100 Days—Journal of a Plague Year, Week 12

LP Sorting


I awoke from a nightmare.

I was burning with fever.

The Plague

I looked out the window to the horizon.

It was orange.

It was not the dawn but flames to the east.

Good news at work!

All Quiet

Im Westen nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front)

Have I permanently plugged to Groundhog Hole to Hell?

It seems I have been to work 100 days in a row. Maybe more. The LA ABAA Book Fair was in a different era:

February 2020.

So long ago.

It was a wonderful trip.

Santa Monica is a beautiful city.

I had a wonderful stay there, walking the beautiful streets and beach and boardwalk.

When I was a kid, I bought a lot of 45 rpm records. I’d walk to down Main Street in Snyder, New York once a week until I got to the strip center that had a Kresge. Kresge was the forerunner to Kmart. Has Kmart gone bankrupt yet?

What they cost and how many I could purchase with my allowance is lost in the fog of memory.

I would buy whatever the newest hits were that I had heard on my transistor radio. All those radios were “Made in Japan.” That was pejorative back then. WKBW—1520 AM would play the new releases and Top 10s. I would listen to the Joey Reynolds Show.

I knew which 45s I wanted to buy. I’d play them on a small canvas covered record player I appropriated from my brother’s room. He’d outgrown it and had a stereo. The plug was ceramic and chipped. I got shocked a couple times before I learned to be extremely careful plugging it in.

Hey Jude 1968 45

This came out in 1968. That was a year of revolution. There was no plague then.

I wasn’t buying 45s anymore then, and we had moved to Maryland. Still, 45s were very important in the music business. DJs would play them on the radio. There was an A-side and a B-side. Sometimes the B-side was so bad it wouldn’t get played. Sometimes the B-side was actually better than the A.

When I heard “Hey Jude” on the radio, it was life changing. It was also over 7 minutes long which was unheard of…except for Dylan’s “Like a Rollin’ Stone” which was over 6 minutes long.

Record company execs were sure no one would have the patience to listen to a Pop song that long. Nor would the AM radio stations be amenable to playing something that many minutes with no interruptions.

Obviously, they were wrong.

I have been sick the last 10 days or so.

Sick at heart.

Sick physically as well. It as if I’d been physically beaten.

So many people were doing so well 100 days ago.

Last Saturday I was in at work.

(Well, obviously, since I’ve been at work 100 days.)

The books have been draining out of here and not very many coming in. The lockdown ended not that long ago. The Frederick and Hagerstown stores reopened May 16th. Gaithersburg opened for “Curbside only” on June 1st. But at least we could start buying there again—”curbside.”

We couldn’t do any house calls because of the Stay At Home.

No books coming in.

Just going out.

As I wandered about the warehouse—now having many open spaces that were once packed with pallets—I saw the modern “raw” books were almost gone. Was there only a week’s worth remaining to be sorted?

It was deflating. Depressing. On top of the reigns of terror in so many places around the country and the social distancing and everyone mumbling through their masks, I’d felt I’d failed. We wouldn’t have enough work for a good number of the people here if we didn’t have a supply of “easy” (i.e. barcoded or ISBN) books.

I worked hard all that day, mostly going through carts looking for things to sell. There weren’t any real gems.

It was a lot of carts. A lot of work.

After everyone left at 4:30, I went into the office to catch up on emails. My phone chimed. (My ringtone is Cathedral Bells.)

It was Colleen from Frisky’s Wildlife and Primate Sanctuary. We’d sent a check and a vintage primate book I’d come across. I hadn’t spoken to her since I’d dropped the raccoons—née foxes off two weeks earlier.

I didn’t contact her for a couple reasons:

  1. I’ve been constantly busy.
  2. I didn’t want the bad news about the critters.

She was so effusive!

“Thank you for the generous donation! But most of all, THANK YOU for the book!”

It turns out it was one she’d had long ago…

I hesitantly asked about the pair of baby raccoons.

“They’re fine!”

We went on chatting about critters and life and books. I suggested she solicit books as donations, and we could pick them up or have them delivered here and send the checks to Frisky’s.

We chatted and chatted (and I’m not very chatty.) Then my phone died mid-sentence.

It was late in the day, and I was chatted out, and I figured she’d be having dinner or giving dinner to the menagerie. So I waited til Sunday morning to email her:

Hi Colleen,

My phone died mid-sentence!


I enjoyed chatting.

Can you send a pic or two o the raccoons?

I write a weekly book story, and I’d like to include a happy ending.

Thank you so much for taking them!

Contact me any time by phone or email.


When you’re ready, we can chat about Book Drives that involve no work from your end.


Growing Raccoons


I sent an email to the warehouse managers on Sunday. Essentially I wrote:

“What can we do when we run out of easy books?”

I did a couple dozen more carts and several pallets of LPs. Here’s some “after” images of what the “new” Record Guy (me) does.

Boxes are for stores. Tubs are for online sales. A dozen big tubs of LPs would keep a few Data Entry people busy for a few days—delaying the inevitable “running put of modern books.” Other stuff is…other stuff.

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There were some nice finds, but I was numb to it.

I was numb from the work and the fear and the worry and the terror of the world coming apart.

I wonder how many thousands of books and records I handled Saturday and Sunday? I’ve physically handled so many millions of them that much of my work is robotic.

Then Sunday and the weekend was over.

That night if I did not dream of books coming apart from their bindings and the leaves flying upwards amidst sparks and smoke and flame…well, I should have. I had a vision of that from somewhere.


I arrived at work in a dismal frame of mind.

I decided to visit the Gaithersburg store to check on the renovations. Most of the categories are expanding substantially. Therefore, many categories needed to be moved. It was a giant puzzle. Where should Cooking go? How many bookcases should it get? History, Lit, Crafts, Myth, etc all need to be moved. Only Kids and hardback and paperback fiction (Sci Fi, Mystery, Westerns, Horror, Love…and most confusing to my mind—Paranormal Romance) which filled an unaltered section of the store needed no attention.

There was a clash of wills with the manager there—Vanessa—about where categories should go and what sizes they should end up with.

I was firm and agreed with all her recommendations or requests or mandates or…instructions. Almost all.

Gaithersburg Manager

I’ve mentioned the ancient puke green shag green carpet that was ripped up a few years ago because it was a tripping hazard. Searching the Blog site using “shag” yields numerous results. Searching “shag carpet” only yields 6. The most relevant is “Saving Book Alcove.”

Poking around looking for things to complain to Vanessa about, I came across this little patch.

Old Carpet

I imagine the whole store carpeted with that—stained and worn—it was wonderful. I miss it to this day. Maybe someday I will recarpet it to capture some authenticity. If I can find a puke green shag carpet.

As I was getting ready to depart, having had all “my” decisions dictated to me, 4 movers approached the front door. We are still closed/curbside only, so we stepped outside. Sure enough, they had a big load of books to sell. This struck me as odd because it was part of the “old normal.”

Back at the warehouse, I got an email from a bookseller friend reminding me he was coming Tuesday with a BIG truckload of art books. I’d sent out feelers to a number of colleagues telling them I needed modern books. He deals in mostly rare and collectible art, so when he gets modern art books, they are a bit of a burden if he is forced to take everything.

Then I was informed the other stores had full vans that had been swapped.

The empty floor near the first loading dock was filling up.

Here’s a before.

Empty Dock

And after.

Full Dock

It is Friday.

How did that happen?

Payroll Friday, but far different than the pre Plague era.

We will only be delivering the Luddite checks (like mine—though it will join the last 90 days of uncashed paychecks.) Those with Direct Deposit are getting e-paystubs.

E-commerce. Amazing!

An office manager told me we HAD to set up an account with the Dept of Labor to sign a form for the revised 401k plan—TODAY. She observed over my shoulder (as socially acceptable as possible—both masked) as I went to: efast.dol.gov. We got the User ID, made up a few passwords (the site didn’t like the first 2) filled out the forms.



I submitted as all good citizens should. A box came up: “Processing.” It had one of those whirling balls that spun…and spun…and spun… I told my manager I’d let her know when it stopped.

30 minutes later I called her back into the conference room.

“efast is not so ‘fast’…what should we do?”

We backtracked and went to the site. Though the “Processing” whirligig was still spinning, we had indeed been registered and were able to print out…whatever it was it was I’d just e-signed.

I suppose the whirligig will remain spinning in cyberspace for eternity…

Still, it is good that Fridays—though altered forever—are “normal” in that we are swapping vans at all three stores.

I will head down to Gaithersburg soon for some final tweaks. I may put my foot down and insist—but likely I will “submit.”

Nelson’s friend is here dropping off 500 boxes or so. (Nelson has a dental emergency, I’m told.)

Just like olden times…100 days ago.

I’d heard from friends in and near Santa Monica how that city had been ravaged and pillaged.

I recalled a couple evenings in a previous era (February 2020) I spent at Ye Olde King’s Head Pub in Santa Monica, California.

Ye Olde King's Head Pub

I had a couple Newcastle Nut Brown Ales on tap. Beef pasties and chips.

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A Brit at the bar struck up a conversation with me, and we chatted about London. He suggested bar hopping using water taxis on the Thames. It sounded like a lot of work, but I told I’d look into it when I visited London in June for the ABA Rare Book Fair.

I watched some of the protesting and rioting on TV one night, and a camera looked in the Pub’s gift shop which had been full of British food and stuff. The place was smashed and looted.

When will people return to Santa Monica?

Macy’s…when will I go to NYC and stay in a hotel and shop and visit the Morgan and…

Will the Met or Broadway reopen? How? When?

What was this exercise in mass “submission” really all about?

What is the mass rebellion really all about?

We will have to see what the history books say about the COVID Era.

It sure hasn’t been fun living through it.

And it ain’t over yet. New “spikes” are coming–the experts are certain. Like last time. And the time before. And… Doom and gloom.

Today WHO now says masks are probably good. Maybe. Where you can’t social distance. Digging deeper on WHO graphic recommends not removing your masks within “1 Meter” of anyone?!

I still know no one who has had it (or at least knows they’ve had it.)

Still, we aren’t taking any chances. All the protocols are still in place.

We are doing as we have been told. We submit. My mask is my constant companion.

A colleague who is a specialist in rare Art books among other things had been promising me a hoard of ISBN art books. He was eliminating his relatively common stock to work on a vast antiquarian collection he gotten into. I told him he should hurry, or my need would not be as desperate.

He arrived Tuesday in a big truck. It took a long time to unload. It ended up being 5 pallets of art books.

Art Pallet

We sat in the conference afterward and chatted about books, life, the Plague, the Terror…and everything.

“I brought a few things for you to look at.”

I lifted the lid off a banker’s box, and there were a few mailers at the bottom.

I slipped out the smallest one first.

Then the mid-sized one.

Then the largest vellum binding.

“There’s a thin thing in that post office envelope.”


“There’s another one in there.”



I was speechless.

Veuns and Adonis

Not every day does a Kelmscott walk in the door.

The Story of Beowulf

Much less three!

3 Kelmscotts

Maybe three and a half if you count the signed Goudy—using the Kelmscott Chaucer press.

Signed Goudy

And a perfect Doves…

Doves Bindery

“I…I…can’t right now.”

“Pay me when you can.”


I can’t cut wood anymore due to tick threat. I really wouldn’t want that disease either. So, as I mentioned in the previous story, I’ve been hauling stones—that fell down the mountain eons ago—back up the mountain to my home…to do stony things with.


I scout the roadside I share with a few other people. The private lane we live on (a bumpy gravel ascent) is littered with rocks along the Right of Way.

I’ve also been gardening some. I actually bought some hostas this year, but most of what is up there I planted years ago.

Hostas & Steps

I also expanded the “hosta nurseries.”

Hosta Nurseries

Where will I transplant these? I dunno…The mountain is relatively infinite for my purposes. It is just if I create a new garden bed, it becomes my responsibility…a duty like the Little Prince had for his planet and his Rose.

It keeps me busy…lol.

The flip side of the 45 for “Hey Jude” was “Revolution.”

Revolution 1968 45

Le plus change—le plus c’est mes chose.

1968. I was just a kid. Scary times.

I’d hoped children would never be put through times like this again.

Plague and Terror.

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be
All right, all right, all right
You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan…

Don’t you know it’s gonna be
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right

I hope so…

We will see what the next 100 Days is like.


While all about us is madness
The book abides
Fragile but immutable
They can’t all be destroyed.

We will keep bringing them in—kind of like Colleen at Frisky’s.

We bring them in and try to find the best result we possibly can for every book.


Our internet sale will resume soon. Check WonderBook.com for details.

Our food drive coupon for the brick and mortars is doing ok too. We will be extending that as well. If you bring us a coupon with an expired date, it will be accepted for the foreseeable future.

After all, you can’t even get inside our Gaithersburg store.

Here’s a copy you can print out or cut and paste and send to someone local: https://www.wonderbk.com/retail/coupon/

Next week’s story? Maybe:


Full Dock

10 Comments on Article

  1. Chris mc commented on

    Best blog on the internet. Thanks for the behind the scenes!

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      That is incredibly kind Chris.
      Thank you so much for reading it and taking the time to write.

  2. Debbie Schnibbe commented on

    I can’t wait to see your stoney things are. By the way I am surprised that the deer have not eaten all your hostas.
    Keep up the great work you are doing for your employees and the book world.
    Glad to see the racoons are doing so well.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      I was so happy they survived!
      Thanks Debbie. i will be so happy when things return to “normal” madness
      I appreciate your writing !

  3. Jim Dronenburg commented on

    Great story, and could you contact me? We have mutual acquaintances, the Geoffrey Hughes’s.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Thanks Jim, I will send you an email. I appreciate your reading and writing!

  4. Buddy commented on

    Really appreciate your effort to get the Baby Raccoons picture! I think we were all wondering! Love your blogs! Keep it up! There will always be MORE books!

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      I was so worried the news would be bad.
      They were so cold when I handed them over.
      Colleen and Frisky’s are modern day saints.
      Thanks fro reading and writing.

  5. Carole Hornik commented on

    Another book-related loss due to rioting – Uncle Hugo’s/Uncle Edgar’s in Minneapolis was torched in the riots. It’s website says Uncle Hugo’s was “the oldest independent science fiction bookstore in America. Founded in 1974 and the other side of the store”, Uncle Hugo’s “The biggest assortment of mystery books in the Twin Cities. Founded in 1980.” It might come back but all those precious books lost!

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Yes. Sadly I think a lot of bookstores can’t or won’t reopen.
      I really appreciate your reading and commenting.
      Thank you,

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