Now, like you, I too have intermittent moments of grand fun and occasions of wild existential validation. Just this week, after pouring through family records, I made the phone call that helped a distant cousin conclude her five-year search to find her birth mother. It was very cool. And the next day, I saw someone trip and fall at the grocery store and had a right good laugh. Fun times.
But, at the end of the day, when the sun goes down on these dwindling hours of light and warmth and I’m being the most truthful with myself, I am bored, oh, so, so bored with myself.
It certainly doesn’t help that this country gets uglier, stupider, and trumpier every day. Every. Goddam. Day. Just ask the Kurds.
So I’ve been watching a lot of television lately, as that’s the place where I live my best life. I’m researching all the exciting television ways of not boring myself to death.
To start, from what I’ve watched on the teevee, life is more interesting if you are a genius. Plus, if you are a genius with a terrible personality, life practically throws itself at you and rolls over so you can tickle its belly, or vice-versa, I’m getting lost in the metaphor.
Fighting crime also seems to be a good way of keeping boredom at bay. My research indicates that if you’re an adrenalin junkie or you want to become one, you owe it to yourself to join a Homicide squad… people who kill people are terribly exciting to be around. As for fighting crime while you’re a genius. . .
or some kind of supernatural being?
Off the charts non-boredom.
Alternately, being a criminal mastermind is an equally good way of fighting ennui. White collar only.
I’ve observed that all lawyers lead non-stop eventful lives.
But not judges. Judge Judy looks awfully bored, every day.
One sure way of never being bored is to be a billionaire. Bonus: Being very, very rich appears to make you very witty, as well as bad. BI’m sure I don’t have to tell you that being bad is never boring.
Also, it seems that being royalty means you never have to lie in bed all day, staring at the ceiling, wondering Why? Whyis the most interesting thing I have to do all day is laundry? (Because you don’t do laundry, you have subjects do your laundry.)
Being a beautiful 25-year old woman is a sure way to always have the most interesting things to do, places to go, people to meet, but I didn’t need TV to tell me that.
Lastly, the top way for having a life worth living is to do it in only 30 or 60-minute episodes.
So, what can I check off the TV Tips For Not Dying of Boredom List?
Well. I’m not a genius, and I don’t want to fight crime (because of the germs, but I might re- consider if there’s a guarantee of seeing ghosts).
I’m too tired to go to law school, and if I knew how to have a billion dollars I would have made it — or married it — by now. My only claim to royalty is through my next lifetime and I’m hoping for the House of Windsor but with my luck, I’ll probably be re-incarnated into the House of Saud. And it’s about 40 years too late for me to be a beautiful 25-year old.
Lastly, I honestly don’t know if, for at least one half hour episode a day, I can manage to find life — plain ordinary predictable full-laundry-hamper life — worth my time. I Am Capital-B Bored.
But there is an awful lot of outstanding teevee these days.
I’m so happy to be living in the era of 24/7 streaming.
Helen Mirren at the premiere of her new film about Catherine the Great on October 17 in LA because some days we could all use a little Dame Helen and this is one of those days.
You know, some days I start typing here and I have no idea where I’ll end up.
This train of thought started with a phone call I got on Monday from a resident of a town here on the north shore of Long Island. This woman had stopped in at the charity used-book store that I manage as a fund-raising endeavor for our local library and well, she had some ideas about how I could be doing a better job at it.
I have a new thing, now, when I get annoying phone calls from idiots: I yell at them for a minute or two and then I say, “This conversation is over” and I hang up.
On this day, however, in addition to being really pissed off by this caller, I found myself being equally pissed off by the poor quality of people I get to be pissed off at. If I had a more interesting life I would be yelling at much smarter people about things much more important than how to run a charity used-book store, for fuck’s sake.
I’ve been down in the dumps ever since.
I really, really need to find more interesting things to do with my life.
Oh, well. Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. May all your annoyances be the most interesting annoyances you’ve ever had.
Some times, when I look at the books that get donated to our charity used-book store here on the north shore of Long Island, I wonder why such a thing was ever published in the first place:
Well, color me stupid.
This is a first edition copy of a book that was re-issued in 2014 by NYRB Classics (that is, the hoity-toity New York Review Books). This book got a review on NPR (the same people who did a review of my first book in 2009 and saved my career) and here’s the last paragraph:
In many ways, On Being Blue is less a book to read than an experience to be had. It’s essentially a rant, a riff, poetry, music, art, all of that. But it isn’t apologetics. There’s no scientific argument, no clear-cut hypothesis to be found. It’s not a treatise on the nature of man and his place in the universe. Gass is more interested in getting across a passion for language, and the way the words look and sound on the page. Blue is life and love, it becomes quite easy to believe. But wait for it, because in the end, “everything is gray.”
Oh, sure, this is a book beloved by the intelligentsia, but lordy, if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a rant, a riff, poetry, music, art, all of that in book form. This book sounds tedious, and I have enough problems of my own, thank you, to have time for deep thoughts about the color blue.
We also got this:
It’s a big, coffee table-sized book and inside were pages and pages of wonderful illustrations:
In my favorite book about being a used-book seller, The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell, Bythell noted that books about trains — even vintage train schedules — sell very well in his store. Well, sure, I thought to myself, But Shaun’s in Scotland where transpotting is a national sport, but will this sell here on the north shore of Long Island?
I priced it at $2.00 and it sold in an hour.
This looked like a dreary children’s book with a message about life, and I loathe “message” books . . .
. . . but it was redeemed by this on the inside free end paper:
I wish I knew who this nephew was, so I could call him and tell him to treasure this note from his aunt.
Moving on: The only thing worse than actually being IN the Peace Corps. . .
. . . would be reading a book ABOUT the Peace Corps.
I flipped through this book and a chapter describing the application process caught my eye. I remember my application process, back in 1980, and my hour-long interview, and how ernest I was about doing my part to bring about world peace. I cringe to think that I was ever that naive.
In the 1960s, an applicant needed EIGHT references to attest to their worthiness to being Peace Corps Volunteers. “Generally,” the author notes, “they [the references] tend to be candid and reliable evaluations.”
Here’s a sample of what people had to say about possible future Peace Corps Volunteers:
“About emotion, he can take it or leave it.”
“If dropped into an alien culture, he [the applicant] would be accepted by the culture rather than eaten.”
“I have seen her react favorably when her hand was mashed in a car door.”
“Even patrolmen that have arrested him in the past years stated they liked him.”
Note to RPCV Steve: Did you know that Morocco was in the region that the Peace Corps called NANSEA? It’s the most diverse PC region, covering Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, India, and Ceylon. What say you and me go back in time and volunteer for Afghanistan? Or Iran. Cool, huh?
Moving on. . .
I got complete bound copies of Gourmet Magazine for all of 1972, 1973, and 1974.
I thought they might have some interesting travel journalism in there along with icky recipes but they don’t, and there’s hardly any color photography (food magazines have come a loooong way since the ’70s). I don’t have any hopes that we have a customer for these, but I’ll give them a chance on our Odds and Ends shelf.
For the past two years, one of our most loyal customers buys coffee table art and photography books from us for his collage art, a hobby of his in retirement. Last Sunday he had an exhibit of his works at a library far up on the north shore of Long Island and I went to see it.
This one is called “Trinity”.
Each piece is a 12-inch x 12-inch square, the same size as an LP cover. That’s a shape that we Baby Boomers are very conversant with, and I think it’s a smart choice.
Title: “Once Upon a Time there Was a Hat”. I asked, but No, it wasn’t about Sondheim.
I was pleasantly surprised that his work (he had about 30 on view) were so formally composed because that’s not what I expect from collage but then, he has always struck me as a linear-thinking kind of guy. I think he might have been a math teacher, or an engineer.
I do like his work, but I think they would benefit from better titles. Something a little enigmatic, or hintingly narrative, or in juxtaposition, if you know what I mean.
He called this one, “There Goes The Neighborhood”.
Take this one, above. I like it a lot. the use of that copper-colored sky is very effective, and I like the coyote looking over his shoulder, and I even don’t mind the old people (altho, for the record, I’d rather not look at old people in art).
But wouldn’t it be a better piece if it had a different title? Like, for a random example, “A Slow Walk in the Forever Fields”?
Discuss amongst yourselves.
I happened to see the artist again at the bookstore today when he came in to look at the books I’ve been putting aside form all Summer. He sold two pieces on opening day of the exhibit, and he’s gotten calls about several others. (He bought 4 of the 5 books I’d set aside for him.)
I didn’t buy one of his work because they are outside my collecting parameters. I collect thrift shop art, and I’ve got some beauts.
This hangs above our fireplace in the living room. I got it 15 years ago. It’s large, 32 inches x 44 inches, and I think it’s the most wonderful painting in the world:
This was the first piece of thrift shop art that I ever bought, about 20 years ago, before I got married:
This is 16 x 20 inches.
My heart pounded with joy when I came across these two, together, waiting for ME to give them a good home:
Each is also 16 x 20 inches.
I love it that the person who did these paint-by-numbers pictures signed them.
Last week I was in our local Salvation Army thrift shop and I came across a canvas (16 x 20 inches) that I tried not to buy, because, well, look at it, but in the end I couldn’t leave the store without it:
And now I love it, and spend about fifteen minutes a day looking at it, happy that its weird exuberance and hauntingly inept draftsmanship are MINE. I have half a mind to call this one, On Being Blue.
And that brings us full circle, Dear Readers, for this week.
Have a splendid weekend, everyone. October is the Coyote Month, and this year the trickster has impeachment on his mind!
A college professor put this sign up on his office door as a warning to his students:
It made me think of this guy:
But let’s not let that be the last word, not when there’s this:
I’ve told this story before here on this blog but I’ll tell it again because it’s one of my favorites.
Many years ago now, I met a guy at a party, a low-key party in someone’s backyard, not a punk rock/dancing on the bar kind party that I was partial to back then. . .
. . . and he was telling me how life used to stress him out like crazy, which he illustrated with a story about a cross-country road trip he took, from Seattle to New York City.
From the time he got Puget Sound in the rearview mirror until he crossed the George Washington Bridge five or six days later, he was constantly worried, freaked out, even, because ALL he could think about was, Where am I going to park when I get home to Manhattan ?
By the end of that road trip, he knew he had to make some changes in his life to reduce the monkey chatter in his brain. So he quit drinking and took up meditation. Not in that order. And he’s been much happier ever since.
Since then, whenever I find myself metaphorically fretting about where I’m going to park my car next week, I remember that guy, and I calm down and look up meditation classes in my area. I haven’t gone to one yet, because meditation sounds hard and I’m never far away from a strong V&T, which I call Meditation in a Glass.
I’m telling this story today because I came across something on the inter webs this week, a post about how much happier we would all be if we could just live in the “Now”.
If you want to get on my last nerve, tell me to live in the “Now”.
This is the kind of pseudo-pith that commonly gets accepted as wisdom, when actually the words only sound as if they mean something. Which, sure, they do, but only if you’re a college freshman and you’re smoking pot for the first time.
This “Now” of which we are supposed to venerate lasts, at most, for 12 seconds (that’s a scientific fact). So, are we supposed to live in 12-second intervals? How is that done, exactly? Give me the details of this “Now”-living, second by second, and proof of its superiority to the past and future, or else shut the fuck up.
Now, there are destructive ways of living in the future (see: driving from Seattle to New York, above), and there are terrible ways of living in the past (see: The Republican party, USA), but those are not the only two ways of looking forwards and backwards.
Furthermore, since most of our lives are in the past (every 12 seconds, you generate a new “past”), and most of our finest thoughts and feelings (hope, for one) live in the future, I think it’s far better to train your mind to handle the past and future so that you get the most pleasure and joy from them.
I say, treasure your past, because without it you lose your soul-self (see: Alzheimer’s); and create the beautiful futures that you want to work towards to make real. If you do that, I think the “Now” will take care of itself.
In other news, I installed my Haunted Bookshop at the local library:
It’s centered around a beat-up copy of Christopher Morely’s book by that title (ours was printed in 1923) that we got in as a donation to the used-book store that I manage here on the north shore of Long Island.
I sent a press release, of sorts, to the local newspaper about this display:
Roslyn author Christopher Morley wrote The Haunted Bookshop in 1919 and the Bryant Library is offering a very early edition of the book for sale at its Roberta Balfus Bookstore, located in the historic Valentine House next door.
The Haunted Bookshop is part of a collection of over 30 books, each aged 100 years or more, which will go on sale on Tuesday, November 5.
The most notable book in this unusual collection is a book published in 1833 by J. & J. Harper, 82 Cliff Street, New-York, that comes from the personal library of Major General James Barnet Fry, the former Provost Marshal General of the Union Army during the Civil War who saw action at the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861 and at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862 (photo attached, from the Library of Congress, Matthew Brady photographer, c. 1861).
Currently, the books are on display at the Bryant Library as part of an installation called The Haunted Bookshop, on view until midnight, October 31.
(I included some photos of the display, along with a totally fake story that I wrote about the book store that inspired the exhibit.)
The totally fake ghost story of The Haunted Bookshop (the exhibit) is as follows:
Few people know that The Haunted Bookshop, written in 1919 by Roslyn author Christopher Morley, was based on a frightening experience the author had at the Valentine House while visiting it earlier that year.
Mr. Morley refused to discuss the incident in detail, saying only that, “There is something other-worldly, exceedingly inexplicable, in that house.”
He would never set foot inside the place for the remainder of his life.
The Roberta Balfus Book Store is located in the front parlor of the Valentine House, the very room where Mr. Morley’s faith in reason and appearances was shattered.
Rumor has it that there is a hidden dimension somewhere in this room, a “thin place” where time is diminished and reality is as sheer as tattered lace.
A warning: Stay far away from this thin place when its portal opens, once a century.
There is no way out when this fragile rift between worlds collapses in upon itself, without warning.
A reporter from the local newspaper contacted me, and she came to interview me and look at the store and our old books for a feature that is scheduled to go to print in their October 11 paper. If it is online sooner, I’ll link to it. She took a lot of photos of the installation but none of me, which is disappointing because I was have an unusually good hair day.
Here’s some close-ups of the creepiness:
Last Sunday, September 29, was the start of the Jewish New Year so Top Cat and I combined our Fall Solstice outing with a New Year’s Eve chance to make some goals for the future.
Hello, Mr. Husky. Would you like a pizza-flavored Combo? No? Is blocking our view good enough for you?
We usually do not see another soul on this stretch of Long Island Sound, but on this evening there was an interesting photo shoot going on down on the beach.
They left before the sun had gone down completely so we regained our exclusive use of the view. There’s a new graffiti on the porch where we sit:
And then it was suddenly Wednesday, and it was sunny and we got record-breaking 92 degrees, and then it was Thursday and it was 58 and rainy. I already forget how hot 92 degrees is, and I’m only OK about the 58 degrees because Fall jackets are my favorite kind of clothes.
P.S. to Dear Reader Sandra about last week’s photos of Jake Owen’s turquoise suit: Not only would I change may fashion sense for him, but I would also change my eye color and shoe size and left-handedness for him. . . if I were 30 years younger and had a shot.
Rickety handling the change in weather well:
Lickety at 92 degrees.
Lickety at 58 degrees.
Have a great weekend, everyone. Stay warm, or cool, depending, you know, on the situation.
The “Now” is terrible, but our bright and righteous hopes for the future will get us through, hour by hour, day by day.
Last June, for Pride Month, country singer Jake Owen googled gayest songs of all time, and he got . . . Cher. Specifically, he got her classic hit song from 1999 Believe.
He recorded a country version of Believe, writing on his website: “I believe #loveislove. Some of my closest friends and coworkers are part of the #lgbt community and I couldn’t be more happy for the progress they have made.”
This is where me, a couple glasses of pinot grigio, and a few minutes of unsupervised activity come into play. I liked what I heard of Jake Owen’s cover so, one night shortly after cocktail hour, I went to my computer and I googled jake owen tour and bought a ticket to see him in concert Atlantic City in September.
P.S. : I am not a country music fan.
And then September rolled around, and Top Cat and I go to Atlantic City, and while he heads to the poker room at The Borgata, I take my seat #16 in Row E at Ovation Hall in the Ocean Casino Resort. I have low expectations.
P.S.: Even though this took place in New Jersey, there are plenty of cowboy hats and boots in this Saturday night crowd. I am not a fan of country music fashions.
And then Jake Owen walks on stage. First of all, I thought Jake Owen looked like this:
Typical country singer. I don’t like the hair.
In fact, Jake Owens looks like this:
He is, in fact, gorgeous.
LOVE the hair. The turquoise suit with sequins is, I’m pretty sure, ironic.
And there I am, in the fifth row from the stage, dead center, and he is Right. There.
He does Believe half way through the two-hour show, and then he does a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Atlantic City, and they are the only two songs that I know.
I must say, it was a delightful concert and at the end, after he’d done a few encores including a cover of Snoop Dogg’s absolutely filthy hit from 1998, Gin and Juice (Jake Owens said that it was his favorite song in high school. P. S.: I was 42 in 1998), the young couple next to me asked, “Did you like the show?”
I said, “Oh, yes! I think he’s fantastic!”
The guy, who looked as if he was born in 1998, asked me, “So, are you a Jake Owens fan?”
I said, “Not at all — I didn’t know any of his music until tonight.”
He and his girlfriend looked puzzled, and she asked me, “Then why did you get a ticket to the show?”
(When you are buying tickets for a party of one, it’s rather easy to get a good seat. There was one single place left in this primo row.)
To answer her question, I lied through my teeth and said, “I like to try new things.”
We all know that I never like to try new things. I like routine and no surprises and staying nice and cozy well within my comfort zone. But in this case I am very glad that I went to a country music concert by myself on the last Saturday night of Summer 2019. Hoo boy, I love country music. As long as it’s by Jake Owens.
Happily, because Top Cat and I are Booming through our sixties, we were home from Atlantic City by Sunday afternoon so we could sit in our backyard and sip wine on the Final Summer Evening, with a few of our favorite drinking buddies:
As I was taking this photo I noticed something on the grass by Taffy’s back foot!
The final Found Treasure of the Summer of 2019!
We did not expect that Lickety would make it all the way through the Summer of 2019 but lo, he’s still here, and we make sure he gets loved every single day.
And then it was Monday and we woke up to Fall, although it was 90 degrees here on the north shore of Long Island and so, so far, Fall has been non-traumatic.
Friday, September 28 is when I install my Haunted Bookshop at the Bryant Library, the first Halloween decoration of the season here on the north shore of Long Island, and today I am going to give you a preview of a few pieces.
Speaking of googling (see: topic sentence, above), I found this on the inter webs under scary book art:
I am not a fan of folding pages to make book art. I like to see a book shredded, hacked, carved, or knifed — that is, completely desecrated and manipulated. I like to see a book transformed for “art”, and folding pages isn’t transformative. But I liked the architectural add-ons in this piece and I really liked the illustrations. I zoned in on the book title and found it on eBay and made my own scary book art:
I cut out a shadow box on the cover, on the left, but it does not photograph well. I tried to tell a story in the shadowbox, about fleeing a haunted grave site with a mysterious staircase…the other side is just a collage of weirdness. I wanted to leave the title, Tales of Edgar Allen Poe, visible but if I have time, I’m going to knife it up some more.
To tell the truth, “scary” is not what I like to do. I prefer “enigmatic“.
I like it when something looks as if it is about something, but that something is mis-translated, or coming in at an unknown frequency, or seems to shimmer between meaning something and meaning nothing. (Joseph Cornell’s boxes and Richard Diebenkorn’s abstract paintings do that for me.).
And then I got me some Mod Podge and I Mod Podged a Book Club edition of The Gulag Archipelago (1974, 704 pages):
Having Mod Podged the outer pages, the book was solid enough for me to excavate its guts to make a shadow box:
Building from the back of the shadow box, I started to add layers:
There are seven layers in this shadow box college, not counting the butterflies, which are on four layers of their own:
I wonder if there will be butterflies 50 years from now. If miracles happen, and the climate catastrophe is only half as bad as it is now inevitable, and butterflies and polar bears still co-exisit on our planet, we will have the first President of the World to thank:
Greta Thunberg is my hero. In 50 years, I hope she is in charge of everything, and I hope that the word “trump” will have become the common generic term for “what a loaf of crap” in every language on the planet.
As in, “Damn, I just stepped into some trump and ruined my new shoes.”
As in, “Something stinks in here — who forgot to take out the trump?’
As in, “I was so drunk last night that I trumped my pants.”
By now you are probably thinking to yourself, Yadda Yadda Yadda this is all about you, Vivian, but what has The Stromness Rock been up to?
Well, of all things, I almost crossed paths with The Stromness Rock because of all places, The Rock has been to New Jersey!
Dear Reader Carol took The Rock to see famous author Alice Hoffman at the Tom’s River branch of the Ocean County Library:
The Rock even got to ask Ms. Hoffman a question about its favorite book, The Marriage of Opposites!
The Rock was temporarily installed at this statue at the Ocean County Library:
The Rock knows a great PhotoOp when it sees it.
This is the one and only Jersey Shore (Long Beach Island):
If you know your Frankie Valli, you know Barnegat Beach. Here’s the Barnegat lighthouse:
If you can’t spot The Rock, scroll below.
Dedicated to lighthouse keepers everywhere:
And on to the Delaware River, where floats the world’s oldest and only in-tact square-rigged sailing vessel, the 1904 Moshulu. Having sailed around the world, the Moshulu is now a restaurant anchored at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia:
Sunset cruise with the Philadelphia skyline:
I do love a skyline.
But, saving the best for last:
Presenting Benjamin Bunny, in person.
Can’t you hear The Rock’s purr?
See how I did that? I arranged for us to end today’s meeting of the minds with a photo of Carol’s Benjamin Bunny (those pink ears!) so we can dwell, for a moment or two, out of this world and inside this heart-warming/mind-soothing image of purity and loveliness.
Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. The truth will set us free, no matter whatever trump the Republicans will throw at us.
The good news is that I have kidnapped my dear old Lickety and he no longer spends his days and nights sleeping in the driveway:
The even better news is that he has allowed me to put a heating pad under his blankie. . .
. . . so now we can all go about our business with happy hearts knowing that Lickety is warm and cozy in his favorite spot in the doorway of the dining room (near the kitchen, where he can keep tabs on all the action) and is not snoozing on the driveway asphalt. And we can put the car back where it belongs.
Speaking of good ideas, I was hunting through the inter webs a few weeks ago, looking at pictures of “scarey trees”. I found two that I liked, this one:
And this one:
What I liked even better was the idea of combining the two, making the bottom of the scarey tree into a scowling tree house, with the top having those cool towers with the illuminated windows.
So that’s what I did. I started with the fun bit, the scowling tree-face:
This (above) is just the scaffolding of the tree trunk and the roots and the front-door steps. I made a sturdy tube for the base of the tree and I cut out the eye-sockets. Within this tube, I inserted a smaller black tube, to give the eye-sockets their hollow and sinister emptiness.
Over this scaffolding (which I construct from old books that have nice study pages but are not attractive) I then glue strips of fine-print text from The Complete Plays of William Shakespeare (which has almost tissue-thin pages):
I made a front door from a book that had unusually large type, as a contrast to the fine print of the Shakespeare:
I made a roof for my scowling-eyed tree trunk and then I began to put up the scaffolding for the upper bits of the tree:
It seemed to me that the contrast of large type against the fine print was not enough to make the front door stand out, so I covered it with cross-hatching from an illustration I found in an very ugly children’s book from the ’70s:
Those towers with the illuminated windows were the most fun to make:
I collect children’s books for their illustrations, the drearier the better, so I can feel guilt-free about cutting them up. And once in a while one one of those old books will have just what I need; in this case, two large lattice windows and one small window:
This is a book that we got in as a donation to the used books store that I manage for the local library:
It’s a young adult novel called Friday’s Child by Jane Lambert. 1947. It was in execrable condition:
It’s far too scuzzy to put into the inventory of my book store, but it’s exactly right for my ghoulish bonsai:
I’ll be installing this bonsai at The Haunted Bookshop exhibit at the library on September 28. This, and several other ghoulish bonsai, will be displayed with the books that I have been culling from donations for the past year — the shabbiest and creepiest books that aren’t good for anything except for frightening little children with:
Last week I had finally achieved the impossible dream. I had cleared the used book store of all the crap, inside and out, and we had zero rubbish sitting in our Donations Corner. I had finally gotten ahead of the backlog of trash that this community dumps on our doorstep.
So I went back to my volunteer job of being a bookseller yesterday, and found, on my doorstep, seven boxes and three shopping bags of books, deposited during the past week, at night, in stealth. When I saw it, I uttered something much worse than the usual “Oh, shit.” I have to remember that the words Fuck fuck fuckitty fuck look about as good on a woman my age as a bikini.
Which reminds me, now is time for a short Florida digression.
I was on Florida’s Gulf coast last week to attend the First Annual Meeting of the North Fort Myers Judge Judy Fan Club. Meaning, I was visiting my mother and we both call it a day when Judge Judy comes on at 4, whereupon we mix a pitcher of martinis (we go old school: Beefeater’s gin) and watch Middle America go to hell, one hand basket/dog bite/eviction/unpaid loan small claims court case at a time.
Of course, Florida has been waaaaay ahead of the curve when it comes to the ever-lowering of the stupidity bar in America. Remember the hanging chads of 2000? In 2012 the comptroller for Miami-Dade got 30 months in prison for stealing more than $200,000 of the city’s mont after falling for an Nigerian internet scam. And last year, a 24-year old finished a job interview at Kohl’s department store in Central Florida and then walked into the shoe section and shoplifted two pairs of sneakers. That’s almost as dumb as the guy from Ocala who, in 2013, submitted a job application at a gas station and then robbed it.
Last year, a Broward County woman in line at a Dollar General store pulled a knife on the customer in line behind her when that customer complained that she had farted too loudly. In Florida, you will be physically assaulted if you eat all of Kerry Knudsen’s Cheeze Its after he specifically told you not to, according to St. Augustine police.
And Florida is the land of the Capri pant.
I went to Florida expecting to rendez-vous with the 24-hour Walmart Superstore on Cleveland Avenue (Route 41). I’ve never been to a Walmart at 2AM and I’m having new experiences, and as there is not much to do in North Fort Myers ever, and as I knew I would be sleeping poorly in a strange hotel room and would likely be wide awake at 2AM, I planned to capitalize on my insomnia by making an outing to the Walmart on Route 41.
But as 2AM rolled around, I thought about going out in the middle of the night in a town that I didn’t know all that well, alone, in Florida (where anything can go wrong and usually does); so I stayed in bed, reading a book called Reading the OED. Author Ammon Shea read every 21,730 pages of the Oxford English Dictionary and lived to tell the tale.
And that’s how I now know the word mataeotechny, (noun); an unprofitable or useless science or skill (see: making bonsai for ghouls as detailed earlier in this blog post).
So, I am sorry for not having photos of Walmart’s ungodly hours for you this week. But here’s some random People of Walmart pix:
Back to my woes as a used book store manager here on the North Shore of Long Island.
Much of the book donations that came in behind my back was the usual crap:
Including this, below, which made me think. . .
. . . Wait. Christian Ethics?There’s such a thing??
Because, you know. . .
If I had not seen it with my own eyes I would not have believed that there could be a book about such a thing as that, or this:
Yes: Christian Ethics and a catalogue of animal-headed covered dishes is what it takes to get me to compose a sentence fragment in the future conditional subjunctive tense, they are both that weird.
From now on, I will not say that I live on the shore of the Long Island Sound. Nope. From now on, I live on:
We got a bag full of these kinds of books, in pristine condition:
I’m keeping them. Our store has been lacking a Romance section and by gawd, now we have one.
And then there are the books that make working in the filth, sadness, and boredom of a used book store all worthwhile:
Published in 1953, this book seems to have once been the property of a boy with an unusual last name (from the 8th century German for Roger) who grew up to be a professor of music at MIT, just recently retired.
If I were a nice person, would I track this fella down and ask if he wants his book back? Am I being too Florida for wanting to keep it for myself?
I was at the used book store on my day off, the charity store that I manage for our local library here on the north shore of Long Island (USA), and I was greeted by four bags and four boxes of books on the doorstep, which some unknown “donor” or “donors” had left overnight. Which made me say “Shit!” in a rather loud voice, while I stood in full sight of an open-door meeting of librarians at an adjacent conference room. I wish I hadn’t, but I was pissed.
I could tell at a glance that this was nothing but crap, and I had just spent the whole month of August de-crapping the store.
Some of you, Dear Readers, are no doubt book lovers, and you’re thinking, “Oh come off it, Vivian, it can’t be that bad.”
Oh, it. It is.
As the French say, Regardez-vous la merde:
Need I say that this is a self-published book? It was self-published in 1995, long before self-publishing had any kind of “indie” sheen to it. This is a vanity project, pure and simple, a very, very creepy vanity project. I’d show you the author’s photo but you would accuse me of author-shaming.
I’m showing you anyway. Call me vain, but if I were posing for an author’s photo, I don’t know… I would at least put my dentures in.
I don’t even want to touch this book, let alone stock it in the store.
More samples of crap, crap, crappity crap:
You’ll note that one book was already previously purchased in a used book store, and still has the “used” sticker on the spine. I’ll have you know that I run a classy used-book shop and I don’t do twice-used books. And that Updike; just, no.
And then there were these, also destined for the dumpster for obvious reasons:
Although it looked to me that Jumping Simplified had been used less as a book and more as a coaster, I had to take a look inside. (Great title, by the way. I was hoping for something adorably quirky. The History of Jump Ropes How Jumping CanBring World Peace, that kind of thing. I overlooked the Ronald Sports Library logo.)
Here is Step One in an illustrated guide to. . .
. . . Step Two, wait for it. . .
. . . Step Three, and Yes! We did it!
We learned the correct way to semaphore the phrase, “A priest, a pastor, and a rabbit walk into a bar…”, simplified. (The horse is thinking, “Wait. Was it a ribbit??”)
This, below, was part of an entire box of books — old, musty, creepy, boring books — about the maritime provinces of Canada:
And rounding out your tour of Books So Boring They Might As Well Be The New Jersey Turnpike, I give you these:
Oh, thanks a lot, Mari Kondo. I refuse to let my book store be used as a dumping ground for every book that does not spark joy.
Too bad that these photos don’t show the spiders. Some of these books were definitely the winter homes of spiders.
We postponed the grand re-opening of our used book store here on the north shore of Long Island after our August hiatus for September 18. I am trying to muster up enthusiasm to finish the year out, to hang in there until December, but o, lordy…days like this, I just want quit second-hand retail and take up plane spotting full time.
The reason I was at the used book store on my day off was because I’d arranged to meet a charity that agreed to take seven boxes of carefully vetted YA books that I had collected the past six moths (we don’t sell YA), and I was grateful to clear out seven boxes from a corner of our store.
And then someone stopped in with a “donation”, and handed me eight boxes of “art books”. I know this donor, and her stuff is usually OK, but she she told me (too late for me to say No) that she’s cleaning out the bookcases of her father (who hasn’t purchased a new book in the past 70 years)…and now I have eight boxes of ratty, damp, boring, sad books about avant garde art of the last century and the treasures of the Vatican and old museum guides for eastern European art galleries. In black and white.
Sow what do you do when you’re in a rut of your own devising?
Me, I go see the kittens next door:
I get to feed them lunch this week, and these kittens jump when they hear the opening of a can of Fancy Feast sounds like:
And so on.
Dear Reader Jeanie wondered how we got through Hurricane Dorian last week here on the north shore of Long Island…and I have to say, it was terrible. AWFUL. We got battered like Alabama. The drizzle lasted many many minutes, one right after the other, for what seemed like forever if, by “forever”, you mean an hour, and the gloom — O! The gloom was tragic, positively medieval — I mean, it felt as though we were living through the Black Death, if by “Black Death”, you mean “overcast”. I am still traumatized. O, the horror.
— keeps amazing us by hanging in there, chowing down his breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and by insisting on sleeping in the middle of the driveway. For a dying cat, he seems to be having a whale of a time.
Top Cat had to jet off to California last Saturday, something to do with the fate of the earth, so I was left alone for the whole weekend. I’ve only been married for 15 years, but being alone in the house for a weekend feels alien, and wrong.
So on Saturday evening I took a train into Manhattan to watch the sunset in Times Square. The train route that serves my part of the north shore of Long Island is the same train line that takes Long Islanders to Shea Stadium and to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows. On this Saturday night, the Mets were at home and Serena Williams was playing the finals of the U S Open. The train was packed.
I must say, for a stay-at-home type who wants to venture out into the big city once in a while, I couldn’t have chosen a better evening than this fine, warm, clear September twilight. The train ride was a hoot, ands when I got to Penn Station and waded through the humanity that swarms mid-town Manhattan and then navigated the throngs that pile into Times Square on a Saturday night, I thought to myself, “Jesus — this is a freak show, and isn’t it wonderful??”
Of course, I forgot my camera, because I went temporarily insane and forgot that I was a blogger and that my life is content, so I’m sorry not to have any photos to show you. But I was so jazzed up by the experience, that I decided that for my encore I want to go to Walmart at 2am.
Sadly, there is no WalmartSuperstore here on the Isle of Long. So this week I am flying to Fort Myers, FLA, where I will haunt the aisles of the 24-hour Walmart on Colonial Ave, in the wee hours, and bring you back tales.
And the camera is already packed.
Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. And take heart.
I think, at this point, all we have to do is sit back and watch der Drumpf as he twists himself slowly, slowly in the wind.
P.S. I’ve put $100 against whatever Democrat runs against Collins. I made the contribution right after she endorsed the shit-eating-grinning Kavanaugh.
Next week, pix from Walmart and a How To for Ghoulish Bonsai.
I don’t much care for red wine. I especially don’t like the Saint-Emilion reds that Top Cat prefers, which are so dry that they are the liquid equivalent to Death Valley.
Top Cat, inspecting the vineyards at You Know Where.
Last week, a very persuasive wine merchant coaxed T.C. into buying something new — a Bordeaux from Saint Estephe, a whole other microclimate about 50 miles away from Saint-Emilion.
So last Friday, our date night, Top Cat opened his new bottle and drank a glass, and decided it was too whiny and not for him. So he left the bottle on the kitchen counter and opened one of his reliably arid Saint-Emilion reds.
Well. Who among us can let whiny wine go to waste?
So I took a sip and found that it was OK; an acceptably mid-bodied red that only needed some ice cubes to make it potable.
I like chilled white wine, even in the California desert.
So I loaded a glass with ice cubes and poured the Saint Estephe. I put a thoughtful look on my face as I pondered the beverage. It was still a bit too dusty for me. I pondered some more. And I knew what I could do to doctor this wine to 50% perfection.
I added a shot of ginger ale. And it was good. So that’s how I drank that Saint Estephe Bordeaux, over ice and mixed with ginger ale.
And that is why I am going to wine hell.
So September is upon us. I start my days in the dark now.
I’ve begun a list of things I have to do to prepare me and the cats for Winter. First thing, I have to mend the fleece cover to Steve’s outdoor heating pad for his nest by the front stoop.
I have started to move my Summer clothes to the back of the closet. I’ve dug up my notes for that book that I haven’t written yet, for my Winter project. I weigh myself. I mope.
This is Day 41 of my diet to lose the eight pounds that I gained in 2018 and 2019. And today, at Day 41, I am eight pounds lighter and it feels right, and my jeans fit again and I’m pleased, but not happy. Because September.
Lickety is still hanging in there, which is a huge joy. Lickety and his support crew have taken to dozing in the driveway (see above), so we have to park the car on the street, because Lickety > 3,497 pound automobile.
I am typing this on Friday morning, and the skies are darkening an hour after sunrise because Hurricane Dorian is on his way to the Isle of Long, and is going to pelt us with rain this afternoon.
I’ve made the usual disaster preparations and am as ready as Alabama to ride this storm out.
I’m excited to have a new Abigail Thomas memoir to read while I get hammered listen to the pitter patter of the September rain. I’ve read the first bits of What Comes Next and How To Like It so I know that this installment of her on-going autobiographical chronicle includes interludes that describe her art-making, which seems to be mooshing toxic oil-based house paint around on glass, which I am not particularly interested in, but she’s such a fluid and beguiling writer that I will forgive this conceit. But that explains why there are two smooshes of paint dabs on the cover.
As another writer who makes art, I have been busy this past month making figments of imagination from a haunted book shop for my October installation at our local library. I showed you already one of the first items I made, one of five botanically-inspired structures that I call Bonsai for Ghouls:
This was not the finished piece. I wanted it to make it ooze out of the book more, as if it were growing from the book, not on the book:
In future blog posts you will see more of The Making of Bonsai for Ghouls, a how-to and a what-the-hell-for for those of you who enjoy that kind of thing.
But for today I have a special treat for you!
The Stromness Rock . . .
. . . is on a coast-to-coast tour of America and today, thanks to Dear Reader Gali, the Rock is off to a stupendous start!
Here’s the Rock admiring the reflection of Mt. Monroe (in the Northern Presidential Range) in the great state of New Hampshire:
I did not know that New Hampshire looked an awful lot like the highlands of Scotland, but here’s the rest of the Presidential Range to prove it (from left to right: Mt. Clay, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Madison):
Cog railway on the way to Mt. Washington, NH:
Lucky Rock, here at the Lakes of the Clouds Hut near Mt. Washington:
And then the Rock kayaked on the Charles River and got its picture taken with the skyline of Boston (MA):
The FreedomTrail is a 2.5 mile walk though downtown Boston that passes 16 locations, from Boston Common to Bunker Hill, that were significant in the creation of the United States:
A night out on the town:
Tanks, Gali, for getting a Boston taxi AND the Old State House in one beautiful twilight shot!:
The Rock then went to Battle’Green in Lexington, MA, where the first shot of the Revolutionary War was fired, on April 4, 1775 — The Shot Heard “Round The World:
This is so cool:
Paying respects to the Minutemen, an elite sub-group of the Lexington Militia, depicted in this statue unveiled in 1900 on the 125th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord:
And at the First Parish church in Lexington:
The First Parish in Lexington was founded in 1682 when the 30 families then living in Cambridge Farms (the area now known as Lexington) petitioned the Great and General Court of Massachusetts to be allowed to establish their own parish. The church now has a Unitarian Universalsim mission.
This church is so liberal (and that’s a great thing!) that I’m pretty sure that if that dog wanted to hold a bar mitzvah there, the congregation would be all for it.
The Rock is now on its way to New Jersey, (thanks, Carol!) and I won’t make a joke about its getting big hair and a tan down the shore. Thence to Jeanie, Angel, Susie, Alexandra, and Marilyn.
Now that we have Texas on the itinerary (thank you, Rachel), I can send out the second half of The Stromness Rock Welcome Kits to Thea, Leslie, and Maryanne. I wish I could send you all a Thank You bottle of pinot grigio, but there’s a storm coming’ and I am in dire need of all my provisions.
Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. Hunker down, wherever you are, and hold tight. Only 502 more days of this shit:
If we couldn’t laugh, we’d cry.
Well, we’ll still cry, but in between sobbing we might crack a smile or two.
August 24 was the fifth anniversary of the death of my one and only dawg, the late great Boogie Girl.
Boogie Girl on the day I adopted her in New York City.
I was watching a local TV news program one Sunday morning and the stories shifted from the latest house fires in the Bronx to animals up for adoption at the Manhattan ASPCA. One of the animals was a 17-year-old cocker spaniel named Boogie Girl. . . and I knew that that was my dawg.
Boogie Girl in her adorable Winter coat.
I adopted Boogie Girl in November, 2013. “You can change her name”, the manager of the shelter told me. But I thought Boogie Girl was a fine name and besides, she’d had it for 17 years already.
On the day that I adopted Boogie Girl, I drove two blocks away from the shelter before my hands started to shake. I had to pull the car over on Second Avenue, and collect myself. Boogie Girl and I looked at each other. I have a dawg!, I said to myself. What have I gotten us into??, I wondered.
I had never had a dawg before, and having a dawg in my life turned out to be harder than I thought. For instance, I hadn’t been told that Boogie Girl was not housebroken. So, after much trial and error, I figured out that I had to lay down two layers of plastic sheeting down on the den floor, over which I put up a flexible “fence” to keep Boogie penned in at night. Every night, I covered the plastic sheeting with newspaper, and over that I laid out Wee Wee pads. By morning, the pads and newspaper would be covered with all manner of doings, so I would put on rubber gloves and ball it all up into a bundle and trudge out to the garbage cans with it.
Boogie would soil her bed every night and day, forcing me to wash her beds daily, so she had a roster of five beds, each one maybe a tad too small for her but that’s what would fit into my washing machine.
Boogie was nearly totally deaf, and her eyesight wasn’t good. She needed professional grooming every six weeks, and frequent vet visits (she was old and I was a nervous new dawg owner), and outings in every miserable weather. Top Cat and I had nine cats in and out of the house at the time, but Boogie Girl never noticed them, not once, except for their food (which she loved). Although I kept her under constant supervision, she still managed to crap in every room in the house, and in two hallways. Boogie Girl was a lot of work.
Also, she was not a very affectionate dawg. She would not sit on my lap or let me hug her much. This is the best picture I have of her tolerating me:
And I was totally crazy about her.
There’s something primal about the way dawgs touch our human souls, and Boogie Girl got to me on a cellular level. She was my dawg for nine months, two weeks, and a day; and when she died on August 24, 2014, my heart broke in places that I did not know a heart could break.
I gave Boogie Girl’s beds and dishes to our local animal shelter, but I still have her adorable pink Winter coat. I still have her leashes. Most days I am very busy riding herd on my usual herd of cats, but some days I stop and remember that I used to have a dawg, Me! Of all people! And she was the worst dawg ever! And I miss her, my sweet Boogie Girl, my dawg, in a way that I never thought I would.
In cat herd news: Lickety had a very good week!
He’s mooching for hugs and kisses! He’s eating his regular food!
In every way, he’s acting just like the Lickety of old (but skinnier) so we did not make that dreaded trip to the vet after all.
The only annoying thing he does is that he will not come into the house. I’m fine with that — if this were my last weeks on Earth I too would want to spend as much time as possible in the great outdoors — but Lickety annoys me because he sleeps on the hard, cold cement in the garage, under the rear bumper of Top Cat’s Saab. I want him to come inside and sleep on the soft pillows in the den, like he used to do, but noooooo.
So I put a mat down for him and he figured out how to use it, which is the best I can do for now:
In fact, since Lickety’s been doing his Great Outdoorsman thing, the other cats have been keeping him company. This is how they line up for breakfast:
About my non-rickety duties, I was very busy this week and I’ll tell you all about it but first, I have to show you this house that I drive by each day on my way to my job at the used book store that I manage for the benefit of our local library:
I’m used to seeing this house on the ground.
This is the house of a local veterinarian, who is working out of a trailer while his house is hoisted into the air. There are men commandeering huge heavy machines digging a big hole under the house and if you ask me, there is not enough money in the world to get me to dig a hole under a house that is perched 20 feet above my head.
At the used book store that I manage for the benefit of our local library here on the north shore of Long Island, I have been clearing out the shelves, getting rid of books that have used up all their chances to sell in the past year.
I reduced our hardback fiction section by 251 books:
So far, I have removed 128 books from the History section, and I gave the heave-ho to 168 books from the Memoir/Biography section. In total, I packed up 547 books into about 30 boxes, loaded them (one by one, one miserable box at a time) into my car, drove the car to the backside of the library, pulled them out of the car (one miserable box at time) and lifted them over the edge of the dumpster and let them crash into garbage. It was a lot of filthy, heavy, boring work and I am never doing this again.
It was during one of those dismal dumpster sessions that the thought came to me: I don’t have enough fun in my life.
And then I read this news item:
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A prominent Mississippi businessman is facing serious charges after he admitted to stealing luggage from the Memphis airport.
Dinesh Chawla is charged with felony theft of property.
Arrest records show he was seen taking a suitcase off the baggage claim belt on Sunday. Police say he put the bag in his vehicle, then returned to the airport to catch a flight.
While he was away, police towed his car and say they found several bags that had been stolen, containing thousands of dollars worth of items.
Chawla was then arrested Thursday when he returned to Memphis.
Chawla is 56 years old. Police say he confessed to investigators that he stole the bags, adding that Chawla explained that he stole the bags “for the thrill. “
I get that.
When I was in my 20s and 30s, even in my early 40s, I knew how to give myself a thrill. Traveling to distant lands on a one-way ticket was thrilling, dating was thrilling, falling in love was super-thrilling, shopping for dresses was thrilling (the clothes of the 1980s were great!), staying out all night was thrilling, etc. Every wrong choice and every right choice was a thrill, because it all led to adventures, and adventures were fun.
But now I’m 63 and those things aren’t fun any more. The most fun I have is when I get to sit with a glass of ice cold white wine in my backyard after a dreary day of book store managing. And that’s not enough.
Now, I’m not desperate enough for a little excitement in my life to start stealing bags at JFK, but I get why a middle-aged man would resort to felony theft. That’s big thinking, in my book; I know of little old ladies who dabble in a little shoplifting but this Chawla guy, he goes for the stuff that comes with serious jail time.
So I’m back at the book store today (Friday) for one last round of purging so that the store will look brand new when we re-open on Sept. 3 (did I mention that we were closed for the month of August, like we were French?).
And I’ll be thinking of ways to stop doing the dirty, boring, worthless stuff I don’t like to do, and how to spend more time doing the thrilling, fun stuff I need to do.
Advance copy from the newsletter of The Bryant Library for September 2019:
In 1919 local author Christopher Morley published The Haunted Bookshop.
In 2019, figments of imagination from Morley’s one-hundred year-old bookshop will be on display at The Bryant Library, starting Sept. 28 until October 31.
Don’t miss this once-in-a-century exhibit.
Warning: Judge these books by their covers. They are very creepy.
My current “fun” project is making bits of things for an installation that I will be putting up in our local library inspired by a 1923 copy of the dreadful book by Christopher Morley that we got in as donation at the used book store. Some of the bits that I am making are scary little bonsai that erupt from tatty books.
I know. I have to work more on making with the “erupt” part. I thought that having the tree’s roots creep out from inside the book would be, well, creepy, but it’s not. It’s barely noticeable. Back to the drawing board mat knife.
P.S. The editor of the newsletter gave me two days’ notice about getting a blurb ready, so I wrote this in about ten minutes and I took a photo of the only finished piece I have so far.
Officially, the used book store is closed for the month of August, but I still have to show up a few hours a week to meet with crack pot hoarders donors and to process their stinking shitty trash donations. On Thursday, I had scheduled to meet with three separate donors at the used book store, so there I was, at 1 o’clock in the afternoon until 2 o’clock in the afternoon, as per our arrangement, dutifully keeping myself busy while I waited and waited and waited. . .
. . . NONE of the pissant purveyors of filthy paperback crap donors showed up!
Jesus. My time is very valuable and I am not to be trifled with. From 2:00 until 4:30 I was in a murderous mood, resentful of all the good work I do for an ungrateful community yadda yadda yadda.
At 4:31 I remembered that it was only Wednesday.
So today (being the real Thursday) I was back at the used book store, taking in boxes of garbage. I should have known: the old couple who called saying that they “want to get rid of some books”, and with whom I very carefully went through the list of books that I will not take. . . still brought in four boxes of old, moldy, beat up religious and text books.
They also brought a few books of collected short stories from mercifully forgotten writers. Such as this, from 1955:
It seems to me that Anne was not all that sure that this book was Harry’s cup of tea. So, Jesus, girl — go get him a book that you know he would like!
A woman brought in about 25 children’s books, of which a good 16 were acceptable. Among them was this, my new favorite book in the whole world:
And something that has never happened before, happened today.
With the third donor, a young boy just graduated from college who was giving me all his old space books (he called them “space” books, so I had to ask, “Do you mean astronomy?” and he agreed that yes, they were about astronomy, and I had to wonder, good lord, what the hell kind of college did you go to??) included some general reading materials, along with the “space” books.
He gave me a copy of Wonder, without the dust jacket — exactly the same book, in the same sans-dust jacket condition, as I got from the woman who gave me the children’s books. I can’t remember which copy of Wonder was which, but one was the 40th printing, and the other was the 70th.
SEVENTY PRINTINGS!! 5 million copies sold in 29 languages and it was made into a film that starred Julia Roberts.
I have never heard of this book! Or the movie! (It’s a YA novel about a 10-year old kid with severe facial deformities.)
So here’s one example of how working at the used book store has brought me up to date with the culture around me. Which is a good thing, about 80% of the time.
In other zeitgeist news:
In August, the world flocks to Edinburgh (Scotland) for a theater and comedy festival that is the European Sundance of theater and comedy. It’s a very big deal, worth about 250 billion pounds to the Scottish economy and has been responsible for such break out stars as Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (a long time ago), Alan Rickman, Rowan Atkinson, Sasha Baron Cohen, Steve Coogan, and Billy Connolly (who is crazy famous and beloved in the UK and not so much in America ).
Every year, the festival awards a prize, called Dave (ha ha) for the funniest one-liner. This year, a Swedish comedian who goes by the name Olaf Falafel (I think he’s trying too hard, with that name) won the Dave.
He took the title with the gag: “I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”.
Well. There has been a broo-ha-ha about this joke. A lot of people don’t like it because it makes a “joke” at the expense of sufferers of a much-misunderstood neurological malady. It’s also not funny.
Suzanne Dobson, the chief executive of Tourette’s Action in the UK, told the BBC: ”Humour is a great way of educating people – but not only is it not funny to poke fun at people with Tourette’s, it’s not even that funny a joke, is it?”
Tourette’s Action has now urged Olaf Falafel and Dave to apologise and try to see things from the perspective of someone with Tourette Syndrome, according to the BBC.
If you make a pun in my presence I will go all wild wolf on your ass.
I didn’t know why this dumb broccoli joke won the award until I read up in the competition. Some of the other contenders are just as bad, but a few are actually funny. Here is a sample (from The Edinburgh International Festival 2019):
“I can give you the cause of anaphylactic shock in a nutshell.” Gary Delaney
“I saw a documentary on how ships are kept together. Riveting!” Stewart Francis
“I waited an hour for my starter so I complained: ‘It’s not rocket salad.” Lou Sanders
“Crime in multi-storey car parks. That is wrong on so many different levels.” Tim Vine
“I picked up a hitch hiker. You’ve got to when you hit them.” Emo Philips
“As a kid I was made to walk the plank. We couldn’t afford a dog.” Gary Delaney
“I was watching the London Marathon and saw one runner dressed as a chicken and another runner dressed as an egg. I thought: ‘This could be interesting.’” Paddy Lennox
“I’m sure wherever my dad is; he’s looking down on us. He’s not dead, just very condescending.” Jack Whitehall
“I’ve given up asking rhetorical questions. What’s the point?” Alexei Sayle
“I have two boys, 5 and 6. We’re no good at naming things in our house” Ed Byrne
“I wasn’t particularly close to my dad before he died… which was lucky, because he trod on a land mine” Olaf Falafel
“Whenever someone says, ‘I don’t believe in coincidences.’ I say, ‘Oh my God, me neither!”‘ Alasdair Beckett-King
“A friend tricked me into going to Wimbledon by telling me it was a men’s singles event” Angela Barnes
“As a vegan, I think people who sell meat are disgusting; but apparently people who sell fruit and veg are grocer” Adele Cliff
“For me dying is a lot like going camping. I don’t want to do it” Phil Wang
“Why is it old people say ‘there’s no place like home’, yet when you put them in one …” Stuart Mitchell
I often confuse Americans and Canadians. By using long words.” Gary Delaney
“Why is Henry’s wife covered in tooth marks? Because he’s Tudor.” Adele Cliff
“Don’t you hate it when people assume you’re rich because you sound posh and went to private school and have loads of money?” Annie McGrath
“If you’re being chased by a pack of taxidermists, do not play dead.” Olaf Falafel
“I’ve written a joke about a fat badger, but I couldn’t fit it into my set.” Masai Graham ****( see end of post)
And my favorite:
“Trump’s nothing like Hitler. There’s no way he could write a book” Frankie Boyle
And that’s the blog for this week. But before I go, I want to alert you to a situation that Top Cat and I have been tracking for most of this Summer.
Lickety in 2018
Our dear sweet Lickety was diagnosed with a mass on his liver about 8 weeks ago.
Lickety in Summer of 2019
He is still a very loving and personable kitty, hanging out with his buds on the patio and glomming onto us any time we sit on the Adirondack chairs, but his days are dwindling as surely as the Summer light.
I have a feeling that we will be making that final visit to the vet’s soon, maybe as soon as this coming week.
So have a wonderful weekend, Dear Readers, and do something extra special while it’s still August, while the sunshine is still like powdered gold and the Summer still trembles like a butterfly.
***** Dear Reader and Stromness Rock Tour Guide Angel: I’m so sorry! I know you’re not a badger — you’re a wolverine!! I got Michigan and Wisconsin mixed up like I’m from the UP or something, and I send you my deepest apologies. Statehood for Superior!
Some time ago, this small (palm-sized) little book came in as part of a donation to theused-book store that I manage for charity here on the north shore of Long Island:
Harper’s Family Library No, 29: The Court and Camp of Bonaparte, printed in 1833.
I didn’t think much this boo. I saw that it was very old and very shabby, so I put it with my secret stash of “Creepy Books”, the collection old books, in fair to poor condition, that I am storing up for use in a “Haunted Bookshop” installation I want to do for Halloween this year, using my neighbor’s book, The Haunted Bookshop as inspiration (Christopher Morley, 1890 – 1957, used to be a very famous American writer whose old h ouse was a little up the road from where I now live, and there’s a huge public park named for him about half a mile away and one of his books was The Haunted Bookshop, a dreadful book in spite of its awesome title).
So I was going those Creepy Books again this past week and I picked up Harper’s Family Library No, 29: The Court and Camp of Bonaparte, printed in 1833, and I just happened to open it to check out the free end papers and I found this:
What the hell, I thought, I might as well google this name.
It turns out that James B. Fry is this guy:
Photo credit: Matthew Brady, c. 1864. Public domaine, the Library of Congress.
Here’s who this guy is:
James Barnet Fry
Feb. 22, 1827 – July 11, 1894 (67 years)
James Barnet Fry was a West Point graduate and artillery specialist who served briefly in the Mexican-American War (1846 – 1848).
Fry came into repeated contact with President Abraham Lincoln from the beginning of the Civil War, when he came to Washington DC in the winter of 1861 to protect the government during President Lincoln’s inauguration.
Fry’s conduct impressed the White House staff. Presidential aid John Hay wrote in his diary: “Fry is the firmest and soundest man I meet…He seems to combine great honesty of purpose with accurate and industrious business habits and a lively and patriotic soldier spirit that is better than any thing else, today.”
Fry served as General Irvin McDowell’s Chief of Staff during the First Battle of Bull Run (July 1861) and was the Chief of Staff of the Army of the Cumberland in its operations in the Western Theatre (which included the Battle of Shiloh in 1862). He was then appointed Provost Marshal General of the entire Union Army, in which capacity he served until the end of the Civil War.
Effective on March 15, 1865, Fry was brevetted to the ranks of colonel, brigadier general, and major general in the Regular Army in recognition of his service at the First Battle of Bull Run and the Battle of Shiloh, and for “faithful, meritorious and distinguished service as Provost Marshal General during the war.”
After the Civil War, Fry continued his military career until 1881, when he turned his talents to writing books about the army, including New York and the Conscription of 1863.
So what I have is a book that James B. Fry obviously bought second-hand some time after March of 1865 for his own private library and held in his own hands. I wish he had signed the damn book because his signature is going for $296.00 on eBay. (Above: It looks to me as though this was torn out of one of General Fry’s other books, right?)
So I’ve got that short bio of General Fry (above) and I got a beautiful, sharp print of the Matthew Brady photo from the Library of Congress, and along with the book I’ll sell the whole package as a ready-made holiday gift for the Civil War buff in your life, here in our little used-book store here on the north shore of Long Island. I think $30.00 is the right price.
My co-manager of the used book store that I manage for the benefit of our local library here on the north shore of Long Island thought I was a genius for discovering this little treasure. But she’s got me all wrong.
The only reason I found this provenance in this old, battered book was because I was considering cutting it up for my “art”. Oh, yes; I would gladly have cut up this 186-year old tome with nary a dust mote of guilt because, to be honest, I am getting to be a person who sincerely loathes books.
It would be different, maybe, if I were selling antiquarian books for personal fun and profit, but I’m working as a volunteer for a charity used-book store and dealing with random people’s filthy and cheap cast-offs FOR FREE. I want to kick myself.
It’s another story when callers say, “I have some nice books to donate because we are moving/downsizing/de-cluttering.” In this case, there’s a 50% chance that only 80% of their books will be trash.
But more and more I’m getting callers who say, “I have books I want to donate because it’s so hard to throw out books.”
When I hear those last seven words I already know that they are going to be handing me trash, pure junk, and are using me as their garbage valet. And I resent it, and their books.
I was working in the book store for two hours this week, and I took in two donations. This is what I threw out:
This is about 80% of what was bequested to us. It’s TRASH. I load these boxes and bags into the trunk of my car, and then I drive home and let the trash sit in the trunk of my car overnight. Then I drive Top Cat to the train station the next morning so he can catch the 6:49 to Manhattan and then I drive to the library when the library is closed and the parking lot is empty and I can back up the car to the library’s secret trash bin. And then I unload this crap myself and hoist over the edge of a five-foot tall dumpster. It is not fun.
And then I drive to the gym and work out so, yeah, I guess unloading trash can be as aerobic as pedaling a stationery bicycle but I still don’t like it.
Here is a close up of the kind of books that I throw out:
I want to punch the person who donated these books, AS IF they would be appropriate for sale in a nice little book shop on the north shore of Long Island.
Ugh: This is a tiny book(below) (that’s my s6 iPhone for scale). No way, nope. I don’t want any book in my store that contains the words “in utero”:
I found the laminated photo of a little girl inside a paperback biography of Teddy Roosevelt (the book passed muster and is now in stock at the store), and the train ticket from Livorno to Florence from March, 2009, I found inside a paperback novel, on page 25. Someone didn’t like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time very much. I feel you, Italian train traveller. I didn’t like that book at all.
We already have 2 copies of The Curious Incident, so I threw out the one that had the train ticket in it.
To elaborate a bit on last week’s blog post, about me being bored, I now must confess that when I wrote last week’s blog I was on Day 14 of a diet. You see, a couple of months ago I had my yearly physical and I learned that I had gained 4 pounds since last year’s physical, on top of the 4 pounds I had gained the year before. It doesn’t take a genius to spot a worrying trend there.
So I put myself on a 1200 calorie / 45 grams of protein a day diet. I also joined a new gym and I work out an hour every morning on exercise routines devised by my personal trainer, so, La Di Da for me.
It’s easy to start a diet. It’s exciting to be on the road to good health! It’s empowering to know you have finally got off your ass and are DOING something!
By Day 14 you have lost the will to live. No nice thick slice of ciabatta toast in the morning (whole wheat bread instead…boring), no fabulous homemade gourmet pizza on Friday (chick pea pasta with marina sauce instead…boring). And forget about greek yogurt — there is no way I am eating greek yogurt. Salmon, in any way shape or form: Nope. Six almonds as an afternoon “snack”? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Whoa –No cheese enchiladas??
I’m a girl who keeps a photo of my favorite cheese enchiladas on my computer’s desktop because I AM IN FREAKING LOVE WITH CHEESE ENCHILADAS:
Lunchtime enchilada special at Little Mexico in Westbury, Long Island.
And the most absolute, horrfying, life-sucking WORST OF ALL : I have to cut my wine consumption by half.
I don’t know if you’ve recently experienced a day in Trump’s America while totally sober, but it is torture.
So my friend sent me this (NSFW):
I mourn my lost wine-drinking days because I have recently discovered a fantastic pinot grigio that is only $6.99 a bottle so, as any reasonable person would do, I recently went to Total Wine and bought three cases of the stuff. I was in line at the check out desk, behind a stall, stocky, mid-30s, blue-collar looking guy who is buying a dozen bottles of an Australian red wine called 19 Crimes.
19 Crimes, the story behind the label: On August 20, 1865 one James Wilson, an Irish nationalist who enlisted in the British Army to avoid arrest for the battery of a police officer, was court martialed for desertion and mutinous conduct and sentenced to death, a sentence later commuted to life imprisonment with hard labor. On October 12, 1867 he was placed aboard the Hougoumont, the last convict ship to sail to Australia. The wine, a blend that is brooding with richness, is like the wine rations served on convict ships in that every sip deserves to be savored.
So, yeah, I’m in line behind a big bruiser who is buying 19 Crimes wine and I’m loading my many bottles of cheap white wine onto the conveyor belt, and the bruiser ahead of me accidentally lets go of his trolly and it ever so lightly rolls backwards, into me.
“Oh!”, the guy says, “I’m so sorry, darlin’!”
I did not expect that.
Then he notices my inventory of white wine and he says, “Wow, somebody’s going to have a great night tonight!”
I follow his gaze to the evidence of my immodest lust for wine and I say, “Winter’s coming.”
Which was true. Who doesn’t stock up on wine when it’s August and you start degrading the cold, dark mornings and the cold, dark nights of November? But I had not meant to quote Game of Thrones. It slipped out.
So the guy laughed really hard and wished me a Good Winter when he rolled out of the store, and now I wish everyone would call me “darlin'” instead of “ma’am”.
As of today, Day 20 of my diet, I have lost 3 1/2 pounds, so I’m not as bored as I was last week. And if I budget my calories just right, there is enough left over for a glass or two of wine now and then, and on one of those happy evenings recently, Top Cat and I went for cocktails at an open-air restaurant that has a fantastic view of The Long Island Sound.
At sunset there was a lot of thunder and lightening in the air, and we watched a huge storm roll across the waters of the Sound and engulf Manhattan on the far shore:
Behind the storm came this:
It was so exhilarating to be out in all that weather, watching this blessed Earth do her thing, and when the rain came pouring down on us it was warm and exciting, and life should always be like this. Because life on earth can be so wonderful. But it’s a lot better with wine.
Other news: The Stromness Rock is setting out on its ramble around America this weekend, and all you lovely volunteer tour guides will be receiving an information package later this week.
Candy has begun her annual walkabout, which happens every August when she deserts her favorite napping spots in the house and lives outside for one or two or three months. We don’t know why she does it. But she does come back noticeably thinner, so maybe there’s the answer.
Candy, Day One of Walkabout. The raccoons dug up the paving bricks in the background, looking for cat food kibble that spilled out of their bowl that is usually on that top step. I think that’s cute.