the spotify station(?) that had been serving up the monster hits of my junior high's harrowing dances, a coincidence i would have died before revealing to my beloved charity bookstore's dewy manager even though he probably guessed as much,* played boyz ii men's "end of the road," because of course it did, and i let a few tears leak out, quick, under my mask like it never happened. "you look like you know a lot about books," said a customer who wanted something she hadn't read in fantasy or horror, and i sent her home with lovely hardcover copies of toby barlow's sharp teeth and babayaga. they had crowned my beleaguered section at the front of the store, where misshelved YA novels and mass-market thrillers kept trailing in like fuckin kudzu, for two months. i took a last, long whiff of the basement, bought a signed first US edition of the satanic verses (john - best wishes for your retirement. write a book... salman r., may 89) that had kicked around the store for years, and took my leave a final time.

a couple of days later i reunited with old friends from my wednesday-afternoon shift who hadn't been back to volunteer since the pandemic began. we gathered for holiday snacks at V's place, a stunning two-thousand-square-foot loft next to the stella mccartney store. she's lived there since the '70s and filled it with massive now-iconic canvases and furniture she picked up from friends and, like, department stores when you could get a frank gehry wiggle chair for a hundred bucks. "my cats loved them," she said, "and when they scratched them it just made them look even better." V lives in the new york apartment you'd expect a donna tartt or hanya yanagihara character to have. she's even got a singed child mannequin holding a heavy velvet drapery open!

when we were all arranged around V's refreshments, i told the story behind the email to the volunteer coordinator on which i'd cc'ed them. management had told E, the art-book expert who'd been the designated guy to get arrested at DC protests for years, that he wouldn't be rehired. they'd declined to hire a volunteer who said that as a staffer she'd be most excited about developing the community around the store. they'd told the current manager not to worry about selling books, and to do his best to pitch the store as an event space for hire; they'd talked about converting shelves into false panels that could slide back to reveal bars and coat checks. (the donation area disappared a year ago; it was distasteful to have it so close to the front door.) since they weren't interested in the hiring conditions the new union set forth, they brought in temps to replace all the volunteers who'd stopped coming back. the last employee we all knew, the one who'd assured me i was making his job easier, left. and i left. being a scab that also kept a zombie bookstore shambling along was too much, at last, for me.

P, the artist with koons cooties, thought i should write a splashy new york cover article revealing all of the sordid politics behind the store's slow, semi-secret death. a petition, there should also be a petition! A, the retired UN guy who lives on roosevelt island and has fabulous stories of drinking obscure national beverages and falling asleep under trees, nodded when i suggested that getting michiko kakutani interested in an RIP-barry-like piece could move hearts and minds. V made more tea and suggested we reconvene in the new year to figure out how we would save our store. saving a beloved neighborhood bookstore and saving a beloved neighborhood "bookstore" are not the same thing. is knowing the difference useful?

V sent around a times photo of a gorgeous library the other day. i'd love to get together again as well, i said.

*the welsh researchers who studied how masking affects facial attractiveness report that the effect isn't about occlusion, but i am unconvinced.

1 comment:

LPC said...

Such a loss.