(We’ll get to those words in just a minute, but first things first)
It being that special time of year again I went down to my secret lady slipper patch to visit this year’s crop of lovely, white, wild orchids in bloom. Usually they come in varying shades of pink, so white lady slippers are quite unusual. This little patch, where the white ones bloomed year after year, is a special treat for me.
Last year (each year)
My annual visit there marks the turning of another season; the end of winter, the earth coming awake once again. I suppose you could call it a ritual. Certainly it is a life-affirming journey, and a great reliever of stress.
I hopped on my bike and pedaled around the top of the Cape, and parked the bike, and walked to the secret patch of pine woods, and…
Nothing. Nada. Not only were there no white ones, there were hardly any lady slippers at all.
An unpleasant shock. I’m fairly certain it’s Trump’s fault.
So there was nothing to do but pack my books and head off to the New Hampshire Book Fair, an event that’s been running, according to the New Hampshire Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association, for 43 years – forty-three seasons of white lady slippers. Had I been doing the fair for that long?
It felt that way as I schlepped into the Everett Arena, formerly home of the Bud Men semi-pro hockey team. I remembered the event (the book fair, not the hockey game) from the days of John Hendsey, and Laura Barr and then Laura Parr, and then the NHABA and Crook’s Books, and then Marvin Getman. Could it really have been four decades? Sure!
And almost nothing had changed.
Same venue (cold & gray).
Same crowd (slightly warmer & gray).
Same time of year (lady slipper season).
Same day (SO much nicer outside than in here!)
The crop of dealers had thinned (and thickened) a bit and, thanks mostly to Marvin Getman’s outreach, there was a small gaggle of newbies and younger dealers in our midst. But mostly, same old, same old. The buying was pretty good – $5047. I hardly sold anything because I never sell anything – $63.
About half an hour before closing time I went out to my car to put away some prints I’d bought so the glass wouldn’t break during move-out.
Minot’s Light and a series of four whaling prints, 1811
On the way back I was overcome with the déjà vu-ness of it all – the big, ugly building, the clanking concrete floors, the glacial passage of the afternoon – you get the picture. Was this where I’d spent my days? I manned up, took a deep breath, and entered the building.
And as I walked in – it was 3:48 pm (I remember looking at the clock on the four-sided scoreboard up in the rafters) – I heard the words none of us ever thought we’d hear. They were uttered by Marvin Getman on the loudspeaker. He said,
The show will close in ten minutes. Customers, please finalize your purchases. Dealers, you can pack up whenever you like.
After 41 years of getting yelled at for even thinking of packing out early, someone finally looks around, sees that the place is empty, and tells us we can leave whenever we want.
It’s enough to make you want to come back again.