Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bookstore Vikings

Strange things happen to me at Barnes and Noble. Perhaps it's because I stay so long the plot catches up? Yesterday I drove to Seattle. The U district had invited Anne Lamott for a reading/book signing for her new book Imperfect Birds. Maureen saw her last week on the east coast. I won't try to capture quotes like she did in her awesome post. I'll be "telling it slant" as Eugene Peterson says. But before I get to her talk, picture this.

A table with a sturdy captain's chair was available. I had a pile of Wendell Berry, because Glynn had piqued my interest a few days ago. Bright Star, a book about a movie made of Keat's love letters to Fanny. A tragedy. Kathleen Norris' Acedia and Me. Eugene Peterson's Tell it Slant. Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. And three Ambrose Bierce dictionaries; because they were next to Wendell.

I read several books simultaneously. Three books were turned upside down at the place I had stopped reading. A very stern, serious employee came up and asked me if I was done with any of the pile. I told her which she could take away. Huffing, she came back with a handfull of bookmarks. Pointing to the open, face down books she told me to please use bookmarks. The look on her face spoke volumes about my neglect. I apologized, feeling like a naughty four year old.

Anne wasn't scheduled until seven. About five o'clock, a big viking with long blond curly hair and a stuffed backpack pulled up a chair to my table - uninvited. I scooted my piles towards my side. After grooming himself thoroughly, Hagar proceeded to unpack and methodically set up a shrine. Iconic art cards were placed across the halfway mark of the table. Mostly of the Madonna. One looked like Frida. Rosary beads. A thick book on Augustine. And a mystery item on the corner still in its bag.

Hagar fiddled and fussed.  It took quite some time to arrange all of his worn out shrine accroutements. He had a system. It was obvious this was a ritual he had engaged in many times before. Part of me understood. A bookstore is somehow sacred space. But I had never seen it taken to this extreme before. The only thing missing was a candle. The mystery item hadn't shown itself yet. It wasn't time.

I looked him full in the eye with a serious face and said, "Now don't go and take up more than your share of the table buddy, there's the line." He looked startled and timid, for a viking. It made me laugh. Outloud. Finally, when I could breathe, I told him I was teasing him. He looked relieved. I asked if he remembered fighting for space with his siblings. He looked blank as he fiddled with his rosary.

Suddenly, loudly, he started giving me the full history of the Vatican. He expressed concern over the lack of latin services; they were straying from their true beginnings. He tries to find Greek Orthodox services now. They know how to keep it beautiful.

I felt the group of people behind me getting annoyed at this boisterous  monologue. Monologue means only one person is talking. He finally stayed quiet except for the rattling of the mystery bag. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him eating something with a silver spoon. He would lay it down after a bit and pick up his book. Often, he shuckled. At Augustine? Hmmm. Pretty soon he would repeat the sequence. Rosary. Eat. Read. Rosary. Eat. Read. Fiddle, fiddle. Rearrange things. Repeat.

I couldn't concentrate any longer. As I packed up and left, I looked into the bag. I had to know. It was a half gallon of chocolate ice cream. A different kind of communion, for sure.  He didn't offer me any.

This needs to be continued tomorrow. I still have to tell you about Anne.


Maureen said...

Hilarious, Kathleen, though I'm sure also more than a little annoying. As the saying goes, it takes all kinds.

Looking forward to your post on AL.

Anonymous said...

WHAT? There are a lot of weird people in this world. Seriously. Ha! But if there weren't, it sure would be a boring place. Thanks for sharing your bookstore viking with us!

S. Etole said...

chuckling at Augustine ... now there's a story there somewhere

A Simple Country Girl said...

all sorts make the world spin 'round...

I hope he didn't drip or smear or lick his lips with too much enthusiasm. That would have done me in. ;-)


Glynn said...

Excellent story. And I hope you bought the Berry book.

em said...

a half gallon of ice cream. that's cute. love it. thanks for sharing this! this was an 'edge of my seat' story. glad there will be more tomorrow. :)

Marcus Goodyear said...

Rosary, eat, repeat. That cracked me up.

Also, I haven't read Peterson's take on "Tell It Slant" but I have always assumed it comes from Emily Dickinson.

I thought you would enjoy the source poem.

Lyla Lindquist said...

Kathleen, what I wouldn't give to follow you around a bit. Not in a scary way, really. Just to see this kind of thing unfold.

Though getting to read the telling of it? Maybe even better.

And if I knew how to cart ice cream along with me I'd have one of those bags too.

Kathleen said...

Love you guys for your imaginations! You pictured it.... the comedy. Is your life like this at all?

JanetO said...

hmmmm....I say he is on the spectrum ;)