Thanks to everyone for entertaining my efforts this week as the last minute substitute "guest" blogger. Earlier this week, when I was brainstorming with some of my Blue Room peeps, someone said I should write about the rubber ducky. I wasn't sure what they were talking about. They told me to talk to Seth Jones, a fine young manager with some apparent mischief up his sleeve.
Seth tells me that he placed (not hid) a yellow rubber ducky somewhere in the store, "where it's visible to customers." It has been in one spot for nearly four years and most people can't find it. If it is spotted by someone, they aren't supposed to tell others where it is. Seven employees have found it so far. Even the security people don't know where it is (though they sometimes look for it while they wander the store). The way Seth says "visible" makes me think that there must be a catch to it. Like maybe it's only seen in the reflection of a mirror or something. I don't know. If you happen to come into the store and spot it somewhere, remember that witnessing the ducky automatically swears you to secrecy about its whereabouts.
Another strange object in the building, and one that is easier to find, is the set of gold baby shoe bookends that materialized in the Blue Room about 10 years ago.
Our legendary ex-bookseller Lucille Wood discovered them, presumably in the section for gift sets. She found them to be a charming curio and made use of them throughout the room until she retired. Lit team member Diane Brodie filled me in on the story behind them:
About five or six years ago, I was shelving books and noticed a man and woman looking around, but not really at books. I asked if I could help them. They wondered if a pair of bookends with baby shoes on them were still in the room. I took them to the shoes' last place of residence and asked what the story was.
They were brother and sister and had grown up in Portland but later moved elsewhere. After their grandmother died and they were going through the house getting rid of things, they came upon the shoes. They were someone's baby shoes, maybe the grandma's or one of her siblings. At some point they were made into bookends and always very evident in the house. For some reason instead of either sibling taking the shoes with them or passing them on to someone else, they decided that having a memento of their family inside the bookstore they grew up with was an excellent idea. So they slipped them in the stacks one day and every time they came to Portland they would make their ritualistic visit to the Blue Room to see if the shoes stilled resided here and if they could find them.
Obviously, a building this size, full of books and people, is going to have its share of myths and odd stories. I don't really believe the ghost stories but I do know that there are human ashes in the pillar outside the Orange Room and in the Pearl Room floors (by request, apparently, in their wills, many have asked to be buried here). One woman I used to know told me that she secretly scattered the ashes of one of her lovers around the store. But, while there haven't been any proper funerals here, there have been many weddings.
Love, death, and mystery. They all ooze from this place. I can't imagine my life without its endless stories.