Change Season

Bourdain T-Shirt



It is the quiet hour.

Well before dawn, there is darkness and silence.

The mountain sleeps. The dogs next to me invisible. The birds silent outside.

I awoke to record the moment in writing and then to prepare. It will be a busy morning.

But there will be a time when the world brightens; time to take in the colors brightening as the sun rises.

The yellow gold, cream and orange of the daffodils spreads below in the foreground. In the forest, the maples are reddening. Down in the valley, thousands of small wild trees blossom white. Are they wild pears? Small trees conic in shape. They dot the valley or grow in self-created orchards. Notable only now. They will be unremarkable, shrubby the rest of the year.

Blossoming Trees

A dull dusky red appears on the horizon. Soon the curtain will rise on nature’s show. Birdsong will fill the air. For a couple of months, there will be a procession of colors and shapes until the land settles into greenery.

The first dawn of spring.

The first sunrise.

First Spring Sunrise

I need to lean out the southernmost window with an open view and aim the camera northeast to catch it. Sneaky. The sun has nearly left the frame on its journey. In three months, it will have reached its northernmost point. Then it will return south and come back into my view in about six months.

There have been so many springs in this life. 15 here in this home I’ve grown to love so much.

Well, it is time to rise and begin this first day of spring.

There’s nothing else to do.

You cannot bid time stop.

The house will be cleaned today, and I must prepare it.

So you rise and step from bed and face the day until it ends.

And hope…

Hope, at least, springs eternal.


The fire petered out to coals overnight. I was just too tired to mess with it.

My cold or whatever I’m harboring now is not severe—runny nose and occasional coughing spasms—but it does fatigue me.

I awoke about 5—that dark silent hour—and read a bit and then turned the light off and watched the bedroom lighten. Ever so slowly, objects took shape. Furniture. Books. Picture frames. The walls, uniformly black, were revealed to be light—a shade of white. The void beyond the closet door contains countless exotic shapes. I knew it was full of color as well.

I rose to get the fire going. It is a very cold morning, and the day will be chilly as well. I padded out to the driveway in bare feet and busted up some twigs to serve as kindling. It took a couple of goes with balled up newspaper, but since the firebox was still warm, it was not a “cold start.” My heating discipline slackens a bit as winter retreats to memory.

The housekeeper came yesterday!

My home is civilized once again. It has been months. I was sick. She was sick. I was away. She was away. She was sick. I was…

I pre-cleaned the place. I have some pride. The high suction vacuum pulled up LOTS of dog hair from the oriental rugs. I filled the clear plastic box that holds all that gets pulled up. I dumped it out in the garden. Maybe it will help repel… something.

My life has lots of sawdust and dog hair.

When I got home late yesterday afternoon, she still had a lot she wanted to do. I was beat, but wanted to stay out of her way. So I went out and fired up the orange Husqvarna chainsaw (one of four) and cut up a lot of the deadfall that’s been piled up outside the barn all winter. I’d loaded a lot of the wood the tree people left into the truck. But there were two pieces that were just too big. They looked like a backache to me so I cut them in half and loaded them.

That was in back on the Delaware River gravel “patio.” The volunteer bleeding hearts are rising from the earth beneath the gravel.

Volunteer Bleeding Hearts

They are beautiful—almost fern-like—even in their initial blooming.

Before long, they will grow to nearly 5 feet. I’ve transplanted many from this spot to other beds. I see there are more to dig up this year.

The tree company also left a big pile of logs in the middle of the yard—contrary to instructions. They were supposed to take it to the driveway so I could load it more easily. I chose not to call them back. Partly because I didn’t want them walking on the beds after winter’s dead time.

So, I carried log after log out to the driveway. I know where to step and what not to tread upon.

I’d tell myself, “Just ten more.” Until I couldn’t do any more. I had a can of beer in my coat pocket and sat on a chair-like boulder and rested.

I was surrounded by daffodils. It was a pleasant break.

You're Only Here...

Most daffodils don’t have any scent, and those that do are the later blooming varieties. But you get the picture.

Then I trudged up to the house.

Oops! I am coated in sawdust! It wouldn’t do to walk in there with bits of sawdust trailing from me with every step—like Pigpen in Charlie Brown. I discreetly changed into sweats in the garage. I shook out my woodcutting clothes, but they still weren’t allowed inside.

“I want to come back tomorrow.”


I was beat. All in. I put some pizza on foil into the oven. After it heated some, I poured some marinara atop it. Spices. Pepper. Hot sauce and back in to get hot.

I opened some wine and melted into the recliner to watch Anthony Bourdain.


I started watching a box set of A Cook’s Tour this week. It is his first series. Now a quarter century old. He looks so young.

I’ve watched all his shows many times, but it has been a while. Especially these first adventures.

I have a love-hate relationship with him.

I don’t like the man, but I like his work.

Should that be in the past tense since he died in June 2018?

No. I look at his work as a living thing and regret that there were still so many places he could have gone.

That is an attainment—to survive after death.

I recall vividly my friend John Adams handing me a signed prepublication copy of Kitchen Confidential, likely in 1999.

“This is going to be a hit!” he predicted. John had a great talent for predicting which books his companies published would be blockbusters.

The book was compulsive reading. Part expose. Part educational as to what makes high-end restaurants survive. Part car crash.

His home restaurant, Les Halles, had a branch in DC not far from the White House. I’d visit there as often as I could get friends to join me.

There were two Les Halles in Manhattan. One all the way downtown, not far from the World Trade Center. The other was on Park Avenue, south of Grand Central. I visited both of those whenever I got to New York. Back then, I could visit 3-4 times a year for trade shows and other reasons.

His on-air personality seemed to be a mix of arrogance and bravado and insecurity.

Who knows?

The shows were fun and had me wanting to travel more and try more exotic or regional foods.

I actually went to his one-man show in 2016 at Constitution Hall. It was dreadful. He started by getting into a loud verbal fight with a guest who apparently complained about his seat. Anthony shouted from the stage and belittled the guy in front of the rest of the audience.

That may have been set up to “entertain” us with his “kitchen culture” where cooks and chefs often scream and insult each other. The rest of the show was forgettable. I don’t remember any funny anecdotes or behind the scenes’ revelations. My memory—at this far distance—is of an angry guy, flaunting his NYC tough-chef personality.

The t-shirts were pretty bad as well.

But I bought one.

I have spent a lot of hours with Anthony Bourdain over many years now. I’ve learned a lot. It has inspired me to do many things, go to many places and try new things.

And I’ll spend much of the next week with him—traveling the world from the comfort of my couch.

March 18.

March 19th will be spring? Well, not officially until 11:06 p.m.

It has snuck up on me like a cat. Lurking. Invisibly inching closer.

Well, it is time to change things here. The gloves and scarves and knit caps and heavy coats will begin their pilgrimage down the steep steps to the cedar closet.

It is not warm. 35 degrees out. High of 42. But that keeps the daffodils fresh.

I have not taken the time to enjoy them as much as I should. Working too hard.

Maybe tonight. “The Last Day of Winter.”

I relit the fire this morning. Thank goodness it wasn’t contrary. The heat feels good. It warms my weary soul.

I threw myself into my work and actually made progress on the backlog of carts on the weekend.

The stores especially will be flooded with unusual vintage lit and fiction this week. It remains to be seen if there is an audience for such things.

But the stores continue their surprising 21st century growth. February was way up at the Frederick store despite the storms and bitter cold. The other 2 stores did ok as well. All three are at levels we wouldn’t have dreamed of 5 years ago.

I pushed myself physically, mentally and spiritually to get through the work. Then sometime on Saturday, my sinuses began going wacky.

“Am I getting sick? Or is it allergies? I don’t get allergies. At least I didn’t use to. Dust? I’ve lived a lifetime with book dust, and these books were not noticeably dusty.”

By Sunday afternoon, I felt dreadful. So tired. Drained.”

“I can’t be sick. Not AGAIN!”

Monday, Ernest and I took a quick trip to the Frederick store. On Mondays, we need to visit each—at least once—to retrieve vans filled with book buys from customers over the weekends. There were also some Books by the Foot orders we needed to pull.

It is sunny but cold.

Yet again I was struck—wandering through the aisles—I “did” this. And “it is alive.”


Sick again. A cold, I guess. The COVID test was negative, thank goodness.

Coughing, wheezing, runny nose. That’ll ruin my week.

There’s a dusting of snow on the roof and cars. 32 degrees. But that’s actually good for the daffodils. Heavy snow or ice, extremely cold temperatures can wreak havoc. But heat is the worst. A very hot sunny day, and they will begin drooping en masse.

The first day of spring. (I thought it was the 21st.) The equinox is at 11:06 p.m. tonight. I wonder if I will be awake?

Some say it was a mild winter. I’ll remember it as often brutal. 5? 6? plowing events up here.

The immediate body slam of COVID upon returning from Portugal just before Christmas. The lingering effects—near constant cough, aches, tiredness lasting well into January. Back injury lifting… something—wood? No. It was lifting wet bags of salt to melt the ice. The stomach virus I acquired in Ireland. And lots of weird localized problems. For a month or more, I’d wake in the night, and my mouth would be so dry it felt like leather. Thank God that finally ended.

No. Winter wasn’t fun this year.

And winter ends with another “gift”—a cold.

Cart after cart.

An endless line of them, like a train with no front and no back.

My work has evolved to this now. The most efficient use of my skills and time.

I roll one in front of where I sit upon a stool. My eyes scan every book. Those I can’t read, I slide off and review more closely.

Some books go to the stores. Some go online. Some go to research. Some are left on the cart to be rolled up to one last chance of continued existence in our Books by the Foot #bookrescue programs.

The endless procession of carts…

This one feeds me. This one clothes me. This one gives me shelter. This one pays the rent. The employees, the taxes, utilities… this vast three-acre machine and the three satellite brick and mortar stores all are fueled by books. A company fueled by the printed word.

Tired, tired, tired. Tired to my soul.


Am I rested?


But I can look back on a memorable week of hard work at home and at my job.

Why so tired?

My “cold” lingers. The pathogens occupy me, not devastatingly, but pernicious, rather. A coughing spasm, a gushing runny nose and the tiredness at the end of the day acting as reminders that all is not normal. It has been exactly 3 months since my first COVID infection body slammed me for weeks. Various symptoms around my body have been appearing since then. Then the pain or dysfunction moves somewhere else. Am I paranoid to think they are all lingering COVID assaults—the disease raising its middle finger to me? “I’m not done with you yet.”

I don’t know what is left to afflict.

Maybe it will eventually exit via a toenail—likely bored with its months of torments.

It has been a week of books and wood gathering and housework.

I got a lot done. A lot.

A blue building-permit sign appeared about a mile away on the country road I take almost every day to work.

Cemetery Building Permit

I saw it and thought sadly that a little cluster of McMansions would take the place of the lovely nut orchard.

This county is the fastest growing in Maryland now. People leave their troubled and overcrowded areas and move to the country. Frederick is now growing rooftops. Thousands and thousands of rooftops.

A neighbor texted that night that they are planning to put a graveyard in there!?

I zoomed in on the picture and read “natural graveyard.” I guess that means they stick the resident in the ground to compost?

At least there won’t be a lot of cars and noisy kids. Schools and services won’t be affected.

Our little text group exchanged a good deal of dark humor about our new neighbors to be.

Time to get up and go.

My “librarian” is coming today. She feels she may be able to finish the organization of the books in my house.

“…as long as you haven’t brought more home…”

(I haven’t.)

So, after today, my home will be in its best shape since… before COVID.

I hope I can build on that and continue removing stuff that is irrelevant to my life.

The potted plants can’t go out until late April.

Then I can be happy with the place and begin inviting people up again.

Actually, two couples are coming this Sunday. It will be low key.

There were some fun finds this week. A LOT in fact. Annika appears hopelessly behind. Her room is piled with yellow tubs of books needing her academic attentions.

What stands out?

This Paracelsus folio from 1658 was a “big” surprise.

Paracelsus Folio

I finally got to look through the acquisitions from the ABAA San Francisco Fair—which sadly I was unable to attend.

ABAA San Francisco Fair Books

More BIG books. But that binding on the top is certainly a jewel in the crown.

And a nice copy of The Thin Man in a decent jacket.

The Thin Man

Why not a copy of The Maltese Falcon to pair with it?

The Maltese Falcon

There were a lot of near misses—Adam Smith, Darwin, Freud…

We came up with a tentative list for next season’s Wonder Book Film Classics:

Wonder Book Classic Film Series—2024-25  
Screening DateTitleYear
Thursday, September 12, 2024The Great Gatsby1974
Thursday, October 10, 2024The Shining1980
Thursday, November 14, 2024Phantom of the Opera1943
Thursday, December 12, 2024The NeverEnding Story1984
Thursday, January 9, 2025Great Expectations1934
Thursday, February 20, 2025Les Miserables1998
Thursday, March 13, 2025Double Indemnity1944
Thursday, April 10, 2025Dune1984
Thursday, May 8, 2025Howl’s Moving Castle2004
Thursday, June 12, 2025Pride and Prejudice1940

I’m excited about it already!

There hasn’t been much reaction to the Washingtonian feature about having one of the coolest jobs in the region. But I’ve been trying to remind myself how lucky I am to have this gig.

I don’t think anything existed like it before.

If I hadn’t invented it, I wonder what I would be doing.


Washingtonian Cool Jobs

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