Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I was distressed to read that one of my college profs died in August, thrown from his vehicle and NOT wearing a seatbelt.

Dick Caram taught English and creative writing at Stephens College when I was there, and I took his poetry writing class. He was a good teacher and a good guy, and a talented writer, and it is a MASSIVE waste.

I don't want to hear ONE more story about any smart person dying for such a stupid reason, so WEAR YOUR BLOODY SEATBELTS, friends. Got that?!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Potentially hazardous

Twice a week we pack the items we've sold and take them to the post office, where they know us well by now, and know that most of our packages contain books. Still, they are required to ask the standard question about our shipping : "Are any of these liquid, fragile, perishable, or potentially hazardous?" After we made the joke about how "Haha! Books are always hazardous! Ideas are dangerous!" a few times, it got old, but the truth remains. They are.

In 1989 the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his novel, The Satanic Verses. It was mainstream news, not "mere" book news, and got a lot of attention, with the local paper interviewing all in the book business to see if we were brave enough to defy any violent militants who hopped into town.

20 years later Rushdie is alive and so are all the booksellers and librarians 8~) who were brave enough to declare they would stock it anyway. It was truly scary, at least in major cities, at the time. Nobody knew what could happen. I kept this issue of the Barnes and Noble catalog, explaining their commitment to intellectual freedom, and I still admire their courage.

During Banned Books Week, here's to book peddlers everywhere who keep the light burning.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

One of those "Questions" memes

Well, at least I warned you in the post title!

I'm afraid I'd do these memes more if I liked the questions, but readers need not worry. I rarely like the questions. But I liked these. Thanks to Catherine, whose blog I found it on.


1. Please share one middle school memory. It can be good, bad, ugly, funny. Pictures or words, I don't care, just share.

In 7th grade, I fell madly, head-over-heels in love for the first time. I was a target for some bullying in junior high, and on this occasion, a guy who was usually not such a target was getting a loud raucous razzing from his "friends" for some reason. He just stood there with this "O good grief" look on his face, waiting for it to end, and then... our eyes met. For just one instant I saw that he understood what we pariahs went through. I fell. Major crush, but it was admiration from afar. Obviously no one, even the Cool People, was immune when hecklers could find a reason, but still, he was one of the Cool People and I wasn't. He really was a nice, smart guy. Except for one bad mistake much later in life, I actually had pretty good taste in guys.

2. What's your favorite Beatles song?

I'm Happy Just to Dance with You

3. If I asked you to describe your most comfortable outfit, what would it be?

Workout pants (without the actual workout), T-shirt, bedroom slippers.

4. Would you rather host a party or be a guest?

Be a guest. If people have a lousy time, it won't be my fault!

5. Do you think we will move completely from traditional books to digital ones, and if we do, are you OK with that?

I could survive it, but it's not my preference. Honestly, I think we will not. I think a high percentage of people who like reading like a book in their hands as much as I do. You'll notice that even vinyl records still have their fans, and I think books have a whole lot more fans.

6. Do you learn best by reading, listening or experiencing?

Experiencing, unfortunately. I don't retain heard information well, and while I love to read, I don't retain that kind of learning very well either on a first reading. Though re-reading is a much less painful experience than making hands-on mistakes and re-doing!

7. If you are (or when you were) single, what is the kiss of death for you concerning the opposite sex? (That is, what is one trait or behavior or habit or anything at all that immediately turns you off from considering that person a potential match for you?)

Disrespect for nature and nature's creatures.

8. Snacks. Salty or sweet?

Both! I can alternate eating chocolate and potato chips for hours.

9. Look around you in a four foot radius. What object is around you that you didn't realize was there or forgot was there? How long has it been there?

Hey, thanks! A five dollar bill I pulled out of the coupons/receipts/cashback wad of purse paper when I was balancing my checkbook last week. Forgot it was there in the pile of non-receipts.

10. What is your favorite Tom Cruise movie?

Not particularly a Cruise fan but Rain Man was very good.

(C'mon, let's get real here. My question:

What was your favorite Cary Grant movie?

My answer: Notorious.)

11. You buy a bottle of shampoo and discover that you don't like what it does to your hair at all. What do you do with that full bottle?

Pour it out and recycle the bottle.

12. Your favorite Fall comfort food?

Chili with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream. Corn bread on the side.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Memories of Hugo

It's hard to describe the downpour I woke up to in the pitch darkness of September 21, 1989. I've still never seen rain so hard, and it was only an edge of hurricane Hugo. At this point I was still on Hilton Head, where it never even hit.

But none of us knew that yet. It was looking like it would slam us, and evacuation was underway. We'd prepped the library the day before and closed early.

At 4AM I woke up to blackness and rain like I'd never seen. Pitch dark, the power now out, and torrential rain drumming straight down.

And no wind. Dead-still air and a downpour so heavy that it was truly eerie, like something out of science fiction.

I'd packed what I could in my tiny Tercel and I got outta there after saying a tearful goodbye to my beloved books, my adored stereo. Not that I'm prone to melodrama or anything. I was on the road by 5 AM. Even then, traffic crawled, but it became gridlock later when the evac order became mandatory, and I missed that.

Ever heard of the old Arabic tale about an appointment in Samarra? Because I went straight to what seemed like the most logical retreat. Way inland. Free of charge, because my parents kept an apartment there, so if the island got devastated, I wouldn't be paying hotel rates for days or weeks.

Charlotte, NC.

Quit laughing.

I got there mid-afternoon (Normally, the drive would have taken 5 hours). I did one smart thing -- I filled the gas tank. I hit my favorite newsstand/bookstore, and bought this issue of Elle,

which I still have, and, i think, another magazine. BOY did I come to wish I'd bought more reading material.

(Enjoy the fan service, because it was unintentional and it's the only example this blog will ever have!)

I grocery shopped and noticed people buying up bottled water, batteries, etc. But I figured I'd be out of Charlotte in just a few days anyway, so I bought ... too little.

Let myself in to the apartment, turned on the TV and saw that the storm had increased 2 levels during my drive. From a category 2, to a 4. And had turned a little northwest. And they were warning us to batten down, here in Charlotte?! %#$*!

That was one frightening night. The storm pounded the building. My parents had bought new mattresses for 2 of the beds, and the delivery company had left the old ones on the bedroom floor. I was so afraid that that wind would hurl objects through the apartment windows, that I tried to prop the old mattresses against them. These mattresses had come with the beds in the 1930's and were too limp to prop.

In the morning, despite my full tank of gas, I couldn't leave because power lines were down across the complex's entrance. So I listened to the radio (Working batteries! Way cool) announcing the few gas stations that had power to run their pumps. Sweated in the increasing steamy humidity. Read what I could find. Phoned people. Took some pictures.

In this photo, it's a few hours later and someone has pulled the downed trees aside enough for the lines to raise and allow at least small vehicles to get in and out.

By then, I had to stay and get the place ready for my mom.

My parents lived right where they do now, in the badly hit Grand Strand. They had evacuated inland, to relatives in Conway, and came back to find the living space of their house intact, but the ground floor washed out. Dad stayed in Conway, waiting for the the local motel to reopen and in a couple weeks both parents were in the motel while repairs were done. There was water and phone service in Charlotte, if nothing else and Mom decided to camp out there, with the dog, until there was a better option.

Meanwhile, my friends back on the island were cheerfully informing me that they had no damage. They had power, water, air conditioning .... Tee Vee!

I grocery shopped to stock the place for her. We waited in long lines to get into barely lit stores, They'd count us off in groups of 20(? I think) and let us in, then let in another 20 when enough previous shoppers had come out. They took cash and, if I recall, credit cards, by using those old knuckle-scraper machines and hoping that the card was good. I hope I remember this correctly but it actually makes sense. You might as well sell what you've got and make what money you can, rather than turn people away for lack of cash and then just leave the stuff sitting for looters or spoilage.

Anyway, I remember dearth, rather than money, being an object. There wasn't much to buy except canned fruit and potato chips but I got what I could.

She arrived and we hung out for a couple of days and then I couldn't stand the boredom and went home.

Looking back, this whole plan makes no sense. We all knew Hilton Head was untouched. And closer to my parents' home in the Inlet by an hour, though storm damage would undoubtedly have necessitated a detour inland, but OK, call it a longer drive ...

Still; factor in the undamaged comforts of power, air conditioning, plentiful food, and ... Tee Vee! AND the fact that once the roads were cleared it really WOULD be a shorter drive for her to get back.

Why didn't Dad and Mom and I just plan for her to come to Hilton Head and hang out there till they could make longer term arrangements?? I have no idea. I can't remember. All I can figure is that we were all too mentally wrecked to be flexible or change plans. Lack of sleep probably had a something to do with it.

I went back to HH and back to work. These photos of Hugo damage at Garden City Beach (right next to Murrells Inlet, but out at the shore rather than tucked inland like we are) were taken a whole year later, when we had another weird weather event, a BIG snow. Snow flurries occur every 5 years or so, but a few inches are rare. On December 24th, 1990 it snowed 11 inches, which is outright bizarre. The tides have eaten away at some of the snow here directly on the beach, but that really is snow you see all over the destruction, unlceared after a year.

I really hate hurricanes.

[Dates corrected.] [Again.]

Saturday, September 19, 2009

More book repair stuff

Since I was fixing these 2 books anyway, it occurred to me (after I'd gotten started, of course) to document and post another book repair entry, this time showing what I do when a book has completely split apart.

For anyone who happens by -- I talked about the basic materials in my first post on repairing books -- so I won't repeat that here, I'll just refer any interested readers to that post, but I will repeat one thing which is too important to skip:

NEVER repair a book unless you are willing to destroy its value. Repair pretty much does exactly that. If you want to sell it, collectors would rather have it in disrepair. Really. Repair only no-value books that need to be used and handled.

OK. You'll see 2 books here, but i'll show the repair steps for the more complicated one.
It's complicated mostly by my choice. I want to keep the original bookplate and to keep all of the original paper of that ripped endpage.

You may not want to. It would be simpler and would, in fact, look neater to discard the torn paper and make a big, neat, new pastedown. But I like the plate. I like the personal history in an old book. And I also tend to keep as much of a book's original material as possible ... just ... because!

The general idea is to secure the text block to the cover.

The first step requires a decision. There's paper backing against the bound page edges.

The bookbinding guide calls this the "hollow back." It is NOT hollow, it's thoroughly glued to the bound edges, but they call it that.

Is that backing secure? Or is it shredding, or peeling off?

If it needs fixing or replacing, this is the time to do either one, by gluing it down, or peeling it away and replacing it, the same way I have placed new paper on this one.

Two views, one from each angle:

But in this case, the old backing was very securely glued down already and needed no attention, so I just placed the new piece on top of it.

Now -- BEFORE gluing the book together, it's a very very good idea to close the book on the new piece.

This shows me exactly how the piece will conform to the cover.
AND when I DO put glue on the pieces, they will already be shaped to each other and will fit together in their natural position, without pulling against each other.

All I need to do now is glue the new piece onto the cover.

IMPORTANT : NOTE that I have put NO GLUE ON THE SPINE. The cloth spine is not supposed to stick to the back of the pages. The text block, as it's called, just kind of hangs into the spine like a hammock, attached ONLY at the hinges.

Press it together. Since glue always oozes out around the edges, lay wax paper between the repair and its facing page, till the glue dries.

If I were discarding the old torn edges, I'd pretty much be finished, but I chose to trim the new piece to fit around the plate ... and to glue the torn paper back onto the pastedown. It looks kind of yucky, since it's been crumpled down into the spine, probably for decades, and darkened. But I wanted to put it back where it belonged!

And here are both books. In the other one you can see that this technique makes a pretty neat repair, especially if you sort-of color match new paper to the old paper.

This is another book I should sell. I'm not sure that a real booklover should even be in this business. I should sell collectible thimbles or something.

Marvels of Insect Life, by Edward Step. NY:Robert M. McBride, 1916.

Loads of amazing photos. as well as the spectacular color plates. This photo close-up of a honeybee's tongue is amazing. Maybe I'll sell it ... um ... later.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It was 20 years ago, maybe today

I've mentioned before that I'm in the amusing position of not knowing exactly when Larry and I met, because I was merely the librarian who issued him his library card at the time.

He's still got the card. The date sticker reflects a couple of later renewals, but I originally gave it to him in September 1989.

So any date in September is as good as another to call the 20th anniversary of our meeting. Though, actually, today is his birthday, so he likely didn't hit the library that very day. But it'll do.

Neither of us was in a life situation amenable to dating one another at the time. By 1992 that was different, but I still wasted several more years doing stupider things. Yeah, it's his birthday, and I'm feeling old and mulling over lost times, but I'm well aware of how few people get another chance at all.




Each of us, at the time. Larry is with Younger Daughter on the Hilton Head beach.

September 1989 brought very very good things into my life.

Happy Birthday, Love. 8~)

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Very Thirsty Spider

I know that helping a slighter dumber member of her species beat Natural Selection is not exactly what a hardline ecologist would advocate, but I couldn't help it. Neither could Larry.

We felt for this girl, and partly because we let the "pest" control technician kill one, right there in the same corner of the same porch, a couple years ago. He sure doesn't do that anymore - each guy who comes out tells us he's been duly warned not to harm garden spiders.

We also owed her. She's kept the entry to our house free of mosquitoes and has waylaid and lunched on one of those nasty stinging horseflies that ventured up.

The fact that this one chose to build her web across the doorbell is rather inconvenient

but she pays her rent, and, I mean, we're not ridiculous about it, we've removed other encroachments of the web that began to cover too much of the doorway and told her sternly to expand in the other direction.

She seems healthy enough, but we noticed she wasn't fattening up as nicely as her cousin down in the yard. She'd had the foresight to build deep inside the portico, which protects her web, but has a downside: fewer bug passersby to catch and eat. Still, she'd caught some, she had grown. Maybe she was just settling into a lower-metabolism state for the coming autumn.

But something else occurred to us. Because of her seclusion, it also rarely rains on her web. All living things need water in some form and she hadn't had many juicy insects lately and wasn't getting much liquid.

Webs get rained on naturally so at worst it couldn't hurt. Here, Larry endows her web with a fine mist of water.

And though it's hard to capture, I can tell you, she skittered over to the droplets and began slurping them up like they were ambrosia.

Saturday, September 05, 2009 says so on the internet!

I just took this shot of my weather gadget on my iGoogle page.

It did not get above the 80's (F.) at all today, much less after 5PM. What bizarre instrument fed them this figure?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The most trivial 1969 anniversary post you will ever read.

Of all the 1969 anniversaries that seem to be coming up, the one I just might cherish most is the appearance of hair straightener on the drugstore shelves, giving me my first victory in a long series of hair battles.

I will love Eugene Payne forever because he drew me without curls. Better known for editorial cartooning, and winning a Pulitzer for it in 1968, he did some portrait work in Charlotte, NC during the '50s and '60s, and my grandmother commissioned him to do pastel portraits of Emily and myself when we were six.

She arranged the sittings without consulting our mothers, so my unfortunate mother had most of my despised (by me, not her) curl cut off shortly beforehand, causing my grandmother near-apoplexy. Grandmother had instructions for Payne: "Give her curls!" i.e.: They're gone? Fictionalize 'em!

"She said she doesn't want curls," said this wonderful man. Few defied my grandmother. I still like this portrait.

Long straight unstyled hair rode in on the early feminist rebellion, but the straight unstyled look became its own thing-to-conform-to. My problem,

and it took being this elderly to prove it, is that I wanted it not because it was fashionable but because it was comfortable.

My hair was uncontrollable.I fought it, clamped it down, and hated it way before the hippie era. It wasn't about looks. The wiry bulkiness, the endless springy tickling, drove me to distraction, and it was worse to keep hearing that appearance was supposed to be all that mattered.

I hated the totally uncool "easy care" chop job that kept my bangs from curling outward. I tried repeatedly to grow longer bangs and fought a losing battle against the curl.

By 1969, when I was 15, straight hair was in, and along with it came a great product: hair relaxer for us Caucasians. CurlFree [TM] got more publicity, but I found it pretty wimpy. My favorite was Straight Set [TM]. It contained lye. It worked.

Of course, it also stripped my hair out and turned it into straw, which meant I still envied the girls in the magazines.

But it was better than nothing. Once, often twice, during the week after a straightening, I'd heat up some ultra-moisturizing conditioner in a kitchen saucepan, apply it directly to the dry hair and wrap a towel around it for a couple hours. It was a week of work for every straightening, but so worth it. I could almost be normal. I could wear bangs!

Curliness made a fashion comeback and my beloved Straight Set disappeared but products were always available in what they called the "ethnic needs" section of the drugstore.

And over and over through the years I have had to listen to the critiques of people who have a variety of reasons for shouldn't-ing at me:

"Everybody should just be natural!"

Good thought. I'll give up eyeglasses too. Loan me your car, since I'd rather not total my own.

"Be yourself! By failing to be Who You Are, you are Failing to Love Yourself!"

Lord save us from The New Age. Excuse me, but to say my hair is Who I Am would the antithesis of valuing myself as a full human being.

Women in particular go with: "Oh isn't it cute how everybody wants what the other person has! I always wanted curls!"

I honestly don't think anybody wants what the other person has. Women who pay about the same annually for perms that I do for straightening may want lovely cascading curls, but they do not want my orange afro. What most of us want is a nice-looking and easy-care happy medium. We're not trading places, you with your perm and me with my straightening. We're more like meeting in the middle.

I kept up the drugstore relaxers, with a brief go-natural break in 1990.

Let me emphasize: brief. I quickly resumed my use of Dark and Lovely [TM]. By now manufacturers apparently considered a "No-lye formula" a selling point, to my dismay. That lye was g‑o‑o‑o‑d stuff, man.

Then they invented bio-thermal hair straightening. It never wears off, leaving only new growth to deal with. I read about it in the newspaper in 2000, but it would be 4 more years before it was available locally.

It's wonderful. It's a joy. In exchange for a long afternoon at the salon twice a year, I can, for the first time in my life, ignore my hair instead of working on it every morning.

I still keep it long. I can pin it up, à la Elly Patterson, for occasions on which I need to act willing to age gracefully, but mostly I'm unapologetic. It's not my fault that the hair I wanted at 15 is only available to me now when it's age-inappropriate. They'll undoubtedly hack it off when I'm in the nursing home. Not before.