My current Moto is a phone. Trouble driving it, too.

It may have been the sight of a high school buddy sitting astride a motorcycle, I don’t know. He looked good in the picture, comfortable astride that big machine. I starting thinking about my own school-daze transportation.

My little motorcycle seemed a lot bigger back then. While trying to remember exactly what it looked like, I did what every self-respecting researcher does. Googled it.

Luckily, I remember the name of the thing. Yamaha.

The pictures popped right up, and it didn’t take but a couple of moments to find one the same year and color as my little beast. I had purchased it from my friend Craig, who had used it to deliver the Tulsa World – a large newspaper back then. Requiring a motorcycle. At least that’s what Craig told his Dad.

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We used to fold papers together in his garage of a morning. I envied the way he roared off on the Yamaha while I pedaled away on my high-handlebar Schwinn (making motorcycle mouth-noises, probably).

My newspaper job was delivering the Daily Democrat (RIP), and while I aimed for the front door, I rarely hit my mark. The route was in a subdivision called Redbud Acres, and most of the houses had one of those lamps-on-a-post in the front yard which effectively guarded the porch. It was such a simple paper route that I could do it in my sleep – but I snapped to attention one morning when my tossed newspaper blew straight through the front and back glass of the subscriber’s yard light. With the accuracy of a ninja throwing star. In and out. Smash. CRASH.

It occurred to me to pedal away. Fast.

Decided I probably ought to face the music, got off the bike and trudged across the grass. I was hesitating at the door chime when the door flew open, and a man in a bathrobe leaned out.

“Wondered if you would own up,” he said.

“How did you know?” I stammered.

He explained that he had seen me ride up, watched the throw, witnessed the exploding glass panes, and saw my expression when I realized what had happened.

“Worth the price of the repair,” he said, “just to see that look on your face. Since you came to the door, we’ll just forget about it, OK?”

I nodded and quickly assented. I learned a valuable lesson that day, recognizing the benefits of practicing sheepish looks to use in future events in which I was equally culpable.

The motorcycle brought its own hazards in delivering newspapers, but I always loved roaring up the hill (more like chain-saw sputtering) at McAlester High and hurriedly parking it alongside the other ‘scooters’ before running to first hour. (I was always running late, it seems.)

I met a little old lady on the Yamaha, at the Third Street intersection where Mann’s Flower Shop was located. I came out of the meeting (at about 35 mph) a little better off than the Yamaha, which was sent to the scrap heap. After some deliberation, my folks chose to affect a repair on me, which was somewhat difficult on a Sunday afternoon (and doctor’s golfing weather) in McAlester.

When I reminisce about two-wheeling down the road with the wind in my hair and how fun that might be again, I remember that I have less on top for the wind, and even less resistance to impact than I did back then.

Probably a better idea would be to paste a picture of the Yamaha on the dashboard of that thirty-year-old van I’m still driving. I can roll the window down and yell Yee-Ha!

Meantime, I’ll be racing down the bookstore aisles tomorrow – 100% foot power – so come visit for lunch!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District, 122 S. Main St, BA OK!

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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!

And Whatever walks there, walks alone.

“Fear,” the doctor said, “is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it, but we cannot meet it halfway.” And later, the doctor was gone, and “Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

I used to read books with eerie passages, like this one from author Shirley Jackson (I could give you the whole self-analysis rationale, but I’d rather you make it through to the end of this little note…). I don’t read them so much anymore. Like anything else – cars, movies, clothing – the offerings range from cheap and disappointing to over-the-top-stand-up-and-applaud good.

Shirley Jackson’s classic scary book, The Haunting of Hill House, is the PHD of Fright, the Mother Superior Sister of Sinister, and the Extension Ladder of top-level terror. But – it isn’t one of those with chain saws, fingernail-claws, or soon-to-be-toast teenagers muddling around in dark places.

When I finished the last page of Hill House, I shuddered like a Labrador just out of the farm pond. Wasn’t sure exactly what had just happened, but – either way – it was darn creepy.

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And there are plenty of people who reacted the same way. At its publication in 1959, the New York Times reviewer wrote of author Shirley Jackson: “In The Haunting of Hill House” she has produced caviar for the connoisseurs of the cryptic, the bizarre, the eerie, guiding us along the frontiers between commonplace reality and some strange ‘absolute reality’ of her own.”

Horror-master Stephen King calls it one of the most important horror novels of the 20th Century. And he ought to know one.

There are plenty of books on my “would love to have a 1st Edition” list – and Hill House is on it.

Again.

After years and years of searching (oh, there are a few out there for sale, but not in my price range), I happened across one that I thought I might be able to own. Thought about it. Thought some more. Finally, I decided I wasn’t getting any younger, and made the commitment. Felt like a kid with a new grape sucker when it arrived in the mail.

Wrapped the dust jacket in protective archival plastic and put it lovingly on the shelf, where it has been for the past six weeks, and where I have visited it – more than once. Showed it off to my daughter on Monday and asked her to take custody of it in the event of my being run over by a bus.

Yesterday, the book appeared on the checkout counter. Without my putting it there.

When I looked up, there was a somewhat familiar face – a customer who has purchased a number of collectible books from me over the years. I removed the card that indicated the price, and tilted it in her direction.

She nodded and said, “I’ve already talked to my husband about it. I told him some of my college text books cost this much, and where are they now?”

I had to agree, and – although my heart sunk just a little bit – I rang up the sale and gently placed it in a bag.

It’s sort of a running joke – that the books in the shop are a bit like my orphans and it is my duty to find them good homes. I know this one will be well taken care of and appreciated for the special volume that it is.

Would like to have gotten to know that particular book-child o’mine a little better though! In the meantime, I’m back on the hunt for another orphaned copy of the book…which is okay, too. I love a good safari!

We’re serving up some hauntingly delicious fare at lunchtime tomorrow, so…

Come visit!

McHuston

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