Tuesday 14 July 2015

K is for a short story that begins with this letter.

I have always loved stories that take place in New York. I especially love those stories that took place in the first half of the 20th century.  It seemed like a person could go to New York City and do anything they wanted, be anything they wanted.  It seems like a city like no other in the world.

When I saw this lovely copy of the Vintage book, with the grey tones of the cover and the red spine I had to look at it more closely.  Up In The Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell.  I had never heard of Joseph Mitchell. He was born in North Carolina in 1908. He moved to New York city in 1929, the day after the big stock market crash.  He loved architecture and spent a lot of time studying it. He liked to people watch also and that is what this book is about.  He worked as a crime writer and reporter. He spent 31 years working at the New Yorker but by then was finished publishing his own work. He died in 1996.

The blurb on the back of this book will really pull you into what it is about:

"Mitchell is the laureate of old New York; the hidden corners of the city and the people who lived there are his subject. He captured the waterfront rooming houses, nickel-a-drink saloons, all night restaurants, the visionaries, obsessives, impostors, fanatics, lost souls, the end-is-near street preachers, old Gypsy Kings and Old Gypsy Queens, the out-and-out freak-show freaks.
Mitchell's trademark curiosity , courtesy and graveyard humour fuel these magical works of reportage."

I don't know about you but when I read that I wanted to read it all, all 707 pages of this book published in 1938.

I have only just begun. They are a series of short stories, vignettes.

I was looking for a short story title that began with the letter K. for my alphabet challenge. That was harder than I thought. I have several large books of short stories but none of the stories began with K.  It was in this book that I found it.
The Kind Old Blonde.  Mitchell is sitting in an Irish restaurant near Pennsylvania station. A couple walked in and sat down:

"They had just come in from the Belmont track. The man was bald and red-faced and substantial. He looked like a contractor or maybe he had something to do with the horses. The woman was a big sound, well-dressed blonde. She might have been the co-leader of a Tammany* club or an old vaudeville actress who had saved her money or perhaps married well. "

The man looked at the menu and the woman ordered an Old Fashioned. The man frowned at her as it turns out his doctor had told him he should quit drinking for health reasons. He was prepared to do this. But the woman relayed a story of a man who had done that and he died within a year. She gives all the reasons why your body "needs oil" and it wasn't such a good idea.  The discussion is quite entertaining as she begins to convince the man he needs a drink to stay in good health and not to die young. She orders a second Old Fashioned and finally at the end of the meal and discussion the man orders a Rye. Not mixed with anything like soda or ginger ale. Just a rye with a little water. For health reasons.

The readers has just visited this restaurant in old New York. I could see the characters. I could smell her perfume. I thought I was sitting in the restaurant observing the scene. It felt real. I was probably at a table by the window facing into the room. I saw it all.  I was with Joseph Mitchell. The day was probable cloudy, not many people in the restaurant. It was a day out, a quick meal in the city I love. New York City.

*Tammany club =A  community/political club of middle class ethnic origin.

Friday 10 July 2015

Winter Days and Hot Tea

Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny winter day. The high temperature hit 13C ( 56 F).  Mr. Penguin had a dentist appointment so I decided to be dropped off into town as I had errands to run. On the way through South Hobart I saw a good friend walking into the local cafe. So I hopped out of the car and joined her for a drink while she ate lunch and we had a good ole catch up.

I then walked the 20 minutes into the city centre to do some errands.  One of those was to find some good espresso coffee for the new coffee maker we bought after our trip overseas.  The first place I thought of was one of the best tea and coffee shops in town,  Jefferson's Teas.  

This establishment has been in business for as long as I can remember in Hobart City Centre.  They have coffees but their main focus I would say would have to be tea.All the teas are housed in wonderful big Chinese containers lined up on the shelf.  A pot of Vanilla Chai was available for tasting. As I found the coffee I wanted to try I was offered a small cup of this tea and it was delicious.  I immediately added that to my good fortune.

The two ladies who run the shop were great conversationalists and we had a chat about coffee, tea and books. We were talking about getting rid of the clutter in houses as they told me I could buy a small canister that matched the bigger Chinese canisters on the shelf.  I told them I was reading a book written about a Japanese de-clutterer who believed you should ask  yourself "Do you love each item in your house?" If not get rid of it. Eventually  you should only have things in your house, on the bookshelves and in your wardrobe that you absolutely love.

We all agreed that books are the hardest to part with. The more I talk to people I am realising this is a universal law.

As the afternoon was drawing to a close and the sun was sinking behind the mountain I decided I should head for the bus with my goodies and catch the bus home.

 A lovely afternoon of exercise, beautiful winter light and sunshine as well as fresh tea and coffee toe home.

Something else I learned from these ladies.  I told them tea with caffeine keeps me awake at night. They told me a little trick to get rid of the caffeine and at the risk of having a sleepless night I might try it.  Boil your water. Pour the hot water over the tea in the infuser through the tea. As soon as the hot water hits the tea the caffeine is released. Then IMMEDIATELY dump out the water and refill the infuser. Then drink the tea and although all of the caffeine is gone most of it is. They have had customers that have told them this works a treat.  Has anyone else tried this?

Now to finish the rest of the alphabet challenge on cold winter nights with decaffeinated Vanilla Chai.

Wednesday 8 July 2015

G is for GOING To A Second Hand Bookshop..........

............ I have not been to for awhile to look for a Penguin.
No 1499

The Red Cross charity book shop is one of the best bookshops in Tasmania for a good selection of second hand books.  I was in the habit of going every week after my play reading class.  My friend Brian used to live in that shop.  After he died I didn't go in much and then I was away on holiday and all the preparation that entailed.

Yesterday I took them 4 big garbage bags of books that I rescued from Brian's house after he died. His family were interested in selling the house fast and all of his books, several hundred were thrown into a large skiff headed for the landfill.

No 2319
I went over there on a Sunday when no one was around and dug through the grass clippings in the skiff and lots of other junk from the house. I brought home about 500 books. Many of them old Penguins. Not to mention old books from the World Wars I and II, great sporting biographies, good literature. Brian had a keen eye for what to collect.  I have since been distributing them to several different charity shops. 

Yesterday I took the bags into the Red Cross book shop.  They used to sell Penguins for a dollar a book but that has now gone up to 1.50 and 2.00. Still a good buy.  I found 5 vintage Penguins that I don't currently have.   I have not deliberately gone shopping for Penguin books in several months so this kind of got the blood boiling. I saw these setting on the shelf and I could feel the old adrenaline rush. Not to mention they were all in a good shape.  While I was there a couple brought in several boxes of books and said they were from one of their mother's from 60 years of collecting.  The supervised of the shop prices books on Friday so I might have to get in there before all the local booksellers come in on Monday morning to see what is there. 
No 1950

I was not familiar with all the authors of the books I found but the books look quite interesting. (all Penguins are interesting aren't they?)  I hope you enjoy the loot and if you have anything to contribute about these books I would love to hear it. 
No D3

I love these designed poetry books.
No D35

Monday 6 July 2015

R is for something from Gutenberg

When you go to the Gutenberg web page and start exploring the huge inventory of their books, short stories, prints, poetry and more you can be there for days without surfacing. I really love their site.  I use the UB Reader on my Samsung tablet and Gutenberg easily downloads things to it. I can see the illustrations and it reads like a book. I find the combination of the two overwhelmingly amazing.

When I made up my A to Z post (last one) one of the items was to read something from Gutenberg beginning with the letter R.  When I visited the Gutenberg web site I found there is a title index for each letter of the alphabet as well as the author one.  I immediately went to the letter R and found a short story entitled The Radiant Shell. I thought it might be a fantasy story about a seashell.  Maybe it was magic or something,  The author is Paul Ernst. I soon discovered it is a science fiction story.  It was initially published in a book called Astounding Stories from 1932.

Paul Ernst was an American writer born around 1899 and died around 1985. According to web pages I reviewed about this writer the jury seems to still be out. There is little information about him online.

He was best known for his 24 Avenger novels written between 1939 and 1942 using the name Kenneth Robeson. He was known as a Pulp and Science Fiction writer and the Penguin and I had fun with this short story.

I don't usually read Science fiction but the gods threw it up at me on Gutenberg so who was I to argue.

It opens with high faluting politicians and military officials sitting around a conference table discussing how the small country of Arvania had stolen the plans for the deadly Ziegler heat ray weapon. It is the deadliest weapon known to mankind and with it they have the ability to completely destroy the USA in 3 months beginning with Washington DC.

Enter their secret scientist. Thorn Winter. He has developed a paint like substance that can cover his body and make him invisible for a limited time. The "Radiant Shell".  He has a plan. He will enter the  Arvanian Embassy as an invisible man and steal the plans back.  Then the world, or more likely the USA will be safe from destruction.

"The man who presently appeared in the doorway was an arresting figure. A man of thirty-odd with the body of an athlete, belied somewhat by the pallor of an indoor worker, with acid stained, delicate hands offset by forearms that might have belonged to a blacksmith, with coal black hair and gray eyes so light as to look like ice-gray holes in the deep caverns of his eye-sockets. This was Thorn Winter."

Of course he makes it inside the embassy and nothing goes to plan. When he walks on the carpet, the nap moves. If he stands in front of furniture with vertical lines the lines look interrupted. He also needs to work fast as his pores are covered and he will die if he doesn't wash the covering off before too long.

There is suspense when an Irish Wolfhound enters the scene and goes crazy over the smell. The Arvanians get suspicious and can feel there is someone in the room. When they lock down the room and start swinging long swords around and finally use a machine gun our hero is truly threatened.

The story is concisely written and we don't need to wait long for the action.  The stereotypes of the enemy are quite predictable even for 1932.  Of course they are dark swarthy men with black beards. Bad people never seem to be blonde or blue eyed.

"Dark of hair and complexion were these men, with the arrogant hawk noses and ruthless small eyes of the typical Arvanian. Several of them were garbed in military uniforms and armed with swords. They were talking in tones too low for Thorn to distinguish words through the film over his ears. He would have to get in there to hear them.
For the third time the wind pushed at the door."

The Penguin got a bit carried away.
I do need to get after him at times.

It was a fun read and I never would have known about this fun Sci Fi writer if it hadn't of been for my Alphabet Challenge and sitting here this morning between 6:00 and 7:00 with frost on the grass, dogs asleep and a hot cup of coffee.  This getting up early in the morning has been good fun. I think I am becoming a morning person after only 60 some years.

If you would like to read this story you can access it here.

Saturday 4 July 2015

A to Z post to get me started.

I always love reading Fleur's blog when she does an A  to  Z. I have done one in the distant past and did complete it. I found it was good motivation.  I have discovered since I returned home from my trip I have turned into a morning person. Usually I am a pathetic night person and can't wake up in the morning to save myself. Now I am in bed by 9 pm and up and wide awake by 5:30 or 6:00. I feed the dogs at 7 am so that gives me a good hour to get started on something.

It is winter here and it is pretty cold and the days are short. So it appears we have waking hours during much darkness. I need something to keep me occupied that is fun. So in the theme of rounding out my life at home I am going to determine an A to Z of things to complete by 31 August. So let's get started:

A is for an AUDIO books to complete and write about.
B is for the last name of an author beginning with B on my TBR pile.
C is for COUNTRY and that means something translated.

D is for a DOG walk where I take my camera and get pictures of them to post up.
E is for ENJOYING a day with friends that include beautiful scenery, nature and photos.
F is for a FUN day out on the Penguin Hunter II looking for Penguin books ✔✔✔

G is for GOING  to a second hand book shop I have not been to for awhile to look for a.
H is for a short story whose author's name begins with this letter.✔✔✔
I is for cooking something INTERESTING to eat on a cold winter's day.

J is for removing JUNK from all of the closets in my house and drawers to a variety of
   charity shops. I have already made a good start on this.✔✔
K is for a short story that begins with this letter. ✔✔✔
L is for a LITTLE  book that is fun to revisit from my shelves.

M is for MINE, a book I own to read and discuss.
N is for walking the dogs in a NEW place that they have not seen before complete with photos.✔✔✔
O is for something ODD to share with you. But first I have to work out what it is.

P is for PENGUIN and the review of one that I will read.
Q is for QUAINT village and a book about it.
R is for something I download from Gutenberg starting with R that I share with you✔✔✔.

S is for SILLY and something I share with you that really is silly. We all need a laugh in
T is for TALKING about and sharing a book about an animal since I love them so much.
U is for something to read with the word UNDER.

V is for something VERY special to do with my husband that gets us out of the house on a dark day.
W is for WANDERING on my scooter on a cold day that the sun is out with photos of where I end up.
X is for X-AMINING the new items at my favourite bookstore, Fullers in town followed by a hot chocolate in their cafe with photos to share.

Y is for YELLING out or maybe softly commenting on every blog at least once that I follow on my blog roll to stay in touch.
Z is for continuing to get my zzzzzz at night and continuing to be a morning person.  ✔✔✔

I feel motivated for the next few weeks. It is now 7:00 am and time to feed my dogs their breakfast. However.....I will be back with the Penguin soon.