Going to the Dogs. And other such sayings…

Knock on wood. Why? How come we need to do that?

I was updating our online menu page (bumped up the priorities list to the point it finally got completed!) and saw a previous blog headline, in which I implored myself to “knock on wood.” It seemed appropriate at the time.

While moving some books around this afternoon, I came across a little volume entitled “Heavens to Betsy!” (which is a whole ‘nother story…) and I looked in the index. Sure enough, “knock on wood’ is listed among the “400 Colorful Words – and Their Origins” in the book.

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Apparently, I’m not the only one curious about the origin of the superstition, but – according to the author – the exact beginning of the phrase has been lost to time. He quotes a similar book from 1946 in which the writer attributes it to an old game called “Touching Wood” or “Wood Tag.”

I’m old enough that I remember playing outside games. And I seem to recall one in which we raced around wildly trying to get from point-A to point-B while whoever was “It” chased us. If you touched a tree or a porch railing – something made of wood – you were safe, and could dart away again when “It” went after someone else.

Remember, we didn’t have video games back then. We chased each other around. Get over it.

At any rate, the 1946 author seemed to think that whole thing dated clear back to the old, Old Days, when people believed that there were tree spirits that could keep people safe. (What? Tree Spirits aren’t Real?) He also suggests that it could have something to do with the original wooden Cross and taking an oath on a crucifix.

This is how work in the book shop tends to be put off – reading one tiny paragraph in a book leads to another, and the next thing you know, a half hour is gone.

I was trying to put the little “Heavens to Betsy” book down and spotted a phrase that made me immediately think of my dear grandmother, who exclaimed with exasperation, “For Crying in a Bucket!” when she was put out by something.

The book says Granny was doing a turn on “For Crying out Loud!” which is called a ‘minced oath,’ which many of us are guilty of professing on occasion – like saying “Shoot!” instead of that four-letter expletive that is the originating profanity. These days many things that never would have been said aloud are spoken with reckless abandon, including “For Christ’s Sake!” – which waaaay back when was lumped in with those other words and phrases never said publicly or in mixed company, for cryin’ out loud.

This I recognize from Charles Dickens novels in which even such phrases as “By G–!” are dashed instead of put forward uncensored, to avoid offending the dear reader, who might become so astonished as to grumble:

For Crying in a Bucket!

Cross your fingers, Knock on wood.

It’s got to be a sign of the impending Apocalypse! WHAT?

As an admitted Shadetree Mechanic, I have tackled projects from refrigerator thermostats to British sports car rod-bearing replacement. Some projects turn out better than others but almost all provide examples of my own version of Murphy’s Law.

For instance:

If it is connected with plastic, it will break.
A dropped small object will bounce to a point just out of reach.
It is always the ‘other’ type of screwdriver required.
The importance of leftover parts will only be discovered when reassembly is complete.
Custom fittings will not fit.

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I have enough of these to be called a manifesto, but you get the idea. That’s why I am currently astonished.

I bought a new car radio to replace the one my business partner had installed for me 17 years ago.

You need a CD player, he said. Cassettes are out. CDs are the thing of the future.

It’s a nice Sony, professionally installed, and I haven’t played a CD in over a decade. So my project for tomorrow is to install a replacement to stream music from my phone. (Am I on the cutting edge, or what?)

I Googled YouTube for hints on how to get that old one out. This is now my favorite all-time ‘how-to’ video:

(It gets better and better as it goes along. Spoiler: he says ‘thin.’ I thought his advice stated the tools must be made of ‘tin,’ and that he was failing to follow his own instructions.)

After watching him struggle with it (assuming there were numerous outtakes that didn’t make the internet), I was prepared to head off to Best Buy to find the correct radio removal tool. But I had a few extra minutes, and…

The face plate popped right off, of course, but the thin plastic border piece that I knew was going to break… didn’t. Instead of jamming steak knives into my car dash, I wiggled a couple of exposed prongs… and the radio slid right out. The big plastic dash board facing – installed 17 years ago – for the smaller sized Sony radio… of course it was going to crack and break under my prying screwdriver.

It didn’t.

The wires were long enough that I could pull the entire radio free and reach the harness. Which unplugged with the least effort imaginable. The antenna wire already had the correct end piece for the new radio. My aftermarket harness adapter (purchased separately) actually fit and the wire colors matched correctly.

I’m admitting to you right here – that at each stage – I said aloud: UNBELIEVABLE! Or INCREDIBLE! Or some similar form of spoken astonishment.

The radio and all parts of the fascia were out and sitting on the passenger seat in less than four minutes. I usually spend that length of time looking for my needle-nose or trying to prop up the flashlight so I can see the plastic I’m about to break.

So rare when paid-forward Karma comes back all at once. So rare, in fact, that I’m worried about how tomorrow’s installation will go.

Extremely worried.

But at least I’ve got YouTube to turn to…

Between the Sheets (of paper).

I tell people that I’ve found all sorts of things tucked between the pages of books that come into the shop. Everything but money.

I’ve never even come across a single dollar bill.

There was a woman once that semi-accused me, though. She popped in, gesturing frantically, claiming to have left her rent payment in a book she had dropped off. Seven-hundred-something-smackeroos.

It was true that she dropped off some books, but there was no cash involved and I told her so. Regrettably, I had not found any sum at all. She glared at me. Stopped waving her arms. Glared some more.

Sorry, I repeated. Didn’t find any money.

moeBooks

And I could tell by her expression that – in her head – there was a whole line of thinking there about me and my denials. In short, she was thinking that I HAD found it, but was lying about it.

That’s not my style.

She returned the next day to let me know that she had found her rent money hidden in the kitchen (probably in that hiding place…) and she just wanted to let me know. Didn’t say she was sorry that she had accused me. In truth, she hadn’t said such a thing aloud.

But she did return, I think, because she knew that I knew that she was thinking just that very thing.

I was glad she found the cash.

Things I find in books are generally interesting, if not negotiable. A hastily-written last will and testament. (He survived the health scare, obviously, since he brought in the bag of books.) A valid passport. Receipts. Prescriptions.

And bookmarks from book shops in exotic locales.

Like “Ten Directions Books,” Taos, New Mexico. (From the bookmarker: Ten Directions – north, south, east, west, the four intermediate points, and the zenith and the nadir. In Buddhism this encompasses the whole cosmos. So says the marker.) A little research turned up a death notice for its proprietor Allan Clevenger some years ago, and apparently the shop did not survive his departure.

Not the case with Moe’s Books.

Do you have enough books? NO! I need Moe, Moe, Moe books! The SF Chronicle says “India has the Taj Mahal. Berkeley has Moe’s Books. Still in business, with a website on the internet that validates it.

Four floors of used, new & sale books – open every day. Says so right on the bookmarker.

Presumably, one of Moe’s books made it to Broken Arrow, OK – since I found the proof tucked between the pages.

But still – no dollar bills.