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This whole monstruousity was originally conveived
February through March 2001 by the members of The Big Note - a Frank Zappa
YahooGroup. After an arduous gestation period, this site was birthed on
April 11 2001. True to the essence of collaborative effort, these people
are held responsible.
© TheBigNote 2001-2004
unless specified otherwise.
Speed will turn you into your parents.
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I'd like to take a moment to share a story with you all about someone who helped light the fire of wonder in my young imagination for the concept that books weren't just vessels for knowledge, but also common commodities - that could be bought or sold willy-nilly like pork-bellies or fertilizer. That woman was my great grand mother: Irene. She lived a full and happy life before dying at age 104.
In her youth, she was a contortionist at various circuses in the vicinity of Galveston, Texas. She met and married my great-grandfather, Gabriel, at the circus, too. He was a trapeze artist. But his love for libation made him somewhat "shaky" and gradually the other trapeze artists began to shun working with him, for reasons the family still can not quite understand.
Eventually, Gabe and Irene had 14 kids.
Irene got fed up with Gabe's act, and loaded all14 of her kids onto a train headed to a place as far away from Texas as she could get: Seattle. In Seattle, she struggled mightily to feed her brood (and her kids). She developed a keen eye for retail, and soon became known as "Irene, the book lady." There are some old-timers in the Seattle book trade who still remember her - and not always bitterly.
As for me, she'll always be the frail little old lady with a million-plus wrinkles who would gladly read me any story I wanted to hear before she tried to sell me the book.
In the last month of her life, I paid her a visit in the hospital. I kissed her on the forehead, and then read her a story. (I didn't try to sell her the book--I'm not an animal.) When I came to the part of the story that ends with "the end," she reached over and caressed my hand. "Grandma," I said softly, "You've had a long, full...AMAZING... life. I've got a question for you. What is the secret to your success?"
She smiled her sweet, wise smile. "David," she said, "If I told you, it wouldn't be a secret."
I stood there looking at her for a moment. I couldn't help but think: "No wonder Gabe dumped you!"
Glands of Destiny: Goodnight Irene
Five more nutritious facts about Irene:
She only had money for one ticket from Texas to Seattle. She gave it to her oldest son. She then climbed into a steamer trunk with her 13 other kids. Luckily, the tikes had inherited her contortionist genes.
She outlived all 14 of her kids. Most of them suffered all of their lives from chronic back pains, arthritis, and severe claustrophobia.
Dexy's Midnight Runners, a pop band from Ireland, had a big hit song in the mid-1980s that was written about her. It was called "C'mon Irene." It reached number one in the UK and the US.
Although Irene was only 4 feet eight inches tall, she was larger than some dinosaurs. (Some dinosaurs were no larger than hens.)
All through her book-dealing life, she'd bend over backwards to make you a good deal.
Glands of Destiny: Too Ra Too Ra-Ayyyyyyy
The Glands of Destiny Customer Service Center has been flooded with queries about Gabe.
I'll be somewhat truthful here. Although it appeared easy to sit back, and let Irene stake out the immoral high ground, Gabe was a more complex figure than family legend and pop-songs have lead many to believe. He was bitter at his father, Pelham, it is true.
Who wouldn't be? After all, his father got drunk and sold the family land (which was a barren, peyote-dappled desert at the time) to pay off a bar room gambling debt. That land then went on to give birth to the Spindletop Oil Well, which made the Rockefellers wealthy beyond anyone's wildest, peyote-fueled dreams; and lead to the break-up of Standard Oil and the formation of the anti-trust laws we read about in many of today's non-Seattle-based newspapers. A lesser man might have thrown in the towel after his wife and 14 kids left him. Not Gabe.
He set his mind to regaining his trapeze grip. He experimented with all kinds of sticky substances that might allow other trapeze artist to stick to his hands - no matter how "shaky" he might be. While he never achieved THAT goal, one of the by-products went on to be exploited by several companies (none of which ever paid him a dime in royalties, but he's not bitter, he's dead). What was this miracle product?
Well, you might know it as the "Shell No-Pest Strip."
I don't think it is being made in that traditional format anymore - not with the availability of blue-light-bug-zapper technology. But, the Shell No Pest Strip is still around. Anytime you or your family go to a sports arena in this pesticide-scented land of ours, and you eat a plate of what is called "nachos," you're actually eating processed corn-chips slathered with a melted down version of Gabe's Shell No Pest Strips.
Mmmmmmmmmmmmm....who's gonna win the Rose Bowl?
Glands of Destiny: Good cheer, like good cheese, is meant to be spread...
Was Gabe related to Tex McGillicuddy? Tex was a professional rodeo clown (and rodeo bullfighter, two different callings). In his spare time, he was a tinker, and frustrated inventor. He was always coming close, but just never quite succeeded in developing useful and valuable products. He invented a soft drink called 6-UP, but it just never caught on.
He was working a new product, using Teflon as a base, heating it, stretching it, treating it, and found that it could be made into a material that would repel water. The day after he filed the patent, while working as a rodeo bullfighter, Tex died after having been impaled on the horns of a bull. The patent was awarded, posthumously, and, to honor the inventor (and his manner of death) the product now bears the name ... Gore-Tex. >>
I'm not sure whether Gabe was related to Tex, but Gabe, too met a tragic demise. Someone told him the most dangerous thing in a pick-up truck is the nut behind the wheel. Gabe got out his rusty old crescent wrench and removed the aforementioned nut.
Later that day, while driving approximately 45 mph, his pick-up truck steering wheel detached from the base. Gabe lost control and crashed into a Standard oil well.
They say if a man's soul is pure, his death won't be very painful.
Gabe died in horrible agony.
Glands of Destiny: In Deepest Sympathy
Does this forum have to do with books, or am I in the wrong place?
Dear Ms. McKay,
Please excuse Jim and me for comparing notes on the loss of our beloved relatives. Both of these deceased (and probably diseased, let's be honest) individuals played a small part in our individual choices of making bookdealing our profession. I deeply regret any inconvenience Jim's comforting words to me may have caused you.
I know we're all extra busy at this time of year, so maybe it's natural that people get "testy." But please do try to remember that these are beloved deceased (and probably diseased) kin, we are reminiscing about.
I know for a fact that Gabe would be proud of the way Irene kindled the entrepreneurial spirit in her ancestral progeny. I'm sure Tex would be equally proud of Gentleman Jim.
Which reminds me, I've gotta order some of that damn hot sauce! Order To Come, Gentleman Jim!
I wish you and all of your loved ones a most blessed holiday.
Glands of Destiny: A Place of Healing and Forgiveness on the Internet
Last night before I got into bed, I did something I haven't done since I was a kid. I got down on my knees and prayed at the side of the bed for guidance. This is a big project we're about to embark on--this "sleeper" thing. (Is "sleeper" the right word? Would "stealth" be better?)
The whole phenomenon of hyper-modern-firsts achieving such high-valuations in such short periods of time is one that is breathtaking to behold. Well... maybe not breathtaking.... but pretty amazing.
Now for a note of caution: as we continue to watch in awe as certain first editions of books published in the 1990s cross the $1,000 levels, we might well be advised to remember the words of my great-grandfather Gabe: "There are no thousand dollar hookers--only thousand dollar johns."
I recall another saying he had about buying old books with musty smells (at least that's what I think he was talking about): "If it smells like cologne, leave it alone."
He was a great man, that Gabe. If only medical science had had a cure for syphilis in his time, he might still be here with us, imparting his knowledge and love of books - and book people (especially book women).
Life is a mystery. Just like hyper-modern prices.
Glands of Destiny: phagomen kai piomen, aurion gar thanoumeth
I thought Gabe died in an auto accident. - John
Astute observation, John. Gabe did, in fact, die that tragic death when his car (sans steering wheel nut) careened into one of the oil wells on property which once belonged to his pappy, Pelham. But syphilis is a cruel and cunning disease. It is a "twin-killer," as they say, affecting the two organs most prized by the males of our species: the penis and the brain. Had syphilis not impaired his thinking process, it is highly doubtful that he would have removed the nut from the steering wheel. (Incidentally, newspaper reports from the event record that his liver continued to burn continuously for 16 days, a Texas record that still stands to this day.)
I hope this clears things up.
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