Albert DeGenova | The Norbert Blei Writing Workshop…A Tradition Continues

19 06 2014

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The-Clearing071

Norbert Blei is whispering in my ear.

“Don’t forget to say that it all begins with poetry.”
“Make sure they understand the power of the small moment.”
“We breathe telling tales.”

I am preparing to teach The Norbert Blei Writing Workshop at The Clearing Folk School in Ellison Bay, Wisc. This is the second year that I will lead the class without Norb. Of course, I have a partner in teaching the class (just as Norb always had his “assistant” which over the years became “co-teacher”) and I couldn’t do it without her. We are both long-time Norbert Blei students and truly co-teachers. Last June, when many of us were still hurting from the loss of Norbert in April, I tried to incorporate as much of Norb into my teaching as I could. His presence was so strong within the class and at The Clearing. Of course, I cannot be Norb. There is only one Norbert Blei. I will teach the class as Albert DeGenova. Norb would have insisted on that.

Yet, Norbert continues to whisper in my ear…and he keeps “sending” me things to read, quotes from Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Basho, Kerouac.

“Write what is true.”
“Write what you know.”
“Your way is the only way”

As with any teacher and student, I know I have absorbed much of Norb’s direction and style. Both of us who teach the class cannot deny his influence. But just as any great maestro brings the wisdom of his own life and learning to his student, the student becomes their own artist. We have become the writers we are, and the teachers we are, because of Norbert’s influence on the people that we are. This is the way.

And in this way we keep the legacy of Norbert Blei alive. Here in the Poetry Dispatch, at The Clearing, as Norbert’s books continue to sell, but most importantly in our own writing. His voice keeps whispering in all of our ears. Norb recognized the power of the internet and embraced it. Simply search Norbert Blei’s name and you will find his legacy. Or join us at The Clearing for the annual workshop, all writers are welcome.

To some this may be old news now, but it bears repeating. Nearly two years prior to his death in 2013, Norbert invited some of his long-time students (all accomplished writers themselves) to contribute essays to a book he intended to write about his years as a teacher at The Clearing. The book would be his personal perspective on teaching, students and the importance of place, specifically The Clearing.

Layout 1The Professor’s Quarters is a collection of those student essays. It is a book about Love: the love of a teacher, a place and the writing life.

The book is published by After Hours Press through the financial support of enthusiastic sponsors and will be donated to The Clearing for sale in the bookstore, beginning June 22, 2014. All profits from the sale of the book are dedicated for use as a scholarship fund for the continuing Norbert Blei Writing Workshop week at The Clearing.

For those readers of Norbert Blei’s books, articles and blogs, The Professor’s Quarters offers insights to the man and his teaching style, but also the place he found so important in his own life. Order at: http://goo.gl/v2UTje





Norbert Blei | A Father’s Dilemma, Where Can My Son Grow Up Happy?

14 06 2014
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Norbert Blei with son Christopher Blei and daughter Bridget Buff

A Father’s Dilemma, Where Can My Son Grow Up Happy?

YOU TAKE a kid away from an apartment house on the west-side of Chicago at the age of 5 and plunk him in the middle of 15 acres of woods and fields of Wisconsin and tell yourself, “There, now let nature do it’s work. Let the kid grow green and clean. Give him a boyhood of space and natural wonder that I never had. Save him, 0 Lord, from suburban abundance, a city’s compulsions.”

And in time, you begin to wonder in his wonder. By the age of 8, the kid knows some of the soft green machinery of earth, like the taste and private habitat of wild strawberries and blackberries; the temptation of tea made of wild roses; boiling milkweed ketis for vegetables, an old Menominee Indian secret.

AND HE can tell an English sparrow from a fox sparrow, and identify all manner of birds . . . chickadees, thrashers, towees, rose-breasted grosbeaks, purple finches, nut hatches, hawks, every kind of woodpecker. I could tell a robin from a sparrow, when I was a boy, in Chicago and had heard some talk of a blue jay.

Give him any season, and there’s sure to be something brewing in this earth.

Spring, and the tree swallows come back to nest in the houses on the birch trees out front; the towees take up their secret nesting sights in the bushes in the back. “Do the same birds come back every year? How do they find our house?” I don’t know, I don’t know. They just keep coming back.

SUMMER, and you plant a sunflower seed and see it plow five feet before your eyes, and watch it track the sun. Fall, and you catch black and white and yellow caterpillars on the underside of milkweed leaves, and you put them in a jar, and you watch the caterpillar move to the top, in time, and form a fantastic green house, about himself, and then watch for that house to turn transparent, and watch for the orange wings and old black patterns to glow brighter till the wings are free. And then you open the jar and set a monarch butterly free. Magic.

Winter, you keep the birds alive with sunflower seeds, you see the tracks of deer in a garden now under snow,  you see a red fox move across  a landscape in white  and,  maybe, you never forget a  picture like that. You hold onto that like a painting, ‘Fox in Snow’, the rest of your life.

But In time, you begin to  wonder in the wonder of it all. Is to be a father, to be in doubt? . . . “The  woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to  keep . . .and miles to go  before I sleep. . . .”

The kid can tell a birch from a maple, but does he  know what a corner lot is like, where you set traps and build forts and hold all manner of meetings in secret clubs with all the kids on the block? No. . . The kid knows perch from bass and is a better fisherman than his father ever will be, but does he know the summer games kids play in the dark, after the streetlamps have gone on? No.

DOES HE know how to chant “Ole, Ole, Ocean Free!”? No. Does he know how to lag pennies, play marbles, throw a rubber ball against concrete steps with just himself and a friend and play a whole nine inning ball game? No. Does he know how to win? Does he know how to lose?

And does he know what it means to grow up with a friend, the kid next door or  across the street? To go to school with him, to show with him, to work with him? To know his family as your own? To keep such a friendship [and many of them] alive for over 20 years? No. And very likely he never will. There is just too much distance between friends in the country.He has one or two, about three miles away. And so friendship is not an everyday, ever growing thing in the country.

AND HAS he ever been introduced to alleys? Those cracked concrete [asphalt, brick, or stone] runways that go on and on [north and south usually] and, lead to either more of the same, or great streets of business? No.

Alleys, for playing baseball, football, basketball, ice skating, roller skating, hop scotch, walking, running, chasing, throwing, hiding, junking, climbing trees and telephone poles, climbing fences, climbing garages.

Whatever your fancy, whatever your fantasy… it can be worked out in the alley.

“Do it in the alley!” … a Mother’s last resort.

And so, what for my son? I wonder, I wonder…

I can give him a bike, but I can’t give him a wire basket attached and a newspaper route. I can’t give him ten kids in the alley playing kick-the-can. I can give him a solitary swing tied to a magnificent maple, but I can’t give him a real playground. I can give him an occasional movie [80 miles away, round trip] but I can’t give him a Saturday afternoon matinee at the neighborhood show, fresh popcorn, and a carmel candy bar.

And zoos, museums, concerts, buses, trains, skyscrapers, freight yards, air ports, great bridges, department stores, elevators, escalators, neon lights, uncles, aunts, grandmas, grandpas, hot dog stands, and McDonald burgers are out of the question.

I CAN GIVE him books and music and paints, and everything nature has to offer beyond our kitchen door . . . the geese now flying overhead, the purple asters starred along the roadside, the sugar maples turning radically red by the hour.

I can give him all this, but what will it all add up to for him? And when? I’m afraid he does not know black from white. Is this good? I’m afraid he does not know the machinery of a city, the poetry, and tragedy of streets. Is this bad? He saw poverty once in a camp of migrant cherry pickers and said, “Dad, I don’t like what poor is. Dad, I don’t ever want to be poor.” Is this good?

I can give him a morning so blue and gold he can taste it. I can give him a night with such a moon and so many stars, he can touch them. I can give him all this for the time being, and only hope it will stay with him forever . . . or 20 years from now, when , he may need such luxuries.

I can give him all the time in the world to be alone, in the silence of it all.

But I can’t give him a friend from next door, standing on the sidewalk, calling for him to come out and play. And that is the sound I remember most, and the way it was with me. And I can only wonder how it will be for him.

Chicago Tribune, Sunday, December 10, 1972 BY NORBERT BLEI





Norb Blei’s Clearing Students Revive Book Project

11 06 2014

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Norb Blei’s Clearing Students Revive Book Project

ELLISON BAY, WI (June 7, 2014) – The Clearing Folk School is where Norbert Blei taught a week long writing workshop every summer for nearly 45 years. The school, built by land architect Jens Jensen, is situated atop one of the most beautiful bluffs in Door County. This is Norb Blei’s Door County, the subject of much of his writing.

Nearly two years prior to his death in 2013, Norbert invited some of his long-time students (all accomplished writers themselves) to contribute essays to a book he intended to write about his years as a teacher at The Clearing. The book would be his personal perspective on teaching, students and the importance of place, specifically The Clearing.

The Professor’s Quarters is a collection of those student essays, compiled and edited by long-time Blei students and assistants Al DeGenova, Alice D’Alessio, Susan O’Leary and Jude Genereaux. This is a book about Love: the love of a teacher, a place and the writing life.

The book has been published at the expense of enthusiastic sponsors and will be donated to The Clearing for sale in the school’s on-site bookstore, beginning June 22, 2014. All profits from the sale of the book are dedicated for use as a scholarship fund for the continuing Norb Blei week at The Clearing.

***

Nearly two years prior to his death in 2013, faithful friend and supporter of After Hours, Norbert Blei invited some of his long-time students, all accomplished writers themselves, to contribute essays to a book he intended to write about his years as a teacher at The Clearing Folk School in Door County, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, time ran out before his vision was taken to fruition.

In the winter of 2013-14,the essays were gathered and compiled by Alice D’Alessio, Albert DeGenova, Jude Genereaux and Susan O’Leary and (in the spirit Norb foresaw)are now being published by After Hours Press as the new book entitled The Professor’s Quarters.

This collection stands as testimony to The Clearing, to Norb as Teacher, and to his writer-students. The book will be published this spring with profits going to the continuing “Scholarship Fund” for the Norbert Blei Week at The Clearing.

If you are interested in buying this book, please click here…





Norbert Blei | Christmas Eve in Door

20 12 2013

Norbert Blei

All roads lead,

eventually, to Ellison Bay from here, including Mink River Road which takes me past the house of old Oscar Dysterud, moving slowly through the living room this night, past Gust Klenke’s garage once again, the blue-white neon clock glowing in the window forever, it seems, 8:45 . . . more or less.

The pavement almost dry from the wind by now. But no clearing. No moon. No stars. Just an ever deepening night. The only snow to be seen, patches of it from weeks ago, still clinging to the roadside ditch past the Hartman place and Johnny Fitzgerald, Approaching Timberline, a string of colored Christmas lights brightens the front porch of Loco’s (Robert Cuellar) place. A light, always on, at Uncle Tom’s old Newport School. Turning left . . . darkness … turning right… home.

I make coffee, cut the apple pie, slice some cheddar cheese, light the Christmas tree, put on three albums of classical guitar, sip wine, and open a present I have given to myself: The Letters of D. H. Lawrence. “The great thing is to love—therein lies the excitement, the fundamental vibration of the life force.”

I read in and around a stack of other books, listen to a Dylan Thomas recording of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” answer the phone (the Rausches, extending their greetings from Western Springs, Illinois), then turn on the TV to catch John Paul the II’s mass from Rome (for old time’s sake), to see St. Peter’s Basilica once again, to hear the Latin, the music, to witness the splendor of a ritual I celebrated as a child, a ritual which intrigues me still in different ways.

I think of my family in other places. I think of friends spread out in so many directions. I think of my own journey in place this Christmas Eve in Door.

I think not so much of Christmas as spirit, alive in everyone, in all seasons, in all places, and how it flickers in the darkest recesses imaginable. I think of my work: to find the people, the place, the time, the words and forms to say these things for all, yet make them mine.

Call it Christmas. Call it spirit. Call it love. Call it light.
In the midnight hours I read a Hopi incantation, and turn to sleep:

The day has risen.
Go I to behold the dawn,
Go behold the dawn!
The white rising!
The yellow rising!
It has become light.
And on Christmas morning, on the road, a clarity of sky, a gift of sun.

from the chapter: Christmas Eve in Door – Winter Book

Norbert Blei

Norbert Blei

Norbert Blei - Winter BookWinter Book is a mature performance with a satisfying sense of completion. The season is winter; the dominant theme is the acceptance of small wonders, including decay and obscurity. Like Blei himself, Winter Book is alternately nostalgic, angry, and amusing. It is in some respects a very public book, in others a very personal collection. The journalistic profiles are Blei’s own experiences and friends, including public figures like Chan Harris and Al Johnson, and Door County natives, poets, musicians, and artists. Blei’s fictions explore the Door landscape on a deeper level. Blei is an astute observer whose attitudes are shared by readers inside and outside the County. Once again the personal becomes the public, and Winter Book, like Door Way, records communal experience.
Norbert Blei’s Winter Book is available by clicking here… or just click the book cover on the left.

Norbert Blei





Norbert Blei | Remembering Al

24 11 2013

Al Johnson and Waitresses 1960s

Al Johnson and Waitresses 1960s

Remembering Al

Though the goats continue to appear every summer season on the grass roof of Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik in Sister Bay, though Al’s wife, Ingert (in her 80’s), may still be seen early in the morning sweeping, sometimes washing the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, though the two sons, Lars and Rolfe, are hard at work in the kitchen cooking, filling orders, and the daughter, Annika, is in the dining room serving customers and keeping a steady eye trained on the tables, on the people waiting to be seated, though it may take over an hour to be seated at the height of summer, though both the log exterior of the building and interior design and furnishings of the restaurant exude a warm, old world welcome impossible to be found with such authenticity anywhere else in the county, though the waitresses are attentive, efficient, friendly, beautifully dressed/costumed in their colorful, European dirndls, though the layers of delicious thin Swedish pancakes dabbed with butter, smothered in maple syrup, lingonberries, and topped, perhaps, with Swedish meatballs, with whipped cream or ice cream and strawberries…though all this (and more) remains the unique Door County dining experience simply described as: “Eating at Al’s,” the single most important factor of this setting is no longer in place: Al himself, who died in June, 2010.

Al Johnson

Al Johnson

There are customers still unaware of his passing. New customers with no memory of Al Johnson on the floor, in total command, no knowledge of the strength and tone of his distinctive voice (both happy and harried) in the kitchen, behind the counter, on the floor, pulling out chairs to a perfectly shiny, table-setting (2-top, 4-top, 10-top), pouring coffee with one hand, holding his famous blue rag in the other, talking a mile a minute to customers while his eyes scour the entire dining room to see what else might need his attention…voicing his concerns to waitresses, bus people, anyone in range. This was classic Al Johnson, ALIVE, in place, on fire! Often ending a crackling customer conversation with a laugh, a hand shake, a pat-on-the-back, and his classic loud and laughing goodbye: “You got that right!”

The way Al Johnson himself had it so right (conviviality, compassion, customer service) that it is difficult for those who remember him to believe, in the height of the summer season, that the spirit of Al is not on the floor, in full command, hands flying, eyes flitting about the room, voice bouncing off tables, walls, ceiling.

Even the goats on the roof, strike a pose, solemnly raise their heads, and affirm their master’s voice: Yes, you got that right!





Norbert Blei | Portrait of a Rare Bookseller: Charley Calkins

24 11 2013
Charlie Calkins with Norb Blei

Charlie Calkins with Norb Blei

Portrait of a Rare Bookseller: Charley Calkins

If you’re the kind of book addict who hangs out in used bookstores, who has a mental map of every used bookstore within a certain radius of wherever you happen to be passing through, who has a certain thing about first editions and signed first editions, who can tell the quality and depth of a used bookstore by the sheer smell of the place…chances are (here in Door County) you may have run into a bookman by the name of Charlie Calkins sometime, checking out the shelves at Peter Sloma’s “The Peninsula Bookman” in Fish Creek, or Kubie Luchterhand’s, “Caxton Wm .Books Ltd.” (12037 Hwy 42 Ellison Bay. Charlie, of medium-build, gray hair, gray beard, friendly smile, hearty laugh, is probably the most affable guy in the shop, looking for anything and everything on Wisconsin.

He’s a kind a peripatetic bookman/dealer. Here, there, everywhere. An affable guy of medium build, gray hair, friendly smile and hearty laugh. No particular bookshop of his own where he can be found on the premises. Just some rental spaces in various malls (the Peninsula Antique Center, 7150 Hwy 42, in Egg Harbor) and a phone number and an e-mail address where you can find him, tell him of your wants and needs. That is all he requires—and he’ll be out there looking/searching for you. Charlie Calkins, bookman extraordinaire, always in the hunt.

Sometime he’s just grazing, looking to enhance his stock–checking for titles he doesn’t have, or doesn’t have enough of; sometimes he’s waiting to be surprised (a rare Wisconsin book he never expected to find); and sometimes he’s on particular mission (notes In hand, memories in his head) looking for a special order–maybe that writer-guy up in Ellison Bay, who’s always got him on the search for something: a signed, first edition, of Hjalmar R. Holand’s autobiography, MY FIRST EIGHTY YEARS, a first edition of Fred L. Holmes’ OLD WORLD WISCONSIN, a copy of Virgil J. Vogel’s, INDIAN NAMES ON WISCONSIN’S MAP, to mention just a few.

People with obsessions always interest me. Especially collectors. Especially the book ‘crazed.’ I relate to those for whom enough is never enough. In Charlie Calkin’s case (Wisconsin books and ‘paper’ his priority) I discovered a very knowledgeable friend with a good nose for obscure books. A rare bird. Not to mention a rare bookman in an odd ‘business’ who is a story unto himself.

How does someone get into this kind of business?

“At the time I got started selling,” Charley will tell you, “ I had been teaching a course entitled The Geography of Wisconsin for about 25 years. During that period I had developed a very substantial professional library of books related to Wisconsin. I would loan books to students, and for whatever reasons the books would not come back to me. As I went to rummage sales, flea markets, estate sales, and library used books sales, I would buy duplicates and triplicates of books loaned to students to maintain my “supply”.

“One day my wife said, “Charlie, what are you going to do with all of those Wisconsin books in our basement?” At about the ’ame time as my wife’s rather pointed question (read “ Get rid of some of those books!!!”), a former neighbor and friend who managed an antiques mall suggested that I begin selling my surplus Wisconsin books through that venue. And so, my life as a used, out-of-print and rare bookseller began. This was in 1994. As a professional geographer, it only seemed natural that I should add a very important tool of our “trade”–the map–to my inventory, and I began selling gently used Wisconsin maps, as well.

“The first request I ever received for a specific book came from a lady who wanted to give it to her father for Christmas. I remember the book very well; the title was TM, THE MILWAUKEE ELECTRIC RAILWAY AND LIGHT COMPANY, an out-of-print book that is a history of Milwaukee’s electric rail network. As I recall the book was selling at the time for $125.00.

“At the outset I had no more than about 500 items in my inventory. That number has grown very substantially over time. Today I would estimate that my inventory numbers about 5,000 books and countless maps and pieces of ephemera. In this regard we are back where it all began. Now my wife has broadened her question asks: “What are you going to do with all of that paper stuff in our basement?” The used book business (the book business period) is not what it used to be, given the internet, Amazon.com, etc. How has all this affected the personal, old fashioned book business of Charlie Calkins?

“When I began buying books, the so-called “bible” of the trade was a national publication called AB Bookman’s Weekly, which offered both books for sale and books wanted sections. The rapid rise of the internet as a formidable competitor in this regard soon brought about the death of that publication, because the internet sped up the process of buying and selling books. Moreover, the internet brought together buyers and sellers from a much larger –actually a worldwide–geographic area”

You don’t enlist Charlie’s friendship and services for any book on the latest bestsellers list, or for whatever book Oprah may be pitching at the moment. Charley’s customers, percentage-wise, probably can’t even be calculated.

But if you’re a lover of Wisconsin history and culture, Charlie’s probably your man, no matter how esoteric the subject, how obscure the publication.

“Any form of the printed word, now, is of interest to me,” says Charlie “so long as it pertains in some fairly direct way to Wisconsin. In addition to books and maps, I look for advertising, photographs, ephemera and a whole host of related material. Of particular interest to me are two related kinds of publications that I look for and in which I specialize. Wisconsin county histories and plat books (which contain land ownership maps) are always on my want list. They are becoming very hard to find in decent condition any more, and, as a result, tend to be very expensive Over the years I have gained somewhat of a reputation as a Wisconsin paper specialist and often get requests for all sorts of both common and unusual paper-related items. As is the case with most dealers, “the hunt” is really fascinating for me. You just never know what is out there waiting to be discovered.

Charlie Calkins, Bookseller

Charlie Calkins, Bookseller

“My customers, in general, tend to be people who have a strong interest in some aspect of the history of Wisconsin or are especially interested in the local history of some place within the state. The interest in some local area is commonly tied to family members who once lived there. I commonly get requests for the history of some town, township, or county that makes mention of a particular family member by name. I guess that you could term this “ the roots phenomenon”. Also people want to acquire plat maps that show grandpa’s farm or the property of some other relative. Genealogists are folks with this kind of interest, especially.”

Let’s suppose one is new to Door County and wants to learn more about it through early books and pamphlets. Where does one begin? What does a Wisconsin rare bookman like Charlie Calkins suggest a new resident purchase?

Or better yet, what might comprise a collectible (highly collectible?) shelf of Door County books that reflect the local history, culture…a real sense of place?

“To begin with, one should know something about the physical fundament of this rather unique place. A good start would be F. T. Thwaites and Kenneth Bertrand’s article titled “Pleistocene Geology of the Door Peninsula, Wisconsin,” which appeared in BULLETIN OF THE GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA, vol 68, 1957, pp. 831-880.

“For a general understanding of the flora of the area, JOURNEYS IN GREEN PLACES by Virginia Eifert would fill the bill in a non-technical way. Roy Lukes’ ONCE AROUND THE SUN would give one a sense of what might be called the seasonal rhythms of nature in Door County.

“If one was serious about developing a good Door County library, a must would be Hjalmar Holand’s HISTORY OF DOOR COUNTY, WISCONSIN; THE COUNTY BEAUTIFUL, originally published in 1917 and now very hard to find in the first edition. Thankfully this two volume set was reprinted in 1993 by Wm. Caxton Ltd of Ellison Bay and is readily available. On a lighter note, the same author self-published OLD PENINSULA DAYS, more of an anecdotal history of the county, which has gone through several different editions and re-printings.

“To gain and understanding and appreciation for the coming together of land and life in Door County, Norbert Blei’s book–DOOR WAY–is must reading.

“There are several rather unique institutions here and to know something about them is essential. In this regard, for example, Fulkerson and Corsin’s THE STORY OF THE CLEARING and Lukes’ THE RIDGES SANCTUARY are good places to start. One of my favorite series of books is titled DOOR COUNTY ALMANAK. Five different numbers make up the series. Whereas number one deals with a variety of topics, numbers two through five treat orchards, fishing, farms, and tourism/transportation, respectively in considerable detail and from many different angles. Water is a topic of great importance in and around Door County, and it has received considerable attention in the written word. I would recommend Walter and Mary Hirthe’s SCHOONER DAYS IN DOOR COUNTY and KEEPERS OF THE LIGHT by Steven Karges, which treat water-related topics in most interesting ways. The titles suggested would be a good start on a basic Door County bookshelf. There are many other possibilities if one is so inclined. If you acquire all of these titles and still have money left to spend on Door County books, please get in touch, and I will be most happy to sell you other titles.

“One of the titles I could have also recommended for a basic Door County library of books but did not was Charles I. Martin’s HISTORY OF DOOR COUNTY, published in 1881, and this date makes it one of the very earliest books treating the area. It is a very rare book; I have an extensive Door County collection, and I do not own a copy. As a matter of fact, I have been looking for a copy for over 25 years and have never ever seen a copy for sale!”

As to the other increasingly rare and valuable books on the county…and if one had, say, a few hundred dollars to ‘invest: in a rare or rare Door County books, what would Charley advise?

“There are so many very valuable items in this regard, it is difficult to identify just a few. In general though, imprints from the Territory of Wisconsin between 1836 and 1848 are in demand and quite expensive.”

As for one particular Wisconsin item Charlie favors above all others?

“My personal favorite is the ILLUSTRATED HISTORICAL ATLAS OF WISCONSIN, published in 1881 by H. R. Page & Co. of Chicago. Please remember that by profession I was a geography professor with an abiding interest in maps. This atlas addresses that interest in detail for my native state. All of the maps are hand colored and they are beauties. I spend hours studying the maps.”

I wonder about a day-in-the-life of a Wisconsin rare bookman like Charlie. The range of territory he might cover in Wisconsin, the Midwest. How much time he might spend on this a day, week, month? Does he have the territory ‘mapped’ in his own mind? Does he know exactly what he’s looking for? Just browsing, hoping to be surprised? Does he carry a list? A notebook? What’s the joy/satisfaction in all this?

“There is no single ‘day-in-the-life of Charlie Calkins’, “ he explains. “Rather there are several different “typical” days (plural) in my role as a bookseller. One day may be spent at a flea market such as the Elkhorn Antiques Flea Market held in Elkhorn, Wisconsin or Maxwell Street Day located in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, looking for items to buy and resell. Another day may find me at an auction somewhere within a radius of 200 miles of Waukesha, my home. An estate sale within the Milwaukee metropolitan area may occupy a good part of yet another day, because something of interest may be advertised. An antiques dealer friend and neighbor and I will spend a day or two a month going to antiques mall and shops in southern Wisconsin looking for “sleepers” to buy and, in turn, resell. Let’s not forget the possibilities at rummage sales. There is never a dull moment. “The hunt” is really the fun part of this business. No dealer that I know really enjoys spending time researching and pricing items. It’s the hunt!!! You never know what you might find at the next stop.”

This is a fascinating bookman providing a valuable service for a very small minority of customers. And for any reader wishing to make contact with Charlie, the search for him goes something like this—in Charlie’s own words:

“I sell through several different antiques malls. Currently I have booths in malls in Waukesha, Milwaukee, Watertown, and in Door County I am located at Peninsula Antiques Center just south of Egg Harbor. At present I do not sell on the internet and probably will not do so in the future. I do not relish spending time in front of a computer; I would rather be out looking for items. People who frequent antiques malls find my booths, because normally I am the only one selling the kind of merchandise that I do, and my booth kind of jumps out at them. Moreover, people who see my books and maps refer me to family and friends from whom I receive inquiries about items they are wanting to buy. At all of my booths, I have business cards and they find their way into the hands of many people. I get phone calls (262-547-6572) or emails (wibooks@yahoo.com) routinely from folks looking specific items. If I do not have the item in stock, I will search for it. With luck, I can find that elusive title and make someone very happy. Satisfied customers keep returning.”








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