Book Store Tales

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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If you thought that I was in a bad mood before Daylight Savings time. . .

Steve, last week, at dawn, or dawn-ish, right before breakfast.

. . .  you should see me now.

I like waking up at dawn — I get to live another day in this wondrous world! I love the clarity and kindness of the early morning light. I like the way we get a spiritual Do-Over with the first cup of tea. I like the hope that comes with toast, a fresh start every 24 hours illuminated by the miracle of daybreak, courtesy of our very own star a mere 98 million miles away.

None of that happens when you have to get out of bed in the dark, shiver into two layers of fleece in the dark, put the tea kettle on in the dark, and back the car out of the driveway in the dark.

Why, o why did the Democrats not get rid of Daylight Savings Time when they had control over both houses of Congress and the Presidency? And, while they were at it, they could have ditched the Electoral College as well but noooooo. . .

A lot happened last week at the used book store that I manage here on the north shore of Long Island and I’m here to tell you all about it. Let’s start with Mike Massimino, a guy who absolutely did not cheat his way into college:

I liked Mike Massimino when he guest-starred on The Big Bang Theory and No, I did not know he was a real astronaut when he first showed up in Season 5, episode 15. His book is fun to read because he’s humble, he’s funny, and he’s smart. He’s also very hard working — he wanted to be an astronaut so badly that he did extensive physical exercises on (with?) his eyeballs so he could pass the vision test. You can’t “money” your way into NASA and to become an astronaut, and you have to be very, very good at science and a whole lot more. Who knew that being fluent in French is a + on your astronaut application?

This first edition copy of Spaceman is not the only astronaut book we have:

We have a second edition copy of Sally Ride’s book about Mars and GUESS WHAT!

Both these books are signed:

I am selling these books as a set for $25.00.

This is my favorite part of Spaceman, on page 121 of Mike Massimino’s life story:

——-

Other than flying in the T-38, one of my favorite parts of astronaut training was the enrichment lectures. Former astronauts and older NASA guys would come by and give talks about the space program. … My favorite lecturer was Alan Bean, who flew on Apollo 12 and is one of the twelve guys who walked on the moon. After retiring from NASA, he became a painter. Alan’s letter was called “the Art of Space Exploration.” He talked about the mistakes he’d made and how he learned to fix them. … the last thing Alan said to us was “What most people want in life is to do something great. That doesn’t happen often. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t be blasé about it. And don’t blow it. A lot of times, believe it or not, people blow it.”

——-

I want to send this to every teenager I know because I wish I had had Alan Bean around when I was in my 20s warning me to not blow it because Oh, yes, I know very well how people blow it.

Haven’t we all? This people typing this right now, for example, has blown it. More than once. And maybe as recently as yesterday. That’s another thing that I love about the early morning: it’s too soon in the day to have blown it yet.

Last week at the used book store we got this in a donation:

It’s a Book of the Month Club edition (basically not even worth its weight in scrap paper) but I’m interested in it because of this:

Ah, those were the days (in this case, 1981) when author photos took up the entire back cover, when writers were important people and the books they wrote mattered (even fiction). And you know why this particular author photo is special to me (hint: cat). But, I wonder, did people not know how to crop photos back in 1981? I know that photographers like to get people’s hands in the picture. . . was John Irving’s left hand doing something weird and they had to crop it out, even though that left a lot of dead space at the top of the frame? Or did the art department have a thing for the tippy top of that background tree?

Working in a used book store gives you a lot of time to think about stuff. These fell out of a coffee table book about Rembrandt:

I was thinking, Oh yuk, a Rembrandt book; but then the New York Times Sunday magazine did a cover story about the discovery of a “lost” Rembrandt and now I’m thinking maybe Rembrandt is coming back in style and I put a $1.00 price tag on it.

And then there is this:

Have you ever heard of Patrick White? I had no idea that an Australian had ever won the Nobel for literature but there you go. You always learn something in a day’s work at the used book store.

There are always people who think the used book store is in desperate need of their ancient beat-up college paperbacks:

This one had a cigarette burn in it, and such useful notes as: Nothing is ever it.

I have a story about Ulysses that I have been saving to tell until just the right moment and that moment has come!

When Vladimir Nabokov was teaching literature at Cornell (1948 – 1959), he made a note of this in his diary  dated March 21, 1951, about a meeting he had with a student who was “explaining to me (after getting a 55 [on a test] that when reading a novel (Ulysses, in this case), that he likes to skip passages and pages so as to get his own idea ‘you know, about the book and not be influenced by the author.’ ”

I can only imagine the look on Vladimir’s face during this exchange. I wonder what that student went on to do with his life.

This is the book that I nominate as this week’s Most Boring Book Ever Published:

It came in with Ulysses. A note on the inside cover says, P. 261 – READ OVER.

So let’s look at page 261:

Almost every page of this little paperback is filled with underlines and yellow hi-lights. This guy really loved Oliver Cromwell. Go figure.

And, next; this is just sad:

The book was printed in 1921, so it was already quite old when it was given away.

Dated Riga, 1 April 1939:

My dear friend Fanni, to remember a time I will not forget.

This is from Wikipedia, translated from the German, about the book’s author, Artur Landsberger (1876 – 1933):

As a sharp-tongued social critic Landsberger was persecuted by the National Socialists.  Finally, he took an overdose of Veronal  at his desk and died by suicide . In the “Third Reich” his books were no longer allowed to be printed.

This book would have been banned by the Nazis in 1939, and I can only guess what it meant to Isi to give it away, or to Fanni to receive it, in the year before Riga was invaded by the Soviets, before the mass deportations by the Germans. This book has survived the worst of the 20th century. I’m not going to throw it out.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, how about this three men on an island self-published fable-with-a-message from 1992:

No more birds, fish, trees, or flowers.

What have we done to this island of ours?

Vantage Press was founded in 1949 and ceased operations in late 2012.

Vantage was the largest vanity press in the United States. In 1990, the State Supreme Court in New York ordered Vantage to pay $3.5 million in damages to 2,200 authors it had defrauded.  According to the plaintiffs, Vantage charged money upfront, but never promoted the books as the authors had expected. (I can relate. My books never got the promotion I expected. . . but that’s how all writers feel.)

But wait, I  saved the best for last!

Published by Octopus Books in London in 1972, this books hits my sweet spot of vintage cook books. It’s got the ’70s color scheme (burnt orange, brown, and more burnt orange) and harkens from a day when life was simple, when there was no such thing as a food stylist. You cooked the food, slapped it on a plate, garnished it with red cherries, and snapped a photo.

If you were fancy, you’d put a copper pot in the background.

But under no circumstance would you go out of your way to make the food look edible.

And so goes another week in the exciting world of used book selling.

This week I got some mail from my publisher. Out of the blue, they forwarded two letters that had been sent to me in care of Bloomsbury in New York City. Both letters were about my first book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam, which on November 15th this year will be eleven  years old.

One letter came from a reader who told me that my book helped her endure the chemotherapy treatments that have made her cancer-free since 2016, and she still re-reads it every month as she gives thanks for her recovery. I can’t tell you how profoundly, and humbly, I am honored to be part of this Dear Reader’s life.

The other letter was a ten-page illustrated booklet about cats and hearts, good soup and wildflowers, stars and talking mice in homage to When Wanderers Cease to Roam. What a treasure, and what a privilege to be a catalyst for such creativity.

Thank you Dear Readers, here today and long distance mind-melding, for bringing me into your kindest, sweetest considerations about the most beautiful and important parts of living and loving on this planet.  (Cats, tea, stars, good books, etc.) I am not worthy.

Have a great weekend, you marvelous creatures. Stay warm, or cool in the shade; whatever is best for your greatness.

XXOO

 

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To become a Book Person, you need to like being around books.

It helps if you have read a book or two, so you know how they work (front to back, one page at a time).

A love for oriental carpets, a partiality for rainy days, and a high regard for a good cup of tea doesn’t hurt.

You have to know that there is no such thing as a non-fiction novel, no matter how many people come into the used book store and ask for such a thing.

Finally, a strong back is a must.

It seems as if there are a lot of people on the north shore of Long Island who made the same New Year’s Resolution to de-clutter their lives:

Last week, in one swell foop, I  got ten boxes of books dropped off at the used books store that I co-manage, to add to the overflow of donations that I already had. Worse than that, there was hardly anything worth keeping in the ten boxes, the donor being a person who bought a lot of paperback books in the 1960s and ’70s on the role of Islamic art and religion on the culture of medieval Europe. Who knew that there could be so many books on the the role of Islamic art and religion on the culture of medieval Europe??

There were also some very dated, but interesting (to me and, thus, to the store’s inventory) books about European travel — but I love reading guide books from the Olden Days. I love reading that a blow-out meal at the Ritz in  London in 1965 cost $9.00.

And then there’s this, my favorite book from the whole shebang:

Published in 1980, this book is dedicated:

To the many correspondents near and far — the ardently devoted squirrel people and the equally ardent anti-squirrel people — whose numerous and sometimes multiple communications, written and oral, made this volume possible.

One.  Who knew that there was such a thing as squirrel people?

Two.  Whose teeth marks are those on the corners?

Three. A book this quaint makes me feel that 1980 was a very, very, very long time ago. But wait. Wasn’t I 24 years old  just a minute or two ago?

Being a Book Person means that you never run out of things to think about.

And then, just this morning (Thursday, Jan. 17), I was back at the used book store and found this on the front porch of the historic Valentine House where you can find my used book store in the front parlor:

I had to lug it all indoors myself:

But I can’t really complain, since this is how we get inventory for the used book store, and these tomato boxes are fabulous!

I’m pretty sure these tomato boxes are vintage. So Cool.

After a couple of hours of sorting, I had this:

All the books that are in piles on the floor are keepers.

Now all I have to do is price them and shelve them in the bookcases that are already full.

So, in the next few days of this Book Person’s life, I will have to cull the bookshelves and discard the ones that have been there as long as I have been co-managing the store. That is, since last February. A Book Person must not be afraid of Letting Books Go.

In addition to doing the filthy work of hauling and sorting and stacking, I also went through all our hardback and paperback novels and sorted them into five categories:

Mysteries (Who Dunnits, Page Turners)

Historical Fiction

Classics

Guilty Pleasures (Daniel Steele, Nora Roberts, The Notebook)

Fiction (best sellers from the past 10 years)

Breaking up our fiction section, from being one big slew of 1,000 books, into more beguiling sections will make our inventory easier  and more fun to browse. I’m also raising our price from 50 cents to $1.00 per book. Because, you know, the collection is now curated.

So today, after three hours of carting all these books to and fro, I was very tired.

The store is closed this whole month so I can re-stock the inventory and make these changes but just as I was about to close up and go home, a couple of nice ladies from a neighboring town stopped by. They were at our library to hear a lecture about UFOs and wanted to check out the book store, which they had never seen before. So we chatted and I let them look through the children’ books and I made $2.00 for the Friends of Bryant Library.

Not that anybody’s going to give me a $100 gift certificate to Amazon, or anything, for all my troubles.

Thank you, all you Dear Readers, and especially all you Fabulous Commenters, for weighing-in on last week’s controversy. This little blog has the best comments I’ve ever read anywhere on the internets, and I am mightily thought-provoked by each of your messages.

And yes, it was my birthday this past Wednesday, January 16. and my own Top Cat knows exactly what to get me to make my B-day purrfect:
I would never buy a gallon of Elmer’s glue, but Top Cat was raised by rich parents and he knows how to splurge. He also knows that making Book Art (which is something that us Book People do) takes a lot of Elmer’s glue. I used almost an entire third of my small bottle of Elmer’s just making this last week:

The top photo is at eye level.

This one below is taken from 5 feet, six inches up:

I used three children’ books and one YA fantasy novel. Can you guess which ones?

I am wrist-deep in glue for my new Book art thing, which is a 3D Book Art re-interpretation of this scene:

I am using a crazy amount of glue and I hope it will be finished soon so I can show it to you all next Friday.

In the meantime, I must explain last week’s Taffy citing, where I showed you all this photo and called Taffy “kind of a jerk”:

That’s Taffy, on top, and that’s Dennis, on the bottom. See Taffy’s tail? He’s doing that thing that your little brother used to do, when you had to sit with him in the back seat of your parent’s car, and he’d sit too close to the diving line between your part of the back seat and his part of the back seat, plus he’d breathe on you, and repeat everything you said, and act all innocent when you lean over and threaten to punch his teeth out and shove them one by one up his nose if he didn’t cut it out right now.

This week, we noticed that Taffy has been limping. I’m sure it’s his front right paw that hurts, the one he holds up to take the weight of it when he sits in front of the refrigerator reminding you that this is where you keep the cream cheese and he’s a guy who loves cream cheese and now would be a good time to give cream cheese to a Taffy who loves cream cheese.

I’m publishing this on Thursday afternoon (4:30-ish) so I hope that the time lag isn’t too bad between now and when this post finally turns up in your browser (or whatever) so you’ll know that Taffy is going to see the vet on Friday at 2:00.

If all his paw needs is a little bit of Elmer’s glue, he’ll be fine.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones.

 

 

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I should have suspected something was up when the cats decided to do this:

They rarely hang out together, these four, but there they were, yesterday morning, hunkered down in the den. Usually the boys (Bibs, Taffy, and Lickety — the black cat is my beautiful girl Cindy) are outside at this time of day, patrolling the perimeter of the property to keep the neighbor cat, Dennis, on his own side of the fence.

At noon I took a break from my work (see items 5, 6, 8, and 9 on my To Do List in my blog post Preparation and Dread: Winter is Coming) and went upstairs to watch the episode of Survivors that I DVR’d the night before. After seeing how Christian and his fellow Davids outsmarted the Goliath team and voted John off — yay!) I fell asleep for two hours, and when I woke up this was happening all over the north shore of Long Island:

It’s still FALL, for christ sake. The trees still have a lot of leaves on them, leaves that have not fallen off yet (hence the season’s name, which is FALL, and not EMPTY SOUL CHILLING WINTER).

This is the Japanese maple in the front yard, which is still at peak FALL color:

This is a picture of the rose bush on the property of my neighbor (Dennis’s family). . . those bits of red peeping through the snow are roses, still in bloom:

It’s unusual to have a WINTER storm that the TV undersells. The forecast called for 1 inch of snow, from 1 pm – 3 pm, turning to rain. No big deal. No hysteria. I did not even bother to go out and buy a Champagne-O-Meter because I did not heed the warning of my cat herd to batten down the hatches for A Big One.

So I had to improvise.

I bring you, Dear Readers, my first-ever Vodka-O-Meter:

Which I stuck into the snow in my backyard at 4 pm:

I tried to get a photo of Steve in his spiffy Winter-proof cubby by the front stoop, but he did not cooperate. This is the best I could do:

Steve and his Dinner Bowl.

Meanwhile, The Boys (Bibs, Taffy, and Lickety) had a little romp outside in the flakes and came inside to diner like this:

Speaking of the beauty of snow-laden trees. . .

. . . I had to see whether my snowflake paper trees could hold their own against the real thing:

You might remember this Blank Book castle from :

This wonky tree in the background (on the right in this photo). . .

. . . bothered me so much tat I chopped it down and made a better, straighter tree:

I invented a much easier way to make these snow flake trees, and I am happy to show you all about it next Friday.

But this Friday I have to show you something that I found at a Salvation Army Thrift Store recently:

The book store that I co-manage for the benefit of our local library needs a tall, narrow book case, so I’ve been haunting the thrift shops lately, which is how I found this amazing thing, and as soon as I saw it for sale I knew that it, and I, were destined to be in a loving and obsessively possessive relationship.

The Salvation Army had tagged it as a piece of furniture, an “Accent Table”, and I’m happy to use it as such, but I think it must have been some kind of stage prop for a theater production of The Borrowers. It was priced at $34.99, and I am surprised that it lasted 7 days before I came along and grabbed it. I mean, who wouldn’t want this pile of giant books in their life??

I am still gloating that this “accent table” is mine, all mine. I just love it. Top Cat doesn’t care for it.

I hope it fits into the display case when all my paper castles go on exhibit on Dec. 1.

In other exciting Book Store news, we got a load of children’ books donated last week. The donation was So-So, with the usual percentages of 80% dreck and 20% good stuff. Among the 80% dreck was this:

If you think it looks bad on the outside, get a load of what it looks like on the inside:

Why? Why? Why would someone off-load this kind of crap onto us? Why would someone think that anyone in the world would want a book this beat up and trashy?? Are there children anywhere in this world who would receive this book and not understand what an insult it is to them, as human beings, to be handed this kind of garbage??

I might be heading towards Book Store Burn Out. I spend a lot of time and back-breaking effort throwing out other people’s rubbish and I’m getting tired of it.

A day’s work at the Book Store. Three large cartons and two garbage bags, with their TRASH labels on them so the custodian knows that it’s OK to heave them. Do you see that bag full of Cliff Notes? (The yellow bits; for those who do’t know Cliff Notes, they are condensed versions of classic literature that kids who don’t want to bother reading the actual book, or doing the actual thinking, can buy and read in a hour and get a summary of plot and themes — they are cheat sheets for lazy students.) I told the caller specifically that WE DO NOT WANT CLIFF NOTES, but she dropped them off any way. There were 31 Cliff Notes. I made a list before I threw them out.

And then we got in a donation of a variety of author-autographed books that redeemed the situation entirely, and I am once again a happy Used Book Store Manager.

OH, and the snow last night was every bit as bad as you might have heard. In the evening I drove to the train station to pick up Top Cat. It usually takes 12 minutes. Last night it took an hour.  I was petrified, as if I have never driven a car in snow before — I had never seen it get this bad! No streets were plowed, the snow was heavy and wet, cars were spinning out of control, and the trees were doubly burdened with leaves covered in sleet and snow and were falling down all over the place, cutting off power for some neighborhoods in our village.

This snow storm in November caught us all by surprise, in the very worst way.

Lucky for me that I had a Vodka-O-Meter handy.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone. I am grateful to all of you Dear Readers (some of you who have been stopping by for many years now) who come here and make this a warm and cozy corner of the internet.

Thank you.

XXOO

 

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