Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The fix is in

I used to work a lot of Tuesdays at the "liberry". Somewhere around a year ago our schedules got juggled and I wound up taking over the Wednesday slot. Mostly it's been a good thing, since the "Weird Wednesday" factor assures me of loads of fun patrons to observe. However, there's something to be said about the "Terrible Tuesday" factor.

On Tuesday--the day I wasn't here, mind you--around 5 p.m., a patron parked their `88 Chevy pickup in front of the library and came inside to avail himself of our services. He neglected, however, to set his parking brake. Our library is situated about mid-way up a fairly steep hill at the edge of the downtown area. You do the math.

Yes indeedy, Auntie Gravity and Uncle Laws of Physics took notice of the brakeless truck and sent it hurtling down the hill where it careened off a utility pole, changed direction and crashed into the window of a down-town restaurant. Fortunately, no one was injured.

This is actually not the first time this sort of thing has happened. Over the summer, while working the desk (no doubt on a Wednesday) I heard a tremendous noise from outside, rushed to the door and saw a large Chevy Suburban rocking back and forth on its wheels. It took me a second to notice the little white pickup truck practically sticking out of the Suburban's grill. It was a parking brake incident. The owner of the Suburban, which was barely scratched, was using a computer while the truck's owner was no where to be found. The police came and took down information. The owner of the Suburban decided he didn't really care about any of it, since his vehicle wasn't damaged, and drove away, leaving me to inform the owner of the truck--one Mr. Welsh, another of our regular patrons--why his back bumper was damaged.

When I heard about yesterday's incident, I said, "It wasn't Mr. Welsh, again, was it?"

It wasn't.

Mrs. C, our #2 librarian, held up the local paper and read aloud the details of the crash to the rest of us. I stood there, slack-jawed in amazement, first at my lost opportunity to witness people running and leaping, Little-Rascals-Style, to get out of the way of a runaway truck, then secondly at the ad I then noticed on the back page of the newspaper.

The ad read: "Jac0b's Treeh0use. Collectibles. Toys. Gifts. Comics. For the young and the young at heart. TRI-METRO Mall."

"Sweet crap on a cracker!" I said. "A comic shop!"

You see, in the two and a half years since my wife and I moved to this tiny little West Virginia burg, I've been without my accustomed weekly comics fix. Since 1988, I've always lived in towns that had at least one comic shop, that is until moving here. The closest shop to where I live now had been about an hour away from me and not exactly feasible to get to on a weekly basis. (Plus, it's not an especially good one, either.) The prospect of a comic shop closer to home seemed a distant one. I'd even toyed with the idea of starting my own, but the fact that I didn't think the area could support one and my lack of any business sense convinced me otherwise. In order to get comics at all, I've had to go through Westfield Comics, a mail-order service and a darn good one too. However, with Westfield, I only get a monthly fix of comics and have to pay $6 in shipping. And sure, it's almost like a mini-Christmas when that big ol' box with WESTFIELD COMICS printed on the side arrives at my door (causing the feMailman to beep her horn for me to come out and get it from her car so she doesn't have to walk up and ring the bell), but it's still not the same as walking out of a bonafide comic shop with a brown paper bag full of comic-reading goodness under your arm. Damn, I miss it.

"Oh, yeah. I saw that store," Mrs. C said. "It's a little kiosk out in the middle of the mall."

"What?" I said. "You mean you knew about this?"

"Um. Well, yeah. It was open back during the crafts fair."

"The crafts fair? That was, like, a month ago. You've been sitting on this for a month?"

"Well, I thought to mention it but figured you already knew," Mrs C said. Mrs. A, our head librarian, backed Mrs. C up saying that she too had seen the shop a month ago and also didn't think to tell me, but only because I probably already knew.

"Darn all of you," I said.

They laughed and joked that they knew where I was headed on my break. Sure enough, I headed over to the mall as soon as I could.

The TRI-METRO Mall is hardly a proper "mall," unless by "mall" you mean a collection of empty storefronts and Armed Services recruiting stations set within an enclosed shopping environment. Oh, sure, there is a big chain clothing store there as well as a hair salon, a shoe store and a New Age Crap store (with a fine selection of rocks, tribal masks, jewelry, crystal stuff, rainsticks, artsy twigs, hemp-products and bout any other cheap thing you could want to have imported from India).

Sure enough, right out in the middle of the mall aisle as it were was a little kiosk shop of several glass cases full of action figures, both vintage and new, and models and statues and other geek related things. Toward the rear of it were two display shelves with backissues of a wide assortment of comics. There were also a few comic long-boxes, with issues going for $2 or so. The owner of the shop was on the phone, but hung up shortly after I started browsing.

"I would have been here sooner, but I just saw your ad today," I told him while greedily savoring the bagged and backing-boarded issues gleaming before my eyes.

As far comic shops go, I can't say this one ranks with the best of them. (By the way, for my comic buying dollar, the best shop I've been to in years was Austin Books and Comics, in Austin, TX. It's everything I want in a comic shop and so much more.) But then again, it's only a kiosk store--what can you really do with a kiosk store? Every shop has to start somewhere. Hell, my original home town comic shop, the late lamented Gun Dog Comics, began in a warehouse full of dog food and music equipment. Even the New Age Crap store, now a good sized corner shop in the mall, began as a tiny kiosk just over a year ago. I'm sayin' it's got potential.

Garin, the owner of Jac0b's Treeh0use, seems to know his stuff and is not at all like Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons. (Worst trait EVER!) Furthermore, Jac0b's Treeh0use already has a monthly subscription service in place, meaning once I'm shed of my obligations to Westfield (i.e. waiting the two months it will likely take them to ship the remainder of the comics I've ordered in advance) my comics fix will once again become weekly.

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An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.