A Celebration of "Good Stuff Cheap" at Second Edition Books, Daedalus Books & Ollie's
(February 16, 2018) - Friday was a rainy day, so to get in our hike without muddying our shoes, my wife Amy "Thrift Score" Warner and I headed to Columbia, the land of plentiful paved paths. Columbia is also known for being the mecca of meticulously maintained man-made lakes and in the course of doing a loop around the 37-acre Lake Elkhorn Park, we discovered a path spur trailing off to Dobbin Road.
|Lake Elkhorn in Columbia, MD|
"Hey," I said, always wont to mix physical with mental exercise, "I wonder if this leads to that neat little used book store, Second Edition?"
|Trailblazer Amy Warner leads the way from Lake Elkhorn to Second Edition Books|
To answer my query, we took a chance and - lo and behold! - yonder she hailed: Second Edition Books and Music! Though we hadn't seen any woodland creatures in our walk through the wilds to that point, we immediately noticed that we were in "culture vulture" territory - quite literally, as two big turkey vultures sat perched in a tree directly across from the bookstore in this nondescript shopping center off of Dobbin Road. (Vultures prey on dead things, and nothing is more endangered these days than an independent bookstore. Thank god this one, unlike its nearby community cousin Daedalus Books, still breathes!)
|Second Edition Books Music &More, 2640 Dobbin Road|
I have been a fan of this local treasure since my days working at GSE Systems in Columbia back in the late '90s, when I would stop by during my lunch break to grab more budget-priced, pocket-sized Peanuts and MAD paperbacks to add to my home collection. The store is ideally situated at 2640 Dobbin Road between an MVA Express on the left (where, if the lines look too long, motorists can grab something to read while they wait right next door!) and the Sushi King restaurant on the right (where shoppers can fill their bellies after feasting their eyes on literature).
The original Second Edition was acquired in April 2005 by John and Kathy, a local married couple who were frequent customers and longtime fans of the bookstore. When the opportunity to buy the business came along, they jumped at the chance, signing a contract on a napkin and ditching their real estate careers to pursue a lifelong passion for books. And they have carried on its tradition of offering a wide variety of discerning, off-the-beaten-track reads. Sure, you can find your Pattersons, and J.D. Robbs and Grishams here, but more importantly, you can find an eclectic and fathomless variety of lesser known discoveries here as well. John and Kathy sift through the junk that ends up at less-finicky bookstores like Ukazoo Books (now located in Loch Raven, "Where Businesses Go To Die!") to come up only with the pearls, not the grit.
Inside, the owners were playing a groovy Marvin Gaye classic hits anthology that made browsing through the finely-curated and organized stacks of books, DVDs, CDs and records all the more pleasurable. We were in no rush - heck, it was raining outside and killing time in a book store is what rainy days were made for. Remember Bogie doing just that in The Maltese Falcon, flirting (and getting "wet" indoors) with sexy Acme Book Shop proprietess Dorothy Malone?
|Bogie checking out rare books (and Dorothy Malone) in "The Maltese Falcon"|
Taking shelter from the storm outside, I followed Amy's lead of methodically sifting through the CDs, genre-by-genre and A-through-Z, which had rewarded her in the past with choice finds like obscure early Orb albums.
|Second Edition's well-managed CD collection|
Today she only found copies of things she's already obsessively collected by her usual "usual suspects" (Elvis Costello, XTC, Beatles, etc.), while it was my turn to make the Thrift Store Score of the Day, nabbing a coveted rare Sinatra concert album - Frank Sinatra with the Red Norvo Quintet: Live in Australia, 1959, which lists for $38.44 new on Amazon and that only last week I had spotted a used promo copy at Daedalus Books for roughly the same price (OK, minus a 20% discount for their going-out-of-business sale) for $7! Sinatra performed just two shows on his trip Down Under, in Sydney and Melbourne; fortunately, someone recorded this historic April 1st Melbourne show. It compares very well with my previous fave Sinatra live performance, his 1958 United Nations Refuge Fund charity concert (at the request of Princess Grace of Monaco), Sporting Club Monaco, June 14, 1958.
|Frank Sinatra with the Red Norvo Quintet: Live in Australia, 1959 (Blue Note)|
The muddy sound of this recording (unreleased until 1997) may be slightly sub-par (it's basically a glorified bootleg), but Sinatra himself is loose-as-a-goose out of control - swinging-like-a-mother, ad libbing at will ("Get your hands off that broad!"), and playfully toying with the phrasing and tempo against the solid backing of Norvo's stripped-down jazz combo. (Maybe he was in an ebullient mood because he was near his famous ex, Ava Gardner, who was filming On the Beach there.) This is Sinatra the pop singer showing that, had he gone in that direction instead of the Great American Songbook, he could have been a superb jazz singer as well - and make no mistake, Red Norvo's group was a swinging jazz group. The freedom of working with a small jazz group apparently enabled him to try different arrangements and vary his phrasing.
|Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer's Art|
As Sinatraphile jazz critic Will Friedwald writes in Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer's Art (Da Capa Press, 1995): "As loose and unfettered as he was throughout the '50s, Sinatra offers a more aggressive brand of jazz singing that points to his Basie albums of the '60s. He's never sounded more inspired and animated, generating so much happy energy, it's a wonder that the continent could contain him."
Red Norvo himself recalled, "I don't think he ever sang any better in his life than on that tape. I loved the way he sang with the small band. It was very free, and he was right on top of everything we were doing. He just melted into it, I thought. He took responsibility, he beat off the group and everything, he did his own thing. And the band played great for him, they loved working with him...He gave us the feeling he was part of the band." (Quoted in Friedwald's Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer's Art.)
Listening in the car later to Frank's litany of objectifying terms for females at this show - "broad," "chick," "dame," "tramp" - Amy observed, "Geeze, I guess Frank wasn't made for these PC times!" (In a later trip to the Land of Oz, Sinatra's sexist comments about female Australian reporters being "Two dollar hookers" pretty much cancelled out any goodwill engendered by his previous visits.)
Back in the book stacks, Amy found something called Maryland's Flavors, a 1980s American Cancer Society cookbook that contained one of my mom's favorite dishes, "Company Chicken," which was the featured dish at a dinner party we were invited to the next night. Company Chicken was one of my mom's specialties, and she used to make it for me on special occasions, like my birthday. (There are many variations, and my mom substituted creamed chipped beef and bacon for the originals ham and cheese ingredients.) Since the book had no price on it, I asked co-owner Kathy what she wanted for this nostalgic trip down culinary Memory Lane; when she said $5, I replied "Sold!"
|Second Edition Books inside|
Amy was trying to be good and limit her consumerism, but when I asked her if she had noticed the crate of 12-inch vinyl singles in the adjoining room, she stepped up her game as Thrift Score Queen.
|Second Edition vinyl records room|
She quickly amassed a stack of seven Kate Bush 12-inch maxi-singles that she (the Kate Bush Completist) actually didn't have! And, since she had conveniently left her wallet in the car back at the Lake Elkhorn parking lot, I ended up putting it on my tab. Passing up a Kate Bush recording might result in future marriage counseling, so I figured it was worth the price.
|The Magnificent Seven: Kate Bush 12-inch maxi-singles|
On the way out, I spied a Jack La Lanne exercise album and, being a Baby Boomer who grew up with the Godfather of Fitness' TV show in the 1960s (the longest-running television exercise program in history, from 1953 to 1985), gladly forked over a buck for Glamour Stretcher Time ("The wonderful new way to acquire a lovelier figure...done to the rhythm of delightful organ music") - on blue vinyl, no less! The original LP was sold with the very "Glamour" rubber stretch cord shown on the cover but, alas, was not included with this bargain bin copy. Regardless, exercise evangelist Jack promised a lovelier figure, and I'm here to tell you, he delivers! (Bette Davis famously credited her lovely figure to The Jack la Lanne Show, and that's all the testimonial I, or anyone for that matter, need!)
|"I'll buy that for a dollar!": Jack La Lanne's "Glamour Stretcher Time" LP (1959)|
Unlike his TV show, where he always wore a form-fitting Devo-esque jumpsuit (as shown below), the LP cover featured JLL in a polo shirt and slacks as he stretched an elastic cord to show off his "guns." Besides his body-building feats of strength, LaLanne was also a nutrition nut, whose two simple rules of diet were "if man made it, don't eat it" and "if it tastes good, spit it out." The man born Francois Henri LaLanne lived a long and healthy life before passing away in January 2011 at age 96.
Unfortunately, the rain really started to pick up right as we were leaving the store, so we donned our hoodies and clutched our purchases tighly beneath our raincoats as we hurried back along the trail to Lake Elkhorn.
Since we were in the neighborhood, I suggested we bid adieu one more time to Daedalus Books & Music on Gerwig Lane, Columbia. Like mourners visiting the grave of a dearly departed loved one, we wanted to cherish the remains of this great discount book store.
|Daedalus Books & Music, Belvedere Square, 2006-2011|
|Daedalus Books & Music Warehouse, Columbia, 2005-February 2018|
Daedalus was founded in 1980 as a direct-mail remainder wholesaler ("remainders" are unsold books that are liquidated by the publisher at greatly reduced prices to recover some of their net loss), launching a web site for wholesale sales in 1995 and later adding a direct-mail consumer site (which Publishers Weekly says grew to become 60% of its business by 2013). In 2005, they added a brick-and-mortar retail sales store in Columbia, Maryland. But I only became aware of Daedalus when they opened their Belvedere Square location in Baltimore's Govans neighborhood circa 2006. Since I then lived a stone's throw away in Rodgers Forge, going to Daedalus became a weekly ritual for us and we got to know the talented staff there quite well. One of them, a woman named Michael, was planning on going to library school (I tried to talk her out of it!); the Asian guy there was really into music and had a blog and Internet radio show about underground indie rock; a young bohemian guy (whose name escapes me now) made jewelry out of watches ("I like to think time marches on even when it stands still," he said) and Amy bought one called "At the Beach" (as shown below) which was filled with sand and sea shells.
|Quality time at the beach|
The Belvedere Square store closed in 2011, but the Daedalus warehouse and retail outlet in Columbia remained open and devoted bibliophiles like ourselves soon started making periodic pilgrimages to this revered site.
Alas, in early February 2018, the Daedalus Facebook page announced that the Columbia store was closing at the end of the month; apparently, the owner was retiring and returning to Ohio. Daedalus still has its web site and will continue to sell materials online and via its print catalogs, but the days of browsing in a brick-and-mortar setting are gone.
|Daedalus Books inside|
Amy and I had already made two previous trips here, but I was curious to see what remained of the remaindered. Plenty, apparently, including some new items I hadn't seen before - sonic rarities and first edition books - that the staff explained at been cleared out of the owner's office.
|The Completely MAD Don Martin|
There I could not resist picking up one of these rarities (with assistance, since it weighed 30 pounds!): The Completely MAD Don Martin, a two-volume omnibus originally listed for $150 and that Amazon sells for $74 - for $24! (Actually $29,99, but with a store-closing 20% discount.) As a lover of all things MAD, especially the creator of Captain Klutz and other big-nosed, flat-footed klutzes who emitted unique sound effects, it was a "What me worry?" no-brainer.
Don Martin was arguably MAD's most recognizable artist (along with "The Great Masters": Wally Wood, Will Elder, Harvey Kurtzman and Jack Davis!) and this collection presents every cartoon he ever drew for the magazine, in chronological order, from 1956-1988. Even if I don't ever crack a page in this double-decker anthology, I can Crossfit train by lifting it and doing reps to build up my upper arm "guns"! (Or drop it - TWACK! KADOINK! STOOPFT! in Don Martin-ese!)
|The many sounds of Don Martin|
I also scored my new fave obscure hard-bebop jazz record, tenor sax man Harold Floyd "Tina" Brooks' Minor Move (with trumpeter Lee Morgan, whose 1960 Lee-way album I had scored here just the week before!) for $5.98. Tina Brooks is one of the Forgotten Men of jazz. Most of his Blue Note work went unreleased in his all-too-short lifetime and he died a "bitter, penniless, incapacitated wreck" (in critic Jack Chambers' words) in August 1974, age 42. And if Michael Cuscano hadn't gotten access to the Blue Note vaults in 1975, we wouldn't have this album, Back to the Tracks, The Waiting Game and others by the introverted saxophonist see the light of day. Recorded in 1958, Minor Move wasn't released until 1980, 20 years after his milestone release True Blue.
|Tina Brooks, "Minor Move" (Blue Note)|
For more about the life and legacy of this neglected jazzman, see Jack Chambers' 2005 Coda magazine article "Who Killed Tina Brooks?"
I also couldn't resist picking up some music that I grew up with that is forever ingrained in my DNA: jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis' Beatles covers compilation, Ramsey Lewis Plays the Beatles Songbook, and Dutch jazz revivalists The Beau Hunks covering the soundtracks to Hal Roach's Little Rascals film shorts. (I may not have seen The Little Rascals/Our Gang shorts when they originally screened in the late '20s and 1930s, but thanks to Captain Chesapeake, I watched them religiously every afternoon on WBFF-TV as a kid!) I have loved Ramsey Lewis ever since I heard my brother blasting his The In Crowd LP (recorded live in 1965 at Washington, DC's Bohemian Caverns club) on his state-of-the-art stereo system.
|Ramsey Lewis plays the "Beatles Songbook" while The Beau Hunks play "Little Rascals Music"|
And I couldn't resist picking up Bonnie Raitt's first and bluesiest album, the self-tiled Bonnie Raitt (1971) for $6. Though she only wrote two of the 11 songs, her nine covers (including a inspired take on Stephen Stills' "Bluebird," Robert Johnson's "Walking Blues" and Sippie Wallace's "Mighty Tight Woman" and "Women Be Wise") show her to be well-versed in her chosen field. Backed by The Bumblebees, with Junior Wells on harp and the wonderfully named "Freebo" on bass, it's easy to see that stardom would follow this debut. And indeed, that would come with 1972's followup long-player, Give It Up, which remains her best-ever recording in my view.
|Bonnie Raitt (1971)|
|John Fleagle, "World's Bliss" (Archetype Records, Inc., 2000)|
Singer and multi-instrumentalist John Fleagle (lute, gothic harp, sinfonia, fiddle, bodhran and hurdy-gurdy - many of which he designed and built), who died in 1999, was known for his contemporary style of interpretation that, in the words of Magnatune.com, "breathed life into poems some seven or eight hundred years old - be they in Old French, Latin, Middle English or Gaelic." This album, on which Fleagle was accompanied by Shira Kammen (vielle, fiddle), was recorded in 1996 and released posthumously in 2000.
Amy also picked up two great anthology collections by Tommy James and the Shondells and The Mamas & the Papas for, well, for a song! (Actually, many songs!).
|Tommy James and the Shondells Anthology|
I had been a Tommy James fan ever since my sister Nancy's non-stop playing of his "Hanky Panky" 45 became almost a mantra for me and I have since dedicated my life to making hanky-panky as much as possible! And if anyone ever doubted the Shondells relevance and timelessness, just check out how well "Crystal Blue Persuasion" (forever to be known by a new generation as "Heisenberg's Song"!) worked as a soundtrack to AMC's ground-breaking, meth-making Breaking Bad.
The Mamas & the Papas anthology is interesting because it incorporates a lot of interview snippets from John Phillips and Mama Cass Elliot. Listening to this in my car (yes, I quickly stole it from Amy!), I once again realized what a brilliant songwriter John Phillips was and how beautiful the four voices of John and Michelle Phillips, Mama Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty sounded (even better as a unit than the Beatles, in Mama Cass' opinion).
|The Mamas & the Papas: "A Gathering of Flowers" anthology|
This would be our last trip to Daedalus. Over the years, we had amassed quite the collection (and book piles stacked from floor to ceiling!), including most of my Peter May, Philip Kerr, Cornell Woolrich, Haruki Murakami, James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, Graham Greene, Lorrie Moore and Raymond Chandler novels. And, as far as what the French call "the Ninth Art," I amassed quite the comics and graphic novels library there, including works by Ivan Brunetti, Milton Caniff, Osama Tezuka, Jack "King" Kirby, Daniel Clowes, Herge, Yves Chaland, Peter O'Donnell's UK Modesty Blaise strips, and several anthologies of 1950s pre-code Harvey House horror comics. And that's not even mentioning all the reproduction vintage cards and postcards my wife and I purchased there over the years. Below are two postcards no Anglophile should be without, reproductions of 19th century artist William "Aleph" Harvey's Scotland and Wales maps, from the "Humorous Maps of Serious Countries" series.
|The "gallant piper" representing Scotland plays an instrument strongly identified with Scots, but in fact it originated in the Middle East; a bagpipe appears on a Hittie monument dating to 1000 B.C.|
|Aleph's depiction honors Owen Glendower (Owain Glyn Dwr), a Welsh landowner who incited rebellion against the English in 1400|
With that in mind, following is a brief detour, a scenic trip down Daedalus Memory Lane via a photo album of Some of My Favorite Titles scored at this remarkable store.
|A stack of Daedalus Books in the Warner Archives|
|Peter May's Enzo Macleod series and Pulp Fiction pile|
|Most of my Peter May books are from Daedalus|
|Chandler, Cain, Hammett & Spillane courtesy of Daedalus Books|
|LeCarre Spy novels & Craig Johnson's Longmire series|
|James M. Cain books & Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther detective novels|
|Daedalus made me Greene with Envy to purchase these|
|"Andy Warhol Screen Tests": $60 on Amazon, $25 at Daedalus. Warhol authority Callie Angel examines all 189 people captured by Warhol's lens, including celebs like cover girl Edie Sedgwick, Bob Dylan and Salvadore Dali.|
|I discovered the great Jonathan Lethem thanks to browsing through "Chronic City" at Daedalus. Its description of fictional Criterion DVD critic Perkus Tooth reminded me of my real-life film fanatic colleague Marc Sober.|
|No home - certainly no cineaste's home - should be without "The Complete Three Stooges," the definitive source book and official filmography for all things Stooges! At Daedalus' $10 price, it sells itself!|
|My love of Milton Caniff's "Steve Canyon" started at Daedalus with these budget-priced Checker comics reissues, starting at 1947 and continuing up to 1954.|
|The Collector's Edition Tintin box set (all 21 graphic novels plus bonus book Tintin and Co.). Lists for over $94 online but Daedalus had it for some ridiculously cheap price. I picked it up at their Belvedere Square store for fanboy David Cawley|
|UK "Valentine" comics, featuring "picture story romance" adaptations of popular song lyrics by Cliff Richard, Adam Faith, Elvis Presley and more!|
|Daedalus had lots of hardback and paperback editions of Harvey's pre-code 1950s horror comics|
|My Peter O'Donnell "Modesty Blaise" collection started at Daedalus!|
|"The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture" by Mark Schilling. This book changed my life. Anything and everything I love in one handy resource from the land that gave us Astroboy and Hello Kitty|
|"Japan Journals" by Japanese know-it-all Donald Richie for $2? It sells itself!|
|Baltimore naive Tom D'Antoni's "all made up" Sun tabloid stories are hilarious and well worth $3!|
|Where else are you going to find a book dedicated to the films of Hal Hartley (one of my favorite directors) and for $4?|
|Mark Perry's out-of-print "Sniffin' Glue" punk fanzine. $7.98 at Daedalus, $59.96 on Amazon!|
|Daniel Blythe's snarky "Encyclopaedia of Classic 80s Pop" highlights the last great decade for Top of the Pops singles, many by now-obscure one-hit wonders, like Haysi Fantayzee|
|Where else can you read about Haysi Fantayzee (Amy Warner's bete noire) but in Daniel Blythe's "Encyclopaedia of Classic 80s Pop"?|
|Speaking of one-hit wonders, another UK music book, Tom Bromley's out-of-print "We Could Have Been the Wombles," remembers them all|
|The Plot Thickens: "Georgie Girl" undresses in Leslie Lyons' "Strip Flips!: George"|
|Dian Hanson's gorgeous "History of Men's Magazines" series for Taschen Books. Taschen Books are beautiful but pricey and Daedalus discounts were the only way I could afford to buy them.|
|"Sex in Asia," a fascinating photographic record of East Asian working girls by Reagan Louie. How this ended up at Daedalus and not The Block is beyond me! (It's actually rather sad.)|
|Ivan Brunetti's "Shermy," one of many fine oversized publications found at Daedalus, along with the gigantic MAD Magazine Poster Book and the splendiferous works of Chris Ware|
|Alex Raymond and Dashiell Hammett's 1934-1935 comic strip "Secret Agent X-9"|
|Spillane's cartoonish narratives find their perfect medium! Amazon sells it new for over $35. $12.99 at Daedalus and worth every penny!|
|Official Beatles Sweaters ad from "Boyfriend"|
|Strictly Wowsville!: Beatmint gum ad from "Boyfriend"|
|Like Little Tavern burgers, at Daedalus you buy 'em by the bag(ful)!|
Ollie's: Good Stuff Cheap!
The next day, Amy forgot her mom's birdseed and I had to drive her down to Dundalk just as the snowfall began. This turned out to be quite fortuitous, as it meant I could stop the Ollie's Bargain Outlet ("Good Stuff Cheap!") on Merritt Boulevard...
|Ollie's Bargain Outlet, 1403 Merritt Boulevard|
...and score a treasure trove of Golden and Silver Age DC and Marvel comics (as shown below) - including the twin gems of the haul, a collection of the late great MAD genius Jack Davis (who passed away in July of 2016) and a DC Archives hardback of Jack Kirby's Kamandi (The Last Boy On Earth) Volume 2!!! Also on hand in that stack are classic Silver Age John Broome and Gil Kane Green Lantern collections (Volumes 1 and 2 of The Green Lantern Chronicles), Joe Kubert's Tor, and Superman in the Forties, Fifties and Seventies.
|Comics relief courtesy of Ollie's Dundalk store|
Most of these titles sold for $2.99-$3.99, with nothing more than the $7 I paid for Jack Kirby's Kamandi hardbook collection! Amy even got a Sandman graphic novel by her fantasy heart-throb Neil Gaiman. While most people don't think of Ollie's when it comes to classic literature, those of us in Ollie's Army (didn't Elvis Costello write a song about us?) know better!
|Ollie's Army is here to stay!|
With hundreds of outlets in 17 states, Ollie's may not be an indie bookstore; but, as a discount retailer specializing in mostly brand-name closeout merchandise, its model is similar to Daedalus Books. And its "Good Stuff Cheap" pricing attracts similarly loyal "treasure hunters" to make repeat purchases at their various stores.
And there you have it bibliophiles and audiophiles! I aim not to boast but rather to toast those cultural outlets that fight against the national big box stores (online and brick-and-mortar) that have gobbled up and muscled out the independent book and record stores.
As John Donne wrote in "Meditation XVII": "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind/And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." To which I would add, any bookstore's death diminishes us all, for all of us in the "The Digital Age of Distraction and Abbreviated Texts Tweets Thoughtspeak" are all involved in the fight to preserve cultural literacy. And intellectual curiosity is aided and abetted by "browsability," for bookstores (like libraries) can give you that most precious thing: what you never knew you were looking for.
So let us cherish the spirit and collections of the indie bookstores that remain, be they Normals Books and Music in Waverly, Atomic Books in Hampden, Amazing Spiral Books in Govans or Ivy Books in Mount Washington, to name but a few. That bell tolls for them, and Amy and I will continue to answer the call to help preserve them while they last to fight the good fight against the corporate giants.
Coda: Subsequent to this post, Daedalus extended their closing date to March 21, 2018 and upped their discount to 40% off listed price. Naturally, we went back one more time after yet another hike in the area. I got Luke Dempsey's terrific Club Soccer 101 for $3.50, William M. Starr's Whisky, Kilts and the Loch Ness Monster: Traveling Through Scotland with Boswell and Johnson for $2.50, editor Sloane Crosley's The Best American Travel Writing 2011 for 85 cents (it had a great "Birders" essay, as well as New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's classic Vanity Fair piece "A Girl's Guide to Saudi Arabia"), and The Langley Schools Music Project CD for $2.50 - this CD, with what David Bowie himself called an "astounding" version of his "Space Oddity," had Amy laughing the whole ride home. By this time, our bibliophile appetites were well sated and we bid a final adieu.