Larry Van de Carr of Chicago, a trusting soul and ABAA member, drove his 2008 Econoline panel van west for the recent ABAA fair in Pasadena to participate in the sturm und drang of a serious book fair and then, a few days later, experienced the bookman’s dream [or nightmare], to see every item he brought from the windy city disappear. The word on the show is that is was a bit quiet, most dealers bringing home the biggest part of what they brought. We have no word on how he did at the fair but he did manage to lose every book he still had when he arrived in Oakland, California.
Locally we are a skeptical lot and know that parking on the street is tantamount to inviting a break-in. For evidence of this one only needs to look at the number of specialists who burrow under homes to build concrete safety deposit boxes to house the family cars. Some cost as much as a first edition of Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia. Garages in northern California today are a big business because the streets are no longer safe. Mr. Carr was apparently unaware, and being a Chicago innocent and unschooled in the every day public delinquency of the Bay Area, blithely drove north from Pasadena into the Bay Area’s Oakland Maw, to visit friends and park on the street over night. Alas no, fate lurked nearby and the man’s truck and treasure evaporated into thin air.
Shock, shock and good grief for good measure.
It is not often that the fact that rare books are difficult to sell is a good thing. In fact it never happens although it did in this case. You see, rare books are frequently well described and their details widely accessible in the trade. So when a few of the missing books were offered to Moe’s in Berkeley they were suspicious because book collectors are an ancient breed and the gentleman offering the material was both young and unschooled. Was this the young collector the field has been looking for for a generation? Nope. Subsequently the would-be seller was introduced to the men in blue and taken into custody.
As for the rest of the missing $350,000 of inventory there is no word yet. One suspects the truck was more the target than its contents. The books, according to a story on the Berkeleyside website, were uninsured and probably for good reason. Such books these days have trouble finding new homes.
Had Mr. Carr ventured into San Francisco he would have seen this first hand. Random homes now sport large birdcage sized enclosures on the sidewalk with the sign – Lending Library – encouraging passersby to take or leave a book. And he would also probably have learned that medical marijuana is legal here for people who have headaches. And of course he now has one.