Perforated Lines (you can't resist 'em!)

adios, neighbor 

-- Friday, September 3, 1999 --

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1:47 p.m. A huge interruption in my quiet morning as a house across the street changes hands and the bounty that was stashed there falls out to the street, totally and entirely up-for-grabs. Sure, there's a little scent 'o the cat. Sure, certain things need to be scalded and scrubbed clean in the sink. Sure, sure. So I drag a lot of stuff across the street, meet the neighbors who are clustering like fleas and flies and gnats and lord knows what-all around the piles of treasure. Someone's entire life is out on the street.

It must have been an interesting story. Rather than try to take pictures, which is just plain embarrassing and insulting to the various folk on either side of the treasure pile, I've decided instead to scan a few edges and bits of the book covers to give you something of the flavor. But first, some sketchy background.

A few weeks ago there was a yard sale at this very house, and we walked over to meet and greet and maybe buy something. The prices were way too high, so instead of buying anything we merely admired the fine Craftsman architecture and talked to the elderly man who was leaving California behind for one of the interior states, a quieter place, to live near his reluctant family. We exchanged www.addresses and he talked about his housemate, who had been an architect, who had died a while ago.

"Oh, he was a big reader, he was. A big thinker. Made all those shelves."

And that was basically that. The old guy who was still alive to provide the commentary had recently embarked on a quest to get covers put on street lights because he thought there was too much light pollution in the city. He pointed to our house and to the way-mod unshielded bulbs that were over the front door. We were one of the gross polluters, in his eyes.

A few weeks have passed and I watched the small pickups come and go and I wondered how the old man was getting on in his new environment. Does he already have a crick in his neck from gazing up at the stars, now finally visible again, in the clear dark big sky country?

And what of the treasure from the dead architect that he left behind? I think a simple list of some of the books we lugged home will give a better view of the man than any words I might come up with. (And believe me, the following books are all the original, first and in some cases, the only extant editions. Feast your imaginations on:

  • The 1987 Peace Calendar, with an introduction by Ed Asner and Ruby Dee.
  • A Coney Island of the Mind, Poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
  • The Mensa Genius Quiz, Book 2
  • Bioshelters, Ocean Arks, City Farming
  • Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin
  • The Tales of Hoffman, from the trial of the Chicago 8 (7)
  • By Popular Demand: Plays and Other Works by the San Francisco Mime Troupe
  • Dragon, Number 7, Bay Area Research Collective
  • The Genius of Huey P. Newton, Minister of Defense, Black Panther Party
  • Prisons We Choose to Live Inside, by Doris Lessing
  • An Actor Prepares, Constantin Stanislavski
  • The Rand Corporation Report on the Future of Cable Television: Some Problems of Federal Regulation

Plus, all sort of feminist tracts, Noam Chomsky stuff, architecture-for-the-people books, and the big find of the day:

  • A Pattern Language

Totally pristine first edition, and in addition to Christopher Alexander, I never knew it was also written by Sara Ishikawa and Murray Silverstein.

The arc of a life, from an early '50s Five Weeks to Winning Bridge to a very late in life Concise Bible Handbook, heavily underlined. Thank God he discovered the Sims before he went on to whatever deity he embraced when he died. There was the Sim City Planning Commission Handbook, and I'll bet it gave him many happy hours, playing with the tiny city that you build by yourself and for yourself, a perfect vision perfectly realized.

I left behind the various versions of It's All in Your Mind and You Really Can Conquer Cancer, because you know, sometimes it isn't and sometimes you really can't.

and the halibut

Tomorrow: by popular demand.

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