Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bob’s famous bookstore in Boonton

May 25, 1980

I don’t know what Bob was thinking when he opened a book shop on Main Street in Boonton.
Maybe he liked the way the street looked, so quaint and small town with its barber shop, market, library, police station. Maybe he liked the fact that he didn’t have to travel far to get to the local tavern, or the small pond.
Maybe he liked the fact that this main street looks more like it belongs in San Francisco than in New Jersey, a street that tilts high, and then suddenly veers south near the top.
I don’t even know why he opened a book store at all, except for the fact that he’s collected so many books for so long since long before high school, he figured he might as well try and make a living at it – only these aren’t the kind of books other people would want, taking a PhD in multiple subjects to get passed the introduction of each.
Hank and I come here often, wandering off to the pizzeria when we get hungry for something other than hours of talk over literature and best sellers, sitting on the stoop with books, comic books and cokes hour after long hour, often waiting for Pauly to appear or an excuse to leave.
I like the town because it makes me think of all those small towns I passed through going to and from the west, but a tiny town twenty odd miles from Midtown Manhattan, and sitting here makes me think of other times, perhaps better times, and all the silliness we three have inspired in the name of wasting time, washing up here finally in this odd place, wasting even more time as we watch traffic and the steady trickle of cars going up or down the steep hill.
It is always amazingly hot in Bob’s book store, as if the books exuded steamy breath their content could not inspire, making us sweat, making us ache for something other than intellectual pursuits. We talk about authors we’ve read, and haven’t yet read, though rarely talk about what is really on our minds, the intensity of feelings that remain closed books in our lives, books whose covers we dread to open for what they might do to us, each having opened on or two previously, only to get sucked in and spit out, only to become wounded by an adventure we never expected to take.
How desperate am I to strive to become a wordsmith when some words scare me, four letter words like love or lust, words for all our high talk we do not mention except as remote concepts, and yet, words thrill me, chill me deep in the bones even in Bob’s boiling book shop, the thrill of laying claim to something and conveying it so powerfully other people are moved. They pop up like flowers each time I pick up and pen and start, as if contained in the pen or my fingers, instead of my mind, bordering the imaginary streets I wander in my dreams the way trees and parking meters line these streets.
This building we sit in or in front of, looks like a box, built with red bricks of alternating shades of red, light and dark, except near the base on either side of the front stoop which have pale, perhaps once white bricks. It is an old building, but not so old as the post office which has a big brass door and a big brass sign, with sunken windows on either side.
Sometimes sitting here, I see Main Street as a river, like the river I hang out on when I’m back home in Passaic, each store front a little pier lined up along its banks, catching bits of its debris and its travelers, but like leaves floating down a brown river, these visitors rarely stay long. Even we wander off sooner or later, even if Pauly never arrives, searching maybe for those lost four letter words we are so fearful to mention when we sit here, seeking someone beyond the pages of this book to make them feel real to us.

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