Over a year ago, the café installed two shelves, each about seven-feet above floor level, which display books written by its customers. At the beginning of the week, Annie, one of the afternoon crowd, asked what mine – “something about NY” – was about. She was considering taking it down and reading it.
It had never occurred to me that people would think these books could be taken home and read over bean sprouts and lentils. Plus Annie was of a height where she would have to stand on a table to reach it. Plus of an age where standing on a table would not be recommended.
“It’s an existential sports novel,” I said. “For $5, you can have your very own, personally inscribed, first edition. ‘Superbly written’” said the “Times.”
“Oops,” she said. “I don’t read about sports.”
“Oops, yourself,” I said. “Would you believe it’s about life and death?”
The other morning, I caught a cute blonde eying my display.
“Wanna buy a book?” I said.
“I haf many book,” she said. “And only hef way through “Infinite Jest.”
“I can’t compete with David Foster Wallace,” I said. “You have excellent taste. Are you from Russia?”
“Ungary,” she said. “I am ungarian.”
Just like Zoltan Karpathy, I thought. “Every time I turn around/There he was that hairy hound. From Budapest./Never have I met a ruder pest.”
“I lif Oakland and fur now drife Ooober.”
I gave her my card.
She thanked me. And said he had great respect for authors.
To keep from blending in with the decor, I alternate my J. T. Dockery sign with my S. Clay Wilson. I had that one up when a 60-something guy recognized The Checkered Demon.
“Not too many people remember Checks,” I said. “You a cartoonist?”
“Sometimes. I’m in construction.” He explained how, before sprayers came along, you applied something by hand – plaster maybe – and each guy had his own stroke, so you could walk onto a job and recognize who had done it. “That’s when I knew I was making art.”
“That’s what Duchamp said,” I said. “Anything is art if an artist says it is.”
“I like that,” he said. “Mainly I’m a plumber.”
“We can always use a plumber,” I said. “You got a card?”
He laughed. “On a construction site, you take out a card, somebody’ll say, ‘I’ll show you a card’ and grab a hunk of cardboard and write his name on it.”
I gave him mine. “Vista Print,” I said. “700 for $9.95.”
He took a 5″ X 8″ cards from me. And a pen.
When he came back, the card was folded in two. On the front was a guy in a baseball cap who looked like he might have been a pal of Tubby’s. Inside, it said, “Mr. Bob: Appreciate the Company. Edward S.”