Adventures in the Life of a Bookseller

“Life is what happens when you’re busy planning on doing something else” , or so I have heard. Today seemed to prove the veracity of this statement to me.

I know it’s not just because I am a book seller and am around books all the time, but I have always enjoyed reading books of “famous quotations” . I would often rather read a book of famous quotations than read the latest New York Times best seller.

At any rate – life arises.

Sometimes as book sellers we have no idea of the effect our actions as booksellers have on the world at large. Causality and synchronicity have played a great part in my life as a Johnny Come Lately to the world of book selling.

I was going to make this post mostly about a poem that just floated into my head like a warm summer breeze and expound on my love of poetry, but reality got in the way.

I will give the poem it’s due!

Sitting in my store one summer’s day it just floated into my mind and I wrote it down.

I believe that the best writing comes from what actually occurs in your own life. To wit – this poem.

Why I have a book store

She’s as strong and opinionated as Ayn Rand

And she’s coming to read the books in my store

She reminds me so much of Sylvia Plath that it’s uncanny

and she can’t wait to read the stories by

James Joyce sitting on the shelves in my store

I know they will be here

Along with the young lad who can’t seem to get

enough Edgar Rice Burrows and who has seen

every episode of star trek in re runs

and has devoured every Harry Potter book

as soon as it came out

their all coming to read the books in my store

I know the boy who reads the strange books of

philosophy by Descartes

he’s already been here to read the books in my store

(along with his mom who thinks I’m strange)

I know the young lady who can’t seem to get

enough stories about fairies and the young lady

who’s fascinated by knives and swords and armor

they’re all coming to read the books in my store

All the other children they know are busy

on the defense against time called the internet

or spending away the hours with “nothing” to do

but not the one’s who are coming to buy the books in my store

their out walking and exploring

Figuring out the world

discovering Indian head arrow points in the woods

riding their bikes

and coming to buy the books in my store

it’s why I have a book store

and why I bother to put the poetry books on the shelf

along with the science fiction and the history

a future Einstein will visit one day

and I can’t fail him

A future Sartre hasn’t yet read “The Fly”

and a future Madame Curie hasn’t yet

been introduced to Byron or Shelley or Poe

I can’t fail them either

I will rebind the Dickens so another generation

can look at a period edition

I will put the Tom Swift and the Kipling

exactly where they should be

How else will they find them?

And when they ask me a question about

Gibran and the prophet I will give them my

opinion from long ago

when I was the little one going to the book store

and asking the same things

I will indulge the question “have you read them ALL?”

And give away as many books as I can for free

whenever it seems that the tiny spark i see

might be fanned into a flame

and a light that might one day provide

an illumination to the rest of the world

That was the poem that I wanted to make the main part of this post, but live intervened.

This poem arose as a statement on the fact that , in my belief, books are something like magic. When I was 6 years old or so I was the star of a play called (of all things) Johnny Meets the Book People. I was SO excited about this play that I memorized not only my own lines, but the lines of every one else in the play. When it came time for the play I played my part and eagerly helped every other player when it came time to remember their lines. How could I do otherwise!

As book sellers we have an impact on the lives of other people that we often don’t see.

A few years ago I got a visitor to my book store. This gentleman recently moved into town. Along the way I learned that he used to be the mayor of Rockville, Md. , was a Colonel in the Navy and worked for years in the Department of Defense. I visited his house. On the wall were pictures of him shaking hands with Bill Clinton, George Bush, and a few other notables.

Neal PetersenAbout a week ago he came into my store and asked me to order a book for him. The book was “Journey of A Hope Merchant” by Neal Petersen. The book is the story of a person possessed of an indomitable spirit and who completed a single handed sailboat race around the world. This book was the winner of the 2005 National Outdoor Book Award for History and Biography. I didn’t know any of this when I ordered the book. I have ordered books for this customer before and thought nothing about this new book order. I ordered the book and I told the customer that it would arrive around Tuesday of this week. The book arrived. I saw the customer at a local store and I told him that his book came in the mail. He said that he would stop later that evening to get the book. He stopped to get the book . I told him the cost and he paid me. He then asked me if I had an ink pen. I found one and gave it to him. He inscribed the book to me ” John , I do not know a person who will enjoy this book as much as I did” – Signed John Freeland. “Also, you might enjoy my letter to Neal” . He gave the book to me. I didn’t see that one coming!

In the book Neal Petersen told stories of people whom he considered to be his heroes – John Freeland was one of them.

You never know who wanders into your book store. I honestly believe that there is a reason we have such stores – it’s a part of the story that we are writing every day. It reminds me of Rumi’s “Guest House” , but that’s a story for another day!

I will remain the perpetual optimist!

And yes – Candide IS one of my favorite stories.

I am –
John Pollard
JPollard Bookseller
Brick and Mortar and on the NET
Perpetual dreamer of dreams, hopeless romantic, writer of poetry and probably related to
Don Quixote as I am constantly tilting at windmills

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