An older gentleman asked me if we had literature in French. I said, we do but it’s in the very back of the store, follow me and I’ll show you where. It’s a bit embarrassing taking someone back there as they invariably laugh ‘You weren’t kidding, it is the very back of the store!’
He was looking for Francoise Sagan’s: Bonjour Tristesse. I apologized that the books were vaguely in order. As he looked on one shelf I stooped down and started digging through the first box; lacking confidence that we would find it. I picked a pile of books off the second box and my eyes focused on the purple & white lettering. I chirped, grasping the book ‘I found it!’ I handed it to him and he immediately turned to the Paul Eluard poem at the beginning of the novel and read it aloud.
I stood transfixed. My French is poor but the way the words softly spilled from his lips I understood why the cliche of young women falling in love with older Parisian men exists. He wasn’t reading for me. He needed to hear the words for himself and when he was done he quietly sighed ‘Perfect.’
He expressed how grateful he was I’d found it for him. We lamented the closing of bookstores of late and the loss of a great shop in the city that use to specialize in languages other than English. Personally, I would visit it for their excellent graphic novel section. He stopped to share the prize with his wife. I surreptitiously took this picture before they bought it and left.
You are inscribed in the lines on the ceiling
You are inscribed in the eyes that I love
You are not poverty absolutely
Since the poorest of lips denounce you
Ah with a smile
Love of kind bodies
Power of love
From which kindness rises
Like a bodiless monster
Sadness beautiful face
This is the mural my brother and his friend Darren painted on the back wall of our bookstore some time in the 90’s. Next door across the breezeway there was a doughnut shop; the building is empty and condemned now cause the landlord wouldn’t fix the roof. Mom had proposed to the doughnut shop owner that a mural be painted on the back of both buildings. Tavis and Darren rendered the coolest scene. It was like a cross between Ralph Bakshi’s: Lord of the Rings and Sergio Aragones: Groo The Wanderer.
The depiction was of the book realm goblins, long limb and potbellied, sprinting away with falling towers of donuts as the tall, rotund doughnut goblin, in his apron and bakers hat, bared his teeth and angrily waved a rolling pin. I don’t know why a doughnut maker had a rolling pin. It was awesome, delightful, utterly ridiculous. The doughnut shop owner didn’t like it and vetoed the drawing.
Deflated but with paint already bought and walls primed, they lobbed around ideas to mom but none stuck. She had a vague idea of what she wanted but with little time left in the summer they had to paint something quickly.
This is my favorite story about the door. I don’t remember when maybe it was 1999 or 2000? I was up at the front till when my brother walked in from the back entrance with a smirking stride. In the alley there had been some sort of sports wear fashion shoot happening right outside the door. It was blocking Tavis from entering so he hung back and watched. There was a full posturing entourage; busy cellphones and spandex, sunglasses with clipboards. A male and female model doing action poses framing the door. He stood and observed while eyes rolled and guffawed at his onlooking. The director of the shoot hollered ‘We got this! Wrap it up!’ and the crew started packing gear into the vans.
Tavis sidled up to the director and photographer and said ‘What magazine is this for?’ The photographer scowled at him.
‘I only ask cause it’s a really interesting choice using the door.’ Without looking up from his phone the director sighed ‘Yeah uh- huh -sure buddy.’
Tavis replied confidently ‘It’s a bold choice, using the vagina as the feature…’ The director and photographer stiffened and looked up. He continued ‘…the boy reading inside the vagina inside the toads mouth.’ He walked up the door, unlocked it and strode inside.