Never drink Mountain Dew.
I'm drinking Mountain Dew right now. I've gone into a funk where I feel like I have nothing to say. Hopefully the Dew will work its caffeinated magic and jar something loose. On my way back from Richdale (where I purchased said Dew) to write this I thought of all the nice customers who have come into my store over the years but have passed away. Some really sweet people.
John Lindsay was my very first customer 23 years ago. He knocked on the window while I was setting up the store and I was kind of annoyed because I wasn't open yet. But he just wanted to buy a Titanic book I had on display (years later he left me his books in his will and I got that book back) and he turned out to be one of the nicest people I've ever met. I hate public speaking, but when John was in a nursing home in Magnolia he requested me for a speaker and so I couldn't turn him down.
There were only about seven people in the audience and I was such a bad speaker one of them fell asleep and then woke with a jolt and exclaimed, “What's he going on about!!” And then my brain jammed and I couldn't think of anything to say, so me and the old folks just quietly sat there staring at each other.
I should have brought the DEW!
After the talk John showed me his photos from when he was a glider pilot, it was so nice.
Other great customers that I am so grateful to have known were Margaret and Jack Murray. What a delight they were.
Margaret was just a fun person. She would come into the store and we would chat away while Jack read books on the couch. They were both artists and taught art and had so many interesting things to say. We would talk about what exhibits I had seen and how much I loved museums and what they were painting and Margaret would show me old advertisements from magazines that she found fascinating.
After they passed away they said to their friends to have me buy their books. It was in the middle of Covid and so the door to their empty house was unlocked and I just went in alone and took the books. It was such an interesting experience. There were photos of them on the walls and I was amazed at how beautiful they were when they were young. Jack's wallet was sitting there on the kitchen table and I could feel the different phases of their lives from all the books on the shelves. I felt their presence so strongly it was really beautiful. Another great benefit to being in the used book trade.
Some former customers come from far away and I only see them once a year or so. My friend John would come to see his daughter at Christmas and we would almost pick up the conversation from where we had left it last year. Although we did email. He was so smart he took my advice on every book I recommended, and then wrote me nice notes about how great the book picks were! (He loved Knausgaard—the quickest way to my reading heart). After he passed away his widow wrote me the nicest note. I'll think of him this Christmas.
I just finished my Mountain Dew. Maybe I need another? No. I'll soldier on without the green stuff.
I remember “Pippy,” or “Pippa,” with such fondness. She was such a delight. It wasn't anything to do with books that was so fun, she was just such an aristocrat in the best sense of the word. She breezed in, had some wonderfully nice things to say and breezed out. She walked around town in the summers with her equally fun friend and they would eat at Christo's and then stop in. Once “Pippa's” walking friend passed away I noticed a little droop in her vivacity, and I thought how time is even tough on the best of people. My friend Dave used to drive “Pippa,” to the airport and when we were out for a beer, we would always tell stories about her and how nice and fun she was and her equally nice husband Fred.
I have great customers now as well, I guess I'll miss them someday too.
Mark Stolle owns Manchester By The Book, a used bookstore in downtown Manchester and he offers biweekly recommendations for our readers on what to read right now.