Thursday, December 27, 2012

"Can" B. Worth - Feeding the Birds - Part Eight - The Small Inside - Inside the Large Inside

"Can" B. Worth
Feeding the Birds - Part Eight

The Small Inside

Inside the Large Inside

            Dead Can had two copies of Nicolar’s “RED MAN”.  That’s just the way he did things.  Showing the Manley copy… to someone without knowledge of Manley Hardy… that someone could consider the pencil margin notes to be… damage.  That someone then would conclude that… Dead Can’s second copy; identical in condition to the Manley copy, was “the better one”.  Within his own divinations, Dead Can was very sensitive to what he showed to whom… when, where and why.  It was only I who gained access to ALL of his props in his… large inside.  This… the large inside… he deployed from within his… the small inside.  Just because he showed Wally the Manley… doesn’t mean he would have shown it to… me.  I …found it myself.  AND the second copy of Nicolar… too.

            The transition of my attention from the large inside to the …discovery… of the small inside… came AFTER I attended a memorial service for Dead Can.  Memorial service is my wording.  There was no memorial and there was no service.  There was a low profile gathering for a “Celebration of Carleton B. Worth” held at a seemingly disassociated private sector meeting room …that didn’t seat very many… but was entered by heading straight from the front door of the building to the titled “***** Meeting Room”.  Without ever discovering the details, I believe this …small, brief and gestured gathering had Dead Can’s old college department behind it… although there was no sign of the school anywhere at all.  “Open to all” had crowd control in place by …no one but the marginal insider few “know about it”.  I was telephoned by the old Tyrolean who not only was “there” but is best described as “in his element”.  That was fine with me because he was… too busy talking to… talk to me.
            I arrived in the nick of time, was surprised at the room and the “pretty full” crowd.  I sat in the center back.  Everyone appeared to be of Dead Can’s generation.  I brought a camera and wanted desperately to take pictures of… the back of the heads of Dead Can’s “people”.  “Posse”?  I felt the vibe right away that this was “no photographs please” and that even the gesture of a hand with a camera in it would cause an… awkward silence.  “No pictures?”  “No problem”.  I let it go.
            And there was not much to let go.  Starting at 2:10 we were promptly ushered out into the lobby for the wine and cheese plate reception at 2:35.  No God, hymns, prayers, eulogies, remembrances, hobbies, ghost writing, office jokes, rare book stories, rare books OR bibliomania were even slightly mentioned.  The local newspaper’s BRIEF obituary was read verbatim out loud.  A grand child mentioned that “his office fascinated me” in her brief “my grandfather” reflection statement.  Nervous, she sat down before I could ask her a question.
The cheese plate and wine were devoured by the scanty rare bookseller posse guided by the old Tyrolean.  Once it was determined that there were “no rare books” “for sale” “don’t know WHAT’S happen to HIS books IF he HAD ANY” they focused on the cheese and wine.  It was “gone” very soon.  So everyone left.  I left.  It was raining very hard when I came and… when I left.  “Where was Dead Can?” I said to myself.  “He certainly wasn’t sitting with his wife.  And SHE was one of the first to leave”. 

Was I hearing voices?  Someone just said “You forgot to look at the photographs”.  I went back inside.  In the lobby behind to the empty cheese platter were two folding standup presentation title boards.  And a small table between them.  ON… the small table… was Can’s can.  I hadn’t seen it.  I doubt anyone else did either.  On one folding board were several photographs of Dead Can at the school.  ONE photograph showed Dead Can in his chair at his desk in the… jammed full of boxes… office WITH the can sitting on the desk.  The second folding board had a copy of the obituary cut from the newspaper and… a photograph of … Dead Can’s TV den window side reading table with the light on it on and …a stack of papers and books.  There was no explanation for any of this.  In fact, I reevaluated… it was very hard to notice that “this” was even “there”.  But I stared at that photograph.  Someone was trying to tell me something?  And I think I know what it is?
“Am I hearing voices?”

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"Can" B. Worth - Feeding the Birds - Part Seven - The Large Inside - Curiosity Two - Part Two

"Can" B. Worth
Feeding the Birds - Part Seven

The Large Inside

Curiosity Two - Part Two

            “Well.  It wasn’t a BOOK.  The first that is.  The very first.  I didn’t know THEN but now I see that then I DID begin to change.  Even THEN and even though.  Well.  It took me MANY YEARS.  But I do NOW know WHAT was the FIRST.
            “I’d bought this axe; hand axe, down at the old Expo flea market.  It was an official Boy Scout hand axe with its original sheath, all marked and in absolutely PERFECT condition.  It was what I wanted.  I thought.  You see:  I HAD an axe just like that axe when I was in scouts.  Just like that.  So when I saw this one for sale I was reminded of my old axe.  That one had disappeared YEARS ago.  THIS ONE:  It was for sale for several weeks and I’d look at it.  It was expensive even then; eight-five dollars I think.  I didn’t buy it but kept looking at it and handling it every week.  It was just like my old axe I had as a kid.  But PERFECT.  The condition was really brand new perfect.  Who ever had that axe hardly used it at all.  Finally… one weekend after having thought about that axe for weeks… I bought it.  Paid the price; cash, didn’t even TRY to barter.
            “So there I was with the axe carrying it around at the flea market.  And I knew Can then; we’d talked.  About something I guess; have no idea what.  Anyway:  I knew him in that crowd there.  So he comes along and sees that axe.  He reaches right out and takes it.  He stands there looking it over and says how he’d seen it for sale and how perfect it is.  Yes I say and then tell him how I’d had one just like it when I was in scouts.  He looks at me and says ‘yours was perfect like this one too?’.  No I say mine was all rusted up and dull.  I didn’t know how to sharpen it right and how I’d left it outside most of one summer in the sheath.  The sheath was ruined and the axe was all rusted up.   But how it was an axe just LIKE this perfect one.
            “He looks at me and says ‘Your axe was NOT just like this perfect one.  YOURS was all rusted and dull.  This one is perfect.  The kid who had this one never used it.  He never did anything with this axe like you did with yours.  YOURS you ruined yourself.  This one is PERFECT.  You would have HATED the kid that owned THIS axe’.  Well:  What do you say to THAT.  Of course he was RIGHT but at the time I was so SHOCKED I couldn’t say anything.  But after that:  I NEVER could look at that axe without thinking about what he said.  AND THAT HE WAS RIGHT:  I would have hated that kid and I know that because I DID hate kids like that.  I couldn’t get over that; what he said.  After a few years I sold it.  I took a loss on it; sold it for sixty-five.
            “You want to know what’s worse:  I’m STILL looking for an axe that IS like mine was.  I can’t find one; a rusted up one.  Really.  I came close to one but the guy had CLEANED IT.  I told him I wish you hadn’t done that; I want it rusted.  He thought I was an idiot.  That’s the problem with Can; he makes you into an idiot AND he’s right.  Because of him I’m going to be looking for that axe for the rest of my life.  I TOLD him that.  You know what he said?  He said he was glad to have given me a purpose in life.  That’s what he said.  ‘Give you something to do” he said.

            “That all came around again with him.  I knew him more and more and he’d poop on anything I bought but I did care; just ignored him.  ‘THAT’S CAN’ we’d all say.  The problem was that he was usually RIGHT.  That was the problem with him.  So anyway.  I started to get interested in Maine Indians.  You know; their stuff.  Sort of started collecting it.  There are these clubs they made from roots.  Stuff like that; little birch bark things.  Some baskets.  I didn’t know what I was doing, I admit it.  Just BUY what I liked if I saw it.  And Can might see something I bought but he pretty much ignored it except:  He’d, like, TOUCH IT and then look in my eyes.  You know; look  the THAT WAY look.  But he didn’t say much ever.  That was fine.  I didn’t care.
            So one summer at the flea market I buy this birch bark box.  They’re carve decorated on the bark and have a lid.  I know now they were all tourist items.  Just like all that stuff; the clubs and all.  Tourist stuff.  Anyway I bought one.  It was perfect; pretty much brand new.  Can saw it.  He handled it.  Didn’t say anything.  Just gave me the look.  So, like, about a week later he comes up to me and asks if I like to see a piece of Indian birch bark.  Of course he doesn’t say THAT; says it by its REAL NAME.  Anyway.  We go down to his car.  He whips out this BEAT UP old broken birch bark box.  DIRTY.  BEAT UP.  I’d never seen anything like it before.  THIS, he tells me, is a REAL Maine Indian birch bark box.  I didn’t know what to say.  VERY RARE he says.  Very old.  Well I could tell it was old.

            “Also, inside that box wrapped in newspaper, he had one of those little porcupine quill boxes too.  I had those; I’d bought a bunch of those quill work things.  THIS ONE, he says, is actually a real early one and he starts showing me the natural dyes and how it’s made.  Its all beat to hell; broken, quills gone, no lid, just the quill work from the top.  THAT he shows me how it’s pricked into the birch bark.  On and on.  So I don’t know what I’m looking at.  I haven’t seen anything like these ever and what I have doesn’t look like either of these busted up pieces of crap.  So I tell him that.
            So HE whips out this BOOK.  And even THAT’S beat up.  And it’s the Fannie Hardy Eckstorm book.  BUT I never seen THAT before.  Or know who Hardy is.  So he shows me the book, shows me the porcupine boxes and then shows me the birch bark boxes in the back.  Tells me the BOOK is rare.  THEN he tells me these are STUDY PIECES.  That they are RARE to find AND that the beat up condition is good because you can STUDY them.  I didn’t know what he was talking about I admit it.

            I just went along yes, yes, yes and then got the Hell out of there.  I never saw that stuff again and I’ve never found anything as good as those things he had that day.  After a few years I learned how right he WAS that day.  But.  I don’t even have the book.  I saw one on the internet for sixty-five.  I didn’t buy it.  He’d READ IT.  I’m never gonna find any of that GOOD stuff.  If I did I’d know it.  I don’t need the book.  I think he was trying to sell me that stuff but he never said so.  That’s what I think he was doing.

            “You know one OTHER time he DID have a good thing I think he was trying to sell me.   He had; your not going to believe this.   But I didn’t know THEN.  NOW I’d be able to KNOW even if I didn’t BUY it.  Anyway:  He has this book he shows me; Nicolar’s “THE RED MAN” (Bangor, 1893).  So I’d sort of heard of it.  But not much.  So I know its Maine Indian and suppose to be good.  But then I did really care.  So, I’m like ‘yeah, yeah’.  Well then he shows me in the front this penciled name.  It was Manley Hardy’s copy.  Then he shows me all these pencil notes in the margins; where Hardy wrote something about the text.  Right through the book.  So I don’t know who Hardy is and say so.  So he says what an idiot I am and how that’s Eckstrom’s father who he says MENTORED her.  That its HIS copy with HIS notes.  How that is as HIGH AS YOU CAN GO for Maine Indian.  I didn’t know WHAT he was talking about.  But I DO NOW.  And I never saw THAT again.  I think he was trying to sell that to me.  His whole thing was pretty curious when I look back on it.  But I got to like the guy.”

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"Can" B. Worth - Feeding the Birds - Part Six - The Large Inside - Curiosity Two

"Can" B. Worth
Feeding the Birds - Part Six

The Large Inside - Curiosity Two

            “His stare; passing from the book to my eyes.  At first I couldn’t stand that.  Absolute horror.  I hated that.  It was his cat call.  As they say with books:  Spoke volumes.  He’d always find you too:  When you least expected it.  When you were fully exposed.  Just made an ass of a purchase.  Only right then he’d show up.  I’d have it in my hand, he’d look at it; the spine.  Then look into my eyes.  It would crush me.  Because he was right.  He was always right.  He didn’t have the money so he couldn’t be wrong.  I had the money but I couldn’t get it right.  Still haven’t.  I’ve learned a lot.  From him I learned a lot.  Hard stuff for me too.”
            “I got used to him.  It was hard to stomach.  But I did.  Took a lot.  Took a while.  What I still can’t figure out is why HE stomached me.  The money I suppose.  He knew I had it and… he didn’t.  So he’d watch me.  I guess.  Not really actually.  That wasn’t him at all; to watch someone.  He could just FEEL it; that I’d bought a book.   He could FEEL that; way across the room.  I don’t know.  He just KNEW.  And then there he’d be… looking at the spine end.  I got used to it.  Then; after a while… I started to like it.  In the end… he taught me more about collecting than anyone.  Everyone.  And he never collected ANYTHING.
            “I mean:  He HAD things.  But not a collection.  That I ever saw.  He’d show me things:  GOOD THINGS, some of them.  But that was it.  I never saw them again.  Don’t know what happened to them.  Sold them I guess.  I think he dealt.  I think he was a dealer really.  Just didn’t flash the card.  But bought and sold I guess.  I never bought anything from him though.”
Walcott Peabody (“Wally”)… of Kidder - Peabody family inheritance... had been expostulated to me by the old Tyrolean as THE-SINGLE-CLIENT he had whom he spoke with at length… many times …over the years… about Dead Can.  “Wally”, he told me, “KNEW HIM WELL”.  I… did not know “Wally” “well”.  My estate pillaging business focus prevents me from pumping flesh and all else with … self titled… “collectors”.  Local, they; the “Wally” type, “COLLECT” “RARE” “BOOKS” …often straying into antique objects… too.  They, as a grouping, are “found” “everywhere” within the local trade and trade show circuit.  This includes the auction halls, internets, television program watching, yard sales, thrift stores, grand regional book fairs and, but rarely, “the high end dealer’s stock”.  Like fruit flies, they may be found thickest at the site of any bruised fruit of the rare book trade.  Usually, as Dead Can’s stare has described, they are seen “buying” “something” “they shouldn’t”  That they DO discern this “later” but are “caught up in the moment” “then”:  Always.  With always the same result.  Creating moments for them to get caught up in …with preferably MY third to fifth tier stock being the “they are buying”… IS a whole industry… and THAT is another story but IS done by I …without even my shadow “being seen”.  Therefore… for I to speak with Wally… may not be the best move for I risk exposing myself from my “below notice”.  But I did speak with him after watching for an opening and …setting a rare book trap.

Wally attends a local antiques show I do “below notice”.  I’d seen him sleuth the “my booth” as a “rare book hunter”.  He finds nothing and moves on.  I made a trap for him with a “rare book” from Dead Can’s boxes that included a “come from” Dead Can tie.  It was easy enough to do.
I chose Dead Can’s copy of George Phillips Bond’s “MAP OF THE WHITE MOUNTAINS OF NEW HAMPSHIRE”, (Cambridge, 1853).  A classic, I chose no standard copy.  Dead Can’s estate had provided me with a copy of the obscure variant printing of the map “on India paper” that were included in “ a few – but not all” copies of Benjamin Willey’s “INCIDENTS IN WHITE MOUNTAIN HISTORY” (Boston, 1856).  On “absolute thin and wispy tissue” “India” paper, the map was “separated at most folds” but also clearly displayed the “stub” where it was once “tipped in” (pasted in) to the book.  Dead Can, of course, had sure handedly noted ALL of this in pencil on a loose paper slip in his hand.  This falling apart loose tissue map was “so Dead Can” AND “very scarce” in this “reissued state”.  IF… a wandering rare book collector who was known to “know” “White Mountain’s material”… chanced upon this… map… in this “very rare reissued state”… they could not “ignore it” particularly without noticing that “it was once owned by” Dead Can.  (?)
I put the trap out at the show.  It worked.  BEFORE Dead Can’s wife could come to the show and… remove MY VERSION of Dead Can’s window view bird feeder (see Epilogue - Part Five)… I heard the trap clink shut and looked up to see Wally approaching me with the map in it’s display folder.  He wasn’t buying it.  I want “too much”.  I KNEW THAT.  But… did HE sort of… know what the map was? 
Sort of he did.  But more firmly he knew… Dead Can’s note about the map.  His hand.  Therefore… his map?  HE ASKED with a dismissive tonal inflection meaning I… was “a nobody”.  “Thank you” and I immediately bundled him into the backseat of my conversational attack vehicle and TOOK OFF for an … actually fairly long and prosperous CHAT of a ride.  In the end I brought him back to where we started, dumped him out, took MY map away from him and “GOOD-BYE”.  It took numerous skills and conversational skullduggery but, during the ride… I “got something” some of  which I opened with above and now… continue with some more:

Friday, December 21, 2012

"Can" B. Worth - Feeding the Birds - Part Five - Curiosity One

"Can" B. Worth"
Feeding the Birds - Part Five

The Large Inside
Curiosity One

“…hid away up garret with a lot of other old pots and things that were valuable, not on account of being any account, because they warn’t, but on account of them being relics, you know, and we snaked her out, private…”

Mark Twain, HUCKLEBERRY FINN, NY, 1884, pg. 322

            “He was a very sweet man.  Most people wouldn’t know that.  Most people wouldn’t notice that.”.  She said.
            Gretchen Haverstraw was a graduate student in American Literature when she first encountered Dead Can and, slowly, “got to know him”, her words.  “Know him” was not as we, ourselves, have discovered and know Dead Can.  She “know him” the way SHE “know him” and… this was an academic-graduate student/professor-History/English department crossover-professionally and university based social… “know him”.  It was a light and casual “know him” that had no actual relations with her graduate work and actually featured them only chancing to “see each other” “here and there” “in town or on campus”.  Usually, either standing around at a social function or walking to or from campus, they “talked a lot” “about everything”.  Her words.

            Gretchen does not collect rare books.  She “do think I know what one looks like; it LOOKS like an OLD book.  But I don’t know them the way HE did.  He was obsessed with old books.”  (I am not sure it was “obsessed”.  I understand it as “came to rare books”).  “He did teach me how to use rare books and antiques; to include them as props and clues.  For making a point or demonstrating a meaning.  Visually they help the cause.  I like them.  And antiques too.”

            “It was so funny the way it happened.  We were walking back and just talking.  I was going to be making a presentation the next week and I was all caught up in its crafting.  So we were talking about THAT.  And he asked if I had everything covered.  I said pretty much but I still had the History Department’s display case to do.  I had the use of the large case to display materials in to promote attention to my presentation.  My presentation was about a study I was doing comparing Clemens’s literary use of objects to develop and direct the characters of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.  He’d been quite interested in that so I told him I had no idea what I could put in that case but that I was sure something would come to me as it always does.  He laughed and said that there was a lot to choose from but to find something that made students look at the display case and then actually GO TO the presentation was much harder.  I thanked him and didn’t think anymore about it.”

            “Well… the next morning Barbara Reynolds stopped me in the hall and said she LOVED my display.  What display I said and when she told me I went right to the case and sure enough Professor Worth had filled it!  And what a CURIOUS display but SO GOOD.  He’d taken an old WARMING PAN he had buried in his office and put it in the center of the case with two rare books; rare old copies of Sawyer and Finn.  These he showed open to where the two rascals had made off with the warming pan from the attic and used it to cook their WITCH PIE!.  There it was; RIGHT in the CASE and RIGHT in the BOOK.  It was PERFECT!  AND NO ONE at all had EVER NOTED that part of FINN but it was such an important part; that’s how they COOKED witch PIE.  I’ve never forgotten it and can’t think of Finn even now without thinking of that warming pan!”
“He’d even made LABELS for the pan that he’d written so they looked like I had written them!  He was SO sweet about it too.  No one KNEW and HE SAID he’d known about that part of the book for YEARS and never had a chance to use it till then.  He said he was DELIGHTED with the display even though it was HE that made it.  We talked about it for YEARS.  That warming pan was always around in his office.  Did you find it?  What a MESS his office was.  But no one ever said ANYTHING.  I certainly never did.  He was actually a very CURIOUS man.”

Both of the books; the Sawyer and Finn, were found buried together in a box.  Old, early, original and undisturbed copies they are.  They are NOT first editions, first issues, “with points”.  Dead Can just picked these off “for pennies” in his local travels.  They have everything a true first edition would have to the complete satisfaction of a lay rare booker.  Dead Can would have liked to have “firsts; first issue” but knew “it wasn’t going to happen”.  As he understood very well, very few people cared about the differences, including himself.  He was a very curious man?