Okay, I'll finally admit it. Miss Prothero's Books is located near a liquor store, not a nice, genteel middle class liquor store where maiden aunts go to buy sherry and fruitcake brandy and hep young couples go to debate the merits of different microbrews.
It's a place that loads up on cheap malt liquor and rot-gut vodka, a place where the down and out go to get down and out. It's the block's bitter old uncle, the barrio's black hole. People who get sucked in don't come back. When they do come back, they've mutated beyond hope.
But what can I say. The owner of the store is just trying to survive, trying to make a buck. Who doesn't stand on someone's back on the way to the top of the pile?
Whose back am I standing on?
I had a drunk arrested the other day. I know it's not going to help him. It probably won't help my business, either. He'll be back. When he comes back, he'll sit on the wall next to my store, a big man with a big bottle of Cobra. I'll ask him to leave. He'll flutter his hand at me. I'll threaten to call the police. He'll flutter his hand at me and say, "Go ahead." Add to this recipe the lard of race and class, and I'm left with a terrible tasting piece of the pie.
How do I stand against this overwhelming tide without standing on someone's back?
Books are a consolation of sorts. There's nothing like a good story to put it all into perspective. About a week ago, I finished reading Teague Bohlen's The Pull of the Earth. It's a book about a father and son, two sisters, an angry young man who turns helpless old drunk. It's about family and secrets, murder and second chances, the poisoned mud upon which we build our lives. It's also about standing against the pull of the past and the weight of the world.
Bohlen's book is a finalist for a Colorado Book Award. He and Bob Cooperman will be reading at Miss P's in September. I'm excited. We'll talk about the reading more in another post.