eorge Whitman was (and still is) a very private man. Odd, when you consider how he's lived most of his life: surrounded for many months of the year by a constantly-shifting cast of transients, running an English language bookstore at the heart of Paris... An odd hybrid blend of crankiness and generousity. I'd love to read his autobiography. Trouble is: I'm not sure how much of it I could believe!
If asked, George would say he was "the illegitimate great grandson of Walt Whitman", but we tumbleweeds all suspected that this was just another of the shifting stories he would grudgingly let slip about his grey-shaded past. There were also occasional references to an extended odyssey he'd made in the Depression years, down through Mexico and Central America to Panama. Rumors of branches of the bookstore planned for Peking, and Moscow, but the timing was just never right.
Sometimes late morning, while reading in the upstairs library, the dark-varnished wooden door leading to the staircase might open without warning, and George would appear, descending from his third floor apartment. His hair was usually disheveled, and his dark-green cordouroy jacket would look like he'd slept in it. Which he most likely had. We'd stiffen slightly, straighten in our seats: we were always aware that, if spotted "in situ", we'd most likely be put to work.