A Little About Me
Hopefully, my seventy-plus trips around the sun have led to a little wisdom…and certainly some regret. But, I think in regret lies wisdom. We learn and grow from it. And that’s what life is about: growth. Always growth.
I hesitate to ask someone what they do “for a living,” because I don’t think we’re necessarily defined by our jobs; especially in today’s world where fluidity is a growing necessity. I’d rather inquire about interests and passions; they define us more than anything else.
Contradicting the above, though, I’ll say that I have held many jobs from horse stall cleaner as a kid, to special education teacher and vocational evaluator, and finally as a GED instructor, before retiring and spending more time writing (okay, and a lot of time fishing).
But about midway in my life, I did get a chance to work at something that many of us book beagles only dream about. And that is…owning a book store!
I spent months collecting used books. I was first in line at countless garage sales, haunted St. Vincent De Paul, and obsessively attended Salvation Army bag sales. These were sales held not at the store itself, but at the Salvation Army warehouse. At the bag sales, you could actually fill up a grocery bag with books, piled on their freshly stocked warehouse floor, for a dollar a bag. And you weren’t limited to just a single bag, but as many as you could carry. You never knew what you’d find when the big metal hangar-like door opened promptly at 8am, and everyone poured in and raced to their area of interest, because along with books, there was stuff of every description. Sometimes there would be only a few tattered books. But on other occasions, stacks of boxes of unpicked-over books of all kinds waited to be sorted through. Speed was the essence, but the downside was keeping an eye on your bags while continuing your search. More than once, I turned around to find someone riffling through my sacks, then innocently asking, “Oh, this is yours?” The scene made Black Friday look like a funeral reception. But, I really scored on most bag sale days and actually found a few rare books to boot.
And so, stocked with 7,000 used paperbacks and about a thousand hard back books (one of which was autographed by Sherlock Holmes himself – Basil Rathbone) I proudly opened The Phoenix Bookstore in the fall.
And then the realities of survival set in. There was no crush of customers. The furnace only sort of worked. And the 1984 winter was one of the coldest on record. Along with the building owner being slow to fix the furnace, the extreme cold caused the concrete walkway in front to rise, making access to the store possible only for the most slender of my patrons, since the front door could only be opened part way. I finally gave up on the landlady, took a chisel and hammer and carved out a path for the door, a task that didn’t exactly jibe with my day-dream aspirations of entrepreneurship.
After the year I (and my wife) had given it to start working, sadly the Phoenix returned to the ashes. In hindsight, the store was probably too small and the location not ideal, and, honestly, the storekeeper’s talent lay not in business.
Did I like the experience? I loved it. But not enough to try again. Soon after, I went back into what seemed to fit the best: education.
And so, I would like to share with you some thoughts about life and the world. And if just one maxim should stay with you, then I’ll feel I’ve not wasted your time.
Thanks for your time, and keep reading!