The Alabama Bookstop Remembered By 14-year Employee John Cramer
|Photo by Jim Parsons|
|Legendary Bookstop bookseller Jim Brown graces the cover of John Kramer's band's, The Mike Gunn, album A Dream About Jim|
In the interest of disclosure, I must report that I worked there for a few months back in 1997 and 1998. (Back in '89, it was also the first place I ever picked up a copy of the Houston Press.) At one point in my term of employment, there came a red-letter day: I won a promotion from ordinary bookseller to magazine rack supervisor. On winning this plum position, Cramer told me I had august shoes to fill. One of my predecessors in that role, he said, was none other than Wes Anderson. I reminded Cramer of that today. "I had totally forgotten about that," he said. "I am pretty sure that's true. He was there before I was. There's that scene in Bottle Rocket where they rob the college bookstore, and I always wondered if he got that from working there."
Cramer did have brushes with fame there. Both Sterling Morrison (of the Velvet Underground) and Jandek were regulars, as were Billy Gibbons and Rudy T, and Ozzy Osbourne came in one night. "I think he was a vegetarian at the time, so he came in after going to Whole Foods," Cramer says. "He bought a book on genocide and another on venereal disease. He said the book on V.D. was for his daughter and was for informational purposes only, and he wanted everyone to know that although the book on genocide was for him, he was not a Nazi."
Lesser-known customers also made some memorable visits. One night one customer stabbed another with a pair of scissors. Another night Cramer encountered a homeless man talking on the lobby's pay phone. Or trying to - he was holding the receiver upside down, and gabbling into the earpiece. Cramer tried to intervene. "The guy kept giving me the 'hold on' finger," he says. "And then I heard him say 'I just want to speak to Ty Cobb.'"