Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I have never been good with numbers, so it is ironic that one of my key tasks at Hudson's is the monthly inventory. It comes with the territory, of couse. I buy the wine for the restaurant so I have to count it all. It might seem to be disincentive for having an extensive wine list, but the nature of the substance itself precludes that. Every time I discover a new vineyard, variety or blend, I give no thought to the counting this will later require. The list and monthly task simply get longer.

As I thought ahead to the job I have to do this afternoon, I thought back to the first time I took inventory, and it wasn't at Hudson's. It was years ago, with my father Bill in the bookstore that he and my mother had purchased in Abilene, Texas, the year after I was born.

Growing up in a bookstore was more than interesting for a child of my nature. It was formative in a wonderful way. I must have inherited my love for books from my parents, a love I still have today. Considering that I have never willing discarded a book I've owned, this habit is more of a function (or disfunction) of my quirky personality and tendency toward collecting things than it is a love for reading, but at least I have never had to count them all.

Math does not come naturally to me, but inventory thankfully involves only the simplest of math, and I am the complete master of stroke counting, so it isn't as onerous as I make it out to be, merely time consuming. Of course, it would be considerably less time consuming if there were two of us working on the task, one counting and the other recording and adding it up, which is the way that Bill and I worked together. My job was the counting part, and I can recall scrambling around in the bottom shelves, looking in and behind other books to come up with the number Bill was waiting to hear. I believed it was important work, and I took it seriously, but enjoyed it mostly because I got to work with my Dad.

This was not the only job I got to help him with. I can also remember learning to count money with Bill at the register in the evenings, and he always took me to the bank with him for the day's deposits. We'd get in that '57 Chevy Malibu and roll over to the big Bank downtown, only about ten blocks away.

With its marble floors, tall dark wooden tables, pens on chains and brass fittings around the big steel gate that led to the vault, the Bank was a most impressive place. Bill would introduce me as his assistant, which always sounded very important, and make sure that I got one of the cherry lollipops in the jar up on the counter. Eventually, the bank opened a drive-thru, which meant that I no longer got to see the blind cigar and candy vendor in the lobby, but I still got the lollipop.

What I remember most about the experiences with Bill were how tender and gentle he was. I always held his hand, and he frequently lifted me up to get a better view, even when I must have been far too old for that. All this changed when I went to school, but for a few glorious years, I was his right-hand man.

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