The forest is a sea of color.
I open windows to take these images. Today, Friday, it is 46 degrees outside. The cold air flows in and over me. I’m anxious to get the shot, close the window and get back under the bedspread. The t-shirt and flannels do not provide much insulation.
It is the end of October. Maybe my favorite month. But then there’s April. And May.
I’ve had small fires in the woodstove lately. It is 68 inside.
October has been very mild. There hasn’t been a hard freeze up here. There’s not one predicted for at least the next ten days. So I haven’t been pressured to bring in the rest of the potted plants.
My younger son turns 30 today. 1992 was a long time ago. It certainly doesn’t “feel just like yesterday.”
The world was so different then.
Today will be hectic, as all Fridays seem to be. I need to go downtown and wire money to pay the loan and settlement fees for the second and third loans for the warehouse building project. I went to the lawyers’ office yesterday and signed my name at least 40 times. The documents were voluminous.
That pile is just for one loan!
And I need to pick up the free movie tickets for the people that work here (and a guest.) The second movie we are sponsoring is next Thursday. It is an Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple mystery, Murder She Said, starring the iconic Margaret Rutherford.
If you’ve never seen her, she is a hoot!
It is at the beautiful old Weinberg Theater. The tickets are $7. You can buy snacks and beverages. They now offer sippy cups, so you can take your soda, cocktail, beer, wine… to your seat.
I love being able to see these films on the big screen. It is far different that watching them on TV.
And we are giving away a new hardcover children’s book to anyone who attends. There will be a choice of 6 or 7 titles to choose from. Each book’s retail price is more than the cost of 2 tickets. You can also pick up a 2023 Wonder Book “refrigerator” magnet calendar. We’ve been doing those for nearly 30 years. I wonder who has the most complete collection?
Friday… I need to finish this book story.
I hope they are not getting tedious. Books. Books. Books.
Well, next week will be different. I’m going away. Checking more locations off my “never been there before” list. I’ll be far away.
Last weekend was a blur. So, so many carts.
So, so many books.
Seems like more books and more carts every week.
And I had company coming Sunday.
I had been preparing for visitors for a few weeks, but of course, I left a lot for the last minute. It would be my first real company since COVID.
After plowing through thousands of books, I headed out to Baltimore to visit the Baltimore Antiques and Art Show. It had always been the Summer Show, but this year was moved to October. It is their first show since 2019. I visited bookseller friends—Ron Cozzi and Jeff Bergman—that year as well.
Things are far different personally and professionally since then. That doesn’t seem like just yesterday either.
COVID is to blame for much of it. Though business during COVID has actually been good since we were permitted to reopen. Wonder Book continues its 42 years of incremental growth. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and it takes you places.
I left the warehouse about 3 and was in the Baltimore Convention Center by 4.
It was kind of sad. I used to exhibit at this show in its heyday—pre World Wide Web. My memory is that in the 90s there were about 130 booksellers and hundreds of antique dealers.
It was like a little city of booths. It would take an hour or more just to walk the aisles. The vast building was fully opened, and every space was taken. I think there were even vendors in upper level rooms and areas.
Jewels. Paintings. Statuary. Furniture. Antiquey stuff. A vast museum where everything had a price.
To set up, you were given an appointment time to drive your vehicle to the building and unload it in your booth space. Then you were hustled out again to park—somewhere. I’d return and begin setting up the folding bookcases and tables. You were required to have fire retardant table drapes. I had to buy some chemical and spray the purple corduroy I’d bought on sale at a fabric store. It was a good show for me. I’d sell a lot of expensive (for me) books. Often my best sales were before the show opened. Other booksellers—often specialists or high-end speculators—would hover around my booth as I unpacked. Sometimes they’d even offer to help me empty boxes! They’d make a stack or three and put their business card in the top book then set their finds on hold underneath the tables. They’d return before the show opened and pay for the books, so they could take them to their booths and erase my price and put their price on the books.
In the early days, it bothered me sometimes. They knew something I didn’t. How much would they mark my books up? Double? Triple? Ten times? A hundred times?
I got over it eventually. I made my money, after all. And I NEEDED money. Two young kids to raise. House payment. Rents. Employees. Taxes…
I used to let my two little boys sell cheap kids’ books before the show opened. Kind of like a lemonade stand.
I stopped doing shows around 2000. We were fully involved in the internet by then. Sales on the web were booming. The kids had gotten to the ages where it was hard to take them out of school. Plus, they had sports and activities on weekends.
In 2022 (and 2019), there were just 5 booksellers. There were maybe 75 antique, art and jewelry vendors. Most of the Convention Center was walled off, so visitors wouldn’t see the vast empty spaces.
It didn’t take long to walk through.
There was an interesting art dealer who had a wall of Gustav Klimt.
These were mostly from “books” or portfolios. They sell for 5 figures each. They also had Mucha and…
I went to the lonely wall where the booksellers were set up.
I chatted with Jeff a bit, and when I started looking at his stock, I realized I’d left my reading glasses in the car. I’d driven my worst vehicle—the “dog hair Jeep.” (The little devils shed tiny white hairs by the thousands.) I keep a sheet covering the passenger seat to mitigate things, but there is still hair everywhere. I figured this car would be less likely to get the attention of bad guys.
Baltimore scares me.
I went outside for my glasses. When I got back to Jeff, I picked out a few things. I went and chatted with Ron. But I’d spent enough with him last week. He had some wonderful things, but I resisted temptation.
The show was closing in an hour. I picked out a couple more books from Jeff.
By then, I had seen everything I wanted to see. We had plans to go out to dinner after the 6pm closing. I looked for a bar, but there wasn’t one in the Convention Center. I told Jeff I’d go next door to Morton’s and meet them there for dinner when they were finished. I like good steakhouse bars. You know they are going to make a good martini.
“Can you make me a Vesper?”
It was wonderful.
I asked for the bill.
“Make me another, please.”
The place was virtually empty. Jeff reached out and said they told him we couldn’t get a table.
I asked the assistant bartender, “Are you getting real busy soon?”
“I don’t know. It is my first Saturday.”
Maybe the place will fill up at 6:30. There is a home game—Ravens versus Cleveland—on Sunday. The hotels might be pretty full. I guess some people still care about football.
Or maybe it is hiring and supply-chain issues for Morton’s. They don’t have enough staff? Part of COVID’s lingering legacy.
I went back to the Center and waited for Jeff and Ron to come out. Turns out we were being joined by three other booksellers. One of them had found an Italian steakhouse six blocks away.
I was reluctant to head in that direction, but there were six of us. It was a nice place. Old school. Pictures of Sinatra and Dino and other Rat Packers plus plenty of other 50s-70s icons. The family restaurant had been there since the 70s.
It was empty on a Saturday night at 6:30.
Ron and Jeff were buying my dinner, and we’d discussed steak, but the starting price was $65. Though I’d spent a lot of money with them both, I started looking at the pasta choices.
Hmmm… “World’s Best Eggplant Parmagiana.” “Baltimore’s Best Lasagna.” I got the “Pasta Quatro.” The 2 above plus Ziti and Manicotti. It was a huge pile of melange (or whatever.) A mess. Way too cheesy and indistinct. My fault. I should have ordered just the “Worlds Best.” I had about 5 pounds of leftovers to take home. That was to be come a theme for the week.
The conversation was fun. Five antiquarian booksellers at one table have a plethora of tales. Some tall.
I headed home about 8, but there was a delay on the beltway. There were a dozen police and emergency vehicles at an accident scene. A crumpled motorcycle lay near the medium, and what I presume was a body was under a tarp against a Jersey barrier. Someone will be weeping tonight.
It was after 11 when I got home. I surveyed the house and decided which cleanup projects were priorities.
Nope. I won’t get to all the boxes of books from the old collection brought down from Pennsylvania. The visiting booksellers would understand that “mess.” I did some vacuuming. Laid out towels. Cleaned the downstairs bath. And…
It was after 1 when I fell into bed exhausted.
Sunday, I was back at work. Carts. Carts. Carts.
Books. Books. Books.
We’ve ramped up our production of Bag and Hang. It is our way of preserving and showcasing ephemera and other stuff that would get lost or damaged on the shelves. I came upon this lovely Slovenly Peter.
But when I opened it, the pages came fluttering out. Incomplete. Many pages taped. It had been “loved to death.” (Hmmm…)
I’ll send it to Terry, who will rescue what she can of it.
All three stores now have hundreds or thousands of items hanging around.
My guests arrived around 5. I gave them a tour of the warehouse devoid of people. At night, the books own the place and you can sense they aren’t always happy to have intruders. My guests oohed and aahed at the appropriate places.
“I’ve seen pictures, but they don’t convey the scale,” Jim said half to himself.
Jim and Lynne Owens had come from Tucson just to see my books. Well, maybe me too. They own Thorn Books. They carry all kinds of rare and collectible books but specialize in things Arthurian.
Was King Arthur real?
This is the west, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
That’s a line from one of the greatest Westerns ever made. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Lee Van Cleef, Lee Marvin, James Stewart and John Wayne. Directed by John Ford. Based on a short story by the wonderful Dorothy Johnson. Maybe it will be in next year’s Weinberg film series.
Jim and Lynne were hungry, and I hadn’t thought about where to get dinner. What can you get around here that you can’t in Tucson?
We went to Avery’s, and it wasn’t overcrowded with a long line for a change. Jim got a gorgeous platter. Lynne had crab cakes. I had a fried oyster platter. Huge oysters and about a dozen of them.
LOTS of leftovers.
Monday, we bumped down the mountain to the warehouse, and they began shopping. They disappeared into the books for most of the day.
That night, we went down to Rockville to meet my older son and his spouse at Founding Farmers. Cornbread in a skillet. Biscuits. One desert was about 2 pounds of bread pudding.
LOT and LOTS of leftovers.
Tuesday, they shopped the warehouse and the Frederick store. That night, I wanted them to see Frederick’s beautiful downtown. We ended up at Brewer’s Alley. I HAD to eat light. Wedge salad and spicy cucumber salad. They currently have 2 cask ales which are great. It is so difficult to find cask ales in the US.
Wednesday was their getaway day. But they still felt the urge to hunt for books.
They ended up with three carts of books.
Of course, Jim wanted some of “my” books, which are definitely off limits. But I let him buy a nice Howard Pyle King Arthur from my house. I did draw the line at the 19th century autograph book with some beautiful calligraphy.
He found a stamp album as well. What the hell. I’ll never do anything with it.
“Take it and pay what you want. When you come back, I’ll show you more.”
It had been great to have company up on the mountain again. Stressful but great. The stress was internal, not due to them. They were perfect guests.
And they spent a lot of money! Even perfecter.
Three bookseller visits in three weeks. I hope it’s an ongoing trend.
That night, my Egyptologist friends invited me over. Jay’s cooking is better than restaurant quality.
Shrimp gumbo. Pecan pie. I LOVE pecan pie. My mom used to make it.
Do you pronounce it, “Pee-Can”? (My parents did.)
My old next-door neighbor, who sometimes affected royal airs, said, “Peckin.”
They sent about a quart of gumbo home with me. And a huge slice of pie.
Thursday, I was exhausted from all the excitement. I went home early, stopping to return a redbud tree that never came to leaf. I’d been looking for the big wooden kitchen matches off and on for months. Each box had about 500 of the 3-inch things. I rarely need to relight the stove, so they last a long time. I violated my “guy rule” of refusing to ask for help. The person at the return desk tapped at her computer.
The barbecue section! Of course! But they only come in 6 packs. A lifetime supply…
I voted Thursday morning. I don’t believe in early voting.
Vote early. Vote often.
But I will be far away on Election Day.
The woman I handed my ballot folder to (I also believe in hand-done ballots) looked at my name. She said, “I thought it might be you. I love your store, and I read your blogs.”
That made me smile.
It will be a busy weekend. Busier than the usual craziness. It is a getaway weekend. Next week’s story will be from far away—barring plague or misadventure.
What did I do with all the leftovers?
I HATE wasting anything.