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For over three months we’ve had these nine novels by J. Fenimore Cooper (American novelist, 1781 – 1851) in the  used book store that I co-manage for the local library here on the north shore of Long Island. Nobody ever looked at them because they are by J. Fenimore Cooper (who is neither an especially beloved nor notorious author). I thought we’d be stuck with them forever.

Then I went to Wigtown (Scotland’s national Book Town; see last week’s blog post) and I saw that one of the booksellers there had tied up a stack of red books (matching bindings) with a bit of twine and it looked very handsome. So, naturally, as soon as I got home I stacked our nine novels by J. Fenimore Cooper and tied them up with a purple ribbon (I didn’t have access to twine):

Within an hour, they had sold. $10.00.

I also stole other equally excellent merchandising ideas from Wigtown, and I will show them to you at a later date.

Because this week I have so much to tell you about our worst trip to Scotland that I want to dive right in.

As we packed for our Saturday departure, we checked the weather forecast for Scotland. It was going to be cold and rainy so at the last minute, I shoved a pair of black corduroy pants into the suitcase.

Turned out that I wore those damn corduroy pants every day that I was in Scotland. So, YAY for last minute inspirations.

An hour before our Uber was to pick us up to go to JFK Airport, I found the first Blue Jay feather of the year so I yelled to Top Cat: It’s an omen!! Everything is going to go right on this trip!!

And the universe laughed.

Well, we got to JFK two hours early and immediately checked in yada yada yada, and then we headed to the latest fab attraction in New York City. We had to hang out at the newly refurbished TWA Terminal!!

This rehab of a gorgeous mid-century modern building at JFK has been in the news so here’s the press release::

After years of back-and-forth about construction, permissions and rights, the long-awaited TWA Hotel opens its doors  at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Trans World Airlines (better known as TWA) commissioned groundbreaking Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen to design its JFK terminal in 1962. Following the airline’s closure in 2001, many questions remained about what would happen to the swooping white building.
Now, it has a new and exciting second life as JFK’s only on-site airport hotel, with 512 rooms and some 50,000 feet of meeting and event space.

You get access to the TWA building by an elevator at the Jet Blue concourse in Terminal 4.

Heart. Be. Still. Everything about the place and the excellent re-hab evokes the glory days of air travel, and the mid-century optimism that the future was going to be awesome.

I remember this place from my last visit, in the early 1990s, and it was a bit run down back then but still beautiful. The re-hab makes the place sparkling and exciting.

The cocktail lounge inside the terminal is very cool. You know, of course, that the building is in the shape of a soaring bird of prey, and all the inside lines swoop and glide.

It’s a thrill.

And then you get to go outside to the Lockheed Constellation (in service from 1943 – 1958) . . .

. . . that has been converted into a bar that serves retro cocktails!

See the guy on the left,  (below)?

He reminds me of an observation that David Seders made about American air travelers. David lives in England these days, so when he does a book tour in the land of his birth, he is struck anew by the way Americans comport themselves when it comes to air travel:

“I should be used to the way Americans dress when traveling, yet it still manages to amaze me. It’s as if the person next to you had been washing shoe polish off a pig, then suddenly threw down his sponge saying, “Fuck this. I’m going to Los Angeles!”

The bar, and the TWA Hotel, had been open for 10 days when we stopped by, and were still having opening-day jitters. Meaning that the service was slow and uncertain; I mean the servers were uncertain and slow. It seemed to me that most of the servers had never worked in a bar before, or been to a bar before, and had not come to grips with the concept of taking an order, putting the requisite liquids in a glass, and lastly handing over said liquid refreshment to the person who had ordered it, and not some random person who might look thirsty. Despite all their rushing to and fro, the servers took a long time to get a drink (the one you ordered) and longer to find the person who had requested the drink, and nobody was picking up the used glasses and tid bit plates and napkins throughout the cabin.

Also, I thought the cocktail dress uniforms were ugly . . .

. . . but now I know that they are based upon a vintage flight attendant uniform from the 1970s:

I know an ex-TWA stewardess who flew with the airline in the late 60s and early 70s, and she still goes to reunions with other stews. Once a TWA stew, always a TWA stew.

There is such a vibrant community of former stewardesses that when the TWA Hotel put out a call for vintage uniforms, they got so many women eager to be part of the rebirth of TWA that the hotel had enough material to mount a museum of stewardess fashions and other memorabilia from the 1940s to the 1990s. (Curated by the New-York Historical Society. Serious and fancy!)

Stewardesses were never allowed to gain weight. If you got lax and put on a few pounds, you were grounded until you could fit back into the teeny little uniforms. When these adorable ladies came through the cabin, I sussed that the average stew back then was a size 2:

That’s Top Cat’s $16.00 martini (above). I had a $15 glass of white wine.

Here’s more info about the Balmain uniform seen above:

There is a lot of love for the TWA brand, and a lot of nostalgia for those Jet Set days when air travel was glamorous. If you have the chance to go for a drink or a walk around the TWA Hotel, GO.

I loved our hour in “the Connie”, which put me in a fine mood for jetting off to my favorite foreign land.

And then we boarded our Aer Lingus aircraft.

I am 5’6″ and a size 4, so I usually fit very comfortably  in tourist-class seats. This Aer Lingus tin can had thin, flimsy seats set so close together that I was playing nik nak paddy whack with my shins on the back of the guy in front of me. For 6 hours.

I usually like airline food (It’s so cute! A miniature TV dinner!) but the only non-meat option on the menu was “macaroni and cheese”, which the Irish interpret as a slab of semi-melted dairy product adjacent to a very large noodle.

Hungry and bruised, we landed in Edinburgh and, once again, foreign travel was magical.

If you have my book Gardens of Awe and Folly, you know what this is.

A Paul Weller sighting! Another good omen! My husband in my other life (the one where I lit out for the UK in the 1980s and married a rock star) will be doing a show at Edinburgh Castle on July 11 so I wished him luck:

After walking for hours on a cloudy and chilly afternoon and there is nothing better than warming up at a pub:

Then night came, and we had a heavenly sleep, and then to City Cafe for Eggs Royale (softly poached eggs with smoked salmon in hollandaise space o a toasted muffin) that Top Cat said was the single best breakfast he’s had in his life.

I lingered at a vintage costume Scottish jewelry stand in the Tron Square to buy a brooch. Then it was much too late to be lingering around Edinburgh so Top Cat and I hurried to the hotel to fetch our bags and we began to trot to Waverly Station to catch a bus back to the airport so we could fly to Orkney.

“Trot” is the word I use to denote the average speed between Top Cat, who was (deliberately, it seemed to me) casually strolling down South Bridge Street to Cockburn Street to Market Street, and I (in full panic mode), running ahead of him, my heart and lungs bursting with fear of one mistake in timing over the purchase of a vintage brooch leading to another leading to a missed flight.

I arrive at Waverly Station and oh, joy! The airport bus is there, idling. I turn to find Top Cat, but I can’t see him yet. I get on the bus and pant, to the driver, “My husband is coming!”

The driver says, “Step off the bus, miss. We’re leaving.”

I am almost in tears. “Wait! Please, wait!” And I lean out of the bus and I see Top Cat in the distance.

“Hurry!” I call to him. “HURRY!”

Top Cat, to prove a point, does not break stride.

“HURRY!” I shout. Top Cat does not like to be shouted at, least of all in public. He does will not hurry.

“Step off, miss” the driver says to me; “I’m closing the doors.”

“Oh, please, my husband’s coming!” I plead, but I have to step off. Top Cat is within striking distance, but the driver shuts the door in my face just as T.C. ambles alongside me (proving a point), and the bus pulls out.

The next airport bus is in 20 minutes. These are 20 minutes that we can’t spare. These are 20 minutes that we could have been closing in on the LoganAir desk at Edinburgh airport, 20 minutes that could mean the difference between getting to the airport with a merely uncomfortable allowance of time to get through a rigorous security, and a (now, thanks to Top Cat) impossible one.

For the next 20 minutes, I can not stand the sight of Top Cat. We get on the next bus, and my heart is still pounding and I feel as if my brain is on fire. Were I the kind of girl who cries when vexed, I would be sobbing. Top Cat and I exchange words, tersely at first and then with mounting vehemence.

I won’t give you the back and forth; suffice to say that for the next 12 hours or so, Top Cat and I will have very different, and monstrously strong, and at times loud, ideas about who was being the shithead in taking his sweet old time to prove a point about when it is, and when it isn’t necessary to HURRY, while the other one was trying her best AND WOULD HAVE SUCCEEDED in getting us out of a tight spot. We also have extremely opposed opinions about how much we are entitled to sulk like a two year old if one of us thinks the other one is “yelling” at him.

Edinburgh airport security is no joke. It’s not that there’s a thousand people herded into a space that would be quite jolly as a tea for two parlor; it’s that the officers are as suspicious of everyone as if this was Tel Aviv and all our hand luggage is branded TerroristsRUs.

I inch my way though all the hurdles, but Top Cat has brought two bottles of Duty Free vodka in his carry on (don’t ask) and Security is sure it’s nitroglycerin. He’s searched again, and again. And then again.

I am having a heart attack: it’s 5 minutes until LoganAir flight 19 to Kirkwall, Orkney closes its doors. I yell at Top Cat that I will meet him at the gate and I tear through an absurdly lengthy shopping area to get to Gate 25. I will lay my body down in front of the jet if it tries to leave without Top Cat.

Naturally, it’s the last gate in the terminal. The one furthest away from ANYWHERE.

Yes, we eventually get on the plane. But at this point, neither of us has any desire to go to fucking Orkney. Or to speak to each other. Or to be married.

Jet lag, too many glasses of hooch the night before, anxiety about the itinerary. . . there are a lot of contributing factors to why people are more touchy than usual when in foreign lands.

And that is all for this week’s installment of Fight Club Goes to Scotland. Thank you for letting me use this space to process my vacation. As I write about it, even now, I feel my blood pressure rocket. I will do some deep breathing and try to stop my heart from pounding in my eyeball sockets.

I am sorry that this post is late, because the internet hates me. I have to call my blog host about this “Bad Gateway” situation again. We’ll probably have to chat about caches, and ADSLs, and codecs and jjlodaasl;dfj. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to do it sober.

I’m sorry if the TWA Hotel was boring — next time, I’ll stick to the travelog and all the scintillating ways your spouse can drive you crazy.

Here’s Taffy:

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I’m used to getting weird phone calls from people who want to donate books to the little used book store that I co-manage for our local library here on the north shore of Long Island. But still, when the phone rang last Tuesday evening I was surprised, because it was the first time in about five days that I’d had to answer it .

And it’s a guy, explaining that he and his wife are empty-nesters and down-sizing, so they loaded up her car with all their unwanted books — lots of good adult and children’s fiction, hundreds of books, the car is stuffed full — and she’s been driving around to libraries in the area all day but all those libraries have refused to take their donation, and that’s how he got my number from the people at the library that I sell used books for.

So me, being the helpful and saintly person that I am, I tell the guy: I’m sorry, but fiction does not re-sell, so GOOD NEWS! You can throw it all away without guilt!

But the guy on the phone does not want to hear the GOOD NEWS because he is operating under a common delusion known as the Endowment Effect (it’s a real thing. you can look it up) so he’s thinking that because these are his old books that the mere fact of his ownership makes his old books unlike anybody else’s old books and much much more valuable than other people’s old books. Phone Guy is shocked at my advise to throw his books in the trash and he can explain why his old books are a cut above your average old books that have already been rejected by every library in the land.

Well, Phone Guy says; Two of my children went to Harvard, so they were reading really high quality fiction.

He says: Can’t I drop them off with you anyway, and your people can sort through them and throw out what you don’t want?

In other words: Can’t I make this filthy load of useless old books that everyone else has rejected your problem now?

And what’s with this “your people” shit?

Oh, no, I say; I can’t ask my volunteers to do that kind of dirty work and I can’t do it myself because, actually, I’m in Scotland right now.

I can literally hear the sneer in Phone Guy’s voice as he says, Well dear me, I wouldn’t want to bother you in Scotland, and he hangs up on me.

Yes, Dear Readers, it’s the truth. I went to Scotland for ten days in late May/early June and if you read the headline to this week’s blog post, you already got the gist of it. . . Top Cat and I agree that it was the worst experience that we’ve ever had in our favorite foreign country, and is quite possibly, in general, the worst nine out of ten days we’ve ever had in life.

You’ll have to read all about it next week because I’m here, today, to tell you about the one out of ten days that did not chomp down on our last nerve like a ravenous vulture feeding on a rotting raccoon carcass and then puke it back up all over our hopes and dreams of a nice get-away from the cares and worries of every day der Dumpster’s America.

That’s right, Dear Readers. Top Cat and I drove on Scotland’s narrowest, foggiest, scariest, slowest piddly back roads all the way to the southwestern uplands of Scotland, a part of “the Borders” called Galloway. The area became a popular destination for young lovers after the Marriage Act was passed in 1754 in England, which outlawed marriages without parental consent if either party was under 21, but you were good if you could make it to Scotland because the marriage laws there were much more lenient. Galloway is just over the northern border from England and a cruel, horrible 95 miles south of Glasgow.

I was in Galloway because I wanted to see (as the sign says), Scotland’s National Book Town.

This is Wigtown, Scotland’s Book Town (population 982), on a good day:

We were not there on a good day:

We stayed at a BnB and our room was over the Shoots and Leaves Vegetarian cafe:

To get the lay of the land, Top Cat and I climbed the tower of the County Building:

The body of water in the distance is a slice of The Irish Sea:

From our overlook I noticed something interesting in one of the back gardens:

Bunny! Please note the fur on this pet rabbit. It will become almost unbearably too cute at a later point in this story:

I had come to Wigtown, Scotland’s Book Town, because of a book. This book:

Shaun Bythell (it’s pronounced exactly the way it’s spelled) owns and operates the largest used book store in Scotland. I came across his book a few months ago in one of the donations that came in to the used book store that I co-manage for the local library here on the north shore of Long Island. IT IS FABULOUS. Shaun Bythell is cranky, funny, smart, and open-minded about the oddities and peculiarities of people. He observes and records friends, rude customers, incompetent employees, villains (Amazon), and famous writers with the same deadpan amusement. Even if you do not co-manage a used book store, you will adore this reading experience. I guarantee it.

This (above) is the American hard cover version of his book, published by Melville House in Brooklyn in September 2018. It was originally published by Profile Books in Great Britain in 2017, when it became a huge best seller in the UK.

Since I got my copy of the book for free, I felt honor-bound to buy a copy from Shaun’s bookshop and this is the UK  paperback cover:

Look carefully at both covers. They have something crucial in common.

Shaun has a book store cat.

Shaun’s cat is named Captain and his comings and goings are one of the recurring sub-plots in the book and I had to meet this cat.

I stopped in at Shaun’s book shop — it’s called The Bookshop — and I asked about Captain and was told that he’d just been let out for his morning ramble. What a disappointment.

Anyway, I looked around The Bookshop, bought my copy of Diary of a Bookseller, and wandered next door to the children’s book shop, called Curly Tale Books, in search of the vintage illustrated children’s books that I like to cut up and make into castles and miniature golf courses. I rummaged for half an hour.

And then this happened:

Me, in love.

Without a doubt, these were the happiest moments of my Scotland vacation. Captain is huge, by the way, and very cool. He moseys around town and likes to drop in on other booksellers, as you can see, and make himself at home:

Captain, having surveyed his realm and deduced that all was well in Wigtown, departed Curly Tale Books and headed back to Shaun’s place:

There’s a reason for the bench in this picture (above) being painted this way. Although you might not have any idea how to find Galloway on a map of Scotland, I think you might be familiar with one of its most famous namesakes:

The Belted Galloway is a traditional Scottish breed of beef cattle. It derives from the Galloway cattle of the Galloway region of south-western Scotland, and was established as a separate breed in 1921. It is adapted to living on the poor upland pastures and windswept moorlands of the region.

Belted Galloways are primarily raised for their quality marveled beef, although they are often kept for ornament.

Thanks, Wikipedia.

Now, take a quick back track to that bunny rabbit I spied hopping around the back garden. I’ll wait here while you take in that rabbit’s fur.  And now we’ll both go SQUWEEEEEEEE!!!! HOW CUTE IS THAT!!!!

Back to our story: So Captain walks a few feet and then pauses, taking in his options:

These two West Highlanders were soon banished from the streets of southwestern Scotland and here is Captain, doing his mind-meld with whoever is on the other side of the door, to let him in:

Spoiler: It was me.

Now I can give you a quick tour of Shuan’s book shop. It has over a mile of shelving, where 100,000 books hope to one day find their forever homes.

Yes, it was as dark as it looks in these pix. I asked the young girl at the wrap desk about this and she told me that Shuan was away for the weekend and he had left her in charge and she didn’t know where the light switch was. Once you read Shaun’s book, you’ll understand that this is pretty much how The Bookshop usually works.

The wee sign says, The Littlest Antique Shop in the World. It’s in an old fireplace.

This is one of the reading areas and it quotes Terry Pratchett on the mantel: Build a man a fire, and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.

Doesn’t every book store have a stuffed badger? You can buy reprinted antique maps from the drawers of the bureau. I was in the shop for ten minutes when a neighborhood guy came in and showed the young girl in charge where the light switch was.

People from around the world like to send Shaun postcards with bookish messages:

I had brought my copy of Diary of a Bookseller from the north shore of Long Island in hopes of getting Shaun to autograph it but he was out of town and besides, it was only the second-most important thing on my Wigtown To Do List. I’d met Captain — I’d held Captain — and that love-fest would do fine as my Wigtown Fantasy Fulfilled.

I had a lengthy chat with the neighborhood guy who had bestowed light upon The Bookshop and I learned a lot about what Shuan has been up to since his book was published. He also assured me that Shaun’s “bark is worse than his bite.”

This is the UK hard cover of his book, in which the cat is too small and looks like a dog:

And this is my 11 0’clock at night photo of the same, Scotland’s largest used book store:

In late May and early June the sun sets in Scotland at 10:09 PM but it takes a looooooong time for the last rays of light to fade from the sky. And then, at 4:11 AM it comes blasting in through the window and you think Holy Shit, how do people sleep in these conditions??

It was Saturday night in Wigtown and we were at the pub watching Liverpool beat Top Cat’s Tottenham Hot Spurs for the Champions Cup. In case you don’t know, it’s soccer. And the game was played in Madrid. It was a huge deal over there.

Top Cat (in the green shirt) talking to his new Wigtown friend about driving down on the A82 from Inverness. Oh, the horror.

Half time:

Pink Gin Venom is a good name for a drink but I’ll stick with a glass of Pinot Grigio and bitter memories, please:

One last thing that you must know about about Wigtown is its world-famous Bed and Breakfast called The Open Book:

The Open Book is the brainchild of Shaun Bythell’s ex-girlfriend, an American from LA. Her name is Jessica Fox and she wrote a memoir about taking a vacation in Galloway and falling in love with a tall, red-haired owner of the largest used book store in Scotland. She published her book first, and encouraged Shaun to write his, so we have her to think for Diary of a Bookseller and for this genius BnB.

Jessica Fox’s book is called Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets and it is horrible. I bought it in Wigtown and I hated reading every page of it. Save yourself. Don’t buy it. I don’t have the energy to tell you why it is so very repugnant but when I get my second wind (I’ve only had two days back from the worst nine out of ten days of my life) I might do a full review for you — I noted all the most whiny, dumb, egotistical, self-flattering, and unlikable bits.

But I can’t take away the fact that her idea for The Open Book is wonderful.

The deal is, you rent out the BnB upstairs for a week and you get to operate the book store below, however you want. It’s been an enormous success, and the place is booked up until 2025. You can read a New York Times article about it here.

When I was in Wigtown, one week ago (May 31 and June 1), The Open Book was being “managed” by a nice 9th-grade school teacher from Oklahoma:

She brought paint chips from Muskogee (really):

This was from some Italian “managers” a few weeks ago:

And with that, we must close the shutters on The Open Book and start counting the hours until it’s five o’clock somewhere.

My darling Top Cat is the best husband a co-manager of a used book store could ever have. He took me all the way from the north shore of Long Island to Wigtown, in the remotest far nether regions of Scotland, all because I wanted to meet a cat and he still loves me and I haven’t even told you about dragging him to the opposite end of outer limits yet.

P.S. I was in Scotland when the Friends of the library met to discuss the Odious Wednesday Volunteer’s “issues”, however I got a full report and it was as petty as expected. You and me, Dear Readers, let’s meet here next week and I’ll fill you in on that, as well as why you should never go to Orkney and Wigtown on the same trip, and why you should definitely never go to Glasgow. I fucking hate Glasgow.

Have a great weekend, everyone. 75 years ago the world was united against evil. We will overthrow evil once again in 2020.

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This is a photo of the charity shop that I co-manage here on the north shore of Long Island, selling used books for the benefit of our local library. It is a one-room, 300-sq. foot parlor of a house built in 1820, and it’s operated under the aegis of The Friends of the Library. We are open 18 hours a week, from Tuesday to Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday.

Oh, lordy, you cannot believe the drama.

To catch you up with as few words as possible, my co-manger and I told our Wednesday volunteer that we had replaced her with a new Wednesday volunteer who was more reliable and much, much less creepy.

Old Wednesday volunteer did not take it well. First, she tried to arrange a meeting between us, the president of the Friends of the Library, and the Director of the library. I have quoted her hilariously illiterate email in my blog of May 2, I Got Cat Class and I Got Cat Style. Since I and my co-manager both refused to attend this pow-wow, she cancelled the meeting in a huff and called me, among other things, “delusional”.

It seems that, since then, Old Wednesday volunteer has been stewing about the situation because last week she sent an email to every board member of The Friends of the Library, to the Director and head librarians of the Library, AND to the Board of Trustees of the Library, proposing an amendment to the by-laws of the Friends of the Library. This is a paste and copy of her email:

Any grievance by any volunteer or library personnel 

Should be brought before the main board of directors or the friends of the library.No volunteers or employee has the right to make a decision that ultimately falls under the jurisdiction of the main board or The Friends of the Bryant Library.

Disregarding the weirdness of her random punctuation, arbitrary capitalizations, misuse of legalistic jargon, and imprecise wording (who/what the hell is “the main board of directors”??), Old Wednesday volunteer does not understand that the business of The Friends of the Library has nothing to do with the library itself or its trustees. Likewise, The Friends have no business making policy that involves the library itself or its trustees.

The purpose of Old Wednesday volunteer’s amendment, obviously, is for her to institute a process whereby the decision to fire her from the used book store can be overturned by a “grievance” process that involves the full membership of the Friends of the Library and, apparently, the library staff and its trustees.

*Sigh* Dealing with this kind of stupidity is like punching a tar baby.

Nevertheless, I punched back any way, and wrote a rebuttal and sent it Reply To All. Everyone in The Friends, the library staff, and the trustees got it. I won’t quote it here — it’s rather wordy — but I will  cut and paste it to the bottom of this post if you want to read it.

Naturally, heated opinions of this amendment, of me, and of Old Wednesday volunteer, are flying back and forth amongst the Friends; the poor folks in the library and the innocent trustees are staying out of it, as they should since they were dragged into it only by the idiocy of Old Wednesday volunteer in the first place.

The show down comes at the next Friends meeting on June 4.

There Will Be Blood. I hope.

Back at the used book store, where I report on the oddities that come our way from the donations that we receive from the community, we got this last week:

The book on the left was a donation. The book on the right is my own copy of the authorized Potter publication.

Beatrix Potter’s stories are all in the public domain so it’s OK to re-print the text. It is not, however, OK to use her illustrations, so this “new” version copied the Beatrix Potter’s original illustrations.

This is the strangest thing.

Beatrix Potter’s original The Tale of Benjamin Bunny had 27 illustrations. The “new” version has only 7, but they are, as you can see, a stroke-by-stroke knock off.

This got me thinking about art. It’s obvious, looking at this pitiful illustrations and any place else where you find art that has been knocked-off/copied/re-hashed/derived by a second-rate hacks that the original stuff has a luminosity and soul that can not be replicated.

I think it’s a necessary step in one’s artistic development to copy the genius work that went before, but only as instruction, only as a way to educate one’s self of the “tricks” and quirks and untouchable brilliance of the Greats.

But here, in this re-print of Benjamin Bunny, I don’t understand the point. We already have the superb original illustrations for sale, easy to find in any bookstore. Why would any one want to buy the knock-off? Why would any one want to look at the haggard, pale, bloodless, puny reflection of the original?

Why would you listen to a Beatle tribute band when you can easily listen to real Beatles records? Why would you go to a store to look at a Thomas Kinkade painting when you can go to a museum and look at a Vermeer? Why would you eat Taco Bell when there’s a taqueria down the street?

Life is mysterious.

We also got this in:
It’s not a good book. But it’s interesting to me because of the note that I found, written on the inside cover:

If you want to read it you can click onto the photo to enlarge it…but I don’t recommend it. It is very rambling (People! Do a rough draft before you commit your words to a book!!) and repetitive, but it’s alive note to Amy from her husband of one year, Adam. Adam loves Amy; or, at least Adam loved Amy as of their first wedding anniversary on Sept. 1, 2002.

These were also tucked inside the book:

Amy gave Adam three cards on their first wedding anniversary, and she wrote the usual pitter patter about how happy she is that Adam is her husband yadda yadda yadda.

Did Amy or Adam ever think that, a mere 18 years later, their notes professing undying love would be dropped off — tossed, like; dumped — so unceremoniously at a used book store? Poor kids. I hope nothing really terrible happened to them, and that they just grew apart, like people do, and found that their true selves did not mesh after all and Adam is now following his passion as a civil war re-enactor and Amy is pursuing her calling as a dog food taster. I wish them the best.

There must have been something in the ether this week because in another donation of books, I found this:

I found this card inside what I assume was the wedding gift: a facsimile of The Book of Kells.

For those who don’t know, The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels of the New Testament from approx. 800 CE, hand-painted by monks in Britain or Ireland. It is on display in Dublin, in a very dreary corner of Trinity College. I would show you the photo I took of the book, but for some reason my computer has crapped out and I can’t fetch any more pix from iPhoto. But The Book of Kells is creepy.

The note inside the facsimile of The Book of Kells, signed by the same hand that signed the wedding card, alerted the newlyweds of the high quality of the reproductions in this faux The Book of Kells, and advised them that some of the larger repros can be removed from the book and would look very nice framed and hung on living room walls.

Yeah, I thought the same thing: Weird.

The task of sorting through great quantities of second-hand books can get depressing, so every once in a while I try to lift my spirits above the waste and sadness of this world’s ample supply of dreadful, ugly, battered, unwanted and unloved books. I do this by selecting, from an almost unlimited choice, the week’s Most Boring Book.

And here, for you, Dear Readers, is this week’s Most Boring Book:

For the coffee table, this book is 255 pages, weighs 4 pounds, was published in 1991, and cost $46 when it was new. As the title so eloquently hints, it’s about beds.

I think the technical term for this kind of book is vanity project. The proof is in the author photo:

Trust me on this. The world did not need a book about beds in 1991, or ever.

The writing, O, lordy, the writing. . .

I have a friend who can’t find a publisher for his fabulous book about the 20 years he has been a regular at his Paris cafe, but a book about beds did?!?!

That’s all I got for you this week, Dear Ones. My answer to the odious Wednesday volunteer’s email (at the top of this blog post) follows, but feel free to end our weekly visit here, taking with you my wishes for an authentically happy weekend. May all your Benjamin Bunnies, all your love letters, all your hopes and dreams and tacos be the real thing.

XXOO

****

Reply to the odious Wednesday volunteer and everyone else on her extensive email list.

Hi Everyone –

Concerning this proposal to include a  “grievance” process in the new by-laws of The Friends of Bryant Library, I would like to respond.

“Grievance” is a legal term requiring specific formalities and obligations re: civil or criminal procedures between litigants.

Judging by the subsequent language in this text that refers to “library personnel”;  “employee”; and “jurisdiction”, I assume that the term “grievance” is, here, being used legalistically (as noted above), specifically in relation to issues between employers and employees;  I also assume that the term “the main board of directors” refers to the Board of Trustees of the Bryant Library (the text is very imprecise so I’m doing my best to deduce meaning).

I would like to remind the Friends that The Bryant Library and the Board of Trustees of The Bryant Library are separate entities, and each is distinct and apart from each other, and apart and distinct from The Friends of Bryant Library.  Thus, any “grievance” issues regarding the employees, trustees, volunteers, board members, and/or administrators (“library personnel”) of The Bryant Library and/or its Board of Trustees, have nothing whatsoever to do with The Friends of Bryant Library. And, vice-versa: There is nothing that The Bryant Library and/or its Board of Trustees can do to effect any policy or action within the functions of The Friends of Bryant Library. In fact, to have presumed otherwise shows a shocking ignorance of the mission, purpose, and basic regulatory and juridical constraints of The Friends of Bryant Library.

Thus, it would be inappropriate and certainly illegal for The Friends of Bryant Library to insert themselves into any “grievance” process regarding the employees, trustees, volunteers, board members, and/or administrators (“library personnel”) under the “jurisdiction” of The Bryant Library or its Board of Trustees.  It would also be ridiculous to involve any employee, trustee, volunteer, board member, and/or administrator (“library personnel”) of The Bryant Library and/or its Board of Trustees with a “grievance” within The Friends of Bryant Library.

But perhaps I am being too persnickety in my interpretation of this missive. It is, as you can see, an incoherent document. Maybe “grievance” is, here, being used in its quotidian context, as merely the complaint of a real or imagined slight.

If so, it is my opinion that creating a formal process for airing personality clashes among various volunteers of The Friends of Bryant Library is too petty and tedious a process to be included in this organization’s by-laws or functions.

However, should there be a Friend of Bryant Library who is frothing at the mouth to settle trivial scores, I can recommend a tried-and-true arena: Thunderdome.

In conclusion:

Having shown that The Friends of Bryant Library 501 ( c ) (3) is under no obligation (indeed, is prohibitedfrom doing so) to address any “grievance” within The Bryant Library  and/or The Board of Trustees of The Bryant Library; and vice-versa; and having stated my objections to The Friends of Bryant Library creating a process for addressing any “grievance”( in its frivolous “hurt feelings” definition), I recommend that no such language in any form be included in the by-laws of the Friends of Bryant Library.

Respectfully,

Vivian Swift

 

 

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I was laying on the love seat in the den, hatching plans to take charge and rid the world of stupidity once and for all  as I am wont, and I had the best view of Taffy’s toes:

If you look carefully, you can also see Bibs’ toes, and Candy’s lumpy butt, and Lickety’s sweet dreaming face. More cats, fewer people, is the best I can come up with when it comes to putting a halt to idiocy. I have met some dopey cats in my day (in fact, Lickety isn’t all that stellar in the brains department) but their lack of intelligence isn’t evil, unlike the imbeciles in the Alabama Republican party who combine their low I.Q.s with a profound malevolence that makes democracy unsafe for all thinking people and cats. I cannot help but believe that another civil war is inevitable and I am sorry that I will not be young enough to go hand-to-hand with the mouth-breathing/pea-brained/in-bred/slack-jawed/road-kill eating/Christian Taliban.

Well, until the righteous uprising comes and defeats stupidity (if not once and for all, maybe for another 150 years), I might as well make myself useful and go to work at the used book store.

This is sweet:  last week at the used book store that I co-manage for the local library, I found a little gift that had been left on the shelf:

It is an exquisite little flower pot and daffodil, a piece of expert-level origami if ever I saw one. Thank you, anonymous origami artist, for making the day a tad more magical.

I know you all want to know what was in those 25 boxes of books that I got in at 10 o’clock at night last Wednesday:

Although the donor assured me that they were “very high level books” because her children were lawyers who read only the best. . . this donation was 90% crap.

There was a lot of horror and sci-fi from the 1970s; a LOT of mass market paperbacks of popular fiction of the kind that we don’t (because nobody buys it) sell; a lot of World War II histories and outdated sociology books; paperback copies of classics that no-one reads any more (Greek philosophers and minor 19th-century American novelists);and almost all of the books were in deplorable condition. Only the more recent hardback thrillers were in good enough state that we would accept them for sale in the store, if we had customers who would buy contemporary thrillers, which we don’t.

I felt sorry for the donor. She had gone to the trouble of renting a van so she could schlepp the books in from Connecticut, and she had packed the boxes very carefully, almost lovingly — she lined them with plastic trash bags (to keep out the morning dew?), and she’d taped them all shut (to safeguard them from raccoons?) which made the boxes that much more odious to unpack. It was, for the most part, dismal work.

EXCEPT.

Yes, there were some exceptions. I did pull about 30 books from this haul that I could put out on the shelves — some decent nonfiction about higher math (which sold almost immediately), some popular physics (which also sold out that weekend), and some biographies. And surprisingly, there were about 15 childrens’ books in very fine shape that I was quite happy to put into stock.

Among the books that I did not throw out, which I had a feeling about, was this:

It’s a sense you get, when you’ve handled 10,000 books, about what might be valuable. This is a paperback in almost new condition from 1984. Harlan Ellison is one of those fantasy/sci-fi writers whose fame and influence is such that I know of him even though I have never read his stuff. He was one of the writers of what is often cited as the best episode of the original Star Trek — The City on the Edge of Forever. Harlan Ellison died last June, which does wonders for an author’s collectibility. My feeling about this book paid off.

This little paperback is worth about $40.00. Yay!

I also had a very good feeling about this first edition from 1988:

This book has a peculiar publishing history. The first American printing of the first edition of A Brief History of Time came with a silver (not blue) dust cover and had to be recalled and scrapped because Hawking complained that it was “full of errors, with misplaced and erroneously labeled photographs and diagrams.” It also did not have a table of contents, and lacked a dedication to Hawking’s wife.

The book was corrected and re-issued with this blue dust cover, a table of contents, and a dedication to Jane, along with a new introduction by Carl Sagan. That edition is known as the second state first edition.

The second state first edition is the only edition that has this introduction by Carl Sagan because Sagan copyrighted it, and all subsequent editions had to be printed without Sagan’s intro. That is not to say that you can’t have a 19th printing of the second state first edition, which would still have Sagan’s intro; but all later iterations will not ave the Sagan intro. So, Yay so far — we have a 1988 second state first edition with the Sagan intro!

This book has sold over 10 million copies and has been translated into 35 languages and was on the London Times best seller list for five years, so to find a first printing of the second state first edition would be FABULOUS and worth some nice coin.

If I am holding a true first printing of the second state first edition here, it would be worth about $150.00. Whoo-hoo!

And then I take a good look at the inside dust cover:

Cue the sad soundtrack.

Whomp whomp.

It’s usually a dead give away that, when the dust cover does not have a price printed on it, you have a cheapo book club edition that is only worth pennies. It might still be a first printing of the second state first edition, but it’s a book club first printing of the second state first edition which is a whole other animal.

It took me almost an hour on the internet to finally find proof that A Brief History of Time did indeed have a second state first edition book club printing, and of course, that’s what I had. And you can buy it from me for $2.00.

And then things got weirder.

This was one of the two comic books that came in, and of course it’s the second printing of a classic 1993 Superman comic, worth about $8.00. If it had been a first printing it could be worth up to $180.00

Jeeze. Did these people ever buy anything hot off the press? Did they always buy the literary equivalent of hand-me-downs??

The other comic book was porn, the kind where women have sex with monsters, but not in The Shape of Water way. . .

Not like this.

I thought there was a name for this genre of comic book so I tried looking it up in the internet so I could report to you, Dear Readers, on this strange sub-cult, and also hey, if the comic was worth big bucks I would look for a buyer no matter how distasteful the item.  But my porno comic book is not worth anything and now I could smack myself. Because now the internet knows of my search and now it thinks that I am interested in making whoopee with monsters and I’ll be slammed with all kinds of creepy ads for comic book porn that makes me sick. All because I am SUCH A SAINT when it comes to raising money for the local library A FUCKING SAINT. (See Mr. Pudding’s query about last week post’s in last week’s Comments re: the difference between regular saints and me, a FUCKING SAINT.)

You might think that things could not get even more weird, but yes, yes. . .  they did.

Do you see the book, in the photo below, sticking up on the far end of this crate, the fat tome covered-up in anonymous orange tape?

I pick it up and  I flip it open, all unawares, to the title page, so I can see what Im dealing with.

And it’s this:

I’ve read that every used book dealer comes across this book at least once in their career. So this is my initiation into being a real used book dealer.

Before its copyright expired in 2015, Mein Kampf was a hot potato. Most conscientious book dealers in the world wouldn’t touch it. Although 12 million copies were published in Bavaria before WWII, it has been prohibited to print or sell a copy of it in Germany since 1945. And now it’s in the public domaine and available everywhere, so it’s not surprising that I would come across a copy. This one happens to be a real antique. But still. Ew.

Stackpole Sons published this Mein Kampf in the US in 1939, as a way to make this filth available to Americans without paying one penny of royalties to Hitler. Hitler’s authorized publisher was Houghton Mifflin, who sued Stackpole for copyright infringement. The case was not decided until late 1941 in Houghton Mifflin’s favor but by then, the US was on the brink of war with Germany, and so Hitler’s royalties vanished into Houghton Mifflin’s account books.

Stockpile sold 12,000 copies of its Mein Kampf before it had to recall its print run while the court case was being argued. When Stackpole lost, all the remaining stock was destroyed.

I am sure that our donor, and her children, are not Nazis. Along with Mein Kampf, there was a lot of holocaust denial literature with many other books about denying holocaust deniers, and a lot of books on Judaica (which we also don’t sell) and a lot of WWII histories. So I think this reader was informing him/herself of the enemy by going to the source of evil, and I applaud the intellectual bravery this takes. But still. Ewwwwwww.

P.S. I did not know that Mein Kampf was such a long book. This copy runs 668 pages. I have not the slightest desire to read it. I don’t even want to touch it. So I will call the donor and ask her to take this book back.

BTW, the orange tape was easy to peel off, and this is what was underneath it:

So as you can see, this donation can be summed up in one word: dispiriting. Because time and again, this would happen:

O, sweet little ordinary orange book, what fresh disappointment do you bring?

First edition, 1978, cult classic.

With dust cover, worth about $40.00.

WITHOUT DUST COVER: worth $1.00.

So when I pulled this out of a box, I was sure that this, too, would be crap:

But Lo, and Behold — this is a First Printing/First American Edition from 1977  with in-tact dust cover. It even has the map, in pristine condition, that came with it:

Great balls of fire, how did this happen?? Why is this book not beat to hell, with it’s dust cover ripped off and the map illustrated with school boy graffiti?

This book redeems the whole 25 boxes, the 10 o’clock rendezvous, and all the gross outs.

It’s worth $350.00.

All I have to do now is find a buyer.

And that brings us to the end of this post, Dear Readers.

But hold on there, Vivo, you are thinking; You haven’t explained today’s headline about the people you meet in line at the grocery store.

Right you are. So here’s the uplifting story of the day:

The guy in line behind me at the grocery store accidentally rams his shopping cart into a display of muffins perched perilously close to the cash register and knocks a 6-pack off the shelf and onto the floor.

The guy scoops up the muffins — they were corn muffins — and puts them back into their package, and hands the muffins to the cashier.

“Here,” he says; “You can throw these out. I’ll pay for them because I knocked them onto the floor, but I don’t want them.”

I turned to him and blurted, “Oh, no, don’t throw them out! You can feed them to the raccoons!”

The guy was clearly annoyed with himself for knocking over the muffins, although it wasn’t all his fault because they really were stacked too close to the cash register, so he kind of scowls at me and says, “You feed raccoons??

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s their world too.”

I’ve read about this in books, but I’ve ever seen it happen: his face went from “highly miffed” to “somewhat interested”. In books, it’s written: His face softened.

And the guy stares at me for how ever many seconds it takes for a person to wonder whose turn it is to talk or did I just say something stupid or why is there this hush all of a sudden, and then he takes the muffins from the cashier and hands them to me and says, “Here. This is for your raccoons.”

I thank him profusely and take the muffins, and for the rest of the hour I had a really good feeling about the fate of mankind.

The raccoons devoured the muffins later that night.

And now we are really at the end of today’s blog post. As I type this, Old Wednesday volunteer (read all about her odious self in my blog of May 2, I Got Cat Class and I Got Cat Style) has been making trouble again in the small world of the Friends of the Library, and needs to be smote once and for all. I will tell you all about it next week.

Have a fabulous weekend, Dear Ones.

Be kind to your local raccoons and, maybe, cut someone a break today. Chance are, they could use it.

XXOO

 

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I got a phone call from a woman who is cleaning out her Greenwich, Connecticut house so she can down-size to living full time in her Long Island house. The Connecticut house has a lot of really really good books because her grown children are lawyers and great readers and their books — oh! — their books! — are fantastic and she can’t — no! she can’t! — just throw them away and the local library doesn’t want them but they gave me your number. . .

Well, at the used book store that I co-manage for the local library here on the north shore of Long Island, the cupboards are bare, so I have been putting it out to the universe: Please send me a huge donation.

So I agree to take any and all books that the caller can schlepp in from Greenwich, Connecticut.

Things get complicated; she can only get here on a certain day when I don’t work at the store (I say, I live a mile from the book store — I’ll run over); she can’t make it during opening hours of the book store (I say, I can stay late); she’s been hauling books all day and she’s leaving Greenwich in an hour (I say, OK, you’ll get here by 8 o’clock, that’s OK); traffic was bad so she’s running late (I say, Call me when you’re 15 minutes from the library because I am a fucking SAINT).

So that’s how I came to be all alone in a dark and empty library parking lot at 10 o’clock last night, waiting for the lady from Connecticut to show up with about 500 books.

Such is the romance of running a used book store.

The books await me, still incased in 25 cardboard boxes piled up in the hallway outside the book store.

Even if the universe is pranking me and this donation isn’t pure gold, that means that, as usual, 80% of those books will be crap but at these numbers, that still gives us 100 decent books for the stock. I will let you know.

Last month we got in a small dump of books of the usual crap variety, except for one stand-out that had a very nice cover,  considering that it’s self-published:

Abby Elizabeth Woodbury was born in Salem, Massachusetts on May 5, 1851, the 4th of seven children of Isaac Woodbury. Isaac, according to a very confusing history of the Woodbury family written by Margaret Waddell, the “co-author” who transcribed Abby’s diary, is not a gifted narrator) was living off of his grand-father’s money, which was begat by publishing music in New York City in the 1850s.

By 1870 money must have been tight because Isaac shipped off his wife and his 5 youngest kids to Europe, which at the time was the place where genteel but impoverished Americans went to lay low until the creditors could be sorted out. (See: Mark Twain’s financial troubles and his 10-year exile.)

Abby was 19 when she set sail for Liverpool, the same age I was when I lit out for my first European adventure.

This is a sample of Abby’s handwriting in the diary:

The inside cover of the book explains:

This is a work of non-fiction. [I’m OK with the hyphenation, but some people are sticklers and insist that the correct term is nonfiction.]

Abby Elizabeth Woodbury was a real person who wrote almost daily in her diary during her two year journey through Europe about the people she meets, the places she visits, as well as her innermost thoughts and feelings.

I assume that the woman who mixed the tenses in this blurb is the woman who is listed as the “co-author” of this book, Maragaret Waddell. Margaret Waddell is a Woodbury descendant whose father was given Abby’s diary, Margaret writes, “as an heirloom”.

I dislike the word “heirloom”. Rich people do not use the word “heirloom”, only poor people do. If you’ve grown up with loads of hand-me-downs (Sevres dinner plates, Chippendale cabinets, Malbone miniatures, Tiffany parures and the like) you don’t call them “heirlooms”. You call them, “Granny’s amethysts”, or “Uncle Biff’s candelabras”.

A diary is not an heirloom. It’s a keepsake.

Getting back to Abby’s story, during the sailing from New York to Liverpool, Abby’s older sister Mary meets a guy and they get engaged right off the boat, so Mary is able to go home and prepare for her wedding and ditch the family’s long slog through England and Germany and France. Her fiance, James Neilson, is from an old, rich New Jersey family so Mary Woodbury did pretty well for herself and her descendants. During their marriage, Mary and James collected rare Americana and became well-known philanthropists. Her portrait, along with her husband’s, hangs in the former mansion, which they bequeathed to Rutgers University (along with the surrounding 193 acres) in 1937.

Co-author Margaret Waddell is from a different branch of the Woodburys. Margaret is a member (as of 2011, when she published Abby’s Diary) of the Colorado Paper Doll Club. I’m grateful that she published her great-aunt Abby’s diary, but (no judgment), she’s not someone I whose diary I would want to read. OK; maybe a little bit of judgement. Doll collectors creep me out.

This is not Margaret Waddell. This is the president of the National Federation of Doll Collectors. For Real.

On the other hand, I love Abby Woodbury. Poor girl; in the diary she tries so hard to be good, but travel bores her and her mother gets on her nerves. It being 1870 – 1872, there is not much entertainment for a 19-year old girl abroad, except for the weekly Sunday sermon from whatever church they attend in whatever foreign place they land. The family lives in a series of boarding houses and hotels, and she goes to dances, takes walks, and does some shopping when her grand-father (who seems to be paying the bills) sends some dollars to the local bank every now and then. She tries to learn German or a little French (she gets lessons when there is money left over after paying for her three younger brothers’ education), and tries to acquire a lady-like amount of musical ability, but, alas, she’s only a fair student and money is tight, so most of her hours are filled by mending stockings, or adding ribbons to an old bonnet, or wishing for letters from home. Once in a while she goes to a museum:

April 12, 1971

I went to the museum this morning with Maria Miller. Oh, the beautiful pictures! Raphael’s “Madonna” is lovely. I wish I had more taste for pictures. I wonder I cannot tell Mama the things I want to now and then. I want to tell her things so much, but she does not [two words crossed out] and my lips will not say it.

I don’t know why such mundanity interests me so much, but I find Abby’s diary fascinating. She seems to have a lot of intelligence but, due to her situation and her times, she’s not able to find her niche in the world as a proper “nice” lady; alas, that must have been the fate of many women born during her era, even up to today, eh?

September 9, 1871

I find the days are too short for me and I have no time to sew with all my studying. I have practiced three hours, read and translated all my French and been to Mama’s twice..I do wish she wouldn’t find something unpleasant in everything I say. 

Now, when I was 19 and traveling in France, I did not have much to keep myself occupied outside of sight-seeing. I did not drink, I was traveling alone, and I was not the kind of girl who enjoyed talking to strangers. So when the day was done, or it was Sunday, I read a lot, wrote a lot of letters, and obsessed about keeping expenses low (my budget was $100 per week for food, lodging, and travel — everything).

October 3, 1871

It rained all day today. I ordered myself a black alpaca suit to be made.  I hope it will be nicely and prettily made. I paid 1.25 francs per meter for the alpaca. I have been to Mama’s all this afternoon and came away unhappy as usual.

Abby Woodbury, the writer of this diary, never married and died in 1894 at the age of 44.

Cause of death is unknown, but I bet it was boredom.

She should have gotten cats. Never a dull moment.

I happened to glance out of my dining room window a few mornings ago and I saw Taffy in the rhododendron bush across the kitchen patio. In the 13 years that Taffy has been in charge of our backyard, I have never seen him in the rhododendron bush.

So of course I have to go outside to investigate, and that’s when I hear a blue jay, perched on the Japanese dogwood tree on the other side of the kitchen nation, screeching bloody murder. I presume, at Taffy.

Taffy decides that he has seen enough of the inside of the rhododendron bush so he tight-rope-walks across a branch and dismounts onto the roof of the shed, and saunters off. The blue jay flies intothe rhododendron bush that Taffy has just evacuated, and he’s clutching a long ribbon of plastic in his claws.

I watch as the blue jay drags this long ribbon of plastic into the rhododendron bush, chattering to himself, keeping busy. . .

. . . building a nest.

Lordy, this will not do. So I hang around, peering up at the nest to piss off the blue jay, who screams at me and flies off in a huff. I have not seen him/her back in there since so, You’re Welcome, Blue Jays; I saved you from becoming Taffy’s latest hors d’ouvre.

One last thing. I have a confession to make.

Last week I wrote about my afternoon in New York City, and then I mouthed off about narrative nonfiction.

Dear Reader Steve commented that he was quite familiar with Manhattan and he had never seen the store front I photographed:

I confess that, for the sake of streamlining my blog post, I did not mention that I went out to Brooklyn for lunch, the hipster HQ of Fort Greene, to be exact, which is where I found this spiffy Eiffel Tower sign.

My question to you is this: after our discussion last week of the boundary between narrative nonfiction and fiction, is my omitting the fact that this shop front was in Brooklyn, and not in Manhattan as were all the other photos and clearly what my narrative implied (I wrote that I went to a friend’s book event in Manhattan BUT I also said that “New York City is a trip” and Brooklyn IS part of NYC). . .

. . . did I push too hard against the limits of narrative nonfiction into fiction territory? As a Dear Reader, are you offended or do you feel otherwise betrayed knowing that I left out a minor (and, to me, unimportant) detail as to every teeny moment and movement of my Big Apple gallivant? Do you, or do you not, condone this kind of artistic license to condense or omit bits of information in the service of a streamlined story?

Let me know. Because I have another long-form narrative nonfiction/memoirish thingy in the works and I want to know where to draw the line between keeping the story moving, and lying.

Thank you, Dear Ones. Have a great weekend, and stay out of birds’ nests.

 

 

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. . .  How Much Have You Let Yourself Go?

This is a Family Feud [TV game show] question, asked by Steve Harvey last week.

(Top Cat and I flip channels to watch The Family Feud when Jeopardy! goes to commercial, that’s how I know.)

I forget what the #1 answer to that question was; I was laughing too hard to pay attention to the contestants.

I want you to ask yourself this question: “On a scale of one to ten, how much how you let yourself go?”

Is that not the most perfect, most succinct way to get real about how you’re doing in life? To smack yourself in the head and go, Duh! I’m just a 4! And I wasted all that money on therapy! 

Because “4” is fixable. It’s a very short  To Do List, now that your vague but persistent and gnawing feelings of inadequacy have been quantified by such a harmless little number. Nobody is afraid of a “4”! You can be back on track, lickety-split, if all you have to right-size is a “4”!

But Vivian, (I hear you ask):  Suppose my answer is “10” and it fills me with despair?

My answer is: It’s still just a number! It’s still just a To Do List, albeit a longer one than if you were at “4”, but it’s a number that you can handle! One digit at a time!

Start by knocking it down to a “9” for a start.

Only then do you do what you gotta do to take it to “8”.

Keep chipping away until you’re at “7”.

Before you know it, you’ll be rounding it off to a “4”, and that’s Kelly Clarkson territory!

All she needs to do is get rid of those sleeves and she’d be at “2”.

But there’s this, too: suppose your answer to that question is, “10”, but suppose you can hear yourself say that to yourself and you get a charge out of how liberated that makes you feel — unburdened by society’s expectations and free to set your own notions of propriety and attractiveness and to hell with your stupid “2s” and “4s”!

Well, then, Go For It.

Taffy is a “10”, too, and his favorite T-shirt says:

Know your number, is all I’m saying; and be good with it or not, but know your number.

And if your number is “0”, then you should write a Guide to Gracious Living and get stinking rich. Everybody wants to be a “0”.

Top Cat, if he is reading this, is wishing I would stop here (he thinks my blog posts are too long), but I have more:

I went to a writer friend’s book event last week, in Manhattan of all places. You see, even though I live a mere 15 miles from Times Square, I think it’s been over year since I have ventured into The Big Apple.

Sidewalk outside Penn Station, with Madison Square Garden (the round building) in the background). And yes, some guy is getting a hair cut on the sidewalk.

New York City is a trip. When your daily life is all about managing a used book store and riding herd on 8 house cats, NYC is bigger, busier, weirder, and gaudier than anything you are used to laying your eyes on.

Film crew on 36th Street.

 

Everybody’s favorite film crew member.

 

Throw me the ball! Throw me the ball!

I gave myself a few extra hours to walk around and get a good look at city life.

This isn’t a dry cleaner any more; it’s a dress shop. But that sign is SO COOL that I wouldn’t get rid of it either.

I saw this on the downtown C train:

I think he’s got a QUIDDITCH trophy.

Also on the subway:

This is how they advertise dry shampoo in NYC. It made me nostalgic for when I lived in NYC and my Happy Hours would turn into All Nighters, which they never did, so I must have lived all wrong.

Not pictured: I saw a middle-aged African-American guy, conservatively dressed in a shirt and tie and khakis, walk down Greenwich Avenue carrying a surf board.

Not pictured: I had a cup of tea at the Starbucks on West 4th Street win The Village and the place was packed with NYU students on laptops, and I did not overhear anything the least bit interesting. Kids these days. They are boring. And they all have hideous vocal fry.

Any way. My writer friend’s book event was held in a gorgeous brownstone on Washington Square, in the heart of the NYU campus. There were a lot of arty types in attendance, but it never fails. There’s always one person in the audience who uses the Q&A to talk about her own (unpublished) work, and how she can’t figure out if it’s memoir or  if it’s a novel.

I’ve run into this person many times, in my own book events and at the writer workshops I am often asked to lead. There’s always one person who does not know what he/she is writing, because they do not read (books, that is; or  book reviews, ever, in their life) and are not up to speed with the difference between fiction and non-fiction.

This person always asks, If I use a real event — say, the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11 — but my story about my characters experience of 9/11 is made up, does that make it real? Or fiction?

Sometimes the confusion is over real people: If I use my mother as a character, but I make up her life…is that memoir? Or not?

And there’s this: What is it, if I write about Coney Island, because I’ve been to Coney Island, and I write about the people on the beach, because I’ve watched the people on the beach at Coney Island, and I’m the main character but I make up the other characters, is that fiction? 

Before I get the chance to tear my hair out, there is usually an enabler in attendance who will elaborate upon this person’s ignorance of writing’s fundamentals by claiming that there is a new literary genre that combines fact and fiction, so therefore it’s possible to blend then together to write a nonfiction novel.

No. NO. NO NO NO NONONONONONONOnoononononono.

I do not have enough life left in me to educate these kind of people, who should not be writing books in the first place. Thankfully, my friend is an experienced enough author to not let an audience member de-rail his book event, so we quickly moved on. . . but this lady bugged me so when I got home I did a little digging.

The confusion over the nonfiction novel began with Truman Capote.

I LOVE this look!

When he wrote In Cold Blood in 1966 it was the first time that a first-class creative writer had stooped so low to use his skills as a storyteller to produce long-form (novel-length) journalism. Journalism — the mere reporting of facts — was “hack” and “low-brow”, but In Cold Blood was an enthralling nonfiction reading experience in the style of a novel, in that it fleshed-out the killers and the victims of the 1959 murders of four members of the Herbert Clutter family in the small farming community of Holcomb, Kansas.

Nobody knew what to call this new kind of writing.

George Plimpton, famous journalist, wrote about the book in January 1966, and introduced In Cold Blood to readers of the New York Times as a work that was

“remarkable for its objectivity–nowhere, despite his involvement, does the author intrude. In the following interview, done a few weeks ago, Truman Capote presents his own views on the case, its principals, and in particular he discusses the new literary art form which he calls the nonfiction novel.”

Plimpton wasn’t stupid, and neither was Capote, but they were stuck in their times and they were inventing a new voice for American literature. Nonfiction novel was the best they could do, under the circumstances.  Since then, however, this style of writing has caught on fire and we now call it narrative nonfiction.

Some people call it creative nonfiction but that only makes things worse.

Finally (the end is almost near) we had our May board meeting of the Friends of Bryant Library two days ago. It did not go well, in that Old Wednesday Volunteer did not say a word so I didn’t have to unleash the flying monkeys. Damn. I was itching’ for a fight.

So instead I got shitty with the president of the Friends because her latest fund-raising idea is to sell $10 book plates to put in library books in honor of National Teacher Appreciation Month (which is May, so, as usual, it’s too little too late), which is something a damn Girl Scout could do, and do better than a bunch of old fart white ladies, and she emailed afterwards that she was insulted and that we have to talk. I doubt this will ever happen.

Can I tell you all about this?  Next week? The stupidity of the world has worn me out today, so I need to find a quiet place to sit with my cats and watch the clock until it’s 5 o’clock, here or somewhere.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. Whatever your number is, I hope you make it prime.

 

 

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I have a tirade to get into today, so I’ll start you off with some pictures of our boy, Taffy, to lure you into my latest harangue about what is wrong with the world these days.

I’ve seen Taffy and his frenemy, Bibs in a lot of situations, usually involving turf battles over dinner dishes or stalking one another in the neighbor’s back yard. But this is an entirely new circumstance.

 Oh, if only I were cat-sized and could tuck myself under a Taffy blanket.

Taffy and his art work. He can’t take ALL the credit for down-grading our former living room couches into the couches that are now hidden away from polite company in the den (for obvious reasons), but he DID do most of the re-purposing work you see here.

So, here’s my Rant du Jour:

It’s a rainy Friday afternoon, and I’m at the used book store that I co-manage for our local library here on the North shore of Long Island. Business is slow, so I have my feet propped up on the desk and I’m reading a book of Bloom County cartoons.

A woman steps into the store and announces, “I’m back!”

I say, “Oh, hi!” in a real friendly [un-Vivian] tone of voice, but in my head I’m thinking, Who the hell are you?!

If you have ever worked retail, you come across people like this all the time.  Customers who announce I’m back! are the customers who think that us salespeople have no life outside the store, that we do not exist in a any meaningful way in-between the times that we ring up their purchases, and that their visits at our place of employment are the most memorable moments of our lives. They also mistake professional curtesy for genuine amiability.

Michale Pollan, in his new book How To Change Your Mind, about how we can broaden our sense of day-to-day reality to embrace an easily-accessed sense of wonder (though LSD), wrote about the mind set of narrow-thinking people, such as customers who walk into a store and announce, “I’m back!”

On page 415, Pollan is discussing how we humans don’t spend much time honoring the intelligence of plants and animals (Trees have feelings! Birds make jokes!) and he writes:

To us, we are the world’s only conscious subjects, with the rest of creation made up of objects; to the more egotistical among us, even other people count as objects.

Yep. Objectified. That’s how I feel when a compete stranger announces to me, “I’m back!”; that I’m just an object, gathering dust in the void,  until I’m re-animated by the warm blaze of this person’s consciousness.

This lady, naturally, can’t stop talking about herself, so the more she yakked, the better I remembered that she had been in the store a while ago, and that she’s got a master’s degree in education. But jeeze, lady. I’ve been to New Orleans since the last time I saw you and I’ve had a lot better things to deposit in my memory banks than your story about your friend’s daughter who is learning American Sign Language.

(That’s another thing that customers do to salespeople. They tell us their life stories, as if we give a shit.)

As you can tell, while I generally enjoy co-managing the used book store, there are days when I am not in the mood.

Speaking of New Orleans, you might remember this photo for last week’s blog post about the trip that Top Cat and I took to New Orleans for French Quarter Fest:

Note the large sign on the left that says, ELIZA JANE.

That’s the sponsor of this zydeco band, which on this day was Sunpie and the Louisiana Sunspots.

The ELIZA JANE is the name of the hotel that Top Cat and I stay in when we go to New Orleans. It used to be called The Country Inn, but it had a major renovation last year and changed its name to The ELIZA JANE, which meant nothing to us until Saturday morning when we saw a blues singer named Gerald French do a song called Little Liza Jane.

Check In desk at the ELIZA JANE.

Little Liza Jane is a song dating back at least to the 1910s. It is one of the standards of the New Orleans brass band tradition and numerous scholars and musicologists have written about the song and the song is the subject of a forthcoming documentary film. (Thanks, Wikipedia.)

So now we all know.

Top Cat and I love the new ELIZA JANE, the hotel, which is now run by Hyatt, which is a big corporation so no wonder they got the name just a little bit wrong.

The interesting thing for us today, Dear Readers, about the ELIZA JANE, is that the new interior design uses a lot of books to create a groovy karma for the new space:

In all the public areas in this hotel (front desk, lobby, sitting rooms, hallways) books are featured in casual still-life arrangements that give off a lived-in, cultured, and homey vibe:

From a distance, the books look as if they’d been left there, casual-like, by a host who has momentarily left the room:

Close-up, the books reveal how carefully they have been chosen and arranged:

Ripping the covers off to show the naked spines … well, that’s something I would never-a-thunk.

While you look at these pix of the new ELIZA JANE and soak in all the bookish detail, I’ll tell you another story from The Used Book Store Files.

The Used Book Store Files  are like the X-Files, except that the creeps in The Used Book Store Files  are not supernatural; they are old ladies from Long Island.

Three weeks ago, my co-manager (we’ll call my co-manager Esmée) and I had a situation with the Wednesday volunteer at the used book store, so Esmée and I fired her. The situation was that for a very long time, Esmée and I had desperately wanted to get rid of the Wednesday volunteer.

The Wednesday volunteer is not very smart. She complains that we have too many yellow books.**

**The Wednesday volunteer doesn’t like to touch “old” books. They are “too yellow.” I have to remind her almost every month, when she complains about all our “yellow books”, that we run a used book store. And in my mind I tell her, Shit, lady — you’re about 100 years old yourself so have some professional curtesy.

The Wednesday volunteer also had an idea to start a literary magazine that she would edit and that the library could pay for, but she only got as far as writing a rambling, non-sensical, thousand-word mission statement. Please note that The New York Times has a mission statement, and it’s seven words long: All the news that’s fit to print.

Lastly, the Wednesday volunteer just makes our skin crawl. For the last month, the Wednesday volunteer has had a pink eye, so she only wears makeup on the good eye and combs her hair over the infected one. It is a sight to behold.

About three weeks ago our prayers were answered and we finally got a new volunteeer who could do Wednesdays, so Esmée and I told the old Wednesday volunteer that, going forward, her services would not be needed.

When she got the sack, old Wednesday volunteer did not take it well.

The old Wednesday volunteer sent an email to the president of the Friends and to the director of the library, demanding a meeting to discuss the situation. Allow me to quote the exact text, including the missing punctuation, the unusual spacing, and the weird capitalizations:

Going on record to let the Friends of the Bryant Library know that i have been forced out of my Volunteer position at the Book store by Vivian Swift.

My character and reputation has          been also tarnished by false           accusations and insulting comments in the past

I am requesting a meeting to discuss this unfortunate situation with the Friends, myself and Vivian as soon as possible.

This is the kind of book used for decorations at the ELIZA JANE.

I got old Wednesday Volunteer’s prose from an email sent to me by the president of the Friends,which included the entire text and an offer to help “resolve” this matter. I did not have any interest in “resolving” this matter, so instead I went to New Orleans for six days.

When I got back, I emailed the president of the Friends and the director of the library. In my email, I enumerated the reasons that Esmée and I wanted to fire old Wednesday volunteer, going back to March 2018 when she began to give us same-day notice that she would not be doing her Wednesday shift, and all subsequent dates when she did not show up (Esmée and I keep excellent records) and all the times that Esmée and I had to cover for her; and how so far in 2019 old Wednesday volunteer has not been available for half the Wednesdays on her schedule.

I wrote that Esmée and I need to have a dependable Wednesday volunteer, and we now have that dependable Wednesday volunteer, so, I wrote: “We know that we can count on your support and consider the matter resolved.”

The president of the Friends sent me her thanks, with her note: “Past practice has given bookstore managers the responsibility for staffing decisions. The information you provided is helpful.” And then she sent my entire email to the old Wednesday volunteer.

Why she did that, I don’t know. The president of the Friends could have simply told the old Wednesday volunteer that she supports Esmée and Vivian’s decision, and left it at that…but by forwarding my email to old Wednesday volunteer, detailing why she was unsuitable for the book store, the president of the Friends made things a lot worse.

Old Wednesday volunteer wrote to the president of the Friends:

After reading Vivian’s delusional         and insulting remarks, I am going on record to state that I have no intent to meet    .It is difficult to deal with fabrications.   I have documentation and records to support any of the false allegations made as to my           performance

She continues, in 1,896 words, to call me a liar and an incompetent manager who needs to take classes, and to list her community service awards while criticizing me for taking credit for the book store’s success when I should “leave the compliments to others     .”

Old Wednesday volunteer doesn’t mention Esmée, but Esmée advised me not to respond to old Wednesday volunteer so we have let her have the last word. . . until the next board meeting of The Friends.

That’s when I will report that the old Wednesday volunteer is still fired, and the new Wednesday volunteer set a record for her first day on the job when she made $101.50, for the Friends. I hope old Wednesday volunteer will be there, because I can’t wait for her to bring documentation and records to support any of the false allegations made as to [her]           performance

Bibs and Taffy resolve their situation.

Yes, for once, I am really looking forward to the next board meeting of the Friends of Bryant Library, on May 7.

As for current events in the larger, non-library world, oh lordy, do we have a situation. So Bob Mueller wrote a letter to the Attorney General disputing Barr’s synopsis of his 448-page report, in which he clearly and explicitly did not exonerate der Drumpf for obstruction of Justice, and in fact listed evidence so that der Drumpf can be charged after he leaves office. Yay!, but I am too exhausted by the never-ending shit show that is this presidency and I. Can’t. Take. It. Not this early in the day.

Well, maybe this early in the day. . .  but not without vodka.

Then again, maybe vodka with the morning news is the new normal in these times.

As one commentor on the New York Times article about the content of Meuller’s letter put it: Our suffering has no boundaries and yet it can still get worse. Vote them out in 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(For more, go to Yellow Dog Granny.)

For the love of god, let’s all try to laugh a little, and stay sane, and let’s bank on the actuarial tables that say Father Time should solve our Trump problem by approx. October 2022:

And I would be remiss in not wishing Melanoma Trump, former soft-core porn model and mail-order bride, a Happy 49th Birthday (April 26). She is, as the Head Liar for Jesus and Evangelical Pastor Franklin Graham tweeted: “the classiest first lady our country has ever had.”

 

 

 

All photos from British GQ magazine, January 2000. For real.

Yeah. We live in strange, strange times.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers.

Stay Classy.

 

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This picture pretty much sums up New Orleans during French Quarter Fest:

He’s just a guy, walking his pig and his German Shepard, down on Decatur Street, with a zydeco band playing in the background.

The pig is called Sargent Tim. Which is a very fine name for a pig.

2019 was the 36th year of French Quarter Fest, and Year Five for Top Cat and I. This year there were 23 stages set up in the Quarter, from Iberville to Esplanade, and all along the Mississippi River on the levee called the Moon Walk. But there are also plenty of bands that pitch up on random blocks, and throw impromptu parties in the middle of the street:

I remembered seeing this guy (in the blue T-shirt and white beret) last year . . .

. . . because he was wearing the same Je Suis Quebecois outfit last year! I don’t have a French Quarter Fest outfit but I’m working on it. To start me off, I got a new hat:

The Fleur-de-Lis is bejeweled, with real fake diamonds. I bought it to be ironic and then I began to really love it. It’s very shiny. (Be sure to pronounce the final “s” on Fleur-de-lis in both your English and French accent. It’s polite. The Fleur-de-Lis is the symbol of royalty in France and it’s the unofficial but ubiquitous symbol of Louisiana and New Orleans and is featured on the city’s flag and pretty much on every cocktail coaster in the Quarter.)

The Crescent is the other symbol of New Orleans, which calls itself “The Crescent City’, because the city was founded right here on Jackson Square in the French Quarter, on the “high” ground (three feet above sea level) where the Mississippi River curls into a “C” shape. The Crescent is on every police badge and cop car and official communication from NOPD:

I’m sorry that I couldn’t get a good picture of this NOPD sign. . .

. . . because this little girl was dancing in the way. . .

The sequins bejeweling her French Quarter Fest outfit spell

LOVE WHO U ARE

and I need to get me one of those shirts.

New Orleans is an”open carry” city, meaning that you can walk around with a cup of booze as long as it is not in a glass or metal container. (It’s called a Go Cup, in paper or plastic.)

This helps immensely with laissez les bons temps rouler.

Even the pups know how to party in NOLA:

Miss Diva here literally rolls with the good times . . .

. . . , and she packs her own bottle[s] of champagne:

If you want to get a line dance started, all you have to do is, well, start one. This lady in the black dress with cowboy boots (she looked great — effortlessly FQF) eventually had about 20 people doing her line, including people who couldn’t follow the stops at all. Even if you can’t dance, you can dance in New Orleans.

The best part of French Quarter Fest is that any stranger can become a dance partner.

I know for a fact that the lady in the blue T-shirt (below) came here from Switzerland with her husband for FrenchQuarter Fest, and the guy in the green shirt (who is a fantastic dancer) is not her husband.

In fact, they had never met before this happened at the French Market:

Another sequin-ly bejeweled lady in her fabulous FQF outfit, and the guy in the green shirt also had a huge dragon tattoo all over his back that I could not get a good photo of:

But the dragon-backed guy in the green shirt wasn’t the only heart-throb there.

This guy (below) in the light pink T-shirt, is the husband of the lady in the blue T-shirt (above), and he was a very good dancer too, so a lady twice his age invited him for a twirl:

She’s who I want to be when I’m 70-something and if I start now maybe I can be her in ten years.

Having been coming to FQF for five years, Top Cat and I have our favorites performers and favorite stages. This stage is at the old Mint on Esplanade:

This is where the brass bands play. You’re looking at the Treme Brass Band here.

This is the biggest stage of the whole Fest, the Abita Beer stage on the levee:

This is where the headliners play. We were here for The Iguanas and Irma Thomas, Soul Queen of New Orleans.

But we LOVE this stage, the Chevron Stage on the Bienville Triangle, because this is where the zydeco bands play:

Top Cat and I, we do love the zydeco.  So does everyone else at FQF. This is a photo of the stage from the performer’s point of view:

As regulars at FQF, Top Cat and I know how to get up front and personal:

Fun Fact: FQF happens during the last week of Lent. Explains this guy’s Easter bonnet.

New Orleans, like the rest of Louisiana, is very Catholic. But it’s a special kind of Catholic, the kind that mixes Easter bunnies with Mardi Gras beads:

And to let you know, even though attendance at the Fest broke records with 825,000 people from all over the world coming to New Orleans to pack themselves into the 422 acres of the French Quarter, you can take a walk up Dumaine Street and by the time you hit Burgundy, you will find peace and quiet, and a yellow cat . . .

 

. . . eating a garden-fresh salad for lunch:

But all good things come to an end, even French Quarter Fest. Top Cat and I usually like to go to the Voodoo Garden at the House of Blues for the last dance, but this year we did something different. We went to see jazz at the Royal Sonesta Hotel:

The Royal Sonesta is fancy. $25 got us two measly glasses of wine. . .

. . . and a fabulous bejeweled courtyard patio where we danced our final waltz:

Then we stepped out of the Royal Sonesta onto the fabled (and rowdy) Bourbon Street. . .

. . . and we started counting the months until French Quarter Fest 2020.

There’s plenty of other stuff we did in between dances at FQF, like shopping on Magazine Street and meeting old friends for lunch in Treme. We went to Mother’s Restaurant one day,  famous for its spaghetti pie (which I had a few years ago and I’m still traumatized; pasta and sauce and green beans are not delicious together) and I had my favorite New Orleans speciality, red beans and rice.

While I was shoveling in the red beans, I watched a southern lady at the table next to us. She ordered a big plate of mashed potatoes, upon which she slabbed a spoonful of butter, and then she stirred in a pile of french fries. Into the buttery mashed potatoes, is what I’m saying. She appeared to have eaten this concoction many, many, many times in the past. (She was not petite, in other words.) And then she ate this Ode to Starch by taking about a thousand tiny, fastidious, dainty bites, as if to break down the calories into their smallest denominator. Bless her heart, as they say. I was fascinated.

This is why I love the South. The south, right here in New Orleans, is where I also saw, one morning, a man order breakfast: a large Coke and a double order of bacon. That was all. Hi-fat protein and liquified sugar. The southern speedball. Bless his heart, he needs divine protection from his diet.

The night after FQF, on our last night in New Orleans, we went to a roof-top bar to watch the sun set. We have never done this before in NOLA, and how onEarth did it take us so long to find this place??

There was a particularly handsome couple at a table nearby, and I took half a dozen shots of them:

He and she seemed to be very much in love and oblivious to everyone else, as you do when you only have eyes for your beloved, so when she went to the ladies room I introduced myself to the guy and said I’d like to send him the pictures (they all came out very well). So he gave me his email, and wrote me the sweetest thank you note a day later when, back in dreary, cold, drizzly, gray, and non-dancing Long Island, I sent them all to him. I think this is something people do these days, in this Instagram era. We take surreptitious pictures of each other and there’s no shame in it any more.

It’s not that New Orleans has the most beautiful sky line (although it does have the SuperDome). . .

. . .it’s more that the bar was surprisingly quiet, and not crowded, and not snotty. . .

. . . and the night was like velvet, bejeweled with a thousand memories of music, dance, romance, and red beans.

Thank you, New Orleans, for being you.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. And wherever you are, I hope you’ll do a twirl in the sunset with a Go Cup in your hand and love in your heart.

 

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Back in my younger days, when I was full of ideas and energy, I made the suggestion that we should do a day of miniature golf in the library.  After six months of hard work, in which I have aged ten years and grown to despise myself for ever having been full of energy and ideas, I had a mini-golf event last Saturday (actually, it was last Saturday when I originally wrote this, before my blog crapped out; now it’s two Saturdays ago, on April 6) and it was a huge success. I raised over $15,000 and the kids went crazy for the golf course.

Fidelity was our Title Sponsor for the Bryant Library’s Mini Golf Event. I went to Fidelity myself, the day before the event, to collect their boxes of give-aways (Titleist golf balls, water thingies, and lip balm in those cute green balls) and I am such a stickler for detail that when I saw that their table cloth was bunched up in a ball and was all wrinkled and icky, I put it in my washing machine and then I IRONED it.

Believe me, I did not enjoy that.

The Bryant Library was also very lucky to have Thomas F. Dalton Funeral Homes as one of our Hole Sponsors. . .

. . . and they gave away stuffed bears and cool stamps and little sketch books.

We also had Douglas Elliman Realtors on board:

And the adult living community called Atria on Roslyn Harbor was another of of our outstanding corporate sponsors:

For those of you who are having a hard time picturing mini golf in a library, here’s a shot of the 10th hole:

This tube actually went down TWO flights of stairs (the stairs go down into the basement to the children’s library) and when the golfers saw this, they lost their minds.

This is my favorite hole, with the giraffes as the hazard:

We used all three floors of the library, starting at the top floor, in the large meeting room where kids could take a few practice swings before hitting the course:

Here are more shots of the course:

And, lastly, our youngest golfer, at 21 months:

He doesn’t look thrilled in this pic, but I watched this kid. At 21 months, he had exceptional concentration and he played all 18 holes! He was, as we used to say in the 1970s : into it.

Getting back to the present day, April 18th-ish, this is what I had planned to show you last week, before there was a problem with my Gateway and I had to punt with Taffy. It’s good to be back with my Dear Readers!

Last week I was also going to tell you about a dream I had the day after the mini golf event and, I know I know, dreams are boring, but humor me please.

I dreamt that I was in a crowd of people. It wasn’t a party, because I didn’t feel any anxiety about having to mingle; it wasn’t a waiting room, because I was not about to explode with impatience. It was just a crowd, and it was somewhat pleasant to be amongst people.

A man appears, and takes me by the arm. Two or three other figures join him as they isolate me away from the crowd. The first man pulls out a gun and points it at my head.

“But I thought you were friends!” I say, more in confusion than in fear.

The man pulls the trigger and I turn my head so I can see bits of my brain and blood splatter in the air as the bullet hits my skull.

Then I wake up and I mediately understand the dream.

It wasn’t a nightmare. I did not experience any panic or terror. This was a very kind, and insightful, dream, a dream that explained my vaguely negative feelings about working so hard on the mini golf event and why I did not take any pleasure or sense of accomplishment from its success. This dream explains an intuition I had, just below the level of consciousness. . . that the organization who benefited from my efforts, The Friends of Bryant Library, are the kind of people who would shoot me in the head. Or maybe I should shoot myself in the head before I ever think of doing something like this again.

After attending board meetings for over a year and after working so hard to raise a shit load of money for The Friends of Bryant Library, I have come to really dislike The Friends of Bryant Library, each and every one of them, some more than others; oh yes, much, much more. I don’t work well with committees, let’s just leave it at that for now. For now.

Last week I did not work in the used book store that I co-manage for the local library because I was gallivanting. I was in another city, dancing in the streets (that story will come next week) and staying out too late and over-indulging in the best ways possible.

But one afternoon I did long for restorative cup of tea with a good book — a still point in a spinning world — so I dragged my weary butt into a quaint book store and stood, slack-jawed, in front of a table piled high with all manner of literature, travel, biography, memoir, local history, etc.

“Are you looking for anything in particular?” the kindly book seller asked.

I could barely speak, nearly out of my mind with fatigue, but I did manage to say, “I’m looking for something to read.”

The book seller looked at me with pity and I could read her mind. No Shit, Genius, she was thinking; YOU’RE IN A BOOK STORE.

It took me several long, agonizing minutes before I came across Stephen King’s book, On Writing, and knew it was just the thing. Then I asked where a tourist could go to get a quiet cup of tea and the bookseller directed me to a hidden cafe that only the locals know about.

And it was quiet, and the tea was good, and I read the first chapter, and all was well.

If you are ever in New Orleans and need a minute to yourself in calm surroundings with a nice cup of Assam, go to the CCs Coffee House on the corner of Royal and Saint Phillip in the French Quarter.

The rest — the loud stuff — I will tell you about next week.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

I could insert a Dump the Trump meme here, but let’s be happy. This could have been me last week y’all because I went to New Orleans!

And if Jesus was inside Notre Dame when it was burning, why didn’t He just put the damn fire out?

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I wanted you to see the contemplative side of Taffy so here he is, imaging how cool he would be if he owned a Vespa.

I tried. Lordy, I tried, But I cannot get my regularly scheduled blog post to show up today.

I will be on the phone with my internet provider and the tech support at my domaine host today so I can bring you all the news from the backyard next week.

Arrrgh. I had such a good story to tell you!

I’ll be back.

As soon as I figure out what a 502 Bad Gateway is.

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