Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
I love looking at housing rental descriptions where the property owner is obviously exasperated with having to deal with stupid people, but decides to be humorous rather angry.
Dishwasher: Makes dishes clean, requires detergent, and pressing the "on" button.
Freezer: Even colder! Excellent ice cream holder.
Oven: Hot. Don't store your ice cream here.
Microwave: Hot when you want it to be. Must plug in.
Televisions: 3 Flat screens.
Video Library: You don't have Netflix? There's a Redbox at the grocery store.
Pool: Requires heat October-April. Please think ahead and order pool heat before your stay. Pool takes two days to fully heat.
Hot tub: This is always a lie. The "hot tub" is just a spa. It is not warmer than the pool. But it has bubbles! Yay! But also chlorine, so don't drink it. Boo!
Me: "When I was a teenager, someone recommended Ayn Rand to me, and some wires got crossed in my brain, and I read Interview With The Vampire, and thought Well, it was okay, but I don't get why it's so politically divisive. By the time I realized my mistake, I had no desire to read Rand's work."
Friend: "Honestly vampires would make Ayn Rand 100 percent better, but it would still be unreadable."
Me: "Yea, 100% of zero is still zero."
A Solid Business Plan
The owner of the store had low-risk surgery this morning, and just called to check in.
Owner: "I survived the surgery, so I guess (His Son's Name) doesn't run the store yet."
Me: "That's the chain of succession? You skip over your employees, straight to your eleven year old son? Wouldn't it make more sense for your wife, who runs nonprofits to take over?"
Owner: "She doesn't want to do that. Maybe (Coworker's Name)?"
Me: "She doesn't want to do that, either. Plus, hasn't (Other Coworker's Name) worked here longer than some of us have been alive?"
Owner: "That makes sense. You think he'd want to do it?"
Me: "No, none of us would want to do it, but he'd be the most prepared to make it somebody else's problem."
Owner: "I guess I'll have to keep surviving then."
An Erudite Man enters the store. "Well, isn't this just perfection. You work here, correct?"
EM: "My daughter is a graphic novelist."
Not Yet A Graphic Novelist: "No. No. I'm a children's author who is thinking of getting into graphic novels."
EM: "Yes. Well." He gives me the eyeroll. "If, let's say, I was a person who read real literature and thought graphic novels were just a failed rebranding of comic books to intimidate adults into foolishly investing their money in comics until they died. What would you say to me?"
Me: "I would say you sounded so convinced in your argument that it would be a waste of my time to try and convince you otherwise."
EM: "Oh, I like you."
EM: "Gun to your head, what's the best graphic novel in the store."
I look to my left.
Me: "Daytripper. It's a book by two Brazilian twin brothers. I don't want to spoil the joy of reading it, so I'll just say that it's a story about family focusing on a young man whose father is a famous novelist, but he writes obituaries and is trying to find his voice as a writer."
NYAGN: "Oh wow."
EM: "That was spectacular. I grew up in Brazil, where I was a journalist in a newspaper. I didn't write the obituaries, but one of my mates did."
NYAGN flips through the book. "I'l definitely be getting this."
We discuss different art styles, what she's looking for, and she mentions that she's in town to have a surprise conversation with an author she particularly likes, who happens to be a subscriber at our store.
EM: "You seem very well informed. About comics and literature. Do you know anything about poetry."
This is not going to end well.
Me: "Yes, I have spent a great deal of time working in the Cambridge area poetry scene."
EM: "Do you know" name I've never heard of.
Me: "No." I look up the name on the computer. "They are quite dead. And have been since before I moved here."
EM: "Gun to your head. Favorite living American poet."
Me: "Patricia Smith."
EM: "I've never heard of her."
I give him a quick rundown, and tell him to start with Blood Dazzler.
EM: "Do you know Sharon Olds?"
Me: "Not personally, but I love her work, and saw her read once, many years ago."
EM: "Seamus Heaney."
Me: "I'm familiar with him, but I don't know him. He wasn't precisely local."
EM: "Of course, of course."
I return to talking with NYAGN about her influences, and different graphic novel categories.
EM approaches me with a book. The Cantab Anthology, which sits on the front counter.
EM: "Are you Adam Stone?"
Me: "I am."
EM: "I read one of the Patricia Smith poems, and then one of yours. What makes this poetry and not prose?"
Me: "A local legend name Jack McCarthy once said that if you wrote or performed something that everyone agreed was poetry, then anything you write thereafter can be considered poetry." (I'm aware this is not the precise quote.)
EM: "But this is just formatting, then. And repetition. Hemingway used repetition. Would you call that poetry?"
Me: "I'm not a big Hemingway fan, so no."
EM: "So how is this" yeup "Drunken Conversations At Hampshire College poetry, and not just prose with line breaks?"
NYAGN: "What classifies anything in the 21st century? Do you have anything from the mid-seventies? That's when I'm setting the book, so I'm curious as to what comics looked like in that era." She says, saving her father from violent stink eye.
We continue talking about 70s art, and a Very Drunk Cantabrigian comes in.
EM, to me: "Is there a second hand clothing store nearby?"
Me: "The best option in Cambridge is The Garment District."
Very Drunk Cantabrigian: "And how."
EM: "How would we get there?"
VDG: "Take the fucken bus."
EM: "Um. Yes. Is there another way?"
VDG: "You could drive, but parking sucks."
EM: "That's fine, we haven't got a car. Could we walk?"
VDG: "Hoooooo. Could you walk? Can you?"
While VDG gives Horrible Directions, NYAGN and I talk about shipping comics to the UK. She ends up buying "Daytripper" and Guy Delisle's "Pyongyang". She and her father leave, taking down my info.
VDG: "I want a copy of the In The Wind 40th Anniversary Edition."
Me: "I don't know what that is."
VDG: "This isn't a place I could get it."
VDG: "It's a motorcycle magazine."
Me: "Ah. Yea, we don't have that."
VDG: "I know. I know. But where would I get it."
Me: "The Coop is the most likely place to have it."
VDG: "Of course! My mother used to work there fifty years ago. 'Til the towers went down. Then she started making butter soup and she sold my house to the communists."
VDG: "Right on the coast of Oregon, they got her to give half the house to the city to secure her legacy. And then Helen....you know Helen?"
VDG: "Sure you do. She works over at...over at...uhh...Charlie's."
Me: "Oh sure, Helen." No idea.
VDG: "She kicks me out all the time. I don't think she knows that Cheny was behind the towers. People blaming Bush. Barabara was a lovely woman. I never met her, but what a lady. If any of those boys ever did wrong. KRAK! Melania, if Trump ever goes nuts..."
VDG: "Think she'd...KRAK!...him? Helen never hit me or nothing, but you know."
VDG: "They called Barbara The Iron Lady."
Me: "Good old Barbara Thatcher."
VDG: "Get those communists....KRAK!"
Me: "Indeed. Well, I've got to close the store for my lunch hour. You should get to the Coop to get your magazine."
VDG: "What? Oh! The Coop. My mother used to work there."
VDG: "But rent got so expensive."
Me: "Uh huh. See you later."
VDG: "I'm always getting kicked out of places. Thanks for not using your foot."
A child comes in with hosiery over their hands. They are followed by an older brother and two parents.
Child #1: "I hope they have it. What if someone came in and bought it? *annoyed grunt* Do you have Sisters?"
Me: "Yes. It's right over here."
Child #1: "Perfect! How much is it?"
Dad: "It doesn't matter. We're getting it. Do you also have Drama?"
Child #1: "No. I just have Smile and the Babysitters Club books."
Dad: "We'll get Drama, then."
Older Brother: "I don't know why you read those."
Mother scolds the older brother by name.
OB: "What? They're not relevant to his...interests."
I glare in his general direction. All these books are by Raina Telgemeir, a fantastic writer who writes and draws fantastic all-ages stories that happen to also be Very Inclusive.
OB: "He's not a babysitter."
Dad: "He's not a princess, either. But he reads Princeless."
OB: "Well, Princeless is awesome. The Babysitters Club books are just ok."
I retract my glare. I disagree with his assessment about the quality of books, but disagreeing about quality is different from disagreeing about inclusivity.
Mom: "Leave it alone. The poor kid already has two judgmental parents. He doesn't need a third."
OB: "Then get a divorce already. All the other parents are doing it."
They all laugh.
Random Con Man: "Hi. How much can you give me for this comic?"
Me: "Nothing. I'm not the buyer. You'd have to come back Wednesday night, or next Friday during the day."
RCM: "Can you tell me how much it's worth?"
Me: "Nope. I deliberately didn't train to evaluate comics."
RCM: "Could you look it up?"
Me: "Nope. You'd have to come back Wednesday night or Friday during the day."
RCM pulls out his comic, which has been *rolled up* in his pocket.
A Regular Collector who is a friend of the store is in, and wanders over to peek at the comic.
RCM: "It's in mint condition."
It had been rolled up in his pocket.
RCM: "And it's one of the first appearances of the Avengers."
Me: "Nooooo. It's definitely not one of the original appearances of The Avengers. It's from, I'd say the mid-70s, so about fifteen years after the first Avengers issue."
RCM: "I looked it up and the first appearance of The Avengers in this condition is worth several thousand dollars."
ARC walks away, uneasily.
Me: "I can't help you there. You should come back Wednesday night or Friday during the day. I don't price the comics."
RCM: "Oh, I see. It says 'The Avengers'. I thought it said 'Introducing The Avengers'. Still, it's probably worth fifty bucks, right?"
Me: "Probably not. But, AGAIN, I don't evaluate the comics. I can't tell you how much it's worth."
RCM: "Maybe I'll try and sell it on the street. But I don't want to undersell it. Y'know. It's from the 70s, so it's worth a fortune."
Me: "Uhhhhhhhhh. Sure."
RCM: "I used to have everything. Every comic in the world. I had it. Then my house burned down. I must have lost billions. You know?"
RCM: "Hopefully, I'll sell this for tens of thousands of dollars, and be able to come in and buy all the issues I really want."
Me: "Good luck."
ACM: "That was a reprint issue. It's worth, maybe, fifty cents in mint condition."
Me: "I didn't want to tell him that, and then have it only be worth thirty-five cents, and have him be mad at me."
Random Claude: "Who do you think was the best Flash Gordon writer?"
Me: "I don't read or have any interest in Flash Gordon comics, so I'm not the right person to ask."
RC cracks his knuckles and begins to tell me which 1940s writers of a comic book strip I have just told him that I don't care about, I should be boning up on if I want to be taken seriously as a "comics aficionado".
Spoiler alert: I don't ever Ever ever Ever want to be a "comics aficionado".
Random Lonely Person: "Hi."
RLP: "How are you?"
Coworker: "I'm good. How about you?"
RLP: "Well, my middle niece got married last week, which means I Am Old. Ha ha. The wedding was pretty beautiful, though. And she wore a green dress, and..."
Me: "I'm going to go get something to drink, do you need anything?"
(In the background: "...even though it doesn't look good on anyone, but that's my sister's family for you, no regard for color...")
RLP: "I mean, I guess if you're a frog. Ha ha...."
I am gone for about fifteen minutes.
When I get back, they are both standing in the same place.
RLP: "...a lot of people don't realize that it's a callback to the third episode. Well, I gotta go. Hasta la bye bye."
CW exhales deeply.
Me: "You didn't even know that person, did you?"
CW: "Never seen him before in my life."
Me: "Stop asking strangers how they are. Their responses will never improve your life."
CW exhales deeply.