Vintage car now. Wasn’t back then.

My father had me on his lap with his hand around mine, showing me how to shift through the gears. Three-on-the-tree, or whatever they called those old steering column shifters. It’s the earliest model car I remember our family owning.

1948 Plymouth.

“Maybe you’ll be driving this one of these days,” said my father. “Maybe pigs will fly,” I answered. (Just kidding.)

Back then I thought it was a possibility. Heck, maybe a certainty. I remember several times giving it the car-buyer-once-over. Checking out that sailing ship emblem on the trunk badge, exploring the curved lower door that was almost a running board. A moveable spotlight on the front fender with the grip and switch near the steering wheel. (Not one in the image, but WE sure had one!) Fine stuff. A visor-awning over the windshield. Light-up radio. Little chrome horn bar.

Yeah. All mine. One of these days.

48plymouth

Man, what a beast. As you can tell, I’m driving down memory lane today. As a Craigslist browsing regular, I ran across a picture of a wreck of a Plymouth (project car, as it was described) that will – in all likelihood – remain a wreck until gravity pulls it into the earth’s crust.

It made me think about that old blue cruiser that used to sit in our driveway, though.

The whole car thing was an adventure. It belonged to my Uncle Maury and Aunt Evelyn, and they must have bought a new car, because – next thing I know – I’m riding on the train with my father to Wichita. One of the few times in my life I rode a passenger train. We’re going there to get a car and drive it back home.

I must have been pretty overwhelmed by the whole experience (I was just a little kid, easily overwhelmed…) because the next thing I recall about the journey was driving for hours and then pulling into my Great-Aunt Eva’s driveway. As he shut off the engine he explained to me that we were just there for a pit stop.

“Hello, hello!” said my father to Aunt Eva, who was smiling in the doorway, obviously not expecting us. “Can’t stay,” he said, as she let us in. He nudged me toward her as he diverted to pit lane.

“You’ll have some pie, though,” she answered.

48plymouth2

From somewhere down the hall, his muffled voice said something to the effect of ‘little time’ and maybe something about miles to go before I sleep and miles to go before I sleep.

Aunt Eva leaned down to me. “You’ll have some pie.” (It wasn’t a question she put to me. It was a statement of fact.)

Faster than humanly possible, she drew out the pie, sliced and plated it, and handed me a spoon. It was one of THOSE kinds of pies – all creamy and meringue-y and delicious – the kind that requires a spoon.

Faster than humanly possible, I inhaled it. Hey, it was a kid-covert mission of sorts. I’d heard him say “no time” but Aunt Eva and I set out to prove him wrong, and we did. She anticipated his return and quickly towel-dabbed my face clean before he rounded the corner.

He exchanged the briefest of conversations with Aunt Eva, and then asked if I was ready to go. I nodded my assent, not trusting that the pie was completely swallowed.

It must have been a special kind of hug that Aunt Eva gave me, because – ever after – I believed she was the sweetest, kindest, kid-loving-est Aunt a kid could ever have. And my father and I walked down her tree-root-broken sidewalk to the new car.

The 1948 Plymouth.

Even today, seeing the rusted-out Plymouth in the picture on the internet, I suddenly think of pie and those childhood events we only later recognize as miracles.

Simple Book Pleasures and the Glint of Gold.

I admit that it’s a bookish pleasure, but I love the fact that the books in the stack over there on the counter were in the hands of their authors: Gore Vidal, Joyce Carol Oates, and Joseph Heller. (I should point out that the fourth book in the stack – Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens – was NOT in his hands, as he was about a century gone by the time this fine-binding edition was published.)

IMG_20170728_191525791

I remember seeing Gore Vidal debating/arguing with William F. Buckley, another intellectual with an aristocratic demeanor that was reminiscent of colonial-era gentry. (Incidentally, Gore wasn’t his real name: he was born Eugene Louis Vidal, but adopted the moniker of his grandfather. Thomas Pryor Gore was a US senator from Oklahoma at statehood and was reelected in 1931.)

I don’t remember Joseph Heller, but I remember well his book CATCH-22, which was popular enough that its title entered the English lexicon to describe an impossible situation. In the book – which followed a group of wartime pilots – anyone who was legitimately crazy was excused from flying a mission. The conundrum (the CATCH-22, if you will) was that if someone applied for a mental deferral they were considered sane enough to be worrying about their safety, and therefore would be required to fly the mission.

IMG_20170728_191616493

Joyce Carol Oates was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize several times, and her novel THEM won the National Book Award back in the sixties. It wasn’t too much later that Franklin Library published the fine-binding book that I now have a copy of, which she signed with an unfashionable ballpoint pen.

For those of us – mere booksellers and readers – who will never bump into these famous literary figures, holding a book they personally signed is a particularly nerdish thrill.

These beautiful volumes are part of a Deep-South estate brought to Oklahoma and now residing on the shelves here in the shop. There are a good many signed books, beautiful fine binding copies that certainly must have been purchased as investment copies. They appear never to have been read – in truth, they appear never to have had their front covers opened. The edges are perfect, the 22K gold embossing is impressive.

IMG_20170728_191646673

Some – like Jane Austen’s works and THE WIZARD OF OZ will not likely stay around long. People know that I’m not a collector anymore (Oh, I have a book or two in the office!) and I price these to sell by finding the lowest offered price on the internet, and beating it. The point being: if you know someone who appreciates leather-bound, fine binding books, this might be the time to take a look. I know it is plenty warm outside, but – believe me – cooler weather is inevitable, and the selection for gift-giving may not last until then.

There are dozens and dozens of books from the estate that are already shelved. Come take a look, and maybe sit down and have some lunch with us – serving a full menu daily from 11am to 2pm.

Come visit!

McHuston

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

Looking Back is a Bad Habit: Rooster Cogburn

The three of them would walk down to Owl Drugs after school, and there they became a cartoonist’s club – of sorts: Paul Davis, Russell Myers, and Archie Goodwin. And who would have thought of the trio of Will Rogers High School students as headed for stardom?

What?

You don’t know them by name?

I had a surprise there, too. Opened up the mail and pulled out a first edition copy of True Grit by Charles Portis, which ranks somewhere near the top of my list of favorite books. As it is with any new acquisition, I was checking the copy, making sure it was everything it ought to be.

It was.

Portis wrote the story with a rural eloquence that is almost poetic. Then there is that wry humor as typified in the courtroom scene:

Goudy: I believe you testified that you backed away from old man Wharton?
Rooster Cogburn: Yes, sir.
Goudy: Which direction were you going?
Rooster Cogburn: Backward. I always go backward when I’m backin’ away.

My examination had me lingering over the dust jacket and the artwork. A singular style, I thought. Simplistic but powerful. Knowing the story, I thought it captured the essence of both Mattie – the main character – and the title of the book.

paulDavisTrueGrit

I wondered who had painted it, and that’s when I learned about the after-school artists and Owl Drugs in Tulsa. Paul Davis did not linger in Tulsa long after high school. His skill with the brushes earned him a scholarship at a New York City art school, and he established a reputation and a clientele in short order.

His works were visible on the streets, on television, in magazines, and on movie sets. He painted record album covers and advertising art. He was in high demand as an illustrator even before he founded Paul Davis Studio in 1963. It was five years later that he was commissioned to do the dust jacket for True Grit.

It positively shocked me to learn that he grew up in Tulsa.

paulDavisHamlet

But I could relate to the idea of a cartoonist’s club. My ninth grade buddies and I considered ourselves more of a clique than a club, but we spent more time than we should have, putting pen to paper. Shortly before the end of the semester, my English teacher took me aside and informed me that I had turned in so few assignments that she was going to be forced to fail me.

She told me she hated to “Fail” anyone, and intended to record my grade as – I – for Incomplete. The letter wouldn’t make so much difference, I thought – figuring whatever letter she wrote would probably keep me out of tenth grade, or have me in “summer school” at the least.

It likely wouldn’t happen today, but she allowed me to stay after school each day of that last week of school, starting at the top and working my way down the stack of the semester’s worth of assignments I’d failed to turn in…

…because my buddies and I were too busy free-handing the line art from A Tale of Two Cities.

It was passable art that almost kept me from passing out of ninth grade, but – obviously – not enough to win an art school scholarship.

On the other hand, Paul’s art buddies managed to find their ways into the art world. Archie Goodwin – whom I had the good fortune to meet on an occasion – made his mark in the comic book world and was a frequent guest at conventions.

The work of Russell Meyers is something I examine every morning. The Tulsa World carries his comic strip Broom-Hilda, which Meyers syndicated in 1970 – the same year I squeaked into my sophomore year.

It doesn’t surprise me that so many talented folks have ties to the Tulsa area, but I am surprised at the number – with international renown – who have managed to slip under my radar.

Being a fan of True Grit, it tickles me greatly to know that the story is set in our general area (including a visit to JJ McAlester’s General Store!) and is such a wonderfully written book wrapped in artistic local color.

Like to own a copy?

I just happen to know where I can lay hands on a First Edition…

Come visit!

McHuston

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