Post-COVID Life

Dali Print

May 31

June is just 90 minutes away.

I just climbed into bed.

Outside is silent blackness.

I watched some Star Trek episodes. It has been many, many years. Those shows changed my life when I was a kid a lifetime ago. Did I know episodes were written by the likes of Theodore Sturgeon, Harlan Ellison, Robert Bloch…? They hold up pretty well considering their high-tech cinematography is more than half a century old. Some of the special effects are pretty terrible, however.

As I watched, I sat on the floor on two scruffy brown flattish pillows and slid a bankers box toward me. The plan was that I would go through a lot of boxes tonight and cull books that no longer have a place in my life.

Soon, I was again frustrated—stymied—by the sensation of loss. All the books were at one time a part of me. Pulling them from the boxes one at a time transports to a life I lived so long ago.

Some were easy. Lawrence Block can go. I worked hard collecting him. Now I can’t see myself reading Bernie Rhodenbarr—the rare bookseller/detective—ever again.

Some were easy to keep. Borges…

Those in between were the dilemmas. And it wasn’t because they had great monetary values.

Quite soon, I was emotionally drained. The task was too difficult.

I’m having an out of town guest tomorrow. I wanted to clean up the great room.

I will have to do some explaining about the room being in disarray.

At least most of the rest of the house looks better than it has for years.

I finished up by taking some stacks of keepers over to the door to the stairs that ascend to the garret.

Maybe I will just default more to the garret when the carpet is installed. I’ll hide the problem on the new shelves.


…they become someone else’s problem.

Some of the books were just… wonderful. Wonderful but problematic. Books whose appeal can’t be translated into words. They must be seen to be appreciated. That kind of attraction is impossible to convey in an online description. They are wonderful but unsellable.

I took the one box containing the books I managed to pull the plug on and set it by the door. It and another box of culls. Those are so nice they will need Annika’s research to put a value on before they can go online. Both will go to work with me tomorrow.

The vast majority remain untouched. An eyesore in my home that I’m trying to bring back to order from COVID chaos as well as the personal chaoses that occurred in the few years before 2020.


I don’t think it is an unwillingness to deal with the past but, rather, an inability to face the future.

Now I am very tired. I will curl onto my right side and switch off the light. Cool silent blackness will envelop me.

Goodbye, May. Hello, June.

Wednesday morning

I awoke to birdsong flowing in the open window next to my bed. It was about 5 and still quite dark out. The eastern sky was softly brightening, though. I rolled onto my left side and pulled the bedclothes over my head. That didn’t keep the symphony out, however. I daydreamed about and reinforced the last dream I had earlier in the morning. I didn’t want it to disappear to wherever dreams go to be forgotten.

The dream featured my two friends, Ray and Jay. They had an antiquarian bookshop in an old storefront. The ceilings were twelve feet high, and the shelves along the walls rose to within eighteen inches of that. Of course, the bookcases were stuffed with books.

They had been showing books to me one at a time for quite a while. The one I recall was a thick early 17th century herbal. It looked kind of like this.

Gerarde's Herbal

There were other books as well. They kept appearing before me from secreted spaces on shelves throughout the store.

At some point, I asked to see the herbal again. I misspoke Jay’s name “Ray.” He politely let my gaffe go with a tolerant scowl. (I never make that mistake in real life.) The book was produced on the glazed showcase counter between us.

“Yes,” I said.

While I daydreamed about that dream, the sun rose, and the birds quieted.

The Kousa dogwood I planted about ten years ago glowed white in the morning light.

Kousa Dogwood

My nanny watch recorded nearly 7 hours of sleep. I think it was more. I had gotten up after about an hour in bed. Leg cramps. Excruciating leg cramps. When I got up, I took a magnesium pill and drank some Gatorade and then crawled back in bed. Then I read some If You Can’t Be Good before Lethe breathed peace into me and I was gone for the night.

Comfortable, long and deep sleeps are a happy feature in this new incarnation I am experiencing after being scared by the doctor’s office test that triggered an irregular heartbeat. I’d been injected with a chemical stimulant that was a shortcut to a physical stress test. When it was done, the tech said, “You need to see the doctor.”

Earlier this week, I finally got my house cleaned up enough to hire a housekeeper to come in yesterday. Some areas were off limits. My bedroom and the great room.

My bedroom has a few piles of ephemera from trips and “life” that need to be filed away. There are a couple of piles of clothes on the king bed that need to be folded or hung. I’ve been rooting through the walk-in closet the last couple weeks. So many clothes were just folded or stacked on the floor. I’ve been hanging things up. Folding things neatly and working them onto shelves. Some remaining cold weather clothes walked downstairs to the cedar closet.

I rarely buy new clothes, but then I almost never part with old ones.

(A woodpecker is drumming on a tree in the woods not far away. It is a mechanical sound. An organic jackhammer.)

I made a final push on Monday to get the place cleaned up enough to allow a housekeeper in.

I had carried piles of books from the floors into the great room where I can go through them and decide which I can part with and those that will stay.

I ordered carpet for the new garret and the stairs leading up to it on Monday. The style is called “Venetian Gold.” (I wonder if I was buying the “name.”) Though there’s no real “gold” color in it. but there are numerous earth tones dotted throughout. It will hide debris quite well. I’d also asked Monday if the housekeeper still wanted to come. I’d been putting the task off for months. Maybe longer.

Longer. The last time I had someone in was in April 2021.

“How about tomorrow?” was the reply.

That night, I got the vacuum out. It sucked up eddies of dog hair from the perimeter areas. I got a mop and bucket and wiped down the wood floors in the kitchen and living area with Pine-Sol.

There were wax drippings on the marble counter from a couple years of winter candlelights. I’d tried scraping it off with a credit card. That didn’t work too well. I had an epiphany the other day.

“Hot water!”

I boiled water for tea and then poured some of the remaining hot water over a rag spread on the counter. Sure enough, that softened wax enough that it was easy to scrape it off.

Tuesday morning, the place wasn’t pretty, but it was better. At least I didn’t feel my home was pathologic.

It was late morning when I led the housekeeper up the mountain. The place is not easy to find the first time. I wanted to make a good impression. I gave her a tour. I had carried up the two buckets of supplies the previous person had left behind. She had surprised me one morning, saying, “Chuck, I’m turning 80. I can’t do this anymore.” I tried to get her to cut back to just the kitchen and bath. Nope.

I’m very diligent about working at things I enjoy doing, things I’m good at. Other tasks are pure torture.

There’s an overnight guest coming on Thursday. I’ve had visitors twice in the last eight months. That was late fall and winter.

This is spring. Life has recently dealt me a new hand. I’ve decided I want to play the next part with a house I can be proud to have people visit—like before COVID—when friends would come up for cookouts or cocktails and conversation at the bay window or on the deck watching the sunset shadow retreating across the valley as our star dropped behind the mountain behind the house.

The wooden floor shone dully. At least it was cleared of stuff I’d brought home and set on the floor.

“Call me when you’re done, and I’ll come back up.”

I figured it would take about 5 hours. That was how long my older helper took, and that had been for the whole house. I headed down the mountain and diverted for the car wash. The old Jeep was covered in dried pollen and other woodland plant debris. There was a very long line there. I aborted and drove to the Frederick Wonder Book store. My son was back from the beach trip. We walked through the store, and I looked for problems and tweaks.

There were no problems. That is the new norm at the stores. They look great. With the basics taken care of, I can get creative and look for innovations that call out to be done.

“Tweaks.” I enjoy tweaking. Tweaks are like grace notes in the fabric of my book world.

(The whistle on the teapot is screaming. I spooned some green tea into the strainer.)

I rolled out the two Turkish carpets I purchased in Ephesus onto the now pristine floors.

I weighed myself. Great news! I’m back to a summer 2019 level. That was a fun time. I had a friend who laughed 10,000 times!

Then it all went to hell in 2020.

Crazy people.

I wonder what I would see if I dared to look in the mirror today: Crazy?

Tuesday rolled by. I went through carts. A 16th century square duodecimo appeared on one.

Giraldi's 1583 Tragiedie


I started expecting a call from home.

I started checking the time.

‘Is everything ok?’ I wondered.

Did she quit in frustration?

Did a bear get her? (LOL. I haven’t even seen for two years. When I do, they run away.)

Different scenarios played out in my mind.

About 4 p.m., I headed home. I walked in the door.




She was downstairs. Music was playing gaily on her phone.

“I’ll be outside doing yard work. Come find me when you’re done.”

How much more could there be?

I blew tree debris off the driveway, walkways and deck. I shoveled a couple cartloads of manure onto beds. The pickup had a load of bagged mulch and compost. I carried about 30 bags to the hard to access beds where I can’t roll the big-wheeled cart. I carefully spread compost around the groups of trilliums in several beds. That will make them stand out, so I won’t tread upon them. Also, with soft soil as an apron around them, I hope the seeds they will drop will find purchase. I played with the dogs. I got out the pole pruner and cut branches that were crowding the walkways and deck. I put mulch around the little treelings I planted last year below the deck’s bridge.

Redbud Treelings

As weeds and grass grow up around them, I’ll be less likely to accidentally knock the young redbuds down. That will be a lovely little grove to look down upon in the years to come.

I hope a dryad will find it appealing and move in when it matures a bit. One can’t have too many nymphs in a forest. At least I think not. What would happen if they overpopulated?

I inspected some of the beds I haven’t really looked at this year. The ostrich ferns are too successful in the “Green Garden” behind the back porch. That bed grows in deep forest cover and is a delight in the many varieties I have curated there. Those ferns spread through underground root shoots. They are choking out and spreading into their neighbors. I’ll have to get in there and surgically remove a bunch of them.

“I’ll put them in between the redbuds in the little dryad grove. They’ll choke out the weeds but not the trees!”

A win-win plant rescue project!

I like that.

It was getting toward 6 p.m., and I was tiring. I went back inside.

“I still need to… and mop and… are these clothes clean?”

I pile the clean laundry on the counter next to the drier. Typically, I just pick through what I need from day to day.

“Yes, but you don’t need to…”

I went into the kitchen and pulled out a bag of dried mango from a cupboard. I’d hidden most of the stuff covering the counter in the cupboards below. That way, she could get to the counter. I set the bag on the gleaming marble and took a few outside to nibble on. I was getting hungry.

I’d gotten new solar driveway lights. The old ones had worn out. (I put the old ones on the sidewalk at the store. At 5 for $5, someone might be willing to take them apart and change the batteries.) I assembled them and pushed them into the ground at intervals around the landing and parking areas. It is comforting to be able to see where I step when I get out of my car on hot summer nights when creatures might have slithered out of the forest.

I was getting tired. I went in and got a light beer and sat on the tailgate and sipped it.

I thought about the Georgetown Book Fair the week before. It had been fun. I’d bristled at the interruption to my routine, but in retrospect, it had been good to see old friends. Three strangers came to the booth and introduced themselves as readers of these stories. That was very gratifying. Maybe some of the downtown customers will make their way out to the stores. Only two booksellers had visited the warehouse. One before. One after. They each bought a LOT of or really expensive books. We will pack and ship them this week. That adds to the financial success of the “Annika’s Folly.”

There’s an Australian bookseller coming next week. He plans to pull a container load from the stores. That will be an exciting purge. It will be fun to think of thousands of books exported to another hemisphere.

I’d picked up a signed Dali print that had come in through the “slush” pile. It had slid out of its matte.

Dali Print

Dali prints aren’t uncommon. Dali signed a lot of limited edition artwork toward the end of his life. Some have said he even signed blank sheets, and the images were printed after.

Dali Signature

Doesn’t matter. I still think it is cool.

It was starting to get dark. I was exhausted from the long day and all the work I’d done while waiting for the house to be finished. My back and legs were tired and sore. I’d used a lot of muscles that don’t usually get that much exertion. (That explains the cramps that came later.)

About 8 p.m., I went back inside.

“It looks great! You can come back for the rest…” I was gently encouraging her to pull the plug.

“I just need to…” she replied.

I went in the kitchen and chopped some salad—romaine, baby cukes, Vidalia onion. There was a piece of tuna I’d grilled heating foil in the oven. I stood at the counter in the polished glowing kitchen and had my dinner. I was very careful not to mess up the perfection she had created.

About 8:45 p.m., I headed down the mountain, leading her to the “real” road.

When I got back, I walked through and marveled at my “new” home. Things were cleaned and polished that I hadn’t even considered being done. I’m anxious to have the rest of the place put in order and the last dust and drear of the COVID Era swept away.

Now it is up to me to make the remaining areas cleanable.

I was exhausted and sore from my extra labors, but then I’d been forced to get to things that hadn’t even made it to my “To Do” list yet.

I wonder what this post-COVID era will bring.

I saw my regular doctor on Wednesday. He put my mind at ease and explained what I’m going through. It is something at least 25% of the population experiences. I still have questions and theories. But the scare put me on a new lifestyle course. Who knows where that course will take me?

Telephones… some bastard gave my number out. Four cold calls in 24 hours.

“I’m from… [some commercial broker.] Wanna sell your building?”

“I’m from XYZ Funding…” [CLICK!]

“…Staffing…” [CLICK!]

“…PayChex…” [CLICK!]

I feel sorry for the callers—a little. It is just their job. I wonder what the success rate is?

Sure. I’ll hand my building off to a complete stranger.

Get a new job.

Then a guy that brings down books from a charity in Pennsylvania texted yesterday. At 6:30 A.M.!

“Can we bring down a load of books today?”

Groan. I didn’t respond until it was a decent hour.

But he dropped off a lot of “vintage” books. They were carted and will give me extra work to do today or tomorrow or over the weekend.

Chuck's Vintage Carts

Maybe there will be a couple of treasures in the lot.

I’m thinking about my next trip already. Maybe at the end of June or in July.


This lot of signed Rackhams came in from my friends in Arizona.

Signed Rackhams

I need to find a place for them and the set of Thoreau I got from Ron Cozzi on his way down to Georgetown.

Thoreau Set

There’s a leaf of manuscript from one of his journals tipped in.

Thoreau Journal Leaf

I never really got into him, but maybe part of my life is a riff on his experiences. Maybe I’ll call my home Walden Mountain.

This print signed by Matisse was found laid into a book. It is Polyphemus having his eye poked out by Ulysses.

“No Man did this to me!”

It is from the Limited Editions Club version of The Odyssey that Matisse was commissioned to illustrate.

This autobiography by Christopher Milne came in.

Christopher Milne Autobiography

I looked inside, and sure enough, it was signed by Christopher… ROBIN!

Now if only I could find a book signed by Pooh. Or Piglet. Or maybe something suitably grumpy by Eeyore.

I have an early deadline this week.

So much more to do. Places to go.

I hope some new friends come into my life.

I’ve lost some old ones.

Some have retreated in age and solitude. They went away during COVID and never came out. I miss them.

I miss you.

But I’ve so much more to do. Places to go. Books to rescue. Gardens to nurture.

I have got to keep sprinting forward.

…and let the Devil take the hindmost.

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