Friday, January 30, 2009

And any dry cracker will relieve the retching.

Previously I discussed some of the odd questions we've received in the store. This month we had two.

I answered the phone for the first one.

"Otowi Station. This is P-doobie. May I help you?"

"Do you carry tongue depressors?"

"No, I'm sorry, but we don't. We're a bookstore."

"Oh. Well, do you know where I can buy tongue depressors?"

"You might try the pharmacy at the hospital or a medical supply company."

"Oh, yeah! A hospital! I hadn't thought of that! Thanks!"

For the next weird call, I eavesdropped on Becky's telephone conversation.

"Thank you for calling Otowi Station Bookstore. This is Becky. How may I help you? . . . . You need a book on food poisoning? . . . . Oh, excuse me. I misunderstood. You want to know whether you have food poisoning. Um, okay. Well, are you nauseated?  . . . .  Okay, do you have a fever? . . . . Mmm hmm. Have you vomited? . . . . Okay. And do you have any diarrhea or cramping? . . . . Well, I'm not a doctor, but it sounds as if you don't have food poisoning. You might want to call your own physician to make sure, though. . . . You're welcome."

Otowi Station, your full-service bookstore. 

Friday, January 23, 2009

RIP, Casey

Our cat Casey died today. She was almost 18 years old. She had a tumor in her tummy, and last night she was ready to leave. She found a dark place under the radiator and behind Ike's basket of toys. This morning we took her to the vet to have her euthanized, but she died while the doctor was listening to her heart. She was a good cat, very elegant and loving, and she had a good life.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Misty water-colored memories

Yesterday I went up to Maxwell to visit with my old friend Jean M. and to take her to lunch in Raton. Years ago, before a family reunion in Colorado Springs, Uncle Floyd had stopped in Maxwell. When I asked him what he thought of the village, he said, "It's a goddamned hole." 

I disagreed with him. When I lived there, the place was bright with gardens and well-kept lawns, and it was vibrant and alive. Or maybe my memories of it are misty and water-colored. Now, it's a goddamned hole.

Yesterday I saw that even more houses have been boarded up since I was there a year ago, and the Methodist church has since burned down. The general store is limping along. A house across the street from the school had been abandoned for years, and at Christmastime, some kids were partying inside, left a fire burning, and burned it out. The house next to the lot P and I used to live on is collapsing, and the place where we last lived is abandoned. Last year I opened the side door and peered in, and it was obvious from the musky smell that critters have taken it over. 

Jean said that the school is declining and that no one is particularly interested in saving it. Only one person filed for the three vacant seats on the school board, so they won't have an election. No one wants to teach in a rural school or administer one. Only 45 kids are in the junior high and high school; when we were there, we had about 80 kids. History teaches us that as the school goes, so goes the town. Gladstone, Folsom, Capulin, Kiowa, Quay, Trementina, Colmor, Dawson, Gallina, among others, had schools--now they are just wide spots on a road.

The community got together in the late 1970s in Maxwell to build a ball field, dugout, and track. The current village administration planted grass on the field, but to protect the grass, they won't allow anybody to use the field.

The old sugar beet mill has been converted to a facility that chips up logs to make bedding for pets.

I took the camera along and practiced some more with the telephoto lens. I think I have to wear my reading glasses when I look through the viewfinder; otherwise, the images are blurry. I spent some time in Tecolote, and here are some of the better images.

Wire mesh in the dirt.

Down a road.

Two rock walls.

A rock wall and abandoned house.

The church.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Schools, dazed.

Lately I've been doing a lot of work with the public schools up here, and I've come to the conclusion that many of the teachers are out of touch with the real world as most of us encounter it. 

Back in August I set up a table outside the Duane Smith Auditorium so I could feature many of our cool books and other items that teachers can use in the classroom. I was handing out coupons when one of the teachers, as frightening a broad as ever stepped off a Gothic church, stomped up to me and said, "Every time I tell my students to get a book from you, you guys always tell them that you don't have it in stock and will have to order it! Why can't you have the books we need in stock?!" 

I said, "Every year we ask the teachers for their supplemental reading lists. We've tried and tried for years, but nobody has ever responded."

She huffed, "Well, maybe you should try harder!"


This fall we had a signing with Ellen Klages, who wrote The Green Glass Sea (our number two best-seller at the store) and its sequel, White Sands, Red Menace. I sent a note to all the middle-grade teachers and the language arts team at the middle school to let them know that Ellen would be available for school visits. Two schools, an elementary school and the middle school, responded. 

Over the summer one of the middle school teachers had worked with the superintendent to make sure that she, and she alone, would be the only one allowed to teach The Green Glass Sea. (The upper-grade elementary teachers were understandably steamed, but, as far as I can tell, have ignored the edict.) At any rate, Ellen was going to speak to the creative writing class in the library, and as luck would have it, the classroom of the monopolizer of The Green Glass Sea was right next door. So Ellen and I went into the classroom, and I introduced Ellen to Ms. Monopoly and invited the teacher to come to the talk in the library. I figured that she'd leap upon the object of her monopoly with gladsome cries and boot-licking felicitations. "I'd love to come," Ms. Monopoly said, "but I have lunch this period."


Now I'm working up estimates for one of the elementary school librarians. Her most recent list included about 20 titles that she wanted in both hardcover and softcover formats. I sent her the estimate, and she fired back a stern email saying that we needed to talk. Nothing cramps my bowels so quickly as hearing the sentence "We need to talk" from a customer. 

So I stopped by the school library on my way to the store, and the librarian told me that she wanted only the hardcover books and asked where in the world I came up with all those softcover editions. Then she asked me to make a copy of the estimate and walk it down to the principal's office. Fine. We're your full-service bookstore. And I was on my way out anyway. 

When I got back to the store, I had another request for an estimate from her. She wanted prices on books about latitude, famous Americans, geography, complex machines--no titles or grade levels included--and that book that has something in the title about "what every girl should know. You know the one I'm thinking of?" 

I wasn't feeling puckish enough to give her an estimate on Margaret Sanger's seminal (heh) work

Bears kicks @$$!

Happy birthday to my favorite bear, Mr. Bears himself! Wherever he is, he always makes me feel welcome.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jack the Laff Riot

Thanks, Chuckbert, for posting the latest carousel o' slides. I remember when Jack took the picture below at Knott's Berry Farm. He asked me to pose with the burro, and I innocently complied. 

Afterwards he delighted in showing this slide to company. Every time the image appeared, he'd ask, "Now. . . which one is the jackass?" And everyone would laugh, and I'd try to make the best of it. But I felt that he was shaming me. See also Chuckbert's Simple Grudge Index.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Footprints in the front yard

I was sitting in my chair by the window and looked out a few minutes ago at the crusted snow and patterns made by the prints of the letter carrier and critters. Here are some images.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Nature in art

Today, to ward off cabin fever, Michele and I went to Santa Fe to do some errands. When we had finished buying underwear, niacin, and office supplies (when it comes to having a bag o' thrills, we madcaps have no peers) and having a little lunch, we wondered what to do next. Michele suggested that we walk the labyrinth on Museum Hill. Unfortunately, the snow was still covering the ground and obscured the path. 

So we went instead to the sculpture garden and then to a sculpture of a Mountain Spirit Dancer by Craig Dan Goseyun, a member of the San Carlos Apache tribe. (I took the images with my cell phone.) Here is the sculpture of the dancer. It's about 10 feet high.

Charles Russell, the artist and sculptor, knew that most sculpture was designed to be viewed from only one vantage point, so he created his to be viewed from all angles and vantage points. So I started walking around the piece to see everything, and in the bell on the dancer's left boot, I saw this.

A bird's nest!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Street fund and books

Some time ago, I wrote about my street fund, the money I find on the streets, under counters, and in other places. Here's the tally for 2008:
  • 117 pennies
  • 11 nickels
  • 23 dimes
  • 12 quarters
  • 1 $1 bill
  • 1 $5 bill
The total for 2008 is $13.02. (I also found two Canadian nickels and a Canadian dime. Marion, the ice cream's on me!)

For years now, Izzy and I have made it a goal to read 25 new books a year. The past several years I've averaged in the low forties. Customers at the store say, "Heh, heh, I suppose now you that you own a bookstore, you don't have time to read." I always reply, "I read a lot. Reading is my job." This year I read 89 books. Here's the breakdown. Click on a chart to enlarge it.

The best books I read in 2008 were

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?--Henry Ward Beecher