September 2019

Last June, for Pride Month, country singer Jake Owen googled gayest songs of all time, and he got . . . Cher. Specifically, he got her classic hit song from 1999 Believe.

He recorded a country version of Believe, writing on his website: “I believe #loveislove. Some of my closest friends and coworkers are part of the #lgbt community and I couldn’t be more happy for the progress they have made.”

 Watch: Jake Owen Marks Pride Month With Cover of Cher’s ‘Believe’

This is where me, a couple glasses of pinot grigio, and a few minutes of unsupervised activity come into play. I liked what I heard of Jake Owen’s cover so, one night shortly after cocktail hour, I went to my computer and I googled jake owen tour and bought a ticket to see him in concert Atlantic City in September.

P.S. : I am not a country music fan.

And then September rolled around, and Top Cat and I go to Atlantic City, and while he heads to the poker room at The Borgata,  I take my seat #16 in Row E at Ovation Hall in the Ocean Casino Resort. I have low expectations.

P.S.: Even though this took place in New Jersey, there are plenty of cowboy hats and boots in this Saturday night crowd. I am not a fan of country music fashions.

And then Jake Owen walks on stage. First of all, I thought Jake Owen looked like this:

Typical country singer. I don’t like the hair.

In fact, Jake Owens looks like this:

He is, in fact, gorgeous.

LOVE the hair. The turquoise suit with sequins is, I’m pretty sure, ironic.

And there I am, in the fifth row from the stage, dead center, and he is Right. There.

He does Believe half way through the two-hour show, and then he does a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Atlantic City,  and they are the only two songs that I know.

I must say, it was a delightful concert and at the end, after he’d done a few encores including a cover of Snoop Dogg’s absolutely filthy hit from 1998, Gin and Juice (Jake Owens said that it was his favorite song in high school. P. S.: I was 42 in 1998), the young couple next to me asked, “Did you like the show?”

I said, “Oh, yes! I think he’s fantastic!”

The guy, who looked as if he was born in 1998, asked me, “So, are you a Jake Owens fan?”

I said, “Not at all — I didn’t know any of his music until tonight.”

He and his girlfriend looked puzzled, and she asked me, “Then why did you get a ticket to the show?”

(When you are buying tickets for a party of one, it’s rather easy to get a good seat. There was one single place left in this primo row.)

To answer her question, I lied through my teeth and said, “I like to try new things.”

We all know that I never like to try new things. I like routine and no surprises and staying nice and cozy well within my comfort zone. But in this case I am very glad that I went to  a country music concert by myself on the last Saturday night of Summer 2019.  Hoo boy, I love country music. As long as it’s by Jake Owens.

Happily, because Top Cat and I are Booming through our sixties, we were home from Atlantic City by Sunday afternoon so we could sit in our backyard and sip wine on the Final Summer Evening, with a few of our favorite drinking buddies:

As I was taking this photo I noticed something on the grass by Taffy’s back foot!

The final Found Treasure of the Summer of 2019!

We did not expect that Lickety would make it all the way through the Summer of 2019 but lo, he’s still here, and we make sure he gets loved every single day.

And then it was Monday and we woke up to Fall, although it was 90 degrees here on the north shore of Long Island and so, so far, Fall has been non-traumatic.

Friday, September 28 is when I install my Haunted Bookshop at the Bryant Library, the first Halloween decoration of the season here on the north shore of Long Island, and today I am going to give you a preview of a few pieces:

 

I cut out a shadow box on the cover, on the left, but it does not photograph well. I tried to tell a story in the shadowbox, about fleeing a haunted grave site with a mysterious staircase…the other side is just a collage of weirdness. I wanted to leave the title, Tales of Edgar Allen Poe, visible but if I have time, I’m going to knife it up some more.

To tell the truth, “scary” is not what I like to do. I prefer “enigmatic“.

I like it when something looks as if it is about something, but that something is mis-translated, or coming in at an unknown frequency, or seems to shimmer between meaning something and meaning nothing. (Joseph Cornell’s boxes and Richard Diebenkorn’s abstract paintings do that for me.).

And then I got me some Mod Podge and I Mod Podged a Book Club edition of The Gulag Archipelago (1974, 704 pages):

Having Mod Podged the outer pages, the book was solid enough for me to excavate its guts to make a shadow box:

Building from the back of the shadow box, I started to add layers:

There are seven layers in this shadow box college, not counting the butterflies, which are on four layers of their own:

I wonder if there will be butterflies 50 years from now. If miracles happen, and the climate catastrophe is only half as bad as it is now inevitable, and butterflies and polar bears still co-exisit on our planet, we will have the first President of the World to thank:

Greta Thunberg is my hero. In 50 years, I hope she is in charge of everything, and I hope that the word “trump” will have become the common generic term for “what a loaf of crap” in every language on the planet.

As in, “Damn, I just stepped into some trump and ruined my new shoes.”

As in, “Something stinks in here — who forgot to take out the trump?’

As in, “I was so drunk last night that I trumped my pants.”

 

By now you are probably thinking to yourself, Yadda Yadda Yadda this is all about you, Vivian, but what has The Stromness Rock been up to?

Well, of all things, I almost crossed paths with The Stromness Rock because of all places, The Rock has been to New Jersey!

Dear Reader Carol took The Rock to see famous author Alice Hoffman at the Tom’s River branch of the Ocean County Library:

The Rock even got to ask Ms. Hoffman a question about its favorite book, The Marriage of Opposites!

The Rock was temporarily installed at this statue at the Ocean County Library:

The Rock knows a great PhotoOp when it sees it.

This is the one and only Jersey Shore (Long Beach Island):

If you know your Frankie Valli, you know Barnegat Beach. Here’s the Barnegat lighthouse:

If you can’t spot The Rock, scroll below.

Dedicated to lighthouse keepers everywhere:

And on to the Delaware River, where floats the world’s oldest and only in-tact square-rigged sailing vessel, the 1904 Moshulu. Having sailed around the world, the Moshulu is now a restaurant anchored at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia:

Sunset cruise with the Philadelphia skyline:

I do love a skyline.

But, saving the best for last:

Presenting Benjamin Bunny, in person.

Can’t you hear The Rock’s purr?

See how I did that? I arranged for us to end today’s meeting of the minds with a photo of Carol’s Benjamin Bunny (those pink ears!) so we can dwell, for a moment or two, out of this world and inside this heart-warming/mind-soothing image of purity and loveliness.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. The truth will set us free, no matter whatever trump the Republicans will throw at us.

XXOO

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The good news is that I have kidnapped my dear old Lickety and he no longer spends his days and nights sleeping in the driveway:

The even better news is that he has allowed me to put a heating pad under his blankie. . .

. . . so now we can all go about our business with happy hearts knowing that Lickety is warm and cozy in his favorite spot in the doorway of the dining room (near the kitchen, where he can keep tabs on all the action) and is not snoozing on the driveway asphalt. And we can put the car back where it belongs.

Speaking of good ideas, I was hunting through the inter webs a few weeks ago, looking at pictures of “scarey trees”. I found two that I liked, this one:

And this one:

What I liked even better was the idea of combining the two, making the bottom of the scarey tree into a scowling tree house, with the top having those cool towers with the illuminated windows.

So that’s what I did. I started with the fun bit, the scowling tree-face:

This (above) is just the scaffolding of the tree trunk and the roots and the front-door steps. I made a sturdy tube for the base of the tree and I cut out the eye-sockets. Within this tube, I inserted a smaller black tube, to give the eye-sockets their hollow and sinister emptiness.

Over this scaffolding (which I construct from old books that have nice study pages but are not attractive) I then glue strips of fine-print text from The Complete Plays of William Shakespeare (which has almost tissue-thin pages):

I made a front door from a book that had unusually large type, as a contrast to the fine print of the Shakespeare:

I made a roof for my scowling-eyed tree trunk and then I began to put up the scaffolding for the upper bits of the tree:

It seemed to me that the contrast of large type against the fine print was not enough to make the front door stand out, so I covered it with cross-hatching from an illustration I found in an very ugly children’s book from the ’70s:

Those towers with the illuminated windows were the most fun to make:

I collect children’s books for their illustrations, the drearier the better, so I can feel guilt-free about cutting them up. And once in a while one one of those old books will have just what I need; in this case, two large lattice windows and one small window:

This is a book that we got in as a donation to the used books store that I manage for the local library:

It’s a young adult novel called Friday’s Child by Jane Lambert. 1947. It was in execrable condition:

It’s far too scuzzy to put into the inventory of my book store, but it’s exactly right for my ghoulish bonsai:

I’ll be installing this bonsai at The Haunted Bookshop exhibit at the library on September 28. This, and several other ghoulish bonsai, will be displayed with the books that I have been culling from donations for the past year — the shabbiest and creepiest books that aren’t good for anything except for frightening little children with:

Last week I had finally achieved the impossible dream. I had cleared the used book store of all the crap, inside and out, and we had zero rubbish sitting in our Donations Corner. I had finally gotten ahead of the backlog of trash that this community dumps on our doorstep.

So I went back to my volunteer job of being a bookseller yesterday, and found, on my doorstep, seven boxes and three shopping bags of books, deposited during the past week, at night, in stealth. When I saw it, I uttered something much worse than the usual “Oh, shit.” I have to remember that the words Fuck fuck fuckitty fuck look about as good on a woman my age as a bikini.

Which reminds me, now is time for a short Florida digression.

I was on Florida’s Gulf coast last week to attend the First Annual Meeting of the North Fort Myers Judge Judy Fan Club. Meaning, I was visiting my mother and we both call it a day when Judge Judy comes on at 4, whereupon we mix a pitcher of martinis (we go old school: Beefeater’s gin) and watch Middle America go to hell, one hand basket/dog bite/eviction/unpaid loan small claims court case at a time.

Of course, Florida has been waaaaay ahead of the curve when it comes to the ever-lowering of the stupidity bar in America. Remember the hanging chads of 2000? In 2012 the comptroller for Miami-Dade got 30 months in prison for stealing more than $200,000 of the city’s mont after falling for an Nigerian internet scam. And last year, a 24-year old finished a job interview at Kohl’s department store in Central Florida and then walked into the shoe section and shoplifted two  pairs of sneakers. That’s almost as dumb as the guy from Ocala who, in 2013, submitted a job application at a gas station and then robbed it.

Last year, a Broward County woman in line at a Dollar General store pulled a knife on the customer in line behind her when that customer complained that she had farted too loudly. In Florida, you will be physically assaulted if you eat all of Kerry Knudsen’s Cheeze Its after he specifically told you not to, according to St. Augustine police.

And Florida is the land of the Capri pant.

I went to Florida expecting to rendez-vous with the 24-hour Walmart Superstore on Cleveland Avenue (Route 41). I’ve never been to a Walmart at 2AM and I’m having new experiences, and as there is not much to do in North Fort Myers ever, and as I knew I would be  sleeping poorly in a strange hotel room and would likely be wide awake at 2AM, I planned to capitalize on my insomnia by making an outing to the Walmart on Route 41.

But as 2AM rolled around, I thought about going out in the middle of the night in a town that I didn’t know all that well, alone, in Florida (where anything can go wrong and usually does); so I stayed in bed, reading a book called Reading the OED. Author Ammon Shea read every 21,730 pages of the Oxford English Dictionary and lived to tell the tale.

And that’s how I now know the word mataeotechny, (noun); an unprofitable or useless science or skill (see: making bonsai for ghouls as detailed earlier in this blog post).

So, I am sorry for not having photos of Walmart’s ungodly hours for you this week. But here’s some random People of Walmart pix:

 

 

Back to my woes as a used book store manager here on the North Shore of Long Island.

Much of the book donations that came in behind my back was the usual crap:

Including this, below, which made me think. . .

. . . Wait. Christian Ethics? There’s such a thing??

Because, you know. . .

If I had not seen it with my own eyes I would not have believed that there could be a book about such a thing as that, or this:

Yes: Christian Ethics and a catalogue of animal-headed covered dishes is what it takes to get me to compose a sentence fragment in the future conditional subjunctive tense, they are both that weird.

From now on, I will not say that I live on the shore of the Long Island Sound. Nope. From now on, I live on:

We got a bag full of these kinds of books, in pristine condition:

I’m keeping them. Our store has been lacking a Romance section and by gawd, now we have one.

And then there are the books that make working in the filth, sadness, and boredom of a used book store all worthwhile:

Published in 1953, this book seems to have once been the property of a boy with an unusual last name (from the 8th century German for Roger) who grew up to be a professor of music at MIT, just recently retired.

If I were a nice person, would I track this fella down and ask if he wants his book back? Am I being too Florida for wanting to keep it for myself?

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones.

Truth will out, and impeachments will happen.

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

XXOO

 

 

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This is what Burn Out looks like:

I was at the used book store on my day off, the charity store that I manage for our local library here on the north shore of Long Island (USA), and I was greeted by four bags and four boxes of books on the doorstep, which some unknown “donor” or “donors” had left overnight. Which made me say “Shit!” in a rather loud voice, while I stood in full sight of an open-door meeting of librarians at an adjacent conference room. I wish I hadn’t, but I was pissed.

I could tell at a glance that this was nothing but crap, and I had just spent the whole month of August de-crapping the store.

Some of you, Dear Readers, are no doubt book lovers, and you’re thinking, “Oh come off it, Vivian, it can’t be that bad.”

Oh, it. It is.

As the French say, Regardez-vous la merde:

Need I say that this is a self-published book? It was self-published in 1995, long before self-publishing had any kind of “indie” sheen to it. This is a vanity project, pure and simple, a very, very creepy vanity project. I’d show you the author’s photo but you would accuse me of author-shaming.

I’m showing you anyway. Call me vain, but if I were posing for an author’s photo, I don’t know… I would at least put my dentures in.

I don’t even want to touch this book, let alone stock it in the store.

Sigh.

More samples of crap, crap, crappity crap:

You’ll note that one book was already previously purchased in a used book store, and still has the “used” sticker on the spine. I’ll have you know that I run a classy used-book shop and I don’t do twice-used books. And that Updike; just, no.

And then there were these, also destined for the dumpster for obvious reasons:

Although it looked to me that Jumping Simplified had been used less as a book and more as a coaster, I had to take a look inside. (Great title, by the way. I was hoping for something adorably quirky. The History of Jump Ropes How Jumping CanBring World Peace, that kind of thing. I overlooked the Ronald Sports Library logo.)

Here is Step One in an illustrated guide to. . .

. . . Step Two, wait for it. . .

. . . Step Three, and Yes! We did it!

We learned the correct way to semaphore the phrase, “A priest, a pastor, and a rabbit walk into a bar…”, simplified. (The horse is thinking, “Wait. Was it a ribbit??”)

This, below, was part of an entire box of books — old, musty, creepy, boring books — about the maritime provinces of Canada:

And rounding out your tour of Books So Boring They Might As Well Be The New Jersey Turnpike, I give you these:

Oh, thanks a lot, Mari Kondo. I refuse to let my book store be used as a dumping ground for every book that does not spark joy.

Too bad that these photos don’t show the spiders. Some of these books were definitely the winter homes of spiders.

We postponed the grand re-opening of our used book store here on the north shore of Long Island after our August hiatus for September 18. I am trying to muster up enthusiasm to finish the year out, to hang in there until December, but o, lordy…days like this, I just want quit second-hand retail and take up plane spotting full time.

The reason I was at the used book store on my day off was because I’d arranged to meet a charity that agreed to take seven boxes of carefully vetted YA books that I had collected the past six moths (we don’t sell YA), and I was grateful to clear out seven boxes from a corner of our store.

And then someone stopped in with a “donation”, and handed me eight boxes of “art books”. I know this donor, and her stuff is usually OK, but she she told me (too late for me to say No) that she’s cleaning out the bookcases of her father (who hasn’t purchased a new book in the past 70 years)…and now I have eight boxes of ratty, damp, boring, sad books about avant garde art of the last century and the treasures of the Vatican and old museum guides for eastern European art galleries. In black and white.

Sow what do you do when you’re in a rut of your own devising?

Me, I go see the kittens next door:

I get to feed them lunch this week, and these kittens jump when they hear the opening of a can of Fancy Feast sounds like:

And so on.

Dear Reader Jeanie wondered how we got through Hurricane Dorian last week here on the north shore of Long Island…and I have to say, it was terrible. AWFUL. We got battered like Alabama. The drizzle lasted many many minutes, one right after the other, for what seemed like forever if, by “forever”, you mean an hour, and the gloom — O! The gloom was tragic, positively medieval — I mean, it felt as though we were living through the Black Death, if by “Black Death”, you mean “overcast”. I am still traumatized. O, the horror.

Lickety —

— keeps amazing us by hanging in there, chowing down his breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and by insisting on sleeping in the middle of the driveway. For a dying cat, he seems to be having a whale of a time.

Top Cat had to jet off to California last Saturday, something to do with the fate of the earth, so I was left alone for the whole weekend. I’ve only been married for 15 years, but being alone in the house for a weekend feels alien, and wrong.

So on Saturday evening I took a train into Manhattan to watch the sunset in Times Square. The train route that serves my part of the north shore of Long Island is the same train line that takes Long Islanders to Shea Stadium and to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows. On this Saturday night, the Mets were at home and Serena Williams was playing the finals of the U S Open. The train was packed.

I must say, for a stay-at-home type who wants to venture out into the big city once in a while, I couldn’t have chosen a better evening than this fine, warm, clear September twilight. The train ride was a hoot, ands when I got to Penn Station and waded through the humanity that swarms mid-town Manhattan and then navigated the throngs that pile into Times Square on a Saturday night, I thought to myself, “Jesus — this is a freak show, and isn’t it wonderful??

Of course, I forgot my camera, because I went temporarily insane and forgot that I was a blogger and that my life is content, so I’m sorry not to have any photos to show you. But I was so jazzed up by the experience, that I decided that for my encore I want to go to Walmart at 2am.

Sadly, there is no WalmartSuperstore here on the Isle of Long. So this week I am flying to Fort Myers, FLA, where I will  haunt the aisles of the 24-hour Walmart on Colonial Ave, in the wee hours, and bring you back tales.

And the camera is already packed.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. And take heart.

I think, at this point, all we have to do is sit back and watch der Drumpf as he twists himself slowly, slowly in the wind.

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. I’ve put $100 against whatever Democrat runs against Collins. I made the contribution right after she endorsed the shit-eating-grinning Kavanaugh.

Next week, pix from Walmart and a How To for Ghoulish Bonsai.

XXOO

 

 

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I don’t much care for red wine. I especially don’t like the Saint-Emilion reds that Top Cat prefers, which are so dry that they are the liquid equivalent to Death Valley.

Top Cat, inspecting the vineyards at You Know Where.

Last week, a very persuasive wine merchant coaxed T.C. into buying something new — a Bordeaux from Saint Estephe, a whole other microclimate about 50 miles away from Saint-Emilion.

So last Friday, our date night, Top Cat opened his new bottle and drank a glass, and decided it was too whiny and not for him. So he left the bottle on the kitchen counter and opened one of his reliably arid Saint-Emilion reds.

Well. Who among us can let whiny wine go to waste?

Not moi.

So I took a sip and found that it was OK; an acceptably mid-bodied red that only needed some ice cubes to make it potable.

I like chilled white wine, even in the California desert.

So I loaded a glass with ice cubes and poured the Saint Estephe. I put a thoughtful look on my face as I pondered the beverage. It was still a bit too dusty for me. I pondered some more. And I knew what I could do to doctor this wine to 50% perfection.

I added a shot of ginger ale. And it was good. So that’s how I drank that Saint Estephe Bordeaux, over ice and mixed with ginger ale.

And that is why I am going to wine hell.

So September is upon us. I start my days in the dark now.

I’ve begun a list of things I have to do to prepare me and the cats for Winter. First thing, I have to mend the fleece cover to Steve’s outdoor heating pad for his nest by the front stoop.

I have started to move my Summer clothes to the back of the closet. I’ve dug up my notes for that book that I haven’t written yet, for my Winter project. I weigh myself.  I mope.

This is Day 41 of my diet to lose the eight pounds that I gained in 2018 and 2019. And today, at Day 41, I am eight pounds lighter and it feels right, and my jeans fit again and I’m pleased, but not happy. Because September.

Lickety is still hanging in there, which is a huge joy. Lickety and his support crew have taken to dozing in the driveway (see above), so we have to park the car on the street, because Lickety > 3,497 pound automobile.

I am typing this on Friday morning, and the skies are darkening an hour after sunrise because Hurricane Dorian is on his way to the Isle of Long, and  is going to pelt us with rain this afternoon.

I’ve made the usual disaster preparations and am as ready as Alabama to ride this storm out.

I’m excited to have a new Abigail Thomas memoir to read while I get hammered listen to the pitter patter of the September rain. I’ve read the first bits of What Comes Next and How To Like It so I know that this installment of her on-going autobiographical chronicle includes interludes that describe her art-making, which seems to be mooshing toxic oil-based house paint around on glass, which I am not particularly interested in, but she’s such a fluid and beguiling writer that I will forgive this conceit. But that explains why there are two smooshes of paint dabs on the cover.

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

As another writer who makes art, I have been busy this past month making figments of imagination from a haunted book shop for my October installation at our local library. I showed you already one of the first items I made, one of five botanically-inspired structures that I call Bonsai for Ghouls:

This was not the finished piece. I wanted it to make it ooze out of the book more, as if it were growing from the book, not on the book:

In future blog posts you will see more of The Making of Bonsai for Ghouls, a how-to and a what-the-hell-for for those of you who enjoy that kind of thing.

But for today I have a special treat for you!

The Stromness Rock . . .

. . . is on a coast-to-coast tour of America and today, thanks to Dear Reader Gali, the Rock is off to a stupendous start!

Here’s the Rock admiring the reflection of Mt. Monroe (in the Northern Presidential Range) in the great state of New Hampshire:

I did not know that New Hampshire looked an awful lot like the highlands of Scotland, but here’s the rest of the Presidential Range to prove it (from left to right: Mt. Clay, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Madison):

Cog railway on the way to Mt. Washington, NH:

Lucky Rock,  here at the Lakes of the Clouds Hut near Mt. Washington:

And then the Rock kayaked on the Charles River and got its picture taken with the skyline of Boston (MA):

The FreedomTrail is a 2.5 mile walk though downtown Boston that passes 16 locations, from Boston Common to Bunker Hill, that were significant in the creation of the United States:

A night out on the town:

Tanks, Gali, for getting a Boston taxi AND the Old State House in one beautiful twilight shot!:

The Rock then went to Battle’Green in Lexington, MA, where the first shot of the Revolutionary War was fired, on April 4, 1775 — The Shot Heard “Round The World:

This is so cool:

Paying respects to the Minutemen, an elite sub-group of the Lexington Militia, depicted in this statue unveiled in 1900 on the 125th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord:

And at the First Parish church in Lexington:

The First Parish in Lexington was founded in 1682 when the 30 families then living in Cambridge Farms (the area now known as Lexington) petitioned the Great and General Court of Massachusetts to be allowed to establish their own parish.  The church now has a Unitarian Universalsim mission.

This church is so liberal (and that’s a great thing!) that I’m pretty sure that if that dog wanted to hold a bar mitzvah there, the congregation would be all for it.

The Rock is now on its way to New Jersey, (thanks, Carol!) and I won’t make a joke about its getting big hair and a tan down the shore. Thence to Jeanie, Angel, Susie, Alexandra, and Marilyn.

Now that we have Texas on the itinerary (thank you, Rachel), I can send out the second half of The Stromness Rock Welcome Kits to Thea, Leslie, and Maryanne. I wish I could send you all a Thank You bottle of pinot grigio, but there’s a storm coming’ and I am in dire need of all my provisions.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. Hunker down, wherever you are, and hold tight. Only 502 more days of this shit:

If we couldn’t laugh, we’d cry.

Well, we’ll still cry, but in between sobbing we might crack a smile or two.

 

 

 

 

 

See you next week.

XXOO

 

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