Monday, July 30, 2012

Path Through the Brambles

Okay then – here’s the story of my last talk held last Wednesday night at the Highland Square library, the one that left me wired like an electric eel. I showed up with a huge hunch that something different was about to happen, but no clue as to what. So when the first person in the door could have been at any of the other talks I’d given and fit right in I was taken aback. She was maybe seventy-something, a woman married to a collector who was thinking about maybe selling his  treasures – or not.  Wham!  A strange amalgam of mingled disappointment and relief cascaded over me, but it couldn’t have lasted longer than a nanosecond because right  behind her a whirlwind  blew in and took seats in the front row. Twenty-somethings, THREE of them,  two girls and a guy,  plus another girl on the opposite side of the room seated next to a woman about my age who emitted such good vibes I felt like I knew her.

Goodbye pink note cards with the planned talk – goodbye, goodbye for the third and final time. No way did these people want to hear about collecting books and paper, but if not that, then WHAT? I’d laid out the ephemera and they seemed to groove on it some, so I started with that and it went pretty well for maybe fifteen minutes. I had told them upfront to break in with any questions they had, so the girl sitting next to Good Vibes asked me about the collectability of art books. I talked about that for a few minutes, but I knew I was off track. The expression on her face told me that  somehow I had not understood what she was asking. Could it be that  …..?

“Do you mean handmade books, or altered books?” I asked, breaking off in mid-sentence.. (Oh wow – say yes, say yes!).

“Yes!” she said. Her whole being snapped to life and emanated laser beams  “That’s IT! I was wondering whether you think they might be collectible.”

Never had this thought crossed my mind, but all of a sudden I knew she was on to something important. “YES,” I said without a modicum of  hesitation. “I believe they will, depending upon their quality.”  

It’s TRUE. I think it really is true and I am totally jazzed by it. The whirlwind  too gathered energy and suddenly we were all one whirlwind, talking, talking, talking. No longer was I GIVING a talk. I was in a conversation and they were telling me stuff and I was telling them stuff and it was so exciting I was practically in orbit. I fell in love with altered books the first time I saw one. I even tried making one  twice, but wrecked the first one and criticized the second into a premature death. I burn  to try it again. In fact, for days it had been on my mind and now, there at the library, it flew out into the room like a swallow that had been hiding in the rafters.

The book as physical object. The book as Art. The book as counterculture.  Yes! I want to be part of this! One of the most exciting things they told me about was book erasures, a subject brought up  by the lone guy in the whirlwind. I had toyed with this too not knowing it was a real thing, much less a happening thing, a thing with a name. To make an erasure book the artist obscures all but a few selected words on a page which cumulatively become a poem, a story, or the expression of a thought. Imagine combining it with the techniques of the altered book.

Very soon I will have one to show you because I am determined to make one -- one which I I will neither wreck nor criticize before it’s even born. It was no accident, this talk. I was supposed to be there and learn about this. I KNOW it. I also know that it was a gift, the path I've been seeking through the brambles of technologoical and creative wilderness. If I'm to find the light I need to follow it. And so I will.
(Above are two miniature handmade books written, illustrated, bound and signed by Emily  Poor who gave them to me at the library. The other is a handmade book Eric bought a couple years ago. The second photo shows a book erasure with collage I just made. It's a poem from a college literary magazine of the 20's. I quickly redid it to read as follows:

crimson sun arise.
waves of morning light
summer lay soft
We breathed another day
Yet there remained
Some memory of the night
A wistful something -- half surprise

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Free at Last!

It feels like centuries since I last wrote, primarily because I have been sequestered in the basement working on an art project for most of that time. I left alibris as I said I was going to, but it wasn’t all that easy. Turns out you have to email them to close your account. They immediately zinged back a note encouraging me to switch to the second payment plan which now allows you to keep your whole inventory and pay as you go. But it’s not about payment plans, it’s about ideology. So, I said thanks, but no thanks, and got out of Dodge. They had me off the air in an hour! So much for thirteen years., huh?

Oh, well, I really don’t care. In fact, the following day I woke up feeling blissful with a sense of having crawled out from captivity which is why I decided to make something to celebrate. The contractor was temporarily off banging on somebody else’s house and I had bought four canvas boards for $5 at an estate sale which clamored for attention. I thought I was close to done the first day I worked on it, but soon realized that I had a serious design flaw and boldly ripped it up, sacrificing  two amazing antique design elements which I shouldn’t have used because they didn’t belong in it, but plowed on with anyway because I wanted to make them work. Is there a lesson there, or what? I finally got it right yesterday though and here it is above. It’s mixed media, with the top portion consisting of layered white  tissue paper painted with watered acrylics. I made the block letters at the top from tiny scraps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Christmas catalog. The entire section below came from magazines and other modern catalogs with the exception of the woman in green on the right – she was an illustration for a short story in a magazine from the 30’s.I still need one more tiny piece circling into the arch on the left instead of away from it, but I can’t find the right thing just yet.  Look closely at the jungly part though and see if a theme emerges.

The other thing I did this week was call the antiques mall about the large booth opposite mine. It’s $120 a month more than the one I have, but it was rented the day before I called. That’s okay though because they said I could have the next available, but I told them I want to wait for one in my own row, so it may be awhile. But that’s okay too because it gives me time to stockpile merchandise. This time it feels totally right to forge ahead – in fact, I feel like maybe  what happened there this month is a portent of good things to come. For the first time ever my mall sales trumped my online sales, making this month  the best one I have ever had there.

This is a short post I know, but I wanted to check in and  tell you what’s going on and show you what I’ve been doing. I have a great story to tell you about last Thursday’s library talk waiting in the wings (a TOTALLY different experience!), so check back soon because I’m excited to write about it. Right now I’m off to walk with Nancy and then head to Akron with Eric to buy a mat for my new creation – the first ever done on a flat surface! – and various assorted art supplies. We have a Hobby Lobby here, but they aren’t open on Sunday and I really don’t like it anyway. So we are off to Pat Cattan’s, fondly known around these parts as Pakistan. Talk to you tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Opening A New Window

As I write this I smell like salad from having doused my sunburned neck with vinegar to stop the intense itch. It began last week at the Saline, Michigan Celtic festival inspite of #50 sunscreen which my youngest grandson adorably  calls “sunscream” and got angrier this weekend at the Irish music festival in Berea. Oddly, it’s worse in front than in back and makes me look faintly diseased, but of course things could be much worse. I could be peeling like old paint in a windstorm.

Actually I’m pretty happy today. Yesterday I finished the dreaded Ohio sales tax which is always worse in July  than in January because there are two forms in July – one for online sales and one for the Akron antiquarian show. Progress is also being made on the house, though I am far from getting the house BACK.  But I do appreciate my gorgeous new windows and an island with a Norwegian blue granite countertop so beautiful the Viking gods think it’s an altar.

This weekend I went to two estate sales which left me feeling as though Scotty beamed me up and dropped me off in the good old days. I spent $400, but I also got a lot of old books and paper at both. AND the very best thing I got was the cheapest – two dollars!. It’s a thin  hardback with just 36 pages written by Giovanni Baptista Lemperti in 1905  called The Technics of Bel Canto. The second I saw that baby I buzzed louder than a hive of hornets. There are anatomical drawings and much information from a great singing teacher on the art of Italian opera. Bel Canto means beautiful singing. Another cheapie I love is a little booklet called The Organ in Art, A Brief History, again from the early 1900’s. This one discusses artistically designed  organs made by the Wirsching Organ Company of Salem, Ohio and  designed by George A. Audsley and J. Burr Tiffany of The Art Organ Company of New York City. Both are scarce and the latter has great photographs.

I would estimate that half of what I bought will be listed online and the other half will go to the antiques mall. This month is shaping  up to be my best ever there, but of course part of it is due to the sale of the gorgeous green chairs. Still, it got me wondering about something I’ve toyed with before and never did. I have now decided to shut down alibris entirely and stick with ABE, Biblio, my own site, and my secret site and replace alibris by trading up to a bigger booth at the mall – not a SECOND booth as I’d been thinking about previously, but a bigger one. I have the bookcases now and there’s a booth open down my row again, but I still want to stockpile some more stuff first. At the rate these things turn over that old sense of urgency no longer harangues me, so I can take my time. I have no idea what it will actually cost, but I suspect  the big one will be at least $100 per month more than the one I have, but alibris costs $40 a month, plus 15-20 per cent in commission and is becoming less and less viable for me due to my proliferation of old stuff. Any site which asks you when you list an item by hand if you really mean to price it in three figures is REALLY not geared to the collector market. I think maybe this move could free up some time for me to write again and do my art both of which I feel strongly drawn to right now.
If it sounds like I’m easing out of the book biz banish the thought. What I’m doing is easing into  a whole new exciting change. Never will I ease out. In fact, I’ll have to be CARRIED out. All I’m saying is I need to cut the stress and be creative again. I don’t enjoy alibris and their many affiliates one iota and I’m at a place in my life where I no longer feel a need to play with people and entities I don’t like.
It reminds me of the old Bob Dylan song, “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.” For a long time I’ve felt that there might be a better way for me to be a bookseller. Now I’m finally ready to fling open a new window and see what the breeze blows in.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Talking Books at the Library

Two library talks down and one left to go next week! It’s been a very interesting experience  so far, but I’m not sure what to conclude from it, so I guess I’ll tell you about it and perhaps gain some insight in the process. I had planned the first talk with the emphasis on book collecting with ephemera as the secondary topic, but as soon as the first two people walked into the room my entire plan went up in a puff of smoke. The small crowd – about half a dozen people – did not collect either books OR ephemera, nor did they plan to! So why were they there, you might ask. I asked myself that very question as I took a deep breath and winged it. All I can say is it’s a good thing I’m a prolific talker or I would have been toast.

I had brought a ton of ephemera and a handful of carefully chosen books, so at least there were props to fall back on, but right out of the gate one couple in particular asked surprisingly insightful questions about the future of books and how the internet has affected book prices. Both had dabbled in books and paper over the years, but are older now and have no plans to take it up again. Like ALL of the audience, they’d come to my program for one reason and one reason only – they love library programs! First of all, library programs are free and, secondly, they often focus on oddball stuff, so an evening spent learning about something new trumps TV any night in the week. It’s also important to note that with the exception of one thirty-something and one forty-something (both women) the 60-plus age bracket ruled.

Interestingly enough though,  the gap between young and old was not as huge as you might expect. Though the younger ones probably read more, they were reading new books (the subject of Fifty Shades of Gray even arose)! But  one did perk up when I discussed vintage magazines and the other mentioned that she’d impulsively bought a scrapbook from the 20’s filled with gardening articles. Of course two people’s experiences are not enough to help me reach any meaningful suppositions, but both do speak to the trend I saw at the 2011 antiquarian book and paper show  when young people were the ones  snapping up my ephemera items. I’m not sure I can say that the evening made any significant impact on the audience, but everybody had fun and so did I.
That being said, I happily went off to my second talk last night, this time in a less affluent area, but certainly not an impoverished one. I showed up with the same heavy box of props and great enthusiasm, only this time with  no agenda. Forget that original talk I’d so carefully planned!  If needed, I’d dust it off, otherwise I’d ad lib.  The audience was slightly bigger, but there wasn’t a young person to be found -- EVERYONE was 60-plus. One couple considered themselves more amassers than collectors, but did feel that perhaps they had some books and postcards which might have value, so we talked a bit about the dispersal of a collection. On the flip side though one of the older women in the group still actively collected paper and had no intention of stopping. She figured that she’d taken care of her kids a lot of years so they could take care of “a little paper” of hers someday! Another woman  seriously collected glass, but asked questions about the collectibility of Pearl Buck and old cookbooks. At last -- some traction!

But even those who were not collectors were internet savvy and enjoyed learning about ephemera, some of which brought back memories. We even talked about collecting it forward instead of backwards. Every day ephemera comes into our homes – most of it not worthy of being kept, but some of it surprisingly worthy. Of course due to age none of them would reap any financial benefit from doing it, but they still seemed to like the idea of hanging on to the printed word for future collectors.  The concern for the future of the written word -- both printed AND handwritten -- was universal in this group. Not only did they understand that it was in jeopardy, but also knew exactly what forces threatened it and what the impact might be for future generations. In summation, it was a smart, fun group which rocked and rolled in Mogadore!

I still have one talk left to give, but instead of expecting more of the same, I’m once again finding myself reluctant to predict anything. The upcoming area is urban whereas the other two were not, and has a reputation for being an “arty” place, both factors which could possibly  skew results in some unknown way. I’ll report back after it’s done, but for now I’d say  that despite the small attendance and the fact that I reached very few younger people (and not all the many older ones) I’m still glad I did it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Notes From the Dust Bowl

Here in the Dust Bowl life is getting interesting. Not only can you write your name with your finger on any surface in my house, but the scent that wafts through the air is Eau de Wood, a lovely smell unless there is immediate sawing going on, in which case face masks are strongly encouraged. I’m not really complaining – just whining a little – because I am so anxious to have it all done. We have the world’s nicest and best contractor, so I shouldn’t even utter one tiny negative thing, but the truth is, I WANT MY HOUSE BACK!!!! I want to be here all by myself screaming at the computer when needed, slouching around in my in pjs all morning if I want, and even lolling in the bathtub just before Eric gets home. There IS one  bright spot though --  the kitchen will be ours again this week. As I write this, World’s Best Contractor  is installing the new island and tomorrow the granite countertop is coming and then he will put up new pendant lights. After that we will still need to do a little painting ourselves, but we can at least scratch one thing off the list. And in six more weeks or so it will ALL be done.

Today I don’t really have time to worry about it though because I am preparing for three library talks and the first one is tonight. Remember back when I was doing publicity for the antiquarian book fair and signed up to give programs about collecting books and ephemera in the digital age hoping to get some gigs before the show? Sadly, I didn’t succeed because everybody wanted them to tie into their summer reading programs in July. So now it suddenly became July which means it’s time to pay the piper. Actually, I'm pretty revved up and ready to roll, but wondering whether people really  participate in such events in the summer. It would seem like you’d get a better crowd in the fall or spring, but it is what it is, so I will sally forth laden with ephemera and high spirits.

I looked myself up on each library website yesterday to see if I was still viable and, if so, what exactly they had called my talk and how they’d explained it. Just as I suspected, each one is a little bit different. Two veer toward book collecting and one is strong on ephemera. I love the title they gave that one --  “What Is Ephemera and Why Should I Care?” Yeah, one could wonder about that, couldn’t one! Hopefully when I pull my fifty carefully hand- picked goodies out of the box they’ll be stampeding to the next flea market to get in on the craze. It’s been fun preparing, though a  bit hard to decide what to bring for show and tell.
When I was writing I used to give talks all the time – at libraries, schools, bookstores, organizations, book groups, conferences and even once at the American Booksellers’ Association (talk about STRESS!). But I haven’t had a gig in probably ten years, so I should probably  be anxious, but I’m strangely not. I love this stuff so much that it fuels my enthusiasm and excitement to do it. At least I hope that will be the case! I want to talk about the difference between amassing and collecting, the reasons to collect, how to collect, and how to store and display your collection. With the ephemera I will also talk about what ephemera IS and why, for example,  something as pedestrian as old luggage labels can shed light on what it was like to vacation during the Golden Age of Travel, as well as how ephemera can deepen your BOOK collection. (See luggag labels below)

I also have lots of stories of course  – I LOVE stories – but  I have be careful not to spin too many at the risk of not offering enough solid information. Once I did a storytelling program at the west Akron Border’s bookstore. A blizzard raged outside, and for awhile it looked like I’d be telling stories to the wall which I actually thought might be okay with me since I had a massive case of stage fright for some reason. But then they  came -- lots of theys came -- including an entire book club. Nancy was there with me and it turned out to be a  blast. A strange energy took hold and everybody got in the groove, telling stories and laughing until perfect strangers became instant frends. By the time the store was supposed to close they had to flick the lights three times to get them to go home!

That’s what I’d like to see happen tonight. But I'll be happy if people  just show up and have a good time.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Selling the Savoy

It never ceases to amaze me how many quirks I have. Just when I think I’m finally beginning to mellow out up pops evidence to the contrary. A few posts ago I told you about the fabulous Savoy Cocktail Book and even provided music  -- Stompin’ At the Savoy by the incomparable Benny Goodman. I totally loved this book, so maybe that explains why I had a conniption when it sold yesterday. The funny part is I forgot the contractor was here because he wasn’t banging on anything at the time, though it could be that I would have done what I did even if he’d been smashing the wall down. Initially, I was excited to see the order pop up on ABE until I realized  that the book had sold to one of the most prestigious dealers in the country. In that moment I completely forgot that I wasn’t in the house alone and screamed “NOOOOOOO!” at the computer. Honestly, you’d have thought an intruder was dragging me out of here by the hair.

Why? I don’t know why. Well, maybe I do, but It’s complicated. First of all, I'm not talking about  the copy I showed you here – it’s the nicer one. Secondly, prices are all over the map for this book ranging from $400-plus to $135 on various sites for the same edition (the first). There was a day when I’d have held out for highest price, but as we all know, today you can sit at the bottom of the list until you’ve prmanently priced yourself right off the planet. After arguing mightily with myself about it I finally decided to go with $200. There was no foxing, but it did show a few small edge chips, fading to the publisher’s name on the spine, and a name at the top of the title page. Still, I had a few misgivings about it , so I also listed it on my secret site where I can usually do better. Surprisingly though,  it generated little initial interest, so I gave up and stuck with the  $200. But here’s the thing – if a private person bought it for $200 I’d have been fine with that price. The problem was that it was a dealer – and not just any dealer – but a DEALER.

Of course, there are two ways you can look at this. You can take umbrage with arbitrage (which I engage in myself on a regular basis so that would be hypocritical), or you can say to yourself, “wow, I just sold this book to a highly knowledgeable and respected dealer.” Sure he’ll sell it for at least twice what he paid me, but it also bears noting that  I got it in one of the recent collections we bought and on a per book basis paid $2 for it, so the mark-up was two hundred percent. WHERE do you get a two hundred per cent mark-up these days? Of course there’s commission to pay but, even so, I did fine. So what’s the problem then? It repeatedly takes me awhile to figure this one out, but it’s truly not about the money. Well, it IS about the money, but not that I felt cheated. See? I told you it was complicated. (NOTE: Saturday Evening Post kindly sent tme an email to let me know that it was not 200 per cent -- but 9900%.!!!!!!!!!!!! My math skills remain truly abysmal!)
The problem is this though. I do not have, nor will I ever have, the ability to sell this book for what I should get out of it. A.) I don’t have a store in a major metropolitan location B.) I don’t have ABAA accreditation C.) I don’t have decades of experience and a wide reputation for high quality inventory and D.) I don’t show my books at major antiquarian shows because I don’t have sufficient reliable inventory to sign up in advance.  In other words, I’m a small-time seller with a burning desire to be more than that.

 As I’ve told you, when I first began I was strictly a commodity seller. It wasn’t until I bought books at the Lillian Knight auction in 2007 that I underwent a profound  epiphany while  sitting on my kitchen floor surrounded by stacks of books from her collection --  Small Italian Villas and Farmhouses (1920); Sketches and Designs by Stanford White (1920); Into the Brazilian Wilderness by Theodore Roosevelt, 1st ed. 1914; etc. etc.  I had had expensive books before of course, but nothing like these. These had age and a beauty that I had never experienced in my life with  the exception of Kipling’s From Sea To Sea, Letters Of Travel, 1899 (two volumes In original rare slipcase) . I knew as I sat there that afternoon that I never, ever wanted  to sell books with ISBNS again unless they were over-the-top wonderful. Of course it didn’t quite work out that way, though I did shift the bulk of my inventory to non-ISBNs and have consistently kept it there. Most of the time I’m happy with the way things played out, but every once in awhile, like yesterday, a jolt out of the blue will immediately flood me with complicated emotions.

This time, as always, I regained my equilibrium by nightfall, but it’s only good until next time -- and of course there WILL be a next time. There always is -- always.  But the bottom line is this. Though it may not sound like it sometimes, I am very grateful to be able to do this thing at all and do it on my own terms in an age when books and technology struggle in an uneasy alliance. I would of course love to embody all of the attributes mentioned above and would maybe even MORE love it if I could break loose from every single one of the listing sites. But the truth is that none of those things are going to happen.

And yet ....  What about  that old saying “never say never”?  I’ve always kind of liked that because it’s practical without shutting out possibility. So I’m inclined to say that while none of it’s likely  to happen some part of it could happen.

If all the stars lined up just right and the moon was in Aquarius something could.

Maybe anything could.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Star Books

It’s  so hot in Ohio I’m tempted to try frying an egg on the sidewalk. I am not complaining though because today  I am blessedly, ecstatically ALONE with the books. All week I have lived with contractors and constant noise and interruption, none of which was their fault., but it’s still a relief to be back to myself again for a couple days. One thing this work on the house has taught me (again) is that I am really a hermit at heart. I love people, love socializing (sometimes), but can spend hours and hours, days and days, alone without complaint.

So today is truly a blessing, made more so by an interesting sale on ABE. I mentioned last time I wrote that I’d sold a gargantuan book measuring 33” tall (it’s actually just 27” – that was the wrapped size) and was bummed because I felt sure that the high cost of postage would kill the sale. It didn’t though and not only did I sell the book, but I learned a great deal about it from my charming Swiss customer. But first a little back story.

I bought this book maybe four or five  years ago at an estate sale at an old house that had a radio tower on the property. The books were fabulous and I bought heavily over two days, mostly stuff on old radio, astronomy, and printing and printing inks. There were two of these oversized astronomy books and I had Atlas Borealis and another seller had Atlas Elipticalis. Both were painstakingly drawn by Antonin Becvar and published in 1958 and 1962 respectively by the Publishing House of the Czechoslovak Academy of Science. Neither book has any text whasoever --  just  color plates and every plate is a variation of what you see in the photo below.  

Atlas Borealis described itself thus: "Contains all stars with known precise positions, without limitation as to the magnitude, in the declination zones +30 degrees to the north pole. Stellar magnitudes are indicated in the photographic scale which range by half magnitudes, stellar spectra are represented by six colors. Double and multiple stars down to the joint magnitude of the components 10.0 are included. Stars with the distance not exceeding 60" are plotted as binaries, but the components of binaries with the distance greater than 60" are plotted separately. Variable stars down to the photographic magnitude 10.0 at the maximum brightness are included. Stereoscopic binaries and eclipsing variable stars are included in a uniform fashion. The boundaries of the constellations have been reduced to the equinox of the atlas, 1950.0"

Scintillating, yes? Actually, yes! While I admit to a profound ignorance of such advanced astronomy everything in me buzzed at the sight of these books. I could hardly stand it that the other guy had Atlas Elipticalis. But then – miracle of miracles – just as I got in line to check out he came over to me and said, “You want this? I thought it was better than it is. I don’t really think it’s anything, but I thought I’d ask you if you want it.” Oh, I wanted it all right. In fact, I had to curl my toes to keep my feet on the ground.

I sold Atlas Borealis almost immediately in my ebay store (this was back when life was “gooder” on ebay) and shipped it off to Japan. But Atlas Elipticalis hung around in the closet for a couple years until this past Thursday when I rediscovered it and listed it on ABE. It sold immediately and after accepting the exorbitant shipping cost,  the buyer, an amateur astronomer and professional musician, told me a bang-up good story about it. It seems that the musician, John (Milton) Cage, noted for his wildly experimental compositions, created an orchestral piece named after this book – Atlas Elipticalis.  Cage had discovered Becvar’s Sky Books at the observatory at Wesleyan University where  he taught and used this one to compose his score. He did it by overlaying star charts with musical staves and using chance operations to determine pitch and construct “constellations” within the part of each instrument. The beauty of it is that though it contains  86 parts, any part can be played at any time according to the conductor or performer’s discretion.

The music debuted in Montreal in 1962, but the American debut in New York in 1964 with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Bernstein is the zinger. The musicians refused to follow the score and Bernstein didn’t seem to care. Some say he was even part of the sabotage. Needless to say, the performance was not as expected. But here's the shocker -- when the audience booed Cage as  he walked out on stage the musicians  joined in!

I found a YouTube recording if you’d like to hear it as it should be played. While I don't love it,  I don’t hate it either, and definitely find it fascinating how it came to be. I also think that Bernstein and company could have been a little nicer. But hit the play button and  judge for yourself …

P.S. Saturday Evening Post, I think you might like this post!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Rockets Red Glare

Hope you all had a great Fourth of July! It was different for us this year because the holiday fell in the middle of the week, so no  kids from Michigan or Maryland.  They were here earlier, but had to go home early due to work. So we ended up inviting Darwin, our friend the antiques dealer, for dinner on the third. I used to be quite the cook, but not so much anymore so it was with great trepidation that I took on a scary menu --  corn and blueberry salad with jalepeno, red onion, and a dressing flavored with cumin; broiled salmon; and a pasta dish with asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms,  shallots, white wine , basil, garlic and chicken broth. I even made the sauce and broiled the salmon WHILE the two guys sat at the island in the kitchen and talked to me! I don’t even think  I could do that in my prime. Anyway, we topped it off with a mixed berry cobbler and vanilla ice cream. Here’s the weird part though. I bought a bottle of pinot grigio and for the first time ever got a very BAD one. Fortunately, I had the wine our oldest daughter got us for our anniversary, so I pulled a white from that. Bottom line –the cook’s still got it!

We had storms all day though, so it was fabulous to have a lovely evening to sit by the lake and watch the fireworks. But imagine the shock when we found ourselves the only people out there! In the old days we had so many people and parties that every time an especially good rocket exploded our side of the lake would say “oooooh!” and the other side would chime in with an antiphonal “Ahhhhhh!” This year we oohed and aahhed by ourselves.

But enough of that. On with the books! The photos above  are for you Hilda as per your request to see my booth at the mall. As you probably can tell, there is another row of shelves down the left side out of range of the photo. The holiday started off with a bang on Sunday, so I was feeling pretty chipper, but, sadly,  that turned out to be the last hurrah. We sold stuff, but nothing great after that one day. Last year we had a run of several great days over the Fourth, but the holiday was positioned better in the week then for travelers. Eric noticed the same phenomenon at the store. I did, however, sell two books off my Fourth of July display in the middle so I’m feeling rather retailerish. Move over Barnes and Noble – Garrison House Books  is in TOWN.  Well, actually outside of town – but just barely.

Online sales were brisker than one would expect, but nothing great except for an order from ABE for a book titled Atlas Elipticalis which is 33” long and 23” wide and is supposed to go to Switzerland. Yeah, like that will happen. Goodbye one hundred dollars. I’m not even going to think about it because the 3rd was spent in a tizzy of shipping  worries while I was cooking due to a lost MUST HAVE order. A woman bought a book on B&N and had it shipped priority, but it failed to arrive and was needed by her company as a gift for a foreign dignitary.  Delivery confirmation showed it had left the post office, but after that it seemed to have fallen into the Black Hole of Calcutta. I only had the one so I offered to order her another from amazon with overnight shipping with  the agreement that she would pay the B&N bill on the first one and I would pay for the second one.  I ordered it Saturday night with no problem, but then on Sunday I saw that I had accidentally typed an additional number in the address. Oh such anguish you cannot imagine! So I ordered ANOTHER one, got it right, and got confirmation from Amazon that it would be delivered Monday morning. Only on Monday morning the first thing I saw was an apology from amazon saying they couldn’t do it, but would by the 6th. At this point the anguish skyrocketed,  ricocheted off Venus, and took a hard right in deep space.

To add to the fun beneath the amazon email  was a note from the buyer telling me how wonderful I was. Of course I wasn’t even so-so,  but as luck would have it, the storms began at that  precise moment, so I had to shut down the computer before I could tell her the truth about my wonderfulness. The whole day stayed terrible replete with tornado warnings and high wind. I cooked, I worried, I cooked, I worried. And meanwhile the house shook with the sound of demolition, as contractors smashed and bashed our master bath down to the studs. We’re  having a lot of work done on the house, so I will be living with this for some time which is fine, but NOT when I am ready to jump out of my skin please.

Finally at three o’clock the sun came out, so I fired up the computer and began composing a mea culpa note to the buyer.  But wait! What’s this? Up popped a note from HER thanking me for the safe arrival of her overnighted book. For this the United Stated Post Office deserves a box of Godiva chocolates. They got it there on time even with the extra six in the address and all! Amazon canceled the second order with not  so much as a whimper, so by the time Darwin showed up all was right with the world.

I just thought of something. No WONDER I was pouring wine into the pan, sprinkling flour, and whisking like Julia while engaging in snappy repartee. After all I’d been through, what was a sauce?