Monday, November 16, 2015

spoken in the shop, vol. 25.

On you just never know what folks are going to say
After purchasing both The Happiness Project and Down the Rabbit Hole, customer:
"First I'll read how to be happy, then I'll read the slut!"


On customers' ongoing love affair with Stanley Tucci
"Oh look, Stanley Tucci! He's so cute. And he married a much younger woman."


On you-asked-for-it bread puns
Customer: "Have you ever read The Scarlet Pumpernickel?"
Manager: "Sure, that goes great with The Catcher in the Rye."


On North vs. South
Customer, waiting at register: "Excuse me, what's going on here?"
Manager, looking for pen box: "I'm sorry; I have to find the box for this pen so I can scan it in our system. Thank you for your patience!"
Customer: "Oh, I'm on vacation. If I wasn't, I'd be biting your head off right now. I'm from New York." 


On #girlboss
"Annie is hundred-year-old wisdom in a -- how old is she now? Twenty-six?"


On the definition of poetry
Bookseller: "I know what good poetry is when I see it, kind of like pornography."
Customer: "Oh, so good pornography is poetry."
Bookseller: "I think it's more that good poetry is pornography."


On #goals
Bookseller to 8-year-old girl: "Would you like a bag for your book?"
Little girl: "No, I'm going to read it while I'm walking. If I run into a pole, I'll call it a victory."


On we're going to make it after all
"You're the heartbeat of this damn town, that's for sure!"

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

25/52 :: incense.

"There is a crack, a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in." 
- Leonard Cohen

"Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation — an aroma redolent with life."
- II Corinthians 2:15-16, The Message


Whenever people ask why we have chosen Anglicanism, I am tempted to tell them it's because of the windows. 

The church is surrounded by them, at least eight on each side. And they're big windows, too, not yet filled in with stained glass. Jordan is beside himself, waiting for meaningful mosaics to replace the clear, but I am crossing my fingers the church will somehow change their minds. Maybe the money they need won't come, or maybe it will be earmarked for something else. Without the windows, I won't be able to see out, won't be able to touch the blue sky or glimpse the wind.

Nature, I think, might be the best iconography of all. 

It's the second service when it happens, when the sunlight hits the windows just right. The incense floats in the air, and it smells like potpourri, and I'm not always sure I really like it, the perfumed smoke filling the air.

But then I look up.

No one has explained it to me this way, but if someone were to ask me why incense, why use it in worship, why fill the sanctuary with its sweet aroma, I doubt I'd remember its historical significance, its presence in ceremonies since almost the beginning of time. I think I'd silently point to the windows.

There, as we sing and pray and kneel and commune, the incense mingles with the light. Its particles float in the air above us, and I wonder if it's as close to the tongues of fire as we will ever see. The incense dances, and I swear it's as if the Holy Spirit has entered the place Himself.

And of course, you don't need incense to see the Holy Spirit, to feel Him working and breathing and moving in your life. But I'd be lying if I didn't say it helped. So few things about my faith are tangible. I believe in things unseen, and the invisible gets hard, day after day.

But every so often, on a Sunday, I can see what I believe. And it floats in on the windows, and the scent follows me home.

Monday, September 21, 2015

24/52 :: jane.

She is a stately woman, the kind you think doesn't exist anymore, except maybe in Britain. She is tall, or at least feels tall, and naturally thin. Her hair is the grey I get a little envious of; she's the kind of woman who I'm confident has never had to worry about coloring her hair, the kind you can't imagine with anything but the crown of glory in her possession now. 

The pillow comes with her, though I don't really know why. She carries it into the shop, up to the register, and I like to pretend she uses it to make herself sit taller in the pickup truck she drives around; the pillow somehow contributes to her stateliness, which is really a testament to who and how she is. 

She comes in every couple of weeks to order a new mass market paperback with a pun in the title -- something about knitting or sewing, with a little bit of murder thrown in for kicks. 

A friend brought her into the store once, back when she was just a tourist in town. She wandered the shelves and was friendly, asking questions about Thomasville and what it's like to live here. The next thing I knew, she'd moved to town, in part, she insisted, because of the bookstore. 

I'll happily take credit, because she's quickly become a shop favorite. She's one we never mind seeing walk through the door; she picks up her books, maybe places an order for another. She mostly pays with a credit card, and the other day, I noticed she signed with "Rev." in front of her name. 

It's really not that surprising at all, stately Reverend Jane in her pickup truck. I've come to expect no less around here. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

23/52 :: armadillos, the civil war, and life in the south.

Armadillos float. 

I know this, because when I was 10 years old, my parents moved our family to the country. We weren't far out enough to have horses or a PO box, not far enough to even change zip codes, but it felt like the country to me, with a couple of acres, a pond next door, and belligerent frogs singing me to sleep every evening. 

There were trees, too, as there are everywhere in the South. Oak trees can be massive, monstrous things, and when they're cut down, they are perfect as bridges and balance beams. Those mighty oaks provided me and my brother with ample opportunities for imaginative play. Of course, we didn't call it imaginative play; it was just what we did most days. Those trees came down, and Chet and I ran around for hours, pretending to be captives in the Civil War we'd read so much about. I can't remember what side we were on, but I'd suspect the Union. Chet had a thing for Ulysses S. Grant, and even back then I think we were both a little confused about our Southern heritage.

It wasn't long before we needed a new companion to spice up our reenactments. Unfortunately, fellow 10-year-olds were few and far between out in the country, and it was a rare number indeed who were willing to fight against the Confederacy rather than kick a soccer ball into a goal. Chet and I ultimately had to compromise when other kids were involved; we put a pause on our battles and instead rode bikes or dominated the basketball court. (I beat a neighbor boy once in one-on-one, and that one act alone led to years of believing I'd one day play in the WNBA -- all five foot two of me. Confidence was never my problem.) 

So we started riding bikes with Brian. I have quite a number of fairly traumatic bike stories -- don't we all? -- but I will never forget running over the armadillo. We were off the road and into a ditch and onto the armadillo before I really knew what had happened. We may not have run over him so much as into him, but whatever we did, we caused some damage, enough where we thought we'd killed him. The jury's still out, and as I near 30, it's hard to know what I've imagined and what I haven't. 

My mind remembers this much, though: We couldn't leave that armadillo in the road, despite the incredible number of armadillos who die in the road every single day in our part of the world. We were kind-hearted children, or maybe just curious, because we were determined to bury him. Three kids and a shovel don't make much of a dent in the Southern dirt, but the pond in our neighbor's yard seemed as good a grave as any. 

I was 10, and scrawny -- neither my brother nor I was made of much muscle back then. But together with Brian, we picked up that heavy, ancient armadillo -- all armadillos look ancient -- and we walked him to our neighbors' yard. He was, somewhat surprisingly, even heavier in death than he had been in life, and it took all three of us to count to three and toss him into the pond. The poor armadillo never knew what hit him, never heard his eulogy because we never gave him one. 

There wasn't really anything kind about what we did. There was a little remorse, but mostly, I thought about the David Letterman skit I'd seen my uncle watch on television: Will it float? 

It did, and a few days later, our whole block smelled of death and rot. A fitting backdrop, really, for all that imaginative play we went back to doing. 


*Armadillo image by Tom Hardwick

Thursday, September 10, 2015

spoken in the shop, vol. 24.

On kids say the darndest things
"Mom, I'm not sure if you know this about me, but food makes me dance."


On bookseller/customer relationships
Customer to bookseller: "Maybe we're reading soulmates."


On mother knows best
"Seriously, if I didn't think my girls would be complete a-holes, I'd totally bring them in here."


On yes, absolutely, couldn't agree more
"Stanley Tucci has a cookbook? You know, for a short, bald guy he's pretty hot."


On opinions
"I'm buying this book, but I really don't like the illustrations. Will you let him know?"


On irony
Customer: "Could you guys order a book for me?"
Bookseller: "Sure, what's the title?"
Customer: "It's called Codependent No More, and I'm going to need two copies."


On graciousness and gifts
Customer: "My friend said she left something here for me."
Bookseller: "Okay. What's your name?"
Customer: "Anna."
Bookseller: "Oh! Yes." Hands over envelope. "Here you go!"
Customer, disdainfully flips over envelope: "Well, I guess this is one way to get me off her back."
Bookseller, helpfully: "Um, it's actually a gift certificate."
Customer: "Oh."