Book Store Tales

Some time ago, this small (palm-sized) little book came in as part of a donation to theused-book store that I manage for charity here on the north shore of Long Island:

Harper’s Family Library No, 29: The Court and Camp of Bonaparte, printed in 1833.

I didn’t think much this boo. I saw that it was very old and very shabby, so I put it with my secret stash of “Creepy Books”, the collection old books, in fair to poor condition, that I am storing up for use in a “Haunted Bookshop” installation I want to do for Halloween this year, using my neighbor’s book, The Haunted Bookshop as inspiration (Christopher Morley, 1890 – 1957,  used to be a very famous American writer whose old h ouse was a little up the road from where I now live, and there’s a huge public park named for him about half a mile away and one of his books was The Haunted Bookshop, a dreadful book in spite of its awesome title).

So I was going  those Creepy Books again this past week and I picked up Harper’s Family Library No, 29: The Court and Camp of Bonaparte, printed in 1833, and I just happened to open it to check out the free end papers and I found this:

What the hell, I thought, I might as well google this name.

It turns out that James B. Fry is this guy:

Photo credit: Matthew Brady, c. 1864. Public domaine, the Library of Congress.

Here’s who this guy is:

James Barnet Fry

Feb. 22, 1827 – July 11, 1894  (67 years)

James Barnet Fry was a West Point graduate and artillery specialist who served briefly in the Mexican-American War (1846 – 1848).

Fry came into repeated contact with President Abraham Lincoln from the beginning of the Civil War, when he came to Washington DC in the winter of 1861 to protect the government during President Lincoln’s inauguration.

Fry’s conduct impressed the White House staff. Presidential aid John Hay wrote in his diary: “Fry is the firmest and soundest man I meet…He seems to combine great honesty of purpose with accurate and industrious business habits and a lively and patriotic soldier spirit that is better than any thing else, today.”

Fry served as General Irvin McDowell’s Chief of Staff during the First Battle of Bull Run (July 1861) and was the Chief of Staff of the Army of the Cumberland in its operations in the Western Theatre (which included the Battle of Shiloh in 1862). He was then appointed Provost Marshal General of the entire Union Army, in which capacity he served until the end of the Civil War.

Effective on March 15, 1865, Fry was brevetted to the ranks of colonel, brigadier general, and major general in the Regular Army in recognition of his service at the First Battle of Bull Run and the Battle of Shiloh, and for “faithful, meritorious and distinguished service as Provost Marshal General during the war.”

After the Civil War, Fry continued his military career until 1881, when he turned his talents to writing books about the army, including New York and the Conscription of 1863.

So what I have is a book that James B. Fry obviously bought second-hand some time after March of 1865 for his own private library and held  in his own hands. I wish he had signed the damn book because his signature is going for $296.00 on eBay. (Above: It looks to me as though this was torn out of one of General Fry’s other books, right?)

So I’ve got that short bio of General Fry (above) and I got a beautiful, sharp print of the Matthew Brady photo from the Library of Congress, and along with the book I’ll sell the whole package as a ready-made holiday gift for the Civil War buff in your life, here in our little used-book store here on the north shore of Long Island. I think $30.00 is the right price.

My co-manager of the used book store that I manage for the benefit of our local library here on the north shore of Long Island thought I was a genius for discovering this little treasure. But she’s got me all wrong.

The only reason I found this provenance in this old, battered book was because I was considering cutting it up for my “art”. Oh, yes; I would gladly have cut up this 186-year old tome with nary a dust mote of guilt because, to be honest, I am getting to be a person who sincerely loathes books.

It would be different, maybe, if I were selling antiquarian books for personal fun and profit, but I’m working as a volunteer for a charity used-book store and dealing with random people’s filthy and cheap cast-offs FOR FREE. I want to kick myself.

It’s another story when callers say, “I have some nice books to donate because we are moving/downsizing/de-cluttering.” In this case, there’s a 50% chance that only 80% of their books will be trash.

But more and more I’m getting callers who say, “I have books I want to donate because it’s so hard to throw out books.”

When I hear those last seven words I already know that they are going to be handing me trash, pure junk, and are using me as their garbage valet.  And I resent it, and their books.

I was working in the book store for two hours this week, and I took in two donations. This is what I threw out:

This is about 80% of what was bequested to us. It’s TRASH. I load these boxes and bags into the trunk of my car, and then I drive home and let the trash sit in the trunk of my car overnight. Then I drive Top Cat to the train station the next morning so he can catch the 6:49 to Manhattan and then I drive to the library when the library is closed and the parking lot is empty and I can back up the car to the library’s secret trash bin. And then I unload this crap myself and hoist over the edge of a five-foot tall dumpster. It is not fun.

And then I drive to the gym and work out so, yeah, I guess unloading trash can be as aerobic as pedaling a stationery bicycle but I still don’t like it.

Here is a close up of the kind of books that I throw out:

I want to punch the person who donated these books, AS IF they would be appropriate for sale in a nice little book shop on the north shore of Long Island.

Ugh: This is a tiny book(below)  (that’s my s6 iPhone for scale). No way, nope. I don’t want any book in my store that contains the words “in utero”:

Also, No:

Other stuff:

I found the laminated photo of a little girl inside a paperback biography of Teddy Roosevelt (the book passed muster and is now in stock at the store), and the train ticket from Livorno to Florence from March, 2009, I found inside a paperback novel, on page 25. Someone didn’t like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time very much.  I feel you, Italian train traveller. I didn’t like that book at all.

We already have 2 copies of The Curious Incident, so I threw out the one that had the train ticket in it.

To elaborate a bit on last week’s blog post, about me being bored, I now must confess that when I wrote last week’s blog I was on Day 14 of a diet. You see, a couple of months ago I had my yearly physical and I learned that I had gained 4 pounds since last year’s physical, on top of the 4 pounds I had gained the year before. It doesn’t take a genius to spot a worrying trend there.

So I put myself on a 1200 calorie / 45 grams of protein a day diet. I also joined a new gym and I work out an hour every morning on exercise routines devised by my personal trainer, so, La Di Da for me.

It’s easy to start a diet. It’s exciting to be on the road to good health! It’s empowering to know you have finally got off your ass and are DOING something!

By Day 14 you have lost the will to live. No nice thick slice of ciabatta toast in the morning (whole wheat bread instead…boring), no fabulous homemade gourmet pizza on Friday (chick pea pasta with marina sauce instead…boring). And forget about greek yogurt — there is no way I am eating greek yogurt. Salmon, in any way shape or form: Nope. Six almonds as an afternoon  “snack”? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Whoa –No cheese enchiladas??

I’m a girl who keeps a photo of my favorite cheese enchiladas on my computer’s desktop because I AM IN FREAKING LOVE WITH CHEESE ENCHILADAS:

Lunchtime enchilada special at Little Mexico in Westbury, Long Island.

And the most absolute, horrfying, life-sucking WORST OF ALL : I have to cut my wine consumption by half.

I don’t know if you’ve recently experienced a day in Trump’s America while totally sober, but it is torture.

So my friend sent me this (NSFW):

I mourn my lost wine-drinking days because I have recently discovered a  fantastic pinot grigio that is only $6.99 a bottle so, as any reasonable person would do, I recently went to Total Wine and bought three cases of the stuff. I was in line at the check out desk, behind a stall, stocky, mid-30s, blue-collar looking guy who is buying a dozen bottles of an Australian red wine called 19 Crimes.

19 Crimes, the story behind the label: On August 20, 1865  one James Wilson, an Irish nationalist who enlisted in the British Army to avoid arrest for the battery of a police officer, was court martialed for desertion and mutinous conduct and sentenced to death, a sentence later commuted to life imprisonment with hard labor. On October 12, 1867 he was placed aboard the Hougoumont, the last convict ship to sail to Australia. The wine, a blend that is brooding with richness, is like the wine rations served on convict ships in that every sip deserves to be savored.

So, yeah, I’m in line behind a big bruiser who is buying 19 Crimes wine and I’m loading my many bottles of cheap white wine onto the conveyor belt, and the bruiser ahead of me accidentally lets go of his trolly and it ever so lightly rolls backwards, into me.

“Oh!”, the guy says, “I’m so sorry, darlin’!”

I did not expect that.

Then he notices my inventory of white wine and he says, “Wow, somebody’s going to have a great night tonight!”

I follow his gaze to the evidence of my immodest lust for wine and I say, “Winter’s coming.”

Which was true. Who doesn’t stock up on wine when it’s August and you start degrading the cold, dark mornings and the cold, dark nights of November? But I had not meant to quote Game of Thrones. It slipped out.

So the guy laughed really hard and wished me a Good Winter when he rolled out of the store, and  now I wish everyone would call me “darlin'” instead of “ma’am”.

As of today, Day 20 of my diet, I have lost 3 1/2 pounds, so I’m not as bored as I was last week. And if I budget my calories just right, there is enough left over for a glass or two of wine now and then, and on one of those happy evenings recently, Top Cat and I went for cocktails at an open-air restaurant that has a fantastic view of The Long Island Sound.

At sunset there was a lot of thunder and lightening in the air, and we watched a huge storm roll across the waters of the Sound and engulf Manhattan on the far shore:

Behind the storm came this:

It was so exhilarating to be out in all that weather, watching this blessed Earth do her thing, and when the rain came pouring down on us it was warm and exciting, and life should always be like this. Because life on earth can be so wonderful. But it’s a lot better with wine.

Other news: The Stromness Rock is setting out on its ramble around America this weekend, and all you lovely volunteer tour guides will be receiving an information package later this week.

Candy has begun her annual walkabout, which happens every August when she deserts her favorite napping spots in the house and lives outside for one or two or three months. We don’t know why she does it. But she does come back noticeably thinner, so maybe there’s the answer.

Candy, Day One of Walkabout. The raccoons dug up the paving bricks in the background, looking for cat food kibble that spilled out of their bowl that is usually on that top step. I think that’s cute.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers.

See you here next week.

XXOO

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Gratitude Jar has 2 notes in it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All kinds of books.

I have hard books and soft books.

Nice books.

The usual kinds of books.

Books from my house.

And my favorite; Books for reading.

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

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

And she says, Two big garbage bags of books.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caption: Ball of fire one second after burst.

These survival tips are so ludicrous . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hortense Calisher got an obit in the New York Times:

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

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

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

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

This too:

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

I wish I could read that dog’s mind.

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

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

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

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

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

My next book also has a French connection:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Am I petty just because ugly Trumps make me happy?

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

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

And when we do, I’ll let you know.

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

XXOO

 

 

 

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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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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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. . .  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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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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Something’s rotten in the state of language today.

But I know you don’t come here for the commentary; you come here for the Taffy. So here he is:

Nothing’s rotten about Taffy. He’s fine.

There is a decay of the euphony and precision of language.

Please don’t wake me No don’t shake me, Leave me where I am. I’m only sleeping.

A blight.

Creative napping. The best part is the three Blue Jays looking in, wondering, Is that cat dead? Because we Blue Jays are carnivores and that cat looks mighty tasty.

There is a plague of mealy-mouth dithering, across the land, and it’s all because of two ubiquitous words.

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Last Thursday, on NPR (National Public Radio, the hi-brow talk radio of progressive politics and culture),  I heard a pundit explain to an morning news show host: There’s sort of a definition of “terrorist” that does not call out white supremacy. (1)

On Friday, on NPR’s evening news program All Things Considered, an economist discussed on-line markets as opposed to real world economies: They [on-line stores] don’t sort of have a place consumers can go to. (2)

Reading the Sunday New York Times Magazine, the gold standard of long form journalism. . .

Cover of New York Times Magazine for March 31, 2019, the headline “Can a Woman Play Shakespeare’s Lear?” Ew. I cannot tell you how much I do not care whether Glenda Jackson can play King Lear or not.

 

. . . from a story about the hot shot agents who are representing the best selling Tell All authors from Trump’s administration, this quote: The challenge with Trump people is they’re looking for legitimacy and they’re looking for sort of an outlet to unburden themselves o the baggage that comes with the job. (3)

Monday night, I’m reading my new favorite book, How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan. On page 402, Mr. Pollan quotes a psychiatrist who hopes that in the future, sick and well people will have access to therapeutic psychedelic drugs in a place that is safe and supportive, a place that is Sort of like a cross between a spa/retreat and a gym. (4)

On Tuesday afternoon, I am listening to my local NPR affiliate, to an interview of a curator of a new show at the world famous Metropolitan Museum of Art; the curator is explaining why she chose to exhibit racist art: If we eliminated it from art history we would sort of be missing a teaching opportunity. (5)

I could go on and on, but let’s let these five examples suffice.

What do all of these citations have in common?

Two little words.

Sort Of.

Synonyms for sort of: slightly, faintly, remotely, vaguely; kind of, somewhat, moderately, to a limited extent.

So, then:

(1)  There’s sort of  slightly a definition of “terrorist” that does not call out white supremacy as such.

(2) They don’t sort of faintly have a place consumers can go to.

(3) The challenge with Trump people is they’re looking for legitimacy and they’re looking for sort of  remotely an outlet to unburden themselves of the baggage that comes with the job.

(4) Sort of Vaguely like a cross between a spa/retreat and a gym.

(5) If we eliminated it from art history we would sort of kind of, moderately, to a limited extent be missing a teaching opportunity. 

Really? Have we become a people that can’t spit out an unqualified thought, opinion, or factoid?

I think that we are so used to hearing “sort of” in conversation that we don’t even recognize it as something that is rotting out any kind of accuracy, or coherence, or credibility in the language.

Sort of is annoyingly passive. It’s dickishly timid. Sort of are mincing filler words that seem to spew randomly from the mouths of people with no back bone, no real gumption, no true point of view. Sort of is for wimps. Sort of is trying to be cute, as if talking like a high school stoner will make you look younger. Sort of is flabby, and coy. It makes you sound stupid. So stop it.

Thank you.

As long as I’ve got you here, can I also request that you stop using the word lyrical to describe a painting, a design, dance, or screen/book writing? It doesn’t make you sound more poetic and deep; for christ sake just say pretty.

And stop using half a decade as an imposing length of time. You can’t inflate the importance, seriousness, weight, or  awesomeness that is half a decade. It’s still just five lousy years. FIVE. Top Cat has shirts that he bought five years ago that he hasn’t gotten around to wearing yet so half a decade is, like, six months in experiential time when you’re a grown up.

Also, when I have to rev up the Toyota hybrid to accomplish a long To Do List in an afternoon, would you all please stay off the roads? I don’t want to have to deal with your absent-minded turn-signaling, your day-dreaming when the light turns green,  and your hogging of the left lane at exactly the speed limit.

That is all. For now.

Last week, Dear Reader Meghan (Yes, that Meghan, the Duchess of Melbourne), came to the rescue when I asked about a mysterious book shop that comes and goes in London. Here it is, my Dear Ones:

This is the Lost Lending Library by Punchdrunk  Enrichment with lists its offices in The Canon Factory in London. They visit schools (they have even been in our own Meghan’s neck of the woods) to install secret lending libraries. The kids visit it and, inspired, they write their own stories, which are then added to the collection of the Lost Lending Library.

Neat.

I have plans for the used book store that I co-manage and I want to steal the esthetic of the Lost Lending Library. The source of my inspiration is a book that we got in as a donation a few months ago. . . and I will tell you more about it next week (I can hear Top Cat in my head complaint that this blog post is already too damn long).

But I know that as much as you all love the Taffy content here in this humble blog, you also love to hear the latest updates on the little used book store that I co-manage here on the north shore of Long Island. Here’s a typical donation:

At least once a week somebody drops off a pile of books on the doorstep of the used book store. I thought this doorstep deposit was above average because it’s cantilevered. There’s also a big coffee table book about Colonial Williamsburg. What is it about Colonial Williamsburg? We get a lot of books about Colonial Williamsburg, usually in the kinds of donations that happen when there’s been the death of an elder in the family. I guess at one time, Colonial Williamsburg was the hottest thing in American culture but jeez…do people not know that Colonial Williamsburg is a recreation, and it’s totally fake from top to bottom?

The old Colonial Williamsburg books never sell, but I always give the latest one a chance — I put it on the shelf and leave it there until we need the room for something that the people who buy used books actually want, such as picture books about dogs.

And then this fell out from a 2001 Frommer’s travel guide to Italy:

And that’s the news from my corner of the universe, that corner of Reality in which we do not Sort Of, in which five years is a blink of an eye, in which we dream up ways to make a lowly used book store feel more ensorcelled, and in which we do not jump for joy when we find a dead Blue Jay on the street because songbirds are protected species and it’s wrong to put them in your freezer and then desiccate them like the Native Americans do to collect their feathers, no, we don’t do that.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. Taffy hopes that you all get a good tummy rub and a chin scritch to give you sweet dreams at nap time.

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First things first: Let me assure Jeanie and all of Taffy’s fans that Taffy is still alive and well and watching the birdies eat breakfast on the den patio:

Now we can go back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

I’ve had to work extra days at the used bookstore this week (all proceeds go to the Friends of Bryant Library) because we have too many hours of openness and too few volunteers. Usually I take a radio to the store with me to keep me company during down times, but on Wednesday I forgot it so I plugged in the small CD player I keep at my desk and I played an old 1991 CD that we got in a donation a while ago.

One of our regulars was browsing nearby and he asked me, “Is that Bruce Springsteen?”

No, I said. “It’s Gordon Lightfoot.”

“I left my hearing aids in the car,” he explained. (He’s in the store once a week and you can never talk to him because he ALWAYS leaves his hearing aids in the car. Dude! Put in your damn hearing aids!)

And then he went on to say “I like Gordon Lightfoot. I can’t get out of the ’60s and ’70s. It’s still my favorite music. I guess I’m showing my age. I’m 65.”

When I find out that people are in my age bracket, I mentally put us back in high school together so I can figure out where we stand. I’m guessing that this guy was a senior when I was a freshman. We would have been in different orbits back then but here we are now, chatting like Baby Boomer homies.

I’m OK with music from the ’60s and ’70s, but the stuff I truly adore comes from the 1980s. That’s because I didn’t like high school at all, and I had a lot more fun and thrills in my late 20s/ early 30s, when Tears for Fears and Johnny Hates Jazz was the background music. God, I miss the ’80s.

But as a professional, I agreed with No Hearing Aid guy that the music of our youth was the best ever, and he bought a copy of Look Homeward, Angel and a history of Tudor England and left. Things were quiet, so I unpacked a big box that had been left on the book store’s doorstep overnight.

The box was full of children’ books, which I always like to look through. We have an excellent children’ book section, which I have organized into five categories. One of the categories is Princess and Ballerina Books.

This is where I put the Disney Princess books and the ballet books because, sometimes, you have to find a book for a kid who loves pink. (I love pink, too.) And lo, what should I find in this Wednesday donation but the perfect mash-up:

It’s very disturbing, to me, to see illustrations of Cinderella and Prince Charming in a pas de deux, but I priced it at 50 cents and dropped it into the box because who am I to judge?

It was still quiet, so I thought that as long as I had my camera out, this was a good time to take a photo of our main Fiction bookcase:

I have plans for this book case. But before I transform it, I need to ask you, Dear Readers, for your help.

A while back, maybe a  year ago when I was new to used book selling, one of you darlings sent me a YouTube about a group of artists in England…London, I think…who take over a space in a public school and, overnight, install a mysterious book store. The shelves are full of tattered volumes and tiny treasures, and the whole shebang is presided over by a dotty caretaker, a lady who invites the school kids to come in and browse. Then the kids go back to their classrooms and write about this mysterious place.

If there is a Dear Reader, or Taffy fan, who remembers sending this to me, please send it to me again. I’ve been hoarding artistically tattered books for a year and it’s time to make some use of them.

Thanking you in advance, I will forever be indebted.

Thankfully, before I could become bored out of my mind, in came a woman looking for kids’ books to use in her kindergarten movement class and, close behind her came another regular, a collage artist. The kindergarten teacher needed books that had a lot of different animals in them so the kids could move like all kinds of  creatures. But not spiders. She tried getting them to act like spiders once and they didn’t go for it.

This is one of the books she bought. It wasn’t in the Princess and Ballerina box. I had this in one of the seven Picture Book boxes.

The college artist uses black and white photographs for his stuff, so he always checks out the latest coffee table books — he found a Time Life book about the 20th century, and another book about early American arts that had a lot of portraits in it.

He’s going to have a show in September at a local gallery and I am looking forward to seeing what he’s made of our books.

The kindergarten teacher overheard the collage artist and me talking and she volunteered that she does collage too. Well, actually, she does decoupage. She puts animals on chairs and donates them. She showed the collage artist photos of her chairs on her phone and he said that they were good. I’m not a “crafts” person so I had not heard of Mod Podge before, and now I think I want to try it out.

It was half past noon and I had made $10 for The Friends of Bryant Library. I was sure that I would be on my own until closing time (3 o’clock) but a mere half hour later my favorite book collector came in. I haven’t seen him since he spent four or five days with us last Summer, buying hundreds of books to re-stock a friend’s flooded-out library in Houston.

Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in August of 2017. Hurricane Harvey is tied with 2005’s Hurricane Katrina as the costliest tropical cyclone on record, inflicting $125 billion in damage, primarily from catastrophic rainfall-triggered flooding in the Houston metropolitan area and Southeast Texas.

A basket of squirrels rescued from Hurricane Harvey because, Awwwwwwwww.

Turns out that our friend enjoyed that book-buying experience so much that he quit his job as a computer tech and set up a warehouse, and now he’s a full-time bookseller on Amazon.

I ended the day with $101.50 for The Friends of Bryant Library. It was a record-breaking Wednesday.

So that’s three hours in the life of a used book store.

I hope you have enjoyed this peek into the rarefied world of used book selling and if you have friends who live on the north shore of Long Island, please urge them to come volunteer three hours a week of their time to join us in all the rollicking good fun.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. If you’re having the blues please remember that everything that we have heard about the Mueller report is lies coming from lying Republican bastards. But are we down hearted?

NO! Because The Truth Will Out, and when it does it will wipe the smug shit-eating fake-billionaire grins off every Trump face for, oh, about 2 – 10 in a Fed slammer.

This just in on Taffy:

He’s still alive and dreaming.

Taffy Say Relax.

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On the last day of Winter, Taffy did his final Roll of the Season:

 

 

 

 

Then Top Cat and I made dinner and packed it into a picnic basket with bottle of champagne and we took ourselves to the shores of the Long Island Sound. The wind off the water was bracing, and not a bit Spring-like, and the champers was ice cold and the gourmet sandwiches were tasty (but everything taste great on an Equinox picnic at sun set).

Watching the sun set over a body of water is good for smoothing out the mental ruts of worry and despair that is the groove of the day in Trump’s America.

If a Democrat had said half of what Trump’s been shitting out about John McCain, Fox News would be screaming non-stop Off With His Head… but Trump can even lie about McCain and nobody on the right whispers so much as a tut tut.

If a non-white mass mass murderer had killed 50 Christians and called Obama his inspiration, the Senate would immediately call themselves God’s Warriors and declare a holy war on every black and brown person in the world…but the Christchurch shooter can name Trump explicitly as his white nationalist guiding light, and the Republicans are all, “Words! It’s only words! Only crazy people think words have meaning!”

 

 

So we watched the sun set over the Bronx and talked about our travel plans for 2019. We have not yet hammered out which way we want to go once we head off the Orkney isles…to the left? To the right? Or should we journey straight ahead, down the Highland Main Line to Glasgow? Ah, Scotland. Maybe this is the year that I’ll get Top Cat to buy a kilt.

Speaking of Scotland, which is the birthplace of golf, which makes me think of my miniature golf event at the local library, which makes me think that I have devoted way too much of my life on this event, I have recently discovered that when I thought that fund raising was the hard part, I was wrong. I have raised $14,050 for the Friends of Bryant Library so far (and yes, it’s a record about of money), and although that was not easy, now that I am in the “management” phase of getting this event off the ground, I am working even harder. Soliciting press coverage by pitching stories to newspaper and TV, sending out PR announcements, lining up volunteers to staff the event, getting approval for library staff overtime, making sure that all our sponsors get their due in press materials, etc.

It’s taken me three days just to deign a scorecard for the golfers, because it has to have all our sponsors’ logos on it and trading down all those pixels from a dozen entities is, to say the least, time consuming. And I’ve never designed on the computer before. And I probably never will again. I am looking forward to the end of this event, and all the free space that will open up in my head and in my daily schedule.

And then I can concentrate on the new incarnation of Project Runway — yay! It’s back on Bravo!

I will miss Tim Gunn, but I’ve loved Christian Siriano ever since he let Rami Kashou carry him into the workroom in a handbag. (Season 4, and Chrisitan is really small.) Karlie Kloss, the model who is married to Jared Kuchner’s brother, is taking over hosting duties from Heidi Klum and she seems to be rather bland, but maybe she’ll get some juice once the series gets rolling.

(If you have not seen the utter creepiness of dips hit Ivanka Trump’s “congratulation” of Karlie in a video she posted, do yourself a favor and watch it here.)

I love watching Project Runway because I am 63 years old and I still have not learned how to shop for clothes. I still buy stuff that I will never wear, and I buy stuff that I shouldn’t wear. I really shouldn’t wear a light green and gray fleece jacket is ugly and boxy, and I should never have bought it but it looked warm, and I wear it as a last resort when all the good stuff is in the hamper. I’ve been seen in public in this ugly fleece. I look terrible in it.

Two years ago I bought an incredibly spiffy Calvin Klein jacket that I have yet to put on and take out. This is it:

OMG, I LOVE this jacket! It fits like it was made just for me, but I don’t know where to wear it to. Maybe I just like having it around, to remind me of some other, more stylish Vivian I could be.

Truthfully, I dislike 90% of what I wear every day, so I’d like to design my own clothes and feel well-dressed no matter what I’m doing. And I think that if I watch enough Project Runway, I will learn something useful about fashion.

Now let’s turn to something I DO know.

Books!

This came in last week in a donation to the used book store that I manage:

I am dearly bored by anything having to do with Paris in the 1920s but this little sticker caught my attention:

There is no library marking any where on the book, but it does have five little stamped dates inside the back cover which I assume are Due Dates. I wish I knew from which private, pay library our donor had stolen this book from.

This is a first edition, published in 1950 by Doubleday & Company, right here on Long Island. I checked…it’s not worth anything. True to form, tho, the author’s photo takes up the entire back cover:

In case you can’t read the text beneath the pensive, and k d lang look-alike, Mr MacCown, here it is:

Last year Alice B. Toklas said to a friend passing through Paris, “Gertrude used to wonder and I still do why Eugene doesn’t write his memoirs which would be so much better than all the books by bright young men about Paris whose authors didn’t really know anybody and Eugene knew everybody and has so many more stories to tell which were all unbelievable and all perfectly true.”

So of course I had to look him up. And Eugene Macon really was quite the Man About Town! This is Google-translated from French  Wikipedia (he doesn’t have an American Wikipedia page):

**Arriving from Missori in Paris in 1921 where he attended the artistic and literary bohemian of the Roaring Twenties and in particular Nancy Cunard, of  which he paints a portrait in 1923, Jean Cocteau who meets this “teenager with long hands, who walks like a panther and has animal eyes “, or Rene Crevel, whom he met during the winter of 1923-1924  and became his lover. Emmanuel Pierrat remarks that in the same way McCown deeply fascinates Bernard Fay  : “Mac Cown is the exemplary incarnation of these American angels who fascinate … His amorous gifts, no less than his cruel frivolity, appear to merge into a magnetism of which [Bernard Fay] have been the beneficiarie as much as the martyr. ”

A figure in the Montparnasse district and its cafés such as La Cupole, the Dome, or the Select, he moved to a studio on Rue Campagne Premiere, where he became a successful painter at theEcole de Paris. From that time, like René Crevel and Nancy Cunard, the features of Eugene McCown remain known to us by the photo-portrait by Man Ray.**

Eugene and Nancy Cunard in Capri, c. 1925

 

The only MacCown painting I could find in color, called The Spanish Woman.

Well, from his dippy author photo I can’t see the “magnetism” that made the artistes of Paris swoon, even though it’s taken by a noted fancy- art photographer named Lotte Jacobi. And, yeah, MacCown should have written his memoirs! Because they’d be a whole lot more scintillating than this tepid roman a clef, a synopsis of which I read in Gay American Novels, 1870 – 1970, A Reader’s Guide, by Dewey Wayne Gunn which relieved me of any desire to read this book.

And that’s the week that was. It was a little boring for me (not typical), a lot tragic for our civilization (as usual), and excruciatingly frightening for our planet (which is the norm these days). I hope 5 o’clock comes early today so I can go to my Happy Place, which is anywhere that a glass of wine can take me, preferably to a place where  Top Cat is wearing a kilt, Urquhart tartan, please.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. I think we might have reached the critical mass of Stupidity, and things can only get better, and that’s what I believe.

And to those on the other side of the world, for showing America and the planet how decent and honorable and giving a society, and humanity, can be in times of violence, anger, and sorrow:

 

God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.

 

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