You know, it’s the little things that give me a kick sometimes.
Yesterday, for instance, a customer came in to the Book Corner and bought a pile of tomes. When I swiped her credit card, I noticed that her initials were H.A.H. Naturally, I had to tell her, “I know you know this already but I just have to say it: Your initials spell out HAH.”
“Oh, I know it,” she said. Rather than give me the stink eye, she seemed rather proud of the fact. So I pushed the envelope a tad more.
“You know what you should do,” I said, “you should sign every card, letter, and memo only with your initials. ‘Get this report back to me by 5:00pm. HAH.'”
And, again, she didn’t roll her eyes. In fact, she said, “You’re right. I have to start doing that!”
So now there may be an office somewhere in which the mood is lightened a tiny bit every time HAH sends out a memo. They’ll owe it all to me.
Another thing: Before this woman left, she noticed the new Tom Robbins fantasy-memoir, Tibetan Peach Pie, is out. Robbins, author of psychedelic fever-dream novels such as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Another Roadside Attraction, and Jitterbug Perfume, has been a rock star in the publishing world for more than four decades. He’s hung out with the Indian mystic Osho, Timothy Leary, Joseph Campbell, and Gus Van Sant. Natch, he’s done LSD (with Leary, no less.) His legion of literary fans is devoted, if not borderline cultish.
As soon as Tibetan Peach Pie caught her eye, HAH began leaping up and down like a teenager at a JimiHendrix/Monkees concert (bet you didn’t know Hendrix opened for the Monkees on their 1967 tour.) HAH shrieked and bent over at the waist. She clenched her fists to her mouth. Then she shrieked some more. “Oh,” she said — needlessly, I might add, “I lo-o-o-ove Tom Robbins!” Mind you, HAH is 50 if she’s a day.
She bought the book. I hope she likes it. I hope she comes back, too. We need more such lovers of the literary arts in this world.
The New Guy & The Schmalz Bear
Speaking of the Book Corner, the new executive director of the Monroe County History Center, David Vanderstel, dropped by with his wife Sheryl yesterday. The couple’s still living in Indianapolis, from which the MCHC plucked him to run its ops. Vanderstel had been professing history for 30 years, primarily early 19th Century stuff, at IUPUI. Beginning in March, he gave up grading papers for collecting the arcana of our rectangular plot of the Hoosier state.
Our Fair County
The Vanderstels have been moving, bit by bit, to these environs and expect to be settled in by July 15th. David’s been commuting daily, meaning his hot rod has prob. been rattled down to a frame with four wheels and an engine at this point.
It turns out Sheryl Vanderstel has made her daily bread as a food historian while the old man lectured about Andrew Jackson et al. Food historian, huh? Seems to me a dream gig. She did leave me with this tip: Don’t use any of the later editions of the kitchen standard, Joy of Cooking, by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. Sheryl V. sez the new versions issued in 1997 and later simply don’t stand up to the original. In fact, the New York Times has characterized the edition published 17 years ago as “the New Coke of cookbooks.”
BTW: Did you know Rombauer published the first Joy back in 1930 as a way to keep her own head above water after her husband had killed himself? Life gives you lemons, you make…, well, you know.
Anyway, y’oughta drop in to the History Center to see the nine-foot-tall Schmalz bear, if nothing else. The proprietor of the long-gone legendary, eponymous Bloomington sporting goods store, Roy Schmalz, had fancied himself an outdoorsman ala Teddy Roosevelt. As such, he hunted large N. American mammals, including elk and the aforementioned towering Kodiak bear. He had the poor critters stuffed and put on display on the main floor of his store. I imagine many unfortunate Bloomington tots of an earlier era shriveled in horror the first time they saw Schmalz’s dead beasts as their dads dragged them to the Coleman lantern aisle.
Photo: David Snodgrass/Herald Times
Schmaltz & Gray Matter
Sticking with one of the last remaining independent booksellers between Indianapolis and the Ohio River (there is the Village Lights book shop in Madison, Indiana, in addition to the Book Corner), Bloom mag boss Malcolm Abrams paid a visit yesterday afternoon. He’s busy drumming up advertisers for his special Distinctively Bloomington guidebook, due out later this summer. It’ll feature the people, the shops, and the cultural attractions that define this bursting metrop. Abrams hopes to get it into every hotel room in the city. It’ll be an indispensable resource not only for visitors but long time residents as well.
He and I both felt expansive and commenced comparing physical ailments, as men of a certain age are wont to do. I won’t reveal Abrams’ maladies even though HIPAA regs don’t apply to gossipy bloggers but I will report that I learned he ate chicken fat sandwiches as a young lad. I didn’t have the stomach to tell him my mother used to saute calf’s brains in olive oil. I ventured to taste a forkful once; it was my last. My mother shrugged and gobbled the rest of the bovine cerebra. “You don’t know what you’re missing,” she said between forksful.
Chicken Fat For Spreading (l) & Calf’s Brains
“Oh yes I do,” I replied, shuddering.