Lorry’s Book Company occupied an old building where tabloid newspapers once produced copy for the masses. Apparently, it’s also a well known piece of architecture, a fact I’d not known until I looked for photos of the building online. I did realize it was quite an ancient structure, but then so are most of the others that far down town, around City Hall, across from the Woolworth Building and a few blocks from the shopping mall that was once the South Street Seaport. An interesting area for a bookstore. Although a stone’s throw from The World Trade Center, which was fairly new at the time I worked at Lorry’s, we didn’t get the Wall Street traffic, or much business traffic. Honestly, I’ve no idea what kind of traffic we attracted, or if we attracted enough for the owner to make a profit. I just did my job and watched the wackiness that surrounded me.
Besides Lou, the feral toothed owner’s mother, and diminutive gremlin father, several other employees worked within the store. My friend Bob, Ray, the day manager, and various and sundry cashiers, part timers, temporary employees– although we never knew they were going to be short term employed when hired. People seemed to drift in and out.
Ray was a pip of a manager, and I say that with love in my heart. He was an infectious sort, full of energy and fiery temper. But, I’m not quite sure what he did. I suppose he ordered the hard covers, I would see him conversing from time to time with a rep, and he would help customers, but mostly he hung out at the Blimpies next door—if—and only if–The Parents were not present. When the trolls were in residence, he showed his most charming and busiest self. I’m not certain as to where Ray lived–it was quite far up from the store, but most everyplace in Manhattan was farther up than there. His arrival at the store was iffy–approximately on time, and rather worse for wear, as they say. He surreptitiously took nips of alcohol when at work, however most of his real imbibing was in the comfort of hoagies and coleslaw–again at Blimpies. I don’t want to give the impression he was a wastrel, far from it, but his work habits were unique.
One worker who lasted a little longer than most, was professorial, educated, slightly above his station in life. That was the impression he presented. He was a flirt to customers and employees alike. He charmed The Mother until all of her canines lit up like little ivory daggers. His line to me when I had a birthday– “I believe a woman is her most beautiful at 25.” I decided if I had been 21 or 32 I would have been my most beautiful at that age, in his corny repertoire. But I wasn’t against a little flattery, it especially helped when I was full of book dust from the tip or my ‘Anglo nose” down to my “shapely legs.” Any reference to more intimate body parts would have put some of his own in jeopardy.
Another fellow had the distinction of being the brother of singer in a fairly well known rock? band at the time. I question the term rock, because I believe they were perhaps considered punk? Doesn’t matter, they don’t exist now, and the singer changed his identity and style and became more famous in that persona. His brother was a nice ineffectual kind of guy, who seemed to tire of the entire bookstore world rather quickly.
A third guy, (I just realized that besides a cashier, I was the only female employee, and the only one on the floor) wore combat style clothing, with hair almost shoulder level he kept having to flip back away from his face. He carried a pretty unconcealed knife–he showed it to everyone, and was one of the nicer sweeter people I’ve known. He was loyal to me, and my friend Bob, and in this place, where crazy bookstore politics raged, loyalty was a nice thing to have.
There were various and sundry others, but they tend to blur with time–except for a really prickly superior type, who left huffily, or at least left, and later worked at a bookstore I’d pass regularly when going through the World Trade Center. It was many years before 911, yet I think of him and wonder if he had still worked there, and if so, escaped the carnage.
When nice out, which was a narrow period of time in NYC, the winters are brutal, the summers are brutal, I’d eat lunch in the park. There’s a teeny point in May that’s bearable, and maybe late September. But for some reason I decided to eat in City Hall Park during a really hot day. I was in all white, I guess I thought I’d reflect sunlight, or something. The park isn’t much of a park, meaning, it has lots of cement walkways and uncomfortable benches, and little parkiness. Certainly no Central or Riverside like place. Not even Madison Square or Bryant Park. Getting down to it, Union Square with all the drug dealers looked better. But it wasn’t the store, and that was its great allure.
As I was getting up to leave, I noticed a few benches down on the pavement, a person’s feet sticking out from under a newspaper. I, being a typical nosy New Yorker started toward the odd sight, thinking a homeless person was drunk, or sick, but as I drew closer, his clothing struck me as way too clean and upscale for indigent. Just as I was about to address the man, and lift the paper, a person behind me said–‘I’ve called the police, the guy seemed to have a heart attack in the middle of eating fell to the ground, and just died. I put the paper over his face so no one would be freaked out.’ Well, I was sort of nonplussed. No one was making any kind of fuss, no crowds, no sirens, just a dead guy in the park, happens all the time, I guess. It may, but not to me, and I couldn’t help my staring, and staring, as if I just concentrated enough, the feet would spring up and the guy would go back to his Kosher pickle and salami sandwich.
Did I stay for the police? No, I was late getting back to the store, although it was only across the ‘dodge the crazy drivers’ street. Traffic was fast, furious, and forgetful. They forgot red lights existed, and that the Brooklyn Bridge had stood for 100 years, it would probably still be there if they didn’t do 9o to reach it. It was a treacherous excursion, but the taste of danger woke me up after an afternoon of the Trolls dronings, Ray’s running circles, and Lou’s excessive sighs. Not to mention my own drudgery–restocking all the Dianetics I had stupidly stripped.
Ah, but the area held more adventure than just one body in the park. More to come.