On shared books and times.

She eased her way over to where I was standing, wearing a mixed expression of curiosity and caution. I was talking at the time, the microphone in my hand. When I set it down, she leaned in for a closer look.

“That’s you?” She was shaking her head, slowly. “I thought you were a man.”

Thinking that same thing about myself, I was little distressed that her opinion seemed to be wavering. But I’d run into it before, when someone met in person the one they’d been listening to regularly on the radio. Reality rarely matches imagination. We were broadcasting records live from a furniture store, something we did back in the days of 45 RPM. (Google it.)

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Clearly, she thought I should have looked as tall as my voice might have hinted. That’s the thing about working in radio. You talk to people everyday, but there’s no face-time. Listeners come to know the voice in the box.

Waiting on folks who come in the shop provides me plenty of in-person conversations. The voice hasn’t changed much, but it doesn’t come out of a skinny teenager any longer. I have to admit, I enjoy chit-chat these days, however trivial. Over time, I’ve gotten to know some customers a little bit, jobs and family-life basics, and such.

“Do you worry?” one of our regulars asked the other day. “Do you worry when someone who usually comes in – doesn’t show up?”

I do.

It even comes up in the kitchen. Dustin might remark that so-and-so hasn’t been in for a while. I’ve brought up the same sort of thing. Once I remarked to a lunch guest that I hadn’t seen a couple who often sat near him. I had seen him speak to them on occasion.

“Oh,” he said. “They moved out of town. Couple of weeks ago.”

It’s crazy, but I was a little hurt that the couple hadn’t mentioned they were quitting Broken Arrow. Foolish on my part. I had come to expect to see them, knew their drinks and lunch favorites. But – honestly, and I realize it now – I was no more a part of their lives than the I-thought-you-were-a-man lady was a part of mine.

Sometimes, there is no explanation at all.

There was a couple who told me they had weekly business in Broken Arrow, and they enjoyed stopping in for lunch. They came in often enough that I could set the table and have their drinks poured – just before they sat down. Then, they never showed up. Ever. Again.

Maybe I offended them with chit-chat. Or maybe I turned in the order wrong. Maybe they moved to Texas, too. Whatever the case, I’ve not seen them in years now.

Sad truths are difficult.

Ordered a book for a regular guest and long-term customer. When it arrived, I propped it up on the front counter knowing he’d be in for it within the week.

Except he wasn’t.

Cleaning the countertop a couple of days ago, I moved it out of the way and, as I did, I thought about him and wondered that he had not yet been in to pick it up.

Today, after paying for a couple of books, a lady on the other side of the counter remarked that she was just in town for a funeral. Her companion mentioned a name, and that she had heard him remark more than once about the “Irish stew” and how much he enjoyed it. Of course, I immediately knew who it was she was talking about and it was as though I’d been hit in the chest with a mallet.

And now I know why the book is still sitting there, waiting for him to come by.

Rest in peace, Mr. D.

I’ll tackle the book for you and give you a first hand account of it later – but please be patient.

I’m becoming a slow reader.

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow OK!

It’s just good Bidness.

I learned about the new Rose District plan a little early. The fellow who stopped in the shop Friday morning said he had just come from a press conference and wondered about my thoughts on the proposal.

He was Samuel Hardiman, business writer for the Tulsa World, and he filled me in on the particulars. In answer to his question, I answered that – in my humble opinion – the Rose District has been a success, the result of research, planning, and perseverance.

It was still a surprise when I got to the business section of the paper and saw the first sentence of his article. (And I loved the artist’s rendition of me playing beside the proposed splash pad…)

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There had been some district gossip that the lovely clock at the Farmer’s Market square was going to be uprooted in favor of a water fountain. Not a drinking fountain – but the public park kind. That rumor was updated to include the words “splash pad,” a fixture that is a lovely thing for some people, but – I imagine – a little difficult for someone selling fresh produce of a morning.

Still, and as I mentioned to Mr. Hardiman, changes are a good thing, at least when it comes to attracting the public. I like clocks. And I wouldn’t mind a bit if they relocated it in front of the book shop. I’m certain someone will point out that it was only recently installed and already they are uprooting it.

As someone who used to move the living room furniture around – just because – I like the idea of introducing new features. Doesn’t matter to me how long or short a time a thing has been in place. It feels good to look down every once in a while and see a new pair of shoes on your feet.

Even if the old ones weren’t quite worn out.

The writer also mentioned the plan for additional renovation in the heart of the district. Streetscaping as they call it. Apparently the plan is to redo another four blocks with matching sidewalks and landscaping. Mr. Hardiman wondered if I thought bigger is better.

Why not? I’ve heard that phrase, Bigger and Better.

More offerings will certainly give folks more reasons to visit. When there are multiple reasons to head to a certain area, it also makes repeat trips more likely. I’m all for that.

Maybe parking is going to be figured in there as well. Visitors aren’t going to arrive by hoverboard. Then again, we can’t park behind home plate for Drillers games in Tulsa, and the trek from the north-forty at Walmart is a longer distance than the off-Main parking in the Rose District.

So, bring it on.

The book shop has been through the orange-barrel-and-construction-fence phase several times and we’ll just grin and bear with it.

It ought to be a good thing and I ought to know.

I read it in the newspaper…

Come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow OK!

One for the Book.

I thought about wearing a bow tie. Partly as a tribute and partly to acknowledge that booksellers can also be characters. I didn’t think about the bow tie for too long.

That fashion statement belonged to Mr. Meyer.

He had a shop over on Peoria, near 31st Street. Some of you won’t remember him at all, but those who ran across Lewis Meyer, Bookseller would not soon forget him. He was a fixture in the regional book world and enjoyed a national reputation in publishing circles. I heard him described as a book salesman in those terms usually reserved for those selling ice to Eskimos.

He was a smart man – had a law degree but kept at that practice for only five years or so before giving it up. He was a deejay for an hour every day on KAKC radio, long enough to plug books for a downtown Tulsa department store. He got such a following that he began hosting a weekly review at Brown-Dunkin’s, in an area that could seat over four-hundred.

They filled the place to hear his book act.

I remember him from Channel Six. Not that I regularly got up that early on a Sunday morning to watch “Lewis Meyer’s Book Shelf,” but I sometimes caught the late-night edition. It’s hard to imagine these days – a fellow on television talking about nothing but books. It was a different era.

Actually, his program spanned an era or two. He was on KOTV weekly for more than thirty years.

He was a character, complete with the suit and bow tie.

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I’ve had people remember him while visiting our shop, recalling how he could get so worked up over a book that you’d walk out of his store owning a copy – whether you had intended to buy it or not. In a Tulsa World profile from 1986 (back when book shops could be found in greater number around Tulsa), a competitor mused that Meyer could rely on his wide circle of friends and acquaintances to regularly buy new titles. Meyer admitted that he sent out some 2,000 “love letters” a month filled with book-buying suggestions for his customers.

In addition to his shop and his review programs, Lewis Meyer also found time to write. In fact, it was a copy of his first effort that brings him to mind. “Preposterous Papa” was his first published work, a remembrance of his father, Max Meyer. A copy came into the shop yesterday, signed by both Mr. Meyer and his “preposterous” papa, Max. A folded picture of the smiling bookseller had been stashed inside the back cover.

When the book was released in 1959, Lewis Meyer had enough notoriety that Sapulpa (Meyer’s home town) declared a Preposterous Papa day, with an airplane fly-over, an honorary dinner, and a live book review (of his own book) by Mr. Meyer himself – to be held at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, where the auditorium offered a greater seating capacity than any other Sapulpa location.

A sharp businessman, no doubt – but that was a different time. Maybe he could have held on where others could not. He was confident thirty years ago.

“I’ve never been concerned about competition,” he said. “If you ever start a bookstore, pray for chain-store competition – all of it you can get. They don’t know books. People get so angry at them then buy from someone who does.”

Maybe Lewis Meyer would have an answer for Amazon and the internet. Maybe he could negotiate through the Kindles, iPads, and Nooks and still stock all those expensive brand-new books. Maybe his publisher’s deal would continue to allow him to return unsold copies, where so many other stores have lost that capability.

Maybe those 2,000 “love letters” might be the difference, although – the $1000 monthly postage creates its own overhead to be offset by copies sold at a reduced margin. Even among his regulars would likely be customers questioning his full-cover price versus the Amazon amount.

But he was King of the Book-hill in his day.

“The more you read, the taller you’ll grow,” said Mr. Meyer in his smiling signoff.

Except I read a lot. A lot. And I never got much past five-ten.

I’m going to put on my Bistro-jacket and serve up some lunches, right after I put the bow-tie back in the drawer.

Come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow OK!