Found Groucho’s book up in Vancouver. I first went to a used bookstore with books piled to the ceiling. “Now, I don’t put Groucho in the humour section,” the old worker said. “I put him in the Hollywood section.” Wasn’t sure if he was trying to be funny, until he walked me over to the piles of books about movie stars.
They had no copy of the particular book I wanted in either section. This put the number of book stores with no copy to about 6 total (SF and Vancouver combined). I leave the piles, and the aggressive hobo guy with an unlit cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
Just up the street was another bookstore. Walking in, I heard two employees discussing something under the rattle of a jack hammer. Just behind the till, on the other side of the shelved wall, a jack hammer vibrated the whole store. It was like having a loud drunk as a third party to the conversation.
Male Employee: “Oh, boy. My neighbors at home are doing construction. Starts early in the morning. I’m getting here and there!”
Female Emp: “This is fucking driving me crazy! We start a bathroom remodel next week so I’m going to get it here and there too!”
They pause. Then she says, “they’ve been pounding the same part of the wall for weeks now. What the hell are they doing over there?”
… all the while, classical music sheepishly peeps through their stereo.
I find the book, the 1993 edition, and pay way too much for it. I don’t mind, since I’m feeding the local economy and not getting the book mailed to me. Cash feels good in the hand, and in the till. A book on a flight home will feel even better.
“I would browse some more, but I think I’ll buy this and flee,” I remark under the metal and concrete racket.
“Wish I could flee,” the guy states. We pause so that the hammer can add emphasis to his point.
I accidentally give the guy an Australian coin that’s mixed in with my Canadian change.
When I pull out the bill, the guy says, “Hope you don’t plan on paying in pesos.”
“No,” I remark, popping the bill out in front of him. “I don’t think Mexico has the Queen on their tender.”
I hastily exit the store, unlock my bike, and take a glance at the building above them. Jack hammers are going in other parts of the building. It will probably be another condo after the remodel. For now it is the din and debris of “progress” above a musty smelling, but neatly organized, (and LOUD) book store.