Monthly Archives: December 2009

Great Women — January

It will be great to again hear Daria speak of her humanitarian efforts in Africa at the next get-together for Great Women of Teton Valley, next  Tuesday, January 5th (a week from tonight) at St. Francis.  See you there!

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Dec. 27th

Phyllis Lamken, the new owner of Dark Horse Books, undertook to read at least 52 books this year, one per week. Last I  heard, she was up to somewhere in the mid-60s (though her pace may have slowed since taking over the bookstore at the beginning of the month!)  While I don’t have any particular number in mind as a goal, I would like to start keeping track of the books I read — especially since I no longer have the luxury of talking about titles and authors (and characters and plots, etc.) standing among the shelves at DHB.

This is a good week to start keeping track, as last Monday and Tuesday I spent in bed, sick, sleeping and reading.  Hadn’t tackled several books like that –completely prone–since I read the first four in the Harry Potter series, all in one week (right before #5 came out.) 

When I was a kid, I read voraciously too. I had MANY MANY favorites (as you might imagine) and I wish I’d written all those books down! So, in memory of that, I’m calling this “My Weekly Reader;” who knows I may even start writing this as a regular post… that IS one of the things a blog allows you to do, isn’t it?  We’ll see.

Anyway. I won’t go into the minor things but feel at least one must be mentioned, the daily Writer’s Almanac  — I was lucky enough to hear today’s poem, by Mary Oliver, read aloud by the poet, in person, in Jackson, (part of the Teton County Library’s wonderful series called something like “From the Page to the Podium.”) FYI: I subscribe to this via e-mail as I don’t always have a chance to hear Garrison Keillor’s audio version on NPR. 

 Here are the blurbs and blips (notice without book covers: I refuse to pull them from Amazon because the links are embedded — support your local independent!)

* So Young, Brave and Handsome by Leif Enger: Wow, a follow-up truly worthy to his memorable debut novel (Peace Like a River).  You can read all the reviews and synopses you want on-line; skip all that, and just go right to reading the book.  If I hadn’t been sick, I may have read it cover-to-cover immediately (a suggestion once made to me by a writer, to help one absorb both the “beauty of the wordsmithing and the depth of the story,” as I recall.)  January’s book club book (for the Teton Valley Women’s Book Group), I’m looking forward to discussing it.

* Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins:  A very entertaining little volume of essays about the author, his wife and small child, who move from San Francisco to Hay-on-Wye, a Welsh town of 1,500 inhabitants and 40 antiquarian bookstores.  Collins’ droll delivery was up to the challenge of Enger’s fiction. Our advance reading copy had too many typos, though; makes one hope the galleys were well-proofed before being published!

*The third book I read this week certainly suffered by comparison. Forever Friends by Lynn Hinton, was recommended by a customer as a “safe book I could suggest to others”  but it was disappointing.  The most recent in a series centered around the women in a community church (a little like the Mitford Series — similar in saccharine level), it’s not anything I will be returning to (or would recommend for that matter); although the customer was right that this is a “safe book,” it’s just NOT a great book. I stuck with it, though; it’s inspired me to think that if Harper Collins would print IT, would-be writers everywhere should be encouraged to keep taking pen to paper (or applying fingers to keyboard).  I guess I needed a stinker, but honestly, aren’t there enough great books out there to warrant reading?

* …. Like this one:  The Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, selected, with an introduction and notes by Malcolm Crowley. This 470+-page collection will keep me busy for a while. Some of the stories I’ve read before, most I haven’t.  Consisting of both many famous pieces and several previously unpublished, this anthology covers Fitzgerald’s prolific and creative life and well-illustrates why he still sits atop the American canon of literature. An interesting note:  the oldest copyright is 1920, the last 1949 (almost ten years after he died at the age of 44.) How brightly his candle burned!

Happy reading to all.

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Feeling Dickensian

It’s 8-AM ish, in Teton Valley, Idaho, Christmas Eve, 2009. Perhaps I’ve watched too many versions of A Christmas Carol on TV this year (and read nearly all of it on-line during commercials via the Gutenberg Project) but I’m thinking of Christmases past, present and future…..

Oh, I don’t actually remember the one in my current FaceBook profile pic (I wasn’t quite yet two) but I do recall that little dress that Joan is wearing (it was later one of my favorite hand-me-downs) and I certainly remember where we always put the tree (in the center of the far wall of our living room) next to the old brick hearth. We always opened our presents on Christmas Eve, then dressed up in whatever new clothes we’d received and went to Midnight Mass.  One year, memorably, standing along the aisle because it was so crowded, I fainted at church and was carried out by — someone — Joan’s boyfriend at the moment, I believe; we were both relieved to be out of there and in the cool fresh air!

Peter and I have celebrated some wonderful Christmases in our nearly three decades together. Our ornament collection includes gnomes and little mice and fabric garland and souvenirs from travels, along with heirlooms from the Anderson family and the kitschy ones my mother decorated with plastic pins and sequins. During the first years we were married we created an HO-scale town to surround an HO-scale train set we’d acquired. Living aboard Crystalship on Lake Union in Seattle, we always had a tiny living tree which we always tried to plant in a bucket on our moorage slip following the holidays (which, always, the geese would take over as a nice place to lay eggs and thus no little pine ever survived!) 

The holidays are a bit of a retail blur from 15 of them at the bookstore, full of wrapping books for customers (I counted the first Christmas Eve but lost track at about 125) and making sure we had plenty of change and instant bows and treats to keep us going.  The trees we came up with for the hospital fundraiser were creative blitzes — Susie Work once commented that it was shocking that a simple idea could turn paper and plain ornaments into something amazing….  We kept cider warm, and I made dozens of cookies; Joe Allred used to bring us burgers for lunch on Christmas Eve; we’d always find a way to nip out for some of Fred’s famous EggNog at Mountaineering Outfitters. One year we celebrated with our employees by giving each of them a hand-painted silk scarf made by Jan Tice: we all found a different way to wear them that day, with Cara Olaveson wrapping hers around her head like a harem-girl turban — too bad we don’t have any photos!  It seemed like a score to help someone find JUST THE RIGHT THING — remarkable how later I would hear from some relative visiting that they loved the book they were given the holiday before (music to a bookseller’s ears, regardless of the season).   

For some reason, odd stats stand out, too: Our record sales day (ever) was precisely two-thirds of the total we rang in during our entire first 21 days in business in 1994. We once had five people working on December 23rd then the next day, Peter and I did it all ourselves, topping the previous day’s results by a hefty margin. 

I also remember (wayback) celebrating the holidays while in Up With People — in two of the three Decembers I traveled we were in Europe — the first year I came home to be reunited with family and high school chums and a dentist’s appointment to have my wisdom teeth pulled. I spent the second one with a host family in Brugge, Belgium (later to become one of the places Peter and I most enjoy.) Our final performance for the first semester my third year was in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which might seem anticlimactic but wasn’t to me at the time — post-Christmas we were performing in Super Bowl X (now if that’s not a way to keep track of time as the years roll by, I don’t know what is!)

Enough reminiscing. Today we are looking at 2010 as a brand new era for us, out of Dark Horse (though I’m going in to help Phyllis a few hours this morning), still in love (corny but true!), with reasonable health, still looking to learn, buoyed by travel, blessed with more than we likely deserve,  and so many friends who provide comfort and inspiration…. I’m optimistic and encouraged about what lies ahead.

So to Christmas future — no crystal ball in my collection of goodies. But, like Scrooge as he learns to laugh, bouncing on his bed (and thrilled the rings are still there holding up the curtains), I rejoice in the simple act of being alive, of being able to celebrate, once again, a holiday that’s so full of meaning and memory.

As Tiny Tim says, God Bless Us Every One.

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A poem to ponder

I wrote this poem for a mid-April Poetry Slam at Dark Horse Books last year, and just found it in the files I’ve transferred from the bookstore. It hit quite a chord and decided to share it here. All part of life’s journey, I guess…..

At My Age

The number of weeks in a year,
The number of playing cards in a deck,

I’ve survived my father’s passing,
My mother losing her memories but not her smile,
Two good friends; old, old friends;
Nearly all my aunts and uncles,
My parent’s generation:  just about all gone,
And many loved ones and others who’ve passed my path
(Jon Benet’s mother and Jean from Jackson, who spoke Greek
when we were in Piraeus all those years ago.)

I am 52, and I can’t believe it,
Except when I see my mom’s face in the mirror in the morning,
The face I remember from when I was about 12,
And my teeth now look like hers did, and my legs do too,
But my eyes remain holding the glimmer of my daddy,
Gray-blue when I’m tired or stressed.

And I wonder if I’ll live to 91; it’s only 39 years away.

Copyright Jeanne Anderson 2008

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On three days in a Muslim country

Last night we posted 37 photos of our trip to Tunisia on FaceBook, from the 270 pictures we took there.  While they give an inkling of the experience, there was so much more to it.

Carthage was fascinating; a full-on civilization (but without writing) centuries before the rise of the Roman Empire, its now one of the ritziest suburbs of Tunis. After losing the Third Punic War, victorious Rome literally wiped the city from the face of the earth (slaughtering all the men, enslaving the women and children, burning every building and –so the story goes– salting the ground on which it all stood.) Then, a hundred years later, the Romans rebuilt the city; those are the ruins we see now. And when the country briefly was Christianized, at least one of the Roman temples became a Cathedral in the sixth century (it’s also in ruins now; what remains of that, as Peter described it, looks like a parking lot with a couple stone columns surrounded by grass and palm trees.)

It felt so worldly (other worldly?) The two ancient harbors — which must have been more than vibrant in their day when Carthage was major Phoenician trading post — now seem like not much more than ponds. The Roman amphitheater, built into the side of a hill like so many we’d seen in Italy and France, is now the site of an anual arts festival, the rough-rock ruined seats augmented with concrete tiers. We saw a prominently displayed poster about a recent show of the Terra Cotta warriors from China at one of the local art museums. Lunch was a gourmet experience in a cliffside cafe where a dozen boisterous Frenchpeople sat at the table next to us; we watched the seascape unfold in front of us — fishermen, small boats, freighters in the distance, even an adventurous swimmer in the water.

We wanted to explore and see more of the day-to-day life of the Tunisian people. Neither words nor photos can describe the sensation of jostling along on the train from Sidi Bou Said to Tunis (I swear, we were the only ones who bought tickets) and seeing what Tunisians were wearing — from the hippest punks in leather (it was winter and everyone wore coats like the temperatures were in the 40s rather than the high 60s) to a young doe-eyed beauty, her head completely wrapped in a scarf, dressed in a lime-green camisole with fake rhinestones spelling out “The Ritz” worn OVER a long-sleeved black shirt and a mini-skirt over full-length harem pants. (She stared at me every bit as much as I tried not to ogle her!)  

I wished we’d turned on the video as we were coming out of the medina in Tunis, as literally thousands of people were caught in a bottleneck in a narrow street — a car was moving, slowly, among them — and we were surrounded by the unintelligible talk of Arabie, the auto’s honking, vendors shouting about their wares being trampled and the general din of  what must have been an everyday occurence but to my Western eyes was simply a mob scene.

How does one explain the colorful flags, both of the country and of the President’s image (so overkill on nationalism — cannot possibly imagine the U.S. decorated that way); or the way everyone seemed “on the take,” from taxi drivers (but some were so helpful!) to the old fellow who started speaking to us in English and then when we weren’t interested in following him up a stairway through a dark door, just asked for “a tip for the small boy”? 

Another sound we listened for — diligently — was the call to prayer. Very haunting, spiritual; about 5:15 p.m., as the day was ending and the sun neared the horizon, all around the hotel you could hear it echo from mosque to mosque around us.

No, the photos just don’t do it justice: but here are three more, anyway — the flag-draped entrywayinto the baths, a sign marking a tomb  (literally all that we saw from pre-Roman times) and the stony ruins of a villa with a modern mosque behind…..

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Testing, testing

This is only the second posting on my new personal blog, and I wanted to find out if it’ll roll over to my FaceBook page as a note. Kisa helped me set up all that when we were doing it for the Dark Horse Books blog, so figured I ought to check it out. Did it work?

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What’s this all about?

Well, it actually happened. After 14 years of operating Dark Horse Books, my husband Peter Anderson and I have sold the bookstore and are entering a new chapter in our lives.

Except when we were away, it feels like I’ve spent at least part of nearly every day we were open behind the counter. No regrets, but it is certainly exciting to consider the possibilities up ahead!   

If this sounds like blither to you, you may not yet know who I am. But I’m taking this personal blog thing (as the first George Bush would say) SLOWLY. So introductions will follow, more formal pages, etc. 

For now, this is just a place to write, a catch-all, like my art of jewelry and junk, that will hopefully create some sort of mosiac both functional and fun — perhaps entertaining, perhaps self-indulgent.

I’ll be helping Phyllis Lamken (the store’s new owner) with the transition this month, so do stop by when you’re in downtown Driggs. She’s already going great guns, as the bookstore will have extended hours all month (open ’til 7 p.m. and not just on Wednesdays!)  Dark Horse is also participating in the Shop Local for Schools on Saturday, and it’s Storytime for Toddlers at 11 a.m. that day (Phyllis will be reading and I’ll be helping up front). Should be a fun way to kick off the holidays!

Lastly, for those who have asked, my new personal e-mail is easy to remember (jeanneanderson@silverstar.com. )

P.S. If you didn’t see the story in last week’s Valley Citizen about the store transfer, check it out by clicking here.

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