Friday, May 27, 2011

View From the Kitchen Sink

Don’t expect a whole lot here today – just rambles about this and that. It’s dark and rainy and the view from the kitchen sink (it's glare -- don't get too excited) would make you want to crawl back into bed and forget the whole thing. But this IS Memorial Day weekend so we’re partying over here even though it’s unlikely that my very fun idea is going to take place. (More on that later). The important thing is that even though I’m serving dinner and breakfast to eight people and another dinner to ten people, need desperately to grocery shop, and my house looks like a gale force wind blew in, I’m listing books and talking to you. Not to worry though – I’m a whirlwind under pressure.

But here’s the thing – this party is bittersweet and the rain is not helping matters. My youngest daughter Caitie and her boyfriend are moving to Maryland in less than a week. He works for the government and landed the Big Job in D.C., the one you can’t turn down if you want to climb the aluminum ladder to – whatever. I know it’s selfish, petty, and unbecoming, but I don’t want them to go. These two are  like a portable party. Usher them in and let the games begin. I know, I know -- we can go there to visit and we will, though I am not a traveler of the first order, or the second or third order either for that matter. But let’s not get into THAT. Things are bad enough.

Actually, I’m trying to be hopeful and upbeat over here, so I’m going to stop at Target when I’m out getting groceries on the quarter-chance that the precipitation ends and the sun comes out and I can spring my great fun idea after all. I saw an ad on TV for sidewalk chalk that glows in the dark. So I thought I’d get a bunch of it and take it out of the package so our seven year old grandson who could out-read Marian the Librarian doesn’t know this secret feature. Then we will ALL – big kids, little kids, and old kids – divide up the driveway and make a huge mural. Then when it gets dark we’ll take the kids outside and – voila! I know you think the adults won’t like this, but they will. If something pleases those two little boys every single one of us would have a blast doing it. Really.

In the meantime I’m busy listing books because for some crazy reason sales are popping like kernels of corn on ABE. I mentioned it to a bookseller friend who only sells on amazon (better known here as the Evil Empire) and she says the same thing is happening there. What’s quirky about it is that Auctionbytes just reported that amazon sold more e-books in April than hard cover and soft cover combined. But as the old saying goes, you’re better off not trying to figure it out and just make hay while the sun shines, or sell books in the rain – whichever works best. So here’s a sampling of what I added. The reason I’m showing you a page of Ohio Lands and Their Subdivisions from 1918 instead of the cover is because it’s a plain Jane and I want you to be a little dazzled.

Anyway, I told you this wasn’t going to be much, but I didn’t want to take another four-day hiatus from the blog. So have a happy holiday – go to the parade, grill hot dogs, and take a couple days off bookselling to enjoy your family and friends. I’m going to  -- with or without the mural.

P.S. In answer to the two questions already asked, I don't know why all the icons of my followers have disappeared, but I miss them very much and wish blogger would get over what ails it and the black thing on the windowsill is actually two of the felt pads that go on the bottom of the chair legs so as not to scratch the hardwood floor in the dining room. You guys are a riot!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hiking the Acquisition Trail

If I were a cartoon character I’d be drawn with so many curved lines around me I’d whirl right off the page. It’s amazing to me that four whole days have gone by in what seems like a blur of perpetual motion. It all began Friday with an auction devoted solely to paper and books with the emphasis heavily on paper. It was rather far from home, but was such a rarity that I would have dug out my hiking boots and walked if needed. To say there was a lot of stuff would be like saying the United States has a lot of people. Boxes, flats, tubs, piles, mounds, and heaps of vintage magazines, brochures, maps, books and prints kept the small, but rabid, crowd bidding for seven hours straight! We got home at eleven p.m. with the Cruiser’s back bumper nearly scraping the road from the weight of the goodies.

At first the prices were scary – think big hairy wood spider scary -- but as the day wore on and the crowd thinned the buying kept getting better. By the time I bought the last big box of books it was so good I didn’t even care that my shoes were twice their size in mud. I got the box for $22 and have already sold a rare Ohio volume, Tales From Yellow Creek, on Advanced Book Exchange for enough to get a nice chunk of money back. The guys – and it was ALL guys because paper seems to be a man’s game – didn’t groove on books too much. They saved their energy and a LOT of their cash for magazines. One guy spent almost $300 on a flat of smallish old magazines called Life. I’d never seen them before, but I know for a fact that they are not an earlier incarnation of the big Life magazine. Maybe he knew something I don’t, but I’m still glad I didn’t jump in on that one. Instead I waited for the Delineator, early McCalls from 1914, Godey's Lady Book from 1879 and stuff I can’t even remember.

The fact that I don’t know what else I got tells you how crazy it’s been since I last talked to you. Usually I’m rooting around in the boxes like a kid who can’t wait for Christmas. But we had to be at the Case Western Reserve University sale Saturday morning no later than seven a.m., so we grabbed a quick something that approximated dinner and went straight to bed. The Case sale used to be my favorite, but anymore it’s smaller, pricier, and lacking in the high-end treasure that gave it a singular rarified cachet. Nonetheless we sallied forth hopefully and got there at seven for a ten a.m opening. But here’s the shocker – people used to spend the night camping in the parking lot. People came from distant states. The line used to wend its way down the side of the building and double back on itself even with the price of admission at $20 a person just to walk in the door. Not this year it didn’t! We were fifteenth in line and it never got appreciably bigger.

In the past scanners were minimal because of the fee. But this year very few of the old-timers showed up making scanners the majority. I didn’t even mind though because there weren’t enough of them to invade the delightful atmosphere of peace, leisure and fun.Though I was greatly disappointed in the antiquarian section, I did buy a few lesser books for old time’s sake just because I liked them and my favorite volunteers (who know me by name because I haunt their section) love the same stuff I do. We all get so excited you’d think we were a pack of 49’ers headed to the Klondike gold fields. I only bought one middling priced book there at $40 though and one other book in the art department for $50. Everything else was in the $10-30 range for a total of only $300, less by two thirds from the good old days.

But after Case there was no more putting life on hold for books -- time to switch gears. Did you hear that eardrum- popping screech emanating from Medina around noon? If not, you must have been in the shower because we’re talking an abrupt one-eighty here. I hosted a wedding shower for a friend’s daughter last night and didn’t start doing any of the preparations until Saturday afternoon. No menu, no groceries, no favors, no games, no centerpiece, no sharpened pencils, no anything. So Saturday and Sunday the pedal met the metal big-time. Don’t ask how it came together. I don’t want to think about it except to say that it did and 25 people had dinner and dessert, the bride glowed in bridely bliss, high hilarity ensued, and a good time was had by all. Picture below of the centerpiece.

So then -- back to the books. Case had a half price sale on Monday which I had pretty much decided to skip until I looked over what I got Saturday night and realized that I had done better than I thought. So off we sped to Cleveland again late Monday morning hoping to snatch up some bargains. We did, but the tables looked like Pompeii after the quake which could be why only two people waited in “line” when we showed up five minutes before starting time. The best buys were in science and technology, but I did scavenge a humdinger in art and a good set in music, so I was happy. Went home, put the finishing touches on the wedding shower, changed into my party clothes, and was good to go.

And that, folks, is what I did on my four-day “vacation” from the blog.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Cold Wind Blows

I woke late this morning – the day already broken and the standard-issue sky still hanging gray and desolate above. Fog rose from the lake in a murky blur and even the ducks sat in a posture of misery in their puddles of water scattered about the low spots in the greenspace behind the house. The landscape out the back door mirrored my interior scape with uncanny perfection. No blooming azaleas today, no lilacs in bud, no iris waving in lavender glory. Yesterday, a day which began with such optimism and joy, was changed dramatically by a single email from a bookseller friend.

As soon as I recovered from the shock of it (I have yet to recover from the sadness) the first thing I thought of was my last blog post. The final line was a quote from that old Bob Dylan song The Times They Are A-Changin' which I had used to convey a sense of hopefulness in a time of massive change and uncertainty in the book industry. This morning I googled the lyrics, some of which I had forgotten, and was struck by the fact that my choice of song turned out to be more prophetic, or at least cautionary, than I’d ever meant it to be.

The news I got yesterday is not unique and that of course is the tragedy of it. My friend is a long time bookseller who has been in the used, rare, and antiquarian game for decades. He’s smart, knowledgeable, experienced, and savvy, but none of that was enough to keep him in business full-time. He’s looking for a day job, he told me, not because he prefers it, but because he must. Acquisition has become an almost insurmountable hurdle, the number of booksellers has grown exponentially, postal rates soar sharply cutting into international sales, and spiking gas prices compromise travel to distant sites. He hopes to remain a part-time seller, which at least is heartening, but not nearly enough. The book world lost something important yesterday and I am not only sad, but mad as hell about it.

Of course I can blame technology for this travesty, but I don’t cast nearly as much blame on technology as I do on the hordes of wannabe booksellers, most of whom don’t read and don’t care a whit about books. But even them I blame less than I do Amazon, the leading force in encouraging anyone with a cell phone to take up bookselling. The wannabe booksellers just answered the call – I doubt most of them have a clue that they are part of a larger problem -- as am I.

I’ve been a player only fourteen years, entering bookselling just a year or so after Advanced Book Exchange provided an online showcase. Amazon as it is today was just a gleam in Bezos’ eye back then. There was no Marketplace, not even z-shops yet, which meant an employee (the dulcet-toned Tiffany) phoned every day at noon to place orders with us. Back then Amazon paid full price for the books, including actual shipping charges, and shifted the cost to the customer without so much as a whimper. But now….. well, we all know about now and Amazon’s role in how things turned out. I don’t want to talk about amazon though – not as a bookseller and not as a writer. My regard, or lack thereof, for them on both fronts warrants not another peep.

What haunts me today is the realization that I inadvertently led to my friend’s problem. By internet standards I’ve been at this an eon, but by bookselling standards I remain a wannabe myself. Yes, I’ve evolved , and thank God for it, because the truth is I entered this business only slightly less opportunistic than those I rail against. Back then I was a full-time writer who decided to sell what I love as a source of additional income. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to fall in love with it to the point where my identity as a writer would take a back seat to my identity as a bookseller. I did have a vague sense of trespassing though. I remember very well standing in line at book sales behind my friend, whom I didn’t know yet, wondering whether he resented my presence. If he didn’t he probably should have because I was part of the first wave of techno-sellers who would end up changing the face of bookselling forever.

If there’s any redemption for me at all in this it can be found in the work and the study. These at least I have done. I paid my dues and will continue paying them for as long as the book gods allow. I’m just sorry that my  presence compromised a seller who should have been able to continue his profession until he was ready to quit. I won’t live long enough to put in the years he has, or acquire the expertise. I may very well be displaced myself by a vanishing market, or yet another wave of retailers.

But for now at least I stand -- cognizant of the cost.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Something In the Water

Okay, so who spiked the water? I know someone had to have done it because this was a weekend like no other in a very long time. In our absence buyers suddenly unleashed a pent-up desire not only for our books, but for our expensive books. We sold Salvador Dali’s gorgeous golden cookbook that I featured last month here, a pricey collector’s guide to baseball pinbacks, a signed deluxe limited edition book of nature paintings in a slipcase, signed copies of Mr. Bridge and Mrs.Bridge in a slipcase, a 1947 Esquire pin-up girl calendar with its original envelope, an antiquarian copy of the Poems of Cowper in leather, and a bunch of miscellaneous cheaper things. Even the antiques mall popped on Sunday, so clearly the water was enhanced with bookish molecules over there too. Now, if I can only remember this when I’m whining in mid-summer that no one will buy anything good ever again (and I WILL be whining – we all know this) life will be vastly improved for anyone who has to, or chooses to, listen to me.

But of course the big thing I want to talk about today is Bookstock ’11 in Livonia, Michigan where we spent most of yesterday morning. As you know from my latest whine, I was not looking forward to it based on the mania experienced last year. To be honest, this year didn’t get off to a rousing start even though it ended up so good we took the kids out to breakfast to celebrate. We got there an hour early and were pleasantly surprised to see only about 15 plastic-covered boxes in a row by the door. Rain pelted steadily so everyone stayed in their cars, but as soon as the foyer door of the mall opened a fairly big crowd dashed madly inside which of course changed the entire configuration of the boxes. But it’s a mall. It’s big. So who cares? Apparently no one. Had that happened in Cleveland the red phone in the White House would have been ringing off the hook. The only complaint I had, and it did annoy me greatly at the time, was the stampede thing. This you had to see to believe.

By the time the sale opened there were about 150 people in line, all of whom, except for me and Eric I think, sprinted down the mall like a herd of deer running from buckshot. Over the camera cords in use by the two news stations filming the event they leapt like ballerinas. Never mind age, imparity, and dignity. Adrenalin fueled them, passion inspired them, and  onward they sped like Chariots of Fire. I could have run right along with them – no problem there – I might have even left ‘em in the dust. But I’m here to tell you that this is one thing I absolutely, positively WILL NOT do. I walked rapidly, though I didn’t even power walk, and landed where I needed to be (a very far place) in decent time. This place consisted of maybe eight eight foot tables loaded with higher priced books. Could it be that less buyers fought over the spoils? Yes, it could! Not  only was it possible to easily get to the tables and move down them unencumbered, but there were no scanners. Zip. Zero. Zilch. I know for a fact that last year they abounded because the news people zeroed in on them in the mistaken assumption that they were the only dealers.

While I liked the situation much better this year, there was a  a downside to it too because the people we competed against were hard core, long-time, serious book people. I know it because of what they chose and because they talked amongst themselves about exhibiting at the upcoming Ann Arbor Book Fair. But that’s fine -- I more than feel up to the task of working in their company. That is, I feel up to it in regard to spotting the good stuff. I quickly learned, however, that I was NOT up to it when it came to aggression. Twice in rapid succession I lost books I wanted because I was too polite to either take them off the volunteers’ cart, or tap the spine of the desired title from the stack in his arms to get it before it hit the table. In both instances I waited for the books to be put down, despite the fact that somewhere deep in the recesses of this blog is a post about this this very problem of mine. Here’s the thing though. I can’t even moan about rudeness because they weren’t rude. In fact, in both instances the dealers were so understated that most people probably never even saw it happen. Eric suffers from the same terminal courtesy I do, so when I saw him trump the second dealer who got “my” book and claim Spurling and Lubbock’s fabulous three volume slipcased set, Sail, I was stunned speechless.

And THAT, dear readers, was the game changer. From that point forward we sailed up and down the tables, masts billowing with confidence. All told, we bought fifteen books and one set for a total of $300. As we retraced our many steps to the front entrance our major question could have been sung to the tune of Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

The answer? In the cheap books section. And not as many of them as you would think either. So what does it mean? I don't know and I'm not going to hazard a guess just yet, but it could be that "the times they are a'changin'."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Little Cheese Please!

(NOTE: This post was added Thursday, but shortly disappeared due to technical difficulties with Blogger. Since it has not shown up again I am reposting in hopes that it will stick this time.)

Surprise! Here I am again, partly out of guilt for being so remiss and partly because I will be gone all weekend to Michigan where we will see our kids and our Infinitely More Adorable Than Normal little boys, as well as attend Bookstock ’11 in Livonia. The latter is a gigantic week long book sale held in a shopping mall that sounds like great fun, but is actually not. The preview begins early Sunday morning and from what I hear the campers arrive by four. It’s only about a half hour from our daughter’s house, but there is no way we are going to show up that early. As it is, we will have to creep out of the house like a pair of mice to keep the little guys from waking up. Tyler has built-in Grandar – the second I move a muscle he catapults out of bed faster than Jonathan Horton off the balance beam.

Last year this sale was held in April, but it was just a week after baby Dylan arrived from Korea, so we ended up bringing our daughter and both little people along. We got there about fifteen minutes after it started and the scanners were already blazing like six-guns. We really didn’t get much – the only thing I can remember being in love with was a gorgeous set of art prints on laid paper published by a NYC gallery. The only reason I got it is because it lacked an ISBN. There seemed to be very few older books and specialty items like that in Livonia, sad to say.

Anyway, today I’m rather cranky and forlorn. Last night I went to a NOBS meeting and the talk centered on the Cleveland book fair to be held in the fall. Oh, it sounds so wonderful – piano music, a buffet, a lovely setting, and lots more dealers than in Akron. AND WE CAN’T GO! Eric will be at a show in North Carolina that whole week. It may be for the best actually because unless I get some good stuff in here I could end up with less inventory than I have now, as I’ve been selling my best off the office floor since I got back from Akron. But it still left me feeling like the girl who doesn’t get to go the prom.

THEN, to add insult to injury, I have not attended a decent estate sale in so long I am begin to think I hallucinated all the ones from the past. And wouldn’t you know – it’s the perverse nature of things – this weekend there’s a Saturday sale that not only has old books, but even some antiquarian ones, as well as old magazines and ephemera in stacks and piles and heaps (I saw the pictures). But I won’t be here Saturday because we are leaving early for Michigan to go to Tyler’s soccer game at noon which I would not miss for all the paper in Ohio. Little boys are only little boys for a short while and as much as I want to go to this sale I won’t sell out my little guy who plays the game with all his heart and soul. Oh, and while I’m kvetching I might as well add that Sunday is the Medina flea market too, the source of much ephemera, including this catalog I got there last time. If you’re into furnaces, I’m telling you this one would have you in need of smelling salts.

But things are what they are, so I guess we will try to pull a rabbit out of the hat in Livonia. Every sale is different, so maybe getting there on time and knowing the lay-out will result in a better outcome this year. One can only hope. Meanwhile, I could use some cheese with this whine. A wheel of Montery jack with jalepenos oughtta do it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Out of the Ball Park?

I have been so hit and miss lately with the blog, but this cold has knocked me for a loop. Monday I was supposed to go see a collection in a Cleveland suburb, but had to send Eric on his own, as I was actually dizzy – or should I say dizzier than usual? :-) The sinus pressure had shifted to my left ear and left me looking like the remnants of a frat party at four a.m.. But by yesterday the instability was gone, though the family room had acquired stacks of books that rivaled the ones that are STILL in Eric’s office. There was nothing to do but deal with them because the furniture store delivery people were due at noon with Eric’s birthday recliner-that-doesn’t- look -like-a-recliner. Most of the books are headed to the store with a fair portion to the antiques mall, but I did list maybe half a dozen online. The ones I didn’t get to are stashed in – yep, the office.

Actually, I wasn’t expecting too much out of this collection because I knew that a well-known dealer, who has since gone out of business, had looked at it some years ago and of course bought the best of it back then. Since most books aren’t exactly soaring like eagles these days there was no need to jump through flaming hoops to get there. So I settled in on the couch and read a novel, barely thinking about whether or not we’d end up with anything. I knew if the price were right Eric would buy them because that’s just the way he is, but quality is another matter altogether. So I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

As I’ve mentioned before, the antiques mall allows us to buy things we never would for our online venues. So it was fun to pull out goodies that would be sure-fire winners there. I just sold a small four volume leather set of Le Miserables at the mall Saturday and now have a handsome two volume set with highly decorated spines to replace it, as well as a gorgeous small leather set of  Kipling's The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book. There’s a lot of other stuff too, but you get the picture. So let’s skip to the good part, okay?

Late in the game, just as I was ready to drag the last of the unsorted boxes out of the room, I noticed something small nestled in at the side of one of them. Show me a small thing and I am compelled to look at it, so I wiggled it out from its resting place against the spines, took one look, and snapped to life faster than Lazarus. I had never seen it before, or even heard of it, but I knew with every fiber of my being that we had ourselves a good one. Quickly, I looked it up on bookfinder only to find two copies – one priced at $600 and one at $180. So which was right? No clue. I emailed a bookseller friend who specializes in baseball books and attached a couple photos. To my amazement he’d never seen it before, but thought I should price it at around $400. It seemed high to me though, so I googled it just to see if anything else came up and, sure enough, it did. An auction house had just reported selling it in March for $425.

Will it really sell for that online? Or is it pie in the sky? Who knows? I have a friend who bought an amazingly beautiful and scarce Haggadah at an estate sale last year and, despite lowering the price multiple times, still has it. I’m enough of a pragmatist to know that online prices are not always reflective of reality on either end of the spectrum. But past experience has also taught me that it’s better to err on the high side than the low when faced with an unknown. If you’ve dug back into my old posts you already know the story of the wildly rare and fabulous golf brochure that I mistakenly, stupidly sold for $25 a couple years ago.

Once you set a price you can always come down if someone makes an offer. But go up? Not so much.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Mad Hatter's Book Party

I’m still pretty croaky, but at least I have a voice, so last night I decided to sally forth at the last minute to a book sale which goes on record as the strangest one to date. This was the preview, which of course means that the crowd should have been as thick as locusts, but was not. There were exactly three people there – me, Eric, and another guy who came in after we’d been perusing the offerings for at least  half an hour. The minute we walked in I felt like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole and landing smack in front of the Mad Hatter. He was very nice, this Mad Hatter, and probably is a genius, but his explanations of everything looped around and around the needle of comprehension like thread for a French knot. I apologize for the embroidery analogy, but every time he talked multi-colored strands of crewel embroidery wool went in and out, up and down, in my head. And every time he stopped I was left with a new psychedelic abstraction.

My favorite by far was the one about the membership. This one was shaped like a huge woolly pinwheel spinning dizzily in flashes of silver, orange, red and purple first clockwise, then without warning – zing! -- counterclockwise. Words cannot adequately describe it even though words created it. All I know is it had something to do with benefits, books nobody could see, an accordian book, a rare book of which he has three copies, 200 titles, validated parking, swarms of collectors, a neurosurgeon, Thor Heyerdahl, email notices, sellers making money, and eight thousand books. We bought said membership – that is, ERIC bought said membership – but God alone knows what it will actually provide. At least it should be interesting, if less than rewarding in any tangible way.

I know, I know – oh, she of little faith. But I’m telling you, you had to have been there. I'd swear on a stack of reference books that one of his colorful abstractions indicated that special volumes were priced so that dealers could make a profit -- or at least that’s what it seemed to be saying once I parted the complex curlicues and shed a beam of light on it. So imagine my shock when we trooped behind the Hatter into a small area where books were piled three-deep in low shelves and many-deep in boxes on top of the shelves. Very soon I found an antiquarian title about Venetian gardens that tempted me sorely, but at $200, I needed to find something I recognized in order to get a feel for his pricing structure. Everything in me screamed “Danger! Danger!” at deafening decibels, but I loved the book and wanted desperately for the price to be right.

It wasn’t long before I found several books to serve as benchmarks. WOWZA! Here was a very nice first edition Marguerite de Angeli’s Petite Suzanne from 1937 with its dustjacket. I’d sold one for $30 awhile back and figured, as I always do, that the price had dropped since then. And indeed it had – to $15 in like condition. His price? Forty dollars. And over there was a two volume annotated Sherlock Holmes in less than desirable condition ($75 his price, $25 internet price for a nicer set). And a copy of Johnny Gruelle, Creator of Raggedy Ann and Andy fine in first edition SIGNED by author, Patricia Hall ($40 his price, $30-35 internet price). When I say that the latter came as close to reality as I was able to find, believe it.

“Didn’t like any, huh?” he asked as we returned to the main room carrying nothing.

“Well, we liked some of them but …” How to put it delicately? I swallowed hard and squeaked, “Um, the thing is, there isn’t much room for profit there.” (Am I the queen of understatement, or what?)

“No, not back there!” he agreed cheerfully. In fact, this seemed to tickle him so much he actually chuckled. “The collectors come for those. They’re all over them!”

And where exactly would these collectors be tonight, I wondered. But all I said was, “I guess I was under the impression that there was a bit of a margin.”

Was he offended? Nope, not a whit. In fact, he was downright merry. The needle flashed, the yarn spun, and the colors swirled yet again. But this time he created a canvas upon which I  completely, totally, vividily understood one very important thing. Another dealer who belongs to NOBS and is respected in the bookselling community gives him grief about prices on an ongoing basis.

“Oh, she’s ruthless!” he said, grinning widely. “But I always tell her I can’t do it.”

Equal parts vindication and exhilaration bubbled up inside me at this news, but I said nothing, only nodded, which was fine by him, as he was happily slashing the prices of the two sleepers I’d found in the regular stacks and the eight Eric had found there for the store. While he was at it he tossed in the membership, validated the parking, and pronounced the final total $27. What a deal! And it didn’t even  count the free idea for this blog, or  the phantasmagoria -- which itself was pretty priceless.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Silent Bookseller

Eric is back from Maryland, but together we’re not a whole person. The weekend was busy and social for me – much more so than usual. Five friends in four days and one of them twice! By late Saturday afternoon I had laryngitis – silent as a lamb -- though I still had dinner with my neighbor Linda Saturday night and walked five miles with Nancy in the drizzle on Sunday, whispering all the way. But Monday morning was crunch time. I got up convinced I would never be well again. Actually I’m still not and neither is Eric who has the same thing minus the laryngitis. We sound like a TB ward back in the 30’s over here.

There IS one thing that’s good about it all though – the forced silence. It wraps itself around me like a cocoon and I am strangely peaceful inside it. It’s like melting into a hot bath – complete surrender of body and soul. Most people would say that I am outgoing, talkative – VERY talkative – and I am, but only sometimes. Years ago an Episcopal priest friend asked me if I’d ever taken the Meyers-Brigg personality test. When I said I hadn’t he commented that even though he gave the test, in my case he didn’t need to do it in order know the outcome -- I’m an introvert masquerading as an extrovert. At the time I secretly thought he was crazy, but as the years go by I’ve come to the realization that he was dead-on right. I could easily wind up being one of those old ladies who hide in their houses and get dottier and dottier from lack of social interaction. I’d carry on fascinating conversations in my head, eat popcorn for dinner, read until my eyes crossed, and write endless novels that perhaps amuse only me. Maybe I’d even take up meditation, do a lot of messy art projects and not clean  up for maybe a week, and cook things from Julia Child’s cookbook just to see if it’s worth it.

The other weird thing about where I am at this moment is my complete lack of concern about my limitations as a bookseller. Right now I have orders that should have gone out yesterday, but didn’t. Normally that would be enough to launch me through the air like a torpedo and deposit me one short step from the men in the white coats. I also didn’t have a book that was ordered on ABE yesterday, but instead of emitting a cascade of anguished lamentations I clicked the previously sold button with less concern than I’d give a hangnail. Who IS this woman pretending to be me? She’s hanging out in my sweats and she looks like death warmed over, but other than that I think she’s a total fraud. If I had the energy I’d even look into it. But the thing is, I kinda like her. If Eric wasn't huddled in bed with a blanket over his head he’d like her too.

Maybe once she feels a little better I can ply her with pinot grigio and black licorice (probably not at the same time). Who knows? It might keep her around awhile.