Friday, June 22, 2018

Reds Dive into Summer

The Orphan Reds and I went visiting yesterday (my day off books).

First we went to Julia's, where they were given a bike!

Then we biked over to visit Marz at her new apartment. Marz wasn't home, but Red Hair Girl insisted she would wait and surprise her. 

RHG is a good climber (as was discovered at the Grand Canyon). She made her own way into Marz's mailbox.
(I am beginning to suspect the Orphan Reds are like cats and like to get into boxes.)

I felt a little separation anxiety as I biked away. What if something happened to Red Hair Girl? What if a strange neighbor found and took her?*

And she is a doll––even, I have to admit, a replaceable doll.
How unbelievably cruel and unusual it is to take someone's flesh-and-blood child away. It concerns me deeply that U.S. staff members––my fellow citizens––were/are willing to obey orders to do so.

*Marz called last night to say she saw the sign of Red Hair Girl immediately when she got home and that RHG is happy hanging out on top of the fridge with old friends.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Doll Box

The Reds get into everything. They have no fear, endless curiosity, and they see the world as playable. Also, they are very strong for their size. I worry about them a little and am inspired by them.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


When I was a kid, I was envious of the Catholic kids who got rosaries and all sorts of mysterious good stuff, and to this day, any religion that offers good toys and trinkets (or, Art) is going to be dear to my heart. 

Today I had a ball photographing some of the items donated to the Religious Articles Ministry associated with the thrift store. The ministry accepts old Catholic sacramental items and redistributes them through various channels.

Besides being the Book Lady, I'm the (self-appointed) Social Media Raconteur for the thrift store. They have a FB account––
––and even a Twitter, so I hear, but sometimes a whole month will go by with nobody posting--because, my boss says, "Nobody wants to."

Well, I do!
  BELOW: A glow-in-the-dark Lady of Fatima

BELOW: a small St. Christopher for the dashboard of a car,
and a Stations of the Cross medal only a little bit bigger than a U.S. quarter

And a collection of worn, old holy medals strung on a baby-diaper pin. I loved this so much, I asked if I could buy it. The woman in charge said no, they are for giving away--I could have it for free.

Chicago World's Fair "Kok-Bok"

I'm in my third week at my new job, and it's going well.
I added some new books to the glass-fronted display case. Like many things and people at the store, it's damaged--a big crack down the center. But you just place books so that doesn't interfere...

Yesterday I put in this cool souvenir cookbook from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair/ Columbian Exposition! ($20) Hemmets Drottning Kok-Bok--a Swedish translation of The Home-Queen Cookbook.  The cover shows the fair's famous dome.

It's more than a cookbook--it has instructions--the names of pieces of meat, how to fold a napkin, etc.--and, my favorite thing, BELOW, the owner had tucked handwritten notes and newspaper clippings inside, and glued some recipes in as well.
                                                                      ^ PORK CAKE?!?! 
Well, we're adding bacon to donuts and ice-cream and everything these days.

The books also has photos of and info about some of the women who helped run the fair (and put the book together? I'm not sure, exactly, not knowing Swedish).

Monday, June 18, 2018

Books Talk

A couple of my recent set-ups at work:

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Red Hair, White Arches

Red Hair Girl wading in the reflecting pond of my favorite building in town, the [former] Northwestern National Life Building, designed by Minoru Yamasaki and opened in 1965.

All 3 Orphan Reds went wading, but the wind was so strong, it kept knocking them into the water! (That's why RHG's hair is wet.)

Sister's Birthday, w/ "Betty"

I took my sister (below, left) out for a birthday lunch. The dolls came along too. (Here we are making an award for someone we both know.)

When I was little, according to my mother, I asked about the possibility of a nonexistent sister--a child who had never been born. But if that child had been born, I told my mother, she would have been my other sister, . . . a sister who, little me said, might have been named "Betty." 

[I think there's a philosophical term for all this--the weird way things don't exist. It's the sort of idea might kids slip in and out of.]

It's like the Reds are all three of us---my sister, me, and the Other Sister, Betty, who never existed.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Reds and Pink

The Orphan Reds, at play in the backyard peonies

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

My Boss

This is my great boss. He was wearing that "DARK SIDE 1977" T-shirt for real, and I found the mask. 
He's going to post this on the store's FB, to advertise the book dept. shake-up.

The Book Room: Some Changes So Far

In my book work, I have broken the inertia of my thrift store's merchandising plan (plan?) of Put It Anywhere You Can and implemented a new plan: 
Put Things With Similar Things.

I mentioned this to a volunteer who was on his knees scrubbing the linoleum. He rolled his eyes. "I used to work in marketing," he said, "but I gave up trying to help here. I just clean. It's easier."
I am still energetic, however, and--with permission and help-- yesterday I moved Children's Books from down the way to right near the Book Room. (You can peek the magazines through the door.)

Also I added pictures & other kiddish things for sale. 
The painting of kids blowing a dandelion is a good example of thrift store kitsch--it's bad enough to be good.

I replaced a ugly bookshelves with narrow shelves with a smaller, nicer one for Politics and History Books {below}.
This caused my boss some pain. To him, "empty space is lost money."
I tried to suggest that presentation counts, and sometimes less is more---that the fact that the books look so much better (and fit) on these shelves might help sales. 
In fact,  a couple books sold the first day:
Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice (2014),  and The Witches: Salem, 1692 (2015). 
Hm---I see the latter got a bad review in the NYT. But I am not a curator, I am a displayer who seeks to be Fair & Balanced. 
You see I have Maureen Dowd standing next to Rush Limbaugh, and Jon Stewart next to Glenn Beck.

Monday, June 11, 2018


Painted under a bridge on the Greenway bike & walking path I take to work:
(scroll to right to see full image)


Alternate Book Storage

Something about my new job--I think it's the way I'm using a baby-buggy as my book wagon--prompted my sister to remind me that our sister-in-law had once asked her husband, our brother,

“Why is your mother’s bathtub filled with books?” 

I would like to embroider this quote.

My mother lived in a very small apartment. A couple/few years before she died, she took to using the tub as a book repository.
She bathed in/from the sink. . .  tenement style, you could say.

This S-I-L, who had a slight Valley Girl accent, once also expressed the opinion that "Thomas Jefferson is sooooo dead."

S-I-L & Brother are not in my life, but I hear from my sister that they are very happy together--a good example of how you don't have to see eye to eye to have a happy marriage, since I can well imagine my brother considering all furniture as possible book storage space and wearing a T-shirt that read THOMAS JEFFERSON LIVES.

"alert curiosity rewarded"

"The lesson of flea markets is that specific desire will be disappointed and alert curiosity rewarded."

--Joan Juliet Buck

Sunday, June 10, 2018

I'd be a little bit in love...

...with anyone [their IG] who would take on the burden of protecting these delight-giving, innocent creatures from becoming cognizant of the destructive nature of their being.

Plans Awry

It was a busy Saturday at the thrift book store. Lots of shoppers said they liked the changes I've made--especially facing books forward, and a couple even let me know they bought books because of it.

Lemons & Birch

One man bought (for 99¢) a clean old copy of Bitter Lemons by Lawrence Durrell >
about living on Cyprus, which he'd read and loved years ago, he told me, but had forgotten. 
 (I'd chosen it out because it was a favorite of my mothers.)

He said "I'd never have thought of it again, if you hadn't put it facing out." 
So that was great, but those pesky shoppers... They keep messing up my displays. 
I didn't end up putting up the movie still of John Cusak & Love in the Time of Cholera because a guy told me he was looking for books by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and he bought all five of them.
"Put that cholera one back!" I wanted to say. "I had plans for it."

And then a woman asked the price of a framed Gustav Klimt poster I'd put on top of a tall bookshelf. (All unused space, before.)
 < Not this one, left, but
similar, with Klimt's name in gilt, and from the same "Birch Forest" series.
I should have priced it myself ($25?), but standing right there was the Assistant Manager, a woman I like, so I asked her, 
"How much for that poster?"

And she said right to the customer, 
"Four dollars."

I let out a cry of dismay, but of course the shopper was on it. 
After the ass't manager left, the customer said, "That was a mistake".
"It was," I laughed. "But you come to thrift stores to get a good deal, right?"

Later the ass't manager was apologetic: "I didn't realize it was art."

"That's OK," I said. "It doesn't matter---my philosophy is that it's good to move the merchandise, even if we could get more money for it."

Really, the whole place is a river--you want it to keep moving.
But, in fact, I kept fretting about it, not really because it sold too cheaply but because I didn't want it to sell at all! I wanted to keep enjoying it.
But this is a store! It's for selling things!
If I want something, I could buy it myself.

Sometimes Failing Is a Good Thing

Then my plans to paint a bookshelf to feature Young Adult books went awry. I know a lot about books (more than I'd even realized), but I know squat about paint.

The white shelves are a hard shiny surface, so the red paint went on streaky, and the color looked pinky-fuschia, not the elegant red I'd wanted at all. 
A customer said, "Oh, are you painting that for girls' books?"


The upside, however, is that my ineptitude seems to have warmed the lead furniture-room worker to me. 
This guy has been cool toward me, I think partly because the former Book Lady had not had good relations with the staff. He'd told me she was mean, and another coworker said, "She thought she was better than us."

I'd sensed that too, in the brief time I'd worked with her. She made disparaging remarks to me about coworkers being "illiterate."  Some may in fact be almost functionally illiterate, but even if so, so what? That's not a character flaw like being mean is.

Anyway, Furniture Guy seemed wary and watchful.
Maybe screwing up the paint job is the best thing I could have done--I needed help, and he could show his expertise, which is great.

"That's laminate," he said, "it's never going to take that paint. You need to use primer. What I'd have done is get a couple cans of spray paint..."
And then he walked away.

I ended up dragging the (lightweight) bookshelf to the trash and replacing it with a bookshelf that's sat there unsold for a couple weeks---nothing special, but clean and undamaged, with black shelves. I asked a strong-looking young customer if he'd help me move it, if he had a strong back, and he said he was happy to.

Furniture Guy came up afterward and said, "I don't blame you for doing that--the bookshelves out there are garbage. [True.] The books look great on the black."
He started walking away. "Come see this..."

I followed him into the storage area, where he pointed out three natural-wood bookshelves.
"Why don't you replace some of the others with these?"

Yes! They're just what I'd want for an indie-style bookstore. He's going to help me move them in on Monday.
I'm so happy to have them, and maybe even more happy that this guy freely offered this great idea and help, unasked.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Plans I Have

Plans for today at work:
Print and put up a couple booky images
Paint bookshelves


1. From BuzzFeed's Nathan Pyle

2. John Cusak discovers his lost true-love's phone number in a book, in the [pretty terrible] movie Serendipity
(We have two copies of One Hundred Years of Solitude on the shelf, and a customer chatted with me about which book cover we liked best.)

I'm going to the paint store in a few minutes here, before work, to buy a pint(?) of red paint---spending my own $---to paint the shelves where I'm going to put the Young Adult novels.

I want to set them off somehow and thought that would be a fun way to do it. I chose red because that's the color of the Teens Wing at the downtown public library.

Books for "teens" have their own section at the thrift store, next to the little kids' books, which is in the other room from the adult books, which are in the store's back room. I'm going to leave there the middle-school books, like the Little House and the Goosebumps series.

But young-adult readers are looking for heavier fare and likely wouldn't even look there (I haven't noticed any sold this week, anyway). And those readers are old enough to also be reading adult books. Plenty of adults read Y/A too, like the Hunger Games series or books by Rainbow Rowell (I enjoyed her novel Fangirl a lot).

So I'm moving the Y/A books into the Adult Books room--hence the red shelves.

The kids books are not only in another room of the thrift store, they're not even near the door going into the back room.
(The adult books are right on the other side of that door.)
Yesterday I asked the boss if we could move the Kids Books next to the door that goes into the back room. He measured the space and said, Good idea! 
He may not read books, but he's great about taking action right away. I love that.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Visitors to Bookland


Baby Potato's confidence has grown so much, living with the other Reds, she wanted to come to the bookstore with me today, all by herself! This was her first outing on her own, and she really liked watching all the goings-on, from a nook among the goodies on my desk.
You can see three book covers I salvaged off damaged books.

1. Tucked into a lidless hatbox I recovered from the trash, the cover of War and Peace with what appears to be a photo of toy soldiers

2.  I stuck in a frame the suitably slashy cover for The Price of the Phoenix, a Star Trek novel (1977, Bantam Books), in which Spock has to kiss? or somehow awaken with his touch? a Sleeping Beauty Kirk--I haven't read it, but something like that, according to a review on DeviantArt. 

3. I saved that Washington Whispers Murder cover for ---can you see?--the woman, hand to head in a display of horror, in front of the US Capitol. Ha!
Calls out for a "CAPTION THIS" contest.

Also there's a wee elephant creamer, just because, and a Star Wars C3PO Pez dispenser from the 1990s. I checked it on ebay and it's only worth a couple bucks. 
But this is exactly the sort of thing that gets shoplifted, so I'm going to hang onto it until I can put together a larger grab-bag of Star Wars goodies.
(I'm doing that with a few other things too.)

Besides Baby Potato, I had another visitor at work--Marz.
Like bink, she spent a couple hours helping me rearrange books--and moving bookshelves:

a huge thanks to both of you!

The Book's Not For Buying

I have now spent 28 hours cleaning, sorting, and rearranging books at the thrift store--and adding tie-ins. A CD of the soundtrack to Bridget Jones's Diary, a boxed DVD set of the Lord of the Rings, and X-Files mug (no tie-in, but it's all media), etc.

Sixteen of those hours were paid ($10/hour). After tomorrow, I think it'll be largely in shape, and mostly a matter of maintenance.

It's funny: 
as with ebay, I sometimes feel sad when certain things sell quickly at the store, even though that is, of course, the whole point. But since Isherwood's Berlin Stories sold 2 days after I'd turned it face-forward, I miss it...

Every single fiction book is priced at 99 cents. Some of these books are a real steal. The boss has suggested raising the prices, but unless he insists on it (and he might), I am happy to leave it. 
Nonfiction is priced per book---it might make sense to do that with fiction, but that'd be more work. Effort & will is not a problem, but limited time is.

The Right Sardine

I showed the boss around before I left today and pointed out the changes I've made.  I like the boss a lot and admire his skill with people, but I felt a bit let down:
I knew it wouldn't––couldn't––be forthcoming, anymore than I could offer specific appraisal of a sports performance, but I guess I still secretly did want specific praise (or even criticism) of the "I see what you've done there" kind. I mean, that's what baby-me was programmed to receive.

But my boss has straight out told me, "I don't read" (except the Bible)--he's never been to Barnes & Noble or the downtown library (I was mentioning their color scheme)--so specificity just wasn't on the menu. 

He did say nice things--"colorful, inviting"--but naturally didn't say anything like, 
"I like [or don't like] how you've put those cat stories in the pets section";
or, "Interesting choice to shelve the [black magazine] Essence romances in literature instead of with Barbara Cartland",   
or, "Do you think we should price that Isherwood higher?" (He couldn't say that BECAUSE IT WAS ALREADY SOLD when he got there). 

But I'm in a thrift store---not a library. As far as I can tell, my coworkers generally aren't readers. A guy who is supposed to help me shelve books told me he can't alphabetize. I have to accept and adapt to that and be creative about interacting with my coworkers, and not look to them for booky feedback. 

The customers I meet in the book area do read, of course. 
One guy asked me if we had a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. (Not at the moment, but I bet we will.) Another pointed out the Redwall fantasy books with mouse protagonists, on the shelf, [I didn't know them] and said seeing them took him back to his childhood. 
A woman said she's read all of Jodi Picoult, and another said she liked my Minnesota Authors section. An older guy in all-flat-black clothes told me he's interested in Catholica. I knew what he meant but had never heard the word.
Someone pointed out the "Drama Queen" purple mug I've put with other mugs on the shelf that's too small for even , short paperbacks and said it's good for Pride Weekend. I've lost track of when that is (end of June?), but appreciated the association.

So, there's the feedback I want. I don't want to in any way set up my boss or my coworkers by looking to them for something they don't have. 
They do and say lots of good --or interesting--stuff--definitely NOT out of the Approved Communications List liberal lefties (like me) were issued.
A coworker was talking about a transgender person---he obviously didn't approve, but I burst out laughing when he said that this person "came in through the wrong door".

I know this may seem small, but I was pleased and even a little touched when my neighbor in the donations warehouse, who works on electronics, offered me some mini–Tootsie Rolls yesterday.
I'm with St. Teresa of Avila who said that if you gave her so much as a sardine, she was yours for life.

Dada Dolls

Hannah Höch with two of her Dada Puppen (Dada Dolls),
representing her daughters Pax and Botta, ca 1916, photo by Willy Römer.

Hannah Höch was a German artist of the Dada movement. Among other things, she was one of the originators of photo-montage.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

"Welcome to the Cabin"

I scavenged stuff from other parts of the store today, to augment my book displays. Setting up this 3D picture frame, "Welcome to the Cabin",  with Thoreau's Walden made me feel like a very clever bear indeed. (In person, the letters do look like cut logs, not pretzels.)

It's gratifying how many customers say they like the changes I've already made. I don't know what it was like before, but I see people are messing up my displays by buying books off them.

The store doesn't track sales of individual items, but books do have their own category at the cash register. At the end of June, they'll tabulate the sales. I'll be very interested to see if book sales have gone up.

Here I am, below, sorting and cleaning books at my desk. 
I'm mugging for the coworker taking the photo--I don't feel at all beleaguered. Mostly, I'm exhilarated.

I was especially exhilarated today when I open a grocery bag of donations, and there was a set of the works of Carl Jung, published by Princeton-Bollingen (the black books standing on the desk in front of me).

My mother studied Jungian psychology, and I remember that these books are expensive. Even used, they sell for $25 to $100 each now. 
I'm going to put them out for a high price--high for the thrift store, that is--our base price for books is 99¢. I'll price these around $10 each. If they don't sell, I'll put them on ebay.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Seafoam & Chrome

If this vintage architectural soap dish doesn't sell on the thrift store's ebay, I might just have to keep it. 
I couldn't find a similar one online and have never seen one like it, have you?

It's like the seafoam domesticity of the 1930s' "Doing the Doll's Laundry" by Jessie Wilcox meets the chrome world of the 1960s' St. Louis Gateway Arch by Eero Saarinen.