April has proved the accidental rule of March and February. . .which is to say, a human like myself expressing abiding strength in the face of transitory reality, nonchalant cruelty, blows of fate that are almost anti-climactic because what else can fate do, being transitory, than strike at less than a moment's notice?
And when it strikes, you don't run, you fortify in the heat of the moment with the very heat that the moment provides. Which is hard and which is weird and which you have to do because that's what life is.
Tis been a year come May I've been a rugged worker at a small bookstore in San Francisco. What I love about this job is the constant face time with innumerable books I haven't read or even heard of until I find out about them from some enthusiastic customer. What I admire about the job is the multiplicity of tiny tasks that all coalesce in making the bookstore exist in the first place.
What I love, too about the job is the easy stance I find I'm taking, standing behind my old wooden counter, with folded arms and a gracious grin and with the patience of a favorite bartender as I hear countless and varied tales and asides from the regulars and the non-regular droppers-by who come by for some odd tome or some tall tale of San Francisco of yesteryear. I have collected many business cards, many the paper trails of cult allegiances. I have spoken to well-weathered folks with strong affiliations with fringe botanical fan clubs, historical societies, magic shops as well as the former employees of sheet music stores when the local economy was graced enough to honor such specificity who have now turned to dog walking businesses.
I have shared minor anecdotes with people en route to Haiti and Africa and Spain and the Maldives, with folks intent on preserving the local murals, with tattooed lesbian punks, with children who hate the murder of guinea pigs, with queer families who want nothing more than to raise their child as a progressive, poly-lingual visionary in a world that is, at the very least, downright terrifying.
It is an honoring job, at its simplest. In its essence, I know I am dispensing things that make people happy in the most edifying way. They can get overpriced food wherever they want but books this good and this well-priced are hard to come by in the city and so is the joy of discovering what you have wanted all along but were too conscientious to know it.
And part of the joy of doing this comes from the fact that the bulk of the used books that we sell, I, myself have purchased for the store from similarly enthused customers who read and read and sell back books for credit, hoping to find gems therein that I too may have purchased from their own unknown kindreds.
In a day's time I can watch with awe the tactile channeling of a history of ravens from an old Irish woman into the hands of a banjo-playing bird-watcher all because I made a decision to purchase and price the book according to the needs of the store as well as the needs of the customers. You'd be surprised how comfortably those needs fit together. This power is less than power; it's a humbling privilege that links me to other readers who themselves are champions of other worlds that are out there in dense city streets where people might slave away only to own a piece of written reality that they can put in their backpack and open with glee in the sun-drenched park.