Sunday, March 11, 2012
Snow flurries in the Virginia mountains.
Dinner in Knoxville with Molly and John, proprietors of the excellent Central Street Books. The building that houses their shop used to be a bar at which Cormac McCarthy drank.
The bar is still there, but McCarthy was gone.
South to Chattanooga for lunch the next day, then down to Scottsborough and Huntsville.
Next morning to Birmingham to buy some ephemera from a friend there, then on down to Montgomery –“Make me an Angel” - John Prine had left the building.
Spent the night at Dothan, AL, because that’s where an Outback Steak House is. Sitting at the bar there I had a strange thought. This Outback could’ve been the one in Concord, NH, or Springfield, Mass. or New London, CT, or any of two dozen other Outbacks I’ve eaten at in the past year. The layouts of all of them are exactly the same.
But here’s the funny thing, one of the aspects of being on the road that I most enjoy. My anonymity, and the absolute predictability of such a place, tends to cancel out the environment, leaving me alone with my own thoughts, undisturbed. Or, in this case with my geezer buddies, chawing away at our ribeye steaks, slurping down red wine, and telling lies.
Krispy Kreme breakfast
and a sugar fueled push east across the Florida panhandle, the air warming as we drive. Then down Route 75, the highway of billboards – personal injury lawyers, pro life organizations, sell your car over the Internet websites, motels, rv parks, restaurants, tourist traps, gun shops. It was good to see that at least one branch of the book trade is still flourishing.
“Friday couples night???”
Next day, Venice, site of the famous Clown College, where we did some serious bookseller research.
Eighty degrees, blue skies, a welcome sense of complete unreality.
Oh yes, the Florida Book Fair.
And its accompanying delights
Not much more to say than what Cynthia and Sunday have so gracefully articulated, except to add promoter emeritus Larry Kellog’s observation that the Florida Book Fair is older than its current promoter, Sarah Smith, whose dad organized the first ones. Is that continuity, or what? In the world of provincial book fairs, only the strong survive, and the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair remains one of the strong ones.
Nobody I spoke to reported record sales,
but the aisles were full most of the weekend, and even I sold two books.
The buying, I’m happy to say, was a cut above average. Though I didn’t land any whales, I found plenty of chowder, and a few that might make me a nice lobster bisque.
Manuscript JOURNAL OF THE SCHOONER ABBY B. IN THE GOVERNMENT SERVICE IN THE DEPT. OF THE SOUTH... CAPT. DAVID J. SHEPARD. JUNE 8, 1864 - JAN 24, 1865. Small 8vo. Unpaginated. Approximately 100 pp. manuscript entries, 12,000 words. The schooner Abby was employed hauling stores - mainly cannon and shells - to various locations along the South Carolina and Georgia coasts in the waning days of the Civil War. Shepard lists vessels sighted, materiel transported, and daily events, including the salvage of a ten inch Columbiad - a cannon - which he draws in the journal. He notes battles and incidents, such as the evacuation of Savannah on Dec. 22 - “Bully for Sherman he is the man for Uncle Sam.” However, from Shepard’s perspective, the most important event in this account is his assuming command of the Abby B. when her former captain becomes too ill to discharge his duties. Shepard happily notes the event and decorates his book accordingly. Also, he was from New Bedford, and brought a whale stamp with him (probably from prior duty aboard a whale ship). Several of the pages are decorated in a whimsical manner with this whale stamp. Bound in full sheep, legible and clean. $1500