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Party at the Plumbers Local No. 36

img_9735-1I came across this old advertisement, framed, saved, taken care of, in the basement of a house I was doing some work on, updating it before it would be sold. This basement was definitely a working man’s basement, an organized basement, one well maintained with a workbench and assortment of tools and saved parts and old metal coffee cans full of screws and more tools older then I am that still looked as good as the day they were purchased, collected odds and ends and useful bits that could be put together to tackle any type of household handyman task. This was a good basement.

Seeing this framed ad, this simple small poster, I was intrigued. It wasn’t just the awkward sizing of letters in some places that drew my attention; or the date or ticket price, or even the mention of the Harugari Temple, a “secret” society I’d never heard of before a week prior to finding this sign, when I’d driven past another sign for the Ancient Order of the Harugari, or my interest in local history and what might be at this location now. It was a little bit of each of those things sure, but I wondered if there was something more personal to it.

Here was an old framed advertisement in this meticulous basement. What did this mean to the man who kept an organized workbench and well maintained tools, a space that was functional and purpose driven, not cluttered by the accumulated detritus that seems to swallow up any spare space one in my generation might happen upon. What was significant about this event? I wondered what this event, this night may have meant, that the advertisement was saved, preserved, framed and held onto. Protected just as any work of art or family photograph would have been.

What kind of story does this prompt for you? Was there something historically significant that occurred on that date? Or was it something at that party to be personally commemorated?

Or maybe it was a cool looking old poster.

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So You Want to Work in a Bookstore: Lesson 9 | the Tornado

    Some conversations with customers are a bit like a trip down the Wikipedia rabbit hole where you just kind of hold on and see where you end up.  You know how it goes: one minute you’re watching a Hidden Valley salad dressing commercial with Jenny Garth and three hours later your roommate finds you rocking back and forth watching the Richard Donner cut of Superman II and you have a perfectly reasonable, logical and well documented explanation for how you got from point A to B.

    It happens to us all.  But that’s how these conversations can go; they’ll start with a perfectly innocent (albeit stupid) question and then it’s liftoff.  That customer sweeps through and picks you up, and really, who knows where you’re going to end up when they’re done with you.

    One customer confided in me in graphic detail how he would like to murder a Florida prosecutor who had convicted his son of having attempted to murder his wife.  It wasn’t that the man doubted his son’s guilt, in fact, his crime was also described for me in great detail, but instead simply that this attorney had the nerve to punish his boy.  I’d known the man all of thirty seconds when this happened and was only trying to recommend a nice supernatural teen series for his granddaughter.  This happens.  A lot.

    “Does it matter what tablet I have?” the woman asked me when I noticed her at the ereader accessories display.  “Is there a difference between the sizes for these cases?”

    “Oh yeah.  Everything’s a different size.  Which device do you have?”

    “I don’t know.  It was my son’s—my older son’s.  He got a new one and gave his to his younger brother, I don’t know what it is or what size.  It looks like these.”

    I explained that she needed to get the make and model of the device, that she should ask her son about it.  He’ll know what it is, so as long as she writes it down, we can tell her whether there’s something in the store that would work, or if she needs to look elsewhere to get a case for her baby boy’s new toy.

Asylum, the house, by Madeleine Roux

Click here to buy the first book in the series.

    At this point, I think we’re done.  I think she thought we were done.  We should have been done.  That would have been cool, since up until this point, she seemed nice.  And not crazy at all.

    Nope.  Nope, not done, because then she notices a display we have up.  Ok, busted, it wasn’t a company mandated display but instead one we threw up because we had boxes of this teen series and nowhere to put it.  See, we sold a handful of Asylum and its sequel Sanctum, so the company shipped us 60 more of each one.  That’s how it goes.  Sell one?  Here’s seven!  Returned four?  No, you must have done that by mistake, here’s fifteen!

    “Oh what’s this?!”

    “That?  That’s a cool teen series, I think this one’s the first one,” I say, pointing to it, “It’s about kids in a prep school who live in an old psych hospital. There’s all these photographs throughout the—”

    “That’s disgusting when they do that, like that one, they shouldn’t be opening a hotel or whatever, they need to tear that place down, I used to work there, there’s no reason to keep it around—”

    “Yeah, of course,” I said before realizing I had no idea what she was talking about.  Now she’s fired up, she’s talking and she’s talking fast.  There’s barely a space between words or a breath between sentences, there’s no space between thoughts.  You’re going to have trouble keeping up.  “Wait, what place?”

    “The Richardson Complex.  I used to work there, it was horrible, I lasted a week, I was in college, you should have seen the way they were treated there, the kids had to take care of other patients and most of them weren’t even crazy, they’d just been abandoned and no one knew what to do with them, you know who was crazy?  The ones running the place, those were the crazy ones, and the ones who want to turn it into a hotel now—”

    “That reminds me of a book we have in our biography section,” I said, hoping to bring the conversation back around to her spending some money, “It’s the State Boys Rebellion, about kids who were institutionalized in the 50s, most of them were just unwanted—”

    “No, they weren’t there—”

    “What?”

    “At the Psych Center, that wasn’t them.”

    “Well no, it was a different institution, but it’s like what you were saying about—”

    “It wasn’t them, I can’t believe they would do that, they need to tear that place down, whatever with it being a historical building, it’s disgusting what happened there, no, I don’t think I can read those, those kids shouldn’t even have been there, so I should talk to my son and see what kind of tablet he has?”

    “Exactly,” I agreed.  I was starting to get dizzy.  “Ask him who made it and what the name of it was, the make and model, and we can figure out what kind of case you need and whether we have it or not.”

    “OK, honey, you’re so sweet, I will, I’ll ask him and come back and see you, thank you for taking the time, I’ll see you soon.”

    And then she’s gone, and you stand there for a few seconds.  Sometimes you smile to yourself and shake your head, sometimes another customer who may have overheard a part of the conversation makes eye contact with you and you both laugh.  Your laughter isn’t malicious.  You’re not laughing to be mean or to make fun of them; you’re genuinely amused by this crazy person tornado you just experienced.  In fact, you’re not even sure you helped this customer at all even though they left super happy about their experience in the store and the amazing customer service they received.

    Well, at least from their perspective.  You’re still wondering what just happened.

Of Dante Place Misadventures

Dante Place by Joseph Carvana

a fragment of a story…

Should you survive the journey by barge from the eastern harbors, you may find yourself murdered, robbed, beaten, assaulted, harassed, molested or unusually prodded by a variety of creatures, most of which are employed to prevent against such things.  If you are fortunate enough to emerge from that cesspool of thievery and drunkenness and general debauchery that is Dante Place, you may be greeted by a rather unusual sight: electric streetlights.

Believed to be something between a miracle of the new scientific age and a modern day form of witchcraft, my father was the first man to be electrocuted by these marvels of the technological age.

The news account of the day varied as the journalists volleyed their outrageous claims of the dangers of the untested and unreliable phenomenon to increase their own paper’s circulation.  But the general opinion, reinforced by the police inquiry’s official determination, was death by misadventure.

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