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Monday, August 30, 2010

He Decided to Make a Difference, Part II

A few excerpts from Jack Orchard’s Extra Hands: Grasping for a Meaningful Life (2007):
“I am on my deathbed now, and the same age as Pascal was when he died at age thirty-nine. Unlike him, I feel no conversion coming. No bright lights, no Biblical voices. Just the ordinary sights and sounds of St. Louis, Missouri, where I have chosen to live my last days. Yet, like Pascal, as I approach death I can now reflect on the memorial moments and lessons learned that have informed my way.”

“With a few exceptions, like the well-paying jobs I had helped create in Moscow, I had spent most of my life working to improve my own prosperity. I didn’t think this was intrinsically wrong, from a moral perspective, because I planned to address it later in life. My long-term plan had been to make enough money not to have to think about it anymore, and then apply the experience I had gained from building new companies, especially raising money for them, in some charitable context. When I thought I had another fifty years to fulfill that plan, I saw nothing wrong with my choices. But what if it was more like three to five?”

“I had never looked for [meaning in my own life] through spirituality. Even when the neurologist handed down my death sentence I felt no urge to withdraw into faith. But still I needed to know that my life, however short it might be, had meaning.”

“For me, the simplicity of the Extra Hands model held vast potential to reach across religions and dissolve dividing lines between people of different belief systems. In fact, that is what I found most compelling about it. I realized then that if I could use my gifts, those ALS would not strip from me, to build something that would enact this simple philosophy and draw in people of all beliefs, I would be able to die with the knowledge that my time had been purposeful....”

“In my condition now, still and silent, I ask myself what I believe every day. And each day I feel more certain that I have found no new revelations. Instead, I have grown every more convinced that, working together, we are capable of magnificent acts of courage and fortitude to improve our individual and collective lives. It’s called humanism, the belief that we need only to look to ourselves in the search for answers to questions big and small, empirical and theoretical, experiential and ontological.

“Yes, humanism—with its commitment to the use of reason and scientific method in fashioning solutions to human problems, its steady quest for objective truth, its pursuit of principles of ethical conduct without a divine inspiration, and its concern for the fulfillment and enrichment of the lives of the individuals and their communities—is the source of my strength, the foundation of my faith.”

Jack Orchard died on July 4, 2009, at the age of 41. His work lives on.

He Decided to Make a Difference

Both as a reader and as a bookseller, I approach self-published books warily and have written about this topic in an earlier post. Too many such books are badly written in the first place and/or don’t get the editing they need, and even the best-produced can fall stillborn without a good marketing and distribution plan, also often lacking. A couple of northern Michigan mystery writers, Aaron Stander and Robert Underhill, are among the exceptions that prove the rule, but there are others, and yesterday, completely by chance (digging through a box of used books someone dropped off at the store), I came upon a nugget of gold, Extra Hands, by Jack Orchard, and very, very early this morning after half an hour sitting out by the meadow under moonlight and stars, I finished the story. Next obvious step was to go online, where I was not surprised that my search turned up the news that Orchard had died a year ago July (2009) at the age of 41.

What’s important and inspiring about entrepreneur Orchard’s story is not his illness, not his death but his decision to create a meaningful life, while he had time, by doing for others. Here is an excerpt from his obituary in the St. Louis Beacon, his hometown newspaper.
One of the most improbable things Mr. Orchard did was write a 183-page book after most of his body had ceased to function, including his fingers and his voice. He wrote his memoir, “Extra Hands-Grasping for a Meaningful Life,” with his eyes. He learned to use Eyegaze, a special computer that tracks eye movements and types the letters on a screen, at the highest speed possible. Proceeds from “Extra Hands” were used to fund the nonprofit foundation he founded, Extra Hands - ALS, that paired high school and college student helpers with people living with ALS because, he said, ALS can be a lonely disease.

He founded Extra Hands for ALS and the Jack Orchard ALS Foundation. His faith was humanism, and he lived it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Okay, this is it! Are you ready? It's my new business motto, and it's also a life motto, because it's absolutely true, not advertising hype. Here it is:

I don't believe in books because I sell them; I sell books because I believe in them.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Some 'Splainin'--Just a Little

Despite the abundance of available therapies, we are still bewildered in the face of our neuroses and spiritual poverty and may be less well equipped than a fourth-century monk to deal with them. In our desperate seeking after more precise terms to define our condition, we have become like the hapless citizens of Jean-Luc Godard’s savagely comic film Alphaville, who, in a dystopic future, receive new government-issued “Bibles” every day, dictionaries from which words are continually vanishing, because, as one character says, “they are no longer allowed.” She adds, mournfully, that “some words have disappeared that I liked very much....”

- Kathleen Norris, Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life

You see, the first incident occurred on the day of the dog parade. A man waiting for someone else, with no interest in browsing my shelves himself, accosted me across the counter to let me know he’d taken to reading the classics lately. “Oh, what have you read?” I asked innocently. What I thought was a laptop under his arm was suddenly revealed as his e-reader. Eagerly he opened it and showed me the little icons lined up on the representation of a shelf, each icon alike except for the title it bore. These were the “books” he’d read. Then he wanted to show me each one. Can you imagine the heaviness in my heart? I know, I know! There are people who love their e-readers! But must I really have one thrust under my nose in my own bookstore? Must I cheer while the nails are driven in the coffin of my chosen field of work? Enjoy your virtual books somewhere else, please!

Then a few days later, in response to my account of the new Northern Illinois University Press fiction imprint, Switchgrass Books (more on this in a future post), a customer began explaining to me that the University of Michigan Press is taking a very different direction, “digitizing” (“digitalizing”?) their entire collection so that the works will be preserved “forever” and be available to “everyone.” Well, I thought, everyone who has access to the Internet and for as long as--???

So these were the incidents bouncing around my head, clamoring to come out in some form other than argument. Hence the children in the cave. As a story, it’s not much. The characters are undeveloped, the dialogue minimal, nothing given the detail and care I give when seriously working on a short story. The word “spew” is not inappropriate. So if you thought I didn’t know that, put your mind at ease. I know. But once in a while I give myself permission and let ‘er blow. Damn the torpedoes! Know what I mean?

I’ll have to see that Godard film. For now, the sun has set, and the coyotes are warming up for their evening concert. And it really was a beautiful day. And my sister will be here tomorrow!!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

North Leelanau County From Low to High

We've experienced a cool-down in temperature and a slow-down in crowds. While Bruce was at the shop, I took time to do errands and a little county cruising and rambling. These are some of the sights on a sunny, windy Wednesday at the tail end of August.

How many invasive species did you see? Did you see the wind?

Monday, August 23, 2010

As Yet Untitled (I think this is a story)

This is something that came to me over the past week. I'm not sure what I think about it and haven't come up with a title that satisfies me, either, so any comments will be appreciated. Is it more propaganda than fiction?


“Doo-yoo member! Doo-yoo member! Doo-yoo member!” the children clamored. Dressed in deerskin pants and rabbit fur vests, they jumped up and down wildly in front of the seated and lounging adults. Theirs was not a question but a demand, and they would not settle down to a night’s sleep until it was met.

The grown ones looked at each other and sighed. A handsome young woman turned quickly to the oldest male present.“Robert?”

It always fell to Robert. He remembered far more than the other adults, most of whom had been born later, in the Troubled Times, those days and years when everything was already falling apart, and he needed little encouragement to launch into a recitation of his Golden Age memories. He told himself that recounting his life’s stories was the most important contribution he could make to the group. Rabbit meat and huckleberries kept the people’s bodies from withering away, but their minds, he had convinced himself, to remain as healthy as their bodies, needed more to do than improvise search parties for food. The adults needed to remember their earliest days, and the children, born since those days, needed to hear what it had been like.

“Where should I start?” he asked the young woman. Always at the beginning, before getting underway, his mind was so full of jostling memories that its screen went blank for a few seconds.

The young woman’s skin was golden brown, her hair black and her teeth whiter than any of the other adults’ teeth, owing to her daily practice of chewing on sticks. She had an elm twig between her lips now, held gently at the ready. “Do you ‘member television?” she asked with apparent innocence, knowing very well that he did. All the adults remembered the Last Days of Television, those loud, frantic broadcasts before the screens went dark.

“The little people in boxes?” asked one of the girls, who had heard the story before but never quite gotten it clearly in mind. Actually, most of the children had this problem. It was so hard to explain the Golden Age to them. Even the ensuing Troubled Times were before their time, before the primitive present into which this group of survivors had been tumbled willy-nilly.

“Where’s our Box?” the young woman asked, and one of the men rose solemnly and pulled from a recess in the stone wall a small rectangular box crudely fashioned of pine, fitted with a removable pine bark lid. The man removed the lid and emptied into it the contents of the box, a few teeth of various sizes, some human, and some animal. He handed the empty box to Robert, who held it on its side on one open palm because the children needed a concrete object on which to focus their attention.

“Notice how you can see right into the Box when the top is off?” he asked the children. “Well, televisions weren’t open on the side, but they had screens made of glass, and glass was something you could see right through as if it wasn’t there.”

“So you could see what was inside the box?” They were already confused.

“No, what you saw through the glass wasn’t really inside the box. The pictures came from far away, through the air. Or sometimes they were held on storage devices that fit into the boxes or plugged into them.”

“Pictures of what?” one older boy asked almost angrily. He had heard these stories before and didn’t believe any of them. Preposterous, that’s what they were! But at least the word ‘pictures’ meant something to him. The adults sometimes drew with soft stones on the cave walls representations of their lives both Before and Now.

“Anything you can imagine,” Robert answered, but then he recalled that these children could not imagine much at all, and he amended his statement to claims even more confusing. “You might see anything in the world, from anywhere, from any time or no time at all. Things that happened in other places, things that never happened at all.” He realized that once again they needed a concrete example. “The way you dance in front of the fire? There might be pictures of that, only they would be moving pictures, as if your dancing were happening there in the box, your bodies and faces, but it wasn’t at all. You would be outside, looking in, watching. You could watch it over and over again.”

“We dance over and over again,” pointed out one little girl hesitantly, her face full of doubt. “We dance every night.” She didn’t want to hurt the old man’s feelings, but what was so special about events happening more than once? Everything they did, they did over and over!

“Ah, that’s the difference!” Robert said quickly. “Imagine if you danced only one time but then watched the dancing that you did just once over and over, as if it were happening night after night! And you could watch things other people did, too, people you’d never seen in real life, people far, far away.”

It was always like this. They begged for Robert’s stories, then stared at him uncomprehendingly, their questions and expressions showing how little they understood, how very little connection anything he could tell them had to the only world they had ever known. Only the adults remembered enough to find Robert’s stories meaningful, and one of them asked now, addressing his question to the other adults in general, “Do you remember e-mail and chat rooms?”

“I was addicted,” a middle-aged woman said with a rueful laugh. “I didn’t even want to talk to people face to face, my parents especially. The Internet let me hide from the world close around me and let me be someone else entirely—a different person every day, if that’s what I wanted. I loved it!”

“Yeah, it took up a lot of time,” another man said. “Isn’t it incredible to think about that now, how much time we spent that way?”

The children looked back and forth from one speaker to another, their mouths hanging open, except for the angry boy and the skeptical girl, both of whom held their lips pressed tightly together. An older couple, though, close to Robert’s age, sat close together, holding hands. Suddenly the woman looked up at the man beside her and smiled hesitantly.

“Remember books?” she said softly.

The man sighed and repeated the word with his exhaling breath. “Books!

“What? What?” the children chorused, excited. They hadn’t heard this word before and wondered what mystery it stood for. Electric and electronic devices, along with household conveniences, dominated the adults’ memory sessions, and Robert often tried to explain electricity to them, beginning with lightning and its force, but this new word, ‘books,’ had never come up before. Such a simple word it was, too, compared to the meaningless, multisyllabic incantations the grownups threw back and forth. Books. The children tried the word out softly, repeating it in sighs as the woman’s husband had uttered it.

“What did ‘book’ mean?” asked the skeptical girl. “Was it something elec--? Elec--?” She stopped, uncertain of the word she wanted.

“Those came later. E-books, they were called. But I think we’re remembering” (here he glanced at the couple by the wall of the cave, leaning together and holding hands tightly) “real books.”

“Yes,” the man by the wall said, and he and the woman nodded. She had tears in her eyes.

“I always got a special book for my birthday,” she said, “and it was mine, all mine, and I could read every word of it over and over, and the words would never change, they would never get erased, and I could share it with a friend or hide it under my pillow or take it up in the apple tree with me--.” She stopped suddenly and hid her face against her husband’s chest.

“We haven’t let ourselves talk about this before,” he said apologetically.

There was a long silence. The suddenly dreamy faces of the adults were full of longing, while the children frowned, trying to make out the key to the mystery.

“Books? Like Box?” one little child finally asked.

“No, one book, many books, so many of them, as many as leaves on that tree in summer, all different kinds! Adventure tales, books of facts and fiction, poetry books, history--.” The children looked out from the cave opening to the tall tree, now bare of leaves now in early winter. They tried to picture the tree in summer, covered with leaves. How many leaves would that have been?

“Well, where did they go?” the child interrupted impatiently. Robert’s descriptive words meant as little to him as the unfamiliar noun. “Did they die like leaves?”

The adults exchanged furtive glances, reluctant to shift from their happy memories of the Golden Age to those of the Troubled Times.

“It happened so gradually,” one man finally said, his words themselves emerging slowly. “You asked if books were electronic,” he said to the skeptical girl. “For hundreds of years no, and then suddenly, overnight, it seemed, they were, and that’s where the Troubles began. You would only get the text” (he knew this word would mean nothing to the children, but he also knew that the adults needed to remember how things had changed), “and you would only have it for a limited time, on your own little—well, kind of a Box. You weren’t supposed to let anyone else borrow it, and it wasn’t anything you could save for your children or grandchildren.” He shrugged and spread his empty hands at his sides. “That’s why we have no books to pass along to you. For years we had books, and then we had only boxes, and now we have nothing at all.” His hands fell into his lap, helplessly.

“How—did books work?” the angry boy asked, reluctant to show his curiosity but unable to hold it inside.

Robert hesitated, then seemed to make a decision. He pulled a scrap from inside the old, ragged, heavy wool, red-checked jacket he had worn for almost two decades. He held the scrap in his hands, reverently, and the children edged closer to get a good look.

“This is paper,” Robert explained. “I’ve saved it for a very long time.” He stared at it as if he expected it to speak or jump out of his hand. “Paper was made of wood and cloth and water and dried into sheets, and then words were put on it, and sheets of paper were bound together into books, and when you opened a book you would read the words and hear the story in your mind.”

The little ones stared at the scrap of paper as if it were a magic charm, while the adults drew back in fear—all except for the woman with tears in her eyes, who grabbed suddenly, greedily, for Robert’s hand. But he snatched it back quickly, closing his fingers around his precious scrap.

“Let me see! What does it say?” she demanded.

“It’s only a corner. There’s a number ‘49’ on the edge, a page number, and there’s part of a word.” He spelled it out: “R-E-F-L-E-C and then a hyphen. That’s all. That’s all there is.”

A deeper silence fell, and then the woman broke it by saying, “You could have been killed for saving that!”

Robert’s answering sigh heaved up from the soles of his aged feet. “I know,” he said, “but it was paper--letters and numbers on paper.” His gaze went out of focus, as if he were seeing through the walls of the cave into another time and place. “It’s ironic,” he said. “Paper was called ‘ephemeral.’ You children don’t know what that means. It means something that doesn’t last very long, like a dragonfly, something with a short life. But paper! Good paper in good binding—books could last hundreds of years! After they were gone, text had no real life at all. No fixed address, you might say. Its storage was vulnerable.”

There he went again, using long words the children had never heard, words that, except for ‘tree’ and ‘cloth’ and ‘wood’ and ‘dragonfly,’ didn’t attach to objects at all. But the angry boy and the skeptical girl looked at each other thoughtfully, and they both knew at this moment that the same thought was forming in both their minds.. It wasn’t the first secret they had shared.

Wood they had in plenty. Scraps of cloth still existed deep in the cave and on the bodies of some of the older ones. Water was only a short walk away.

All they had to figure out was the part about capturing words, turning sounds into marks and pinning them down.

© P. J. Grath
August 23, 2010
Northport, Michigan

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summer’s-End Wanderlust

The goldenrod is blooming and the first bright yellow popple leaves shivering in the wind. Sun and grey clouds alternate, and fall is in the air. My associations with this season are all positive, no longer the excitement of going back to school but now the just-as-welcome (after a busy summer) relief of a little slow-down in activity and maybe a little getaway before too many more weeks have passed. At summer’s end I feel the allure of the open road, the call of the Upper Peninsula, and the temptation of untried two-tracks. No reservations, no set destination. That’s the direction—or rather, lack of direction--my reading takes, also.

Titles in my “Books Read” lists appear in reverse chronological order, blog post style, according to when I finished the books, the one at the top being the last one finished. That apparently rigid order can be misleading, however, in that I’m often reading more than one book at a time, sometimes going back and forth between two books, other times jumping among as many as five. Books I’ve started are spotted around in different rooms of the house, in cars, in tote bags and/or on the bookstore counter. Some are new, and some are very old. There is fiction and nonfiction, and there are popular titles along with the obscure. My only rule is that a book can’t go on the list until I’ve reached the last page.

Every now and then I make a “discovery,” and one of this summer’s discoveries of a 20th-century author new to me has been Ruth Moore. I’d never heard of her but acquired several titles for the store and finally, out of curiosity, began reading one. Moore never named the state that provided her novel’s setting, but the place, a rocky, offshore Atlantic coast island, was described in vivid detail.
The island was all granite, its peak a round hill a hundred feet high and naked as a cup. What grew there, grew where the land leveled out at the base of the hill, a wild tangle of northern coastal forest, on roots driven into the crevices of rock. Through centuries, it had made topsoil, deep enough on the island’s western end to grow a little grass, and on that side, too, a half-mile back from the shore, just before the hill started to climb, was a small, deep pond in an alder swamp of almost tropical lushness.

Reading the description of the island, I couldn’t wait to go there and spent days ducking in and out of that faraway world. Finally, after reaching the end of the novel (which seemed abrupt, despite the length of the story), I did a little investigation into the author, and that made fascinating reading, too. The most thorough story of Moore’s life is an essay called “Homesick for That Place: Ruth Moore Writes About Maine,” by Jennifer Craig Pixley. You can read Pixley’s essay in its entirety here. Her title takes its name from the epigram prefacing Moore’s first novel, The Weir: “That was the place you were homesick for, even when you were there," which in turn reminds me of the French phrase “nostalgia for the present.” We feel that when the moment is so full that we can’t help realizing it is slipping away while we are in it, never to return again.

Moore grew up on Gott’s Island, and Pixley says that the Maine coast was the only place the author ever loved, “the only place for which she was ever homesick.” Not being able to make a permanent life on the island was her sorrow, and yet as Pixley reflects on Moore’s “unconventional attitudes” and “liberal ideas,” she can’t help wondering “what it's like to be homesick for a place in which you have no place, or in which you don't want the place you have.” This, it seems to me, is the situation of Miss Greenwood, one of the characters in Speak to the Winds. Like Ruth Moore, Miss Greenwood has never married. Also like Moore, she has made a close study of the natural world: In one passage of the novel, Miss Greenwood finds her way home in a storm by recognizing the patterns of specific patches of lichens on the rocks. But--
Miss Greenwood wasn’t anybody you could think of loving, being fond of, like other people. Such a thing would never enter your head. She was here, had been here since Joyce could remember—a part of the things at the island; a wonder for living where she did in this lonesome place; a nuisance to the grownups who had to check up every so often, see she was all right; somebody to show off poking fun at, because she looked strange and different from other people. There were the Parties, of course, everybody loved them. But Miss Greenwood herself—

You couldn’t talk to her, like to the people you knew. Oh, if you met her on the Point road, or maybe dropped by at the house....

But to talk to her—it was exactly as if Miss Greenwood had a phonograph record she played with her voice.... It wasn’t very interesting....

There are parts of island life, whether in the novel I read or in Pixley’s biographical essay, that remind me very much of little Northport and other villages in Leelanau County. Once self-sufficient—the fictional Maine island through mining of granite, our own area with fishing and agriculture—summer cottages now ring the coast, while the year-round population has shrunk. Old families now make ends meet by working for summer people.
Elbridge didn’t see how any economy could possibly be healthy, or ever return to prosperity, in a place where two-thirds of the taxable property was owned by people who didn’t use it for nine months out of the year. At the same time, he didn’t see what else could be done. Without the fat taxes the summer people paid, and without the jobs they offered in the summer, the island would be done for.

It’s fiction, set back in time and far from home, and yet it hits close to home, too. Do all roads lead home again?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fishy Coincidence

It was a quiet morning following a stormy evening, and as soon as I realized that sleep would not return I got up to reheat coffee and pick up a book. (Always, when I put a mug of yesterday’s coffee in the microwave I think of Barry, a fellow graduate student at the University of Illinois, and the expression on his face when I admitted to this habit; it was as if I’d told him I served scrambled eggs on used carpet squares.) The book I opened so eagerly was Into the Desperate Country, the first novel by Jeff Vande Zande, yesterday’s visiting author at Dog Ears Books. Jeff’s story quickly plunged me into a cold, swiftly flowing river, where it was night, the air full of white mayflies, the woods of silently moving deer. And there were trout.

A few chapters in, my reading interrupted by David’s readiness for reheated coffee (yes, we share that sorry vice), I got online to check e-mail and found a heart-warming surprise. Someone who’d been Googling the Michigan adventure writer James B. Hendryx found a blog post I’d written and sent me a message with a question. “You mention meeting a decade previously a Hendryx collector and his wife. I just wondered if that might be my parents....” Well, yes, it was, and reading the message I remembered not only her parents but also her dear grandmother, my old neighbor in Traverse City many years ago. That is, the mother of my morning’s correspondent was the daughter of my old friend and neighbor—which is only important to me, the daughter and the granddaughter, but it was very meaningful to me.

The coincidence has to do with fishing. Here I am, reading a first novel by a talented young writer whose stories often involve fishing Michigan rivers, a writer I met and hosted only yesterday (when he came to Dog Ears to read from his most recent book), and this morning’s e-mail brings a connection to another Michigan writer who loved to fish northern waters. James Hendryx could lure his wife only as far north as Suttons Bay to live, but they and my old neighbor’s daughter and son-in-law made many fishing trips farther north, into the U.P. and Canada.

Michigan, dear Michigan! It changes and changes, and always (as Bruce Catton wrote so poignantly in Waiting for the Morning Train) it changes faster than we can adapt to the changes, whether it is the passing of people or of wilderness, but so much of what we love is still here. The Pigeon River is recovering, Jeff Vande Zande says, from a fish-killing release of dammed silt and warm water two years ago. That was good to hear.

It was also good to hear Jeff read yesterday, to listen to the way he answered questions from a small but very attentive audience, to begin reading another book by him this morning, and to realize, once again, that Michigan fiction is still in very good hands. We have treasure here: woods and waters and wonderful writers.

The fishing goes on, the stories go on. Yes, Virginia, there is an Up North, and there are many wonderful books about it, too.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What Some of the Critics Have Had to Say

Threatened species, by Jeff Vande Zande, is the story of a father, a son, fly fishing, and a kidnapping. Included in the book with this novella are five additional short stories.

Praise from critics for Threatened Species:

“I pondered each of these stories well after I read them.”
--Seth Norman, Fly Rod and Reel Magazine

“Reminiscent of A River Runs Through It.”
--Michael Darmes, Detroit Fly Fishing Examiner

“The tension is like heat lightning before a thunderstorm.”
--Bill Castanier,

Threatened Species is a wonderful collection . . . something different and something priceless.”
--Toney Sisk, Wayward Fly Fishing

Reminder about Friday's visit from Jeff:
4:00 – 4:30 Refreshments and conversation; opportunity to purchase author’s books
4:30 – 5:00 Reading by author
5:00 – 6:00 More refreshments and conversation, plus another opportunity to buy books and have them signed by the author

Fishermen and fisherwomen and all who appreciate good writing and those who want to support Michigan writers and independent bookstores are more than welcome at tomorrow's event. Actually, I'm hard pressed to think of anyone who isn't welcome, so come one, come all!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

First Dog Ears Books Poetry Give-Away

One recent afternoon the sun, reflecting off a vehicle outside in just the right way, threw the image of a stenciled sign in the window up to the ceiling of the bookstore. I’m not sure what made me glance up to see it. I don’t know if it’s happened before.

I do know that I’ve never before had an author propose to give away books at a signing, but that’s what’s going to happen at Dog Ears Books on Friday. Jeff Vande Zande, who will be at the bookstore from 4-6 p.m. Friday afternoon to read from and sign his latest book, Threatened Species, a novella and five short stories, will also bring and make available copies of his earlier books, and the first ten people to purchase Threatened Species will also receive a free copy of Jeff’s poetry collection. You can’t beat that—buy one book, which you can have the author sign and inscribe to you on site, and he’ll give you another. Pretty cool!

Vande Zande teaches at Delta College in Midland, and this will be his first visit to Northport. You can read my review of Threatened Species by clicking this link. The story is a road trip that begins in Michigan. There is fly-fishing involved, but basically it's about the relationship between a father and his young son. You can read more about Jeff by clicking here.

This is the rough schedule we’ll follow on Friday:
4:00 – 4:30 Refreshments and conversation; opportunity to purchase author’s books
4:30 – 5:00 Reading by author
5:00 – 6:00 More refreshments and conversation, plus another opportunity to buy books and have them signed by the author

Hope to see you at the bookstore on Friday! If you appreciate good writing and love Michigan books, don't miss this last author visit of the summer!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We Hit the City Streets

My family did Northport and the surrounding countryside up in style. They started their days at, respectively, Barb’s Bakery, the Eat Spot and the Treasure Chest. They lunched at the Drive-Thru BBQ and Stubb’s Sweetwater Grill. They went swimming in Grand Traverse Bay, bought t-shirts and participated in the dog parade. They had Moomer’s ice cream. We had a picnic dinner at home, a take-out (Drive-Thru) dinner at home, and on Sunday evening we drove cross-country to Lake Leelanau for dinner at Dick’s Pour House. Finally, on their last morning, and after they made a stop on the way at Circa Estate Winery on Horn Road, we all met at the Artisan Design Gallery in Traverse City, where David was on duty for the first four-hour shift of the day. It was a wonderful photo op for all of us. So many beautiful David Grath paintings! How well they go with the exquisite artisan-designed furniture!

Our recent stretch of hot, humid weather having given way to clear skies and pleasant breezes, as the gallery filled people to keep David busy the five of us not working the gallery floor (mother, sister, brother-in –law, dog visitor Gracie and I) walked across Front Street for a sidewalk lunch at the Greenhouse restaurant, a wonderful way to wind up the visit with our Illinois family, taking to the Traverse City street scene before they took the highway home--shade, breeze, lively scene, good food, dog at our side.

With Bruce manning the bookstore for the day, David and I had a leisurely drive home ourselves. Grand Traverse Bay never looked lovelier.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It's So Northport! It's the DOG PARADE!

Gracie, the dog belonging to my sister and brother-in-law from Illinois, was registered as dog #1 and our Sarah as #2, but they did not lead the parade. First came the Fish Queens on the fire truck.

Then the flag-bearers (see top), followed by the banner-carriers. Recognize anyone famous in this shot?

Next came the mayor of Omena. No, not the walker—it’s the dog who was elected mayor (honorary) last year in a fund-raiser where votes could be bought for a dollar apiece.

Then there was the mayor’s whole town council.

Among the councillors was Bruce Balas, wearing a shirt from Dog Ears Books! Bless his heart, that angel!

Then, at last, “our girls,” Sarah walked by my brother-in-law, Ben, and Gracie, walked by my sister, Bettie. Gracie wore a scarf. Sarah wore a smile.

Here are some folks who really got into the spirit of the theme, “When the Dogs Come Barking In.”

Others had a message of their own to get out.

The band was GREAT, as always!!!

Some dogs were walked, while others were carried. All were good-looking.

Andy and Gloria Thomas reminded people that there’s still time to buy a raffle ticket to support the Northport Promise scholarship program. You might win a new BMW.

More dogs, more costumes...

...And old cars, too. This one carried musicians.

Even the hot dogs had their own float.

Friends of the Library rode in a Stanley Steamer.

When you see these ladies in their trompe-d’oeuil costumes, you know it’s the end of the parade until next year.

Sarah came back to the bookstore wet! She and Grace got to take a little dip in the bay to cool off after the parade. I think the dog cousins had a good time.