The Spirit Embodied Herein

One of the downsides to working at a bookstore, even merely part-time, is that it has largely robbed me of my zest for wandering around in bookstores, looking at new books, etc. It isn’t as fun when you already know what is coming out and when. I get excited for new nonfiction but, with only a handful of exceptions, I can’t bring myself to care about new fiction. Especially from new writers, who all seem to be largely the same person. Thanks academia. I’ll be dead before I can get through all the books I already have anyway.

I do like poking around in used bookstores, though. I like watching for out-of-print editions from the writers I like. I particularly love old mass market paperbacks. Like this awesome old edition of Jack Kerouac’s classic On the Road.

It’s another gem I scored for a measly $1. Inside the cover, which makes it even more of a score, is a quote and a dedication.

The book was clearly given as a gift or something, right? For clarification, it reads:

This book is the father of us all. Read it on planes, buses, & roadsides, for without the Spirit embodied herein, one can never really discover America. Love, Jenny   24 May 75

Forty-two years ago. Who was Jenny? Who was she giving this book to? Ah, the romance of the mystery. You’ll never get this kind of story of wonder from a stupid electronic book.

 

Cheater, Cheater, Chicken Eater

I was only in 7th or 8th grade when I saw my first bar fight. I was standing out front of the Double Front restaurant waiting for a takeout order with my friend Mark Cranston. It was a warm summer evening, so we were just hanging on the sidewalk, probably talking about soccer. Two men came tumbling out the open door of Al & Vic’s, a bar directly across the street. They were pummeling each other. One guy got the other guy down on the sidewalk and was banging his head against it. Then the roles reversed, and more mayhem ensued. Someone inside called the cops. At the sound of sirens, the two men stood up. By the time the cops arrived, the combatants were arm in arm, backslapping, and while we couldn’t hear the conversation, it was clear they were claiming something along the lines of, “Oh, no, officer, no problems here!”

That’s what I recalled when Scott McMillion, editor of Montana Quarterly, asked if I’d be interested in doing a piece for him about the Double Front, which has been in the same family now for three generations. I said hell yes I’m interested. The results are out in the latest issue of the magazine, just hitting shelves today. I wrote and photographed the piece. Besides leading me to go back and back and back eating more Double Front chicken than I have for three or four years combined, it was fun.

It’s my second appearance now in the magazine and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I love print, and I was a huge fan of this particular magazine before I ever started pitching magazine stories anywhere. It’s the best Montana has to offer. You should subscribe.

Oh, and for you trivia buffs, my author photo in the contributors section in the back was taken in the restroom of the textbooks department at the Bookstore at the University of Montana. It has these great white walls. During my time helping out there last summer I referred to it as “Studio C.”