Lots of ground to cover today, so let’s get started.
Promoter Gary Gipstein is to be congratulated for going where other promoters feared to tread, and taking the risks and undergoing the hoop-jumping necessary to stage 2021’s live, in-person version of Papermania. Yes, there were a few things left to be desired. At the Hartford Civic Center there are always things to be desired. Lights, for example. Edible food. Some security cop to ban the Charlie Chaplain lookalike who rolls his suitcase around the show trying to sell his crummy scraps of paper. I had to pay for my booth, Gary. How come that clown gets to sell stuff without paying an exhibitor fee? Ah well, it’s all part of the spectacle.
This show, despite being only about half its normal size,
packed a full-sized punch. Plenty of good stuff to buy and, after a scary pre-show attendance line, customers came through at a steady pace all morning. Although I did not perform a post-show dealer satisfaction survey, most of my colleagues seemed quite happy simply to be out of the house. My numbers for Friday and Saturday were as follows: Sales – $95, Purchases – $3949. In other words, about the same as usual.
Now for the good part.
I rolled my boxes into the cavernous concrete bomb shelter that is the XL Center, and there was Jim! And Peter! And Ryan, and Bob, and Aaron, and Cheryl and Ralph, and Frank, and Hutch, and Joe, and the other Joe, and James and the other Jim and Jimmy, and Teri, and Richard and Ann and Kathryn, and Evie and Matt and Tom, and Ryan, and Stacy, and the couple from Gloucester whose names I always forget and everyone else I’m forgetting here, and a thrill surged through me.
I was back in “the life!” Once again, “Living the dream!” It felt terrific. Little did I know that, within a few hours, I’d be living through one of my worst nightmares. Here’s how it happened.
Went over to Max’s after setup for a drink with Hutch, followed by dinner at Feng with Hutch and Frank. Then a pleasant smoke in front of the hotel, after which I retired to my chambers where, failing to find anything interesting on TV, I read for a while (Merlyn Sheldrake’s excellent Entangled Lives,) and promptly fell asleep. After a couple of hours, being 76 years of age, I rose from bed in order to use the bathroom. Having successfully accomplished that function, I headed back to bed.
Not having been in a hotel in over a year, the layout of the room was no longer baked into my brain. I fumbled about for a bit, still half asleep, discovered that the bed was not in the closet, reoriented myself accordingly, took a 90-degree turn through the door, but only became fully aware of my situation when I heard the distinctive CLICK of the door to my hotel room closing behind me, leaving me standing in the hallway on the 17th floor of the Hartford Hilton, clad only in my red undershorts.
I’m sure you’ve had similar anxiety dreams – finding yourself in your college classroom sans clothing, or in an airplane terminal, or in the lobby of a metropolitan hotel – which is where I soon found myself. I mean, what else was there to do?
Having had ample experience with that particular anxiety dream, I felt almost no anxiety during the waking version of it – standing in the lobby of the Hartford Hilton Hotel at 11:30 pm, clad only in red undershorts. There were three people in line ahead of me, waiting to speak to the desk clerk. Two of them, a couple with two suitcases, were first in line, apparently late checkins. Behind them was a hirsute fellow in his late 20s clutching his ticket to the parking garage. There were two other civilians loitering in the lobby, probably waiting for friends, and a hotel employee cleaning up the little convenience store around the corner from the desk.
What struck me at that moment was the discipline, the utter attention, the absolute focus everyone in that room put into NOT noticing that there was a 76-year-old man standing in their midst wearing nothing but red undershorts. They didn’t see me. I didn’t exist. Everything was just fine.
I realized, even in my half-asleep state, that I was much more upsetting to them than they were to me. Hell, I’d practiced this routine dozens of times in my anxiety dreams. Those poor folks in the lobby had almost certainly never had anxiety dreams about standing around in hotel lobbies in the company undressed old men. They were the ones living the nightmare. I was the nightmare. That was fun. Sort of…
Finally, the clerk finished his business with the hairy young man. I approached his desk. He raised his hand in a halt! gesture, picked a paper face mask from a box of fresh ones, and said, “Don’t even bother… just put this mask on.” I took the mask. Then he said, “What’s your room number?”
Within five minutes, I was back in my room, fast asleep.
I woke next morning after a hearty 9 hours, and marveled at the ease with which the whole thing had gone down – the kind cooperation of the people in the lobby, the practiced calm of the desk clerk, the utter lack of fuss. It didn’t dawn on me until later that the clerk had very probably dealt with such situations before. I was not alone in my undershorts.
Here are the two coolest things that turned up at this year’s Papermania:
Martin, Maria. History of the Captivity and Sufferings of Mrs. Maria Martin, Who Was Six Years a Slave in Algiers: Two of Which She Was Confined in a Dark and Dismal Dungeon… Boston: W. Crary, 1807. 12mo, 20.5 cm. 72 pp. b/w frontispiece.
Here’s the description from the last time this first edition sold ($1000 hammer in 2000 in the Driscoll Piracy sale at Christie’s) – “Woodcut portrait frontispiece of a revealingly-draped Mrs. Martin in chains. Contemporary tan wrappers (some offset title), cloth case, FIRST EDITION. A classic of the captivity genre inspired by the Barbary wars, the present lot is based on an earlier Algerine and went through numerous editions. It is understandably rare with the frontispiece intact. Wright 1208a.” Sewing in this copy has been given amateur repairs, and the leaf containing pp. 47/48 is torn near the gutter margin, with no loss. Bound in heavy paper tan wrappers, probably as issued. $1500
People’s Line Hudson River, the Palace Steamers of the World. DREW–ST. JOHN–DEAN RICHMOND. Leaving New York daily (Sundays excepted) at 6 p.m. & Albany at 8 p.m. Making Close Connections with Trains North & West. Chromolithograph by Currier & Ives, circa 1877. Image size approximately 24 x 36 inches.
The evening departures mark these as the famed Hudson River Night Boats. According to scenichudson.org, the mid-1860s “heralded the beginning of the night boats’ golden days. At first, the undisputed champion of the Hudson was the Drew, which plied the river from 1866-1896. Some 400 feet long, it boasted 3 tiers of luxurious staterooms and a grand saloon with a domed skylight supported by Corinthian columns. Going to and from the saloon required taking stairways crafted of Santo Domingo mahogany.” A copy of this rare print sold at Bonhams in 2011 for $3600. This copy is backed on linen. It has been repaired in the upper and lower right corners, with loss of 2 letters. The coloring is good and there is no foxing. $1750
Tune in next week for a guest blog by Curtis Runnels.