One day, at 21, I was hungry, left home to buy some food and entered a used-bookstore – stockpiled from ceiling to floor with reams of paper bound together by the imagination, instead. The store’s buzzing shelves contained every title under the sun, and then some, so I spent all the money I had to buy what I could, to nourish my soul and feed my craving brain; then I convinced the old man at the cash to give me a job- so I could buy more.
The moldy store became my haven. I lost and found myself in its pages, under the frisky tutelage of Mr. Block; the aging, Jewish manager and Nicorette fiend, who became my true blue friend. Those were the days when you could smoke anywhere and we sure did, as, coked up on nicotine, Mr. B entertained me by haggling with our incredulous French customers in Yiddish, in that crazy microcosm of life and fire-trap of a store (stalked, at the time, by a pyromaniac German arsonist).
Mr. B was a feisty, seen-it-all holocaust survivor who took care of the business for his book-crazed accountant-by-day, bookseller-by-night son, Jay. Jay brought André (his secret lover) into the fold. André didn’t read or know anything about books, but was a good egg who didn’t mind lying to his book-sick lover as he carted boxes and boxes of crappy novels out to the alley to be stolen or recycled. Jay bought books by the ton, indiscriminately, jamming the claustrophobic store with more and more and more, until there was no room to breathe and you couldn’t see the floor. Jay was addicted to books (as were some of our favorite, bug-eyed customers), but didn’t seem to care as much about their contents. And, he never noticed when people would haul our boxes back into the store to (re) sell them. He would just buy them, again.
If you asked him why he did it, he would tell you, books are my life.
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