Magic shop: Bookstore beckoned, Sandy came

The homely clutter and dim lighting of the Daedalus Book Shop on Fourth Street make the overstuffed store seem like the sort of mystical place from which many of the adventure stories housed within might have been launched. It could be a place where leather-bound tomes occasionally turn out to be filled with spells and a couple of the bookcases flip over to reveal secret passages.

Owner Sandy McAdams revels in the shop's charm as much as his customers do– he actually moved to Charlottesville because he was so entranced by the aesthetics of the commercial space he was offered. "I knew nothing about Charlottesville," he recalls with amusement, "somebody just sent me a photo."

Lucky us. Not content to rest on his laurels with merely one successful business under his belt, McAdams began sticking his fingers into all sorts of other pies as soon as he finished setting up shop, and one of them helped turn Charlottesville into the place it is today.

"I built it from the ground up, my partner and I," he says of the C&O restaurant, one of the city's premiere fine dining establishments. "It was a place a girl could go and not be hit on... unless she wanted to be," he laughs.

Even the Hook owes him a debt of gratitude. In the mid-1970's, McAdams started The Times of Charlottesville, one of the area's first independent newspapers. "No one got paid, and everyone worked doubles," he says. "It was a wonderful time."

The Times folded under financial pressures within a couple of years, but McAdams simply redirected his passion again. These days, he passes his time by exercising, meticulously caring for the woods on his property, and even entertaining an interest in theater. He claims it's just a matter of habit. "By God, I've worked my whole life, and I don't want to stop," he says.

All of this has happened against a consistent backdrop: He's still running the bookshop, which has been open longer than almost all the other businesses on the Downtown Mall. It's about to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

All this activity would indicate surprising vitality for any man in his 60s, but it's even more striking when you consider that McAdams suffers from multiple sclerosis. "You get up in the morning, and you feel like you've just been in a football game the night before," he says– but he's describing, not complaining. He jovially concludes, "I'm happy to be alive."

Regardless of where his secret tunnels might lead, that's the real magic infusing the Fourth Street bookshop.


Age: 62

What brought you here? This building

What's worst about living here? Nothing. I love it here. It's been very good to me.

Favorite hangout? I don't hang out anymore.

Most overrated virtue? Those who use "good" as an adjective as in "good Christian," "good Hindu," etc.

What would people be surprised to know about you? That I have the soul of a gay man.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Self-absorption

What accomplishment are you proudest of? The newspaper

What do people find most annoying about you? I'm short with people.

Whom do you admire? Bill Clinton. That one little error he made... I would think that's why you'd want to be president­ so you'd get laid more. I mean, why else would you want to be president?

Favorite book? I'm glad you didn't say "good" or "bad" book, because I don't think there are such things. I think all books are pretty interesting... but my favorite book at the moment is a novel by Ford Madox Ford called The Good Soldier.

 What subject causes you to rant? 77,000 people were killed in liquor-related auto accidents last year, and you know how many were killed in pot-related accidents? None­ because they all stayed home and ate pizza. Now, I don't smoke pot, but alcohol is legal, and marijuana is not, and it just makes me furious.

What thrills you about life in the 21st century? Everything. I'm happy to be alive, no matter which century it is.

What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? People use cell phones in the street instead of looking at the street around them, and people use earphones in the street instead of listening to the street around them.

What do you drive? Usually I don't know, but right now I do because I had to take it to the mechanic. It's a Ford Taurus.

What's in your car CD player right now? Book tape of Sir Richard Burton's Journey to Mecca and Medina

 What's your next journey? To happiness

What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? So many to pick from... I'm simply grateful I'm not dead or in jail.

What do you regret? Pretending not to know my date when she wore a prom dress to Carnegie Hall and she wasn't a hippie, and also running away from a girl when she told me that she'd had a breast removed.

Favorite comfort food? Carrots

What's always in your refrigerator? I try not to look in the refrigerator.

Must-see TV? I don't really have an interest. It's not to be snobby­ I'd like to have an interest, but I just never learned how to watch it.

Favorite cartoon? I don't have one.

Describe a perfect day. Every day I wake up.

Walter Mitty fantasy? To be king.

Who'd play you in the movie? John Cusack

Most embarrassing moment? Too many to pick just one

Best advice you ever got? "If you give a girl your number and she doesn't call you, it doesn't mean she lost your number."

Favorite bumper sticker? I don't really have one. Ten years ago when it first came out, it was "Sh*t Happens," but I got over that one in about a week.

Sandy McAdams