When I lived in New York I took a quick flight back to Florida one weekend and sat beside a man who was so excited about a used book he found. I didn’t understand his excitement, it was a book about giraffes and monkeys and looked like nothing I would read. But it was rare, he said, and was a great find. Even though I didn’t grasp the exact thrill he oozed on our plane ride, when I returned to New York I began taking the train to Manhattan on the weekend and go to used book stores.
Turns out, I loved finding the stores and then searching for old Updike books, even though I already owned all of the Updike books that I wanted. The chance to stumble upon a hidden gem was entertaining to me and NYC certainly offered me plenty of stores to sift and look for my treasure. I went book shopping often enough that I had a favorite store and my book hunting routine became regular enough that when I moved to Cincinnati, I missed my weekend adventure.
I thought, Cincinnati is an old city, surely there are a few used book stores. I looked online, read reviews, and quickly learned that Cincinnati is old, but not real big into the used book world. I found a few stores that I eliminated immediately based on the location. I didn’t want a used book store in a new building beside a First Watch restaurant. I wanted the real thing, floors that creaked, books that were dangerous to touch because pages may rip, stores that smelled funny because the books were so old.
My weekend life had changed dramatically from when I lived in New York. In Cincinnati, I had to work weekends, cutting down on my book searching ability. One free weekend (Saturday) I found a store and began my hunt – not for anything particular, just for a good store with plenty of good, old books to dig through.
Oddly enough, the store was walking distance from where I worked. I just had never noticed it. Perfect! I went in and it was a beauty. It was stinky, dusty, and dimly lit with the owner scowling at anyone who entered for fear it might be a student looking for a five finger discount. I looked around, up and down aisles and found stairs. Oh my goodness, this place had a basement of books and I don’t think anyone besides me had been down there in at least a year.
I brushed back cobwebs and saw more rows of books, a section of German books (of course, it was Cincinnati), kids books, travel, food, it was so awesome that when I spun around and saw two chairs with a small table between them I took a seat to catch my breath and map out my mental plan of attack.
On the table was a book titled Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette. Curious by the title, and the inviting suggestion that Ms. Vanderbilt was “The Foremost Authority on Manners Today” I picked it up. As I noticed drawings by Andy Warhol, I wanted the book immediately. I checked to see when this beauty was written and it was near the front of the book that I noticed Mr. Warhol’s signature.
I quickly put the book down, shocked. That can’t be real, I thought. Slowly, I picked the book up and peeked. It sure looked real to me. It was a pretty big book, manners and etiquette isn’t exactly a fast read if done correctly, so I left it on the table and went digging through German books and trying to determine which direction to go next in this magnificent store.
Hours must have gone by because before I knew it the lights were flickering to signal it was time to close up shop. Flustered, I ran up the stairs – God forbid they forget I am down there and close the store (or door to the main floor). I headed out and on my way, telling myself to go back to the store and get that book the next chance I had.
I never did. I lived there four years, walked to a Chinese restaurant directly across the street at least once a week for lunch and I never went back to get my Andy-Warhol-signed etiquette handbook. That’s just bad manners.