My buddy Mark (above, in red shirt) and I became friends 1999, shortly after he opened his used bookshop in Kainaliu (Island Books). So I went to visit him the day after I arrived, and we just sat out in front of his store and “talked story” for hours. He’s the type of guy that every used book store owner should be; well read on anything and everything, and yet completely at ease socially. And, of course, unabashedy liberal, with a reasoned argument behind every one of his beliefs. So we went cruising yesterday, and decided to hit up an old road side store shortly after leaving his shop. The owner of the store was a Japanese man named Charlie (below) in his 80s.
His store was a remarkable hodgepodge of completely worthless items: old brooms, garden hoses with mold growing on them, reel to reel tape, a VHS tape about baseball card collecting that was, according to the price tag, $24.95. Vaguely threatening handwritten signs were hung around the store: “You like, you buy. You no like, you no buy. Just kiss off!” Another read, “This is heavenly place where they came to destroy. They’ll be cursed slowly but surely.” He said that, other than snacks, he stopped taking inventory when the US stopped producing goods. Charlie owned the store but not the land, and I quickly came to the conclusion that he was keeping the store open more to talk story and fend off loneliness than to make money. Or perhaps he kept it open out of a sense of duty. His father had opened that very same store in 1919, and his family had been in charge ever since. He had never been married and never had children, so that when he left, the store went with him. Considering the cherry locale, it was not hard to imagine a million dollar home being erected soon after he passes.
Charlie’s course of discussion was every bit the delightful melange as his store was. He went on about his father, about his monthly bills, about watching the White Sox during his brief life as a drifter in Chicago in the 1950s, about putting out a fire at the old auto mechanic’s store across the street, all within about two minutes time. We could have stayed all day, but after a couple of hours, we decided to press on.
UPDATE: More Photos!