Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Every year I try to expand my business somehow. This year I have more books and more exposure than ever before, although my sales don't necessarily reflect that the way I would like.
I took a gamble earlier this year and spent a lot of money on an order of non-returnable sidelines including notecards, journals and calendars featuring classic children's books. They're very cute and I kept my order somewhat conservative so that I wouldn't have much left over at the end of the year.
The notecards I'm not worried about because I have no time limit in which they need to be sold. The calendars however are worrisome. I know it's only October, but so far I've sold exactly 2.
My mom just started working part-time at a small vintage-themed shop though, so I'm hoping the owner will let me set up a selection there.

Monday, October 30, 2006


I've been growing increasingly worried in the last year about my family. My dad is 78 and has alzheimers. My mom is 70. My dad still lives at home and my mom takes care of him. They were antique dealers for years and don't have any significant savings or pension. My mom works part time to bring in some extra money.

My dad isn't so bad that his alzheimers would be obvious to a stranger, but he's not capable of taking care of himself.

My worries are many. That my mom might die and my dad wouldn't know what to do or who to call or even realize it for several days. That my mom dies and we (my sister and I) will suddenly have to decide who will assume care of him. That we might have to put him into a nursing home while he's still cognizent enough to realize it and hate it and hate us for doing it.
That because my family has no savings, the nursing home will take my parent's house.
That I will be a great disappointment in handling all of this.
I also worry that I'll get the inevitable call some night when I've had too much to drink and can't immediately jump in the car and be where I'm needed.

My dad went through this with his mother. She hated the nursing home when he put her in. He went through a great deal of guilt and depression over having to make that decision. She lived until the age of 97, the last 13 years of her life spent in a home. It was the right decision as she lived alone two hours away and nearly burned her house down a few times, but you still hate to take that last bit of independence from someone you love.

Selfishly and practically, I hope my father passes away before my mother. My mother is still sharp, resourceful and in relatively good health. It would just be so much easier. Unfortunately, statistically, my father's family is the side with longevity.

Getting out of the house

Yesterday was gorgeous. Probably one of the last nice semi-warmish, bright, fluffed-out, colorful days of fall.

Lately, my husband has re-discovered his love of fishing, so we went driving around looking for potential fishing spots in East Knoxville.

We checked out the spot at the Forks of the River under the railway trestle bridge. The old Lebanon (Lisbon?) Presbyterian Church graveyard is across the road and we spent some time looking at the stones. The Ramsey family is buried there, most notably J.G.M. Ramsey; author of Ramsey's Annals of Tennessee.
After this, we crossed John Sevier Hwy. and ended up driving by the house of J.G.M. Kind of weird to visit the grave and home of a man within 20 minutes, without meaning to.

If you pass the Ramsey House and go down around the bend, there's the creepiest quarry I've ever seen. I swear it looks just like a scene from the game Myst. I'd post a picture, but I didn't have my camera. There are four huge rusted cranes at each corner connected by a skeletal big-top framework of rusted cables. And in the center of the quarry, half-submerged in the water, is a rusted track which leads to a huge rusted wheel.

On the way home, we passed a house I've been meaning to visit on a hill next to the Asheville Hwy. bridge over the Holston River. It's a big rambling mess of stone ruins and walls. I'd like to find a picture of what it used to look like.

When we got home, we retraced our drive with google satellite maps and got a look at what we didn't see from the road. Behind the little Myst quarry is a much larger quarry, but it's roped off. And where we were made to turn around at the railyard, we saw the mile or so of road that leads to the police training facility. Probably a great fishing spot, but it's off limits.

Going on drives like this is heartening somewhat, because you get a look at how much undeveloped land there still is around here. It's easy to forget that when you stay in the city and see parcels gobbled up right and left.

So there ya go; only 15 minutes away are Osprey with fish in their beaks, rolling fields, gravestones from the 1700's, a creepy quarry, a ruin that begs to be waded through, and a few guys gutting deer on the bank of the river.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Family History

I'm curious about the reasons people get into genealogy. Like, really get into genealogy. It's difficult and tedious work, but lots of people choose to spend most of their free time in the pursuit of this obscure information.

So what's the payoff? A feeling of connectness? A surprise celebrity relative? A claim on a patch of Irish farmland?

If I were to form an opinion from the genealogy customers at my store, I would probably go with the celebrity aspect. These folks are all eager to tell me about their relation to Pocahontas, The Kennedys, or Dolly Parton. They all seem to have some Cherokee blood.
The only talk of genealogy in our house growing up were references to Ireland, Andy Williams and Madame DeBerry. As if 150 years of family could be distilled to a couple of bragging rights.

So this morning, I signed up for a free trial to ancestry.com and played around for about half an hour.
The fun stuff: getting to see handwritten census documents from the turn of the century and exploring all the family names. Matilda, Morris, Abner, Range, Clara etc...
But a half hour is all it took to grow bored of the pursuit.
I just don't care about this stuff. I have a hard enough time keeping up with my living relatives much less drawing up trees full of abstractions. Is it because I'm adopted? I dunno. Maybe?

Someday I'll just be a name on a family tree chart and I'm ok with that. The people I know and who actually mean something to me are all that matter.

Friday, October 27, 2006


I've always had this fantasy of living in a house completely built my myself. Not only that, but everything in the house would be made by me. If I couldn't make it, I wouldn't have it. I'm talking dishware, coat hooks, clothing, linens, artwork, silverware etc...
I said it was a fantasy. I doubt I could even build a pencil box.
But this guy came close....

Wharton Esherick


So what do you get when you combine a questionable neighborhood, a feral cat colony, six raccoons, and a bucket containing a can of wasp spray?

If you guessed meth lab paranoia, then you're a winner!

Ok, to be fair, there is still the issue of the three or so grown men behind the house carrying stuff. We still don't know what that was about.

And the fact that the house needed to be condemned anyway.

Still, pretty funny.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Vague update

Well, we're still waiting on word about the house next door. I'm not exactly clear on what's happened so far, but as I understand it, an officer sort of tried to check on things, but wasn't sure which house it was.
My friend came by the bookstore yesterday and as it turns out his retina had spontaneously detached earlier in the day, landing him in emergency surgery. He says he's sending an off-duty guy out today to poke around.
At any rate, we're going to see what we do about getting the house condemned and hopefully torn down. The owner himself admitted that he hasn't been by there in about two years.

Scary note to self: a retina can spontaneously detach.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Meth lab?

Ok, so when I shopped for a house 6 year ago, I was single and earning less. I came up with a list of must-haves and a budget and after a year or so of searching, found my house. On the plus side, I got all of the features on my list, but on the negative, it ain't the greatest house or neighborhood. I can ignore some of the trashiness of the neighborhood because our lot is an acre and actually quite private. I'm rarely bothered by any supposed untoward activities going on, and actually can't think of any that I know of.

When I first moved in, the house next door was rented to a small family who I think moved out after about a year. Since then, the house has been vacant. It hasn't bothered me because as it turns out, the emptiness has actually given my property that much more privacy and quiet.

Tonight though, when my husband came home, he noticed a strong chemical odor when he got out of his car. He didn't think too much of it, but later when he was walking the dogs in the backyard, he noticed a couple of guys carrying things either into or out of the rear of the abandoned house next door.
He calls me at work, asking me if I think we should call the police. I hate trouble, but what other options do we have?

I have a good friend at the police department and we called him to investigate.
He left us a message tonight that he had a crew check it out and he'd stop by the bookstore in the morning to tell me what they know.
We also called the owners of the house and they said that no one has been authorized to enter the house.
At the very least, we know something illegal is/was going on.
I hope this is all resolved without us having to live our lives in a more paranoid fashion.
I've never had any problems around here before and I certainly don't want anything to start now.


I just checked my accounts and it seems I'm just about broke at the moment. And even though I have a nice check coming from the estate sale, I'm suddenly shy about asking for it. I guess I need to get over it and get paid already.
Asking for money, even if I've earned it, is so awkward for me.

I like eblogger and all, but having to create a title for everything is annoying. There I go complaining again.

Monday, October 23, 2006


I've come to realize that my vocabulary for criticism is far greater than my vocabulary for praise. I can write pages on why I don't like something, but when I encounter something I do like, I only seem to be able to cough up words like "great", "cool" and "wonderful".
I'm going to try to make it a point to find things to praise more often. I guess I just assume that if it's praise-worthy that everyone already realizes it and what's the point? But that's not right.
Just as people need or want to be warned about what's wrong with something, they also enjoy hearing about the positive. Maybe even more so.
So what is the opposite of a rant? Gushing?
I'm gonna try to gush a little more.

Friday, October 20, 2006

My last comment about the sale

Ok, just some final observations about people and 'stuff'.
Folks, if you like it, buy it. Why does it have to be "collectible" or a first edition or "ode"?
You like that doll? You have a kid who you could give it to? Then just do it. Don't put it back down because it isn't marked with some useless manufacturer's mark. It's $2.00, for crying out loud.
I'm not making this hard on you.

I had to share space today with a neighbor of the deceased. I'm sure they had good times. I'm sure she helped in the final months. I'm sure she was fond of the woman.
But all day I had to hear comments such as the following (insert very strong east TN accent here, with very long drawn out flat AAAAAAAAA's.):
It's just so saaaad.
She loved wearing this shuuurt. It's just so saaad.
Ain't there any little girl relatives you could give them dolls too? It's just so saaad.
This stuff was her liiiife.

Simultaneously, this woman had pre-sale, tagged most of the truly valuable furniture, jewelry and accessories for herself and her daughter. She had made a shrewd mental inventory of all the "good stuff" and staked her claim.
She asked me in a whisper several times what I thought the value of such and such was.
I feigned ignorance.

I hate that kind of two-faced sensationalist grabbiness. Wailing about the travesty of the dispersement, but making sure she scored big.

This is why I DREAD DREAD DREAD doing this with my parent's estate. All of their antiquing friends and my family as well are going to be doing this very same thing. Wanting special favors, deals and inside information due to their long friendships.
"It's just so saaad."
I'd almost rather sell it all to total strangers than be subjected to this shitty behavior.

Why are people so hung up on filling their houses with speculative stuff?

I'm a bookdealer. If a book I read means something to me, I like to keep a copy around. I don't care if it's a paperback or hardback, first edition or signed. The writing is the reward. I meet people every day who decline buying a book because it doesn't meet the collectible criteria.
And it makes me ill. Even though I profit from their obsessions, I still hate that people will pay an additional premium for something as arbitrary as a numeric line containing a 1.
It's the same damned book. Same story, same dustjacket. Why do we buy into this?

Will it keep you nourished if the world goes to hell? A palette of bottled water is more valuable in my opinion.

Gold too. I can't for the life of me figure out why we place such a high value on a useless metal. If the world goes to hell and everyone's broke, who are you going to sell it to? And what are they going to do with it? It's soft; you can't make tools from it. I think it may be a good electrical conductor. Ok. But it's basically frivolous adornment. And QVC keeps scores of folks up all night just itching to push that button to make it theirs.

I've heard people say that collecting is a type of psychiatric disorder and on some level I'm inclined to agree.
When you die and you have all this stuff around, the only hope your decendents have is that someone else shared your particular disorder and are willing to pay big to acquire it.

That's not to say I look down on preserving the past. I love history. I love looking at a collection of old things. I love museums. I like seeing a display of the evolution of the light bulb or textiles for example.
So I guess the bottom line is that I'm not going to be one of the "preservers". I'm glad the disorder exists, because at least someone out there is hanging onto stuff for whatever reason so that the rest of us can gaze upon it.

Ok enough ranting.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Estate Sale Part Two

Yay! We did 2150.00 the first day. Two days to go and lots of stuff left.

One thing that going through an experience like this will demonstrate to you is the ridiculousness of 'stuff'. I kind of got over the need to accumulate years ago just from observing my parents. Their house is insanely stuffed with trifles. Nice trifles to be sure, but when you can barely fit a pencil into any drawer in the house, you have a problem.

I've gradually thrown my own excess away with each move and while I still have too much stuff, it's much more manageable.

My stuff these days is mostly comprised of the accessories to unrealized goals. Paints and brushes, jewelry making supplies, bookbinding supplies, gardening accessories, embroidery kits, tools, scrap lumber, etc...

But the woman whose house I'm dispersing did this too. It makes me wonder how many of her creative goals she met while alive. So what am I waiting for? Should I just jettison all this stuff of mine? Will I ever actually carve out the time to sit down and complete a project? Which is more valuable; the extra space or the comfort these things bring me?

One reason to hang on a little longer: being constantly surprised at my spouse's spur of the moment "projects". I came home the other night and he had constructed a bin for our firewood out of some of the scraps I had stored. Another time he might use all the extra cable and electrical thingamajigs to suddenly wire every electrical device in our house to a single switch. Who knows? It's cool. I like having someone around who delves into my stash to make something sudden and wonderful.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Estate Sale

My boss and I went to a home the other day to purchase some books. The step-mother of the man we were buying from had passed away and he and his wife were in the process of getting an estate sale ready for the following Thursday.
An entire house of stuff. NOTHING was priced. It was somewhat organized, but every drawer and closet and cabinet still had untold items spilling forth.
Next thing I know, I'm taking the week off from work and basically running my first estate sale.

Three closets full of clothes, 200+ dolls, six drawers of mismatched tablecloths and napkins, piles of jewelry, tons of gardening accessories, a closet full of linens, a scotty dog collection, a scottish collection (including traditional kilt outfit), a hedgehog collection, a full cupboard of fine china, office supplies, tools, boxes of crafting supplies, a nutcracker collection and much much more.

A full day goes by before I can get back over there, giving me only three days to turn the disorder into a priced, packaged and policed sale. I hired my mother who is a retired antique dealer to help with all of the older items.
Bless her heart, she's busted her ass for two long days now; one with the grandchildren in tow.

We've made a huge dent in the pricing, but still are waiting for tables and clothing racks to be delivered so we can get it all set up.
The people I'm doing this for are THE nicest couple and have been so incredibly sweet and trusting.
I'm bone tired at the end of each day, but it's fun work. I just wish we had a few more days to get it all done.

I'm mostly worried about the first morning of the sale itself. I grew up in the antiquing community and there is nothing more back-stabby, gossipy, whiny, and deceitful than a horde of antique dealers (sorry mom and dad).
I'm concerned about "early birds", thieves, fights over claimed items, bounced checks and broken glassware.

I'll have my mom, the couple and my boss there to help, so we should have it under control. I've educated the couple about going through boxes and shaking out linens to look for hidden stash. We're only having one entrance and exit. We've done all of the jewelry up in box lots, to prevent people from pocketing here and there.
I think it will be fine in the end. At the very least, the people I'm helping are way better off than if I hadn't stepped in. I can't even imagine how they were going to get ready by Thursday on their own.

Tomorrow is crunch day. Then up at five on Thursday to put on the finishing touches.
EEK. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


So with all the crap that's simmering around the world right now, what I want to know is, what should I be stocking up on?
I think it's just our nature as Americans, 60 years removed from a major war, to view the current global political climate somewhat distantly.
But I really think the next world war is just around the bend.
And I have no idea what to do.
How bad is it going to get? Am I going to live to see bombing on American soil? Marshall law? Rationing? Bread lines?
I get so angry when I think about how so much of this could have been prevented.
That even I and my friends were able to predict much of this years ago before it was actually set in motion.
It's pretty sad when the average citizen can make better armchair decisions than our leaders.

More about hair

As I've said before, I love good hair and mine is not. To make it look good takes too much time and too many products. I've been after a low maintenance style that I can depend on to look the same every time I do it.
I think I've found it. It's not the best solution; it's actually kind of goofy looking, but so far it's working for me.
It's part Von Trapp, part Princess Leia, and part stern librarian.
The reactions have been mixed. My sister laughed her ass off and sequed into a discussion of Star Wars. My mom refused to comment.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Booker Books Part Two

Ok, so as of a previous post, I had begun the first of a Man Booker finalist and looked forward to reading the others, hoping to cast my private vote for which book should get the prize.

I got off track due to a road trip, birthday stuff, and various other no good reasons and just finished that first book last night. My feelings about the book, "Carry Me Down", were mixed. I enjoyed the story and the unique voice of the author, but overall, I felt it lacked that special something that would garner an award.

I tried not to be listening to NPR today at five when the winner was announced, thinking that I could still stick to my original goal and try to see if I picked the same winner, but dangit, I was packaging a book by the radio when they made the announcement.

So now I have five other books to read. Not sure who I'm going to pick next. I love Sarah Waters, but I might just delve right into the winning novel "The Inheritance of Loss" by Kiran Desai.
An odd aside, Kiran Desai is the youngest Booker Prize winner at age 35 and her mother has been a three time finalist for the prize.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


I'm worried that the news is predictably going too far with the brave Amish girl who tried to bargain her life in exchange for her classmates.
It reminds me too much of the Cassie what's-her-name girl from Columbine who refused to denounce her christianity in the face of death.
There was even a hastily put together inspirational biography about Cassie called "Yes I Am" or something like that.
Please don't let there be a book.
That would just be so disrespectful to the Amish.


When I first bought my house, just down the street was an enormous ravine. I think that's what you call it. Gorge, quarry, big-ass hole in the ground. It was about 60+ feet deep and about the size of a football field.
Over a year ago or so, some company bought that land and since then has dedicated every waking hour to filling up that hole.

Each morning beginning around five, the dumptrucks start rolling in and they dump and they dump and they dump. I get dressed to the growling of earth movers and the grinding of gears. I avoid chunks of debris as I drive down the road. I frequently have to put my car into reverse where the trucks pull onto our street so that they have room to make the turn.

As Tom Waits might ask, "What are they doing down there?"
And when the hole is filled, then what?

Friday, October 06, 2006


Something that makes me super-wiggy is licking popsicle sticks.
Even seeing a commercial of someone getting down to the last bit of popsicle where their tongue might touch the wood gives me goosebumps and makes me bite my tongue.
I similarly have a problem with wooden chopsticks.
That whole rough texture thing. The scraping. The dragging of flesh. Nasty stuff.

See, I'm thinking that President Bush has it wrong. We don't need to resort to waterboarding to get information from prisoners. Just find out what their hang-ups are.
You don't need to waste a lot of money setting up a dungeon to torture me; just give me a popsicle.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Barky Barkerson

I've always been a cat person. I've owned cats since I was sixteen and moved away from home. It wasn't until about 5 years ago that I got my first dog. I was at a party and this adorable stray puppy showed up for scraps. She passed out in my lap for the next two hours and after enduring the encouragement of everyone there, I took her home. It was hit or miss for the first three months. We regarded each other as strangers, sharing space but not exactly bonding. There was chewing, peeing, barking, whining and it wasn't until she scared away a couple of guys arguing in my driveway that I felt I had made the right choice.
She's since become my baby. She's absolutely adorable, fairly well-behaved, piggish and cuddly.

When I got married, I adopted my husband's sheltie. He's basically a good dog, gets along with all our other animals and takes it upon himself to alert us to impending danger.
Unfortunately, that danger is constant and includes twigs falling from trees, leaves blowing across the road, cars driving by, cats wandering up the street, the trashmen, and any movements of the neighbors.
He barks furiously when we check the mail, go out into the yard, and down to the basement.
He simply can't shut the hell up.

I can get him to sit, lay, stand, wait, come...but I can't seem to teach him "hush".
My gut feeling is that he does this with the intention of protection. He's by nature a guarder and herder. When we leave the house, we're outside of his protective range and he freaks. When something approaches the house, it's encroaching on his "herd" and he freaks.

It's been two years now and he's as bad as ever. He doesn't seem to understand that some basic routine activities are not bark-worthy.
I know a big part of the problem is just my lack of working on the problem in a focused manner. I need to get out the hotdog treats and spend a month of constant consistent effort.

I hate dog training.