Justin writes about vending machines here and here. My thoughts on the subject:

When you put money in those spiral-powered vending machines you’re not buying candy, so much as you are gambling for the chance of getting candy. Sometimes it pays out, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it pays out particularly well. The odds are good anyway, compared to slot-machines.

At the Amazon warehouse I was particularly good at shaking loose refreshments that were barely being held by the mighty spirals. Usually I only attempted this when the machine hadn’t paid out on my coins, though there were others who would periodically shake it down just to see what they could get. It was my opinion that the spirals should have been rotated an extra 45 degrees to increase the machine’s reliability.

Years ago, at another job, there was one Coke machine that would often offer up 2 cans if you hit the button twice quickly. I was pretty good at getting the second can and would always give it to whoever else was in the break room.

Once while waiting for someone in the lobby of a hostel in Amsterdam. I put a guilder into a machine, and selected my candy, the spiral rotated, and the package didn’t drop. I restrained myself, thinking it would be fairly ugly-American to beat up on a Dutch vending machine. I went back to my seat and waited for my friend, sulking.

Yak Yak

I finished up Huntingtower this morning and then headed off for lunch at the Green Cat. The place was packed and it took awhile to get my salad. When it finally arrived I scarfed most of it down and rushed off to Bumbershoot. I headed across Seattle Center and got in line for the Sarah Vowell and Dave Eggers reading. The long line folded in on itself several times. I didn’t get in but stood in line for a bit, hoping enough people would leave early and I’d be let in. It wasn’t looking good, so I split.

There were a couple of bands I wanted to see, the shows were still a couple of hours away. I didn’t have the patience to deal with the crowds, so I thought I’d browse at Titlewave Books a bit – I’d like to pick up some more John Buchan and Graham Greene, and have a cup of tea somewhere. Titlewave was closed. Tower Books was out of business. And I couldn’t think of any other bookstores in the neighborhood.

I sat outside Uptown Espresso with a chai and the miscellaneus bits of different newspapers that I’d scraped together. I considered the generic concert-in-a-box nature of Bumbershoot shows and the fact that both of the bands that I wanted to see were local – meaning they probably play a show here at least once a month – and decided to forget about Bumbershoot.

I walked up to Pike Place Market to check for some Buchan and Graham at the bookstores there, but had no luck.

On a whim I wandered into a little thrift store that looked like it specialized in dust. I chatted with the little old lady. (What kind of stuff do you collect? Do you want to look at baseball cards?” “Don’t go back there.”) I ruffled through a little stack of comics. It was an interesting little collection of odd ’50s and ’60s non-superhero fare. I skimmed through a no-name Mad imitation, remembering that I’d read recently that Jack Davis had worked on a couple of those things, but this wasn’t one of them. The next few were Road Runner books or something. Then there was a Dell published Mad rip-off, Yak Yak. And, speak of the devil, it had a Jack Davis cover. I flipped through the book and every page was by Davis! And at the bottom of the stack, what do you think I found? An issue of Kurtzman’s own Humbug!

The day is looking up, I’ll read the comics later. And I’ll go over to Twice Sold Tales, where I know they have some more Buchan and the Graham Greene autobiography.

Thirty-nine Degrees

After seeing The Crimson Rivers and listening to the Orson Welles production of The Thirty-Nine Steps, I felt compelled to seek out a book in the thriller/adventure genre. Specifically I went looking for a Penguin collection of the John Buchan‘s Richard Hannay novels (of which The Thirty-Nine Steps is one) that I’ve seen before.

I didn’t find it, so I picked up Buchan’s Huntingtower. I’m only a few chapters into it, but I’m already bowled over by it (despite the stuffy & somehow dismissive introduction and the latter-day editor’s intrusive footnotes* that pollute this Oxford U. Press edition).

I cringe to a degree when the main character’s attitudes match some of my own tics. It’s really funny. Regarding his book collection: “He had a liking for small volumes – things he could stuff into his pocket in that sudden journey which he loved to contemplate. . . . Only he had never taken it.” Then a couple of days into his retirement, he decides to finally take that holiday. Only after carefully selecting a book to take with him does he think to contemplate what his destination should be. To make an allusion to a book I’ve set aside once again, he’s a bit Quixotic.

McCunn, the main character, gets into a conversation at one point with a jaded young writer wannabe who is filled with half-baked half-formed ideas. I smile as these characters, both of whom seem to mirror conflicting aspects of my own personality, talk. One, slowly building a case against the older. The other, good naturedly feeling his way through the discussion before arriving at his conclusions about the man sitting across from him.

*intrusive footnotes – I know what a “safety razor” is, thank you very much.