How Many Balls Can We Juggle at One Time?

Snowy Dawn



Sunday morning. 8 a.m. (It is really 7. The clocks leapt forward overnight. See, magic things DO happen in modern times.)

I am curled up in bed with time to kill. The sun is pouring in the window with just a hint of sunny warmth. The house is cold. 58 degrees when I woke from a long hard sleep. The thermometer read “17” outside. I stoked the fire and opened the dampers. It sprang to life quickly. Brilliant orange flames aggressively licked the tempered glass doors.

Will I be here an hour? 2? More? The phone says it will warm to 19 degrees by 9. 21 by 10 a.m. 25 by 11.

But all that matters is the bright sun in a cloudless sky. Despite the air temperature, it will melt the ice coating on my black pavement, so I can drive down the steep drive and get to work. I left Merry and Pippin in their pen. They’ll be anxious for relief. When Travis gets in at 9, I’ll text to see if he will let them out for a few minutes.


A sleepless night. I’m not sure why. I knew a “bomb cyclone” was predicted. That may have been part of it.

I’d come home Friday after work and set to many outdoor projects. I yanked up a couple bushels of honeysuckle vines which had been taking over a bed right outside my kitchen window. This is a good time to do that, as nothing else has started to grow. The hay-scented fern brake there has not broken ground. I pushed my gloved hands under a likely patch of vines clinging to the earth and lifted. If it is a good pull, strands will rip from the ground in all directions. I will pull and pull until nothing else comes up. I bundled the vines and tossed them down on to the gravel patio. It is a bit of hard work. Especially if the vines are well rooted in the soil. When I’d tired of it, there were numerous loose bushel sized “balls” of honeysuckle vines. There are still plenty to pull. The weed is quite pernicious. To eradicate it, I’ll need to keep after it until I’m sure every bit is gone. It is odd it only infests this little triangular garden. It would be a mess if it escaped. I hauled a lot of BIG chunks of firewood into the barn to split and stack, so it will be dry for next winter. I brought some carts of wood to the porch, so there would be plenty of firewood close to the house. I’d walked around the woods near the house, picking up and dragging deadfalls. Smaller ones I tossed onto the giant branch pile I created some years ago. There’s almost no ground cover on the mountain. Deer have eaten it. This big brush pile gives smaller animals a place to hang out for a bit. Bigger pieces I dragged near the house to cut up and burn for heat.

I was pretty tired when it was darkening and time to go in.

I put some leftover slices of anchovy pizza wrapped in foil to melt and then bake in the oven. I brought home most of a wedge salad from the Tasting Room on Thursday. I foraged for a movie and picked an Indiana Jones. I wasn’t sure which one. Turns out it is the newest one where Harrison Ford resurrects his role as an old man.

I’d bought a big bag of frozen cherries from Costco a week ago. I broke some loose and dropped them in a crystal tumbler. They were too hard to muddle, so I just poured some bourbon over them. Dashed on some bitters. I settled in. It had been a beautiful day. I’d gotten so much done. At some point, either exhaustion or too many Old Fashioneds put me to sleep. I knew about this storm coming, but it looked like temps would be in the forties.

I awoke from troubled dreams about 2. 46 degrees outside. I curled back up. At 6 a.m., I looked out. Snow was blowing horizontally. The ground was covered. The temperature was 35. 34. 32.

It was dropping every minute or so.

“I gotta go.”

I pulled on some clothes and took the dogs out to the truck. The driveway was covered, but I thought not with dangerous stuff. Still, I “tap, tap, tapped…” my way down the mountain. The roads were slushy. I passed two accidents going in. The pickup with its big load of firewood did fine—in 4WD.

Charlie and John were supposed to be at the bookstore at 8 a.m. My son was about 35 miles northwest, where things were even worse.

Charlie emailed they were on their way—from near DC where things were not so bad.

Well, it was up to me. The highways were ok. We’d packed a van with empty yellow plastic tubs. I drove it from the warehouse to the store and parked at the curb. I called in to cancel the alarm. (What’s the password? We’d had the same one for 30 years, but I thought we might have changed it. I gave the operator 2. She was ok with that.)

Charlie and John pulled up. It was great to see them! It had been almost exactly two years. They’d been here for their annual visit to cherry-pick thousands of books for their shop in Galway, Ireland when COVID hit. They’d barely gotten on a flight home.

We greeted each other warmly.

And then they began pulling books. I was in a bit of a daze. No sleep. Stressed from the white-knuckle mountain descent. My son appeared and took over. I drove a van back to the warehouse. The wind was howling and snow swirling like huge flocks of white starlings. I backed up to the dock and went in and began sorting from carts.

In a few hours, my son texted they had filled the van and needed more tubs. I headed back over to the store with an emptied vehicle and more yellow tubs.

I went in and bid goodbye. They’ll return on Wednesday and stay a day or two. They will visit the other stores, and I think in the evening we will meet and eat and drink and swap book and plague tales.

About 5 p.m., I went outside. It was still brutally cold and blowing hard, but there was no more snow! In fact, the sun and wind had cleared and dried the parking lot and roads around the warehouse.

‘Home!’ I thought. ‘If I can get there before the sun goes downs, maybe I can plow and the sunlight will melt off whatever is underneath.’

I hurried home. The sun was bright above the mountain. The roads were clear but for spots where winds blew drifts onto them from fields. My lane was pretty clear as well. Had a neighbor plowed? My steep drive was untouched. A solid white plain ascending before me.

I hurried to the ATV and backed it out of the Barn and began pushing the crunchy ice and snow. It was still bright out but, unfortunately, the sun was now behind the mountaintop.

I went down and up, down and up… No matter how many times I went, I couldn’t get the dark gray shiny layer to give way. The chains on the tires and the plow pushing down on the drive kept me from sliding.

I finally gave up and went in. I’d actually turned the heat off a few days ago. The fire had petered out. It was in the low 50s inside.

So, tired as I was, I had to bring a fire to life. I turned on the 2 furnaces—a surrender—to 58 degrees.

I heated up the Papparedelle from Tasting Room. The locally sourced mushrooms were still a perfect fleshy chewiness.


It’s been enjoyable lying in the sun in bed and typing away. It is now 26 degrees outside. I ventured out to get some firewood. I think the driveway is softening up.

I’ll shower and then walk down a bit to see if it is safe. Or dangerous. Or somewhere in between. If need be, I can try plowing again. It might be mostly slush by now.

We shall see…

Last week, I wrote about a wondrous discovery. A first edition of John Keats’ “Endymion.”

I don’t think I conveyed the magnitude of the discovery to my biblio-heart. Keats only published three books in his short life. None were well received.

In his lifetime, sales of Keats’s three volumes of poetry probably amounted to only 200 copies.


His first book, Poems, in 1817 went mostly unnoticed while reviews of “Endymion”, the following year, attacked both the poem itself and Keats personally. One critic questioned whether someone of his background should write about classical subjects and suggested he should abandon all hope of being a poet.

This link suggests under 1000 copies were printed: That seems a bit ambitious for a publisher to risk on an unknown poet.

I can imagine the printer rolling his eyes if he was instructed to print and bind 1000 Endymions. Also, Keats had no money and, I believe, no sponsor, so whoever was paying for the book was certainly doing it on spec. High-risk speculation.

How many Endymions were bound? How many have survived? Who knows? That Keats was closely involved with its publication seems certain. How many books do you see in first edition with TWO errata leaves tipped? I’d guess he would have liked to have kept making changes, as obsessive poets are wont to do. (I know this from personal experience… LOL.)

So, I’d like to think Keats visited the printer and inspected the print run himself. Likely obsessing over his creation. If so, the copy I found was in his presence.

The printer was anxious to get on with it, I would imagine. He hurriedly bound the sheets before the writer could interfere further. He inserted some ads in some. Different ads in others. And no ads in others.

How many sold or were given to friends and reviewers? How many were left unsold and destroyed due to poor sales?

Anyway. I’m glad this one came here. In most other bookselling circumstances in 2022, it likely would have been pulped.

One of the links sent me to Jane Campion’s 2009 movie Bright Star. I need to find a copy. No, Wonder Book does not have one at this time. I read there is a scene where Fanny goes to a bookshop to buy one of Keats’ books. She wanted to find out if her wooer was a good writer. She buys a copy of “Endymion”…

Here’s the trailer for the movie…

Here’s a link from a post by Peter Harrington—one of the top rare booksellers in the world:

I still get tingles when I look at the book. When I hold it, it has a kind of electricity bound into it.


Ernest is driving us to Hagerstown. I feel he is going too fast. But I won’t be a backseat driver—even though the van has no backseat. I recall when I was a beginning driver and my mom was in the passenger seat, she would often have a conniption at something she felt I was doing wrong. Both her feet would fly forward as if slamming on the brakes. Her hands would rise to the car’s ceiling in an effort to save herself from the disaster to come… all my fault.

Charlie and John surprised me early this morning with an email. They wanted to stop at the Hagerstown store to shop for the Charlie Byrne bookstore in Galway, Ireland.

Charlie Byrne Bookstore

They weren’t supposed to return til Wednesday.

“Sure!” I replied.

So, when I got in to work, I had a van loaded with yellow tubs for them as well as generic plastic tubs for a Books by the Foot order we needed to pull. And boxes of stock for them to price to help reload the shelves Charlie and John will be emptying. We just crossed under the Appalachian Trail. A group of people were standing the bridge with flags and signs to cheer on the Truck Convoy which must be coming east on Interstate 70 sometime this morning.

I went to my favorite car dealer yesterday, Desmond. One of my remote key’s batteries had died, and he told me to come by and he would switch it out. I drove the 1997 Dodge van.

“When are you getting some vans in?” I asked. “You see what I’m driving.” I’d parked by the showroom window. Their lots are virtually empty. Carmakers can’t build new cars.

“Maybe 2024,” he replied. “You can go online and order one. It might take 6 months to get it in.”

There is something wrong in this country… in this world. I’m pretty good at basic math. The numbers just don’t add up.

I stopped in CVS after I left the dealership. I needed to pick up a “congratulations and we miss you card” for a long-time employee who had left for maternity.

When I headed back to the van, there was something odd on the windshield.

CVS Book Donation

It was a book placed under the windshield wiper.

CVS Book Donation

A donation while I was in CVS. That’s a first. It was an early Harold Robbins.


I thought I’d seen everything.

Yesterday was the second anniversary of the first COVID death in New York City.

Scary times.

Things have changed so much.

Changing still—but not for the better.

Except the books… they abide.

Snowy Dawn

The sunrise is slipping further north each morning. Soon they will be out of sight behind the trees. In a few months, the dawn will reach the solstice and then head south again. In about six months, the sunrises will again move into my view.

Tuesday, I came home a bit early. The weather was so beautiful. I sat on the deck with this laptop and a bottle of Lacryma Christi (Christ’s Tears) from the vineyard on Vesuvio I visited last November. It took over 4 months for the case to arrive—supply chain difficulties. I decided to celebrate and opened one. The Riserva bottles have wax seals over the cork. They’re done by hand and each is a little different. The red wax conjures Vesuvio’s lava but also the tears of blood which the wine is named after. The deck was littered with tiny branches and other tree debris.

Vesuvio Wine

I wrote more of the new Round and Round story—about the hapless bookseller. I know that character very well. I think the day and venue and wine from the slopes of an Italian volcanic slope inspired me. At least, I felt inspired if the words were not.

Wine is sunlight, held together by water.

Wine and Valley

When daylight began to fade, I went to the Barn and unloaded wood from the pickup’s bed. Then I fired up the blower. Many of the garden beds still have layers of loose or matted dead brown leaves. I cleared a lot of that off, so the young plants below—especially seedlings—would be able to get to sunlight and grow. I cleared off the paved area and the deck. Then I went inside and boiled water for pasta.


Hagerstown Take Two

I had misunderstood.

This time, Charlie and John are really going to the Hagerstown store.

Ernest and I are heading up again. There’s another Books by the Foot subject order to pull.

So we will be multitasking.

OH! The contractor is coming to Hagerstown on Friday. He called this morning, so I will also be doing prep work in anticipation of his arrival. Major renovations are in the works for that store.

So… my quiet, pensive, reflective book week has taken a life of its own. I’ll be guided by forces beyond my control. I will be juggling a lot of things in addition to the usual routine.

But before we left, a friend of my brother Jim stopped in. He was trying to find out what happened to him and somehow found the story I wrote about him. “He Ain’t Heavy”—

He and Jim were friends at UB—now SUNY Buffalo. It was a hotbed of social activism in the 60s. It’s an era I didn’t know much about. I was just a kid. Jim would show up at home in Amherst when he needed food or clothes washed. Otherwise, he was a “student” at the university and lived with friends and hung out with writers and musicians. Ginsberg, Creeley, Paul Butterfield… It was great to catch up with his old friend. An unexpected blast from the past. He says he has some of Jim’s poetry and other writings—some on fading mimeograph. I asked him to please send me copies. I rescued everything there was from Jim’s home in Nashville. But he had moved around so much and had so many financial downs and ups that his early stuff didn’t survive.

The Truck Convoy is crossing the mountain eastward again. Hundreds of trucks and pickup and cars—many with American flags fluttering on them. I’m not sure what they want, but I’m glad they have the passion to still care enough to get out and protest—peacefully.

It is another beautiful day. 72. Clear blue sky. A good day to be alive. A good day to play with books and meet old friends.

It is good to be busy. It keeps the festering spirits at bay. I can’t get into dark thoughts if my mind and hands are fully occupied.


The numbers don’t add up.

Just keep so busy it must all go away.

Ernest parked at the curb and we went inside. He began pulling a Books by the Foot order.

Gardening. Sports…

I walked around with Chris, the manager. I tried to predict the work the contractor would be doing on Friday.

“We’re going to get rid of all these short laminate shelves. We can put as many on the sidewalk as will fit. They will be great for the dollar books and DVDs and LPs.”

Then I headed back to Frederick. There was a lot for me to do there, and not so much in Hagerstown.

…Gas is $4.17. I stopped by the Toyota and Mercedes dealerships in Hagerstown yesterday. They don’t have any vans (or much else) for sale. Inflation is at 10%. Civilians are being slaughtered in a European country.

After a while, I got a text.

“They are here!”

Charlie and John had been in Pittsburgh buying books.

I knew they would pull tub loads of books quickly. I asked Clif to empty another van. He would go up and bring the filled van and Ernest back. I would go up in my truck at about 5. I would bring them back to Frederick. There is only one passenger seat in a van.

I was a little more coherent than on Saturday morning.

Clif and the Hagerstown crew had dragged four of the bookcases onto the sidewalk. The HD staff had already filled them.

HD Sidewalk

A dramatic improvement!

Charlie, John and I chatted about the last two years on the way back. I dropped them off at their BNB. I waited until they’d gotten their luggage inside, and then we went to Oscar’s Alehouse and had way too much food.

We were all exhausted. I told them I’d pick them up at 8 a.m. Thursday.

St Patrick’s Day

I awoke a bit foggy from the IPAs the night before. I was 15 minutes late picking them up from a coffee shop downtown.

We went to the warehouse, and I let them loose on the remainders. In an hour, they had filled six 6-shelf carts.

Then I shuttled them to the Frederick store. Ernest brought a van loaded with empty yellow tubs.

I’d set up two people to begin packing their pulls from last weekend. One calls the price out and sets the book in a box. The other just make a slash next to a sheet with price points.

$4.95 ||||| ||||| ||||| …

$6.95 ||||| ||||| ||||| ||||| …


Price Tally

[I’ll report in the next story just how many books we are shipping to Galway. We will total everything and then apply a huge discount. (It is top secret.) To apply for the same discount, you must purchase thousands of books.]

After dropping them off, I returned to the warehouse and finished the Round and Round story—#33.


Well, there’s no harm in them…

I coordinated with the contractor who will arrive in Hagerstown tomorrow and create mass destruction and then build wondrous improvements from the rubble.

I “think” I know what his plans are…

Friday will be a zoo!

Chloe, a new sorter, whose energy equals 5 normal humans, lucked into a collection of LECs, Folios and other exotica.

“It is not always this exciting,” I cautioned her when she schlepped one of two 40-pound 19th century German Bible folios over to get my opinion.

Dore Bible

I was seated on a stool.

I opened the book and placed my finger on a full page Gustave Dore engraving.

“This is what we do. Have fun!”

The day flew by.

I did a dozen carts of common books to help reload the stores from the Irish depredations.

At 4:30, I went to the Frederick store and picked Charlie and John up.

Giles, the big floppy dog, is coming here at 5 to be babysat by me while the family goes to the beach.

We all went out to dinner. After, I took them Smoketown Brewery—my friends David and Lauren’s place. The place was booming. A concert was going on in the next room. 100s of people if various green outfits were milling about.

I must say, a few were kind of troublesome. I suggest you look in the mirror before you go out dressed in a shiny green outfit that is three sizes too small… ouch!

Charlie and John chuckled at some of the faux Irish outfits… kilts, derby hats…

Well, all that really counted was people were out again and having fun.

We walked down the Carroll Creek Promenade and then down Market Street. Frederick is loaded with Georgian architecture. So many vibrant shops and restaurants. I’m proud to have been a part of this city for 42 years.

I asked if they wanted one last beer. We went to Oscar’s again, and then I dropped them off at the BNB. I returned to the warehouse and picked up Giles and headed home.



I had a tough night. Too much pizza. The three dogs crowded on top of me in bed, which made rest even more difficult.

There was a lovely foggy sunrise.

Final Sunrise

Goodbye sunrises. I’ll see you in 6 months.

Downtown. I picked them up at the coffee shop and drove them down to the Gaithersburg. Patrick was there to open early.

They told me they went back out after I’d left and had beers at Jennifer Dougherty’s Magoo’s Irish Pub. That would have been fun, but I was driving. And I had dog duty.

They were very impressed with the expansion and upgrades we had made at the Gaithersburg store during the COVID closure. In fact, they liked the changes at all three stores.

I headed back to face the usual Friday rat race.

The contractor texted, “ETA 10:06.”

Clif is taking the big truck up there to haul things back we are removing.

Ernest is going to the Frederick store.

I need to wrap this up, so I can get into the mix.

Oh! Two 500-pound glass cases are arriving today. They will be installed in Hagerstown next week. I hope I don’t have to unload them.

I’m looking forward to the weekend when I can relax and just work through thousands of books on carts.

It is a getaway weekend.

I’m going away again next week. This trip will involve “whisky” [sic].

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