Osteen’s Bible, Auster’s Typewriter

A couple months ago I found a sleepy Goodwill in a desolate place that had some great finds.

I bought a $3 film-developing apparatus and flipped it for $17.50. 

I bought two unopened boxes of HP toner, one black and one red, for $3 apiece; the black one sold for $70, the red one $45. 

For $2 I bought a Joel Osteen Ministries™ Bible and sold it on eBay for $28. 

The last one created something of a problem, though, because I got hung up wondering if it was somehow vulgar to find a (Joel Osteen Ministries™) Bible for $2 and sell it for $28. 

Then I remembered a story:

Joel Osteen’s megachurch was robbed a few years ago. $200,000 in cash and $400,000 in checks were been stolen from a safe. The church reached out to its millions of followers and said, Don’t worry! The $600,000 was fully insured, they said, and would be paid back to them. 

Everything would be fine.

A little while after that, a plumber at the church was tending a loose toilet. He removed it from the wall and found, stashed among insulation, a great many cash and checks wadded into envelopes. He turned the money over to his employers at the church, who likely just blinked at it, and then called a radio station to tell the story. All this cash, he said, missing for so long, causing such a problem—it was right here the whole time! 

Small world.

The story spread.

Reporters got interested.

Police and church staff told the New York Times that the money found behind the toilet was definitely related to the robbery.

The plumber later lamented that nobody from Osteen’s church ever said thank you. 

Anyway. I sold the Bible but paid for shipping.

Today I was back at the same Goodwill and learned that the prices for DVDs and video games and books and men’s clothing had all gone up by a lot.

Don’t be upset that it’s over, I told myself, be glad that it happened.

I got one book for myself, though. A hardcover art thing by Paul Auster called The Story of My Typewriter. There’s beautiful artwork throughout from the artist Sam Messer who looked at Auster’s typewriter and fell in love with it. Started drawing and painting it over and over as well as Auster, who at the time of the book has owned his typewriter for about 40 years, and is himself strangely drawable. Large eyes and sharp features. Heathcliffy.

Auster says toward the end of the book that when he last placed an order for ink ribbons it took several days for his broker to get them all together. Apparently this is longer than usual, given how rare they’ve become. Might explain why the book’s about a hundred sentences long.

Auster says in the book that when these fifty ribbons run out he doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to find another one and you realize at last that this somewhat awkward-shaped book is a kind of tombstone for his typewriter. An elegy for a piece of tech that for Auster and maybe Messer has become a metaphor. Something to do with a realer art. Stuff they’re used to.

Paul Auster is 76 years old. I think he wrote this book in his sixties which is also the age at which I’ve known several colleagues and relatives to start casually predicting the extinctions of things that they enjoy. Democracy, restaurants. I work at a grocery store and we keep getting updates about this bird flu running through American farms right now. It’s killing a lot of chickens and the price of eggs is up. Apparently the bird flu isn’t a hot news story. The average shopper seems not to know about it. Seems to have just looked at the prices and determined my employer is acutely irrational about poultry.

At least once a day while I’m bagging their groceries an older customer will tell me that eggs have been an affordable dietary staple their whole life and they’re sorry that this is no longer the case and that it will never be the case again. They nod and tell me it’s true. “Just watch.” They nod some more and fold their arms and tell me it’s true. That they can tell I don’t believe it but it’s true. That my children will never taste an egg. That we’ll have family meals and I’ll say “pass the eggs” and my children will say “what’s that?” Sometimes they’ll follow it with a shrug. “Fortunately I won’t be here.”

(To watch my children not eat eggs?)

Say it with total unhappy certainty. Resigned to it. Like they want you to know they’ve suffered so much loss in their life that it doesn’t even bother them to lose things anymore. Which is actually a ploy to have people take their hand and extend condolences for how much they’ve lost. Which I do understand. Depending on my mood it’s maybe funny or annoying but I do understand it. The grief.

I think Paul Auster will find typewriter ribbons for as long as he needs them.

That he’d be surprised, the things some people are selling online.

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