Category Archives: Adventures in the book trade

State of playlist

Here’s what people are hearing when they come to Nighthawk Books:

Charlie Musselwhite: “Christo Redemptor,” from Tennessee Woman.

Keith Jarrett: “Solara March” from Arbour Zena.

Gil Scott-Heron: “The Bottle,” from Winter in America.

Patsy Cline: “She’s Got You.”

Bill Withers: “I’m Her Daddy.”

Louis Jordan: “Knock Me a Kiss.”

X: “In This House That I Call Home.”

Frank Zappa: “Montana.”

Drive-By Truckers: “That Man I Shot,” from Brighter Than Creation’s Dark.

Emmylou Harris: “Where Will I Be,” from Wrecking Ball.

Simon & Garfunkel: “Punky’s Dilemma,” from Bookends.

Lena Horne: “Stormy Weather.”

Richard Thompson: “How I Wanted To,” from Hand of Kindness.

X: “The New World,” from Live in Los Angeles.

Frank Zappa: “Camarillo Brillo.”

Bob Dylan: “Isis.”

Joni Mitchell: “Marcie.”

REM: “Losing My Religion.”

Led Zeppelin: “Hots On For Nowhere.”

REM: “Man on the Moon.”

David Bromberg: “When First Unto This Country.”

Blue Van Gogh: “Myth.”

Howard Shore: “Bondage,” from Dead Ringers.

Cassandra Wilson: “Strange Fruit.”

Talking Heads: “Swamp”

Neil Young: “Mansion on the Hill”

Corrine Bailey Rae: “Paris Nights/New York Mornings.”

MIA: “Paper Planes,” from Slumdog Millionaire.

Tom Waits: “Downtown Train”

Keith Jarrett: “I’ll Remember April.”

Tom Waits: “Alice.”

Pogues: “Down All the Days”

A.R. Rahman: “Dreams On Fire.”

Glen Burtnick: “Watching the World Go By.”

K.D. Lang: “Constant Craving.”

Ian Dury: “Reasons to Be Cheerful.”

Rolling Stones: “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.”

Sugar: “Come Around.”

Eric Bibb: “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.”

Talking Heads: “This Must Be the Place.”

Rolling Stones: “The Last Time.”

Prince: “Kiss.”

Drive-By Truckers: “The Righteous Path.”

Pogues: “Gridlock.”

Led Zeppelin: “Fool in the Rain.”

Roseanne Cash: “Heartaches By the Number.”

Paul Simon: “Father and Daughter.”

Frank Zappa: “Black Napkins.”

Pogues: “Lorelei.”

Beatles: “Dear Prudence.”

Paul Simon: “Peace Like a River.”

K.D. Lang: “Wash Me Clean.”

Steely Dan: “Any Major Dude.”

Led Zeppelin: “That’s the Way.”

Pogues: “Sunnyside of the Street.”

My Bloody Valentine: “Soon.”

U2: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

Glen Burtnick: “Palookaville.”

Parliament: “Flash Light.”

Led Zeppelin: “For Your Life.”

Living Colour: “Broken Hearts.”

Creedence: “It Came Out of the Sky.”

Beatles: “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.”

Lyle Lovett: “She’s No Lady.”

Jonny Greenwood: “Prospectors Arrive,” from There Will Be Blood.

Richard Thompson: “Walking the Long Miles Home.”

David Bromberg: “”Shake Sugaree.”

Thelonious Monk: “Thelonious.”

John Fahey: “Sligo River Blues.”

Nyckelharpsorkestern: “Vastanmadspolskan.”

Bob Dylan: “Visions of Johanna.”‘

Talking Heads: “Drugs.”

Joni Mitchell: “Jericho.”

Led Zeppelin: “When the Levee Breaks.”

Michael Franti: “Bomb the World.”

Ian Dury: “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.”

Creedence: “Effigy.”

Simon & Garfunkel: “At the Zoo.”

Captain Beefheart: “Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles.”

Prince: “Alphabet Street.”

Thelonious Monk: “Easy Street.”

Cassandra Wilson: “Body and Soul.”

Drive-By Truckers: “The Southern Thing.”

Drive-By Truckers: “The Three Great Alabama Icons.”

Drive-By Truckers: “Wallace.”

Marianne Faithful: “The Ballad of the Soldier’s Wife.”

Ravel: “Le Tombeau de Couperin,” played by Robert Casadesus.

Curtis Mayfield: “People Get Ready.”

Duke Ellington: “Lotus Blossom.”

John Lennon/Beatles: “Julia.”

Otis Taylor: “Black’s Mandolin Boogie.”

Richard Thompson: “Al Bowlly’s In Heaven.”

Rolling Stones: “Shine a Light.”

Bob Dylan: “Black Diamond Bay.”

Louis Jordan: “Saturday Night Fish Fry.”

Bob Marley & The Wailers: “Concrete Jungle.”

War: “Low Rider.”

Michael Hyman: Track from The Draughtsman’s Contract soundtrack.

Frank Zappa: “I’m the Slime.”

Roxy Music: “Amazona.”

Led Zeppelin: “What Is and What Should Never Be.”

Emmylou Harris: “Every Grain of Sand.”

Blue Van Gogh: “Top of the Mountain.”

Patti Smith: “Dancing Barefoot.”

Django Reinhardt: “Nuages.”

Grateful Dead: “Ripple.”

‘Snacks’ time

One of the shows we hosted at the bookstore, “Snacks Live,” is covered in this video clip. You get some nice looks at the store (though we’ve since whacked away the shrubbery in front of the building) and you get a hint of how much fun the kids had that morning.

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Stutter steps

Three months ago, when we opened the bookstore, free WiFi access was part of our keen business strategy. It would serve as a loss leader, bringing in potential customers who would use the WiFi, then buy books and coffee.

Trouble is, it hasn’t worked out that way. For every laptop gypsy who grasped the concept — that if one enjoys and appreciates a quiet, comfortable place with free WiFi, one should support that place — there were a dozen who were happy to come in, suck up the WiFi for a few hours, then head out the door without buying anything. One clown developed a whole cheeseball comedy routine where she would march up to the counter, fluff a few bags as though considering a purchase, then head back to a table and another hour of grinding.

I really don’t want to be the kind of store owner who prowls around snarling “Those tables are for customers!” I did a lot of that last week, and I really didn’t enjoy it. But I also don’t want to go bust paying utility costs for a bunch of moochers. Yesterday, I changed the WiFi password and put out flyers announcing that Internet access would only be available for a flat fee. Will this affect my traffic and sales? Let’s see.

I hope I don’t alienate the good customers. I’ve met some great people at this place. But the twerps who treated me as somebody to get over on sure have left a bad taste in my mouth.

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The bookstore’s been open for almost three months now. Last night I checked off the eighth visit from a particular breed of dolt who wanders through the front door, shambles through the various rooms, then returns to the counter and asks:

“So how does this work?”

“Sorry, I don’t know what you mean.”

“You lend these books out?”

“No, this is a store. We sell the books.”

“I thought this was like a lending library.”

“The library’s three blocks up the Avenue, turn left. This is a book store.”

“Huh.” At that point, the dolt heads out the door, knuckles bumping along the concrete steps.

Now, the vast majority of the people who come into the bookstore are perfectly pleasant folk who conduct themselves in a friendly, courteous manner. Even the handful of mutts I’ve had to deal with follow understandable patterns of behavior. Most of them want to come in, mooch the wi-fi for a couple of hours, then slither out without buying anything. Cheapskates and bums I can understand, though I have to say that anybody who balks at paying my low prices for used books is gunning for the gold medal in the Olympics of the Pathetic.

But these CroMags who think I’m running a library always knock me for a loop. Is my joint the first bookstore they’ve ever seen? Do they really think they can walk into Barnes and Noble and “borrow” books for a week or two? Most of them are middle-aged and even older. How do they tie their shoes without hanging themselves?

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Everything I need to know I learned from carrying cartons of books up and down stairs at the store

For example:

* Contrary to what you’ve been hearing all these years, cockroaches will not be the only things left after a worldwide nuclear war. There will also be Annapurna stacks of books by Janet Evanovich, John Grisham, James Patterson, and Dean Koontz. In fact, they will outlast even the cockroaches. This is not an aspersion on their personal and/or literary qualities. I chatted with Janet Evanovich back when she was launching the Stephanie Plum series, and a nicer person you couldn’t have asked to meet. I liked the Grisham books I’ve read, and I thought it was pretty cool of him to sink all that money into resuscitating the Oxford American. But their books pour into this used bookstore and don’t leave.

* A separate Rapture will be needed to remove all the copies of the Left Behind series that are glutting garage sales and used bookstores.

Pat on the back

Belying his Web identity as a crotchety old fan, Steve Davidson has written some very nice things about me and my current business venture. Please amplify my thanks by giving him some clicks.

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Too bad I don’t have cable

But, then again, that’s why God invented the DVD box set. As soon as Treme comes out in one, I’m adding it to The Awesome Nighthawk Books DVD Archive.

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Brief encounter

Apparently Newt Gingrich has some ideological grifter operation going that targets newly launched small businesses. I was getting ready to open the bookstore the other day when the phone rang and the following exchange ensued:

ME: Hello, Nighthawk Books.

GRIFTER: Hi, I’m calling from Newt Gingrich’s Yadda Yadda Blah Blah Project. I know you’re busy, so I’ll make this short.

ME: I’ll go you one better. (Hangs up phone.)

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New life, week one

So here I am at the end of the first week of my new life a a merchant, and I have to say I like it. It hasn’t been a restful week, but so far this agrees with me. The town has been without a bookstore for so long that people are greeting Nighthawk Books with open arms. It’s really been nice.

I stayed open during the Wednesday night snowstorm and had the main street more or less to myself, though the local Carvel tried to make a go of it for a few hours. The store attracted a steady stream of cabin-fever sufferers, who watched the flakes fall from the comfort of the window coffee bar. After the rush ended and the store emptied out with two hours to go before midnight, the place started to feel weird.

Then the Charlie Brown’s up the block closed and suddenly my store was full of interesting, tipsy people. A pleasantly drunk guy on his way to the Philly airport (good luck with that) had just finished The Ginger Man and wanted something in the same ballpark for the flight to Georgia. I ended up selling him a copy of Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis,  after a long chat about Kurt Vonnegut.

The Tuesday opening was a “soft” opening. This Saturday, Feb. 20, will be our all-day grand opening. So far I’ve lined up readings by Mary McAvoy (author of Love’s Compass), Jeffrey Cohen (author of several mysteries) and plenty more besides.


Here we go

Nighthawk Books opens today at noon. That’s 212 Raritan Avenue, downtown Highland Park, N.J. We’ll be open from noon to midnight, Tuesday through Sunday.

Naturally, there are about ten thousand things I should have nailed down by now, but the past two months have already been a blur of ceaseless work. Time to put this operation on its feet and see how it goes.

If you’re in the area, come on by and say hello.

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