Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sunday: No opening of The Green Hand

Hello everyone --
Due to bureaucratic delays, we are unable to open The Green Hand Bookshop as planned on Sunday. Please bear with us, those of you who hoped to come along, and we will open as soon as possible.

I'll be at the shop working regardless, so if any of you do show up, you are certainly welcome to pop in and get a sneak preview of the grounds! :)

Many thanks again for all your support, and we'll see you soon. We are still planning to have our gala ribbon-cutting next Friday at 6:00!


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Update on a rainy evening

Well, the big bookshelves are done -- all stained, and varnished, and sanded, and installed. Now onto the shorter cases that will be on the floor. A much easier prospect, now that I've decided to paint them. I started the process of sorting and pricing books this weekend with help from Loren L. and Amie, and the process of painting the floor bookshelves with help from Loren, Salli, and Summer. Good times!

I have a huge bruise on my left elbow from whacking my funnybone repeatedly while sanding the bookcases, etc. Just call me Grace. I have been contemplating taking a photo of it and sharing, because it really is quite majestic in its circumference, but restraint holds me back. Ewwww, who wants to look at a gross bruise?! Certainly not you.

Our latest adventure comes in my discovery this afternoon of a lovely line of dripping water descending through a seam in the ceiling of my front display window (don't worry, LC, your window area is dry as a bone). Of course, there is no handy emergency maintenance number for me to call, so I'll have to wait 'til Monday to address that fine event with the powers that be. However, the sign on the window, newly applied on Saturday by Brendan of Mobile Imaging, looks pretty swanky. You see below a Photoshop-doctored draft of what it will look like when its finished.

Please also note that you can now sign up for e-mail updates through the blog, so that you never miss a thing!

For those of you who don't get pestered by me via e-mail, here is some info about the shop opening...

The Green Hand Bookshop is officially opening (barring complications on the city business license front) on November 1st. We are located at 661 Congress Street, right next to Joe's Smoke Shop in the big old Trelawny Building, conveniently across the street from Tristan's shop, The Fun Box Monster Emporium (which is at 656B Congress Street).

November 1st is a Sunday, so it will be a fairly quiet affair, from 12:00-5:00, but the big brouhaha will be on First Friday, November 6th, when we will hold a ribbon cutting and open house from 5:00 to 9:00. The ribbon cutting will happen at 6:00, with Representative Herb Adams presiding.

The Green Hand is the culmination of a lot of dreams and hard work, and a lot of help from so many people I can't list you all here, but please know that you stand out like stars in the firmament of my mind, even through the fog and haze of sawdust, woodstain fumes, and all the rest that has been going on for the last month or so! Countless thanks to you all, you know who you are.

... in closing, I hope I see some of you on or after the opening day. Whether you make it to the festivities or not, please come check us out! :)


Monday, October 12, 2009

...Of stains and famous authors

The walls are all painted now, leaving just the display window areas and a few other trim pieces to do. My dad was kind enough to come in today and help me stain bookcases -- three are done, ten more to go. The irony is that while I was removing stains by painting over them (the walls were filthy!), my dad was staining perfectly clean wood on the other side of the shop. Ha!

The bookcases are going to need two coats of stain each, and then they need to be sealed. I think I'm going to switch to paint for the half-stacks that are going down the center of the room, because this is nuts! However, the wall cases really need to be stained for the right look, so... onward.

... come to think of it, switching to a water-based stain for the last 10 tall cases would make sense, too. Phew!

While we were working, a gentleman came in to see what was happening, and to comment on the bookshop idea by remarking that Erskine Caldwell had run a bookshop across the street. Sure enough, when I went home to research it, there was the info. According to Conversations with Erskine Caldwell by Edwin T. Arnold, in 1928, Erskine Caldwell and his wife, photographer Margaret Bourke-White, opened the Longfellow Square Bookshop at 666A Congress Street which he ran through the 1930s (pg 89). Erskine was inspired by Maine when he wrote God's Little Acre (he also wrote Tobacco Road). Today, an architect's offices reside at 666 Congress Street.

More on Erskine Caldwell on Wikipedia (photo source).

Friday, October 9, 2009

Progress as it stands

Well, I'm working along at making the shop the kind of space I want it to be. So far, I did a bunch of patching and sanding and taping-off (which Loren L. came along to help me with the second leg of, yesterday, thanks for that you marvelous Loren you!).

This process has also involved a very trying series of episodes with the ridiculous wooden spars that were attached in a heinous manner at the bottom of the mirrors that cover the walls of the shop space. "Heinous?" you say. "Ridiculous?" you wonder. Yes, heinous, because the prior tenants used Liquid Nails to attached the mirrors AND the spars to the walls, and then for good measure (enter "Ridiculous"!) used very long, very obscure nails (square and star ended screws, as opposed to the friendlier phillips-head or straight-head screws) which were put in at all sorts of weird angles -- and for extra fun some were even stripped in the process.

All this made it impossible to get the spars off the wall without at the very last resorting to hauling out my large hammer and prying them off after spending what time I could undoing screws with my drill. I'll share some photos of the typical damage done to the walls by the prior tenants' creative problem solving efforts. (Those poor walls!) After pulling the offending spars off the wall, I replaced them with low-profile heavy-duty mirror clips, and patched and sanded the terrible holes and gashes that resulted from the amputation.

Finally, after getting covered in blobs of spackle and a coating of plaster dust for the third day, I managed to actually get around to doing some painting this afternoon and evening. The excitement is palpable. And probably covered in paint, like me and everything else. I figure I finished about 1/3 of the walls and trim. The areas that were rehabbed around the mirrors and elsewhere look great -- you will never imagine the carnage that preceded, if you look at them now!

What's next (besides the other 2/3 of the painting)? Well, due to the fact that my carpenter has been hard at work building wonderfully towering shelves that will be installed along the walls, I will be staining and sealing bookshelves all next week. Then maybe I can actually get to working with the actual books, which have been accumulating in piles and boxes and bags, which are usually piled in an area inconvenient to the renovations going on (resulting in a large amount of lugging, pushing, and puffing about getting them into slightly less inconvenient spots).

We won't get into the nonsense about city permits and all that. That's another ball of wax entirely. We'll just cross our fingers and hope that everything gets approved in time for the opening!!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Of hedgehogs and puzzles

Just a couple of quick book recommendations!

  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery.

    I picked this up at the library after reading a really interesting article by Kim Allen-Niesen about the sad lack of European books being translated into English, which pointed out the French-to-English translated Hedgehog as a particularly wonderful sample of the possibilities we're missing out on.

    I was so enchanted by this book that I broke my cardinal rule of Good Librarianship, and I took a library book on vacation with me. Camping. In the woods of Acadia. Of course, this makes for a bittersweet ending -- the one night I left the book out on the picnic table, it rained. (It gets dark quickly, and if you assume that you've put away all perishables earlier in the evening, well, let's just say there's no last look around by the light of the living room lamp to ensure you're right...)

    The characters are eminently human, the humor is tart, the elegance is natural enough to bowl you over. Try it. You just might like it -- I did.

  • The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws, by Margaret Drabble

    This one drew me in with its simple but tantalizing cover, I admit it. What made me take it home, however, was its premise. Drabble takes us through an intriguing account of English games and their history. This information is peppered throughout her own recollections of games and family interactions and what it all means.

    I'm still in the process of reading this one, but I'm definitely enjoying it. It's interesting to get to know the author in this oblique way, with all her foibles and fascinations examined piece by piece and then gradually reassembled in a whole pattern ... not unlike a jigsaw puzzle. A very pleasant way to pass the time.
  • Thursday, October 1, 2009

    The Green Hand interview

    As posted in the Strange Maine blog...

    Here's an interview I did with David Carkhuff of the Portland Daily Sun last week that should serve to fill you in on the latest and greatest.
    The Green Hand reaches toward mystery
    New book shop promises eerie, atmospheric reads from Strange Maine blog founder
    Story and Photo by David Carkhuff, Staff writer

    On her path from award-winning blogger to fledgling book shop owner, Michelle Souliere is about a month away from unveiling The Green Hand on Congress Street.

    The bookstore promises to be a nod to classic horror, mystery and other subjects that have formed the grist for her award-winning Strange Maine blog. At the same time, the shop, slated to open at 661 Congress Street near Longfellow Square, won't confine itself to strictly strange and eerie topics.

    "The selection is definitely going to be slanted by my taste, but I'm going to have a wide selection. My hope is anyone who walks in will find something they're interested in," Souliere said in an interview Tuesday.

    The Green Hand, however, is bound to appeal to customers of the International Cryptozoology Museum, mystery-animal researcher Loren Coleman's new feature attraction which is scheduled to open, also on Nov. 1, in the rear portion of the 661 Congress Street site.

    For almost four years, Souliere said, she has generated the Strange Maine blog, and subsequently the Strange Maine Gazette, a print version of her intriguing look at mysterious and offbeat subjects.

    Her husband, Tristan Gallagher, owns We Hate T-Shirts screen printing and The Fun Box Monster Emporium, which is located across the street from the new book shop at 656B Congress Street. He has run his store almost a year and at the current address since last spring. A loss of employment at University of Southern Maine for Souliere was a catalyst for pursuing her dream.

    "For years I've wanted to open a book shop," Souliere said. "I've always had this little stash of books that would become part of my eventual stock. It was only this summer that I started seriously considering it. I was working at USM, and was in the process of being laid off because of different cutbacks and rearrangements, and I started interviewing for jobs, and I realized that these weren't jobs that I wanted particularly, they didn't necessarily get me any further with what I wanted to do with my life. Tristan said, 'Well, why are you waiting to open a book shop? Why don't you do it now?'"

    It turned out to be a fateful conversation. Souliere knew Coleman — "We've been off and on corresponding for a few years now" — and figured a pairing of an atmospheric bookstore and a museum of exhibits featuring Bigfoot and other mysterious creatures would make a great fit in the Arts District.

    An artist and illustrator, Souliere expected to "concoct a wonderful space that people are excited to visit."

    "It's going to be kind of a hybrid, I want to create an atmosphere in here that's different than the other book shops in town. I would like to complement them," she said. "There's no way I can compete with their selections, especially Yes Books and Cunningham Books, they have been at this for years and have walls and walls of wonderful materials. So I thought I would try to bring something else into it, I've always been a fan of hybrid turn of the century Victorian gas lamps and a certain amount of art deco and a little bit of Asia motif. It's going to get a little more colorful in here."

    The Green Hand captures a variety of images and motifs — organic growth, based on the concept of the green thumb; and also the traditional "old pulp magazine cover art of the green hand reaching out for the victim" and the science fiction idea of an alien hand.

    "It's just an image that has come to me over and over again, it seems to evoke a lot of things for people. It's a wonderful, universal and mysterious symbol of what I'm trying to do here," she said.

    Souliere anticipates offering a mix of used and new books in about 2,500 square feet of space, with additional space in back for the museum.

    Her favorites are "weird fiction," horror and mystery stories by the likes of H.P. Lovecraft and M.R. James. Souliere said the blog and gazette will continue, possibly with more opportunity for research as she tends the book shop.

    Souliere said the Arts District appears to be on the cusp of a revival, with several developments promising a rejuvenation of the Congress Street corridor.

    Across the street at 660 Congress St., near her husband's store, Souliere is keping an eye on the old Zinnia's antique shop, where a developer is unveiling plans to create gallery space and four to six studios in a three-story building. Down the block from Souliere's shop is an ongoing renovation and reconstruction of the old USM dormitories, creating what promises to be residential and retail space.

    "It seems like this area could really start to jump up and take the city by surprise," Souliere said.

    Please also check out Carkhuff's companion article about the public opening of Loren Coleman's International Cryptozoology Museum!