Blogging Reference

9:55  Florida Agricultural & Mechanical College, (FAMU), Tallahassee's Historically Black College or University, (HBCU), is having its homecoming  day today, with a parade this morning, and a football game this afternoon at 3:00.  This is a huge deal here.  Unlike Florida State's homecoming, FAMU's homecoming means party time for the entire black community, for whom FAMU is a badge of pride.

10:00  Doors open.  The parade goes from Frenchtown, the old black quarter of town to the north, east to Monroe Street, our "main street", and through downtown to the south side, so that two sides of an imaginary box enclosing the city center are closed to traffic.

I opted this year to try a run around to the south, crossing South Monroe on Oakland and turning up Adams to Gaines.  I headed west on Gaines, easing my Vespa around crowds of orange-clad FAMU bandsmen and blue-uniformed teens from Lincoln High.  Turning north on MLK Boulevard, the way was clear.  As I parked, drums throbbed and horns blasted in the distance.

Here's Mark, coming in to do the Saturday courier run to the branches.  He goggles at me and Marcia, "You wouldn't believe what I just went through!"  He evidently didn't see the e-mail about the street closings.  We commiserate, and trade getting-to-the-library-on-FAMU-homecoming stories.

Of course its almost completely dead now, at 10:25.  Other than pedestrians, no one can get here.

PC's for a bunch of assorted kids.  I indulge them, seating them next to their friends.

Here's agonistic Laverne, making her own computer reservation, thank God, now that she has a library card.

10:40  US Daughters of 1812 are here to use the 2nd floor conference room, a "daughters of" group I haven't heard of.  Hmmm... They are the Tallahassee "Treaty of Ghent" Chapter.

Here is another Daughter, asking directions, with a ribboned medal on her chest.  "Work of the Society includes ... providing reading materials to the American Merchant Marine Library Association (AMMLA) which was created to meet the demands of the men in our Merchant Marine for reading matter by providing an exchange Library Service to American ships."  Well well.  They are in our line of work, then.

PC's for Demetrius, Chumesia, Laqueshia, Monica.

Shush kids.  Demetrius's PC hung at sign-in, restart.

11:05  Phone:  Mr. Little needs addresses for corporate HQ's of Taco Ball, Subway and Home Depot.  He's not hearing too well this morning.  A lot of work to give him the info.

Phone:  Married to the Mouse:  Walt Disney World and Orlando by Richard E. Foglesong.  Hold for James.

Aforementioned bunch of kids want another session.  Sorry, I say, not without a library card.

Phone:  Early voting still happening at Ft. Braden branch?  Yes, through 6 pm today.

Woman needs dictionary of American regional English.  Take to shelf.

James picks up Disney book.

11:50  Man's been e-mailing us from Perry.  He needs our microfilm viewer to print out pages of electronics manuals on microfiche.  No one in Perry has one, not even the library.  Now he wants to know where he can buy silk screen fabric off the roll here.  I've been calling around.  Jo-Ann Fabrics said no.  Michael's Arts & Crafts said no.  Utrecht Art Supply Store, (formerly Bill's Art City) has pre-stretched screens, 18x24", but no rolls.

Paul wants a black pen.

Woman at PC w headphones chuckles.

Lindsay, our volunteer, comes up off the stairs.  Lunchtime!

12:48  PC for Marvin.

USA Today Man asks about OverDrive audio book download station.  What is audio book?  Is it where someone reads it out loud?  Yes.  Do we have a scanner?  No.  Why not?  Don't know.

Fill printers.

WSJ comes back,

Phone:  Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Daniken.  Hold for Jim at desk.

PC for Toni.

E-mail from MD in Youth Services: anyone seen Marvel Comics Encyclopedia, in transit for a hold since May?  Don't see it, and it's a big book, would be hard to miss.

Mom & daughter need books on sex education as a social issue.  Find then a couple of books, show Opposing Viewpoints db, which is excellent on this topic.

2:06  At satellite ref station on floor.  Finished putting Stuart Woods "overstock" in storage up high over the magazine shelves.  This completes my "downsizing" of bestsellers in Fiction.

Have to make a poster for my display, which I am calling "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road", a shameless rip-off of the song by Lucinda Williams.  Stories about rural and small town life.  Real places with hard times and not-always-happy endings.  The dark side of "Mitford".

[Edit:  it's not really fair to myself to call it a shameless rip-off.  I thought of the song first, then wondered if I could put together some titles that would tell stories like the ones on that great album.  It's really more of a tribute.]

Phone:  Mr. Little checking a detail on an address I gave him.

Looking for image for display poster.  Looking for something "small town", but with hint of modernity to ward off sentimentality.  Found good one of Cross City metal building-like City Hall w American flag, palms, water tower.

2:54  Smoke break, down to get my reserves, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and Provinces of Night by William Gay, (the latter for my display).

Help woman find Morning's Refrain by Tracy Peterson.  Just returned, on new books cart in the check-in room.

She says they say she has an overdue book, Bobbi Brown Beauty, which she's sure she returned in June, will I help her check the shelf?  We find it.  Give it to her to have Circulation clear it.  The book must have worked, I get a beautiful smile from her.

3:13  L. is gone, 1¾ hours to go.

The Smile returns.  Now she needs The Crucible by Arthur Miller, probably the reason she came.

3:30  Very quiet.  The FAMU game started at 3:00.

Marcia sees my copy of Freedom.  We talk books.  She says she read the IMPAC Dublin award winner for this year, The Twin by Dutch author Gerbrand Bakker, and also Blindness of the Heart by Julia Franck, said to have been a sensation in Germany, winner of the German Book Prize.  Oh that Marcia, so highbrow!

Couple of women looking for Consumer Reports.

Man wants to know what "M" keys on a calculator do.  Try searching, but end up printing out a help topic on them for him from the Microsoft calculator.

PC for Rakim.

4:29  Phone:  It's the Chattahoochee guy.  Does it snow in Cape Town, S.A.?  No, but it does in the mtns. to the west.  Are there penguins at the Cape of Good Hope?  Yes.

4:45  15 min. announcement.  Time to call it a day.

The Days of Yore

I've run across this usage a couple of times, but it appears repeatedly in Paul Murray's Skippy Dies, in which schoolboys use the days of yore to refer to times too distant to resemble in any way their own world.  Yore comes from a Middle English word meaning long ago.  Judging by how I am seeing it used, I'd hazard that the days of yore are any time before 1977, the year of Star Wars and the Apple II computer.

I found this funny entry at Uncyclopedia, a send-up of Wikipedia.  It makes me think that the expression originated as a Britishism.

Oh, the days of yore when, completely unsupervised and told to go outside, we made do with the materials at hand for amusement.  For boys, this meant finding things to throw at each other, (oranges, hickory nuts, dirt clods), making guns out of sticks, floating things in water and destroying them, etc.

Typewriters are definitely from the days of yore.  We still keep four typewriters at the library for filling out paper forms.  I get asked how to "change the font" on them.  You can't take a "typing" class anymore.  You must look for a "keyboarding" class.

It's hard for someone like me, in my late '50's, to grasp what the past looks like to young people.  A 20-year-old today has no memory whatever of the Cold War, or of a time when cell phones did not exist.  The faculty of Beloit College have tried annually to keep abreast of students' perceptions of their world with the Beloit College Mindset List.
The class of 2014 has never found Korean-made cars unusual on the Interstate and five hundred cable channels, of which they will watch a handful, have always been the norm. Since "digital" has always been in the cultural DNA, they've never written in cursive and with cell phones to tell them the time, there is no need for a wrist watch. Dirty Harry (who’s that?) is to them a great Hollywood director. The America they have inherited is one of soaring American trade and budget deficits; Russia has presumably never aimed nukes at the United States and China has always posed an economic threat.


Rain at Last, but The Silence Remains

Our parched earth finally got relief today, as a storm broke in late afternoon, with rolling thunder, lasting several hours.

Thursdays are normally quieter than the earlier in the week, but I can't remember the last time a Thursday was so quiet.  It was my night to work, and I normally have all but one hour in the afternoon off the service desk.

The staff/freight elevator has been out of service for an overhaul for several weeks.  Unable to move my Baker & Taylor leased books down to the loading dock for pickup, I spent time today packing more titles to return:  last year's bestsellers by Janet Evanovich, Faye Kellerman, Dean Koontz, Michael Connelly, Nicholas Sparks, Dick Francis, John Sandford.

Something's changed.  I feel it in my bones.  I have never, in the past ten years, seen the second floor so quiet at this point in the school term.

Oh, it was busy enough earlier in the week.  I just have a feeling that the novelty and the excitement of the Web is over.  Use of our old-timey public access desktop PC's seems increasingly to be needed only by travelers, very poor adults and children, beginning computer users, and those who need printing facilities.  People are equipping themselves with their affordable digital devices of choice, smart phones, netbooks, e-readers, portable music players and tablet computers.  At closing tonight, only two or three users were left.

I'm reading Skippy Dies, by Paul Murray, full of black humor, about the miserable lives of students and teachers at a prestigious Catholic boys' preparatory school during Ireland's prosperous "Celtic Tiger" years in the last decade, before the Crash.  I have points of connection, having attended a military school as a day student in the 8th and 9th grades.  I'm also reminded of If, the 1968 film starring Malcolm McDowell.

But what strikes me is the beauty of this book as an artifact.  The American edition has been published by Faber and Faber, as an affiliate of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.  The binding is tight, with real signatures, expertly edged.  The paper is supple and creamy.  The type is small, in the British fashion.  It is a delightful book to handle.


Morning Sky After Rain

Looking west from the second floor of the library:

From Sky


No Papers

The public library, it's for everyone, right?  All you need is a free library card, which you can get by verifying your address.

Only it's not that simple.  What if you are a college student living in shared quarters that are rented in someone else's name?  What if you are unemployed, and staying temporarily with relatives?  What if you are living at the local homeless shelter, and the shelter's address is not acceptable for a library card?

I've written about this before.  You and I find it hard to believe that anyone could not prove that they live somewhere, but it's true.  As I found out myself earlier this year, when I had to get a new driver's license, it is not easy or cheap anymore to get a Florida driver's license or ID.  And then there are the people who could prove it, but who for whatever reason don't want to, don't want to be found.

At the reference desk it comes up most often when people want to use a public-access PC.  If they don't have a library card, they can get a "guest pass" for a single one-hour session per day.  A guest is supposed to be a visitor, someone who is passing through, who doesn't reside in Leon County.

We sell the library card every time.  With a card, they can choose where they sit, and have additional sessions, as well as full library borrowing privileges.  Yet we continue to issue guest passes on a daily basis to people who clearly live here, but who are for various reasons ineligible for library cards.  Roughly one third of our public access PC users ask for guest passes.

I think of Paul, who lives at the homeless shelter, and who needs to get online to search for a decent job, so that he can earn enough to rent a place of his own, at which point he will be eligible for a library card.  The poor guy comes in after five, having clocked out as a day-laborer, dirty and tired, and asks for a guest pass to get on the Internet.  We all know his story, so we don't nag him about getting a card.  He's trying.

I feel a little guilty, sitting there, so safe with my government job.  He wants what I have, a permanent job with a living wage, and a place of his own.


Into Great Silence

I shouldn't have used that title.  People Googling the film about the Carthusian monastery  will wonder why they're reading Branches and Rain.  But that's what the week has been like.

Regardless of all the elections noise in the media, a calm seemed to settle here on the town and at the library this week, reflecting below the long spell of dry, cool, golden weather above.

Well those days on the mountain
I remember so well
like walking around in the ring of a bell.
 There's no college football here this weekend.  There are crab & butterfly do's at St. Marks on the coast, an art fest at Railroad Square, and Eddie Money's coming to town.

The park and gazebo on Park Avenue outside the library have been wonderfully deserted.  I don't know where the rude boys and homeless alkies have gone, but I'm grateful to be able to sit and read there at lunchtime.

The library has also been strangely quiet, with little or no waiting time to get an Internet PC, even on Monday.  It's felt like people imagine the library to be:  a feeling of relief and spaciousness.  I spent my time off the service desk today evaluating donations and massaging the Fiction section.

I rejoiced to find on the shelf, while looking to see if we needed a survey of classical Greece, a beautiful book that I had sent to processing ages ago, The Leopard's Tale:  Revealing the Mysteries of Çatalhöyük, by Ian Hodder.  I had given it up for lost, and grieved over it, and there it was!

MK and I attended a webinar this afternoon about the new texting feature that will be rolled out next week by the statewide Ask-a-Librarian digital reference service, in which our library participates.  I need to create some scripted replies for our library about library hours, locations, policies, etc.

I'm reading James Howard Kunstler's sequel to World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron.  Kunstler is a Peak-Oil doomsayer, and his blog, Clusterfuck Nation, is pretty wild.

But the man can write!  The Witch of Hebron is subtitled, A World Made by Hand Novel, so Kunstler has presumably found himself a groove, and we may expect more to come.  It is as though, the crisis having not materialized soon enough, Kunstler has gone ahead and fleshed out his post-oil world as fiction.  In doing so, I think he has found his strength.


Ordinary Time

With our trips to Windermere and Manhattan behind us, it's back to the daily round for the foreseeable future.  Work and the chores & comforts of home.  Sunrise, sunset.

It's been cool and clear for weeks here.  I am having to water the plants and keep the bird bath and outside water dishes topped up.  Hurricane-like weather has been bowling up the east coast this year, with very little to speak of in the Gulf.  The acorns are dropping and the squirrels are feasting.

High school History Fair projects are keeping us busy this week.  The students' project proposals are due very soon.  They must name both book and journal sources.  The books are soon gone, and I confess I am almost always disappointed when I show them our Gale journal databases.  I helped students today who wanted material on suffrage legislation for African Americans after the Civil War, and on the Equal Opportunity Employment provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  A co-worker had a request for material about the currency debate in the Gilded Age.  A couple of good sites for American History:  The American Memory Project at the Library of Congress, and the American Heritage magazine archive.

Internet use seems to be heavily weighted toward job searches and school enrollment.  It is tough out there, and we are helping people with all kinds of applications, for school and jobs, as well as for public assistance.  I've demo'd our Learning Express test prep database to a lot of people this week.


Sympathetic Attraction

For several months I've entertained the thought that I wanted to see again the film adaptation of Graham Swift's novel, Waterland, (1992), set in the English Fenlands.  I don't know why.  I am pretty sure that I saw the film, starring Jeremy Irons, on the big screen when it came out.

On my desk at work is a pad of paper where I had jotted a title that looked interesting to me, Death Wore White, by Jim Kelly, a British police procedural.

I was almost finished with The Things They Carried, and I needed something else for the weekend.  I saw that Kelly had begun his writing career with a series featuring a newspaperman, Philip Dryden.  I borrowed Kelly's first novel, The Water Clock.  It was only after I began to read it today that I realized it was set in the Fenlands, in the area around the town of Ely in Cambridgeshire.

In the novel, Dryden covers the opening, attended by local dignitaries, of a brewery in Ely that has been converted into a cinema and restaurant complex.  The inaugural film?  Waterland.


The Professor Returns

I spent the afternoon in the fiction stacks, moving excess copies of bestsellers to a storage area on top of the periodicals shelves to free up precious shelf space..  I was working with the notorious "K's" today, a problem area:  Kellerman, King, Koontz, Krentz.

Rounding a corner with a cart of books, I saw him, sitting at a small table by a window near the typewriters, his old-fashioned leather briefcase on the carpet by his chair.  He had several books on the table, and he was reading one of them with great attention.  Was it really him?  He wasn't wearing glasses.  Passing again, I saw that his glasses were on the table.  Yes, it was him!  My heart was glad.  It really made my day.

The Professor appeared a couple of years ago, and came to my notice by requesting regularly,  through interlibrary loan, scholarly books about the Jewish Holocaust, using a library card belonging to a woman, (a sister, perhaps, or other family relation).  He mentioned to me his use of the library at UC Berkeley, and I gathered that he was newly arrived here, and a guest in someone's home.

He looked to be in his fifties or sixties, graying, with glasses, typically wearing slacks and a buttoned short-sleeved shirt.  I would often see him in non-fiction, really using our collection in a way that gave me satisfaction: selecting several books and sitting at a table for an afternoon to read.

One day last spring I happened to be looking for a book on the unshelved carts in fiction, when I saw some thoughtless after-school boys sit down to talk at a large table he was using, as though he wasn't even there.  He picked up his things and left.  He evidently complained, because I saw a supervisor trying to mollify him, but he didn't come back.  I felt guilty for not having reacted, defending his right to use the table and scolding the boys.

I had a bad feeling about it.  The Professor was to me like the canary in the coal mine.  His absence was a judgment on the library.  I brought the incident up in a meeting, and our director winced when she heard it.

The trend in libraries, out of a desire to build attendance, has been to market the library as a community center, where activities like tutoring, group meetings, and after-school hanging out are welcomed.  But what about people who expect to find a peaceful sanctuary in which to read and study?  We must not let them turn away and give up on us.  Where do you draw the line?

We've been making an effort to restore that "sanctuary" atmosphere, and seeing the Professor today was a good sign, like seeing a rare bird reappear in a habitat from which you'd thought it had vanished forever.


My War Story

I spent the afternoon Tuesday doing laundry, watering shrubbery, keeping an eye on Claudius the cat, and reading The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien, the library's Big Read selection this year.

Apart from The Names of the Dead, by Stewart O'Nan, which I read a couple of years ago, when I read lots of O'Nan after reading Last Night at the Lobster, it has been a long time since I visited Vietnam in fiction.  In the '80's I read a number of novels in the first wave of serious Vietnam fiction:  Fields of Fire (1978) by James Webb, The 13th Valley (1982) by John Del Vecchio, and others.  The Things They Carried (1990), is a kind of meta-war story, a story about war stories.  It has an astonishing 826 customer reviews at Amazon.

I'm sure I've quoted Samuel Johnson before on this, "Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea."  So it surprises me that O'Brien characterizes his obedience to the draft as an act of cowardice.  The courageous choice, he writes, would have been to go to Canada, and been thought a coward by his family and neighbors.  Maybe, but how many great novels are there about avoiding the draft in Canada?  I can't think of any.

Things is set in 1968, when I was fourteen.  Vietnam for me and my friends was our big brothers' war.  I didn't have an older brother, but my friend Jimmy Roberts's brother Kenny joined the Marines, went to Vietnam, and came home.  On the national stage, 1968 was when all hell broke loose, but I had problems of my own, the problems of a fourteen-year-old.

Fast-forward to the autumn of 1971, at the University of Florida in Gainesville.  I had taken a mescaline-fueled magic carpet ride straight out of school to the Krishna Consciousness Temple.  I was walking along up University Avenue in my saffron robe, with my shaven head, when a guy offered me a ride back to the temple.  He introduced himself as Scott Camil, an anti-war activist, and asked about one of the devotees, Joe.

I remember Joe as a man with a ready smile and a wrestler's build.  Camil told me that Joe was a draft resister, and that he disapproved of Joe's joining the Krishnas.  Joe, he said, also had a way with women.  "A waste of a good man."

One morning in late 1971 I was sitting on the temple roof, having climbed out a second-story window, when I saw Joe coming down the sidewalk.  A black sedan pulled up beside him, and two men in suits bundled him into it.  That was the last we saw of Joe.

On my eighteenth birthday, February 7, 1972, I reported to the Selective Service office in Gainesville to register for the military draft, wearing my Krishna ensemble.  A year later, when I turned nineteen, I was back in school, at Valencia Community College in Orlando.  Your nineteenth year was your year of eligibility for the draft.  My draft lottery number was 47, which a few years earlier would have guaranteed my receiving a draft notice.

But it was 1973.  "Vietnamization", the handing over of the war to ARVN forces, was in progress.  I would have gone.  I sure didn't want to go to prison.  I was unathletic, and I wore glasses.  I figured I'd probably  be made some kind of clerk.  But I never got an induction notice.  So that was it.  No glory at all, and no lifetime of obsessing about having been in a war.


Workingman's Dead

"Ow you goin' Albert' Tupe asked storekeeper.
`Rotten. I'm all any'ow today.'
`I 'eard a good one yesterday Albert, there was a chap died, see, and when 'e was dead 'e went to 'eaven. Well after a day or two 'e went to the side like and looked to see if 'e could see any of 'is acquaintance down in 'ell. 'E sees one that 'e used to be friendly with and 'e calls down to 'im "Ow do Ben, 'ow be you goin'?" `Fine thanks Jim." "There wouldn't be no way of my getting down to where you works Ben would there" 'e says. "Ow's that Jim?" "'Ow many hours d'you reckon to work down where you are Ben?" "Four-and-a-half with the weekends off." "Yus," 'e says, "and it's ten with us up in 'eaven, Sundays and all, there being so few on us to run the place on" that's why 'e wanted to change eh?'
 -Living by Henry Green


Blogging Reference: The Title Wave and the Big Read.

There's a lot going on today, here at the library and elsewhere:  the annual Title Wave book sale is happening in the garage downstairs, the library is kicking off its Big Read event, and a few blocks away in Bloxham Park, the Asian Festival is happening.

This years Big Read features Tim O'Brien's classic novel of the Vietnam War, The Things They Carried.

10:00  Open.  She wants The Things They Carried.

10:17  Yow, slammed.

10:29  Ok, let's see.  Helped woman on crutches find Japanese cookbooks, got pencil sharpener working for man.  Chatted with retired colleague RK, who had donations for us, took a call from Mr. L to check his info for "Fellowship@Midway Church".

10:39  I'm tired already!  Heavy lifting with man getting his first e-mail account at CenturyLink in order to apply for something else that requires an e-mail address.  Fortunately, he had his account number.

11:00  All right, I'm ready... to go home now.

11:23  Hopeless...

11:44  Took some pics of the Big Read Kick-Off.  Go to the album for captions.

From Title Wave & Big Read 2010

From Title Wave & Big Read 2010

From Title Wave & Big Read 2010

From Title Wave & Big Read 2010

From Title Wave & Big Read 2010

From Title Wave & Big Read 2010

From Title Wave & Big Read 2010

History Fair kids w dad, Bus Boycott, Prohibition.

12:00  Lunch

1:00  Hervé asks about special Mind supplement to Scientific American he heard about.  Actually is separate publication, Scientific American MIND.

MK gone to lunch.  It's quieted down.

I thought I would try using some of the public PC's we had shut down last week with a mysterious "blue screen" problem.  Not the well-known Microsoft Blue Screen of Death, but a blank blue screen at reboot that seemed related to our PC-Reservation program.  Repeated reboots had been unable to get past those screens last week.

But if it was a network problem, I reasoned, and we had no further incidents w other PC's this week, perhaps they would be all right now.  Three of the affected machines have worked fine so far today.

I looked in on the book sale at lunch.  It was crowded with people.  A photographer was there from the Democrat, interviewing shoppers.

From Title Wave & Big Read 2010

From Title Wave & Big Read 2010

From Title Wave & Big Read 2010

From Title Wave & Big Read 2010

From Title Wave & Big Read 2010

From Title Wave & Big Read 2010

1:32  Four boys looking for Cuban Missile Crisis.  Several titles on hold, but find some good material on shelf.  L. fetches bound vols. of Time Magazine for them.  L. says mom lived on Homestead AFB at the time, saw President Kennedy there during crisis.

"Where is Germany and Nazis and 1942?", asks woman.  German history? I ask.  "Just show me the area for 1942.  I don't want nuttin' 'bout no German history"  So what are we looking for?  "1942....World War Two"  Show her WWII.

What library hours for today and tomorrow?

Where is Consumer Reports?

GED test prep book.  All copies out, show her Learning Express online.  She's sold, doesn't want book.

Books on local gov't budgetary process.  Find chapter in book on pub. admin.  Turns out she works in budget office, but needs 15 sources for paper.  Suggest Gale search.

L. needs help loading heavy duty stapler.

2:03  I am at satellite desk by non-fiction, leaving main desk to MK and L.  Ahhh.

Cuban Missile boys w mom sit nearby, working on their history fair project.

From Title Wave & Big Read 2010

Where are Spanish language books to help her daughter?  Show her books, tell her about downloadable Spanish instruction from OverDrive.

Little House on the Prairie books?  Take her down to Junior Fiction, but can't find them!  Ask D., who points us to them.

4:16  This turned out to be the blogpost that crashed and burned.  The surplus of energy and attention that I needed to do this today got used up.  I needed it all to help people.

I'll try again next time.  Thanks all, for reading!


Manhattan 2010 Travelogue

Our flight to NYC on Thursday, Sept. 30, was worrisome.  Storms moving up the east coast caused havoc with flight schedules.  We were delayed three hours in Charlotte, NC, and had to settle for an additional change of planes in DC.  Miraculously, our baggage arrived with us.  We landed at Abingdon Guest House around 8:30, ate an easy supper at Tavern on Jane, and turned in.

The storms hit the Mid-Atlantic region in earnest.  The news that night was full of stories of flooding and fatalities.  Forearmed,  we hoisted our umbrellas and ventured forth into the Village, with a couple of bookstores as waypoints, Partners & Crime and Three Lives & Company.  Partners & Crime didn't open until noon, so we moved on to Three Lives, which sets a standard for what an independent bookstore can be.  Absolutely clean and fresh, with an amazingly well-chosen selection for its relatively small space.  No "bargain books" or remainders tables.  No dross at all.  I bought a Penguin edition of three novels, Loving, Living, Party Going by Henry Green, whom Anthony Powell admired.  R. bought Restless by William Boyd, and A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé.

From Manhattan 2010

R. shopped a little on Bleecker Street.  We had lunch at John's Pizzeria.  We continued down Bleecker to Laguardia Place, passing through a strange zone of Metal/Pirate themed rock bars, and up through Washington Square.  Back to Partners & Crime, where I recommended to R. Red Hook, Reggie Nadelson's revealing 2004 novel about NYC real estate speculation and the fetishisation of Bohemia.

Supper at Mary's Fish Camp, where the food was very good, but where we were put off by the cramped tables and the noise level.  Maybe we're getting old, but Tavern on Jane had been very loud, and at Mary's, we had a hard time hearing the waitress.

Breakfast at Café Cluny, which seemed an oasis of peace.  Two perfectly poached eggs with short-rib hash for me, a ham & cheese croissant for R.

North on Washington toward Chelsea to walk the High Line Elevated Park.  It was everything I hoped it would be.  That an inspired group of visionaries could make a neglected industrial site into a place of refuge and beauty seemed to me a miracle.

From Manhattan 2010

Back to our room to put our feet up, and then off to the Rubin Gallery, having lunch on the way at the Chelsea Gallery Diner, a reuben sandwich for me, french onion soup for R.  We saw the Photos of Bhutan and Sikkim taken by John Claude White, a British diplomat stationed in Sikkim, around the turn of the last century.

We are spoiled by the stunning color work of photographers like Galen Rowell.  White was one of the first to photograph a portion of the Himalayas on his surveying expeditions, hauling his enormous wooden camera and fragile glass plate negatives on yaks over formidable terrain.  He accompanied the Younghusband Expedition to Tibet in 1903.

Another floor at the Rubin had an exhibition of Himalayan sacred art, cast metal statuary and Thangkas, painted or embroidered silk "icons".  I was amazed to see it.  In my twenties I was attracted to Tibetan Buddhism, and I once attended a retreat at the Baton Rouge Dharmadatu Center.  I'm sorry I missed the exhibit starting this week, Embodying the Holy: Icons in Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism.

We rested our tired eyes and feet back at the guest house.  We had some time before our reservation at eight for dinner, so we walked a few blocks to the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, sat on a bench, and people-watched as the sun went down.

From Manhattan 2010

Supper at Piccolo Angelo, around the block from the guest house.  I had pasta and sausage with broccoli rabe.  R. had lasagne.  The space was small, maybe 100 square feet, with 50+ diners packed in, and it was so loud that I had to lean across the table to hear my wife speak.  The food was spectacular, though, and we traded plates after a while.

We ate so much that our stomachs hurt.  Our ears were ringing from the noise.  Groaning in our room afterward, we wondered whether this might be our last visit.  I sipped scotch and read Green's Living, a tale of factory life in 1920's Birmingham, England.  It reminded me strongly of Alan Sillitoe's later novel of 1930's Nottingham, Key to the Door.  After several hours, feeling no longer in pain, but only full, I turned in.

We took a taxi up to Midtown, to the Church of Our Saviour at 38th & Park Avenue, in the Murray Hill neighborhood, for the 11 o'clock mass.  When I hear Pope Benedict talk about the patrimony of the Anglican Church, I think of Father George Rutler.  A former Episcopal priest, Father Rutler has made the Church of Our Saviour a synthesis of all that is best in the catholic tradition of Christianity: Roman, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox.  Worship there is an experience of an ecumenically catholic Divine Liturgy, ushering one into the heavenly temple, in the company of the angels and saints.

From Manhattan 2010

Again by taxi to the Café Sabarsky, a restaurant featuring Viennese food, in the Neue Galerie, a museum of early twentieth-century German and Austrian art and design.  Thinking of my mother, I had an open-faced liverwurst sandwich with onion comfit, followed by a slice of sachertorte and coffee.  Yum!

Some of the works on display at the museum, however, particularly those by Egon Schiele, I thought were grotesque and unlovely.  We moved on up 5th Avenue to the Guggenheim Museum to see the exhibition, Chaos and Classicism: Art in France, Italy, and Germany, 1918–1936, as well as some side rooms with works by Kandinsky and others from the Early Modern period.  I was thrilled to view the paintings by Kandinsky.

To see a work like Blue Painting on the wall before me was electrifying.  Reproductions in books cannot impart the magic of such a painting.  Our visit to the Guggenheim turned out to be the high point of our visit, and a very satisfying way to end it.

It took us a few tries to get a taxi back to the West Village.  A couple of drivers wanted fares to Brooklyn, and turned us down.  Finally we found one who cheerfully took us back by way of FDR Drive along the East River, skirting busy Midtown with all its Sunday crowds.

We weren't sure where to eat supper.  We wandered along Bleecker, looking at menus in windows.  Everything sounded too heavy.  No more potatoes!  We found ourselves returning to Café Cluny.  It had been so pleasant and calming Saturday morning, and it was again.  We both had fish: pan-fried skate for R., and poached cod for me.

Walking back to our room, we stopped in at Left Bank Books, which has moved since our last visit from its old location on West 4th Street to a space two doors down from the guest house on 8th Avenue.  Left Bank Books is devoted to Modern and Postmodern literature, and to the Beats.  Its front windows were filled with collectible first editions:  Lolita, for example, in the 2-volume Olympia Press edition.

I don't collect rare books, but the last time I visited I found a really nice hardback reading copy with dust-jacket of Walker Percy's The Moviegoer.  I'd only had a cheap old paperback all these years until then.  I didn't see anything that I wanted, (apart from a pricey edition of Kerouac's Visions of Gerard that I had read years ago), but then R. spotted War Prose, a collection of pieces about the Great War by Ford Madox Ford, and I bought it.

Back in our room, we spent some time packing for our flight back on Monday, then settled in to watch a new Kurt Wallender mystery on PBS.  We'd had a fantastic visit, and fallen in love with Manhattan all over again.

From Manhattan 2010


Manhattan 2010 Album

Manhattan 2010

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