John LaPine
John has been a vociferous reader since he first opened and read Beatrix Potter’s “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” sometime in late 1962.  In 1970 he received a Signed First Edition hardcover copy of Mary Stewart’s “The Crystal Cave” as a gift from his great-aunt Miriam, devoured it, and determined that he would never again purchase a paperback book if he could get his hands on a hardcover First Edition. Those were the days when most homes had one television, and when children were allowed to watch television only on special evenings when National Geographic aired a special, or when Walter Cronkite had something to say of great National and Historical importance.

John was raised in the South Suburbs of Chicago, and on occasion his father would take him to Maeyama’s Bookshop in Park Forest, Illinois, where George and Josephine Maeyama introduced him to Chicago authors Mike Royko and Studs Terkel during book signing events. During his early years in High School, already with a burgeoning library of several hundred hardcover First Editions, John began cutting classes and heading into the City to visit booksellers like Stuart Brent and Benjamin Fein. He would hide in these shops for many afternoons … time well spent amongst some of the Chicago Literati … and it was during these visits that he likely contracted his chronic case of bibliomania.

In the 1970’s, many years after he stopped watching television for good and after a somewhat protracted period of living on Chicago’s mean streets and discovering first hand the high cost of low living, John enlisted in the United States Army and was promptly dispatched to Europe, where he spent 8 years amassing a respectable collection of British and European First Editions (his barracks room was the only one at the Division Headquarters completely lined with wooden bookcases). 

John returned to the United States in the 1980’s (along with more than 1200 books he accumulated in Europe) to begin his University studies, and after completing a degree in German, another in Political Science, followed by a Juris Doctor, he moved to Chicago and spent 12 years practicing law … all the while amassing more First Editions to supplement his reading “habit”. Whenever he had spare time John would make his rounds of Midwestern and Chicago bookshops, and in 2003 he was delighted to have the opportunity to enter the profession full-time when the previous owner of Printers Row Fine and Rare Books decided to leave the book business.

John admits that bibliomania is a disease, and that he is not interested in a cure.


Martin K.

Several years ago a rather disheveled fellow dressed only in an overcoat appeared at our front door covered from head to foot in asbestos dust. Though he was gibbering incoherently, we were able to make out that he had just that morning decided that twelve years of impromptu asbestos remediation for cash was no way to make a living. He announced that he had simply walked away from his job that morning and, while wandering the streets of Chicago considering his hunger and imminent homelessness, he had stumbled by our shop. He looked through the window and thought to himself that this seemed like a nice, warm, friendly, and cultivated place to work.

After he scribbled his curriculum vitae on a sticky note we were so impressed with his qualifications that we hired him on the spot, loaned him $20.00 for lunch and told him where he could get a shower. We told him to report the next morning at 10:00 a.m. for work. He arrived the next afternoon promptly at 3:18 p.m.

Martin is a very private person ... he revels in his anonymity ... and so he was reluctant to provide us with any information more revealing than his name, his date of birth, and his Social Security Number. When we asked him to provide us with a brief biography so we could boast of his presence here in the shop, he reluctantly agreed to open his heart and submit the following: 

‘’There are some people that if they don’t know, you can’t tell them.” - Louis Armstrong

I was born without resentment in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood at the ash-end of the last century. 
Uptown, Chicago: the Empire of the Birds. Born beneath chicken wire in a rooming house room. Neighbor at the right: a one-time maid for the family of Nathan Freudenthal Leopold. Neighbor at the left: Chaplin’s Essanay Studios, then a Currency Exchange. There were specters of unemployment, overindulgence, discomforts of the olden kind when fun was fun. But outside, ‘”drop, drop, the rain drip, drop the rain”, as al-Sayyab has it.  Old Dracula days in 33 RPM Uptown. That’s where you were born. Nonage in a foreign country.  More rain and more than rain. The dead mills, the Ripper, the Iron Lady and rainfall.  I danced in a circle wearing a goat mask. I whistled from a dark room to man standing by a gate. I saw my name wrote in Urdu under that of Glendower, Glenfiddich and Glenn Ford. That was in the big heat of schizophrenia (since cured) you played Ivor the Engine in the flooded basement of a battered women’s shelter. Moors, maypole, a burning mattress and a grimoire of wild dogs running the alleys where werre and wrake and wonder. 

Adolescence was awful. Lots of ticks and stutters and a fulsome fear of the mysteries of sex. Constant were the companionship of succubi and the Old Hag perched on the bedhead.  It was all kind of carny, with yegs and bozarks and forgetfulness from a kick of mule or cadillac.  At the sphinx age of fourteen, I discovered dishwashing jobs and all those laughing friends who would go and die off. That they have … all crossed the Chinvat Bridge with wide berth. Lake Street was glowing with porn yurts, hagglers, pushers, and kippy women, then. First bald crushes, first fist fights (lost, every one), first working noise.

In his twenties, he began an artificial education in the Philosophy of the Insane (Powys). You used to count Wren’s ravens on the churches and linger near the slagheap wall, but now there was only Chicago and a job at the liquor store in the old Greyhound Bus Station (it is gone now and so are the shoeshine fellers who bummed wine for lunchen trink). Musical expressions dating back to the ‘teen era continue, played to a public of stones and lead. Remember, it is said that Zoroaster preached for twenty years and got only one convert.

I inspire myself.

Somewhere, an old tape cassette contains recorded psalms to Gilles the Hamster and Mr. Onion Gyros (Formerly of Uptown) composed in my scrub’s hand. Saleh. Favorite book at this period: ‘Goodnight, Moon.’ Studied the decay of urban centers for many years while working undercover as a hotel night clerk. Night is full of hotels and, as history is made at night, there is no better place to be a watchman of persons and days. My term of employment ended with a sound beating. I forgot the reason why and by whom. Later, some guy hired me to get rid of Asbestos. 

Favorite musical composition from this period: ‘I Can’t Control Myself’ by the Troggs.

The family line will be extinguished with me.

I moved around a lot of none at all and so, here I am selling books. 

Past midnight, I can still hear the mostly unintelligible words of my uncle’s disagreement with Lao Tzu, ‘Nay… nay’, back from the Czech gloom of Albany Park or Albion.

Favorite book these days: ‘Against All Heresies’ by Tertullian.

“The Great Pyrenean Mountain Dog will generally do what he determines to be in his owner’s best interests” – Paul Strang

Sullivan, whom we fondly call “Sully”, is a Great Pyrenean Mountain Dog. He is our resident living carpet, official greeter, babysitter, and Chief of Security here in the shop.

The Great Pyrenees is probably the oldest dog breed on earth … having developed into a discrete breed sometime between 3,000 and 1,500 B.C. … and these noble, loyal, formidable, and fiercely protective companions have been used as cattle protection dogs for millennia by shepherds, including those of the Basque people, who inhabit parts of the region in and around the Pyrenees Mountains of southern France and northern Spain. The dogs are generally left for months at a time in mountain pastures with their flocks or herds, and they generally sleep all day and guard their charges against predators all night long.  The Pyrenean Mountain Dogs have been known to kill bears and wolves when these predators have threatened their charges. The Great Pyrenees served as the official dog of the royal French court from the early Middle Ages until the middle of the Nineteenth Century. During World War II the dogs were used to haul artillery over the Pyrenean Mountain range to and from Spain and France.

The Great Pyrenees can readily and instantly distinguish between friend and foe. They protect whatever belongs to their home, and they get along admirably with other dog breeds and cats. Perhaps no other breed is as ideally fitted for the role of a child's companion and protector as the Great Pyrenees. In the company of children he always seems happy whether enjoying a romp, a tussle, ... playing tug-of-war, or merely doing nothing. Sullivan’s easygoing disposition and his intelligence endear him instantly to everyone who meets him. He is discriminating, snobbish and rather aristocratic until one scratches him behind the ears … this show of affection instantly transforms him into a blissful state of satisfaction and happiness.

Sully is certainly happy in his role as shop companion and protector. When he is around customers and staff he is always happy, especially when he is doing nothing. Sully is evidently conscious of his own strength: he is more gentle than the tiniest lap dog, but if danger appears in the form of a hostile stranger, a book thief, or a robber, his deep, wall shaking bark is usually enough to handle the situation. If not, his size, strength, and fury most certainly will.

Sully is here with us in the shop every day excepting Saturdays, when he spends most of his time at home sleeping off the stresses of a full week in the shop.


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