Dinah Washington in the land of HI-FI (EmArcy MG 36073)
I love this Dinah Washington album. I love the photograph, I love the design.
What is she dreaming of, with her eyes closed?
I'll never know.
Collectors are odd birds, no question. You don't really know how rare something is until you go ten or twenty years without seeing another one. And I'm not talking about cheating and satisfying yourself with an internet purchase; I'm talking about relentlessly browsing bins and checking shelves and making yourself a frequent presence at thift stores and used bookshops and garage sales.
That's the game of it, right?
I've always thought this Dinah Washington album was suitable for framing but I was afraid to hang it on the wall. I didn't want it damaged, didn't want it faded by the sun.
And then I found another one, in even better condition than the copy I own.
I don't play piano and I don't smoke cigarettes, but if I did both I'd try to cultivate the dangly, gangly, squinty-eyed, devil may care vibe that Hoagy Carmichael has going for him on this album cover.
Me: "Hey Hoagy, nice job writing the music for "Stardust," "Heart and Soul," and "Georgia on My Mind." Hoagy: "Who me? Yeah, whatever." I picked up this record at a thrift store and was so taken with the cover it didn't bother me that the record inside wasn't Rusty Meets Hoagy. I had to have it.
We went back to the rec center on Sunday to play tennis after having so much fun last week. This is how committed we are to playing tennis: we brought $11 with us, the fee for 90 minutes on the court. Unfortunately, we got to the rec center at 3:30 and the whole place closes down at 4 p.m. on Sundays. The woman behind the counter suggested we try the local high school. "They have nice courts over there," she said. "And it's free." Ten minutes later, we had successfully breached security at the high school and began playing in earnest. Neither of us is an accomplished player, but we are good enough to play games. There were lots of volleys, lots of hotly contested points. We lunged. We returned impossible shots. Occasionally, we merely swung at the air.
My partner, who was dressed in many layers, worked up a sweat. "I'm a sweater," she said. I was wearing a thin t-shirt and a pair of Nike athletic shoes that my son passed on to me. I panted once, twice. We shared a bottle of water. We played until it got too dark to see the ball. Next time, I'll wear a hoodie. I like working up a sweat.
Some friends I know run a used bookstore and I don't get out to see them nearly enough. They're great people, real booksellers, and I feel guilty for not seeing them more often.
Last week, our happy hour plans brought me within a block of their bookstore, so I ducked in to say hello. We caught up for about 15 minutes, but that didn't leave me any time to browse. I promised to return in the next day or two, which I did.
Chris is a retired history professor and his partner, Paula, is someone I worked with almost twenty years ago at a local, independent bookstore. They're both in their mid-70's, still sharp as tacks. Paula doesn't just know first editions; she still remembers the names of my children and the city my ex-wife lives in.
She pulled me aside and showed me a very clean copy of Cormac McCarthy's The Orchard Keeper, an ex-library copy with only a minor flaw. She and Chris paid a $1 for it, but they could probably get $1000 for it from a McCarthy collector. They also showed me some lovely children's books, since they both recall my stint managing a children's bookstore in the 90s. Paula remembers I have a stack of signed Maurice Sendak books, among other things.
I love browsing used bookstores and I try to support them everywhere I go. On the other hand, I already have a lot of books. And, I'm cheap when it comes to spending money on myself. I browsed the books in the shop and carried around a relatively new David Mamet book I don't own (and Allan Sherman's autobiography which I do own), but put everything back and gave their vintage paperback rack a spin.
I finally settled on these two gems: Roald Dahl's Kiss Kiss (Dell, 1961) and Newton Wilson Hoke's Double Entendre (Pocket Books, 1957). I have an early printing of the Dahl with no dustjacket, but I've never seen Double Entendre before and it looked like fun. It goes without saying that these two books smell terrific.
I drove home Sunday morning and pulled weeds for about an hour. That's all I can handle, sixty minutes in the garden. Allergies.
I pulled weeds for as long as I could and if you stand in a certain spot, stare at the ground, and completely ignore your peripheral vision, the yard looks great. I have more work to do, but it started to rain.
I've never been so happy in my life.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * We made plans to play tennis in the afternoon, despite the shortage of public tennis courts in Tempe. We drove to Kiwanis Rec Center but the office was closed for Super Bowl Sunday, which worked to our advantage.
There was a teen tournament in progress and some individual tennis instruction. We ran into a tennis mom and asked if it was okay for us to be there, so long as we found an empty court. She waved us in, pointed us in the right direction. We made a mental note not to swear in front of any youngsters.
There were six empty courts, well away from the action. We played for 90 minutes, had a lot of fun. We were a couple of Arthur Ashe-holes, running and swatting the ball and laughing a lot.
It sprinkled a little bit, but nothing serious. Enough rain to get me out of pulling weeds, but not enough rain to stop playing tennis.
It reminded me of being ten years old, playing all day during summer vacation, and not wanting to come inside when my mother called me.
My old buddy Wayne was in town this weekend, visiting from New Mexico. He called me at work on Friday and we met him for dinner in the usual spot, a Chinese restaurant he first recommended a decade ago.
Wayne brought two small gifts with him: a collection of Raymond Chandler stories and a Simon Finch rare book catalogue (#53) from 2002.
I'm very familiar with Chandler's Red Wind. Five stories ("Red Wind," "Blackmailers Don't Shoot," "I'll Be Waiting," "Goldfish," and "Guns at Cyrano's"), all of them long on style and loaded with attitude. The protagonists may have names like Carmady and John Dalmas, but they're all Marlowe no matter how you slice it.
I don't know if Simon Finch is still actively selling rare books, but his catalogues are serious affairs.
There are 230 collectibles listed for sale here, all of them lovingly described.
It's a shame people don't take this kind of thing as seriously as they once did. We ate, we talked, we cracked open our fortunes. The "Learn Chinese" word on the back of Wayne's fortune was tennis. Particularly prescient, if you ask me.
Someone told me I should reread "Barn Burning" and then kaboosh! I found this Collected Stories of William Faulkner for $4.50.
My hardcover copy is nothing special, a 21st printing. It was originally priced $8.95, which is why the clerk who priced this particular used copy thought it should sell for $4.50. Dividing numbers in half doesn't take a whole lot of imagination or training.
It's worth noting that new copies of the current paperback edition of Collected Stories of William Faulkner sell for $20. Right next to my $4.50 hardcover was a used paperback edition selling for $9.