoyed him as I was interrupting his hard-memorized
spiel and his presentation all lined up in his briefcase.
He kept asking when would be a good time to come back and
I told him there was no good time as I tried not to breathe
too much Brut, could he just leave the information and get
out of my way. He pulled some brightly colored pamphlets from
his briefcase, spieling all the while, flustered.
||clean-cut youngster clutching a briefcase and reeking
of bad cologne came in asking to "speak to the
manager." Sensing an unsolicited sales talk, I
"When can I come back?" he asked.
"Just leave the information and I'll call you if I'm
interested," I countered.
"But it's free!" he sputtered. I could see him deciding
whether or not to actually leave a brochure or not, as he
didn't want to leave one without going on about it. But he
left and later as I glanced at what he left I could see a
price guide: 6 month listing $45.--ac
After three or four minutes, he turned to me and asked if
I had ever met an Indian person. I guessed he meant East Indian
because I was playing sitar music. I said, yes.
||clean cut guy wearing bifocals came in and perused
the magazine rack with a faint smile. I noticed he was
holding something under his jacket which I couldn't
He commented how all the ones he'd met were arrogant and stuffy,
not worth paying attention to since they were so "stuck-up."
I said I thought the Indians I'd met were different, but not
arrogant per se. He asked me if I'd change the music because,
"This music always makes me think of 'incoming.'"
He said he'd been in Vietnam and this music always reminding
him of being in a foxhole.
I said I'd change the music if he liked, and asked what he'd
like to hear. He said I should put on some American music,
like Elvis. I found my Beatles tape and put it on. He smiled
and said that was better. I even think he shook his hips a
"Now this music I can relate to," he said. I mentioned
that the Beatles were English, but he said that was okay.
After two or three songs he looked at me and said "All
my friends think of incoming, too, when they hear this music."--tor
agreeably checked at the counter. I was working on the computer
in back with no customers in the store, so I was not happy
to have to sit at the counter and watch these guys finger
through the mags and music section, hunched over in their
huge coats. I estimated the chances of one of them spending
any money--the antithesis of punk culture--as being about
as likely as the Queen of England moshing. But of course it
is the height of retail rudeness to assume that a person is
just going to loiter based only on what they look like. Just
then, the guy going through the mags informs the guy going
through music that the publication Live Wild or Die
has printed some of his artwork. They both excitedly examine
the pages in question while I lurk behind a copy of Z
thinking, "Ah-ha, now they'll have to buy something."
After a few minutes the artist puts back the magazine and
says, "Wow, that's great. They should send me a free
|| couple of punks came in last night,
about 9 p.m., one of whom was in about a week ago looking
for bird books--I think he swiped one. So this eve they
were carrying a large stuffed plastic bag, which they
After they left I could still detect that peculiarly foul
murky odor people have who have not bathed in awhile.--sc
he wants to buy it, mind you. (Lesson: Do not leave the stool
in front of drugs/Loompanics.) I told him he could special
order it, but of course he doesn't want to pay for it. He
just wants to sit and read it. I hate him. I am annoyed at
being stuck behind the counter where I can watch him when
I was in the middle of redoing the window. When he came in,
he said to no one in particular, "They don't do piercings!"
I think he was referring to the tattoo shop. Later he brought
up Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and asked if it came out
before the movie. His nice girlfriend bought two health books.--ac
||ew Year's Day. Another year of retail hell! Big, stupid
long-haired guy is sitting on the stool in front of
drugs/Loompanics reading. He asked for The Anarchist
Cookbook, not that
books by "Lewis" and spelled out the name. I showed
him some of the Narnia books and it turned out these were
the ones he was after, though it took him a while to understand
that they were a part of a series. He said he was learning
English. Then he said there was a book in the window he wanted
to see. I thought it might be one of the Lewis Carroll books,
after all he was after children's books. But no, he wanted
to see, Cunt, by Inga Muscio. (He pronounced it
perfectly.) I got the book out of the window for him and hoped
I wouldn't have to explain what it meant. He looked at it
briefly, but as there were no pictures I don't think he was
all that interested.--ac
|| old man who could barely speak English wanted to
know if we had any children's books by "Lewis."
This being a fairly vague question, I asked if he meant
C.S. Lewis. He didn't understand my question and just
repeated that he wanted children's
from her wallet. I'm dubious as she fills it out, for the
check is crumpled and worn to the point of disintegration.
She asks if I want to see I.D. and I do. But as it turns out,
the check is number 221 from Bennington, VT. Not even a street
address, just "Bennington, VT." Needless to say,
I did not accept it. She pays with her credit card. Bennington
is home to Bennington College, that little artsy fartsy college
Brett Easton Ellis writes about with pill-popping co-eds.
Apparently he went there. The check-writing girl was dressed
all in plaids and wool cap, as if she's been hiking in the
||girl buying an independent film making book asks if
we take checks or credit cards. I say, "Both,"
and she pulls out a crumpled check imprinted with cartoon
came in with Walkman blaring and hovered around the free stuff
a while. We had the lovely Black Cat Orchestra playing on
our stereo, and the din of this person's scratchy, tinny headphone
noise was especially irritating and loud. She came up to the
counter and put a Stranger down, then looked at me expectantly.
||hate it when people talk on their cell phones in the
store or when they come in with their Walkman earphones
blasting so loudly that I have to listen to it too.
This morning someone
"It's free," I said.
Still she stood there, a young black woman, a teenager, with
blonde hair. Then she asked to borrow the scissors. I gave
them to her and she started to go on about how "I believe
if you're really good at something, like Michael Jordan, you
will be a success, blah, blah, blah..."
I had absolutely no interest in talking about Michael Jordan
or in that bullshit "success, attitude, excellence"
philosophy and/or jargon found most often in bad pop psych
books or motivational seminars. Oh, and on those posters with
the jet fighters they had at the vocational school I used
to work at. I ignored her and tried to run a credit card mail
order sale, but for some reason, the phone line was dead.
I messed with the phone and the credit card machine, still
ignoring the continuing-to-jabber teenager. "You'll see
me on T.V. someday. You'll see me on T.V. someday," she
'Honey, I don't watch T.V.,' I was thinking. 'Why won't she
leave? She's not buying anything.'
"Is your phone not working?" she asked now. "Do
you have a jack? If you have a small screwdriver, there's
a blue wire and a black wire you turn clockwise."
"It's okay now," I lied and headed to the back of
the store to make myself coffee.
The girl stood at the counter and slowly made her way to the
front door, still she kept talking to me for the next five
minutes until she was finally out the door. "You have
a good day," she said.
She had left The Stranger on the counter. She had cut out
an ad from the Bulletin Board on the back: "Women's Voice,
Women's Spirit. Workshops for young women on personal discovery.
"Say, How do I get to Renton?"
"So--How much are the Hardbacks??"
the section for five minutes. Can't they tell?) He came up
to the counter with a couple of science fiction paperbacks
and Noam Chomsky's Culture of Terrorism. "It's so nice
to find a normal bookstore!" he proclaimed.
||guy came in and asked where science fiction was and
then if it's alphabetized by author (I always wonder
about people who ask this question after they've been
"And we qualify?"
"Well, no offense if you're gay," he said, "but
I'm not. And so many bookstores around here are gay and I
just want to get something to read without getting into any
conducts herself with great deference but is persistent as
well. I think previously I had only heard her mumble things
about the Lesbian Resource Center's newspaper on the free
rack. So she came to the counter today and asking for a copy
of On the Beach by Shute. Her face was mole-like, with very
white flaccid wrinkles gathering at her jaw line, a tight
scarf wrapped around her head underneath her hood. Shute was
not on the shelves--one of those so-common books we never
buy it. But way up in overstock, gathering a fine layers of
dust on the top edge, I found an old paperback. I gave it
to her and she bent over it, flipping through the browned
pages. She came back up to the counter and in her hesitant
high-pitched voice showed me two books she wanted to trade
for it: a Garfield comic and Menstruation and Menopause in
trade size paperback.
||he woman who used to scout the free rack nearly every
day, a tiny old woman who must weigh about 65 pounds,
always overdressed and wearing a beige overcoat with
the hood up, just came in and actually spoke directly
to me. I doubt if I have made eye contact with her before,
No money, no bookee; Shute. She thanked me profusely, took
her throwaways, and put them neatly in her bag. Exited right.
I figured she does pretty well on the free rack.--sc
runs and hides in the mountains to escape his fate. There
he runs into death again and jokes with him. The story has
some kind of trick to it, the young man can't remember what.
Also, he's not sure if he read it or dreamed it.--ac
||oung guy with knapsack, knit cap, came in and said
he's trying to find a story. It has to do with a guy
who meets death who tells him his days are numbered,
so the guy
the floor (and I've found them in
the past), I'm gonna be pissed. I just vacuumed this morning.
Ill know its theirs.--ac
||grunge couple with dyed black hair are walking around,
both picking their teeth with toothpicks. Neither of
them has acknowledged me in any way. If I find a toothpick on
over by the window display reading a book. Hardly anyone comes
in; he stays over there reading that book some 45 minutes.
Eventually I ask him if that's a new book or a used one. He
tells me it is new without looking up.
This guy in a fatigue green cap with a big red star
on the front, long black hair, and loose fitting jeans
is on the floor
I say, "Well,
I ask that people not just read new books in the store because
soon they become shopworn and can no longer be sold as new
He rolls his eyes, gets up and puts the book
back, saying nothing. He stands and looks at lesbian mags
for a while, hands in his pockets, then turns abruptly and
heads for the door. When he gets his hand on the handle, I
say, "Thank you," cheerily.
He mutters something.
Were there bookstores under Mao where
you could just go in and bend up the new stuff while hanging
out on the floor as long as you wanted?--sc
"I said we could buy "Oprah's
books", not old books!"
window and wanted to trade this book he just bought for fifteen
dollars straight across for it. While I was irritably (I admit
it) explaining to Nemo, with whom I've never been able to
have a rational conversation, that I wasn't trading my book
for his book, his friend was mumbling about how businesses
like this were going to get closed down. That's when I told
him to leave and he called me an anti-male gay bitch. Nemo,
meanwhile, kept mumbling about how he wrote for The Stranger
when it was 16 pages and The Rocket and he'll come buy this
book when he gets his paycheck from Rolling Stone.--ac
||just got called an anti-male gay bitch by a friend
of Nemos whom I then threw out. (Nemo is a local poet.)
Nemo saw the Mouse Tales book about Disney World/Land
book published, he explained, warming up to the subject, and
was told we might be just the place to carry it. He began
to describe the plot as I stared blankly at him. I asked if
it was a self-published work.
||oung guy, 25ish, black curly hair, wearing a T-shirt
with alien heads on it with a target superimposed over
them stepped to the counter and apologized for being
groggy because he just got off a flight. He had a
He said, "Yes, but its got an
ISBN. I bought ten of them, so I'll probably publish someone
He said the main character, the protagonist,
I guess, was a cyborg, and I might even get a visit from him.
I said Id wear my anti-gravity suit for the occasion. His
eyes gleamed with interest and he described most of the components
of Mr. Cyborg's suit, right down to the rubber boots. The
book was available from a company called Fringewear, where
he published the first chapter of his book, which was actually
an assignment for his astronomy class, and he's already sold
thirty copies! He said in an aside that he is actually the
cyborg and he'd be glad to sell his book out front, in his
jumpsuit. I told him that wouldn't work for us because of
liability issues around the uneven sidewalk.
When I brought out the Pistil journal to start getting his
visit down on paper and to encourage his departure, he was
happy to see the implicit camaraderie we shared. He bought
a used Bukowski because he wanted to use his style in his
I read a few pages of his efforts. Surprise, its awful.--sc
shelf and told him.
||man called and asked if we had WhAP! magazine (Women
Who Administer Punishment). "Yes, we do,"
I told him. He asked what issues we had, so I got the
latest two off the
"Have you seen it?" he asked.
"Yes," I said, holding it in my hand.
"I never knew anything about that before I saw that magazine,"
he said. "I really do think women should be dominant.
What do you think?"
"I don't know. I suppose it depends on the individual,"
"Its hard to meet women who are into it," he said.
"You might try the personals," I suggested.
"That doesn't work very well," he said. "You
sound like you'd be understanding."
"Ha. Well, they're here if you want them," I said.
Damn. Got to get myself some stilettos, garters, and fishnets.--ac
that I knew who he was.
||herman 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
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
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
||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
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.
||iddle-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.
"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.
a bad sign in shifty-looking characters because it has been
known to encourage them to steal such books.
||ean 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,
"What kind do
you have?" I asked instead of telling him what we want.
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,"
"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.
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
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
||iddle-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
||he 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
This is the same guy who claims that everyone
looks like him.
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.
||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
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 the store while
I shelve, asking himself the same question over and
over again, solving it over and over again.--tor