Fifty years ago, almost to the day, I had the good fortune to become a bookseller. Like most of the interesting things in my life this happened by accident. A small bookstore in North London, previously operated by the Communist Party, had become vacant and, with no more than the briefest previous experience I was brave or foolhardy enough to take it over and transform it into something more reader friendly.
The business of America is business said Calvin Coolidge, and of course it’s true. But not having gone to business school myself I have never been able to figure out how entrepreneurs like Donald Trump and Bill Gates make so much money out of enterprises that are, in every sense, very tricky. If I understand the rules of the game correctly, the object is to buy or manufacture something – say a skyscraper or a piece of software – and then sell it for much more than it cost. The margin is called profit or, if you are one of the last half dozen followers of Karl Marx, surplus value.
We haven’t been to Florida this winter. It’s just too easy. There's something unnatural, and even perverse, about leaving Long Island on a bitter cold, snowy day, and coming to earth three hours later on what might be alien planet. It confuses one's sense of space and time and, more importantly, one's sense of what's right in the middle of February. We are all geared up for winter. We are ready, and even eager, to be cold, uncomfortable and depressed for weeks and weeks.
Most of the time I don’t think about my clothes at all, but occasionally I have to defend them against the demands of charity. Several good causes in our area go around collecting old clothes, and my wife takes the opportunity to raid my wardrobe for things that she considers too old and too threadbare for me to wear in public, or even in private.
The countdown to February 14 is a stressful time for a man in love. He must suffer the embarrassment of buying heart shaped boxes of chocolates, the pain of ordering flowers at extortionate prices, the torture of trying to find a card that doesn't literally make him nauseous, and above all he must reserve table at the right restaurant.