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:
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.