Curbside Bazaar

I’m at the Whetstone library picking up and returning books for all three of us, and Susie has (thankfully) recovered from her brief disappointment at not getting a new worktable.

While I was out delivering The Bag last night/this morning (I refused to start until after dusk ’cause it was so hot and humid), I saw the unsold items of a yard sale on E. Weber Rd.  There were two boxes full of VHS tapes–mostly martial arts films, and some drive-in rejects like Hero of Shaolin–a monochrome computer monitor from circa 1984, when the IBM Personal Computer debuted, and a big worktable.  The beautiful word FREE! fluttered from signs Scotch-taped to them.

Susie has been yearning for a worktable to do her collages, etc.  There is one in the sewing room, but she and Steph can’t seem to peacefully coexist where it is concerned.  (The "worktable" is a door I salvaged from the basement when we moved in, and, with the landlord’s permission, I removed the doorknob and hinges and we put it on stacks of milk crates.)  Each has to clear off the other’s projects to do any of their own work, so a worktable of her own has headed Susie’s want list for awhile.

Late this morning, I went over to see if the table was still there, and lo and behold, it was.  I stopped in at the Weber Market and asked if I could borrow a dolly.  When I got back to Weber Rd. and the table, I upended the table to put it on the two-wheeler.  It tilted back toward a normal position, and then I heard this horrendous crack sound, like breaking a piece of rotted wood for the fireplace.  My worst fears were realized when the table collapsed as one of the legs splintered.

I’ve had much better luck at curbside.  When we lived in Franklinton, an auto parts store was throwing away a perfectly good desk.  Steph was in need of one, so, once the owner said I was free to take it, I borrowed another dolly from another convenience store and wheeled it into our house.  (It eventually ended up in my second-floor office when we moved again, and we left it behind, since it barely made it into the room.  It’s a ship-in-a-bottle type of thing.)

Clifton, the neighborhood near the University of Cincinnati where I lived in the early and mid-1990s, was wonderful for curbside treasures, much of it in perfectly good shape.  I had the foresight to move to that neighborhood just as the academic year at U.C. was ending, and the selection of discarded furniture was Value Cityesque.  Many impatient kids were moving out of apartments and didn’t want to rent U-Hauls to bring home furniture, so perfectly good furniture was left abandoned at curbside along with the garbage bags.  I furnished my apartment in a style I called "Late 20th Century Clifton Castoff."

And it wasn’t limited to furniture.  I remember stepping out of my building on my way to work one evening and almost tripping over a Yorx boom box–AM/FM radio, CD, and cassette deck–that was left in the front entrance, like a foundling.  It conked out after about six months, but it got plenty of mileage in the meantime.

I’ve Struck Gold in Book Purchases and Acquisitions This Past Week

I blogged about Pulpfest earlier, where I was so proud to buy a Pocket Books paperback of Woolrich’s The Bride Wore Black for $12.  Pulpfest–and the rest of that insane weekend–took precendent over my other fine book purchases.

A week ago Saturday, I was down at Central Point, one of the few times I have been down there since moving from The Bottoms.  I had to go down there to pay a bill, and, to kill time before the next bus toward downtown and Clintonville, I stopped in the Ohio Thrift Store.  Their book selection is usually pretty pathetic, but I had a rare find that morning.  For about $3 (including sales tax), I bought The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes–a fair reproduction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes short stories, illustrated by Sidney Paget, shown as they originally appeared in The Strand.  It included 37 short stories and the serialized appearance of The Hound of the Baskervilles.  I was overjoyed to get this, because I had long ago lost the copy that I had bought when I was in high school.  I had saved my own lunch and milk money change–religiously dumping the coins into a Ball jar on my desk–and ordered the copy from Publishers’ Central Bureau (an outlet and remainder mail-order company) the minute I had saved enough.  I kept it on my desk–it was redbound with gilt-edged pages; one of my friends said it looked like an altar Bible.

When I went to another thrift store the next day, I bought a large red blank book–a journal or album–which I will put to use for my own writing, poetry, etc.  (I’m pretty wedded to using black-covered composition books to maintain my diary these days.)  I also bought an Ohio State spiral notebook and a 2009 pocket-sized appointment diary.  Grand total: about $2.  The red journal’s previous owner was apparently a teenaged girl named Shannon, judging by all the Cupid and angel and hearts and flowers stickers pasted inside the front cover and first page.  Much more curiously, two or three pages have been torn out of the front.

After church Sunday, I was pleased to see there was a book giveaway in Fellowship Hall.  Our friend Joanna did quite well.  Her most impressive find was a 1902 edition of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.  It was in such good condition that I thought it was a reproduction of the original book, like the fair facsimilies of Shakespeare First Folios.  But I was wrong; it was printed in 1902.

I came home with a handsome one-volume edition of the novels of Jane Austen (for Steph), and for myself The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity, by Talmudic scholar Hyam Macoby; and Bishop John Shelby Spong’s Why Christianity Must Change or Die (not that you asked, but I’d be happy with either).

There was supposed to be a torrent rainstorm, complete with thunder and lightning, tonight, but it never materialized.  I pulled up the National Weather Service’s radar on my computer at work, and it was lit up like a Christmas tree all the way to the Indiana border, and it was spitting rain a little when I came home from work, but that’s as far as it went.

Yet Another Weekend Looms Before Me…

Job numero uno is going to be, of course, collating The Bag and preparing it for delivery.  I’m just praying that there won’t be any of the cardboard elongated ads, which slow the process up quite a bit.  Even with the regular bundles of Kroger, Meijer, and Marc’s ads, it’s not a swift process, but putting in the long ads makes it even worse.

I’ve given Susie incentive to move as rapidly as she can.  She wants to be Archie #600, where Archie Andrews finally chooses between Betty and Veronica, so I told her that if we move like lightning, she and I can go to Laughing Ogre (I hope on foot, since I’m jonesing for a good hike) and buy it.  Tomorrow she’s going to call Laughing Ogre and find out whether they have issue #600 in stock and how late they’re open.  (I have to admit that Archie finally settling this 60+-year-old question has piqued my curiosity as well.)

Steph took Susie and Susie’s friend Dee Dee to the Ohio State Fair yesterday.  She’s stronger than I am–I don’t care much for fairs and amusement parks, and they were there for almost 12 hours.  Susie, after paying about $10 for chances, finally "won" a toy dog.  I walked to and from the Whetstone Library via Subway.

Now that I have my Bag gig, from Friday to Saturday I religiously check The Weather Channel, to see just what I’m facing when I venture out of doors.  I doubt anyone will complain if they don’t get The Bag–they’re not paying for it, the way they would The Dispatch, after all.  Nonetheless, I try to hit all the addresses on my delivery list and on the manifest in as little time as possible.

So far I haven’t suffered injury, dog bites, or insults from dissatisfied customers.  I thought I would have troubles last Sunday in the predawn hours, because I wasn’t sure when I’d trigger a burglar alarm or awaken a hostile dog.  There were many houses where I would cause yard floodlights to come on once I ventured into a certain area close to the house.  I immediately cursed myself for not bringing along a flashlight, but usually I could tell house numbers by using street lights.  There are also many people who keep their porch lights on all night, even after they’ve gone to bed.

The closest I came to danger was right toward the end, right on my own block.  Several of the streets are set high up on a bank, which means they have steep steps to reach them.  Dawn had already broken as I was in the home stretch of my route, but I was at the top of one flight of steps that I call Exorcist steps.  (The real Exorcist steps are located at the end of M St., NW in Washington, DC near Georgetown University.)  The steps were wet and I lost my footing for a half second.  Many of them are cracked already, and when they’re wet, walking on them in rubber soles is perilous.  I’m just thankful I was holding the handrail, otherwise I would have tumbled all the way down to Indianola going ass over teakettle the whole way.

Here are the real Exorcist steps.  (If the allusion is sailing over your head, see the DVD of the movie.)

I climbed up these once in 1981, the first time I was ever in D.C. on my own.  I had just turned 18, and I celebrated by hitchhiking to Washington, drank my first legal beer at Clyde’s, and walked up these steps.  I understand the Georgetown track and crew teams run sprints up and down these!

Heading to the Office Tomorrow to Wind Down

This has truly been a weekend that was packed from top to bottom with activity–too much.  I’m typing while in the midst of a serious sleep deficit, so, Beloved Reader, you’re forewarned that the content of this entry may not hang together or flow in any coherent pattern.  When I’m this sleep-deprived, giving me access to a blog or journal is about as advisable as letting a two-year-old play with power tools.

The weekend actually began on Thursday, Steph’s and my 13th wedding anniversary.  She did not want the traditional present for the 13th–lace.  (I had to email a librarian to find out what it was; I used to have an appointment diary that listed all the anniversary gifts.)  So, we went to dinner at the Wildflower Cafe, where the cuisine was excellent.  Then we indulged ourselves by thrift-shopping.  The book selection was pitiful, but we did buy plenty of much needed kitchenware, and I bought some T-shirts.  I even scored a coup and was totally oblivious–a pair of tan Skecher tennis shoes for $7.  Steph was quite impressed.

Friday I slept a little later than usual, since I was using my second “cost-saving day”.  Due to budgetary issues, as I have ranted at length earlier in this blog, all of us State of Ohio employee are taking 10 unpaid days off.  It could be much worse than it ended up being, because they’re spreading the 10 days out over the life of the contract by subtracting 3.3 hours from each paycheck, so we won’t have entire days missing from our checks.

Friday was, however, a day loaded with activity.  Pulpfest was this weekend, held at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on Sinclair Road, about three miles from where I live.  I invited mystery writer Francis M. (“Mike”) Nevins to a dinner party at our place, since he’s always first in line to attend Pulpfest during its previous events in Dayton.  (This was the first time it was in Columbus.)  I met Mike at the Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention in Cincinnati in 2006, when he made the trip from St. Louis, where he lives.  I was already familiar with him, because I had read his exhaustively researched biography, Cornell Woolrich: First You Dream, Then You Die.  We saw each other annually in Cincinnati, and emailed back and forth periodically in the meantime.  Susie interviewed him with her microcassette recorder for a school report when she and I went to the convention in ’07.

Steph and Susie spent most of Friday preparing the house for this fete, while I ran errands to Giant Eagle to buy food and other necessities, and then to Target for some more kitchenware, and I stopped in Great Clips for an overdue beard trim.

The party went quite well.  One of our guests is a copyright attorney, so she and Mike shared some common ground, since he teaches copyright law at St. Louis University.  We had a crowd who was quite well read and at least three people attended Pulpfest the next day, not including myself.  Mike is quite a raconteur, and he told us about situations he’s faced in his academic and literary careers.

I’m grateful to Steph and Susie for collating and stuffing The Bag for me while I was out running errands.  The bundles of ads arrived on our front porch Friday morning, and the work was all done when the party started.

Susie’s friend DeeDee spent most of the weekend with us.  I had to run some errands on Saturday morning, and then I spent some time at Pulpfest.  (En route there, I walked from our house to Olympic Swim and Racquet, because Susie and DeeDee had left in such a hurry they had left membership card and guest pass behind.  I’ve become quite hooked on walking since I began delivering The Bag; on Facebook I said that if I go a day without a good walk, I feel like a heroin addict one day off the needle.)

My major coup from Pulpfest (for more information, go to was buying a first-edition Pocket Books paperback of Cornell Woolrich’s The Bride Wore Black for $12.  It was printed during World War II.  Facing the front cover is a caveat that says: “THIS IS A WARTIME BOOK.  THIS EDITION WHICH IS COMPLETE AND UNABRIDGED IS PRODUCED IN FULL COMPLIANCE WITH THE GOVERNMENT’S REGULATIONS FOR CONSERVING PAPER AND OTHER ESSENTIAL MATERIALS,” complete with a picture of an eagle carrying a ribbon that says “BOOKS ARE WEAPONS IN THE WAR OF IDEAS” in its beak and a book in its talons.  On the back, it says “Send this book to a boy in the armed forces anywhere in the U.S… only $.04 postage.”  (See below)

I also bought (for $2!), the autographed memoirs of the late radio actor Hal Stone, Aw… Relax, Archie!  Re-laxx!, titled after his signature line when he played Jughead on NBC’s Archie Andrews radio show.

I am also proud to say that $1.50 bought me a copy of L. Ron Hubbard’s Typewriter in the Sky, without a penny of it going to those loons in the Church of Scientology.

What baffled me was a table near the sign-in desk stacked to my eye level (I am 5’8 3/4″) with hardback, jacketed copies of Elizabeth Hand’s Generation Loss, copyright 2007 by the Small Beer Press of Northampton, Mass.  These were free–someone encouraged me to take two or three.  One was enough.  I am completely puzzled why mint-condition books were 100% free of charge.

I accomplished my main mission at Pulpfest, equally as important as spending the paltry check The Bag sent me.  Mike sold me two rare anthologies that featured works by Cornell Woolrich, as well as a copy of his new novel, Beneficiaries’ Requiem.

Next on my agenda was taking Susie to Club Havana down in the Short North, so she could practice and perform in the concert she and her fellow campers spent 10 days organizing.  The club was crowded, the noise level was gelding, and Susie performed quite well.  Steph went from the nightclub with some of her friends to decompress with the help of some mojitos, so I took the girls back home on the bus via Dairy Queen.

And I delivered The Bag in the predawn hours, stepping outdoors just after midnight and finishing after dawn.  It rained on and off during the night (mostly on, and torrentially in some intervals), and I must have been a sorry sight when I came home.  The ironic thing was I did the all-night delivery so I could make it to church for the 10 a.m. service.  But I knew I was close to collapse by then, and I did sleep very spottily for most of the morning.

So how was your weekend?