The Ladder of Success? Nah. Bulb Changer.

You can keep your roller coasters. The white-knuckle adrenaline rush I get from standing on top of the ladder is enough for me. I wouldn’t even choose the ‘ladder ride’ if I could get the burnt out bulbs to replace themselves.

It’s one of the things they don’t mention when the advantages of self-employment are being discussed. You may be your own boss, but you wind up being your own floor-mopper, trash-emptier, bathroom-cleaner – and light bulb changer – as well.

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Ours is a two ladder shop. The hanging fixtures in the center require a tall A-frame ladder (or whatever they’re called), but the lights along the wall are much too high up for that. So, it was me scampering up the extension ladder on Sunday afternoon. (That’s a joke. There was certainly no scamper in my ascent. More like a plodding, cement-shoe, iron-claw climb…)

My Grandpa Ray had a high-ceilinged place and people have confused my pictures (I’ve included one of them here) of his PALACE NEWS shop with our current building. Both had the high ceilings and suspended light fixtures. I’ve mentioned before that Grandpa Ray took a fall and broke something when changing bulbs, and my father filled in at the counter while his dad was on the mend.

Every time I climb a ladder in here, I make it a point to not be a chip off the old block. So – I make sure the ladder is firmly in place before I slowly trudge my way up the rungs.

This time, though, I decided to provide some evidence of the height and pocketed my cell phone along with the new bulb. When I got to the top and managed to swap in a new light, I convinced myself that I could grab that phone and take a picture.

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Well.

Thinking about it and doing it proved to be two different things. It took a minute or two, but I finally squirmed myself into a looking backward position and snapped a shot.

The lighting is better today. I trust the bulbs will last for a good while. I consider ladders to be in the same category as car jacks – indispensable when you need one, but something you really hope stays out of sight in its storage spot.

We’ll be doing a well-lit lunch again tomorrow, so – come visit!

McHuston

Booksellers & Irish Bistro
Rose District, 122 S Main St. Broken Arrow 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 now, I can visit only in thought and memory…

We can’t know everyone, and most of you will not have known Rick. He was the one dressed only in a tin-foil diaper, appearing at the stroke of midnight as the Baby New Year at a party in his senior year at high school. He was the fellow who would do something like that and think only – What larks!

That served as my introduction to the real Rick Smith, who at the time was a part-time DJ at KTMC in McAlester, where I was working afternoons. Many years later, when I returned to the station as manager, I hired Rick to work morning drive. By then, we were good friends and had a long history as such.

As an ice-breaker at the first staff meeting, I offered a fifty-dollar bill to the person with the most “unusual” item carried with them in their purse or billfold. There were some surprising things produced, but the staff agreed that carrying a folded picture of tennis star Chris Evert was unusual – to the point of being somewhat bizarre. Rick got the fifty.

He was never shy about his enduring crush, although I never did know the basis for it. Rick – over the years – kept company with some of the most beautiful women, and I teased him that his search for the perfect woman in his life should start with his tossing out of the folded Chrissie Evert.

When Rick and I called each other “brother,” it was not slang, but a term born of fraternal affection, as of adopted siblings. Often, Rick was “me brogie” – my corruption of Brother and Droogie, from Alex’s description of his henchmen in A Clockwork Orange. As a fun-loving droogie, there was none better than Ricky T.

With younger brother Robbie, we made the small town night life circuit, which mostly consisted of young men sitting or standing and looking at sports on wall-mounted televisions. We were cavalier in our regular weekly forays, but it was Rick who was in his element. He had DJ’d at a local spot – Crazy Uncle Alberts – and perhaps it was that experience that worked to his advantage.

Once, I arrived at the radio station at sign-on time, only to find him in the parking lot with a young woman sitting behind the wheel of a car I did not recognize.

Forgot my keys, said Rick. He grinned and scrambled out, and we hurriedly got the lights and the transmitter fired up.

He took a fill-in position at K95FM in Tulsa when I was news director there, and Paul Langston put him on a weekend shift at the oldies station to get him more hours. Steady work never did come to pass. I don’t remember how the opportunity arose, but Rick came into his own when he joined a station group in Grand Junction, Colorado. The town was small enough for comfort but cosmopolitan enough to draw vacationing A-Listers.

His quick wit always at the ready, Rick immediately became a recognized character about town, hailed and hand-shaken as we entered a popular restaurant when I visited one summer. Once settled in, he pointed at the door and described how he had once pulled open that very handle and barreled in, nearly knocking down a woman who was exiting at that same moment.

It was Chris Evert.

In the company of Elton John.

Because we were brothers, Rick admitted to me that he had once rehearsed a series of lines that he intended to use in the event that he should ever meet Ms Evert (I almost typed “ran into her” – but that would have been too literal). He confessed that he was completely overwhelmed and rendered speechless when the event actually occurred and that he only managed to mutter something apologetic and largely unintelligible.

But he HAD met her, he maintained with pride.

It might have been a long-lived career in Colorado for him, but his health took a sudden and serious turn that kept him off the air long enough that his position was filled. When he called me, he had just taken a fall and injured his wrist along with his pride.

By then, I had left broadcasting after a twenty-year career, and was working as an apprentice cook, with the idea of opening a restaurant. I convinced the owners to hire Rick as a line cook and that between the two of us, we would produce the work of three employees. They fell for it. And we made good on the promise.

Even with one arm in a sling, Rick became efficient at the grill, and – to both of our surprise – he enjoyed it. When his mother’s health began to fail, Rick moved out of my guestroom and back to McAlester to help in her care. There he continued to spend time cooking in addition to some microphone work at some of his old haunts.

My plan was to take a sojourn down that way, to reconnect and reminisce, someday soon. Alas, I have delayed too long.

But I tell you, brother, all it was – was that I was young. But now as I end this story, brother I am not young, not no longer, oh no. And my brother has passed from this life.

Where I itty now, O my brothers, is all on my oddy knocky, where you cannot go. Tomorrow is all like sweet flowers and the turning young earth and the stars and the old Luna up there and your old droog, all on his oddy knocky seeking like a mate.

Sleep well, me brogie.