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Frank

My friend Frank runs a bookstore in Central Square. Since he has a strict policy of only selling books he's read himself, it's a rather small, eclectic place-- you know, pretty much like all the other bookstores in Cambridge. But his is taller.

See, the only space he could find at a decent price was the elevator shaft in an ancient six-story office building. The elevator never worked too well and was a constant source of lawsuits against the landlord, so in 1986 the elevator itself moved out and Frank moved in. He sits behind a tiny desk at the bottom, and the customers browse above him on a network of sliding ladders. Light comes from rows of tiny bulbs strung up the corners of the shaft along its entire length. A few chairs hang on wires from the roof. He's never had a customer fall, but the floor is built like a Moonwalk just in case. A steeply sloped metal hood over Frank and his desk is designed to deflect falling people and books without hurting them.

To optimize the use of shelf space, the books are organized a bit differently than most places: instead of being on the same subject or by the same author, all the books on any given shelf are the same size, in height, anyway. This means that the next shelf up can be immediately above the tops of the books, with no wasted space. Duplicate books are kept in additional rows hidden behind the visible ones. Books of similar content tend to be arranged in vertical columns from one shelf to the next, but this organization is necessarily somewhat informal and vague, so people who are looking for something specific usually have to ask Frank for help.

Last year Frank replaced all of his beautiful old walnut shelves with sheet metal. It's ugly, but by making each shelf over half an inch thinner he was able to save almost four feet of vertical space. I bought a bunch of the shelves from him to hold some of the books I've bought from him over the years.

The old elevator lift mechanism actually still works, more or less. It wasn't able to lift the elevator, but it can lift Frank. He wears a parachute harness hooked to the end of the cable and controls the motor with a small remote strapped to his arm. It's invaluable when he's sorting books or taking inventory. Very scary to watch, though: since it naturally dangles him right in the middle of the shaft, he has to keep swinging all the time so he can reach the sides. By now, of course, he's turned it into an art form; he could join a circus.


Frank seems to be my only imaginary friend right now. I do have a number of real friends, almost all of whom are capable of making their own Web pages. Of course, very few of them have actually done so. Here they are, in the order I met them:

my mother, with some info about the rest of my immediate family
my father and his writings
Hugh, I mean Tyler
Brant
Sheri, much to my surprise
Rachel, of course
And thousands of others who I forgot. If you're one of them, tell me.