The following was written by Donald Ramsey, owner of All Books Considered:
TALES TOLD IN A BOOKSTORE
1. BOOK SCHOOL AND THE CUBBIES
This is the first in this series of occasional pieces, all of them connected in some way with books.
Begin at the beginning, it is often said. My first serious move in the used/antiquarian book business was to attend the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar, in the summer of 1991. It’s a sort of boot camp for beginning booksellers. (For more information, check http://www.bookseminars.com).
That year, Greyhound offered a really special ticket deal. For $100, you could visit anywhere in the U. S., provided you bought the entire ticket before leaving. Unlimited route; unlimited stopovers. I went to Denver, then California, and returned to Washington via Texas. My ticket was literally six feet long.
(An interesting sidelight on the Greyhound adventure was that the drivers were on strike. The solution was that the supervisor would drive the bus from the terminal to some nearby street. Then the regular driver would take over. Don’t ask me how exactly that worked, but it did.)
The first leg of the trip was from Washington to Chicago. The scene was dominated by a woman and her son, a boy of perhaps 10 years. If I were a parent, I might be more sympathetic, but I can only describe this kid as the proverbial holy terror. He was definitely in control, and created all sorts of devilment just to harass his mother. He would lock himself in the restroom, for example. When she wasn’t dealing with the kid, she was complaining to her seatmate—and effectively to all of us passengers—about how hard it was to cope with the boy. Then I heard her say they were headed for Denver.
That was the last bit of news I wanted to hear. No way was I going to listen to that pair for several hundred more miles. So I stashed my luggage at the Chicago terminal and headed to the nearby subway station, hoping there would be a baseball game scheduled. I can’t claim to be a true baseball fan, but I do I try to visit some major- or minor-league ballpark whenever I’m traveling; which is another story.
In the subway station, before I could even find a wall map, a train arrived. It was jam packed. I figured that there was likely only one reason all those people could be using the transit system on a summer Saturday afternoon, so I squeezed onto the car. Sardines had nothing on us, I’ll tell you. Once on the train, there was still no chance of moving to within reading distance of a system map. No moving of any kind, in fact.
But the baseball gods were on my side that day. After 3 or 4 stops, everybody got off that train. Again, there could be only one reason. Followed the crowd (no real choice), and sure enough—there it was, a couple of blocks ahead—Wrigley Field. I can’t recall who the opposing team was, nor even the score—but I did get to see the ivy, the grandstands on the nearby apartment roofs, and the Cubbies.
A few days later, in Denver, there was a minor-league game between the Denver team (not the present Rockies) at Mile-High Stadium. My new Cubs souvenir cap, blue with its big red C, seemed appropriate. Who were the visiting team? None other than the Iowa Cubs, a Chicago farm team, who wore the same blue cap with a big red C.