Sunday, April 19, 2009

Warehouse Songs and Stories: A Conversation with Mike of Mary Jane Books

Heading on over to Mary Jane Books to interview Mike, I was stopped by one of his coworkers, Nathaniel, who explained that Mike wasn’t in the store. He told me that if I still wanted to see Mike, he would be busy in their warehouse. This came as a big surprise. I was a bit skeptical at first--going into an unknown warehouse seems risky--but I was pleased to see Mike and a host of other people who only work exclusively in the warehouse waiting inside.

Mike offered me a chair, as he sat on a stool ladder.--Tony Geras

It’s just so weird interviewing you here, because I was expecting to go to the store. I was told by your friend Nathaniel to come here instead. I didn’t even know that you guys had a warehouse.
All the books that don’t get used during the semester get stored here and then a lot of books get bought off the internet and then we have to store them down here. We just sort them all down here; all the books that never get used for semesters you can get for a lot cheaper this way.

It’s kind of like a secret library, you know? There’s no sign showing this place is owned by Mary Jane Books, and there are literally thousands of books in here that aren’t held in the store.
Yeah, it’s pretty cool down here. You can get out of the store; it’s not as stressful.

Everything about the atmosphere here seems pretty laid-back. Both buildings have these hip, indie vibes. Do you listen to the kind of music that’s playing right now? What kind of music are you into?
We listen to all different kinds of stuff. I mostly listen to punk, a lot of underground stuff that you probably haven’t heard of before.

What bands?
The Big Boys?

Haven’t heard of them. I’ve gone to some underground punk shows, too, but it really wouldn’t be “underground” if we’ve all heard of it before, huh?
[Turns his attention to his coworkers as they’re walking by.]
You can get these guys to do an interview, too.

[Laughs] So all you guys just come down here to chill?
Yeah. A lot of the book orders get handled down here, too. The deliveries come down here, and then we price them and make sure they're OK.

Have you guys ever just came down here when you were too stressed out at the store?
Not really. Usually we’re just down here when the book orders get in. Nathaniel works down here. Usually there’s not as many people working down here either. When kids come back from school for the first couple of weeks, more people are employed.

What do you do to relax?
I ride bikes a lot. I’m a big bicycle rider. Not so much in the winter but during the summer I’m outside every day.

I think I’ve seen you riding around here before! Do you live in Albany, then?
Yeah, on Madison Avenue.

Cool, I was going to head to Madison at some point. I was initially going to interview someone at a head shop down there.
Which one?

I have no idea. There are so many!
Yeah, I know of a few that are on Madison, and there’s a bunch on Lark Street.

I ended up at one on Lark Street and the store got robbed while I was in there. When I went in, another person followed me inside and started asking for change; the lady working there told him that she doesn’t have any, but he could take a few quarters out of the tip jar. Then, he walked out with the tip jar.
Why do they have a tip jar in a head shop?

I dunno. Has anything like that ever happened to you guys?
Some lady tried to sell a library book.

Really? Did it have the barcode and index thing on the back that you could tell?
It had printed right on the front: Albany Public Library. I was like, “Uh, you should probably return this to the library.”