10.2.12

The Quest for the Dark Tower Pt. 6: The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind

***Spoiler warning! Though I've made every attempt to avoid giving away key plot points during this quest, it's still very possible that information discussed herein may spoil a new reader's experience, so consider yourself warned! ***

After Jake flees The Piper School, fearing that his steadily growing insanity has finally become noticeable to those around him, he wanders the streets of New York with seeming aimlessness. After encountering two businessmen playing tic-tac-toe on the board wall of a construction site just down the street from Lexington Avenue and Fifty-forth Street, Jake crosses Lexington and continues on.

When he reaches the corner of Second Ave. and Fifty-fourth St., Jake is suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling of radiant goodness and a sense of positive anticipation; the exact opposite of what he had felt three weeks earlier just before the voices had begun to argue. Jake yells aloud, declaring, "It's the White! It's the coming of the White!"

Continuing down 2nd Avenue, he soon finds himself standing before a bookstore. In our own where and when, 988 Second Avenue (where the bookstore known as The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind is said to be located) is actually the site of Tenzan Japanese Restaurant, which opened it's doors to the Turtle Bay community in April of 2007.

Speaking of Turtle Bay; another restaurant, simply named Turtle Bay Grill and Lounge, is located directly across the street and has been in business in the neighborhood since 1997. A number of Tower Junkies have pointed out this restaurant over the years and it's this storefront that many devoted Dark Tower readers think of when imagining the front fa├žade of The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind, right down to the chalkboard menu standing out front.

In Jake's where and when of May 1977, he looks at the chalkboard in front of the bookstore and reads the daily specials . . .

From Florida! Fresh-Broiled John D. MacDonald
Hardcovers 3 for $2.50
Paperbacks 9 for $5.00

From Mississippi! Pan-Fried William Faulkner
Hardcovers Market Price
Vintage Library Paperbacks 75¢ each

From California! Hard-Boiled Raymond Chandler
Hardcovers Market Price
Paperbacks 7 for $5.00

FEED YOUR NEED TO READ

Entering the store, Jake finds the works of these authors displayed each on their own table, with a Malt Shoppe-style counter running down the center of the room. On another table dedicated to children's books, Jake sees Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, The Hobbit, and Tom Sawyer before he sees and picks up two books, Charlie the Choo-Choo and Riddle-De-Dum! Brain-Twisters and Puzzles for Everyone!

Making his way to the counter to pay for the two books, Jake soon finds himself engaged in a conversation with the store's proprietor, who introduces himself as Calvin Tower, as well as another customer at the counter who Tower is playing chess with. During the course of the conversation, Tower refers to Jake as "O Hyperborean Wanderer." Which may simply be because Jake is out walking around on a beautiful spring day, but the title of Clark Ashton Smith's collection of stories, Hyperborea might suggest a deeper literary meaning. Given Tower's occupation as a bookstore owner, this seems very likely the case.

Jake introduces himself and Tower once again drops a literary clue, remarking that Jake's full name, Jake Chambers, "sounds like a footloose hero in a Western novel–the guy who blows into Black Fork, Arizona, cleans up the town, and then travels on. Something by Wayne D. Overholser maybe."

As Tower rings up the bill for Jake's purchases, he observes that Jake seems a bit too old for these books and thinks he might be more interested in a good deal on some nice old Donald Grant edition Robert Howard books featuring Conan the Barbarian, the ones with the Roy Krenkel paintings. In actuality, Roy Krenkel never illustrated any of the Donald Grant edition Conan books by Robert Howard, but Krenkel did illustrate other Donald Grant editions of Howard's works, including The Sowers of the Thunder and The Road of Azrael.

Jake is intrigued at the prospect of these books, but has only enough money to cover the two books he'd selected on impulse. He lies to Tower, saying that he needs them for his little brother whose birthday is next week.

Tower doesn't buy the lie, but simply remarks that Jake looks like an only child "enjoying a day of French leave as Mistress May trembles in her green gown just outside the bosky dell of June." Tower apologizes for the poetry, explaining that spring always puts him in a William Cowper (that's pronounced Cooper) kind of mood.

It's at this point that Aaron Deepneau, the customer playing chess with Tower, interjects and tells Tower to hurry up and get back to the game in play. Deepneau is not only playing chess, but also reading a battered copy of Albert Camus' The Plague. Tower concludes the transaction and Jake leaves, but quickly returns to ask about one of the riddles he's just read in Riddle-De-Dum!:

'Out of the eater came forth meat,
and out of the strong came forth sweetness!'

Deepneau helps Jake solve the riddle using a verse from the song 'Samson and Delilah' and then poses Jake with another riddle:

'What can run but never walks,
Has a mouth but never talks,
Has a bed but never sleeps,
Has a head but never weeps?'

Jake is stumped, but Deepneau doesn't divulge the answer, instead he tells the boy to think it over and come back another time if he can't figure it out. Jake says he will, thanks the two odd fellows and then once again proceeds walking down Second Avenue.


Long days, pleasant nights!

-DE

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