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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Long Walk

The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz is the tale of a man gone walking-crazy.  Slavomir Rawicz, a Polish officer, escapes from a Siberian labor camp in 1939 with some pals and spends a year walking across the Siberian arctic, the Gobi Desert, and the Himalyas with next to no provisions and handmade shoes.  He makes it all the way to British India to recuperate from his trials and near starvation in a hospital where he can't stand staying put and tries to walk off every night.

Well, Sean and I just completed The Long Walk.  In our version we walked with a group of forty other people 40 miles over three days from Kenmore, just north of Seattle, to Snoqualmie Falls, mostly along former railroad beds, camping for two nights in King County Parks.   On our Long Walk we experienced blisters, sore muscles, mosquito swarms, relentless sun, and unmarked trails, along with dangerous highway shoulders and speeding SUVs.  Our hardships were countered, however, by a U-Haul truck carrying our camping gear, other walkers with GPS devices and cell phones, stops at restaurants and a natural food store where we were give Odwalla products galore; plus free pizza each evening, a party with a keg and formal wear next to the Snoqualmie River, not to mention pastries and coffee in the morning.  Ah, roughing it.

Though the hike's organizers had done a lot of work to put the event together, they obviously hadn't walked or biked the route ahead of time.  This led to some unnecessary walking (as well as plain getting lost) on busy arterials, that were also construction sites, when a trail through the woods was only a short distance away.   Sean and I  learned to scout our own alternate route with our equally renegade pal with the GPS after that, and walked on quiet roads through horse ranches and on a powerline trail while the group trudged along a major highway wearing bright orange safety vests.  Throughout the trip, the sun was glorious (okay, it was hot) and we passed through some beautiful farmland, wetlands, and woods, including through my hometown of Carnation.  Sean and I are good walkers--it's one of my favorite activities, and I like to organize "urban hikes" with groups of friends--but by the time we reached Snoqualmie Falls all we could do was collapse on a grassy knoll, take our shoes off, and fall into a delicious stupor until we were taken back to Seattle on a "party bus" (with dance floor and the remainder of the keg) with our fellow long walkers.  A day's rest, and I'm ready to do it again...

Reading Notes
It's been a while since I've posted what I've been reading.  I finished a couple of entertaining, not particularly remarkable, novels in rapid succession:  The Boys in the Trees by Mary Swan, and Love Invents Us by Amy Bloom.  I'm also almost finished with A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright-- a book from the Massey Lectures (which also gives us Margaret Atwood's Payback:  Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth).  This is a great book for getting a perspective on the place of humans in the world:  how young a species we are; how much and how quickly we've grown in population; and how we really have no clue as to what we're doing:  "Nature let a few apes into the lab of evolution, switched on the lights, and left us there to mess about with an ever-growing supply of ingredients and processes.  The effect on us and the world has accumulated ever since."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Book Sale Extravaganza

Yesterday we had our annual outdoor book sale.  We finally had summer weather this week, with temperatures in the eighties, so we didn't have to worry about being rained out, which has been a problem in the past.  Luckily, we were in the shade--for the first half of the sale, anyway, as it was a bright hot day and I noticed sunburns-in-the-making amongst our visitors.   When the sun full-on hit the book sale, we set up chairs for staff and friends on the other side of the alley in the shade of our neighbor's building, or hid in the doorway of the shop.

I worked hard on advertising the sale, including making hand printed posters, which our old friends at Keep Posted distributed around town on walls of coffee shops and businesses (It was fun to run across one in odd places, like at the liquor store.)  Troy, our wonderful shipping staff person, also covered the neighborhood telephone poles with photocopied book sale fliers the day before the sale, and we had notices on local blogs--thanks Paul Constant--and sent out emails.

Sean, Tim, and I were setting up the sale in the parking area outside our building, which meant hauling out about 30 boxes of books (when you're in the business, it's common to think of numbers of books in terms of numbers of boxes)-- about 750 books-- and unpacking them onto tarps laid out on the ground, spine up.  It's funny how a pile of 30 boxes of books looks a lot bigger than the same books laid out on the ground.  Sean wondered aloud what our policy was about "early birds", the canny hunters of every yard sale:  "What if Eddie (a fellow bookdealer whom we always run into at book and yard sales) shows up early?"  I said, "Early birds are okay with me!" and at that moment Eddie pulled up in his car.  He was our first very gracious customer and bought three boxes of books, as did another bookseller friend, Roger, who showed up shortly after.  From then on we had non-stop shoppers, including old retail store customers, friends coming by with treats - we received delicious juice popsicles, organic flax bread, Vietnamese sandwiches, and homemade black currant preserves.  In return we gave out lemonade or bottles of beer.  It was an all-day party.   It was fun to see someone spend twenty minutes browsing through all the titles and then come up to buy just one or two-- why did they pick those?  A local political activist bought The Selling Out of the President 1973 (which has a cool vintage cover of Nixon on a cigarette pack); artist Jon Strongbow bought comic books; one nice fellow filled a whole box with mostly political books, including Chomsky who is too "common" (imagine that) to sell online.  One woman asked to look at our signed copy of Ray Bradbury's Match to Flame - she had seen it on our website and was pleased to examine it up close.  Alas, it wasn't for sale at $2, but I told her she could visit it any time.

By the end of the afternoon, as the sale was wrapping up, a couple of longtime Pistil customers from 15 years ago as well as former Pistil employees were all here together and we had a photo op.                                  

L to R: Greg Bachar (an English teacher who sent his students to us to buy their class Bukowsi books); Nevdon Jamgochian, former Pistil Employee; Tim Ridlon, Pistil staff of 15 years; Sean and Amy.

By the end of the sale, we had sold about half of what we put out.  Yay!