Lisa Ann M_ [I'm reading Frederick Exley's A Fan's Notes] came into the store with the kind of forceful personality which is either intensely annoying, indefinably charming, or the magical combination which comes across as Holly Golightly on speed. Like a heavy current, you realize you could be swept along, so you let it wash over you and try to remain upright.
When I leave the buying office and register work distracts me from my agenda, I do my best to be civil. The customers don't realize whoever should be on the register is AWOL, and they're the reason there's a roof over my head, so I resist the urge to vent my annoyance at my job situation on them. Sometimes, I even manage to fake enthusiasm. In LAM's case, her joie de vivre was catchy.
LAM purchased a copy of Les Standiford's Last Train to Paradise, explaining that she liked to read about the places she travelled. I gave her points for being a paying customer, for her boho chic outfit (fashionable isn't my thing but stylish is, and the look suited LAM) and blocky black glasses, and for loving Books & Books.
"Are there any cool places in this city?" she asked. "You know, for people who love books? Events, or somewhere special you like to go?"
I asked how long she planned on staying.
"I'm leaving Miami as soon as possible," she said.
In that case, not really.
"Is there an Art Deco district? I've heard about all the cool Art Deco architecture. I saw some on the Beach but it looked pretty run down."
If you've been to South Beach, that's about it on the art deco. I mentioned Wynwood and the Design District, but since I couldn't offer directions I was fairly useless to her.
When I first moved to Miami, I would have commiserated with the numerous negative things LAM had to say as I rang her up, but I'm done bad-mouthing The Magic City. I've lived here long enough to see Miami, to love this town and adopt it as my own. By this time, Becky had come by. She wasn't cock blocking but she was certainly present. Lurking, I guess you'd say.
"Are you a biker, by any chance?" LAM asked.
I allowed as I was.
"Because I biked here by Venitian Bridge. Do you know Venitian Bridge?"
She meant Venitian Causeway, one of the few bike-friendly places in Miami.
"Once I got off it, there didn't seem to be anywhere to go. I got honked at a lot."
I told her apart from Alhambra, there wasn't a street in the Gables with a bike path. The best you could do was bike carefully.
LAM refused a bag for her purchase, instead tucking Last Train into the bag over her shoulder. She plucked a copy of Tim Gautreaux's The Missing from her bag to make space and asked if I wanted it. She'd just bought the book in New Orleans, finished it on the train, and wanted to travel light. I told her I was familiar with The Missing and had intended to read it since it was published. I thanked her, wishing I had something to offer in return.
According to Becky, Lisa Ann M_ was flirting. I might agree, if not for the following.
"I can't really get you back to Venitian," I said. "That's out of my six-mile radius."
"Six mile radius?"
"Yeah. All social engagements need to be within a six-mile radius of my house. Otherwise, I don't go."
"What it that, a Miami thing? Or an old-person thing?"
She may have meant "is that an old-school thing" or "a classic rule of living" but I wasn't about to find out for sure. I said it was my thing which I'd adopted from a friend, wished her luck on her travels, and bid her goodbye.
I may not have gotten an ego boost out of it, but at least I got a free book.