A Gift from Our Father

Look Closely Lest You Be Fooled

This happened years ago while my brother and I were still in Cleveland. Our Dad had gone shopping at the West Side Market for various Hungarian provisions and came back with gifts for us. He had been approached by a street vendor who sold him two “hot” watches that had “fallen off a truck,” a Bulova and a Hamilton. Dan and I looked at the watches and laughed. The Bulova was actually a Bolivia; and the Hamilton, a Hormilton. I still have the Bolivia, which ceased working decades ago. It appears that the watch vendor had made a profit on the deal.

Although our father felt like a fool for buying counterfeit watches with a one-jewel movement that may function for upwards of two weeks, I cannot recall thye incident without once again feeling affection and a sense of loss. Alex Paris died in 1985 at the age of 74—which, coincidentally, is my present age. I think of him frequently and cannot look in a mirror without seeing his face looking back at me. I have been told I look more like my mother, but there is still a lot of Alex in me as well.

For an interesting old Popular Science article on counterfeit watches written back around the time my father found his bargain, click here.

 

GRUBERG: The Papa Bach Story 2

Bookmarks from the Reincarnation of Papa Bach

When Ted and Eva Riedel left Los Angeles in the mid 1970s, the bookstore was taken over by a “poet” named John Harris. I use the quotes around the word poet because I have found nothing on the Internet either by or about him that was not written by his friend, fellow poet William Mohr. It was around this time that I stopped hanging out at Papa Bach’s Bookstore. I missed Ted and Eva, and I had my doubts about the new management. This was mostly because I noticed that the stock on sale started to thin out: I no longer found it a good source for the material I was seeking.

Still, in its second incarnation, Papa Bach had some influence. In his book Literary L.A., Lionel Rolfe writes:

Papa Bach was significant, I think, because it was the closest thing Los Angeles ever had to a City Lights bookstore and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I’m not sure that Harris himself would have thought he was on that level, for the synergy of Ferlinghetti and San Francisco are a peculiar and special chemistry. But John Harris was a good if not great poet, and his Papa Bach was a bookstore, a cultural center, a publisher and an important link between many things. Harris made no bones about it; he had burned out.

Papa Bach was to limp along for another ten years or so, but the heart of it as a bookstore was no longer there. I was not and still am not interested in Harris’s poetry events or publications: It was the merchandise that had drawn me. Once the bookshelves started showing lots of blank space between isolated books, I knew that the end was in sight.

For a while, the building occupied by Papa Bach’s became “The Writer’s Computer Store,” which I assumed was a shill for Apple software products. Then the building was torn down and replaced by an Enterprise Rent-a-Car agency.

 

 

GRUBERG: The Papa Bach Story 1

Original (1960s) Bookmark from Papa Bach Books

It was early 1967: I was still exploring my new Los Angeles home on foot and by bus. (It was to be almost twenty years before I began to drive.) On the north side of Santa Monica Boulevard, just west of Sawtelle, sat a big bookstore with a sign that said Papa Bach Paperbacks. Even at that early juncture, I was a bookstore aficionado of long standing, a habitué of Schroeder’s on Public Square in Cleveland and the Dartmouth College Bookstore in Hanover, New Hampshire.

I still have the books I bought that day: It was a two-volume set, the Vintage Turgenev comprising seven of the Russian author’s novels: Smoke, Fathers and Sons, First Love (in Volume 1), On the Eve, Rudin, A Quiet Spot, and Diary of a Superfluous Man (in Volume 2). The two books cost $1.65 and $1.95 respectively.

It wasn’t long before I moved to an apartment near Mississippi and Sawtelle, just four or five blocks south of Papa Bach’s. For the six months or so that I lived there, I had to catch the bus to UCLA across the street from the bookstore. In addition, there was a nifty used bookstore called West L.A. Books just across Sawtelle. During that time, I stopped in at Papa Bach’s at least four times a week, each time coming out with one or more purchases. I was in hog heaven.

The Picture of Bach That Was on the Logo came from a German Stamp

I got to know the original owners, Ted and Eva Riedel, and spent hours talking books with them. They had a quote contest in which, if you guessed the book it came from, you got a copy of the book. The first quote, if I remember rightly, was from Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. Not only was I the all-time winner, but I volunteered to letter the quotes myself with a Magic Marker on a roll of paper that was displayed near the cash register.

Alas, Paradise does not last forever. In the early 1970s, Ted and Eva sold the bookstore and moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Ted told me that he planned to start a Papa Bach Bookstore there, but I have found no evidence that that ever happened. I even checked out the Jackson Hole phonebook when I was there in 2008, but found no listing for Papa Bach or the Riedels. I liked them, so I can only hope that things went all right for them.

Tomorrow, I will describe the bookstore under its new owners.

BTW, the GRUBERG on the bookmark is a mnemonic for their phone number at that time, namely 478-2374.

 

The Tea Drinker

I Am Addicted to Drinking Tea

I drink mine not from bone china, but from a Harris Ranch mug, which I bought to replace an earlier one broken while being washed. The nights in Los Angeles are getting cold (down to the forties in Fahrenheit and the single digits Celsius). What keeps me going is mostly Indian black tea. In the mornings, I brew a pot of mixed Darjeeling and Ceylon. For lunch today at the Moon House, I had about four or five cups of green tea, Tonight, as I read Cara Black’s Aimée Leduc mystery Murder in the Sentier,  I brewed myself a cup of Indian chai masala.

Coffee? What’s that? I’m told I’m probably the only person in the Continental United States who never touches the stuff. In fact, I am repelled by the taste and the smell of bitter beans, as I refer to them.

As I look forward to the coming new year, I will probably drink hundreds of cups of hot tea and, when it gets hot, hundreds of glasses of iced tea (the same blend as my morning pot).

I make no special claims for tea, other than that I love the smooth taste. Drinking it makes me feel calm, even just before going to bed.

My parents told me that, as a small child, I used to sip their coffee. What happened in my childhood years that made me turn so vehemently against the stuff? Did I have a bad cap of joe? Did I spill some on myself and burn myself? Apparently, even my mother and father didn’t know.

 

Boldog új évet!

And My Computer Is Now Working!

I will start 2019 with my old office computer, which has been newly updated with additional memory and a new graphics card. Apparently, the computer freezes I described were mostly the fault of the graphics card, which was installed late in 2015.

As long as the Trumposaurus is occupying the White House—or, even, earth, above ground, that is—2019 can’t really be a great year. But we can make the best of things. It’s how we tackle adversity that really counts. We cannot expect to live a live that is devoid of adversity. Real happiness is not the result of living in lucky times: It’s creating our own luck in dicey times.

So, to all my readers, I wish you all the best.

By the way, the title of my post is Happy New Year in Hungarian. All of you, be boldog.

 

Fighting Off an Invasion

Cimex lectularius and Progeny

At the same time that I was facing seemingly insurmountable computer problems, Martine and I were fighting off a bed bug (Cimex lectularius) infestation. I am writing about it only now because I wanted to stay mum on the subject until I felt we had licked the problem. It has now been a week since neither of us have received any new bites; so, I feel comfortable talking about it now.

If you follow my posts, you may remember that Martine last left me early in October, returning a few days later because she was unable to get a good night’s sleep. During her last getaway, Martine stayed at a shelter in South Central Los Angeles which housed hundreds of women, where I suspect she picked up a few “hitchhikers” of both insect genders. At first, we were bit a couple of times, which enabled the “pioneer” invaders to mate and lay eggs in our living room couch. From there, they migrated to the bedroom and took up residence in our box spring and the bed frame.

We counterattacked on several fronts:

  1. We encased both the mattress and the box spring in a zipped fabric that trapped bed bugs within and prevented further incursions.
  2. We threw out some old wood we had been using between the bed frame and the box spring.
  3. Where the wheels of the bed frame met the bedroom carpet, we used a double-bowl that contained diatomaceous earth (poisonous to bed bugs) in the inner bowl and soapy water (also poisonous to the critters) in the outer bowl. Note that bed bugs can neither fly nor jump, so the traps present an insurmountable barrier to them.
  4. Martine used a canister vacuum with a bladelike accessory for sucking up a large cache of bed bug eggs she found in the crook of the right arm of the couch.
  5. In addition to aggressive vacuuming, we washed and dried our clothes and sheets at the hot temperature setting.
  6. In case we find any more egg caches, we got some bed bug poisons from BedBugStore.Com.

I was the first victim of the little beasts’ attacks. I usually sit on the right hand side of our coach, and I picked up a pattern of bites on my right arm and the right side of my back.

During this time, Martine and I have noted the large number of mattresses and couches that are being thrown out from nearby apartments. I suspect that most of them are related to bed bug infestations. Our couch and mattress were both expensive and worth saving, as we both prefer extra firm and don’t want to pay out a small fortune.

 

 

“The Dread Xmas”

Some Things About Xmas Drive Me Up the Wall

And I use the word Xmas advisedly. I like many of the traditions associated with the Christmas holiday, mostly because of happy memories from my own childhood. What to me as a young boy was radiant and hopeful, however, has become for the adult me just another hurdle. For decades now, I have referred to the holiday as “The Dread Xmas”—and I make a point of pronouncing it as Ekksmas. Here is a partial list of my beefs about this time of year:

The Little Drummer Boy

There was no little drummer boy in the manger. The shepherds around Bethlehem would not have countenanced using a sheepskin to beat upon with a pair of sticks. And the song itself is sappy, sirupy, and soggily sentimental. Let us just leave this one out henceforth. To me, it is far worse than the “Baby It’s Cold Outside” song that is so lately controversial.

The Holiday “Spirit”

Let’s face it: This is a time of year when people are driven to perform endless errands—and in the worst possible spirit. In so doing, they clog the highways and especially the shopping center parking lots. Even with Amazon.Com and other Internet alternatives, you are likely to have some sour feelings about the holiday if you venture out of doors and onto the highway.

Charity Is Not Just for the Holidays

And yet, there is a positive onslaught of charitable requests from November until the end of the year. Giving some poor person a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is a nice idea, but people are hungry and needy all year round. Every year at this time, I get at least a hundred requests this time of year. I suppose the timing has more to do with people trying to up their tax exemptions before the New Years, but it does get a bit old.

Holiday Guilt

As a newly retired person, I am now on a fixed income and frequently making raids on my IRA savings. There is no way that I can give Christmas gifts the way I used to, and I feel terrible about it. I have to make a special effort to tell my friends that I can’t be quite so generous as previously.

On the Other Hand

There are also some things about Christmas that I love: The old traditional songs, the classic movies such as the Alastair Sim version of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, getting together with friends, and trying to make small things into mini-celebrations. At its best, Christmas is about love; at its worst, about mere driven spiritless compulsion.