Snow Jobs—A Plague Interlude

Demon Dog

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Here’s our William Safire collection:

Happy fishing!

Do you have a friend who is a doctor?

Have you ever—at a winery, or the golf course, or the opera at the bar during intermission held out your arm and asked the scientist: “Can you tell me what this spot is?”

Do you have a lawyer friend and over cocktails at your favorite restaurant asked: “My neighbor’s tree hangs over my deck. It is a walnut and drops filthy nuts that leave nasty stains on my deck… What can I do?”

Booksellers get this very often:

“My Aunt Harriet passed away, and her house is full of old books. Can you come take a look? Just an informal [free] evaluation? To see if there is anything valuable.”


“I have this Bible my grandfather gave me. Can you…”

Well, the internet is amazing.

“Send me a few phone pics. I can probably get an idea from those if…”

It is usually a no-win situation. I’ve written: “99% of old books are just…old books.”

A few pictures, and I can usually ascertain from the spines whether the books are things that languished for a few or four generations in the attic (or basement, yuck) for no real reason. They remained “in the family,” primarily due to inertia.

Wednesday, February 3rd, my son visited the warehouse. He is managing all the stores and orders all the exotic stuff…like the 40 or so varieties of gourmet soda (yes, Leninade will be back in stock soon. We are ordering a pallet load—the minimum—from the West Coast—that’s why it is so expensive.) and exotic candy (I’m sorry the Harry Potter toads—or frogs ARE $4.00 because…that’s what they cost. Complain to JK Rowling!)

He stopped by to review January sales at all three stores with me and Clark. (That’s a complex issue—how many LPs, CDs, DVDs did each store sell in January? How many paperbacks, collectible books, etc?) The amazing news is that all three stores’ sales were up over January 2020. In fact, they all had their best Januarys in modern times! Before the internet crushed our retail sales in the late 90s, our big months in Frederick could be 3 times this January’s sales. Still, it is heartening to see all three climbing back.

I blame it on COVID. COVID can excuse most anything.

People are desperate for something to do and…comfort. Bookstores are comfortable, and there’s always plenty of new (old) stuff to peruse.

When the meeting ended, he told me he had some books for me to look at.

His girlfriend’s grandmother is moving to smaller quarters.


He set a big plastic tub on the floor next to me. I peered in. Black and brown 19th century bindings. From the style I could tell—religious titles, more tracts, German hymnals (Gesang Buchs)—printed in America…

Joey's Tub

“She just wants to know if there’s anything valuable.”


There were 50 or more sprawled across the width and breadth of the big tub. I saw some loose boards were mixed in as well.

“I’m afraid it looks like all religion. Nothing of value. But I’ll look closer when I have a minute. “

We chatted a bit as I lifted out a few books in a desultory manner. He would have to break the news to his potential future grandmother-in-law that the old family books were just religious relics showing a strong Pennsylvania Dutch heritage.

Wait…what was this? A flash of Lapis Lazuli blue broke the monotony. Paper wraps. I could tell by the typography it was mid-19th century.

Die geschickte Hausfrau

I bent and lifted it out.

“Hausfrau” was quite clearly the title or part of it.

Parsing out the other words on the cover printed in old German shrift or Fraktur is not easy without experience. It is the Roman alphabet, but the typeface is kind of Gothic to modern eyes. I took 6 years of German in High School and College. I used to see a lot of old German books printed in America at Wonder Book in the old days. Many early Frederick books and newspapers were in German. The imprint Friedrich-Stadt means Frederick Town.

I looked more closely. The title and subtitle read: Die geschickte Hausfrau: eine Sammlung guter Recepte und Vorschriften zum Kochen, Braten, Kuchen-Backen, und Einmachen von Früchten.

Hmmm…The…geschickte? Geschichte means history or story or tale. I couldn’t find anything using a “k.” Maybe it is a colloquialism.

Hausfrau means Housewife:

eine Sammlung…a collections of good recipes…

“Joey, it is a cookbook! Roasting. Baking. Making things from fruit…”


It is cool when you do something your son thinks is cool.

“It’s printed in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Let’s see how unusual it is. Have I showed you how to use WorldCat?”


I’ve found you can often get what you’re looking for using a shortcut—just a couple words from a long title. I entered: Hausfrau in the title field, Harrisburg in the Keyword field.


“Only two copies. One at the Library of Congress. 1851. Their copy is defective. ‘Lacking until page three.’ Michigan.”

This is kind of fun—when things click.

“Oh, here’s another listing further down. 4 copies. 1855 and 1858? Three in Pennsylvania. One in Alberta, Canada. I think yours is the later edition published only by Scheffer. Your copy doesn’t mention Lutz.”

Theodore F. Scheffer, a former apprentice of Gustav S. Peters, inherited Peters’ estate as co-heir with Johann M. Lutz in 1847. After a short partnership, the estate was divided with Scheffer retaining the press. An edition of this work published in 1851 has the imprint of Lutz und Scheffer. Scheffer published on his own from at least 1855 until 1858.”Stereotyped by L. Johnson & Co. Philadelphia.”—Colophon, p. 36. The firm of L. Johnson & Co. is listed in Philadelphia directories for 1846 to 1867.

“Only 6 copies in the world…maybe. This is the seventh.” I pointed to the thin blue book wraps he was holding. “Your girlfriend likes to cook. She might want to keep this.”

“What’s it worth?”

“Let me check…”

I found none online for sale, which was no surprise.

“Whatever you want. I might start it at a thousand—if I was feeling aggressive—and after some more research. Of course, there may be more out there—in other grandma’s collections or private specialists’ libraries. Still, yours is in great shape. Books in paper wraps from the 19th century are rarely intact. Yours is near fine, but for a bit of wrinkling rubbing to some of the text on the cover. Look, he also published a Pow-Wow book. Der Lange Verborgene Freund.”

There were ads on the back wrap for other books Scheffer printed.

Die geschickte Hausfrau Ads

The Long Lost Friend…I have a few Pow-Wow books. And a couple in manuscript. I included some South Mountain Magic in the ongoing stories I write about a weird bookshop and the befuddled bookseller who deals with…odd occurrences there.

[Episode #28 may be out in the next week…]

“I bet she will want to keep this.”

I slipped it into a plastic bag for protection, and he took his treasure back to the owners.

It’s fun to impress a son. I hope it gets his curiosity up about collectible and rare books.

And to impress his girlfriend too! We both look good!

I’ll go through the rest of those remaining in the tub. I doubt there will be much exciting. But who knows, lightning can strike twice in the same place…


January ended.

Alone on the mountain near midnight. The snow swirled in the black night outside.

It had been a long day. A huge snowstorm was predicted. I left the mountain early in the morning to avoid being stuck. There were a couple inches on the steep driveway, but down in the valley the roads were just wet.

Texts started chiming onto the screen in my truck as I headed for the warehouse.

The 3 stores wanted to close. The people who were going to work at the warehouse today were begging off.

I would rather be stuck with millions of books than stranded at home in a forest.

Alone again.

For the first time in…eleven months?…I was alone in the vast book building. The Plague had changed the routine, and there were always at least a few with me—until today. Sometimes many. The threat of snow kept them away.

I used to be alone in the warehouse on weekends for years. Alone but for Merry and Pippin—my two Jack Russells.

I sat on a stool before cart after cart of old or unusual books. The transformers for the powerful banks of light fixtures hummed and buzzed above me.

For the first time in months, I needn’t wear a mask. Even when I’m in the three-acre building with only a couple others, my mask hangs about my neck ready to be raised to cover my nose and mouth should anyone come within sight, within 50 feet or so.

I would peer out the window or go play with the Jack Russells periodically to check on the road.

While I was glad to be here, I didn’t want to end up being stuck in my truck somewhere in between work and home. It almost happened in the last snowstorm.

But, no, the roads outside the building remained wet all day, and snow barely accumulated on the grass.

What was all the worry in the news about?

Maybe the weather was bad north or west or south or east of this town.

I didn’t regret the stores closing.

I used to feel a panic to keep the stores open until there was no other choice.

Now I’ve mellowed, I suppose. I don’t want to pressure anyone to work that doesn’t feel comfortable.

I used to offer to put people up in a hotel if necessary. I don’t think that ever happened. There was a big daily financial concern in the heady days of hypermoderns and video rentals when the stores had long lines and people were virtually throwing money at us, that the closing staff might have to spend the night in the store.

I don’t recall that happening. Did it? I don’t recall ever spending the night in the store.

Anyway, the website is open 24/7/365 regardless of weather, holidays… Every minute orders from all over the world are flowing in on electrons or binary bits or whatever the magic is that exchanges books for money in cyberspace.

That machinery doesn’t hum and buzz aloud like the transformers, but hum along it does—God bless it.

While I sat on the stool deciding the fates of thousands of books in person, thousands of other books were being chosen by buyers worldwide using keystrokes. When the customer commits to a purchase, the computer automatically deletes that book from our inventory so no one else can order it.

People get very unhappy if the book they pay for has already sold to someone on the other side of the globe one moment before. To some, that is an unacceptable excuse.

A couple boxes of books had come over from the Frederick store. An orange sheet of paper was taped over the top of each. “Attn Chuck Mystery Books.” Looking between the edges of the paper and walls of the boxes, I guessed they were old junk that had gotten stuck in the back room years ago and forgotten. COVID had motivated someone to clean up, and these books resurfaced from beneath a cabinet.

Mystery Box

I put the boxes on a cart and rolled them out to my work area.

On weekends, I carve out some floor space. I surround myself with carts and boxes and tubs. Most every solution I come up with for the books I sort is within arms’ lengths.

Boxes to go to the stores. A different retail price in each box.

A cart for data entry is where I’ll set books in price stacks. Sometimes I’ll attach a Post-It to the book. “Signed.” “First Edition” or some hook I discovered that a person in data entry might not know. If I didn’t put a Post-It reading for example: “New Hampshire 19th century reminiscences” the book with the dull title might as well be anonymous. There was an “Antilles Cook Book” from the 1930s. I put a Post-It on the cover with an arrow pointing to the Puerto Rico imprint details. I also put a dartboard price on it of $124.95. If it’s too high, the price will eventually come down. If it is too low, well, it will sell quickly. The bright yellow tubs I use for books I don’t want to value by “guesstimate.” I feel they should go to Madeline or Annika for research for any number of reasons. Madeline stocks the 50 or so glass cases at the Frederick store, so I also push pretty and popular things her way. Another cart is for books that will be relegated to Books by the Foot (their only hope for survival.) The cart loaded with raw books I sort from has a Gaylord behind it. If there’s no hope—not even the $1 tables at the stores—I’ll toss the book over the cart and into giant cardboard tub to be pulped and made into clean paper again. There are a few other choices I have for things that don’t fit into any of those categories.

My laptop hovers someplace safe nearby, playing an English Premier League soccer game or podcast or something. (Safe because a month or so ago my Mac was placed precariously and slipped off a shelf, crashing to the floor and dying a slow death. The resident computer genius here was able to transfer all my data to a new Mac as the old silver slab was breathing its last.)

The “Mystery” boxes…

I cut the tape crisscrossing the open top of the bankers boxes and began pulling things out. There was a battered set of Shakespeare with worn red pebbly leather spines.

“BBTF” (a.k.a. Boots By the Foot.)

But then, for every marginal Bible (one from the 1820s in Polish), there was something intriguing.

I set the intriguing things upon an empty cart. The rest I was able to price for the internet or sent off northeast—to BBTF territory.

What was intriguing? I’ll show you later.


Sunday continued…

As the day wore on, I became a little worried. The last snowstorm I stayed too long. I ended up doing a white-knuckled drive through about 8 inches of virgin snow for the last few miles home.

“Never again,” I chastised myself then.

4:30. There were still loose ends. I need to leave all my work labeled so the morning staff can get the stuff where it belongs.

I rushed…

“Gotta go, gotta go.”

I gathered Merry & Pippin into the truck. I’d covered the passenger seat with a sheet so the myriads of little white hairs they shed wouldn’t get embedded in the cloth.

I headed home. The public roads were still bare—just wet. Not even slush. They’d been treated, and the new treatments work very well up to a point. But when I got to the private lane, it was snow covered. My handful of neighbors and I that share this road don’t treat it.

It was only about 5 inches. My newish big black Dodge Ram with a name the manufacturer stuck on the back: “BIGHORN”—drove up the mountain without a slip or slow.

It had stopped snowing.

I put one dog away and let the other play: “Find the golf ball in the snow.” (They must be able to smell them. They rarely lose one even in deep snow.)

Then I began snowblowing the big flat landing zone near the top. Once that was cleared, I got out the ATV with the plow attached and used it to push snow down the steep quarter mile of paved driveway.

When I was done, it looked perfect. No trouble getting out tomorrow.

I heated up some turkey and stuffing leftovers from Christmas that I’d defrosted. I covered it with cheap gelatinous Kraft jarred gravy. I over-toasted two slices of Jewish rye loaded with caraway seeds. It was like Thanksgiving all over again. But not nearly as good. But it was hot.

I binge-watched I, Claudius for a few hours. (Based on the historical novels by Robert Graves and starring Derek Jacobi.) I watched these on PBS when I was a kid. I would carve out what night it aired on my schedule and wouldn’t miss an episode. Must See TV. If you’ve never seen it, it is magnificent. I learned more Roman history from it than my Ancient History classes in college. Derek Jacobi is a magnificent actor.

Then bed.

I awoke from troubled dreams much earlier than most nights.

I reached behind me and switched on the outdoor floodlights.

I pushed the top of my “Atomic” clock. 11:50pm.

I lay in bed and watched the weather.

Then it was midnight.

The wind was howling in the icy blackness just inches away on the other side of the bedroom walls.

January became February.

I wondered what the dawn would reveal. How much snow would I have to deal with to get down the mountain—IF I get down the mountain?

February 1, 2021. The 12th month of the pandemic begins.

I had a terrible nightmare. Someone—a demon—was in my room. And then in the bed next to me. I sleep on the right side. I was trying to keep it at bay—fending it off with my left arm. I grasped its hand and was twisting it in an effort to subdue it. The hand was cold, thin and mushy. It started to bite my hand.

I awoke.

There was a text on my phone from that very minute. 3:41am. A manager was worrying about some staff issues. The dialog went on til I turned my phone off. I needed sleep.

I went and got the dogs, and they jumped into bed with me. I knew they’d know if the creature was still around.

Snow fell all night. There was another 6 inches or so covering everything. I put the snow clothes in the dryer. They were damp from the wet work the night before. It was snowing heavily when I was plowing. When I finished, my coat and pants and scarf and hat were covered in snow.

I made tea. I would dress up and go out and blow the snow and then plow.

I hope the machines work. The ATV was acting strange last night. I had it serviced in October. It is getting old. I bought it not long after I moved here. It is about ten years old but hasn’t seen much heavy use.

Emails tell me there are people in the warehouse. The “main roads are fine.” We will see how long it takes me to get down.

And the forecast on my phone reads more snow every hour from now until 9pm. It is 8am.

The wind is still whooing. But not the raging howls of last night.

I put extra scoops of sunflower seed into the feeders suctioned cupped to the bay window. I tossed more onto the porch roof.

From my bed, I can see many of them glide in and out on their way to food.


Trapped in paradise—again.

The snowblower worked fine, as did the ATV with a plow attached. But all the while, there was a nearly invisible rain/sleet falling. I couldn’t tell because I was raising so much snow from the ground. That precipitation added a sheen to the thin layer of white stuff on the pavement. My 4WD ATV began spinning as I drove it uphill. The forecast is for more mess all day and night.

I’d made a mistake.

I won’t be going anywhere.

I’ll read and write and transpose.

I haven’t been stuck up here for 5 years. Now twice in 2021—so far.

What an awful 12 months…

There’s about a dozen species of birds flitting on and off the porch roof that juts out just below the three-piece window bay window. It’s not 15 feet from where I’m propped up in bed. There’s nearly a foot of snow on the roof out there. What do these creatures do when their natural food is buried?

I should know. I was a zoology major. Such beautiful delicate little things. But they are tough enough to live through the winters unsheltered.

Nature is just…amazing.

I put the teakettle onto the woodstove to heat. I made chicken bouillon, which is great cold weather and unhappiness fare. It is hot and comforting. The scent is evocative of my Mom putting a hot mug in my hand when I was coming down with something. The salty brew flows through my veins.

Maybe I’ll check in on the Bookseller and the precocious cat, Mathilda, in the Round and Round series. What will happen when they can’t go any further east?

Tuesday 1pm, February 2nd, Groundhog Day

I awoke that morning, and there had been more snow overnight.

A flock of Juncos has moved in for the free buffet. About two dozen are coming and going. Last night in the snow, I trudged out with a stepladder and hung a second cage with three cakes of suet in it. I have chains strung between three trees below the bay window. In the past, I would have a half dozen feeders and a half dozen suet cages suspended from them. This year, I only put out 3 small suet cages hooked together. My knee and heel were acting up, and I felt all the seed I put out on the roof and in the two window feeders was enough. But there were so many birds coming and going yesterday. The snow kept covering the scoops of seed I tossed out.

It was kind of foolish. Who would take a stepladder out at night into a snowstorm, wade through over a foot of snow covering rather rough ground, climb up and reach up to the chain about 12 feet off the ground and slip a big hook holding the suet feeder over it?

I also foolishly got the plow out in the dark. It was still slippery under the new thick blanket of snow. At some point, I slid into a snowbank on the side of the drive. The Teflon rope in the winch that raises and lowers the plow snapped. I couldn’t go uphill with the plow down. I made my way to the bottom of the drive and wrestled on the ground in the deep snow to disengage the plow.


Merry had warned before I started down.

“Do not pass!”

Demon Dog

Out on the roof, the birds seem happy. Happy? They’re little dinosaurs. They feed and breed and fly and die.

But they bring pleasure and beauty and nature’s designs to me. Cardinals, titmice, nuthatches, various woodland sparrows, downy, hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers, Carolina wrens, mourning doves (veritable giants amongst the others), goldfinches (which are not gold in winter), and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few.

Chickadees! For sure. The tiniest little dynamos at the feeders.

I’m propped up in bed with a large mug of tea within reach. For Christmas, a friend gave me a box entitled: “Tea Library.”

Tea Library

I gave strict instructions to the family: “No TEA!” I didn’t tell her though. It ‘s kinda cute though. David Cuppafield, A Portrait of Earl Grey…you get the idea. I have hundreds of bags of varying types. I still have some loose tea I spent a fortune on at Harrods 15 months ago. It is a rare variety supposedly grown on a distant mountainside in China. The dried leaves are about two inches long.

This winter, I am putting a small dent in my tea horde.

It has finally warmed. It is 35 degrees outside. Any exposed pavement on my driveway is melting the snow ice and slush remaining atop and near it.

I am amazed.

Is it over?

From Sunday morning until about 11 today, there has been wave after wave of snow flurries or sleet or driving snow. The phone says the precipitation is behind us. But it has constantly lied throughout.

Tuesday morning

My neighbor said he would plow when he got his equipment together. I went out and used the blower on the big upper landing. Pushing piles of snow up there can cause problems—like blocking in vehicles and damaging the stone borders I’ve put in.

At around 11:30 he texted: “I’m at the bottom of your drive.”

I dressed again and went out to watch. He had plowed down from his eyrie, which is steeper than mine and very crooked. But it is gravel, and his tractor gets better traction. He had plowed the gravel lane to where my pavement begins. His tractor is big and orange. The rear wheels are about 5 feet in diameter. He tried pushing the snow uphill and began skidding and sliding backward. He turned around and backed up so he could push the snow downhill. He got about halfway and stalled. His big wheels kept spinning. After several tries, I told him via text to give up. I would try to walk the snowblower down where he left off.

I did. It was hard. And scary. The blower is self-propelled, but I rarely needed to squeeze that lever going down. It was more a matter of hanging on and trying to find spots where my feet would have traction so the machine wouldn’t slide away with me hanging on. If I felt I was losing control, I would angle the blower toward the snow piled on either side of the drive. If I let go that way, it would only travel a few feet. If it started going straight down… When I got to where my neighbor had stopped, I manhandled the thing around and let it drive itself uphill. It was not happy with the steep slope nor the slippery mess it was traveling upon. But eventually, I got down and up twice.

Now my driveway is a bold black bare strip through the white forest on either side.

I’m sore. My legs and arms and shoulders…

I’m so pleased I can still do it. My legs are working! I was worried the right knee was shot. I guess the doctor may have been right. It was just an inflammatory flare up—twice.

It was also foolish. I could easily have fallen and slid down the slope behind the blower. Last night when the ATV started sliding backwards downhill, I… well, I was frightened. But my maneuvers worked—except when I broke the winch…

Part of living up here is the self-reliance.

The Vermont Castings Defiant woodstove was a motif during all this mess. My boots and work clothes are lying before it now drying.

Bringing the wood in. Setting the dampers. Taking the ashbin out. It is a discipline. A kind of Zen thing too.

It is a way of life.

I’m looking forward to cutting more wood soon, though I don’t really need it—at least til the end of 2022 or so.

But then I don’t “need” books either. But there must be an aberrant gene in me that always “wants” the next book.

It is three o’clock Tuesday afternoon. I’m propped up in bed. I could get out now, but why?

The lying iPhone says there are varying percent chances of snow for the next 4 hours. Knowing the device’s recent performance, I imagine it will keep extending the possibility hour by hour.

If it snowed again enough to cover the drive overnight, I would…surrender. Drink wine. Read. Write. Binge-watch Caedfel (based on mysteries written by Ellis Peters—pseudonym for Edith Pargeter… Starring Derek Jacobi…)

I finished I, Claudius last night.

I could just pretend I was away on a trip until things melted. The phone says the temperature will be in the mid-40s Thursday and maybe the 50s Friday.

Hah! LIAR!!!

Wednesday, February 3

I slept hard from all the exertions.

My arms and shoulders tingle from wrestling with the machines for two days. My legs and ankle feel great. My Achilles heel which has tormented me for 6 years is gone. All the foot specialists I went to who wanted to cut and screw my tendon and bone…but a couple rounds of Prednisone seems to have cured it.

There were bizarre dreams. A huge table being tossed from a 7th story rooftop. It sailed down against a bright blue sky and crashed in a courtyard out of view…I continue walking down an old Victorian Main Street. Like Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. An antique dealer is outside his shop, having observed the table flight as well. He sees the empty vintage leather golf bag I am carrying and covets it. His interest raises the bag’s value in my estimation. He wants me to come inside and find something to trade. I tell him I’ll probably put it on eBay.

Anyway…I awoke just after 5am. I went to let a dog out.

It snowed AGAIN! And it is still snowing!! The quarter mile driveway which was black pavement last night is covered. All is white again. I think it is just a couple inches. Not enough to use the blower. I’ll likely just drive down since I am almost certain there is no ice beneath it. Almost certain…

This weather monologue is tedious now—likely has been for you already. If you’re still here, I’m moving on.

I’ll just mention the phone says the temperature will rise to 39 today.


…and it is snowing again at 7:30…


Everyone talks about the weather, but no one ever does…wait a minute!

Wednesday, I got down safely, although the descent on my drive through that snow was not without a few slides. They made my stomach drop.

People ask: “Isn’t it a problem having a driveway that steep?”

I’ve always replied: “Just a couple times a year at most.”

It was strange to be on the road again. There wasn’t much traffic.

There rarely is nowadays.

Most of the government and many others have been working (or not) from home for many months.

It used to be a joke—going back to when I was a kid—the government shuts down at the first flake of snow.

So, these snow days were not the happy serendipitous days off that they would have been.

And for the school students? Most public ones are not back. Some jurisdictions are making noise about reopening in March—for maybe two days a week.

Or after the teachers AND students get vaccinated.

The grocery stores and big box stores and other “essential” things have been open since the beginning. I guess schools are not “essential.” The big chains stopped wiping down shopping carts months ago.

Classrooms are unsafe, the leaders of the unions say…

Wait! Toilet paper is on sale at Costco! Let’s go!

People did come to work while I was stuck. There are a lot of carts with my name on them.

I walk around the vast warehouse with millions of books in it. It is filling up again. We are getting behind.

I am like a doctor in an emergency situation with too many patients.

I’m delegating more and more.

I chastised (my version of chastisement consists of “Please” and “Let’s…” and…) two of the top triagers.

“You must make faster decisions on cheap books. If you look up a book and there are 20 copies under $20 for exact matches—STOP! It is a cheap book. Put that on your note and move onto the next.”

“If you’re choosing premium books for display at the stores, it DOES NOT matter if the price is $7.95 or $9.95 or $5.95 or $12.95. Toss them into boxes the best you can. If it too cheap, the customer gets a great deal. If it is a little high, there will soon be a weekly or monthly sale [Sign up for our store email newsletter for notifications.] A customer can buy 2 get 1 free or whatever deal we are currently offering. You’ve got to treat these common books like you’re dealing cards. Toss them into boxes like you are dealing cards! It will all get sorted out by the computer or the customer.”


Two great regional bookseller brought huge loads yesterday and today. These are books they’ve given up on. They are smart excellent booksellers. We can do things with these books because of the economy of scale we have developed. They can only focus on expensive and collectible books. It takes time to catalog a book. They can’t afford to catalog inexpensive books.

One of their open shops is still closed. Another closed forever.


One brought 453 bankers boxes today. This truck was full. Front to back.

Truck Load of Books

That is a lot of books!

It is Friday.

The sunrises are moving back into my “Window on the World.”


I’ll have unobstructed views for a couple weeks or so. It seems early. But that is not celestially possible.

The big snow has melted at the warehouse. These crocuses were under a foot of snow a couple days ago. They are definitely early this year.


My ATV was picked up to get the winch repaired yesterday. I had to drive it down to the county road. A trailer couldn’t get up to my place right now. There’s still a lot of snow up there. Fortunately, a friend gave me a ride back up the mountain. That is a pretty long uphill walk.

This week has been a kind of Plague Interlude. For three full days, I saw no other humans. I didn’t need my mask at all.

I spent more time in my home than I can recall. I spent a LOT of time in bed—propped up writing and transposing old manuscripts. I found a lot of poems I’d written many years ago. Some I had to guess the dates on. Others brought back amazing memories—vividly recorded.

The engineering firm I engaged to guide us through all the design and permitting processes for the new warehouse building submitted the plans to the City this week for the first permit approval.

Slider image
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Round 1 out of how many?

But it is going to happen—I think. I hope my prediction isn’t like iPhone’s weather predictions lately.

I’m told that if everything goes smoothly, we may break ground in late summer or fall.

I met with the builder and was told we had too much parking in the design above. We only needed half that.

“Can we bump out the buildings then?”

The design submitted gains about 10,000 square feet!

I like MORE…

I never thought I’d be a builder. Why not? I’ve got so much spare time!

Still, it is good to do new things. I’d like to stay “relevant” as long as I possibly can.

I want to play with books, write, plant, build gardens, cut wood…forever.

I would like to travel again.

No sign of vaccination any time soon. The Governor says Maryland is experiencing extreme shortages. And it seems others keep jumping the line ahead of those who are actually dying.

Oh well, I hope my mask will protect me.

What was in those Mystery boxes last weekend? (That seems so long ago.)

Here’s an image of the most unusual stuff.

Mystery Box Contents

What are you looking at?

Top left is Unconventional Guide to Nikko. Gertrude Palmer. 1908. Only 5 on WorldCat. (California, Oregon, Zurich, Zurich, Tokyo.) It was owned by an American woman and is annotated throughout.

Mystery Box Contents

Bottom left are 19th century autograph books. One from Loudon County and one from Baltimore. A brief inspection shows some interesting regional Virginiana.

To the right of that is a manuscript cookbook from the 1830s—judging from the binding, paper and ink. I haven’t had time to see where it’s from or if there are regional recipes in it.

Above that is an odd volume of the “OR”—Official Records of the War of the Rebellion. Laid in it is a 2-page letter from Mrs. Jubal Early. Among other things, she is urging the publication of his memoirs.

Mystery Box Contents

To the right is a big fat cube of vellum. Something in Latin from the 1600s. I’ll parse it out when I get a chance.

Below that is a photograph album and loose photographs from Frederick. Many of them are from the Byerly studio. Some daguerreotypes. I made a house call to one of his descendants in a mansion downtown. A sweet old woman. It was very early in my career, and I confessed I didn’t know anything about old photos and photographic equipment. I referred her to…someone. I hope that person did a good job. I haven’t looked through, but there are some nice kid photos and some in uniform—Civil War?

Then there is a huge stack of House of Representative publications from the 1820s on. Lots of stuff about building early monuments, bridges, railways, and carving out parks for the future. And, YIKES, something about the ESTATE OF CHARLES M. ROBERTS, DECEASED!

Mystery Box Contents

It was a miserable hard good week.

I got many things done.

It was physically hard work.

There were some scary moments.

It was being “alive.”

This weekend? There are carts and carts awaiting my attention. I just noticed a half-dozen tubs in Madeline’s research area with my name on them. If she puts things aside, it’s because they are really good or really problematic.

Books today. Books tomorrow. Books forever—or as long as forever is for me.

One of the poems I transposed was from a manuscript of what I wrote the day my friend and icon Barbara Mertz passed. It was such a blow—although she’d been so ill for a long time. I think it may have been tacked to the memory board at her funeral. But I dutifully typed it out and filed it in the mss. crate.



“I will not say do not weep
for not all tears are an evil”

Each crystal tear we shed for Barbara
is a jewel in her crown
Each tear we shed is an homage
for the many gifts she gave each
We are apart only for a while
She waits for each of us
She is chatting with Tolkien
Or cooking good hearty Pennsylvania German foods
She is planning a boundless heavenly garden
She is preparing a seat for each of us
We can again sit with her and share our time
She is plotting the epic story of Amelia’s ancestors
Thousands of years back to ancient Egypt
And her descendants to a golden future
a thousand years from now
A story whose volumes will line a thousand walls
A story of all times—past and future
But we all wait and abide
Stuck in the present without you.


So January ends
in a mountain of snow
The black night is aswirl
with millions of silver white flashes
They float and fly and flow
A white mountain
in the blackness of night

Snow Recap. 6 “Events”:

  1. Sunday morning, I left about 8am. There were a couple inches on the mountain. Down in the valley it snowed off and on all day.
  2. Sunday afternoon, I left work about 4:30 in my big black muscular Dodge Ram 4×4. The roads were still clear, but the mile long lane I live on had about 5 inches of untouched snow on it.
  3. Sunday evening, I got out the blower and the ATV with a plow attached and blew and pushed about 8 inches of snow.
  4. Monday morning, another 5 inches had fallen. I blew and plowed that. But unbeknownst to me, a nearly invisible wetness was falling.
    • I was in a cloud of snow from the ground and wasn’t paying attention. It began coating the thin layer of snow the left by the plow with ice. Soon the ATV was spinning and sliding downhill and up. It became clear I wasn’t going anywhere. My neighbor who charitably does the whole private lane—mostly gravel, about two miles long counting the two forks—texted us all: “I’m not going to plow with this sleet and more snow predicted tonight.” Even if I could get to my driveway’s end, I would be stymied by the nearly one mile of too deep untrammeled snow between me and the county road.
  5. Tuesday evening, even more snow had fallen. I got out the plow again. This was foolish. It was so slippery underneath. I slid into a snowbank and broke the cord on the winch, which raises and lowers the plow. I had to fight my way to the bottom and disengage the plow. Since it wouldn’t raise, I couldn’t possibly go uphill with it attached.
  6. Wednesday morning, I awoke and a few more inches had fallen. It was snowing heavily. The phone hadn’t predicted that. I took my chances and drove down the steep slope over it.

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