A whiff of Emeraude takes me back fifty years.
Remembrance of things past.
We get some odd stuff here. My scout is instructed to look for the quirky on house calls. He’s good at it!
He dropped these flats off last night along with 47 regular boxes, 1 “special” box (usually vintage or signed), 2 boxes of DVDs, artworks, electronics, knick-knacks. I know because he texts me information on his after-hour drop-offs, so he is sure to get credit for them.
‘Some old woman’s vanity stuff,’ I thought when I saw the melange. Some perfume bottles are valuable. That’s why I looked. He brought some old Lladro bottles a while back. From the 1930s, I think. High style.
Emeraude. I put my fingertip on the opened bottle and turned in upside. I dabbed it on my wrist and inhaled.
She wore it. For me. We were just kids but planned a life together. Then things changed. Dread illnesses for my parents. Then deaths. I got scared. She went in a brilliant direction. I bumped around trying to finish my degree. I finally scraped it out. Then I took a summer job in a used bookshop. That fall, I’d go to grad school and maybe become an English professor. I could be a poet and a professor. I knew that much. In a matter of days, I found playing with old books was what I really wanted to do. Forever. Lucky choice.
It is Thursday afternoon. 1:36. February 23rd. I am out back—in the dockyard. The sun beating down on my back at the black metal bistro table is almost too hot. But I’ve found I like being overheated. I turn up the heat in my vehicles so high no one else would ride in that suffocation.
Today is such a gift I had to take a break outside and soak some in.
I went through about 20 carts today, so I felt I earned a break.
I sniff my wrist again. Unconditional love. I miss that. I’ve been pretty lucky, though.
Now? Maybe lightning will strike again.
Last night, I reached back and pressed the switch. The light came on. I reached for my bed companion and opened it where the repro-1910 $10 bill bookmark protruded from the book’s top edge. I read for 15 or 20 minutes. I placed the bookmark in its new slot. Closed the book; laid it down beside me. I reached behind and pressed the switch. All was dark.
Sometime later, the process was repeated.
3:26. I checked because necessity was driving me to rise.
Back to bed. All was dark. I thought I should record those thoughts, that scene. I closed my eyes.
‘In the morning,’ I thought.
‘No. It will be gone by then.’
A different necessity raised me. I reached for another bed companion. This laptop.
I tapped these words out.
I set the machine aside, rolled onto my side and wondered if sleep would come.
Lately, every night is like this.
Maybe all the hard work outdoors is getting me more wired than tired.
More wired than tired. That might be a good song. Or poem. Or title.
February has been so warm. This week, I decided to haul more deadfalls in from the forest. If I burn that, then the wood already stored in the barn is banked away for next winter.
It is a mess outside the main door. The wood is sprawled on the drive just below the low porch the door opens onto.
I will burn this ton or so of wood. It will be converted into 50 pounds of gray powdery ash, I’m guessing. Physics… I’m sure there’s a formula. Heavy wood converted to light ash.
The physical work is good for me, I tell myself.
A bottle of red wine, a chainsaw and a forest.
Not in that order. I’ll pour glasses of wine after the wood is cut. A periodic reward for hauling the stuff in the pickup truck or the two-wheel cart or by hand and dumping it in front of my front door.
I’ll clean this stuff up over the next month or so by burning it. Maybe longer because I’ll be away.
Yesterday, I punched tickets for Cornwall and Venice. Greece has been planned for months.
Like hauling the wood, I will travel while I can. And I am too impecunious to leave American Airlines and Hilton Hotels all the 100,000s of points and miles I have accrued over the years. Use ’em up while I can.
I whiff my wrist again. Time travel. I smile to myself and a bit of saltwater threatens to overflow the dam of my lower eyelids.
It feels so good. The sun and the warmth.
It hurts so good. The Proustian memories.
Well, I should go back in and grind out some more book work. Annika is looking up the limited edition Baudelaire I pulled off a cart in passing not forty minutes ago. I don’t think it is much, but maybe I’ll be wrong like the Oscar Wilde I felt was a facsimile at first glance last week.
Seated at the little table with my laptop before me, I’ve gotten a few odd looks from people coming and going in the dockyard. It wouldn’t do for the rumor mill to start:
“He’s just goofing off out in the dockyard. I wish we could do it.”
Go ahead. We are extremely flexible here. Take a long lunch. Take the afternoon off. I wouldn’t even notice.
But me? I’ve got to keep up appearances.
So, I left the bright sun for the dimmer electrical lights inside. It is much cooler in the building. It hasn’t had the chance to warm up yet. Actually, it stays pretty cool all summer. I was told the floors are ten feet thick, and that is part of the reason.
I walked to the other side of the building where Annika was bundled up at her table, which serves as her desk.
“Anything special?” I asked, pointing at the Baudelaire. It had a slip of paper protruding from the top of it, and I could discern her penciled notes.
“No. Sorry. Ninety-five dollars. It is a first and limited. But it’s early 20th century—long after he died.”
I inspected the lovely dark-green leather and the heavy bands on the spine.
“These French bindings. They always look much older to me. And the original wraps are bound in. Still, it is nice. And it is Baudelaire.”
I headed out to the sorting area and assumed my position on a stool before a cart laden with books. Six bankers boxes were on the floor to my left. An empty cart, at a right angle to the other cart, on my right. Into the boxes, I would set books destined for the stores. Each represents a price point. $1.59/5 for $5, $3.95, $6.95, $8.95, $12.95, $15.95. Onto the cart, I will set books destined to be offered online. On the three shelves, I would start stacks by price points. $14.95, $19.95, $29.95, $59.95… When one side is filled, I spin the cart around and start on the three shelves on the other side. Whatever remains on the original cart after I’ve gone through it will be rolled up to Books by the Foot. I stack the books that Annika or Madeline will research on the floor beside me.
(I’m restarting this thread on Friday morning. Can you tell or is my writing seamless? The sun just rose. 6:50 a.m. Right on cue. The iPhone has it just right. Sunset will be at 5:56 this evening. We are back to eleven hours of daylight.)
I processed a dozen carts or so. When I filled the cart for data entry, it was an excuse to quit. I took some more books to Annika. Books about books and book collecting. 3 of Jack Mathews books were in perfect shape. They came from the “lady who collects bookmarks.” That was how her text read. She had my cell number and set an appointment to bring some books up the day before. No name or any other context, but I’d agreed. When I went to the loading dock, I recognized them immediately. Customers from the distant past. I’d served them in the bookstore in the 90s. Maybe before. The lady who collects bookmarks. They were older even then. They only brought 6 small boxes. “We can’t lift anything bigger.” But the books were all perfect and bookish or genealogical. “We don’t know what to do with the collection. Maybe we will donate them.”
“I’d be glad to take a look at them. We would buy them all and bring them here, inspect each one and get the best result we can. Some charities can’t deal with older books. If they don’t have a barcode, they get pulped. Would you like to see the building?”
I gave them the walk through. I gave them a dozen small boxes for the next load and bade them goodbye. I hope they will call us in when the time comes. I can only imagine what the collection would be like.
Bookmarks? I used to disappoint her in the old days. We didn’t get many interesting or collectible bookmarks. Now we do. And we have come up with ways to display them for sale. I told her so, but I don’t think they are in an acquiring mode just now.
The books on books—”Annika, we should take these to the Georgetown Fair. Books about book collecting are always popular at book fairs.” We’ve already begun building stock for the show. It has been so long. I don’t want to embarrass Wonder Book, so I’ve been putting thought in and encouraging her to put targeted books aside.
I finished my Thursday work and headed home. I wanted to play outside. I mostly wandered around the beds with one dog or the other, looking at the early blossoms and emerald fingers protruding from the earth. There are blooming hellebores everywhere now.
I’ve propagated many by hand. Others have done it themselves.
I picked up a lot of dead branches from the forest floor close to the house. I like to tidy that area. Beyond a certain perimeter, the woods are on their own.
My two big branch piles grew significantly last night.
I finished standing jagged stones in the small wall I built this week. These all came from the warehouse construction site next door. They’d been buried for millions of years, I guess. The excavators needed to dig them out and smash them.
I hauled and stacked more green wood in the barn for next year. And I did this and that as serendipity led me. Driving home, it was 76 degrees. It was a joy to be outside and putter.
I’m sore from the firewood I did last night. I hauled and cut more deadfall. I may have enough that I won’t need to take any more from the barn. The weather predictions on the phone have us in the 40s and 50s through March 2nd now.
So many flowers are out already. I just hope we don’t get slammed in March with a very deep freeze of heavy wet snow. Otherwise the daffodils will be fine, as it does not look like it will be very hot either. (Except this Thursday which will go to 75!) When it gets too hot, the daffodils wither quickly.
The weekend was absolute torture. Self inflicted. And not the kind some seem to enjoy.
I had an old pallet of material we’d put aside at the old warehouse carted up for me to review. So it has been collecting dust here since 2013 or before. I knew a lot of it would be from the John Gach hoard. That was one of biggest messiest buys ever. John was a genius. Untrained beyond high school, I think. An autodidact. This has been confirmed from inscriptions signed to him by people like Larry McMurtry to prizewinning scientists, doctors, psychologists and other quirky geniuses like bibliophile Richard Macksey. Gach’s collection was enormous. It was also full of problems. He had hoards of periodicals in many languages. A lot were crumbly or unsaleable due to content.
With this lot, I had a premonition there would be good stuff as well as problems.
The 200 or so Psychical Journals I found confirmed that.
These may be marketable. Who wouldn’t want ghost stories and floating tables and talks with the dead presented in a serious scientific journal? All were from the early 20th century and in excellent condition.
The large diploma from a 19th century hypnotism correspondence school was kind of fun too.
But the mountains of monographs, offprints, reprints were depressing.
Depression, anorexia, WW1 combat wounds, syphilis, the horrors of preantibiotic bacterial infections—incurable… Medical curiosities.
Many were signed by the doctor or scientist.
Gach had 10,000s of these. Many were from the Jelliffe hoard. I’ve been putting them aside over the years. For what? With this lot, I decided to free them up on the market. Some that were especially interesting would go online. Most would go to the stores. Cast to the wind, as it were. Some will be hung in bags for display. Others on shelves. $1.59 or 5 for $5. Most will appear in Frederick and Hagerstown once they are priced and shelved. Happy hunting!
‘Good luck!’ I thought.
My guess is I sorted 4-5000 items last weekend. Mind numbing.
There were a lot of serious books. Freud, Jung, Adler… Mostly in German.
Prolong your life.
Letters from the dead.
An interesting Norman Mailer first asked me to open it. I was rewarded with a quirky inscription written in lipstick? More likely one of those old red wax pencils.
—up the rebels,
down the Feds,
say we sad Irish
anarchists + Reds
I kept passing the cart that held a couple dozen Barbara Mertz/Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels autographed books. These came from the daughter of Debbie Schnibbe. I wrote about Debbie’s unexpected passing last fall. Her daughter wanted us to have them. Debbie loved Wonder Book.
I’ll make the Debbie Schnibbe Mertz Collection! I put Post-It prices on them and rolled the cart to Eric’s station. He’s the data entry manager and would handle them properly. I slipped a note in:
“Quote interesting inscriptions. Note they may smell slightly smoky but that will dissipate with time.”
I thought that was a fitting tribute—a memorial of sorts to those two fine women and those long ago afternoons of martinis and cigarettes by the koi pond below the waterfall in Lothlorien.
My nephew came on Saturday.
“NOT BEFORE 4:30!” I urged… um insisted.
He is always a handful. I can only handle so much. He brought a lot of cool stuff he had found.
Chuck Close cells. A big stack of signed limited prints—mostly late 20th century stuff. A megalodon tooth as big as my fist. Signed baseballs with COAs. Some books.
And an Elvis check…
“Hmmm… Gerry. Where’d you get it?”
“A storage unit. It was in a pile of papers.”
It didn’t look or feel right, but I bought it. Cheap.
“I’m going to look into it. If it’s bad, I’m sending it back.”
It is bad, according to an expert whose opinion I sought out in exchange for a future favor.
“Who wouldn’t cash a $10,000 check in the 1970s? The ‘A’ for Aron looks shaky… I’d get a new nephew.”
Over the weekend, Clark texted me that the Roald Dahl books were going to be “cleansed” to 21st century standards by the owners of the rights. Netflix?
New editions of Dahl books would be sanitized so as not to… expose sensitive people to history?
Of course, books have been expurgated or bowdlerized for centuries. Shakespeare was once deemed too risque for Victorian audiences.
“Edited” was a term often used.
When the Dr. Seuss books were canceled a few years ago, there was an immediate run on those titles. Then the prices started skyrocketing.
We decided to pull them all offline. The store stock would have to wait til Monday.
Turns out, it wasn’t such a big deal. There are millions of copies out there. So far, no online mega platforms are banning them.
Later in the week, we put the online copies back up for sale. We are sending the store stock back. We have hundreds and hundreds of them.
The amaryllises I potted in December are beginning to bloom.
While outside, the thousands of ranks of daffodils are rising. The show hasn’t really begun yet. Maybe a hundred are in bloom. There will be yellow and gold, orange and cream into May.
4 Comments on Article
Reading your blogs make my day.
That is a wonderful comment!
Makes me think I’m doing ok.
Thank you so much!
I hope you post pictures of all the flowers when they start blooming. I bet it’s going to be beautiful to see all those bulbs you planted come to life.
Your sunset picture is wonderful.
There are many things other than perfume bottles that people may want!
There are a few dozen outside the manager entrance right now!