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?

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones.

Truth will out, and impeachments will happen.

All in good time, Dear Readers, all in good time.

XXOO

 

 

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This is what Burn Out looks like:

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.

Sigh.

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.

Lickety —

— 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.

XXOO

 

 

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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?

Not moi.

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.

If you want to see more of her art, click here.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

See you next week.

XXOO

 

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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.

Any suggestions?

 

 

All memes stolen from Yellow Dog Grannie. Thanks, Jackie Sue.

Have a great holiday weekend, Dear Readers. All you Floridians — have a fantastic hurricane party! To the rest of us, Remember: it’s not over ’til it’s over.

P.S. To Rachel in Texas — are you still interested in hosting the Stromness Rock? Check your email’s spam file; there might be a message from me in there.

XXOO

 

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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!

 

 

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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”:

Also, No:

Other stuff:

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.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers.

See you here next week.

XXOO

 

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No. 1 way to not be bored:

K I T T E N S.

 

I tried to get 9-week old Penelope to pose next to my favorite book of 2019 and this is how it went:

Sometimes when you are a kitten and you’ve been horsing around on the dinner bowl holder, you suddenly get the urge to catch 40 winks:

Then, when you’re all rested, it’s time to cavort with the sibs:

Pork Chop, the only boy kitten, is never, ever bored:

 

No. 2 way to not be bored:

A traditional backyard Maryland Crab Feast.

Even if you don’t like to eat crabs whole — whole crabs look too “animally” whereas a crab cake looks less like it should be scuttling across the floors of silent seas and more like something that goes well with a nice chardonnay — a traditional backyard Maryland Crab Feast with a bunch of Marylanders who always have plenty of white wine on hand is a swell way to keep boredom at bay.

P.S. I tried this last weekend and I was not bored for several days straight because, in addition to executing the No. 2 way to not be bored, I made a swift pivot to the No. 3 way to not be bored.

Which is:

Visit Mr. Fluffy.

From Maryland I moseyed next-door to Washington, D.C., which is where a certain rescue cat namely Mr. Fluffy (rescued from the mean streets of Long Island in 2017) now resides with his forever family.

In 2017 Mr. Fluffy was sick, scrawny, filthy, smelly, and bedraggled.

In 2019 he isn’t, in a big way.

This (above) is not Mr. Fluffy being bored. This is Mr. Fluffy being blasé. There’s a difference. Except if you are a cat, and then it’s just another word for “being a cat”.

Mr. Fluffy lives with world travelers who do such interesting stuff as write intellectual property policy papers on behalf of the lesser-known African countries and work within the system to alert Democratic senators to keep any more Trump judges off the bench, who also keep plenty of wine handy, so you never risk being bored any time you visit Mr. Fluffy.

 

No. 4 way to not be bored:

Read a book.

Good lord no, not that book.

The Story of Cutlery is a book that I thought would be with us to the end of days in the used-book store that I manage for the benefit of the local library but Lo, last week someone came in and bought it. I didn’t feel good about that. The Story of Cutlery is a book that un-ironically tests the outer limits of the publishing industry and challenges the book-lover’s belief that books are culturally relevant to a wide swath of readers, and having this book in stock is what made me feel that being the manager of a used-book store wasn’t a total waste of time, and was, rather, a whimsical and erudite part of my personality. But now it’s gone and I am bored.

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of people carry on about Toni Morrison (1931 – 2019) so I suppose I should read one of her books.  I understand that she’s a great writer and was, in person, supremely dignified and kind. So I will probably not be bored by The Bluest Eye or Beloved, I suppose, but I’m not looking forward to reading either because I fear it will be good for me.

However, it would make a nice change from the usual books with what I keep company.

This (above) came in last Tuesday. Nobody buys this book any more — the only interesting thing about it was the inscription, which I always check for before I throw any book away:

Is that it? Is that all the Scholarship Fund gave out? Or did they hide a check under the Albert Camus entry? [From The Fall: “The truth is that everyone’s bored. Hurrah then for funerals!”]

This is another inscription that also came in:

And this is the book that Abby’s admirer got her for the 22nd of December 1998 :

Abby might have been a wonderful human being but her friend thought she had a crap vocabulary or was just a tiny bit stupid, and wanted to help, is my guess.

Of course the person who donated this (below) was sure that there was a long line of people who were eager to get their hands on an old year book from a small liberal arts college in Yonkers with a C+ rated “party scene” whose 2019 graduates earned an average starting salary of $28,9000:

Sarah Lawrence has an acceptance rate of 53%:

Harvard has an acceptance rate of 5.3%. That decimal place is why parents bribe their kids’ way into Harvard, and not so much Sarah Lawrence.

And now I’ve run out of ways to not be bored and I am bored.

Oh, lordy, it is terrible being bored. At my age, being bored shows a sad lack of gumption. After all, I have many years experience of living on this planet and I’ve worked out a few ways to not be bored (see above) but on days when I’m not herding kittens, or in Maryland, or discussing how to abolish the electoral college with a nice pinot grigio on the side, I am bored. BORED.

A few years ago I took a test that was popular on line at the time, a test that answered the age-old question If You Were a Dog, What Kind of Dog Would You Be?

Turns out, I am a chow chow.

Standoffish, not good with small children, bossy, below-average “listener”, judgmental, quiet, and a teeny bit vindictive.

That’s the dog.

Except for the vindictive part. That’s all me. But I digress.

So, I asked the internet, How Can I Not Bore a Chow Chow?, my thinking being that the answer might be useful in overcoming my own bored chow chow soul.

Here’s what chow chows like to do: They like to hunt, they like to herd, and they like running through tunnels.

So I’m heading out to the Lincoln Tunnel for a little jog, and if I bag some small game along the way, well then, I’ll be in a great mood to blog all about it next week.

Until then, have a great weekend, Dear Readers.

And as always, Dear Ones, let’s Keep Hope Alive.

 

Until that blessed day:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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These are my next door neighbors (left to right) Penelope, Antoinette, and Pork Chop. I am riding herd on them while their parents are at the beach. I am finding it difficult to tear myself away from their cuteness.

Also, I’m in a very bad mood. I am not voting for anyone who was on stage on the second night of the Democratic Circular Firing Squad (except for Joe, who I hope doesn’t run) because if criticizing Barak Obama and Bill Clinton is the only way a candidate can think of “standing out” then here’s my big F.U.

So I’m taking a kitten break today, Dear Readers. Let’s meet up on Tuesday, when I have something more positive to say.

I’ll also have more kitten pictures!

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In November 2016, Donald J. Trump was elected president because it’s the 21st century and Congress has STILL not gotten rid of the  Electoral College and while we’re at it, we should get rid of fucking Iowa too.

In November of 2016 I knew these were going to be dire times, Dear Readers, dire. Miserable. Calamitous. Wretched. Depressing. Sickening. Etc.

I knew I was going to need something other than/in addition to copious amounts of alcohol to not let Trump and his sniveling lying cheating stupid evil family and friends get to me during the next horrible four years. So,  in January 2017, I made a New Year’s Resolution that I would keep a Gratitude Jar, which is totally against my personality but, desperate times, desperate measures.

For those of youth might not know what a Gratitude Jar is: A Gratitude Jar provides a simple way to cultivate the habit of being mindful of the good things in your life. Each day, you write a note about one thing for which you’re grateful, and you put it into the jar where they collect as a reminder of the good things in your world.

Vivian’s Gratitude Jar (Mr. Bibs included for scale. My jar is as big as a cat!)

As I type this on Thursday July 25, Trump has been in office for 915 days, the same number of days that I’ve been keeping a Gratitude Jar.

My Gratitude Jar has 2 notes in it.

And now, having listened to the Mueller testimony to the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees yesterday, 2 notes in 915 days of Trump seem like a lot. I know we say this all the time but, just when you think things can’t get any worse, THEY DO.

And now I hate Bob Mueller in addition to everything else I hate about America right now.

The best thing I can say about the Mueller hearings was that the Democrats seemed to be very organized. They couldn’t ask Mueller questions (since Mueller wasn’t saying diddly squat), so they read into the record of the proceedings all the damning findings of the Mueller Report (since Mueller wasn’t saying diddly squat). Made me think of a problem I am having at the used book store (that I manage to benefit the local library). I keep asking the wrong questions and, as we discussed last week, everything depends on asking the right question.

People call me up and say, “I have books that I want to donate.”

I act like this is the best thing that’s happened to me since February 4, 2017 when I heard If You Could Read My Mind by Gordon Lightfoot on the radio, a song that I had not heard in 9 years (thank you, Gratitude Jar).

And then I ask, “What kind of books do you have?”

You would think that this is not a tough question to ask of someone who collects books. But in my experience, people seem to be surprised by this question.

Here are some of the answers I have received to this question, “What kind of books do you have?”:

All kinds of books.

I have hard books and soft books.

Nice books.

The usual kinds of books.

Books from my house.

And my favorite; Books for reading.

I got a call this morning, and the woman says, “I have books that I want to donate.”

I ask, “What kind of books do you have?”

And she says, Two big garbage bags of books.

I was not in the mood. So I tell her exactly what is on my mind. I say, “Well, I’ve been doing this a long time and I know from experience that when a person puts books in garbage bags it’s because they aren’t very good books.  [Tip: People who really love their books take the time to pack them in boxes.]

And she says, in an insulted tone, My books are really good books. There’s some text books, there’s a thesaurus, I have baby books, and some paperback fiction!

So I tell her that we don’t accept text books, reference books, child raising books, and the fiction has to be in excellent condition. No sound coming from the other end.

“I think you can just throw those books out, guilt-free,” I say.

She responds: Thank you for your time but I’m sure I’ll find a library in the city that will accept them, and she hangs up on me.

Hint: Libraries don’t want your raggedy-ass text books either.

But I have to find a better way of asking people to tell me about their books. Anybody got any advice?

We got a donation at the used book store (that I manage to benefit the local library), an item that was so depressing that I didn’t want to show it to you Dear Readers but, since we’re all depressed anyway (Mueller testimony), I think it’s the right time to bring it out:

This is a small pamphlet published by the New York State Civil Defense Commission in the early 1050s.

Caption: Ball of fire one second after burst.

These survival tips are so ludicrous . . .

. . . could anyone have believed that any of this stuff would actually work?

The guy on the left, the one with his head under his briefcase, makes me laugh every time:

Right: When your city has been hit by an atomic bomb, you want to put on a nice clean frock and tie an apron around your waist and find a cushion to kneel on before you scrub the radioactive particles off your kid.

A while ago we got in a slew of mid-century books:

They were interesting to me because of the author photos, from a time when authors were important people and their likenesses took up the entire back cover of their books:

Note the similarity of the far-Away expressions. The pipe is a nice touch, n’est-ce pas?

Hortense Calisher got an obit in the New York Times:

She wrote a lot of novels about women’s lives, none of which I care to read.

When this book came in, it proved to me that some people are using our used book store as a handy book-removal service:

Is there anything about this book that does not scream TRASHCAN????

If you are in the market for a 30-year old almanac I’m sorry, this one is already in the dumpster:

This too:

THIS one, however, is going into my personal library, for obvious reasons:

I wish I could read that dog’s mind.

This is another book that I want to own, but I don’t want to read:

Human Destiny, by Leconte du Nouy, no dust cover.

I found a treasure tucked inside this book, Human Destiny:

Cute vintage card from 1950, called And So To Bed by the well-known illustrator and fairy artist, Molly Brett. This post card is very collectible these days, going for about $10.00 on eBay, but it’s the message on the back of it that makes it priceless:

It looks like sweet Douglas never sent this to Mr. Noel, whose last name I’ve had to erase because a quick Google turns up info about Mr. Noel  being a big deal at the United Nations directly after the war (WWII) for many years, and with the French government, whose 1996 New York Times obit says he had no wife or children who survived him. Gee. I hope Douglas and Mr. Noel got a lot of face time, so that sending the post card was not necessary. That long dash ———— is worth a thousand words.

My next book also has a French connection:

First Edition, The Last Time I Saw Paris, by Elliot Paul, no dust jacket.

Sample of Paul Elliot’s writing: “The rue de la Huchette, in time and place, had a beginning, a middle, and an ending.” I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.

This book is too damn boring to read, but too cute to throw out. What a dilemma. Like that’s what I need more of in my life these days, dilemmas.

 

Speaking of Nazi-esque immigrants from Eastern Europe who married Trump for a green card, remember how Melanoma Trump’s hometown in  Slovenia honored the First lady with a statue of her?

Turns out, the sculptor of this homage is a time traveler, and he made this likeness of Melanoma to show us what she will look like in the future! No joke!

Because look what was in St. Tropez last month — the first Mrs. Trump, with the face that she deserves:

Ivanka, are you paying attention? This is what you get for being a Nazi.

Am I petty just because ugly Trumps make me happy?

Me and a friend were drinking the other day and we decided that it was time for a revolution in America. They did it in Puerto Rico! Why can’t we do it here?!

Trouble is, neither of us know how to start revolution, but, since our combined age is 148 years old, we’re pretty sure we can figure it out by the weekend.

And when we do, I’ll let you know.

Have great weekend, Dear Readers. Remember, a good scrubbing after the news cycle will remove all those nasty Trump cooties. I can recommend a pinot grigio exfoliant.

XXOO

 

 

 

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Last Sunday was Bastille Day in New York City.

The Alliance Francais closed 60th Street from Lexington Avenue to Fifth Avenue and the rue was packed with food stalls and clothing booths and mimes and tourist info stalls, and New Yorkers.

Business was brisk at the marinière stall:

The marinière was adopted by the French Navy in 1858 as part of its uniform for sailors. The stripes on the shirt were supposed to make it easier to spot men that had gone overboard. The shirt is also known as a Breton shirt because, in the 19th century, a lot of sailors came from Brittany.

Speaking of Brittany, there was a crepe stall:

That’s the flag of Brittany in the background.

I liked the Asian girl in the patisserie stall who had two little French flags waving from her chignon:

It was stinking hot and crowded like crazy so Top Cat and I strolled through the block party once, bought a bottle of organic salad olive oil from a town near Carcassonne, and headed back home.

We took the Stromness Rock with us:

In Penn Station (Long Island Rail Road, etc.).

 

On the E train (subway).

 

Lexington Avenue at 53rd Street (Citicorp).

That is Top Cat’s hand in every frame, holding the Stromness Rock while I snap the photo.

So, yes, Top Cat and I are still together and still hanging out with each other, doing fun stuff, just like the olden days. The Battle of Scotland is behind us because we work at our marriage, or whatever. As a couple, we concentrate on not hating each other for too long a time.

I have always wanted to punch someone in the mouth whenever it has been said to me (back in the really olden days, when we were all young and newly-partnered and hashing out the “happily ever after part” of our lives) that “Marriage takes work.” 

What a stupid thing to say. Does that statement have any information in it? Tell me, what is the work you’re supposed to do in a marriage? Is it so very different from any other kind of work that you have to do to be a kind, thoughtful, caring person in the world? Is marriage work more magical?  If so, what the fuck is it???

Also, I hate work.

So when someone was stupid enough to give me that line about marriage takes work,  this is what I used to do instead of socking that someone right in the kisser: I used to stop the conversation and say, “Say that again, only this time don’t use the word work. Tell me, Marriage takes ________ (fill in the blank).” In other words, use a different word to tell me what it takes to keep two people in an intimate, close, time-consuming relationship from killing each other.

I can not remember a single time that someone was able to fill in the blank.

Worthandwisdom.com, Go fuck yourself.

Getting back to the topic at hand, you all know that I’ve been reporting on a harrowing ten days that Top Cat and I endured in each other’s company in Scotland. As you know, it was awful. Top Cat and I loathed each other for hours and days and days at a time.

A lot of you, Dear Readers, have emailed me with your gratitude for what I have written about our conflict because my story made some of you feel better, feel relief, feel consoled, and/or feel less guilty about the times that your own Significant Other, love of your life, Dearly Beloved has driven you desperately bat-shit crazy.

First of all, You’re Welcome.

Second, I can report about the fits and tiffs and sulks and murderous impulses that I experienced while I was in Scotland with Top Cat because I speak about it all from a safe place. My connection with Top Cat — the legal, emotional, and historical connection that we have — is solid. Even when it gets rocky, it is solid. I know that, and he knows that. (Well, I mostly know that. Nothing is 100% knowable, right?)

And I’m going to tell you the way that Top Cat and I repaired the huge break in our relationship was not work. It was this:

After Top Cat and I had had several attempts at having a good talk about what went wrong in Scotland, we found that we kept talking in circles. I would ask him, Why did you make us miss the bus in Edinburgh? (That incident on the streets of Edinburgh is what started everything that went downhill.)

And he would answer: I didn’t think we had to hurry; I would never thought that the driver would take off without us; I wasn’t trying to make us miss the bus, etc. And then he would say, Why do you keep asking me this??? Why do we have to talk about this again???

One night, me and half a bottle of pinot grigio were sitting out on the patio feeling aggrieved, as usual, at the end of one of these circular conversations, and I had a Hallejula moment. What I realized was that every time I asked Top Cat, Why did you make us miss the bus in Edinburgh? I had been asking the wrong question. And as long as I kept asking the wrong question, all of Top Cat’s answers were going to be wrong also. No wonder we kept talking in circles.

And I suddenly understood what the right question was.

The right question was simple, but it wasn’t going to be easy to ask. Asking the right question was going to make me vulnerable, and feeling vulnerable is as horrifying to me as throwing up on myself in public.

But I knew that I was not going to repair this break in our relationship unless I asked the right question no matter how much I’d rather be tough and not so ruffled-kitchen-curtain-girly. So I gathered my courage and drank the rest of my wine. The next day, I sat down with Top Cat and I explained that I wanted to talk about Scotland again, but this time I wanted to ask him something I’ve never asked him before. He said, OK, let’s hear it.

And I asked: Why don’t you love me enough to walk fast with me so I don’t have to worry about catching the bus in Edinburgh? Follow up question: Why don’t you love me enough to do what you can to ease my ocassional anxiety especially when what you have to do is such a small thing and I need it so rarely?

Top Cat sat back in his chair and thought for half a second (a long time) and he said, “That is a very valid question.”

And that was the exact right answer. NOW we can talk.

And we did, and it was wonderful, and that’s why I love my Top Cat.

All it took was thinking about what my true and deep feelings were, and being brave enough to ask the right question that was based on those true and deep feelings. That’s not work; that’s just awareness. Oh, and sitting out on your patio with half a bottle of pinot grigio, and that is certainly not work.

So let’s now talk about The Stromness Rock.

THANK YOU all you marvelous Dear Readers!

Rachel, Christine, Carol, Amy, Marilyn, Susie, Jeanie, Thea, Alex, Maryanne, Leslie, and Angel!

I have an itinerary for The Rock, and it’s going to go around America clockwise, starting in Virginia. Then: South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Washington (state), Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.

I will be contacting you this coming week for your addresses (you’re all on the ChrisHanuKwanSolstice list!), and I’ll pack The Rock and its passport and instructions for posting pix, and we’ll get this tour started. I hope to have it back here on Long Island in time for Fall foliage before I send it back to Orkney, where it will have oh, so many stories to tell.

This weekend, for example, The Stromness Rock will be experiencing a hot spell here on The Isle of Long that they will not believe up there, in the isles of The North Sea. The USA National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for noon though 10 p.m. Saturday, when temperatures will hit 96 degrees and which our very high humidity will give us a heat index of 105 degrees. *cough climate change*

Same on Sunday. *cough catastrophic climate change*

I’ll be making sure that the herd stays cool . . .

. . . by making them stay inside in the basement, where it’s always wine-cellar-cool. Seriously. Top Cat has his wine cellar down there, and this weekend we’ll turn it into our Cat Cellar.

Ha ha.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. What a weekend this will be! July 20: Let’s remember where we all were when we watched Neil Armstrong take one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind, when it was the first time humans had seen our beautiful, fragile, life-giving, wrecked, doomed, home planet like this:

1969 Earthrise over the moon’s surface. Photo credit: USgov.

I love you, Earth. It was nice knowing you.

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