August 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s who this guy is:

James Barnet Fry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also, No:

Other stuff:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So my friend sent me this (NSFW):

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

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

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

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

I did not expect that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the storm came this:

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

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

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

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

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers.

See you here next week.

XXOO

 

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No. 1 way to not be bored:

K I T T E N S.

 

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

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

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

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

 

No. 2 way to not be bored:

A traditional backyard Maryland Crab Feast.

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

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

Which is:

Visit Mr. Fluffy.

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

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

In 2019 he isn’t, in a big way.

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

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

 

No. 4 way to not be bored:

Read a book.

Good lord no, not that book.

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

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

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

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

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

This is another inscription that also came in:

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

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

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

Sarah Lawrence has an acceptance rate of 53%:

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

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

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

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

Turns out, I am a chow chow.

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

That’s the dog.

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

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

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

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

Until then, have a great weekend, Dear Readers.

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

 

Until that blessed day:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

I’ll also have more kitten pictures!

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