A Spaniard in the Works
I sold it
not worth much now
Would you have kept it?
at the United Cigar Store
a yellow lion coin bank
honeysuckle incense cones
and a tiny carved box
with a hidden panel
I remember your hamster
in his glass fish bowl
and smelly wood shavings
I remember the banjo
into a stringless
I remember the scarf
on number one needles
it unfurled across the basement floor
I remember the smell of vinyl wallpaper
in your forbidden bedroom
paisley and teal
I was your sister
Linked to the Open Link Night at dVerse on July 26, 2011
I declared “I don’t think the universe intended for me to be a retailer.” It was a glib comment. And when I thought about it, possibly untrue. I’ve had the itch to sell stuff since I was a child.
When I was seven or eight I dragged the piano stool out of the house onto the lawn and set up shop. One of the first items sold was my eldest sister’s first edition copy of John Lennon’s A Spaniard in the Works. Boy, was she cross. In my defense, it was the 60s, and no one knew all things Beatle would become collector’s items.
For inventory, a few years later, I made stuff. I created crayon pictures. I don’t know where I learned my technique but I would draw a picture and cover the entire paper in waxy colour. Then I would outline each colour with black. My mom had to buy me whole boxes of black crayons from the art supply store. I wish I had some of those pictures now, particularly one series which was a depiction of the four seasons. Honestly, none of these pictures remain in the family archives because they were hot sellers!
I also scavenged leather scraps from stores on Yonge Street and sewed them into wallets and purses. Rounding out the inventory was a collection of painted beach stones, sometimes “lucky stones” which had holes right through them and could be sold on a leather string.
My first jobs were in stores, a bakery, and a head shop. After university, where I studied English literature and dreamed of becoming a poet like my professors, bp nichol and Michael Ondaatje, I took up retailing. I bought the head shop and turned it into a popular home decor and gift store. It was exciting and I had a tremendous amount to learn about running a business. Buying items for the store fed a shopping and selling addiction beyond compare. It was fun and satisfying, and I rarely thought about poetry. Sometimes I pondered the meaning of my life and decided it was noble to provide aesthetic beauty to my customers’ lives.
When my business failed after 18 years I went to work at the University of Toronto Bookstore as a marketing and merchandising manager. Friends and family thought it was an ideal job for me: I like stores, and I like books! But I didn’t like the job. The universe, however gave me the opportunity to learn about book retailing, and peripherally about publishing. As I scanned publishers catalogues, wrote book reviews, and fingered newly minted volumes of poetry a whiff of a desire rose in my mind. Write, Sandy, it whispered.
So now, a couple of years after leaving the University, I am holding a copy of my own book of poetry. My desire to “sell” Chatterbox is not the same impetus I have to sell dog halters (which I do as a part-time job). It is a desire to share my story. To share my writing. To connect with a readership. It is a different desire than my entrepreneurial streak. And I think the universe meant me to be a writer.