Thanksgiving Treasure

A Little Bit of Coming Home While Away From Home

I’ve been laying pretty low of late—lost, in part, in work; lost, in part, caretaking a dearly loved one.

There’s only so much one can do in a given day, but I do my utmost to squeeze all I can out of it. There’s lots I’ve been doing I can’t share here, in my personal home life and in my professional life—the final stages of work underway on my current book project for Watson-Guptill, which my editor hasn’t even seen yet (so I sure the hell can’t show it to you); the final stage of work on my current ebook project (five years in the making!); ongoing work and research on a variety of unrelated projects.

The book projects have kept me busy digging up rarities online, including various monster reference books—if you’re going to draw a Wendigo, you might as well get as close to the core source materials as one can circa 2012. I’ve also been successful ferreting out books, magazines, and rarities I’ve long had on various “must find” lists, making 2012 the year I’ve been able to wrap up all sorts of decades-long searches.

******

In a moment of weakness that stretched into days, Marge pondered re-upping with Comcast for cable TV (we cut it off years ago, missing it not a whit, till now). That was cured by the prepared-for phonecall to Comcast a week ago, which so pissed her off (once again, the best they can do is far worst than first-time customers get) that she swore Comcast off anew.

What a business model: punish long-time customers with ever-increasing rates till they go away, and when they come back, just to see if there’s a way to work with the corporation and re-engage (maybe get something like the sweetheart deal we got when we first signed up with them), promise to punish them further. The asshole on the Comcast end of the conversation made it easy for Marge to conclude the conversation—”God, he was curt & surly!” she said.

Now, I’ve had it with big-box retailers. I haven’t set foot in a Walmart in over 15 years. The last big-box retailer I frequented was Best Buy, thanks to their West Lebanon NH venue’s DVD selection, but they sure cured me earlier this year. I barely spend a nickel with them any more (5000+ points wiped out, and my account rendered inaccessible by a “helpful” employee—but that’s another story, for another time).

My personal spending pattern over the past few years, then, has been to buy at almost all times from either local businesses or small businesses online. Even with amazon.com, I prefer ordering via the private bookshops and sellers, whenever possible, even if it costs me a bit more, even if the shipping adds to the final tally. My money goes to individuals and small-shop owners, every month, every week.

Funny how it comes around, though. My own recent online book order binge unexpectedly drew

and an equally unexpected but most welcome mail-order from them, in return. And, hey, that was really nice.

A week ago today, our friends Joe Citro and Diane E. Foulds came and paid us a visit, in part so Marge and Diane could spend an afternoon together and Joe could spirit me out of the house for a bit. I elected to spur-of-the-moment take the long drive to Henniker, NH and visit one of my all-time favorite used bookshops, the Old #6 Book Depot. It was a great jaunt, and I found (and could afford) some real vintage gems in the Old #6 book barn. Despite the pleasure and relative ease of online book searching and buying, there’s nothing on Earth like combing the shelves in a vast treasure-trove like the Book Depot.

But the sweetest experience of the day crept up on me and surprised me…

En route, we stopped in at the pharmacy in the center of Henniker. Joe remembered they used to have a vintage soda fountain/counter that was still up and running last time he and Diane had stayed in Henniker, and it was the ideal stop to stretch our legs before seeing if I could recall the off-the-beaten-track route to the Book Depot (I could, and did).

Alas, that counter is gone. The pharmacy and drug store has been remodeled, but damn, it’s still a classic New England village drug store.

I made my way, as I have since I was four years old (when it was Towne’s Market in downtown Essex Jct., VT my mom took me to), to the magazine racks—and lo and behold, there’s still a comicbook spinner rack, just to the left of the magazines.

I love the old spinner racks. “Hey, Kids, Comics!” topped this one, with color heads of Archie and Batman and a couple other characters on the tin sign at the top of the rack.

I turned the rack, just to drink in all the covers. No intention to buy anything—after all, we were on our way to a real bookstore. I was just looking. Curious.

Then my own name jumped out at me, and there was Spongebob Comics #13, on this New Hampshire small-town comicbook spinner rack selection, and it was a little bit like coming home, as they say.

I’ll never forget seeing my first-ever comic-book comicbook pro job—“A Song for Saigon Sally,” in Sgt. Rock #311—on a comicbook spinner rack. When my collaborative work began to appear in Saga of the Swamp Thing, I didn’t get comp copies from DC Comics—I bought ‘em on the spinner racks in our local VT pharmacies (and, I must add, at Moondance Comics in Brattleboro, VT), like Parmalee & Howe’s in downtown Wilmington. VT. Those are pretty potent memories of my early years in comics.

And I’d forgotten what it felt like.

Until I saw Spongebob Comics #13 on the spinner rack in Henniker.

Sweet.

I had to buy a copy, of course. And a pack of Teaberry gum.

*****

Joe and I had a fine time at the Old #6 Book Depot. I’ve only been to this shop about four times in my life, but I do manage to hit the Northwood NH extension of the Book Depot outpost once a year, and have for almost 20 years. So, my personal checks are familiar to the owners.

Joe is amidst unloading possession at this phase of life, so he enjoyed the hunt, but bought nothing.

Me, I enjoyed the hunt, and brought home some game. I spent a bit of money (though I only go once a year to one of the #6 Book Depots, I always spend over $100 handily, and I save up for the visits), and among the rarities I found were a couple of vintage illustrated books I now have waiting for me upstairs, for today’s drawing session on the long slog to the end of my Watson-Guptill book project. The one on drawing trees is helpful, too.

Now, Ian (that’s Ian, at left) and Helen Morrison are the owners and proprietors of the Old #6 Book Depot in Henniker and Northwood. I know them by sight, and Ian himself made an appearance as I was checking out and paying for my purchases.

We said hello to one another, and exchanged a chuckle over one of the books I’d found, but I’ve no reason to expect Ian would ever recognize me, though I recognize him.

So, a quick flashback: Years ago, sometime in 2007, Ian was the one checking me out (during my first-ever visit to the Henniker Book Depot), and he asked, based on my always-bizarre book selection, what I did for a living. I told him, and proudly showed off my then-new Center for Cartoon Studies identification card to show I was teaching, too. “Oh, then you get an educator’s discount,” Ian said, and that’s been a courtesy extended ever since, if I remember to ask for it.

Now, Ian didn’t check me out on Monday. Another kind fellow was working the store that day—Ian was doing something else, and just said hi to me and to Joe as we were on our way out the door.

I forgot about the educator’s discount, and I didn’t ask for it this time.

Didn’t come up. I didn’t bring it up. I plum forgot, truth to tell.

On Friday, a check arrived in the mail with a note from Ian: “This is for the education discount you should’ve received today at the Depot. Thanks for your business!”

Incredible—Ian remembering me, my past visits—and then making this additional effort and time to do this.

I’m already a customer for life; this is beyond courtesy, it’s what makes the world go around.

This, too, in stark contrast to Marge‘s nasty Comcast experience this week, and my frustrating year with Best Buy—well, point made.

The kindnesses extended by long-distance transactions—the folks at Hang Fire Books—and closer-to-home book sellers—like Ian and Helen—sure sweetened my Thanksgiving week.

I spend my money, all I can, with individuals, local businesses, and small businesses.

And I always will.


Discussion ¬

  1. Mark Nelson

    The #6 Book Depot is indeed a sight to behold. I first went there as a media hungry kid in the mid-80s and spent hours ogling the decades of TV and Film related books that I never knew existed. I finally made a return trip last year, and after a 25 year gap, the place was just as good as it was the first time to the now-grown-up me. I still felt like a kid looking at all of the titles, and picked up a nifty stack of TV, Film and Sci-Fi paperbacks, some of which I’d been hunting years for. Great shop, and I echo your sentiment about how nice it is to deal with friendly staff who know and love what they’re doing.

Comment ¬

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