It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.—The opening line in 1984 by George Orwell.
Another day trip down to the Gaithersburg store.
Travis is driving—again.
We—I hope—have some new employees there. I’d like to meet them and give a pep talk and ramble on about our “Mission” and that what we do is important. The dissemination of “Real Information.” Recycling. Preserving the printed word. Rescuing books. Blah, blah, blah…
And there are orders for books to get pulled for Books by the Foot. More literature. I guess for personal “Instant Libraries” if not for props for some production or another.
I enjoy that.
I pulled a lot out of generic Poetry, Literary Anthologies and Literary Criticism. Those areas are notorious dumping grounds for books the inexperienced don’t know what else to do with. I culled very heavily. When I was done, I instructed the staff to condense those three categories severely. That way we could move the “Books About Books” and “Book Collecting” into that void. THEN we could expand “Mythology and Folklore” into that vacancy.
Improvements in all 5 sections!
I had spent the weekend making boxes of books to go to the stores. Now I started the week bringing back tubs of books from the stores.
The circle of life. LOL…
Well, we are returning to Frederick. The store looks good. They lost a couple of staff. But maybe some fresh blood will be good.
The newbies weren’t there. They start on Thursday. I will be in California then.
It is a “getaway” couple of days until I fly away Wednesday. The first in over a year. I made reservations for San Francisco to visit my ailing brother. I spent a lot to get on First Class. I have never spent so much on a ticket before. But I don’t want to be cramped up next to someone coughing or drooling or talking about conspiracy theories or something else horrible.
Plus, it is a long flight, and I want to be comfortable.
I’m very stressed lately. Not just about my brother—though that is a leitmotif playing in every conscious action I take. Every conscious inaction as well. Every minute. Or less.
Friends acting weird too. Too weird. But technology is amazing. You can just turn people off.
It’s a relief. I don’t want to see their names on my phone anymore. I don’t want to wonder what negativity or insanity or BS I’ll find when I open the digital “missives.” Also, I am not tempted to write them either.
I need some new friends. Is there a website for that?
I’ve been in touch with some booksellers in Northern California. I think I’ll be able to visit a few.
I sure don’t “need” any more books. But it will be fun to look at nice books in a shop for the first time in more than a year.
So, going away always gets me a bit frantic.
It also gets me very productive. There’s a “gun” to my head.
This weekend, I went through so many books and carts. I’ll be away next weekend, so I wanted to get ahead.
Damn! I should have counted the carts. Maybe there was a record broken?
I’ve made a to do list:
Pants. I’ve yet to reduce my COVID belly. I vowed I’d never wear 36s again. Promises broken. I need a spare pair.
Planting. I bought three pretty big Redbud trees. Why? I dunno. But I should get them in the ground. That’s not often easy on a mountain. You know—rocks and all. Plus, lilies and lots of seeds that should go in.
I’m meeting a locksmith up there this afternoon. Maybe I’ll get some planting in then.
New kitchen appliances. LOL… I’ve been putting that off for a few years. Everything is about 26 years old, and a couple aren’t acting right. The dishwasher leaks. I haven’t used it for a year or two.
But that’s pretty ambitious. Still, I’ve found you can get 2-3 times the work done on getaway days.
A list! I need a list of what to bring. It’s been a while. So, I’m not on “automatic” travel mode anymore. When I was traveling monthly, most everything was already in the shaving kit and carryon.
Blood test. Just a precaution. I haven’t seen two of my three doctors in over a year. And my main one I’ve only seen on my laptop.
EZPass. ID. Meds. Razor. Credit cards. Vaccine passport (Just in case. I AM going to California after all!) Umbrella.
Chargers. Masks. Vitamins.
Book to read.
I’m halfway through Parnassus on Wheels. I first read this when I first started selling books a lifetime ago. I have a first edition signed…somewhere around here, but first I’m reading an illustrated trade paper edition. I first picked it up from the bedside during Intermission, and it made me feel so good. One of my first thoughts was, “Why haven’t I reread this in four decades?” It is not Christopher Morley’s first book, but it is the first of two books about books and bookselling. If I finish Parnassus, I will move to The Haunted Bookshop.
First, let me say I am very familiar with haunted bookshops. I believe all good bookshops are happily haunted. (What would be your first choice of a place to haunt for eternity?) Well, maybe that jerk down in the City’s bookshop is not haunted. If I were a first-time ghost or spirit, that would be the last place I would spend my first afterlife months. He is a “screamer.”
So is she.
What else do I need to pack?
Old poetry scratched out on legal pads! The airplane will be the perfect place to transpose that stuff.
Once transposed, I tear off the sheets, write “Done” on each and put the manuscript in one milk crate and the printed versions in another.
Done! Preserved for humanity!
I put a fire on.
It is after six. It is in the 50s outside but damp. The fire will take the edge off. Also, I want to use up the scrap paper and cardboard I use to start them. I also want to use up the junk wood laying outside on the drive by the side porch. If I don’t burn it all, I will have to drag it off somewhere.
I met the locksmith up here at 3:30. He is the grandson of Gene. I first used Gene’s Lock Service in the 80s. We would need to re-key when a dodgy manager departed. Or after a number of managers had moved on. If there is a problem, the fewer people with working keys makes the pool or potential problems much smaller. It is actually for their protection. If we have a problem and they don’t have a viable key, then they aren’t a potential suspect in…whatever.
So the voice in my head tells me it is a just a good time to change things.
The young man—he had a baby car seat in the passenger seat of the commercial van—told me his grandfather, Gene, finally retired at age 85 two years ago. Perhaps the baby will be the fourth generation. He re-keyed four doors and gave me 6 spares. (Like eyeglasses, I need a lot of spares around.)
Then I decided to plant the three Redbuds.
I had a couple ideas but went looking.
Then it started pouring rain.
I went with the big adze. I found the perfect spot and began banging on the ground.
The root ball is about 20 gallons.
The shock of hitting solid rock sent a shiver up my arms to my shoulders. Those pains caused to me to move on to find another spot.
Two more spots were stymied by stone.
Eventually, I found three soft soily places and dug big enough holes for the three trees.
It was heavy work. There were plenty of rocks to pry out of each of the mucky holes.
But, if they survive, which I believe they will, they will serve as reminders of the awful beautiful 2021 spring during which so much is changing.
Good and bad.
They are already ten feet tall. I think they will spread over the summer as Judas Trees are wont to do. Then they won’t look like nursery stock.
I transplanted some more Bleeding Hearts along some of the new terraces that have gone in during COVID. They are pretty fragile and temperamental, but I think I got them in safe.
Rain. Rain. Hard rain.
Only a fool would work out in the cold rain.
When I was done, I was soaked through. Dripping wet.
I stopped and reflected on the physical hard work that delivers beauty.
Then the sun came out. Just in time for sunset.
I came inside and lit the fire. I changed into flannel pants and wool socks and a burnt-orange long-sleeve t-shirt that needs washing. I put the filthy wet clothes and boots in front of the stove to dry out. I put some soup on and then opened a bottle of old red wine. Maybe too old.
But when it breathes some, it will be ok. I think. I hope.
Yep. Just fine. Well, better than just ok.
The fire came to life quickly. I’d brought in a tub of bits and pieces of wood from the gravel floor in the “Barn.” The scraps outside were wet from three days of rain.
I sat in one of the pair of chairs I inherited from Barbara. They are in the nook before the three-pane bay window, which looks out on the scene above.
They used to be in her solarium at Lothlorien. I would sit in one. The twin would flank the other side of the sofa Barbara sat upon.
We would discuss life, the universe and everything. And drink gin. The “writer’s” tipple. If I drink enough gin, I will become a writer?
…Working on it…
I reflected on the directions I will be going in post-COVID.
And what I will be doing post the latest and last rebounding off the rebound. You keep throwing yourself at the same crazy wall thinking…what? You know it is impenetrable. Why?
I began typing this. An odd time to start writing.
2 AM Tuesday
Intermission came early this night. About 12:30.
I’m a little surprised. I went out into the dark earlier and split wood. A LOT of wood. I wanted…needed physical exercise. After a while, I counted the number of very large logs that needed to split.
“14 left. I can stop in good conscience.”
But I kept on until all was done and a mountain of wood rose before me.
Waiting for sleep to return, I wrote a good deal, and I am pretty happy with it.
Then I picked up Parnassus on Wheels, to see what the heroine bookseller is up to. It will take me back in time, just over a century ago. I will experience bookselling in the “19s.”
At some point, my head was ready, and I put the book on the bed beside me and drifted away.
Clif and I are driving east on Interstate 70. We are going to Columbia, Maryland—America’s “First Planned City.”
We are going to visit Michael Osborne—an old friend and ABAA bookselling colleague. He is ailing a bit and downsizing with an eye to exiting bookselling.
He has been downsizing for nearly a decade.
I don’t think I see a dent in the collection.
It is hard to let go.
He says he only has 26 boxes or so to pick up today. A drop in the bucket.
It is hard to let go.
I wouldn’t go this far for so little but for an old friend—or perhaps a real hard-luck story.
It is “getaway day.” I’ll head for Dulles this afternoon for my first plane trip since February 2020.
Columbia… my co-best friend John Adams spent many years there. He passed away suddenly last August—not COVID, but maybe “COVID stress” was a contributor.
We can chalk it up to COVID for tax purposes. Or whatever.
He used to live on Empty Song Way. Such a romantic name.
Michael lives in a “Tolkien” development, believe it or not. I suppose it was begun before all the names got copyrighted. The community golf course is named Hobbits’ Glen. John and I never played there, though we played at dozens of other courses in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The development has Middle Earth names for streets.
It is drizzling a bit.
It has rained most of the last 4 days off and on.
Michael lives on Wood Elves Way.
Legolas was a Wood Elf Prince from Mirkwood Forest.
When we backed in, I rang the doorbell and he led us to the garage.
He is looking very frail, but his spirits are great.
He pointed at which boxes we were to take.
He said he is virtually retired from bookselling now. His son is dabbling at the antique mall space.
He wanted to chat longer than I was able. I told him I was heading out this afternoon.
“Email me when you have more. I’ll be glad to come out.”
“What about these boxes of American Mercury? It is a full run. I don’t want to let go of the H. L. Mencken collection yet.”
“Next time! Separate what you want me to take. I’ll send a check. I’ll do the best I can, but old magazines are a tough sell.”
We pulled out and passed Proud Foot Way.
I suppose the people in that neighborhood would call themselves “Proud Feet” folks.
I’ve lost so many people in recent times.
This year was especially bad.
Gone or going or disabled. Or gone…crazy.
I can’t deal with anger anymore.
Too little time. And what’s the point?
Last night, I took the dogs up to Pennsylvania to be cared for while I’m away.
The seafood place was crowded. The server was sullen and wanted to rush us. The fried oysters were soggy greasy. I didn’t eat one.
“I’ll broil them to crisp them up some evening when I get back.”
I didn’t get angry. What’s the point?
Damn! I didn’t freeze the leftovers. They’ll stink when I get home Tuesday. Now I am angry!
Not really. Too far to go back home and mess with them. I’ll compost them.
Clif and I are back at the warehouse. I’ll see what has happened while we were gone.
3,4,5 6? drop-offs?
I have to leave for Dulles in a few hours.
Do I have everything I need? I was pretty careful packing this morning.
Maybe that’s why I forgot the leftovers.
I’ll do some panic last minute work until I go.
This is not a flight I want to take.
My nephew texted I should come to the house right away. Tony might not make it til tomorrow.
I had planned to go to the hotel and crash upon arrival at 10pm. It would feel like 1am.
Each step through the airport tears welled up.
I texted: “Tell him Chuckie is coming as fast as I can. Tell him I love him.”
Each step was a memory and a face.
Mom. Dad. Jimmie. Joe.
There are thousands of steps in Dulles airport. Why so many? I think I’ve walked 5 miles since I parked my car.
Most of the vendors were closed. COVID closed. I wanted a Martini. I always have one at the airport. Unless I’m running late.
I had to walk from one end of the C Gates to the other to find the one open bar.
I waited in line with a dozen people. We were not 6 feet apart.
There are no stools at the bar. Just tables for two.
“Two Gin Martinis. Up very dry. “
“Is someone joining you?”
“No. I just want to make my flight. Water and my check at the same time, please.”
My hands don’t shake. But it has been a stressful day.
(The olives were the first things I’ve eaten all day.)
I allowed plenty of time. But now First Class boarding is only 12 minutes away.
Did I do everything I should?
Do I have everything I need?
I texted a picture of the Martinis to my nephews and sister-in-law.
“Cheers, Tony. One for me and one for you.”
I added: “Don’t show him this if it is not appropriate.”
Our dad drank Martinis among other many other things. I don’t think I ever had a drink with my dad. I was “pure” until after he passed when I was still 20.
Martini’s…Gibsons when there was a choice. A lifetime of cocktails. In private. In public.
I miss you, Barbara. Cheers to you.
6 hours to San Francisco. My brother is dying there. Faster and faster.
He had months a week or two ago.
“Tonight” perhaps tonight.
I have no one to text but family. I’ve cut ties with friends. Too crazy or negative or FOS.
6 hours to SF.
Then luggage. Car. Drive. Will I be in time?
It doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters.
I want to see Redwoods. It has been a few years.
Now, on this plane, locked into this seat, I have hours of leisure. To write. What?
I want to leave something.
Something tangible from these hours, days, weeks, months, decades of book immersion.
I’m glad I wasn’t guided to hammers and nails as an occupation. Or burgers and fries. Or…
Burgers and fries. Every day. Over and over the same.
Bits and pieces.
So many disappointments.
But in sum. I haven’t done a bad job, have I?
Dad? Mom? Jimmie? Joe?
You can’t be angry at crazy people.
It is not their fault.
It is your own if you failed to recognize the pathology earlier.
Blinded by beauty or brains or quirkiness.
I’ve reached the point where I know my pathology.
The doors are clunking shut.
What is your assessment, Dad?
I didn’t become a doctor. I’m sorry.
I was never someone everyone loved the minute they met you.
Oldest brother Joe. I was never tough enough to be a Marine. But I learned so much from you about anger and strength and weakness. Mostly by example and cautionary tales.
Jimmie…you were the family poet. I aspire. Still—today. I’ve written volumes more than you. Maybe there is something there. If only by accident.
The “different” brother.
Can you wait til I get there?
If not. Ok.
You know. I know you know.
You and Clark battered me to sell books on the “World Wide Web” 25 years ago.
“You should really try selling books to people via the computer. People all over the world are beginning to catalog books. Everyone can see them for FREE! Try it!”
Eventually, we did. I picked out 40 exotic books, then Clark and Madeline listed them on www.abe.com. ABE was one of few startup book listing sites in those early days.
The next day, we looked at the results. The first book we sold on the “web” was The History of Holstein Cattle in Frederick County, Maryland for $45. It is a small thin hardcover. Too thin to have lettering on the spine of its cream colored paper dust jacket. Therefore it was invisible on the Maryland shelves in the locked glass bookcases where we kept our better books. It was virtually unsellable in Frederick except as a historical curiosity. We would get occasional copies of the 1920s book in. They would simply linger on the shelf, sandwiched between other more marketable histories. Virtually invisible in the real world. And big as a Britannica in the virtual world.
It was bought in a flash overnight by a guy in England. He was a farmer who collected anything and everything about Holstein Cattle.
The proverbial lightbulb flashed above my head.
“Ah, so that is what this is all about. We are now global.”
Who knew there was a virtual world in 1997?
…and that made all the difference.
We made millions happier. Or smarter. Or pass their day or weeks or months a little…whatever…better! That’s the word.
S***!!! All the millions of books we saved.
It would not have happened without you. Tony…
At least I was—finally—smart enough to heed their futuristic advice.
…And that made all the difference.
It’s been a long, long way from there to here.
I am crossing the American Continent. Miles high. In six hours, versus the months it took 180 years ago.
It is weird. I’m in the window seat. There is no shade to pull down. You push a button and the windows dim blue and darker blue and darker. Like sunglasses.
I put 2001 on the TV screen. I don’t have headphones—I think. There might be some in the carryon, but I don’t want to root through it. Plus, I don’t see anywhere to plug in. Are plug in headphones obsolete?
2001 is visual anyway. I can tell what they are saying scene by scene.
I am only half watching anyway.
I first saw it in a theater in 1968 with Billy Burnham.
We were kids.
We had played golf at the Army Navy Club in DC. My Army Colonel Dad got us in. We walked back a few miles on Georgia Avenue into Silver Spring carrying golf clubs! There had been riots and fires along there not long before.
It was so incongruous. When we got curious looks, I’d tell people:
“We are looking for our balls.”
We stopped at a theater in Silver Spring and watched the movie. It made no sense.
I was 14 or 13.
But I knew the world was different now. The future was racing closer.
I didn’t know how to handle it. I was always immature in almost every way.
When Wonder Book started, I grew a pathetic mustache. It was an effort to not look too immature. I had that mustache for so many years.
I don’t know what I look like now. I avoid mirrors. Besides, I am asked most of the time:
“When did you start this?”
Well, this may be the longest blog ever.
So much to do. So much to do.
Nice big seat.
The “snack” on a 6 hour flight—a greasy Basil Tomato Foccacia. Hot outside. Warm in the middle.
I wouldn’t buy one at 7-11 for 2.95. Heartburn wrapped in foil.
But the second Bloody Mary is good.
It will get me across the Mississippi.
Mrs. T’s Bloody Mary Mix in a can (now “Mr. & Mrs. T’s”—soon to be gender neutral, I suspect.)
To me, Mrs. T is an airplane companion only. I can’t remember acquiring Mrs. T Bloody Mary Mix on land—ever.
And Wheatley Vodka (does it matter what vodka goes in the tomato juice?)
So much has changed in the last year. The seats and stuff are high tech now.
I’m glad I spent the extra 500. I’d hate to be squeezed in between two strangers.
Well, you goofball, we could be doing wonderful things.
But you are gone.
And you. I only sussed this week your cries were clarions of control. I was owned. I didn’t know it. Maybe you didn’t either. Nature? Nurture?
What a fool.
A fool for love.
I want to sleep and wake in San Francisco.
My brother and his wife have lived for 25 years on Dolores Street. It is just a short walk to Mission Dolores. Built in 1776, it is the oldest surviving building in San Francisco.
Something else was happening in 1776 on the other side of the continent.
I will go there some time this visit.
Will I surrender myself to the True Church at that time?
There could hardly be any higher pinnacle in my life.
The “Void” inside me.
Keir Dullea in is dialog with HAL, a machine that speaks (how unrealistic…LOL.) I’m watching it in mime. All dead on the spaceship except Dullea. 2001 was the Future. They are all dead. HAL killed all the “sleepers”—most of the crew were in pods in suspended animation. They would have been awakened after the long trip to Jupiter.
I am an artifact.
Relevant by my will only.
Just me and Mrs. T.
Man versus machine is just beginning.
HAL, the computer, is systematically killing all the astronauts in pods in suspended animation.
So the man I’ve known as infant, child, boy, adolescent, youth and man will be gone today, tomorrow or the next day.
My brother Tony. The last brother.
I’ve known him youth and man for 3 score and more.
Three score and more.
I have always wanted to prove myself. To show him I could do something important.
I am working on it…
“Dave? What are you doing?”
I wish I were home. Splitting wood.
I will go see redwoods this week.
Tony asked for books on redwoods in these last months..
I’d give them to the web order manager, and she would ship them across the country to Dolores.
Dolores means “sorrow.”
He asked for miniature books too. Just recently.
I didn’t understand why and didn’t ask. I just sent some.
My most favorite recent find is in my bag. I hope I can give it to him, and he can acknowledge the gift.
If not…he knows.
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
My first COVID adventure.
And my mission is to see my brother one last time.
I am on the 19th floor of a Hilton in the Financial District. It has an ok view of the Bay.
I arrived after midnight having left my brother’s home.
It was a dystopian drive downtown. The hotel has a dystopian feel.
“No amenities…nothing is open…your room won’t be cleaned the five nights you stay…” I was told at check-in.
A room and a bed.
The lobby is dark. The bar and restaurant are dark. All is dark.
The neighborhood was dark and dreary. People sleeping in front of Chinese restaurants. I started to take a walk but thought better of it when I heard shouting and yells a few blocks away.
The lobby was empty but for one desk clerk and two security guys lounging on and behind a spartan desk.
There was no question of having my car parked for me. The front gate had been broken, so I was instructed I had to drive around the block—turn right, turn right, turn right—to get to the side entrance.
Parking is only $15 dollars a day—in downtown SF! That is telling.
I hardly slept, and the trip took its toll—as did my visit with my brother and sister-in-law and two nephews when I arrived. I must be running on batteries. I went to sleep around 2 and awoke about 5. My body thought it was 8 am I suppose.
I took a long bath—something I only do in hotels.
I finished the novel—Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley.
I haven’t read it since I first started as a bookseller.
It is a beautiful book, about bookselling, book-love and love-love. I will write about it and its companion The Haunted Bookshop soon. But I won’t link it just now. They are quick reads, and I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun of your seeing the plot online. Get a copy. I know we have plenty at the stores. I saw them when I was pulling Lit. If we don’t have reasonably priced versions on www.wonderbook.com, send me a comment, and I will be sure to add some from the stores’ overstock.
My brother was almost gone last night. I’m not sure he recognized me. His eyes would open occasionally. He is being kept comfortable.
Friday Morning 6 a.m.
But that means it is 9 a.m. in Maryland. I need to send this off soon.
Ready or not.
There’s a phone message from 11 p.m. last night. My nephew.
I had turned it off, so I wouldn’t get any 4 a.m. calls or texts from the east coast.
“Please call me, Chuck.”
It can only mean one thing.
Thursday at their invitation I went over for breakfast to their gorgeous 4-story home.
I would go into the spare bedroom where Tony lay and talk to him or hold his hand. He would open his eyes a bit occasionally but he was looking somewhere else—not at me.
I don’t know if he knew I was there amongst the things he was going through inside his mind and body.
But he will know I came—sometime—somewhere—when the time comes.
I didn’t give him the little leather Bible in its slipcase, the miniature gift I’d brought. It has a lap binding. Very unusual and beautiful. He wouldn’t have known. I didn’t want anyone thinking I was inserting myself religiously at this juncture.
It was just a beautiful tiny book I wanted him to have.
Why he wanted tiny books in the last months, no one knows. His mind was doing things as this process played out.
I will take the book home and place it prominently. Whenever I see it, it will remind me of my brother and this last trip to San Francisco.
Although one of the family told me last night his wish was to have his ashes join our bother Jimmie in the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of Marin. So, I may return for that.
I had no idea about that when I wrote this sitting on a large ball of root high on a remote trail in Muir Woods earlier in the day:
I rest upon a ball of root
Where the bole meets the soil
The rest towers to the sky
Noon day sun peeks through the canopy
The flawless blue sky does as well
All is silent
but for occasional songbird song
I breathe and assess
Will I ever pass this way again?
My last brother will breathe his last soon
A dozen miles below
Not far beyond the Golden Gate
If not already today
Then soon tonight or tomorrow or tomorrow
My nearest brother lived on the Marin coast
He considered that his home despite many moves after
When he passed a score of years ago
Per his wishes
We took a boat under the golden span
We found a quiet cove off Marin
Stopped and poured his ashes into the vast sea
The sandy stuff hissed when it hit the water
My eldest brother left two years ago
We took a boat out on an eastern bay
His sandy ashes too hissed hitting the salt
Their two sets of ashes
A continent apart have mingled by now
Now I am the last
Already or soon to be
Alone in this woody cathedral
The next generation must dispose of me
Alive in spring in 2021
I will arise now
Leave this Temple of a forest
And go west to the sea
Where two brothers dwell
And see what I can see of the sea
We all shared in life
This is the view from where I sat writing the above.
I had decided there was nothing I could do hanging around their home. I booked a ticket for 1 p.m. entrance to the park. “Reservations are required.”
My nephew printed the barcoded sheet to set upon the dashboard.
The voice in my phone—the speaking computer—guided me through San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge. On the other side, I stopped to take in the view. A stranger from Asia stopped and asked in a thick accent if I would like him to take my picture.
Then I headed up the peninsula I’ve always considered one of the most beautiful places in the world. The roads to the Woods are narrow and winding. I could recall vividly driving this with Jim when I visited as a teenager. He explained about the vast Eucalyptus groves. He worked as a volunteer rescuer when he lived in Stinson and Bolenas—which was then a kind of colony full of musicians and artists and very strange quirky humans.
He told stories of pulling people who had driven off the road up cliffs from 300 feet below.
“Jerry Garcia lives up there.”
“Can we go meet him!?”
“Nah, we don’t do things like that here.”
My car was scanned. I parked and walked to the entrance. I visited here a couple years ago. But it was a place I felt I should see again at this time.
I walked the trails and immersed myself in this holy place for several hours.
There weren’t many people, but when someone approached, I would assess whether I needed to mask up or not. I didn’t want to be yelled at in the quiet forest.
Then it was time to leave. I headed west to Stinson Beach. The road wound and wound. There were numerous overlooks. I stopped a couple times and took in the view of the coast.
Then a steep descent to the fairly remote community of Stinson Beach. The Silver Dollar where I had meals with Jim and later with my young family and later…was closed. A place across the street was open with outdoor seating.
I had a beer—Reality Czech—toasting my brothers and the mostly happy California memories.
I lunched on Ceviche. It was the best I’ve ever had.
I sat and basked in the seaside sun and thought about life, the universe, the past, the future—everything.
Then it was time to wind my way back through Marin and then across the Golden Gate and into San Francisco.
My phone was dying! I had no idea where I was in this, the northwest part of the city.
“Please let a familiar road appear!”
The computer kept speaking. Then stopped. Dead. Her final word was “Guerrero.” I knew I could find my way back from there.
And I did.
We ordered burgers and stuff from Barney’s Gourmet Burgers. Mine was so huge I could barely put a dent in it.
We chatted. My sister-in-law told me of Tony’s wishes to join Jimmie in the sea.
“Probably in June. I hope you can come back. I’ll probably move back east to be closer to the grandkids.”
It was getting late. I was exhausted. I went in and held hands with my brother. His breathing was a little rattly. I told him I loved him. I thanked him for all his big brother advice over the years.
My phone was fully charged, and the woman inside spoke to me all the way downtown to the hotel.
My room was in shambles—just the way I left it.
I need to send this off. It is just 8 here but 11 in the east.
My Friday plan was to cross the Bay and look at books and then go on a Napa tour—perhaps finding M. F. K. Fisher‘s Last House.
But now I need to call the family and see if my plans are changed.
Alton Ochsner (Tony) Roberts PhD passed away last night at 10:30 Pacific time. January 12, 1943 – April 15, 2021.
Wife Kathryn—married Elkton, Maryland 1965. Sons Greg and Geoff. 3 grandchildren. 1 brother—Chuck.
“Godspeed, Tony. Give Mom, Dad, Jim and Joe hugs for me.”
From his penthouse roof:
Tony and Kathy’s home since 1997:
He always embraced technology. When the Kindle was threatening the printed word, he prophesied books would soon disappear.
I argued with him.
He said: “You will be the last bookseller. When you are done, turn off the lights and lock the door.”
He wasn’t wrong about many technical things.
In 2021, Tony and Kathy’s home is full of books.
Including the opera, redwood, San Francisco and miniature books I kept sending him the last few years.