Froggy’s in the Well

9 05 2009

Frog in a wellSome years ago, one of my teachers described her childhood in China as being “Like a frog in a well.” When she came to the US her eyes opened wide at all the things this big old world might have to offer. And she was braver than hell, going off here and there all over the place just to see what she could see. That little froggy truly went a-wandering.

I am traveling quite a bit these days and I still feel like a frog in a well, just jumping from one well to the next. So far this year I’ve seen a lot of the South. I am growing to love Birmingham, Alabama with its hills and greenery and Golden Rule barbecue. If you want a great sliced pork sandwich, head on down to Irondale, Alabama, just east of  Birmingham. The people are friendly and the eatin’ is grand.

Golden Rule

Golden Rule

Then drive on up toward Nashville. They are so proud of their little downtown and their nightclubs and their music…but I like to pick up some Nashville barbecue, head back to the motel and watch some Nashville Public Television: WNPT. It always has swell music. My last trip I watched a black and white concert by Sam and Dave and Otis Redding shot in Sweden in the 1960’s. Sam and Dave gave, perhaps, the finest stage performance I have ever seen. It was so good, I called in a pledge.

Tootsies Orchid Lounge Nashville

Tootsies Orchid Lounge Nashville

Next came Baltimore. In my youth, selling books at Kroch’s & Brentanos’ Wabash Street store in Chicago, I worked with a Baltimore lad by the name of Sagar Petersen. One day I referred to Baltimore as “north.” Ha! I thought old Sagar, a Vietnam vet with a bit of a temper–he punched a fist-sized dent in a filing cabinet one day–I thought Sagar was about to be all over me like a duck on a June bug. I finally calmed him down by explaining that I was from Texas and Texas was south of Baltimore. He accepted that and we remained friends.

So Baltimore in April was cool and rainy and darn-it-all, with my egg allergy, I can no longer partake of their very fine crab cakes. The Inner Harbor is a nice little touristy area and I once had a delicious soft-shell crab (in Lousiana we called ’em busters) sandwich there. The DBD Sales force is a fine bunch of folks and there is nothing so fun as sitting around and talking about books.

Flatiron Building New York

Flatiron Building New York

I just got back from Texas and will talk more on that further and soon. Coming up next is the north with New York City and BEA and Texas Hill Country barbecue (not bad) in the Big Apple with a Lone Star pardner who settled in up there many years ago. Then Japanese food and great tea with one of my favorite book buyers. New York is the heart and pulse and breath of publishing. If you are in the business, you just have to go there from time to time to get a real whiff of what is going on.

Then, as summer moves along, Chicago and libraries. Bookstores and libraries are completely different breeds of cat. Their needs are different and they look at books in a completely different way. I used to call on a wholesale book buyer in Fort Worth, Texas who was a librarian at heart. She was very difficult to sell to in a mass market sort of way. She did eventually wander off and settle in at a library.

Chicago Public Library

Chicago Public Library

The maddest I ever made her was the day I told a joke–she was a great fan of the Greek tragedians. So wise-ass young punk that I was, I marched into her office and said, “Hey, a man walks into a Greek tailor’s shop with a pair of torn trousers. The tailor says, ‘Euripedes?’ The man says, ‘Yeah, Euminides?'” She chased me out and I wasn’t allowed back for a week.

But libraries are the soul of book publishing. They make the written word available to anyone who can read. And librarians are book fanatics in their nerdy little bookish sort of way.

So this frog will spend most of this year jumping from well to well. In each well the water is different, but it is always sweet.

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One response

17 05 2010
New Photographs

Nice neat blog!

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