7 a.m.—Snow! I am out of bed and on my skis in 10 minutes. Six or eight inches; white pillows cover everything. I break a trail through a field and into the woods, and for an hour I glide in the quiet snow. I wish I could say it was some kind of rapturous Zen experience, where I was one with nature and all that, instead of calculating the shipping time from Indianapolis to Hardwick or wondering if I had enough copies of Prodigal Summer. But it is blissful, my favorite way to start the day, and a deer did bound through a field ahead of me. When I get back home, I am in my car and on the way to work in 10 minutes flat. Guess what my priorities are. Yes, I did brush my teeth. I am adept at eating cereal in my car, something, along with the love for skiing, that I inherited from my father.
8:55 a.m.—The heat has gone off in the night again, the third time this week, so I hit the restart button with success and run across the street for coffee for me and hot chocolate for Sandy, our own hope for restart. Sandy is posted at the cash register, where the cold air blows in at shoulder level from the drafty drive-up window, and the register just below warms her legs. She thinks she might become a thunderstorm.
10:45 a.m.—It is a challenge for me to keep things looking fresh and neat, rebuilding displays as books sell, merchandising others as they arrive. I may be able to remember whose special order is what and ISBN prefixes and which neighbor has already bought the book the farmer has come to get for his wife, but nice looking displays I cannot make. This job belonged to Lee, The Galaxy Bookshop’s Queen of Book Sense. Lee could do with books what some people can do with those puzzles you get in your Christmas stocking. You work on it all day, try every angle you can think of, and then someone comes along and makes a couple of new moves, and there it is, solved, and what has eluded you looks perfectly natural and obvious. Lee did that with books, and I pretty much stopped shelving anything. Leading up to the election, she was inspired to place Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush next to The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. As time went on, this display grew to include Waiting, The Gore, Stiffed, and The Blind Assassin. Suddenly, two weeks ago, Lee died at her home, and the shock and the sadness still reverberate here. Less now than immediately after her death, but still, people come in to ask what happened or to say they’re sorry. Her connection to people and her commitment to books were deep, and I can only be inspired by her fine example. I miss what she did for my store, and I miss the way her laugh reminded me what is more important than a big pile of invoices.
2:15 p.m.—Still lunchless, I try to convince myself, “Bagel, not Godiva, bagel, not Godiva.” Bless the Book Sense publishing partner for the chocolates that arrived today, oh, so good. But I know myself this time of year. I need to sleep and eat well, and I’m already running a deficit. Not that I don’t eat the chocolates. Just that I don’t think I should eat all of them for lunch.
4:30 p.m.—The editor of the Hardwick Gazette stops by to let me know I’ve sold out, been co-opted by the online news media that is usurping print media, sucking away advertising dollars. Well, I don’t have to think long about the co-opted part when I see my “Diary” next to certain banners and links, but I hadn’t thought of the online/in-print media competition, just like a lot of people haven’t thought about all the implications of online retail. So now I am enlightened, but still enjoying the Slate gig, in other words, I have been co-opted.
What I Sold and Why:
Where the Heart Is, because Oprah picked it, thank you Oprah. Fall on Your Knees, because one customer I trust a great deal told me it was one of his favorite books of the year, and I related that to today’s customer. Motherless Brooklyn, because I finally read it after I heard Jonathan Letham speak at a trade show breakfast, and I loved it. Oxen: A Teamster’s Guide, because people have to know how to steer oxen. Long Distance: A Year of Living Strenuously because it’s an informative and inspiring book about the challenges and rewards of endurance cross-country skiing.
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