A bit more than a decade ago, he and his wife filled a U-Haul with Mr. Morgan’s comic book collection — 55 cartons of DC’s and Marvel’s finest — and drove to New York, where Sotheby’s auctioned them for nearly $100,000.
The Morgans used the cash to move their Idle Time Books from a rental on one side of 18th Street to a three-story brick building they bought on the other, a milestone that confirmed the store’s status as a neighborhood institution more than two decades after its opening.
With his long ponytail and thick mustache, Mr. Morgan, who died Nov. 26 at age 62, personified Adams Morgan’s reputation as a cradle for misfits who defined themselves as joyously out of step with official Washington.
Blunt-spoken, profane and rarely without a no-filter Camel cigarette between his lips, Mr. Morgan’s litany of dislikes was long and well-known to friends. The list included anything related to sports in general and the Washington Redskins in particular; the young, suit-wearing professionals who moved into Adams Morgan; anti-smoking laws that he deemed puritanical; misbehaving children; political correctness; television sitcoms; automated car windows; the Kindle.
“He was fiercely independent and did things his way,” said Al Jirikowik, owner of Chief Ike’s Mambo Room, an Adams Morgan club. In Mr. Morgan’s view, Jirikowik said, “life was a struggle. There’s beauty, and there are people who are a waste of time.”
Mr. Morgan reserved a special dose of disdain for his customers — not the bibliophiles who might share his appreciation for a first-edition cover illustrated by the macabre-minded Edward Gorey, but those who pestered him with what he considered inane requests for bestsellers such as “Eat, Pray, Love.”
“He hated anything fashionable,” said Val Morgan, his wife of 29 years.
In fact, Mr. Morgan’s antipathy for many of his patrons was so pronounced that he and his wife long ago agreed that their business’s survival depended on him never working the cash register. Instead, he largely remained behind the scenes, focusing on a never-ending circuit of yard sales, estate sales and thrift shops, arriving early in a beat-up Volvo station wagon that he invariably filled with titles he deemed worthy of Idle Time.
On one trip to a thrift store on H Street NE, his wife recalled, Mr. Morgan found a first-edition copy of Jack Kerouac’s “The Town and the City” (1950), one of the writer’s earliest novels. Mr. Morgan paid $1. He later sold the book for $450, his wife said.
Mr. Morgan kept many of his favorite finds for himself, including a signed 1962 edition of Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and a 1936 first-edition copy of “Negro Folk Songs as Sung by Lead Belly.” Inside the book’s cover is the famous bluesman’s scrawl.