Unshelved comic strip for 10/19/2009

Sam Wyly

Unshelved is made possible this week, in part, by Sam Wyly, author of 1000 Dollars and an Idea. Sam started a company in college for a thousand dollars and across a long career parlayed into the billion or so dollars he has now. That's a pretty good return on investment, so you might want to hear how he did it.

Baltimore

Bill and I are back in Seattle after a week long trip that took us through Baltimore, Niagara Falls, and San Francisco (me) and Boston (Bill).

In Baltimore we spoke at the Enoch Pratt Free Library's staff day in a LIBRARY – marble, skylights, a vault, a reading room for HL Mencken and EA Poe, miles of closed stacks, dumbwaiters, and the most awesome reading room I've ever seen. The acoustics we a little rough for our talk, but luckily Bill and I were funny looking enough to make it work.

From Baltimore - Niagara Falls - San Francisco October 2009

After our talk, Wesley Wilson, the Chief Librarian, was kind enough to take Dana (the staff development intern) and I on an impromptu tour. He showed us the Poe reading room, shared the history of the building, opened the vault (containing a Hebrew scroll from the 1400s , song lyrics written by Tupak Shakur, a first edition of Ulysses, Enoch Pratt's walking stick, and more). Then he showed us some of the library's closed stacks, leading us there through his mammoth office where we descended via his "private" elevator. That led to the children's department. I thought the best feature was going to be the fish pond, but the night reading room , complete with its recessed moon and twinkling stars, was my favorite feature in the library. My picture doesn't do it justice.

That afternoon I wandered downtown Baltimore a bit. The neighborhoods weren't like anything I'd seen on The Wire, but none of the used bookstores were open on Monday, the comic shops Google told me about were all gone, and it felt like the denizens of the left wing bookstore / vegan café might run me out of their basement as I flipped through their zines.

Niagara Falls

After we arrived in Niagara Falls, we learned to navigate by casino, though we never did solve the mystery of why there are six Indian restaurants within 1/2 mile of the falls. We were lucky enough to have a Starbucks in our hotel, though, which made our stay (and working on our customer service talk) much more pleasant.

On day two I crossed the Rainbow Bridge, leaving Bill's passportlessness behind, and went to the Canadian side. Everything was shinier, but equally as uninteresting. There were neon Disney characters in the park (thankfully off), towers, nice paint jobs, a mob of tourists (missing on the American side), better wax museums (the Abe Lincoln on the American side looked like he was made of frosting), and chain restaurants galore. I walked through it all to go to a used bookstore (closed) and one of the two comic shops (open).

I visit comic shops whenever I can, and I have a giant rant about places that do it wrong and right, but this was the messiest place I've ever seen. Stacks of comics here and there on boxes and bins and somewhere under there, I suspect, shelves, with action figures piled and displayed here and there – it was like a bomb exploded in my office, and foragers had blazed a trail through the mess. Walking through the place, trying not to step on the merchandise, was like playing Twister. I looked around but finally left when my leg cramped up.

Failed to buy Bill any duty free candy or liquor and then wandered back across the Rainbow Bridge (after paying my Canadian-side toll of $.50). The US Border Guard asked me why I was there.

"I went to a comic shop and a book store but didn't buy anything."
"You came to Niagara Falls to go to a comic shop."
"No, I came here for a library conference."
"Is it a national conference?"
"No."
(exasperated) "Why are you in Niagara Falls."
"I'm going to speak at the library conference."
"What are you going to talk about?"
"I write a comic about a library. I'm going to talk about that."
(Look of incredulity from the border guard. He waved me through)

After hanging around for a few days and trying to visit the used book store on the US side of Niagara Falls (closed) and the comic shop (open, decent but small) and trying to make sense of the Little Italy sign (we did finally find one Italian restaurant), finally headed to the airport on 4+ hours of sleep. *Yawn*

San Francisco

I headed for San Francisco to visit friends and attend APE. Got a great motorcycle tour of the city with my friend Colin (destined to play Dewey in the Unshelved movie), ate a Mission-style burrito in the Mission District, visited a book store with two sphinx cats in residence, saw the ruins of the city's grandest bathhouse, and visited the fabulous Isotope Comics, which didn't disappoint.

I'd always heard APE was like Portland's Stumptown comic convention (very indy oriented) but bigger. That proved true, but I think I'll stick with Stumptown from now on (they had programming that my daughter liked, but there was nothing like that at APE). But I did get to meet Jason Shiga (I failed to answer his qui to get a free ARC of his new book), bought a few ghosts from Chris Yates (my daughter's collection is up to about 20), and bought comics I'd never seen or heard of, including The Bean, which seems like great fun.

From Baltimore - Niagara Falls - San Francisco October 2009

I was home in Seattle (but exhausted) on Saturday in time to play a few rounds of Super Smash Bros. Brawl + to read Yotsuba&! 6 with my daughter before heading off to bed.

This Unshelved strip

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