Remember back when you were in school and summer vacation was over and one of the first things your teacher did when you were back in the fall was to demand you write an essay about what you’d done over the summer months?
This is my coronavirus pandemic version of that essay.
Among other things, with so much time sequestered at home, I was able to enroll my 6-foot-4 son-in-law and my almost 6-foot-2 14-year-old grandson — and the real muscles of the team, my 5-year-old but amazingly strong grandson — to help move the last of the boxes from my rented storage unit to the garage in the home, to which I moved nearly 2 years ago.
Those boxes were full of books.
I covered a lot of auto racing during my career in journalism, and I always figured that retirement would be just another pit stop: You’ve worn through one set of tires so you pulled into the pit get another set bolted in place. In other words, you re-tire and then get back out on the track and right back up to speed.
However, as I was approaching what I consider to be semi-retirement — I’ll keep writing as long as my brain and fingers maintain their connections with some degree of dexterity — I realized I’d not be needing all the books I’d collected through the decades.
But what to do with them?
I don’t have a car collection that I can leave to heirs or donate to a museum or other charity. However, over the decades I have assembled quite a library, primarily books on journalism and writing, on sports (my previous writing profession), and on motorcars and motor racing.
As I was getting ready for my move from Arizona’s Valley of the Sun to Nevada’s Vegas Valley, I donated a pickup bed-full of books — novels, reference, travel, etc. — to the annual Visiting Nurses used book sale at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. It usually takes place around Valentine’s Day and offers thousands of books for sale, all of them nicely sorted on tables by subject.
I also asked friends at McPherson College, the Kansas institution that has a 4-year bachelor’s program in automotive restoration, if they would accept my automotive books as a donation to their library. They seemed pretty happy and enlisted students to unload the more than a dozen heavy boxes from a trailer as part of my move from Phoenix.
I’d be back with another load.
Friends wondered why I wasn’t selling those books, several of which had pretty decent value in the marketplace. At the time, I was teaching as an adjunct faculty member at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. I really enjoyed my interaction with the students and realized I valued their education, and that of the McPherson students, more than whatever money the books might generate in the marketplace.
During my enforced pandemic vacation, I’ve been going through the boxes in my garage as well as the books on the shelves in the house. I’m nearly done packaging up a second batch — 15 boxes so far — to take to Kansas as soon as we’re freed to travel. There will be a third load, but I’ll likely not be involved in that delivery; it will come after my time has expired.
Which leads me to this: How do I decide which books to donate now and which ones I still need for the years I have left to write?
Well, some of those decisions have been easy. I use on a daily basis The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile (oh how it hurt to write the check for more than $600 for the 4-volume set). I also need to keep my copies of the Standard Catalogs of the American Cars, Independents, Light-Duty Trucks, 4x4s and Imported Cars.
So what else am I keeping? Primarily books on automotive design and designers, on concept cars, books about early automotive travel, on the car and its role in American culture, some motorsports reference books, and books autographed by authors, especially those who have been mentors or have become friends.
Hopefully, before too much longer, we’ll get the clearance to travel, I’ll rent another small U-Haul trailer and be off to Kansas with the second load, happy and confident my books are going to a good home.