SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
“Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.”
― Groucho Marx, The Essential Groucho
I don’t usually talk about this much, but I’ve got a thing for old stuff. The reason I don’t talk about it is my ongoing fear that I bore people in conversations. It dates back to conversations as a teen, when girls would tell me, “You’re boring”.
After all, I like to talk about writing, which is boring to most people who don’t write. Whether my actual writing is boring is a whole other question that I’d just as soon not go into.
Old stuff is one of those areas where you’re either fascinated or not interested at all. Worse, my interest isn’t in valuable antiques; I just like old stuff. Old buildings, old books, old dirt on the ground. If I tried to be one of those antique hunters on TV, I’d go broke the first day.
Those of you who know I’m working on a book about the history of the Albion Fire Department aren’t overly surprised about this interest, which is a prerequisite for history writers.
Although I’ve collected toy fire trucks all my life, most of them are no older than I am (left myself open for an old age joke there, didn’t I?) I like the Matchbox size mostly, and I’d grab up any that appeared: die-cast, plastic, made in America, made in Outer Mongolia, whatever. Unless they’re very expensive, which is to say unless they’re actually worth something, in which cause my caution (read: cheapness) kicks in and I can’t justify the money.
So I’m left with a bunch of toy fire trucks that aren’t worth as much as the dust that collects on them. (Not that I care, really.) Same with my comic book collection, my book collection, and the collection of cool rocks I used to pick up along the road. My Johnny West action figure may have been worth something, but he’s pretty beaten up from fighting G.I. Joe all the time.
Luckily, other people are better at finding valuable stuff than I am. Now, when Jean Smith asked to keep my novel for sale in her antique shop, I didn’t agree to do a column-length advertisement for her. However, I decided to talk about the place after I stopped in to drop off copies and saw …
I love fire trucks. In fact, I drove one just the other day, although the ones at Jean’s shop are considerably smaller. I didn’t buy any, but maybe someone who likes me will stop by for a gift I can put on a shelf.
Jean’s shop, “Just Off the Square”, is – wait for it – just off the Courthouse Square in Albion, on East Main Street. I say this not because I want to send business her way, but because I want someone to stop by and buy my book there, then look around.
You might think to yourself, “Why would an antique and fine collectible shop stock a contemporary novel about a storm chaser?” Or you might not – but if you did, it’s because she wants to support local authors, and mine isn’t the only book you can find there. (I’m not telling: Go ahead, see for yourself. Go on.) If you’re also a local author, and didn’t write a romantic comedy set in this area (I don’t need the competition), head on down and talk to her. (I also collect parenthesis. What's the plural for that word?)
You may think I’m pushing both the shop and my book. You may be right. As mentioned before, I need to blow my own horn, and I noticed they had an old horn for sale there. See how that all fits? Besides, I haven’t talked about my fiction writing career in, what – two columns, now? That brings me right back to the whole “boring writer talk” thing, which I’d better take a break from next month.
Where was I? Oh, yes: The first thing I noticed when I walked into the place is that they were sorting through some stuff that they’d just gotten in. And what did I see? Toy vehicles. Among them? Toy fire trucks, some Matchbox sized.
I was in love.
It goes without saying that there’s lots more stuff there, and it was worth stopping by just to see the antique pickup parked outside during my visit. Old books (yay!) for instance, although I was particularly struck by more modern collectibles: dolls of my two literary heroes, Mark Twain and Groucho Marx (Groucho did too write books, and they were oh so much more sensible than anything by Karl Marx). Now, those would look great on my mantle. If I had one.
So stop by, and if you buy a copy of Storm Chaser there bring it to the Brick Ark Inn on December 3rd, or Freedom Acres in Cromwell on December 9th, for me to autograph. Also, if you buy me a Groucho or Twain figure for Christmas, I’ll sign those, too.
Hopefully no one will realize how many jokes I’ve stolen from those guys.