It would be doing them a favor to call them nondescript. Decrepit would be far more descriptive.
“The only thing left in the dirt and trash were these two old books, covers ripped off, quite plain looking for all intents and purposes, little revealing what lay inside. I picked them up, blew off the dust and soot, and claimed them as my own.”
So began an incredible journey of discovery of this friend of mine, the result of a treasure held unaware that serendipitous day in the darkened corner of the basement.
Up until then his days had run together not unlike the seemingly endless rains rushing down the gutter, “crazy hours bored to death sitting in an elevator waiting for the bell to ring.” It was a task which doubled as both his full time job for the wealthy tenants of a New York high-rise and also as a cubical-slash-vertically-mobile prison until he could escape to the conveyor-belt of humanity that led, among other places, to the college where he was a second year student.
“My life,” he wrote, “was a shambles.”
Then came that day when the elevator jolted to a stop one floor below street level where subterranean mysteries lurked – also known as garbage – the discards of departing dignitaries, which he – as most certainly not among the ranking senior level elevator operators who had already sifted through the rubble – was tasked to dispose of to the dumpster.
That’s when he found the two books, a brief thumbing through the yellowed pages of the handwritten brown-ink-scrawled cursive and accompanying hundreds of sepia toned photographs giving indication they were journals.
It was also when – not long thereafter – he received his military draft notice for training that ultimately would lead to war, a destination from which there existed the very real possibility he would not return.
For safekeeping he gave the books to his girlfriend whom he was loath to leave almost as much as he was saddened to cut short the adventure he’d only recently begun in vicarious company with the author of the journals – someone who’d lived a century before.
Somehow surviving 26 months in Viet Nam, wounded twice with many more close calls while participating in eight campaigns, he came home with the intention of not only becoming reunited with family but to get reacquainted with the mysterious fellow who’d penned volumes two and three of his life, the first volume missing.
However a twenty-one year military future would interrupt his journey into the past and yet it was during those next two decades that two major events would provide the opportunity to lift the shroud of secrecy that hung about the books.
The first was his retirement from the military which would give him time – the first time in a very long time – that was his own and the second being the development of the Internet. Now he had a tool to discover that the author of the journals was not, in fact, who he thought he was – the signature on the books having been difficult to read.
Being life journals there were mentioned a number of friends of the author, one being a famous English organist and choirmaster as it turned out who was often visited in London. A series of email contacts eventually led to an organ conservator in Boston who had spent 10 years researching the London fellow, the conservator expressing surprise that in all his investigation he’d never heard the little black book author’s name.
That’s because the name was wrong.
Two letters in the name had been unintelligible until now.
In continued sleuthing that would have been the envy of Sherlock Holmes, the corrected name – and that of the author of the journals; the journals that had been left for trash; the little blackened books minus their covers; the two volume life-stories shelved for 30 years while a war was fought and a military career pursued – was discovered to be that of the Jr. half of two men, a father and his son, who produced at the turn of the century the now vintage and collectible Edward I., and Edward J. Jr., Horsman Dolls.