Tag Archives: ” Istanbul

Meet Mark and Sally, Bookshop Sitters

Mark and Sally Smith are watching the bookshop while Jack and I slip away for a holiday. They originally planned to come last October, when Little Bookstore was published and our original request for shopsitters went viral. In their Memphis house, Mark in the kitchen and Sally in the bedroom each heard on NPR’s Weekend Edition how we were looking for someone to mind the place while we went on book tour, and rendezvoused in the car on the way to church.

“Want to?” asked Mark.

“That would be so much fun,” Sally replied, and Mark fired off an email. Only, instead of sending it from Mark to Jack, he sent it from their Labrador, Red, to our Labrador, Zora.

Andrew at partyThat pretty much guaranteed we were gonna choose them, but it turned out the dates we needed clashed with some family commitments. So Andrew Whalen shopsat instead, and he was wonderful, and Mark and Sally said they’d get up with us next time.

Which is this week. Jack and I are flying to Istanbul for our 15th wedding anniversary, Christmas 2012 and 2013, combined birthdays and Valentine’s Day, plus celebration of Little Bookstore’s success. When we knew we wanted to go, we called Mark and Sally.

“You really want to?” Mark asked Sally, with his hand over the phone.

“In a heartbeat,” Sally said.

IMG_3644That’s how this couple rolls. Both lost their life partners several years ago, and Sally was volunteering as a docent at the Memphis Public Library, and attending a book club there, when Mark walked in.

“I don’t remember what book it was, I don’t remember what she said about it, I don’t remember a thing about that night except that Sally was sitting there taking up all my brain space,” he said.

He asked her out. Sally, primed ahead of time by friends, said, “I’ll drive myself and meet you there.”

15 months later, they formed a partnership. And they still go to book clubs. And out to dinner, but in one car.

They drove here Friday past to get their feet wet running the shop one whole day, before Jack and I abandon them to ValKyttie’s tender mercies and fly off. Since Sally has been staffing the Memphis Library’s secondhand books store for a few hours each week, and Mark never met a fuzzy creature he didn’t know how to charm, the place is in good hands. As Sally said, “I’ve always loved books, and I’ve always enjoyed people, so I kinda always thought I’d run a bookstore someday.”

And now she is. So come visit Sally and Mark if you’re in the area. They’ll stay through the last Saturday in April, then head back to Memphis because they have a hot ticket to attend the Annual Payroll Convention in Grapevine, Texas.

I know, but Mark says it’s wild fun. And we feel good knowing they’ll have no trouble computing sales tax.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

We’re not THAT weird…. are we?

O wad some Power the giftie gie us Tae see oursels as ithers see us!–Robert Burns

Sitting in church behind a well-heeled woman, Burns noted lice in her coiffure. History doesn’t tell us how the woman felt about this immortalization–or if she recognized herself–but Jack and I are going through a similar struggle. ┬áIn preparation for our two-week Istanbul hiatus, we are writing a shop guide for Mark and Sally Smith, who are coming from Memphis to shopsit.

Mark says their friends alternate between “Oh, can I join you?” and staging interventions.

Wait until their friends hear about the shop guide. We find ourselves typing bald statements like “When Valkyttie gets angry she pees down the bathroom heat vent.”

Will they even read the rest, the tried-and-tested wisdom of our cleaning guru Heather, herself the owner of an angry kitty, plotting kitty, grrr, grrr, grrr? “Put a paper towel on the duster stick by the vent, swish-n-soak, then spray shaft with Heather’s magic elixir. Make sure it’s off first.” Or will they run in terror from a bookshop whose CEO is a pissing-mad eighteen-year-old Scottish cat clever enough to maximize effects?

Given corporate culture today, peeing down a shaft is not that bad, but having no boss is part of Mark and Sally’s fun. The place is yours: do as you will! The shop guide is assistance, not direction.

Jack and I wonder how they’ll react to the section “COLORFUL LOCAL CHARACTERS,” depicting (among others) the bald man with the spider tattoo wrapping his head. Fixated on Fred Saberhagen’s Berserker series, Spider Guy keeps saying “BEE-serk-ER,” like a French surname, despite Jack’s efforts. Six foot six, hands like banana bunches, Spider Guy picks up foster kittens and coos to them as he wanders the shop, kitty curled purring against his chest.

We have several local characters who talk without listening; we see them coming, adjust our conversation-o-meters to “stunned” and let it roll. Throw in a “yep, I can get that for you” and make them feel like royalty. All part of the job. I think of it as a computer adventure game set in real life.

But then there’s the back scratcher hanging in the kitchen. Without it, you can’t turn on the light. One night Bert got it in his mouth and Jack and I chased him through the shop, screaming, “Drop it! Don’t chew!”

Dog chases, there’s a thing. The guide tells how to recapture Bert and Zora should they slip out. [Equipment: two leashes, raisin-less breakfast bars, and a car key, kept in a Ziploc pouch at the back door.] It’s the kind of thing one doesn’t think twice about until explaining to someone else….

Really, Mark and Sally, you’re going to have a grand time. Honest!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized