I am a serious book collector, and San Francisco used to be a serious town for the likes of me. I buy 'em used, sometimes by the carton-load, and upon occasion I resell to selected fair buyers.
Independent booksellers have taken a beating, first by the big national chains, and then by the Internet. Recently Powell's, the huge ("square block of a million books") used book store in Portland, Oregon, has been sending its agents down to San Francisco to offer PUNY lump sums for the entire inventories of targeted local used book sellers, to induce them to drop out of the increasingly difficult market, and thus increase Powell's share.
The San Francisco Chronicle article breaking the story behind two recent local shop closings, involving incentives offered by Powell's of Portland, was waved in my face by Tracy, the petite owner of Lifetime Books, a used book shop in town. She knew that I, of all people, would want/need to know.
The story broke this summer, just after one SF shop closed without warning, another announced its imminent closing, and yet another was winding down toward closing. I plopped down in the big naugahyde armchair by Tracy's bookpile-covered front counter, so that she and I could hash this out, after picking up dinner for us both, next door. I knew it'd be a long discussion, and that Tracy would be indignant and very vocal.
Tracy explained/ranted that she would NEVER sell out to Powell's. She was disgusted that her colleagues were doing so, rather than soliciting offers from herself and other struggling locals in the business. So committed, in fact, was Tracy to the Cause of Independent (local) Bookselling that she'd recently started up a second (unrelated) business, just so that she wouldn't be starved-out as a book retailer! This was, indeed, her consuming interest.
Tracy (O, age 50) was a tiny spitfire (5 feet tall, without the Harley helmet or spike heels), and her counter was a neighborhood hub. She knew titles, authors, editions, everything a bookseller needs to know, yet she was no intellectual: She was, rather, a very diligent hound, scouring the papers and Web for news of library sales, garage sales, etc. She'd regularly comb thrift shops and sniff through all sorts of charity bins. And then, at her counter while hobnobbing with her usual customers and friends, she'd mylar-cover the dust jacket of each hardcover she'd acquired.
I knew Tracy's buying preferences pretty well. Any bag of my outgoing tomes that I knew she'd want, she'd in fact want. She'd issue Store Credit in return (which I'd immediately use!). Kind of a symbiotic thing.
* * * * * * * *
A few weeks ago, I brought a bag of surefire titles to her store, but an employee was behind the counter, saying Tracy hadnt come in: She didn't feel well (was having a headache and a "pinched nerve in her neck"), so there'd be no purchases that day. I had a heavy load, so I left and sold the books immediately elsewhere.
A couple of days later, I passed by to say hello, but Tracy was still out sick. "What's wrong?" I asked, seeing that same (previously very part-time) employee. I was told she was still in pain, so she'd decided to ... go for a chiropractic adjustment.
"But what's the DIAGNOSIS?" I asked. "This isn't like Tracy, to be down for days on end. Has she seen a doctor?" "No," he replied, "And I know what you mean...But then, she says she THINKS the chiropractor MIGHT actually have helped."
"'THINKS'? 'MIGHT'? And helped WHAT?" I argued. "She doesn't even know what's wrong! She has a severe headache for DAYS? it came on SUDDENLY?" I was disgusted. I would have given her a piece of my mind -- I bought a book and left.
Four days later, I was passing Tracy's store and thought I'd go in and get the lowdown from Tracy herself. But there was that employee again (I've since become friendly with him)! "Still??!" I asked.
"Tracy died," he said softly. And then, "And this is her brother, in from Colorado...It WAS more than a pinched nerve..." The brother sat glassy-eyed in the big naugahyde chair. "I just cremated my sister," he said, gazing from some distant mental tundra. Long silence.
"Did she pop an aneurysm?" I asked. The two men looked at me, astonished. "How'd you know?" asked the brother, suddenly alert.
"Because of her sex and age, because of the abruptness of onset, the symptom of headache, but most of all, frankly, because of the outcome."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Just a week previously, Tracy and I had discussed what the imminent (9/30/06) closing of a landmark bookstore a block away would mean for her own business. She was hoping to adopt some of those customers as her own. "We'll see", she said, ever the optimist. "I'm ready for 'em,"
And she was. Her eye for titles had gotten better and better, with every year --- PLUS: She was on the upswing, having just started the 2nd business and moved to a new apartment, which she'd wanted me to help her decorate... But - DANG! - I could really read her the riot act here: She went to her CHIROPRACTOR, with a sudden, excruciating headache and neuro-deficit symptoms, thinking "pinched nerve", and "I need 'an adjustment.'" She even told her boyfriend, after she'd come-to from a repeated faint: "Don't you DARE call 9-1-1!"
Look, folks, I can be as holistic as the next guy - sorta - but Tracy urgently needed medical attention: Specifically, an angiogram or MRI. She'd even had a few days' window to obtain it immediately: This isn't England or Canada, where such testing only comes after weeks or months on some waiting list; any San Francisco Emergency Room would have worked her up for Intracranial Hemorrhage. (As it turns out, that's what happened, when it was too late: Tracy was indeed admitted to the hospital, where she promptly lapsed into a coma, convulsed, and died.)
I'm continually amazed by people who choose Chiropractic over emergency medicine, especially for sudden-onset headache. And I'm positively vitriolic toward practitioners who DON'T say, "Y'know what? See a medical doctor first: Your life might depend on it."
My friend Shelley, also 50, also type O, had collapsed at her own store in 1999, and was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where her cerebral aneurysm was surgically repaired; she survived: Gradual but complete recovery, returned to work, etc.
But Tracy will not return to work, at this crucial time for her Pet Obsession. Tracy will not be a part of what becomes of her Cause or her store. (Powell's of Portland? "Over my dead body!" Tracy would have quipped, winking, and stomping in her inimitable clipped and bug-eyed way [Thyroid]. And then she'd give off a big burst of a laugh.)
* * * * * * * *
1. Go out today and support your local independent (used) bookseller. Browse those stacks, and make it a habit. Do it for Tracy! Take up the Cause!
2. Don't categorically write off Allopathic Medicine. As you can see, the stakes are just too high. Be definitively diagnosed; THEN make educated choices. Remember Tracy, who, a couple of weeks ago, had a new business, a new apartment, and more spunk and spark than any 5 women half her age. She was dying, and she went to the Chiropractor.
3. If you're a Chiropractor, remember Tracy. It's okay to suspect the worst and do the prudent thing. Otherwise, someone could lose a sister, a wife, a daughter...or a friend.
Essential oil of Tea Tree (occasionally spelled "Ti-Tree", to clearly distinguish it from the Tea bush -- Camellia sinensis -- lest there be any confusion) is now very popular and readily available, recognized by health practitioners all over the world. By "Tea Tree" is meant Melaleuca alternifolia, a tree indigenous and exclusive to Australia, especially New South Wales.
Other Melaleucas exist:
Melaleuca cajeputi ("CAJEPUT" or "CAJUPUT"): Grows wild in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Java, Australia and SE Asia.
Melaleuca quinquenervia viridiflora ("NIAOULI" or "MQV"): Native to Australia, New Caledonia, and the French Pacific Islands. Its essential oil is produced mostly in Australia and Tasmania.
TEA TREE has a long history with aboriginal Aussies. By WW2, Aussie soldiers and sailors were issued Tea Tree to self-treat numerous ailments of service, from wounds to tropical infections.
TEA TREE is usually used versus yeasts/fungi, viruses, sepsis, and, perhaps most uniquely, as a very strong immune-booster, favored for its versatility and tolerability (can be used topically, undiluted, as well as internally).
NIAOULI is an excellent expectorant with anti-allergy and anti-asthma properties. It is antiseptic (as are virtually all essential oils), an endocrine tonic, and a strengthener of asthenics, among its many, many applications. It synergizes with Tea Tree, Ravensara, and Calophyllum for use on all mucous membranes, and is usually used topically.
CAJEPUT is very effective against a slightly different bacterial spectrum and is used similarly to Niaouli as well as Tea Tree, but, unlike the above 2 Melaleucas, it can be a skin-irritant.
* * * * * * * *
We move to an entirely different Genus/species: MANUKA is, often mistakenly, called "Tea Tree" by some relatively unfamiliar with Aromamedicine. Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) is an important component of Maori natural medicine. This shrub's leaves were actually used as tea by Captain Cook when he arrived in New Zealand. Some say Manuka/Leptospermum was "The original Tea Tree". And for certain indications, it happens to be used similarly to the way Tea Tree is. However:
1. It is not predominantly Terpinene, as is Tea Tree.
2. It contains significant Geraniol and Linalol, giving it a sweet, gentle fragrance -- nice in the vaporisor -- as opposed to the more medicinal smell of the Melaleucas.
It's an entirely different plant.
Both Melaleuca and Leptospermum belong to the Myrtaceae family (as do Eucalyptus, Clove and Myrtle, for example). And some may call Leptospermum "New Zealand Tea Tree". But Leptospermum/Manuka can be quite drying to the skin and should therefore be highly diluted in carrier oil. The Maori use it for muscular pain and rheumatism. Also: Leptospermum lacks the amazing immunity-enhancing power of Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia).
* * * * * * * *
Always check your "Tea Tree" products (and ALL botanical products!) for Latin classification. It's a pretty safe bet that "Tea Tree"-inclusive products such as mouthwashes, body washes, toothpicks, etc., contain Melaleuca, rather than Leptospermum: In the US, anyway. For stimulating immunity, especially, you want Melaleuca, i.e., Australian Tea Tree (safe to use straight from the bottle). In fact, look for "Manuka", NOT "Tea Tree", if it's Leptospermum (very hard to find in the US) you want, and remember to dilute it! My guess is that most who claim "Tea Tree" is a skin-irritant for them are using Leptospermum.
Recently on the dadamo Forum, the question was posed, "Are there any Beneficials you dislike?" And I responded, "Yes: Sardines."
Well, this afternoon I gave 'em the ol' college try. I took the advice of sardine-lovers on the Forum and made Sardine Patties in the frying pan. Here's how:
First, I was using pre-skinned and -boned sardines that had been tinned in olive oil. I drained off the oil, and mashed the sardines with sautéed onion and garlic, bread crumbs, raw egg, and minced parsley. I formed them into seven little patties and fried them in just a bit of olive oil. After cooking them on both sides, I tasted them and found them pretty vile, so I decided to add some lemon juice to the pan; when that didn't help, I added white wine.
I hate to tell you, folks, but I still didn't like them. I used a lemon mayonnaise as a dipping sauce, too, which over-lemonified the flavor. I managed to force down 2-1/2 of these patties because I was ravenous, but a few cubes of ice-cold watermelon were the necessary chaser here.
I'm reminded of a magazine cartoon a friend had affixed to the organic brown rice bin in her little grocery 20+ years ago: A Japanese family of Mom, Dad, little boy and little girl is seated on pillows, around a very low table laden with dinner. The Mom is sternly telling the children, "Eat your brown rice; think of all those children in the United States having to eat junk food!"
For my younger readers, that's a parody of what the picky eaters of my generation grew up hearing at table: "There are children starving in Europe" (Indeed, the friend of whose store and rice bin I write had been one of those starving children, in Germany. Grew up on potatoes; ate her first banana at age 16..., but I digress). Maybe a starving European child would go in for the sardine cakes I made this afternoon, but, I confess, they'll only be as good as their camouflage, as far as I'm concerned.
I really enjoy fish, as a rule. But there's a certain foulness about the smell and taste, constituting the difference, for me, between the clean aroma of grilling fresh wild-caught salmon and that of the "farmed" stuff which reeks royally, to my palate. Even the house stinks when this latter type of salmon sneaks its way into my pan, as it stinks this evening. People who like sardines also tend, it seems, to like other tinned fish with bones, as well as the skin of most fishes. I decidedly do not.
I might continue to fight the "Listen To Your Body" crowd, who'd state that my aversion to these little fishies is Right For Me, until I'm convinced there's just no way to do this; I have a feeling there might be one. I never liked anchovies per se, but Caesar salad dressing just isn't as good without a hint of their splendid essence informing it..."Avoid" though it be.
Before I entirely throw in the towel on this one, I have an idea or two for additional experiments. Yours are welcome, too.
I. The Tempeh Trick
My A friend, Tomoko, called yesterday, asking how to prepare Tempeh. As a B, I no longer eat Tempeh, and I haven't prepared it in many, many years. But it's a "beneficial" for A and AB secretors, "neutral" for everyone else, except B's and O non-sec's who should avoid it. I was known in my chef days for my Tempeh-based vegetarian specialties in a gourmet setting, so I do remember a few tricks.
First of all: What is Tempeh? It's a fermented soybean cake with Indonesian origins. It's available in assorted flavors and can be found in the refrigerated case at most health food groceries. It's very difficult to digest, usually, if not sufficiently PRE-cooked. And there's The Secret: Starting with pre-cooked Tempeh.
You can steam or boil it first; I personally prefer, however, to fry or even bake it: These yield interesting/pleasing texture as well as flavor, bearing in mind that this is but the PRE-cooking (preceding a later cooking!). Boiling or steaming in different broths imparts flavors, while different oils for frying can also influence the final flavors if desired. Generally, I fry till crispy, or bake till golden.
My customers went crazy for my "scallopine" presentations of Tempeh, in various Italian-style dishes such as Piccata. Piccata entails sautéing your pre-cooked, and prepared, Tempeh in butter and lemon, with the addition of capers. For my Piccata, I began with White Wave brand Lemon-flavored Tempeh, which I sliced into very thin scallops before frying or baking, and then marinating in white wine (garlic optional). A dusting of flour and glazing in beaten egg, after marinating, authenticates the veal/meat-methodology (to the point of almost tricking the senses at serving time!). Then into the sauté pan, saucing, and there y'are. Other sauces include Puttanesca, Francese, etc.: Go wild. Fall in Love...
Asian-styled dishes should also bring out the best texture and most savory flavors you can muster: I was successful with pre-deep-fried tempeh which I then cooked in sweet-&-sour sauces, or pre-baked and then stewed in coconut/chili curries, or herb-broth-boiled and then BBQ-grilled with tangy marinades. Important: Choose your slicing/shapes for maximal accentuation of the following three keys:
1. Adequate pre-cooking (if steaming/boiling, at least 10 mins. needed. Better: 20-30)
2. Adequate flavor-saturation
3. Good Texture.
Dr. D'Adamo includes a few Tempeh recipes in his book, Cook Right 4 Your Type. Other pertinent inspiration-sources for me way-back-when were:
Mary Estella's Natural Foods Cookbook (1985) and Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking (1981).
Bon Appétit, and Aloha to Tomoko and all you non-B's.
II. Tempi: Camel Rhythms
I simply do not tire of camel talk, and I usually languish for likeminded conversation on the subject, there being no Bedouin campfires in the vicinity. But Sunday (9/17) I indulged in this pastime with other aficionados at the 12th Annual Arab Cultural Festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
Not only do some of my Arab and part-Arab buddies love camels, but I even met a non-Arab woman, other than myself, who was wearing a Camel charm on a chain around her neck. Another friend has a Belly Dancing school and was acknowledging the camel's gait, and the experience of camel-riding, as the root of Arabesque musical tempi and dance-moves. She also, by the way, does excellent imitations of camel facial expressions: I'm guessing she's B.
Tender grilled Lamb Kabobs and eggplant salad were yummy. And: The Coffee Guy was there, as usual, with his numerous offerings. The line at his booth is usually very long, because each cup is "made one at a time". He uses various spices at customer request and isn't afraid to brew it brutally dark and strong. It's rare to find coffee outside my own kitchen that is as ultra-ultra-dark and rich, while not burnt or bitter. He also knows to use the fattest cream (cow, not camel: Alas), not to mention the ideal alchemical blending technique -- Ah, the desert beckons.
Sidebar: Didja know that the reason Arab/Turkish/Bedouin coffee was originally spiced (cardamom, clove, sometimes coriander seed) was to disguise the flavors of bad mid-desert well water and/or that of the goatskins containing the camel-transported water?
Understand camels and coffee, and you're an honorary Bedouin.
Aleikum wa Salaam.
When I arrived, 30-odd-years ago, as a transfer student at my new university in New England, I was required to meet with my assigned Academic Dean to discuss my previous education and be awarded however many credits for it he'd deem appropriate. His secretary showed me to a chair in his office, saying he'd be back in a couple of minutes. I couldn't remain seated, however, once I'd spotted an entire wall full of artifacts on display. I was standing and examining the many unlabeled photographs, paddles, totems and what-have-you, when he entered.
"Are you interested in my collection?" he asked.
"Yes, very", I replied. "These would appear to be Kwakiutl--"
"Amazing!" he exclaimed. "How is it you know about the Kwakiutl?" (I was, after all, only 18, and hailed from New York).
We chatted of Pacific Northwest cultures, and of potlatches in particular...
There I was, the maturing child who'd loved the Addams Family in former years for the exoticness we shared (cf. 7/20/06 Blog: "Lugubreity"), grateful that my dean (whose pipe tobacco was so beautifully aromatic: "Dark berries? Blackcurrant? Maybe Fig?") recognized my every freshman credit, as well as my intelligence and potential: B-meets-B, for sure!
But the world is not always so kind to B's. We enter Modernity glowing with unappreciated desert virtues, endowed with unusual wares and talents viewed by most as odd. We can read signs and portents, knowing-what-we-know, and then: Movin' On. Yes, we move on, with the seasons (Think: Mary Poppins and the wind-change).
Alexander Besher, writing under the auspices of Toshitaka Nomi in 1983 (You Are Your Blood Type), claims that B's are romantically promiscuous, but -- in my case anyway -- that's a serious misread. I think, rather, that B's are collectors of knowledge, connoisseurs of experience: A minority of us might indeed choose the sexual realm for such exploration (à la Seinfeld), but this is by no means our "norm".
I've found that quite a number of B's have resided in at least one country other than their native one. B's may also be religious converts, and/or be a member of a family in which one or more members are such. B's can be immigrants, eccentrics, "tumbleweeds", racking up a broad range of life experience (and, in my case, books).
A TV character I'd identify as quintessentially B, as well as my own alter ego, is Wilson, next-door neighbor to the Taylors on "Home Improvement". Wilson is a scholar whose specialized interests cover a wide scope. He's not only intellectual, but creative, as well as interpersonally wise enough to deliver spot-on Real Life advice, daily, to Tim, Jill, and each boy. He's quite earthy, however, not using his knowledge to earn himself entrée into a society he prefers to, if anything, observe.
I'd welcome such a neighbor. We could quiz each other, over coffee, on History, rather than pursuing the proverbial dinner-and-a-movie...unless it were a documentary, of course. GROUP History-quizzing is covered by the game of "Botticelli/20 questions", should there be many such neighbors. Fiction-free literary Charades is another enjoyable social activity for B introverts, as is Foreign Language Scrabble or Boggle. Less intellectual B's, I grant you, certainly exist. Seinfeld would probably enjoy Superman-Trivia or Baseball-facts Pictionary. Somewhat higher-brow worldly B's might go out for Fashion-Designer Scrabble, Artist/Gallery Hangman, or Oenology Hollywood Squares.
B's in the Western World are unaccustomed to massive doses of B company, outside, perhaps, our own families. B's generally don't fill stadia. We make our own way across steppe and dune, pass and gap, with our herds and flocks, a hound or two, and a falcon. Yes, in simpler times and places, we brought these to the annual markets, exchanging news and information with fellow shepherds and with various A-farmers interested in our livestock, rugs, and crafts.
A's and B's can "do business". A's (the "research librarians") can be fascinated by/learn alot from B navigators. We dish up dirt from other lands and bring it 'round for-your-edification. O-Hunters, on the other hand, come across us Nomads and wonder how they can bag some easy loot. However, they're often surprised by, and even admiring of, our wilderness-honed canniness.
But we B's certainly have the lowdown. Some are gossips; others are mystics with the Word from On High. Some are anthropologists. Not all are highly educated, let alone erudite, but "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary" we are, to-a-man: Unafraid of being found "different"/oddball in the great Hunter/Farmer crowd that populates the world.
The wandering B polishes and relishes the myriad contents of his medicine-bag: Star-crossed moments of social alignment and shared story, smells of likeminded campfire (or pipe tobacco), admirers of our artifacts and collections.