Bookstore People: Poets and Congressmen

Doc Long

Doughtry (Doc) Long is a fantastic poet who exudes integrity and charm.  Trentonians know him best as the long-running teacher of literature and creative writing at Trenton Central.  The world knows him as the Geraldine R Dodge grant winning poet and author of Timbuktu Blues and Rules for Cool.   Classics customers know him from poetry readings at the store when he brought along his own jazz band as back up or his discussions of being in the early Peace Corp.  The universe knows him best as a man who can shape the world around him with his words and lifts up the students who were lucky enough to have him as a teacher.

Favorite Doc Long quotes (also can be found in Rules for Cool).  “Be into deep heavy stuff and carry large intelligent words around in the same pocket with your money” and “know that blasé blasé woof, woof, woof at the right time and place is sacred.”

Timbuktu Blues and Rules for Cool are available at Classics.


Rush Holt

“My Congressman is a Rocket Scientist” is the bumper sticker.  And it is true.  Rush is a rocket scientists who was a five time Jeopardy champion (back when five was the limit) and beat the computer designed to be a trivia champion.  His constituents have no fear that they are sending a man to congress who is intelligent and has a memory for important detail.  On top of that, Rush is a genuinely good guy who remembers birthdays and gets his hair cut on Warren Street by Joey Festa.   When he is at Classics, you can find him talking with folks in the stacks or piling up on his reading.



Books, Bookstores and Book Buying

“I think that I still have it in my heart someday to paint a bookshop with the front yellow and pink in the evening…like a light in the midst of the darkness.” Vincent van Gogh

“Picking your five favorite books is like picking the five body parts you’d like most not to lose.” Neil Gaiman

“The buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching toward infinity.” Edward Newton

Kids DO Read!

Every so often, I run into people who complain that children don’t read books anymore.  These statements are always partly true disappointment, partly self-congratulatory, and partly of that human impulse to mythologize the good old days. 

The truth is that the good old days weren’t all that good.  The overall illiteracy rate in the United States in 1900 was 10.7% (30% for African Americans), according to the National Center for Education Statistics.  100 years later, in 2003, the CIA estimates a 1% illiteracy rate in the United States, thanks to mandated public education and the ongoing battle against discrimination. 

Of course, even if kids are now more able to read, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are reading. 

Turns out the naysayers weren’t finished being wrong.

When I brought 8 boxes of books (of all types—classic lit, mysteries, history, business, science, etc) to Trenton High West and set them in the cafeteria for students to take for free, Shaquasia Fuller (the student who helped organize this) emailed me an hour after lunch to say that all 8 boxes were gone, all voluntarily taken by Trenton High School students (except for one book by Anthony Trollope.  Sorry Anthony!)

For National Night Out, when the Alexis Durlacher of the Trenton Police Department got a box of books to give away to Trenton kids alongside plastic toys provided by NNO, Alexis reported that the books were all gone before the plastic knicknackery.

The Trenton Books at Home Program distributes thousands of books every year to thankful teachers, parents and kids.

So, grumpy people, who long for the good old days, should confine their statements to the price of gas, when poker games that included more variations than Texas Hold ‘em and when Firefly was on the air.

Here’s a repost about a girl who loves to read so much, the library had to order more books because she had read everything on the shelves!


There’s an Exhibit for That photography competition winner–Kevin Hogan!

Classics Books and Artworks had a photography competition in which all the entries had to have been taken with a smart phone.  The competition was named “There’s an Exhibit for That.”  The entries at Classics also had to be of Trenton subjects and scenes. 

Our winner was Kevin Hogan for the picture below.  Congratulations!  Kevin also recently won the Ellarslie photography competition, with another picture taken by smart phone, up against other pictures taken by all manner of professional cameras.

Winners were determined by the the vote from customers at Classics.  Thank you all who took the time to vote!


I Guess It Wasn’t About the Bike After All!

Some titles of books come into Classics are meant to be funny (Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris.   Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons by Bill Waterson.  If the Gods Had Intended Us To Vote, They Would Have Given Us Candidates by Jim Hightower).

Other titles of books are funny accidentally.  (How to Start Your Own Blood Bank.  Sun-Beams May Be Extracted from Cucumbers, But the Process Is TediousAll About Scabs.)   (For more odd books, go to

But these three books belong to a strange subclass in which the book titles were NOT funny when they first published, but because ironically funny later on.


Book:    The Trust Committed to Me by Mark Sandford

Who:     Former Congressman Mark Sanford of South Carolina just was elected to House of Representatives overcoming a sex scandal that involved a woman from Argentina, the Appalachian Trail and misuse of taxpayer money.   He also committed to never seek more than three terms in the House of Representatives.  This re-election will be his fourth term.

After writing the book, Sandford proceeded to violate the trust committed to him by his wife, his supporters and the people of South Carolina.


Book:    It’s Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong

Who:  After hearing from Armstrong about his use of dope to win a decade’s worth of bike races, I guess we know what it WAS about!


Book: Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story

Who: Jerry Sandusky, the assistant Penn State football coach, had this autobiography published about his charity work.  The title became unfortunate after a scandal involving his being charged with sexual abuse.  (Thanks to James Sims for pointing out this book!)




Bookstore People: Poets and Councilwomen

This is part five in my series of cool bookstore people.  Links to the other installments can be found below.

Kenyaa Bullock is a 15 year old student at Trenton High and is a member of two Trenton poetry groups: The Pride and Dreams to Reality.  She comes to Classics every month for the Capital City Open Mic.   You can learn more about Kenyaa’s poetry at

A great Kenyaa poem:

I am stuck in this place where all that I can taste is salt
and all that I can see is black.

My black hole has my life trapped.
Infirm from the distress.
If my heart has been purloined then what’s left?

I’m not too sure of what to believe
so I inhale the bullshit and exhale my self-esteem.

My dark hole slays and I remain recumbent because my dark hole is taking over my soul.
My emotions began to pile up
because the one that saved me from this black hole once won’t do it again.

So hypnotized from all the bullshit lies that these used to be real eyes cannot realize real lies.

So I pour up …drink.
More shots … drink.
The liquor can help block my brain so I won’t…think.
My dark hole has taken my soul.


Councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson has been a great friend to Classics.  When business fees went up 600% on Trenton businesses in the middle of a recession, she stepped to the plate and resolved the issue.  She has supported businesses by hosting downtown Social Club events, championing a Buy Local initiative, and serving on the board of the Trenton Downtown Association.  She is also a passionate advocate for kids in Trenton and an ongoing supporter of the  Books at Home Program.

You can learn more about Marge at


Earlier installments of Bookstore People

Activists and Students:

Scrabblers and Playwrights:

Poets and Lawyers:

Scientists and Photographers:


This Book Will Change Your Life

Alison Hill, President of Vroman’s Bookstore, wrote an essay for the Huffington Post about the power of brick-and-mortar bookstores.

At one point she counts the people in her bookstore reading, listening to a new author, participating in a book club.  “It is in these moments,” she writes, “that I am awed by the role a bookstore plays in a community, a feeling made even more awesome by the realization that today we sold 1,087 books, any one of which could change a life.”

To read the whole essay, visit