The first part of The book sickness was published on this blog in February, 2007.
Mr. Turetz had a daughter.
She would appear occasionally. They didn’t get along at all. The daughter wore a cotton print dress, had dark hair, a small moustache, a face adorned with glasses in a cheap black frame and smelled of body odor. She was plump without being fat. Around her neck hung a slender silver chain. Imagine a pug wearing glasses and a silver chain and you will begin to approximate her likeness.
I didn’t like her. Whenever I walked in and saw her I knew that I would have a hard time buying anything. She was basically greedy and always demanded a lot more for the books than Mr. Turetz. Her father often told her that she was wasting their money on drink and worthless men. She would then yell at him.
Little love was exchanged between the two when I was present.
Mr. Turetz was often away buying stock for the store. I used to wonder about this and would question him about how he got the materials. He just muttered that he got them and that was that. He clearly wasn’t as taken with his work as much as I was.
For me, the shop was a magical place.
It is hard to adequately describe the joy of finding books, magazines, catalogues from the nineteenth century, and so many other things that just happened to be in some pile at my feet. I imagined sleeping in the store, forever mining it for new riches. I never wanted to leave but eventually I had to or the sun would set and I would get hit by a car and my books would all be lost.
The things I discovered there still remain in my head, the treasures of boyhood. While other boys were out chasing girls and getting stoned I was slowly making my way though an urban gold mine.
The store didn’t seem to have many customers when I was there. Probably much of that was because its contents were so haphazardly arranged. To say that they were arranged would be an overstatement.
They were hastily thrown together in wild approximations of bizarre relationships that came out of the mind of the owner. Cook books were interspersed with tomes on toxicology and poisons. Maybe this was a comment on the daughter’s cooking. I do not know and probably will never know this. The magic books, for there were quite a few of them, were in a large, wooden orange crate in front of what was probably a bathroom at one point but now was hermetically sealed by thousands of old books. There were books in many foreign languages as well as thick 78 rpm recordings for immigrants in the 1920’s issued in various languages by long gone, arcane record labels. I bought several for my listening pleasure. They are now all gone the result of my parents attempts to clean out their home.
At the time I created my own radio station in my basement bedroom.
The station lacked a transmitter, a microphone and anything else that might qualify it as a radio station. However, it did have a phonograph which played both 33 and 78 rpm records all of which came from the book store in Morristown.
I would carefully arrange the records by language and ethnicity. Then I would sit at my wooden student desk and design elaborate schedules for various programmes. For example, I had a Czech program. Why? Because I had a two-sided 78 rpm recording of Czech ( Bohemian) polkas. Then I would read aloud from NY Listy, a Czech paper from Manhattan which I had purchased on one of my trips into the city. Whether I pronounced the words right never crossed my mind.
I was a Czech-language announcer while my friends, of whom I had none, got laid.
In my world everything was proceeding according to plan. What the plan was I never discovered but I enjoyed the trip while I transmitted in various languages to a universe of disincarnate beings.
I also had a 33 rpm recording of Lichtensteiner Polka sung in lusty German. This was the sole recording of the German sendung. For this programme I read aloud from the NY Staats-Zeitung, the local German rag. I read the same news over and over again. Since I understood none of it it really wasn’t a problem from my end. What the listeners thought I can’t say. Since they never provided any feedback this made things even easier.
It made for a perfect relationship which repeated itself innumerable times over much of the rest of my life.
(to be continued)