Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Whistling Loudly

Cold Water Books - #5 on my list
I haven't tweeted or even opened twitter in a long long time.  A few days ago I did and this tweet from Allison Devers @andevers caught my eye, probably because I love small, independent bookstores - cozy places, where book nuts are safe and warm and in the company of like-minded folk.

Here's the tweet:  I just paid my first two months "security" on my bookshop and that is just over £2,000 and I am whistling loudly, so please come shop at @secondshelfbks if you haven't yet. The most hidden bookstore in London, in a small Soho courtyard awaits you! pic.twitter.com/qrtxcwxuBI
In another lifetime, I turned down a number of opportunities to visit London and Stonehenge.  That was before I met Inspector Morse, and Endeavour, his younger self, and Dr. Who (all 13 of them).  When I looked at the picture of The Second Shelf, I was absolutely sure that the Tardis was parked just around the corner.  I immediately added The Second Shelf to my Bookstores To Visit List.

Besides being cozy, comfortable places; small bookstores have something else in common with each other and with every other small business on the planet.  They are owned and operated by people who are, as Allison so beautifully said, "Whistling in the dark."  Whether the bookstore is as new as the Second Shelf, or has been around a long time, like Otto Penzler's The Mysterious Bookshop, in New York,   - the second bookstore on my Bookstores To Visit list.

Unlike the Second Shelf, I have visited The Mysterious Bookshop, albeit virtually.  Adrienne Wall, a friend and one of my two lovely business partners, gave me a signed copy of The Promise by Robert Crais, in in so doing introduced me to the bookshop.  There are many traditions at The Mysterious Bookshop.  One of them is inviting a prominent mystery writer to write a Christmas short story.  Christmas customers then receive a copy of the current short story.  So, with The Promise, I received Secret Santa by Ace Atkins.  It is a delightful short story, and one I know I'll reread every Christmas.  The Mysterious Bookshop is also the place where I found a  signed and lettered copy of The Mysterious Disappearance of the Reluctant Book Fairy, a special Christmas gift for Christina.

Now, it's time for you and me to drive.  We are going to visit the next two bookstores on my list.  First, we will go to The Bookstore in Kilgore,  owned by a good friend, Stephen Woodfin.  Notice the temperature is hovering around freezing, just as it was in New York, but know inside it's warm and cozy and there is a faint, not unpleasant sound of whistling coming from somewhere.

I haven't been inside yet but I've made a point of checking all the photos posted and their web site, and I know it is one of the good places in the world because another friend, bestselling author Caleb Pirtle, told me so -
and if Caleb says its good, you can bank on it.

Just look at the place - a historic home, planted in the shade of tall Texas trees.  Heck partner, you know this place has been here since the beginning of time and you know for sure it's a place to pull up a chair, order a coffee and open a book.  It's also a place to spend the afternoon listening to Stephen spin tall tales as he keeps your cup and your heart full.

It's time to leave Kilgore, and head for the last bookstore currently on my list.  We're going to head mostly north and we aren't going to shut down until we get to Fairfield, Iowa.  Now, plug this address in the GPS, 112 North Main Street, and let's ride.  If you get tired, I'll drive.  That way we can make it in 12 hours.  It's only 782 miles, that's no "step for a couple of steppers like us."

When we shut this old boy down, we'll be in front of Revelations, a bookstore, cafe, and world renowned Scrabble Center.  Betsy, the world class owner of this world class establishment, will, on occasion, tell a joke. My pen friend, Jacqueline Signori, told me so, in confidence, and she also said that all the Scrabble players headquartered at Revelations, call Betsy's jokes, groaners but not when there is a chance Betsy, the owner of the greatest hangout in Fairfield can hear.

This whirlwind tour has been presented for your reading entertainment by my love for books, and places where they are served up... it's a gift for all you book lovers.  If you have a special book stop please share it in a comment - maybe there will be additional postings of "whistle stops for book lovers."  Thanks for being here.. and there.

Happy reading.




Sunday, January 20, 2019

A Bigger Crisis

Martin Luther King, Jr. - American Minister

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter" 
Martin Luther King, Jr.

"You have power over your mind - not outside events.  Realize this, and you will find strength."
Marcus Aurelius

"The crisis on our southern border, and for that matter, all other crises on the planet, pale in comparison to the crisis we have bought on ourselves by refusing to speak about things that matter."  Bert Carson

"I can be changed by what happens to me.  But I refuse to be reduced by it."  Maya Angelou

"Instructions for living a life: Pay attention.  Be astonished.  Tell about it."  Mary Oliver

"Knowing is not enough; we must apply.  Willing is not enough; we must do."  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"Things do not happen.  Things are made to happen."  John F. Kennedy

"The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have."  Vince Lombardi


Sunday January 20, 2019
Tweet from NBC News President Trump won't be participating in any Martin Luther King Jr. Day service activities tomorrow. According to the White House schedule, he "has no public events scheduled.

My Regret

I know where I was 11/22/63, the day JFK was killed.
I know where I was 12/27/67, the day my oldest daughter was born.
I know where I was 1/31/67, the second day of Tet, 1968.
I know where I was April 4, 1968, the day MLK was killed.
I have vivid memories of those four days but no regrets about where I was or what I was doing. But I do have a regret. It is, I don't remember where I was on March 25, 1965, when Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech from the steps of the state capital of Alabama. Actually, my regret is that I wasn't there.

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, January 18, 2019

InCoWriMo 2019

Six years ago, actually six years and a month ago, I first heard the name InCoWriMo for the first time.

InCoWriMo means International Correspondence Writing Month.   The month is February and the objective is "...to send a handwritten letter every day for the month of February to a person on the list.  It doesn't have to be a novel or even news, it's entirely up to you what you write."

The key word in that quote, taken from a blog post on the InCoWriMo 2019 site, is handwritten.  The snail mail logo is more than a cute picture.  It is reminder to slow down, reach out and get in touch.  I don't know of a better way to do that than write a letter - a handwritten letter.

I began writing letters fifty years ago when I served in Vietnam.  When I first read about InCoWriMo, I jumped at the chance to get back into it.  I quickly discovered that the magic was still there.

The first month of the first InCoWriMo, February 2014, was half done
when I heard about it.  I thought about waiting to 2015 to participate, but decided it was too good to wait a year for, so I jumped in and caught up.  I haven't missed a year since.

Many of the people I've met through letters have become my good friends, and I expect many more will.  I have pen friends in Thailand, the United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, Taiwan, and the United States.

I just assembled my 2019 InCoWriMo mailing list, and it includes individuals in Germany, France, Hong Kong, Israel, Macau, Kuwait, India, Mexico and the U.S.  All of the information for this year's event is here.   If you don't know whom to write to, a list of individuals who would love to hear from you is here.

Happy writing!

Bert

"Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company."  Lord Byron

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Yours To Count On

J.E.B. Stuart
All things evolve and words are no exception.  For example, originally a cavalier was the name given by puritans to royalist supporters of King Charles.  Not a desirable name.  Over time Cavalier evolved to mean a flamboyant, supportive soldier. 

James Ewell Brown Stuart, commonly known as "Jeb," is often called "the last Cavalier."  The West Point graduate was a cavalry general who served under Robert E. Lee during the American Civil War.

Lee called Jeb, my good right arm.  Stuart was notorious for the daring recon missions he led, usually conducted far behind enemy lines.  In his detailed written accounts of those missions to General Lee, he signed under the closing line, "Yours to count on."

I've had the good fortune to know a few cavaliers in my time, men and women I knew I could always count.  My cavaliers include, Lieutenant Bogdue, helicopter pilot, once a Sergeant, then a Warrant Officer, and finally a commissioned officer, thanks to a battlefield commission following his unsupported rescue of a General during the war in Vietnam.  And there was Private Castellanous, who defied mortars and rockets to make sure "I was alright."  And of course there is always Christina, my good right arm, who always has my back.

Before Bogdue, Castellanous, and Christina, I had another cavalier, Gerald Decker.  Prior to Vietnam, I was stationed at Fort Sam Houston (San Antonio).  There I worked for Gerald Decker, the smartest man I've ever known.  Though he left school when he was 14, Gerald radiated intelligence.  He was born and raised in Detroit, where he lived on the street from the time his old man kicked him out of the house at age 15, until a judge gave him a choice of prison or the army.

In less than three years, without serving in Vietnam, Decker rocketed through the ranks, from Private to Staff Sergeant.  When he told me of the choices offered by the judge, he added, "I'm not sure I picked the best one."

I had been at Fort Sam about four months, when I was joined by my wife.  She tried, but couldn't get a job in San Antonio because soldier's were moved often unexpectedly, and their wives went with them or back home.  We lived off-base, on my E-4 salary.  To say we were strapped would be an huge understatement.  Decker, my section leader, knew our financial situation and asked if I would like to work Friday and Saturday nights, with him, at The Landing.   I said "YES!" and became his assistant bartender.

We rode to work together and got to know each other pretty well.  He told me about his life on the streets of Detroit, but I had serious problems relating his stories to the soft spoken, straight-arrow, young Staff Sergeant I knew.  My skepticism disappeared at 4 AM one Sunday morning.

We were on our way home.  I was driving. The streets were empty, or so I thought until a car pulled to a stop beside us at a traffic light.  I turned to my left, noting there were  two young men in the front seat and three, maybe four more in the back seat.  I locked eyes with the passenger, smiled and nodded.  He gave me an angry look, then leaned out his open window and aimed a pistol at my face.  Before I could move or scream or even think about what was happening, he pulled the trigger.  Fire erupted from the muzzle of the gun as the sound filled my head.

I sensed, but could not hear Decker shouting as he leaped from the car.  I turned to my right just as he leveled the little automatic pistol I carried in the glove box at the shooter and methodically began firing.  I've often thanked God for Decker, and that he was a horrible shot, and that I saw him transform himself from Clark Kent to Superman and, of course, I gave thanks that the kid was firing blanks that night.

Why that story on this day?  Because I always like to spend some time, at the beginning of a new year, recalling the cavaliers in my life and giving thanks that they were and are there.  Maybe that's something you enjoy also, and who knows, maybe you'll share one of your cavaliers in the comments below.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Along A Road He Had Never Traveled

I haven't written a blog post in almost a year.  Maybe it's like riding a bicycle, and I haven't forgotten how it's done.  Or maybe what we've been told about riding a bicycle is wrong, and I have forgotten how.  This is where we find out which is true or, if just maybe, both are false and something else is true.

It's Christmas morning, 2018.  Warm for Christmas morning in north Alabama.  The sounds I associate with long ago Christmas mornings, kids on new skates, kids learning how to operate new toys, kids laughing and playing, have been replaced by nothing... nothing human that is.

An hour ago, as I filled the bird feeders and scattered peanuts for the squirrels and "Baker Street" (three groups of blue jays who love raw, in the shell Virginia peanuts) the only sounds I heard were me rattling the bird seed can and Baker Street warning the squirrels to stay away from their peanuts.

The Christmas sounds of kids playing outside with new toys only exists in my mind and maybe in a parallel universe that isn't running close enough to this one for me to access this morning.

For me, the only bit of Christmas past that seems to be part of this Christmas morning is the last paragraph of Wallace Stegner's short story, The Traveler.  I've pasted it below, but before you read it, you should know this, these words have the power to become a permanent Christmas memory for you.  These words could even erase any feeling of loss you are experiencing around the absence of the source of your childhood Christmas memories - Now, if you are willing to risk that, read on:

"Along a road he had never driven he went swiftly toward an unknown farm and an unknown town, to distribute according to some wise law part of the burden of the boy's emergency and his own; but he bore in his mind, bright as moonlight over snow, a vivid wonder, almost an awe. For from that most chronic and incurable of ills, identity, he had looked outward and for one unmistakable instant recognized himself."  


Merry Christmas!