Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Wild Ride Journal of a Hollywood Bookseller: The Burning Passions of Mickey Tsimmis, 5

by Arnold M. Herr

Dressing for the occasion:

Mickey Tsimmis was frantic.  I had just wandered into his book shop on Melrose, against my better judgment.  But sometimes I just can’t resist.  Stepping into the Megalopolis Book Shop is always risky.  Not only to one’s physical well-being, but to one’s emotional stability as well.  Case in point:  Mickey was clutching the lapels of a San Francisco bookseller, who jumped back in surprise and horror.

Mickey:  Please, I have to borrow your underwear!

San Francisco Bookseller:  What??!!

Mickey:  Your underwear!  I need your underwear!

San Francisco Bookseller:  Why, what for?

Mickey:  I have a doctor’s appointment in an hour and my underwear is…well,  I had lunch today at Tortilla Flatulence and…

San Francisco Bookseller (regaining his composure):  I can’t help you. 

Mickey (panicking):  You - you can’t?

San Francisco Bookseller:  No.  I already loaned my shorts to someone else…for soup stock.

Mickey (turning to me):  Arnold.  Lend me yours!

Me:  Sorry, no can do.

Mickey (greatly distressed):  Why not?

Me:  Because I’m not wearing any.

Mickey:  What am I gonna do? 

A woman entered the conversation.

Woman:  I’ll lend you my panties.

She then hoisted up her skirt and yanked down her drawers.  My god, I love the book business.  My parents could never understand this.

Mickey looked at them as the woman handed them to him. 

Mickey:  They’re spotted.

Woman:  It’s my time of the month.

Mickey:  Alas, it’s not mine.  The doctor’s sure to notice that.

The woman reached out to take them back, and Mickey was about to hand them to her, when he pulled back. 

Mickey:  On second thought, I’d like to keep them as a remembrance of this tender moment.

He stuffed them into his pocket. 

Woman (turning to walk away):  Use them in good health.
Now for the next crisis:  

Mickey was now rushing around trying to find a small container for his medications.  He needed something small enough to fit into his pocket and suitable for carrying the four or five meds he would have to take while he was away from the store.  There were no empty pill bottles around and an envelope wouldn’t do.  I spotted a small pencil sharpener that had a plastic receptacle under it to catch the wooden shavings and graphite dust.  I shook out the pencil particles and Mickey dropped his pills into the receptacle and closed it before placing it in his pocket.

Just then George came in holding a fresh pack of boxer shorts.

George:  Let’s go, we’re running late.

Mickey:  Oooooo, clean shorts.

George:  You can change in the car.  When we’re finished with the doctor’s appointment, you’re gonna take them off…

Mickey:  …in the car…

George:  …in the car, and you’re gonna give them back to me.  They’ll go back into the package, and the package will go into the trunk until your next doctor’s appointment.  (He leaned toward me)  We went through this routine the last time.  He borrowed my underwear.  I vowed never again.

Mickey whips the books into shape:
Mickey must have been channeling Lash LaRue or maybe Indiana Jones when I strolled into his book shop one day about 10 years ago.  He was wearing a pith helmet, jodphurs and boots and was strutting around the shop snapping the whip.

Mickey:  I’m controlling an untamed herd of quartos and octavos here.  But the ones you really have to watch out for are the 12mos.  They’re small and they’re sneaky.  They’ll bite you on the ass if you’re not careful.

Me:  Mick, are you off your meds again?

Mickey:  No.  I came up with the idea of using the whip to retrieve books from the upper shelves without going up on a ladder.  The doctor thinks I’m too shaky on my pins to climb anymore, so I thought this might be a good alternative.  [He snapped the whip for emphasis].

Me:  Do tell.

Mickey:  If someone asks me for something that might be up there, I first scan the titles with a pair of binoculars.  When I find what I’m looking for, I use the whip to snag it and pull it down.

Me:  And how good are you with that thing?

Mickey:  Stick a cigarette in your mouth and I’ll show you.

He started backing up and coiling the whip.

Me:  I don’t smoke; I don’t carry cigarettes.  And I took MY meds today.

I glanced up at the books on the upper shelves and saw that some of them bore the scars of having been flogged.  Mickey followed my gaze.

Mickey:  I know, I know.  But I’m getting better. 

Me:  Y’know, from a certain angle, you remind me of Cecil B. deMille.

Mickey (brightening at this thought):  Yeah…I coulda directed The Ten Commandments.  Can’t you see me barking out orders?  PART THE RED SEA!  Yeah…and I wouldn’t have used Jello.  That’s what deMille used you know; Jello.

Me:  Whatever you say Mick.

Mickey:  Stick with me kid, and you’ll learn things.


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