I’m on a search mission for a good used book store on Long Island. For now I have settled on Book Revue in Huntington although I can get lost in the massive space. It’s not exactly what I am looking for. Although their staff is very knowledgeable and courteous so I am not discontinuing my patronage to this fine establishment. There is Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor and I hope to get out there this season. This place has small bells on the front door; the musky, yellowed paper scent, the faint classical music or jazz playing over the radio from a couple of suspended speakers from a tin ceiling. I find peace in these stores and want to shovel cash through their registers to keep their lights on and the scent of the books wafting through the narrow aisles. Sadly, all of us have experienced the closing of some these hollowed landmarks. For those of you who recall Oscar’s Bookstore in Huntington. It was on New York Avenue. I will share some memories. Oscar’s is where Kerouac shopped and where I worked for a summer. I had the honor of working there before Oscar retired to Florida. Of course I asked him about Jack and he responded with a casual reference. I could tell it was something he often repeated to anyone who asked.
That summer, I was renting a room in a boarding house owned by a Stony Brook philosophy professor. I was attempting to live a bohemian life. My room had a tall ceiling. The windows faced West Neck Road. It’s the room where I discovered and transformed in some respects. I discovered tranquility and the art of being alone. Being alone is a difficult task. For a young man or woman it’s an avoided evil. They tend to search for diversion and common distractions which can lead to some intoxicated and drug induced episodes. I learned. I learned from my transgressions and moved on. If we dare and are bold enough - we face the fear of isolation and look within inside ourselves and accept the person we sometimes avoided at all costs. It takes work.
So, let me share what sort of poet I was while I worked at Oscar’s. For any writer, artist or reflective soul it’s important to push the boundaries. I pushed them as often as possible. Mr. Piddles, the manager at the book store was a gentle easy going family man with a good temperament. One Saturday morning I slept in. I accepted the fact I would most likely be fired for not going into work and defiantly pulled up the covers and dealt with my decision and aching hangover. Suddenly, there was a pounding at the front door at the boarding house. It was uncommon to hear such commotion. I heard the door squeak open and then I heard, “Where is he?” Who? “Michael. He is supposed to be at work!” Mr. Piddles? I thought. Mr. Piddles was a raving lunatic. To march down to the boarding house - which was a half mile away from the store – was the sign of a disturbed mind. “Michael?! I know you are in here!” Who let this man inside the house? Did I dare show my face? No. I waited for Mr. Piddles to storm out and pulled open the door to my room and peered into the empty hallway. It was safe. Kevin who lived downstairs liked to sit in the front porch and play his guitar, singing loudly as he could to the passing cars. He liked the attention of his passing fans. He was the one who let in Piddles. He was surprised to see me. He said, “Hey, if I knew who he was…I wouldn’t have let him in. I would have covered you.” I nodded. He asked, “So? You going in?” I looked at Kevin who was shirtless and pale and nodded. His pink nipples were gross and too long for a man. He had a large shamrock on his arm. It was an off centered, homemade tat on his right arm. “He’s going to fire you.” So what, I said and went back to my room and got dressed. I stumbled up to the book store and saw Piddles. His face was red. He exclaimed, “Well, look who it is. You know I came down to your house to bring you in here.” I nodded. “Lucky for both of us you were not home.” What? Wait, he didn’t know? Piddles assumes,I was not home. I did not hear anything and he smiled. “Well? Get to work!” Maybe he did not want to know the truth and gave me a break. It was one of many breaks.