notquiteold

Nancy Roman

The Printer’s Devil

My husband took another shortcut the other day.

He is notorious (to me) for taking shortcuts that are anything but. He once took a shortcut that added about forty-nine minutes to our drive home. (not that I was counting). I thought at one point I saw a sign that said “Welcome to Vermont.”

Usually I don’t mind. He’s driving, and I hate to drive. And if he takes a bit longer to get where we’re going, it doesn’t make much difference to me. Except of course if I have to go to the bathroom. (Which is often. So I admit it. Sometimes I do mind.)

Anyway, on this particular trip, I had my overactive bladder in check, so as we went six towns out of our way, I was just peeping into the windows of other people’s houses and wondering what their lives might be like. This is one of my favorite past-times and I get to do it a lot, given the number of looong shortcuts I’ve been on.

At first I didn’t have a clue where we were, and then Hubby turned onto a busy commercial road – the kind with strip malls and fast food joints on both sides of the road. We went under a railroad trestle and on the other side was:

A memory.

It’s a convenience store now, but in 1971 it was The Printer’s Devil Bookshop.

Printer’s Devil sold used paperbacks – the kind with the covers torn off. If the books were in good shape, they might fetch a dollar. Most of them were in very very poor condition and could be had for a quarter. As long as it was only the cover that was missing, I’d buy really messed-up books. (I remember we had to read “Tropic of Cancer” in my Modern Lit class, and the professor asked me a question about a certain story-point and I said that I had to skip that part because those pages were stuck together, but because of that I could assume that sex had happened. He did not ask me any further questions that semester.)

Printer’s Devil was also a headshop. For those folks not of the Woodstock generation, that means they sold rolling papers and roach clips and that kind of shit. And if you still don’t know what I mean, then you are very nice and very old indeed. I did not shop at that end of the store very much, although I will not say I never did.

And they sold some clothes – gauzy Mexican shirts and woven bags and punched leather belts and soft-soled moccasins. And yeah, I wore all those Hippie things, and bought some of them there.

Then there was a corner with all the essentials for a good little hippie. Sealing wax and stamps – I had a rose stamp with black sealing wax that I loved. (Do you remember sealing letters with a dab of wax? Do you remember letters?) And incense – which I bought and burned even though I really didn’t like it. It was part of the persona and I adopted it without question.

I loved going to Printer’s Devil and the summer that was my hippie peak I probably went twice a week.

I bought tons of books and the few pieces of clothing that my college poverty allowed.

But what I really went there for was a boyfriend.

I went to the Printer’s Devil Bookshop hoping to find a loving boyfriend among those guitar-strumming, barefoot, long-haired, headband-wearing dudes that hung out there every day. How I adored those boys.

And what makes this memory so sweet is this: During that whole summer and all those visits to that shop – that shy young girl looking so desperately for a boyfriend – she never spoke to anyone there.

 

shy

 

 

 

 

32 Comments

  1. I can identify with looking in people’s windows as we drive down the highway, especially if it’s dusky dark and their lights are on, but the blinds aren’t closed.
    Isn’t it odd how you immediately recognized the building that the little bookshop was in?

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    • It was going under the train tracks that suddenly jarred my memory – and there it was!

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  2. Those shops were so eclectic — clothiers, sealing wax, drug paraphernalia. As I recall, the proprietor of the clone I frequented was very nice!

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    • I don’t remember the owners, just the cute customers that I was too shy to approach.

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  3. Funny and touching.

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    • Thanks… although I see myself now as a teensy bit pathetic, it is a really sweet memory. I wish I could go back and console that little girl.

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  4. I loved shops like that, frequented several. Of course Seattle never grew out of that stage, a few of them still exist.

    What a sweet memory, I wish I could go back there and hug you. Better though you never talked to any of them. Look how wonderful your life turned out.

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    • I did turn out okay. And I find that memory is sweet now, not sad.

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  5. Did it have bootlegged vinyl albums as well?

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  6. Awwww.

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    • Yeah, that poor kid. I wasn’t shy in every situation, but sometimes it was awww-ful.

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  7. I think I am “very nice and very old indeed” but I can still relate to those youthful longings for the love of your life. The trappings may be different but the yearnings are always the same.

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  8. This post brought back a wave of memories of a similar store that I frequented in my own home town back in ‘the summer of love’. My eyes teared up just a bit!

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    • The incense used to make me tear up pretty good too! (not to mention other smoke)

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  9. A quarter? That’s highway robbery. I used to get torn paperbacks for a dime.
    Love. Love. LOVE those old type stores. Gads, the hours I’d spend in them. Yes, I admit it. Looking for a boyfriend as well. Hardly ever bought anything because I didn’t have any money.
    Your memory has brought back lots for me. Ha ha. Thanks, Nancy. ~(*_*)~~

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  10. HAHAHAHA! I would love to have seen the look on your professor’s face!

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  11. Ray G

    Since it might have been the weekend of your “shortcut”, I think I know why hubby did it. But he will have to give me permission to mention it.

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  12. I loved sealing wax! I had an entire box of sticks and seals, and the matches to light the sticks. Some were glittery, and some had a scent. It was so romantic to seal a letter with it….even a letter to a sister. I was a big letter writer. I also look into people’s windows as I drive past. That is why I am so careful not to be around the windows of our home!

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    • I picked up the habit from my mother. She always liked to look into windows.

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  13. I totally understand about getting lost in a bookshop – especially one like that! Those moccasins sound so comfy, too. Enjoyed your meandering thoughts. Thanks.!

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    • Thanks. I do love it when an unexpected memory appears from nowhere.

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  14. You certainly invoked some long forgotten memories for me. Maybe not forgotten, perhaps just hazy from one too many trips to that “other” end of our local head shop. Lots of time was spent in these wee shops. I can even remember going on long bus trips to Toronto to visit the “really cool” shops in Toronto. Then one day a law was passed that it was illegal to sell all that paraphernalia and overnight it all disappeared…along with most of the shops.

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  15. Jon

    I loved those places! And the gentle, beautiful girls I was to shy to talk to.

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  16. I know all about those “shortcuts”. My hubby will string 3 or 4 of those together and end up taking twice as long to get there, which is not bad, if it’s not a hot day on the back of a motorcycle.

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  17. Your post immediately evoked the aroma of old books for me. I used to go to the local Monday morning market in the school holidays when I was a pre-teen. I went to buy old Agatha Christie paperbacks with my pocket money. That makes me feel v old and fusty but even now I drag my three year old into charity shops so we can check out what books they have. It’s a lovely thing to do and we are, I suspect, a dying breed.

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  18. What a great stroll down memory lane – thanks for sharing. I’ve been there/done that, minus the roach clips, of course. The only thing is, your writing is so vivid I can smell the patchouli oil, and I can’t stand that crap.

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    • Ha! Now there’s another memory! I wore that awful patchouli oil. It’s no wonder I didn’t have a boyfriend!

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  19. I love your stories! getting lost is definitly the Best way to find what you were not looking for 🙂

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  20. Sounds like my kind of shop! And yeah, I can imagine doing exactly the same thing when I was young..dreaming about handsome hippie lovers and not daring to speak to any 🙂

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