. . .  How Much Have You Let Yourself Go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, then, Go For It.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film crew on 36th Street.

 

Everybody’s favorite film crew member.

 

Throw me the ball! Throw me the ball!

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

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

I saw this on the downtown C train:

I think he’s got a QUIDDITCH trophy.

Also on the subway:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. NO. NO NO NO NONONONONONONOnoononononono.

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

The confusion over the nonfiction novel began with Truman Capote.

I LOVE this look!

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

Nobody knew what to call this new kind of writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

So, here’s my Rant du Jour:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check In desk at the ELIZA JANE.

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

So now we all know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Old Wednesday volunteer wrote to the president of the Friends:

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

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

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

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

Bibs and Taffy resolve their situation.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

(For more, go to Yellow Dog Granny.)

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

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

 

 

 

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

Yeah. We live in strange, strange times.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers.

Stay Classy.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sequins bejeweling her French Quarter Fest outfit spell

LOVE WHO U ARE

and I need to get me one of those shirts.

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

This helps immensely with laissez les bons temps rouler.

Even the pups know how to party in NOLA:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, New Orleans, for being you.

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

 

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

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

Believe me, I did not enjoy that.

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

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

We also had Douglas Elliman Realtors on board:

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

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

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

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

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

Here are more shots of the course:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I wake up and I mediately understand the dream.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll be back.

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

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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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There were no robo-calls from the governor warning us to stay off the roads, the local TV news station did not break into my Judge Judy viewing time with dire forecasts of dangerous weather, and the cats did  not haul in extra firewood or stock up on macaroni and cheese in case our power was knocked out. So when I woke up on Saturday morning and discovered that had been blanketed with five inches of snow on the ground, I was totally unprepared. This had snuck up on me.

The huge holly bush in front of Steve’s cubby took the brunt of the storm. Steve stayed dry and cozy.

We called a Snow Day at the used book store because we didn’t feel like shoveling our cars out in 20-degree weather and I spent the day drinking tea and toasting a loaf of ciabatta. Not the whole loaf all at once. Every two hours I cut a ladylike slice and slathered various toppings onto it, from plain salty butter to spicy hummus, with peanut butter and melted cheese and butter-and-marmalade in between. I could eat nothing but toast for the rest of my life.

Saturday turned out to be a warm and sunny day so most of the snow had melted by Sunday afternoon, and that’s when came dire robo-warnings from the governor, the TV news casters losing their minds in panic forecasts, and the cats hauling in extra firewood and looking up Top Cat’s best recipe for macaroni and cheese. We were going to get it again, and this time it was going to be BIG, the BIG blizzard such as we, so far, have not suffered through here on the north shore of Long Island.

I went to the grocery store to stock up on essentials, and the Food Emporium was packed with lots of other people similarly preparing for disaster. This is when I thought to myself, “At times like this, I must remember to wear my wedding rings.” This thought came to me as I was standing on line at the checkout counter and the lady in front of me, no Spring Chicken herself, with a cart full of milk, bread, meat, green vegetables, fruit, etc., turned to look at me and said, “Ma’am, you can go before me.”

WTF?? She called me Ma’am! And she had to be, at least, within shouting range of 60!  WHO DOES THAT?? As if  I were some object of pity. . .

. . . And as far as I could reckon, the only difference between she and I was that she had a cart full of “family” food while  I was standing there holding 10 cans of cat food and a bag of Cheetos, and no wedding ring. As if I were a single cat lady who was going to die alone and whose body would not be found until the neighbors realized it had been weeks since anyone had seen me out in my front yard yelling at the kids to stay off my grass. I was slightly mortified, but I took her up on her offer. I hate waiting in line at the grocery store on a good day, and this was not a good day.

Ad, by the way, I actually was “single” for a few days last week when Top Cat went to San Fransisco. I only eat Cheetos when he’s not around and I am missing him like crazy. He bought me some cute socks while he was on the Left Coast.

So, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon on Sunday March 3, the cats and I set the Champagne-O-Meter out in the back yard and settled in for a snowy Sunday night:

First, it rained:

At dusk the flakes began to fall:

By dawn, the world was transformed and I was seriously considering putting left-over Cheetos on my toast for breakfast:

Call me a Romantic, but seeing a bottle of Champagne that looks like this (below) makes me fall in love (with alcohol):

For those of you who are not dipsomaniacs, there is a less boozy way to gauge the snow fall, something I call the Hutch-O-Meter.

Here’s the old rabbit hutch in my backyard on Sunday afternoon:

Here’s the old rabbit hutch in my backyard on Monday morning:

That’s enough about the weather and how easy it is to get on my Shit List (see: DO NOT EVER CALL ME MA’AM).

Not to blow my own horn, but I have been very busy, and very effective, raising money this past year for my local library. Between the stellar earnings from the book store that I co-manage, and the money I have coaxed out of various corporate and private sponsors for this miniature golf event I cooked up, I have raised $17,800 for the library through my volunteer time and effort.

To publicize the mini golf event to be held on April 6, I  get the display case in the library lobby (the same one that showed off my book art/paper castles in December) for the month of March. I am going to hang a big banner that lists all our corporate sponsors, and I’m going to put in my new Book Art (I call it,  Miniature Miniature Golf) to drum up excitement for the event.

You have not seen the new Book Art in its finished form, so here is the installation (they go together in pairs). NO. 1:

All the bears: Corduroy, Paddington, Pooh, and Baloo.

NO. 2 . All the bunnies — Velveteen Rabbit, Thumper, Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, and The White Rabbit — with the crew from The Wind in the Willows:

The next pair I call Here Be Dragons:

That’s the big green dragon from the Inheritance series of YA novels; that’s the kid and his dog from Dragons Love Tacos; there’s Arthur the Aardvark, and the two girls from the cover of Where The Sidewalk Ends (looking forlornly at their golf ball, which has fallen into the cave below).

And beasts and ogres:

I’m so happy that there is a new How To Tame Your Dragon movie out this year!

The final twosome begins with Bilbo Baggins sitting outside his hobbit hole:

And this is the grand finale to the Miniature Miniature Golf saga, a scene of anarchy with cats:

You can’t see The Giving Tree very clearly, so here’s what is going down on that side of the scene:

It’s a golf club. The Giving Tree is giving a golf club.

And there’s Alice, holding a flag with the time and date of the library’s mini golf event:

I hope that these little scenes would encourage people to linger at the display case, burn the play date into their minds, and entice them to come back to the library and pay $5.00 per person to play golf.

Miniature Miniature Golf will be on view at the Bryant Library from March 10 to April 7.

I’m publishing this blog post on Thursday afternoon and it’s been so frigid this week that all the snow has now frozen into a solid land iceberg. On Sunday the weather will be in the 50s and it will be rainy — San Fransisco weather — and I hope all the snow and ice will be washed away.

I have found some interesting things in the donation bags at the used book store this week, and I plan to do a whole blog post about them next week, but here’s one little tidbit to tide you over:

Before there was an Air Force, there was an Army Air Forces, and this is a diploma from the huge facility on Miami Beach, Florida at the beginning of the war. Clark Gable trained here. The Army was in desperate need of administrative officers and they took men as old as 45. During the way, 30,000 men were graduated from Miami Beach. The graduates performed ground duties that would free up the guys who flew the planes from any responsibilities that might keep them from flying bombing missions.

Lucky for us, one of our volunteers knows the guy who dropped off the donation that contained this diploma, so we have notified him to come get this  artifact.  I found the diploma between the pages of a big heavy coffee table book called The Age of Suleyman The Magnificent, 416 pages published by Harry Abrams.

I have been wondering about the filing system in use, in which a WWII Army Air Force diploma from 1942 is filed into a book about the longest-reigning sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1987.

I dislike Ottoman art, so at first I put this book in the “Kill” file; but then I had a second thought and retrieved it. I put a $2 price on it and maybe it will find it’s perfect reader, some day, out there.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. It can’t stay mean and cold forever, so let’s just grit our teeth and get through the next three weeks.

XXOO

 

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