Clif pulled ten full carts of collectible books off aging shelves. We constantly need cleared shelving so we can put fresh stock up.
Usually we “kill” off sections whose prices have been reduced incrementally until they are at cost. Then someone with good experience in store wants and Books by the Foot needs goes through them and rescues everything viable.
We don’t kill of collectible sections very often. When we do, it is my duty to go through them. No one else would know what to do.
“Why didn’t these sell?”
Poorly listed? Misplaced on the shelves? Old software glitches? Or are they just old books no one would want at any price?
Last week a bookseller visited and found a lot of treasures in those sections—treasures that had been reduced by 90% or more.
Part of me said, “Damn! We should have gotten into those sooner!”
Part of me said, “Good for him! We need the space, and he will come back to mine for gold again.”
When I saw the overburdened carts rolling out to where I will work on them, I was disheartened.
There is so much here that needs to be reviewed for the first time. I will have to spend time giving the crumbly old things a second look. I opened one. The date code was “06.” 2006. Bookselling was very different then. The software primitive compared to the nimble stuff we use today. There will be some good finds, or re-finds, rather. (Is re-find a word? If not, it is now.)
A mountain of old books with my name on it.
Hard, hard work. A mountain to climb. Re-climb.
Ian the hurricane is so big he has hovered over this place since Friday.
Tuesday morning in the dark, the rain pours down in the forest outside. It will rain all day and into Wednesday.
My younger son got married on Sunday. The ceremony had to be moved inside. But it was beautiful nonetheless.
The venue was an old manor house east of Frederick. Dulany’s Overlook. It is located out in the country on Dance Hall Road. You have to love the old country names around here. I wonder what the dance hall was like?
History… Little histories are intriguing. Who. What. When. Where.
I lit the first fire last night. Four days of rain and temperatures in the forties and fifties. This may be the earliest fire ever. The storm had knocked down a lot of branches. So kindling was all over the driveway. Millions of green leaves were stripped from the trees. They are plastered flat against the pavement and the roof.
We got off lucky around here.
Thursday, October 7
The first sunrise in a week. Until today, the dawns were dim things, barely illuminating the world outdoors.
The sunrise has moved south across my personal window to the world. Soon it will exit stage right. Or left? Left, I think.
The past week has been a whirlwind and not just beneath the churning clouds of Hurricane Ian. I have not had so much social activity around home in a very long time. Family and friends.
Oh, and there was the inundation of books as well. The battle for space in the warehouse reached yet another crescendo as tumultuous events outside took place as well.
Last Friday evening, I met with the family at Modern Asia—the wonderful restaurant in the strip center where the Frederick Wonder Book has been located since its last move in 1990.
And the days of rain began.
My brother-in-law came down from New England for the wedding. Historically, I rarely see him, but I was reminded he was around for his mother’s funeral in February 2020.
“Oh yeah, that happened. She was 104.”
COVID has made me forget many things. I wonder if that is a symptom. Perhaps there is something else going on with my memory. I don’t know. I remember a lot of things every day. It was good to get together with the boys. The place was packed, which was good to see. The decor is lovely. Very Asian with brilliant red and gold everywhere. I went home with about 10 pounds of leftovers, though I only ordered one dish. Their portions are huge.
Saturday, I awoke to the storm’s fury. (Poem below.) Then down the mountain chasing tiny rivulets eroding the steep gravel drive. I had three dogs with me. Merry and Pip plus Giles—my son’s dog I would babysit over the weekend due to the festivities. There were a lot of fun books. Books, books, books all day long.
I found two sets of Doctor Dolittle. One set was in a very nice jackets. All were early printings.
Then in a separate batch, there was a first of The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle. His second book. The jacket has a little chunk out of it, but it is still worth a lot of money.
Those books were among the first “real” books I read. I remember checking them out from the Eggertsville Library not far from my childhood home in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst, NY. I took home one after the other until there were no more. That was disappointing. Apparently the Doctor is politically incorrect in today’s climate. I remember he taught me respect and kindness to animals. As I little boy, I wondered why we couldn’t talk to animals. My dogs and cats seemed smart enough. I thought it was just a language problem that could be worked out.
Then I opened this little thing on whim. It looked like nothing—just a rebound duodecimo with a vague title on the spine.
Opening it, I found a little treasure inside.
It’s a kind of tax law book. The first 41 pages are a chapter: “Concerning Prisage of Citizens Wines.” What’s a prisage?
Definition of prisage
1a: the right of the crown under old English law to take one tun of wine from every ship importing from 10 to 20 tuns and 2 tuns from every ship importing 20 or more
It was the Interregnum. Oliver Cromwell was in charge after the regicide of Charles I and before Charles II was crowned.
William Penn invaded Jamaica and claimed it from Spain.
Arithmetica Infinitorum—the first work on differential calculus was published England…
I worked with vigor. I had been away to England not that long ago, and every day away put me that much further behind.
My younger son, the groom, needed to borrow a van for wedding accouterments. I was needed to shuttle a vehicle, so that his car would be at the hotel where everyone was staying.
Except me. My house is only a few miles from the venue. Plus, I had three dogs to take care of.
I had ordered some bookish cookies for the wedding, and we picked them up on the way from Family’s Choice—where we have gotten some great bookcases over the years. Todd’s wife makes the cookies.
I thought they turned out nice. Delicious too! I had a hundred made—don’t tell anyone—she made some extras, and I kept those as… ummm… souvenirs. I also made a set of all four for the mothers and the couple.
I did some more work. I wasn’t needed til late afternoon for the rehearsal. More books. More just nibbling around the edges. Sometimes I despair. I will never get to them all. It was October 1st. When my last brother died in April 2021, I arbitrarily gave myself 12 more good years. (He was twelve years older the I.) Counting on my fingers… 144 minus 17 equals 127. 127 more months. Good months. I can hope for more. I dread fewer.
The manor farm is only a few miles from the warehouse. It is a gorgeous venue.
Much of Frederick is still country. The house and the (refurbished) barn sit at the crest of a rise with bucolic views all around. For rehearsals, they have a set up in the woods, so everyone knows when to come in, where to stand and when to leave.
It was raining on and off, and there were still hopes for an outdoor ceremony.
The wedding rehearsal was soon over, and everyone headed for the rehearsal dinner at Pistarro’s in downtown Frederick. That was my contribution as the groom’s father. I thought I’d get off easy.
It was a small fortune for a room and pizza and an open bar. But it was nice and everyone seemed pleased.
That’s when the problems started. Heading home, I was right where I turn off when some deer ran in front of me. I slammed on my brakes and slid across the loose gravel into the ditch. No damage, but even the big pickup with nubby tires and four-wheel drive couldn’t pull itself out.
I texted a couple of neighbors. No answers. I started walking to the house. Maybe I’d call a tow… tomorrow? Try to pull it out myself. I’d trudged about a mile up the steep gravel drive when a neighbor texted and said they would bring down a chain and Jeep. They picked me up, and we went down and hooked the vehicles together. Then a deputy appeared, with flashing lights and all.
I wasn’t worried, but I didn’t want to deal with an accident report. I just wanted to get home and crash. It had been a long hard day—after a few long hard weeks.
I headed down to the warehouse to work until I was needed for the wedding. I went out back to check on the dogs. Merry was acting strange, and when I looked closely, he had a big chunk of the side of his nose bitten off! I looked around the dockyard, and sure enough, there was a huge dead groundhog. It took two hands to pick it up and toss it over the fence for the vultures. I took the boy to the emergency vet.
I checked in, filling out all kinds of forms and waited. I finally got into a waiting room and waited. A tech came and started filling out more forms. Merry was wagging his tail and pulling the leash to get out. He wasn’t in any distress.
“I have to go.”
I left the tech’s protests behind. I took Merry home and put him inside with towels and water and soft food. He curled up and went to sleep.
I dressed in my new blue suit and headed for the wedding.
The groom’s party waited in the basement. There were all kinds of video games and pinball and TV with football on.
Then it was time to walk to the barn. It was pouring.
We all marched in. The first music I heard was from The Lord of the Rings—”Hobbiton Theme.” In fact, the view out of the glazed back of the barn could have been the Shire.
The ceremony was beautiful and perfect. My older son was Best Man, and he gave a beautiful tribute. His husband read a love quote from Les Miserables. I’d lent him a nice copy of the Hugo book to read it from.
Then the party started downstairs. I met a bunch of my son’s friends—many of whom I had coached at soccer such a long time ago. All men now.
Back up to the main floor, which had been transformed into a gorgeous dining room.
There were a lot of both families’ old photos out. One table had photos of those no longer with us. My parents, three brothers and John Adams. My best buddy who befriended Joey as a tiny kid. It got so that they played more golf together than I did in the last few years… before COVID.
Then they started dancing. Songs I’d never heard of were played.
We had ordered 20 pizzas from a favorite place nearby—King’s in Walkersville. We had pizza from there many, many times as the boys grew up. We would take it to Barbara’s “Lothlorien.” My older son would play piano for her—including songs from The Lord of the Rings.
The pizzas cost a fortune.
It was late, and the venue should be turned over to the young people. I left after a few goodbyes to people I may never see again. In-laws mostly.
That night I called my vet and asked for an early appointment. They called Monday morning, and I took Merry in.
“There’s nothing there to sew up. We will have to clean it up. It will scar over…”
All Merry wanted to do was leave—wagging his tail.
I met about 20 people for breakfast at Mountain View Diner. It is part of the shopping center where the Frederick Wonder Book has been located since 1990. When the kids were little, I designated Tuesday as “Daddy Day.” I would take one or both to the diner for breakfast. (Silver Dollar pancakes were a favorite.) We’d play table games until the food came. We go across the lot and check in at the store, but soon we would leave and go to the zoo or Smithsonian or other day trips.
It was an expensive weekend. The breakfast was excellent, and the tab not too bad. Some of the young people expressed interest in going to the store. I tore strips off the placemat and hand-wrote discount coupons for them.
The vet called late afternoon. Merry was fine. He ended up costing a thousand. I took him home and nursed him. I gave him the pills from the vet in little balls of liverwurst. He gobbled them right down. The painkillers had him soon asleep.
It had been so cold and wet. Four days of rain, and temps in the 40s and 50s. That’s when I lit a fire in the Vermont Castings Defiant woodstove. I went out to the barn. There’s a mountain of old wood around the splitter there. I never got around to stacking it. I’ll just pick from the pile as the winter approaches. The heat soon took the edge off.
Old dogs (11), old books, old man of the mountain looking at the distant twinkling lights in the valley.
Wondering. Dreaming. Hoping.
Well, everything ended up all right.
The trilliums arrived!
4 different varieties. I’m excited for spring already!
I came across an early 1960s The Little Prince.
The inscription tugged at my heartstrings.
The Prince tamed the fox and left her. You tamed me. In the book, the fox was happy with the memories.
The week brought some odd arrivals. 400 Ray Bradbury—all foreign language editions.
Some things may be TOO cool.
And a bookseller friend who is culling everything low-end or problematic brought 150 boxes or so the day I left for England. I finally got into those. There is a lot of interesting (to me) stuff. Then I came across box after box of bound AB Bookman’s Weekly.
I emailed him, accusing him of bookseller abuse.
“They’re cool. I like looking at them.”
“I do too.”
“They were Jake Chernofsky’s copies.”
“Wow! That’s cool!”
Maybe TOO cool.
Hard to place things. One of our specialties.
I’m looking at an impossible weekend. So much extra work piled onto the “usual.”
My son is honeymooning in Greece, so I’ll need to help supervise the stores.
I’m looking forward to Wonder Book’s Film Club Screening of Frankenstein at the venerable Weinberg theater next Thursday. It is so different seeing these things on a big screen.
And we are giving away new kids’ books. We have way too many, and that’s the best solution I can come up with.
Merry is fine. He’s came to work every day with me. But his groundhog fighting days are over. I called a fencer to see if the dockyard can be had groundhog proof. Nevertheless, they won’t be allowed out there hunting. His nose? It will be distinctive. His own dueling scar (schmisse.)
Frodo of the nine fingers.
Merry of the muzzle with the woodchuck wound.
The storm roared and howled
all through the long black night
Wind and rain whipped the forest
The morning’s sunless dawn
revealed the roof and drive plastered
with green leaves ripped from their perches
Fallen branches and twigs added contrast
to the earth salad all about
From bed in dim morning light
I see treetops flailing
against a dull gray churning sky
tossed like a wheat sheaf in a gust
All night I’d hunkered in
pulling bed clothes tight about me
Cotton in my ears against the din
Pillows pressed upon my head
to complete the silence
What I cannot see or hear
does not frighten me