We are off to NYC tomorrow for a change of scenery.  We'll be staying at the Abingdon Guest House in the West Village, as usual, in the Garden RoomAbingdon Square has become our NYC neighborhood, and we love to settle in there for a visit.

On Friday we will take a relaxed ramble through leafy Greenwich Village, following our noses, and have supper at Mary's Fish Camp.

Saturday we'll walk the High Line, a disused elevated railway that has been transformed into a park.  I noticed this railway when we first visited the West Village.  Its terminus was just north of the Abingdon Guest House, in Chelsea, the "meat-packing" district.  I've followed the progress of its "greening" for several years, and I'm excited to see it.

We plan then to visit the Rubin Museum, to view a collection of large format photographs of Bhutan and Sikkim taken by John Claude White at the turn of the last century.  Supper Saturday night at Piccolo Angelo.

On Sunday, Holy Mass at the Fabergé egg Church of Our Saviour with a learned homily by Fr. George Rutler, and an afternoon at the Guggenheim.

Home on Monday to Tallahassee,  where a man can live like a king on a librarian's salary.


In This Great Future...

I was one of the first in line for a library copy of William Gibson's third novel in the Bigend series, Zero History.  Gibson is a brilliant futurist.  But having finished God is an Englishman, I found that I wasn't ready for Zero History.  For now, at least, I am weary of the future.  I picked up instead Alexander Fullerton's WWII sea novel, A Share of Honour, which had come in through interlibrary loan, letting Zero History go to the next hold.

Michael Winerip wrote a column in the NYT last year, Aging by Megabyte, that continues to speak to me about growing old in the new digital culture.
Somewhere between the cellphone and BlackBerry, I stopped. I pay my bills by mail, not online. I listen to music on a CD, not an iPod. I e-mail, I don't I.M. or friend people on Facebook or Twitter.
Winerip is a little older than I am.  For me, the disconnect is touch-screen technology.  Pushing pictures around on a screen is to me the ultimate subversion of text.  But it's relative.  There are still die-hard command-line types who won't go near a graphical user interface at all.

I think that I need fiction now as an anchor, to bind me to the past, to nourish my roots.  I have supplied the needs of enough older readers to know that it is natural, as I draw closer to the age of 60, (I'm 56 now).

It puts me in mind of of the Mitford series of novels by Jan Karon, which were enormously popular with my readers at the senior residential communities when I ran the bookmobile service back in the '90's.  They are about the life and times of Father Tim, an Episcopal rector in a small North Carolina village, far from the stress of modern life, a southern Lake Woebegone.

I recall an old woman, her husband deceased, living at Casa Calderone apartments, (affiliated with the Co-Cathedral here), who, upon my delivery of the latest Mitford installment, said to me with such longing, "I wish I could go live there!"  I begin to understand her.


Cloud of Witnesses: Pope Benedict beatifies Newman in Albion

I wish you could have seen, as we did on Sunday watching on EWTN, the cheering crowds that attended the beatification mass for Cardinal Newman celebrated by Pope Benedict in Birmingham on Sunday.

The press in the United States ignored the Pope's visit to the UK almost completely, generally using the occasion solely as an opportunity  to renew its predictable attacks against the Church as a hothouse of scandal and intolerance.

I have to credit the New York Times for making an effort, however, keeping in mind the tenor of its readers.  Pope Ends British Trip With Beatification notes pleasant surprise on the part of British Catholic authorities at the size of the crowds greeting Benedict.  Op-Ed Columnist Ross Douthat's rather timid, "two cheers" piece, The Pope and the Crowds, nevertheless reaped a harvest of angry comments from outraged readers.

Billy Graham's Crusades, in their heyday, were regularly broadcast on network television, but there was a kind of drama there.  Billy would say, at the final altar call, that we at home watching could also make a decision for Christ by simply standing up and approaching our television sets, and writing for helpful literature on our Christian walk.  And as absurd and comical as it might sound, I confess that I did stand before the TV as a boy and make that decision.

An outdoor mass, celebrated by the Pope, is different.  There is no altar call, no appeal to non-believers.  Why would you care, if you are not already Catholic?  You have to keep that in mind, if you feel aggrieved by the lack of coverage in the press.  Fortunately, we have EWTN now, and viewers all over the world e-mailed their gratitude for being able to watch the beatification mass and the other events of the Pope's visit


Two Years, 255 Posts

My first post was on September 19, 2008:


My sister Carol invited me to join Facebook. I began to write on it, but with only immediate family as an audience, and with almost no feedback there, I began to want more exposure.

For want of anything better, I've named this blog "Branches and Rain", the title of a recent piece I wrote on tropical storm Fay, which I borrowed from Arthur Rimbaud:

"I am the scholar of the dark armchair,
Branches and rain hurl themselves
At the windows of my library."
 But Rimbaud was a young Romantic when he wrote that.

My mother used to tell me, "Into each life some rain must fall".  It was from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

The Rainy Day
The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the moldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the moldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary. 


Blogging Reference

10:00  Open.  Confusion about a room reservation.  A kids' reading group thinks they have it, but it's booked for another group,  Pass to MC to sort out.

Today's paper.

Library web page is down, prob. b/c MIS is doing server maintenance.  Tell users to ignore page error msg & do search or put in new address.

Math book.  Take her to shelf.

Anonymous Rex by Eric Garcia and The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.  Have to get Ramsey from the bookmobile, always a challenge.  He says, "Who is the most awesome guy in the library?  Mr. Castleberry!", and shakes my hand.  Wow.

It's FSU at home v BYU today at 3:30.  A quiet afternoon?  I'll believe it when I see it.  Venn diagram of game attendees and library users might not show much overlap, I suspect.

10:41  More help with library web page error msgs.

Phone:  ML at the Northeast branch about the web page being down.  Yes, is MIS maintenance thing, is systemwide, not just NEB.

Help printing Yahoo mail.  She didn't know to use the in-page print icon.  I prob show this to users a couple times a day with various web mail apps.  They use browser file -> print and get a weird result or an error.

PC for Kathy.

Dave L.,  where are books on the Vikings?  948.02.

How to make an interlibrary loan request?  Show Request Materials link on web page, which appears to work now, and web form to fill out.

Not crowded yet.  11 PC's available.

11:15  Woman shows up to have test proctored.  MK handles it.

Help woman get PC next to one her son is using.

PC for Azael (?).  He doesn't want that one, hard to use ear-buds w it.  Grrr.  Give him another, but urge him to get a library card.

Woman has browser problems, reboot.

Where is Asian Festival?  Supposed to be in Lewis and Bloxham Parks downtown.  Find it on calender at the Asian Coalition of Tallahassee .  Is on October 9.  Can't think which of the 7-park chain are Lewis and Bloxham parks.  They are the ones east of Calhoun Street.

Phone:  Mr. L.  Says he is tired today.  Contact info for Benchmark Office Systems.

Where is PC 52?

Dessert cookbooks, take to shelf.

Where is PC 53?

12:45  Back from lunch.  Again room confusion.  He has come for Tallahassee Climate Change, but the room's booked for Democratic Veterans Caucus.  He thinks he may have the date wrong, will call his contact.  MC double checks the bookings in admin.

Help little boy make a PC reservation with his card.

Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.  Don't own, 1977 pub date.  Take ILL request.

Phone:  renew The Day After Tomorrow by Allan Folsom.

Take man to American History, on way back woman w laptop snags me to show her Florida Teacher Certification test competencies and skills at FLDOE site.

Where is PC 56?

Help girl install MS Office 2007 Compatibiity Pack so she can open .docx file.  (Ya know, I shouldn't have to do this...)

Phone:  Connie at PKY, send ILL renewal request for Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure by Paul A. Offit.

Man wants list of titles by John Sandford.

Phone:  blind man wants recipe for hummus bi-taheena.  Did not know that hummus is simply the arabic word for chickpea, so that I had to puzzle out which recipe with hummus in the name was the appetizer we are  familiar with here.

Makes me want to go to the Sahara restaurant and eat some.  Source:  From the Lands of Figs and Olives by Habeeb Saloum and James Peters.

Todays paper.

Democratic Veterans Caucus is here.  Previous group still in room.  They are good about clearing out.

Help woman copy SS card and DL.


Where are childrens books?

Phone:  JL in Media, looking for MC.  Give him ext for ofc.


Retape Middle-Eastern cookbook dust jacket & reshelve.  I heard this week that "cookery" has been retired from the LC subject headings.  (sigh)

I've been learning so much from Delderfield's God is an Englishman, set largely in the 1860's.  Seaside holidays for townsfolk became popular, and possible, with the coming of the railways.

Andrew Martin's The Blackpool Highflyer takes place against the background of such a holiday in 1905, forty years after my Delderfield story.

Woman approaches w daughter and reading list for school.  Take her down, point her to JD at the Youth Services desk.

Where can he buy stamps nearby?  At the PO branch across the street, I suggest.  No, says he, he's been there already.  Hmmm..

2:25  Looks like we have our quiet afternoon.  One hour to kick-off.  We'll pay for this tomorrow.

PC help.  Woman's caught a fake "MS Security Essentials Antivirus" virus.  Reboot to wipe.  Man needs help making text size larger for Rock LP auction results.  Another woman needs to print PDF presentation w multiple pages per sheet.

PC for Shivuri.
PC for Destiny.

Complaint from male student about fat guy grabbing self and making faces at him.  We go to the back of non-fiction, but man is gone.  Student sees him through the window, getting into car in parking lot.

Help enlarging photo.  Help w Facebook.  Help getting mouse to work with game.

Security gate goes off.  Pass him through.


Go around cleaning up computer area, putting chairs back.  Place has cleared out, many PC's not in use.

PC for Rudolph.

Man can't open PDF.  Rename, remove period from filename.

PC for Tyrell.

Two gamer kids:  "That man on 51 watching nasty stuff!".  I sneak up on the man, who is now watching mildly steamy anime.  Put papers back on rack.

Henderson room empty. Turn out lights and lock up.

4:13  Back from search in bookmobile collection for the Handbook of Lawnmower Repair by Franklynn Peterson, (1978).  Found it!

Phone:  What is the number for Halloween crafts books?

4:30  30 min. announcement.

Phone:  Ann P. wants Odd Pets by Dorothy Hogner, wants status of pending ILL's.  Three shipped on 9/17.  Send Odd Pets to ILL.

10 min to closing.  Over & out.

Third Stone From The Sun

With the long-dreaded, now done ordeal of the disposal of my parents' house behind me, the working week has seemed like light duty, though long hours at the service desk early in the week kept me from my own desk in the workroom until Thursday.

My current projects are:  wrapping up my current batch of Baker & Taylor lease book returns and getting them out the door before I leave for Manhattan on 9/30, finishing the moving of non-lease fiction overstock from the fiction wing to unused space over the periodicals, and catching up with book donations set aside for me by the Friends of the Library volunteers before the October "Title Wave" book sale.

On Wednesday I attended an online presentation by OverDrive  on patron assistance with downloading their audio books and e-books.  OverDrive is one of our two vendors of digital media, the other being NetLibrary, which has recently been sold by OCLC to EBSCO.  It was an excellent presentation, and I turned parts of it into a troubleshooting guide to use at the service desk.  I really have to congratulate OverDrive.  They are doing their homework and making their product easy to use.  I know that our patrons are using OverDrive, because I can see how many of their titles are in use.  But calls for help are relatively rare, even though patrons must install several pieces of software first, and compatibility varies across different platforms, (Windows v. Mac, iPod, iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Sony Reader, B&N Nook, etc.).  NetLibrary has the better, and more academic, backlist, and I truly hope they survive, but OverDrive is getting it right.

I was a little embarrassed to post God is an Englishman on my reading list.  Delderfield is anything but edgy.  I had enjoyed his A Horseman Riding By, and the BBC television production of To Serve Them All My Days.  The library doesn't own God is an Englishman.  I could have ordered it through interlibrary loan, but I felt sure that someone would donate it.  Sure enough, the whole trilogy, including Theirs was the Kingdom and Give Us This Day fell into my lap earlier this year.  It is about a man, Adam Swann, who resigns his commission in the East India Company's army to start a horse-drawn hauling business, in a time when the railroads seem to be taking over.

I have to say that at the age of 56, reading Delderfield, I only now understand what drives the businessman.  But Swann is something of a dream employer.  My own experience of family-owned businesses is not that good.  Swann cares about his workers.  What I have observed is that families that own businesses often look out only for themselves, which is one reason I have a government job.


Ma'am Revisited

It's not unusual for stories that appear in the New York Times to find coverage on NPR's All Things Considered, and on our way back to Tallahassee from Central Florida last Wednesday, we listened to a segment, Please Don't Call Me Ma'am, with the author of the NYT article, The Politics of Polite, Natalie Angier, as a guest.

The interesting part was the call-in listener responses, which were unanimously in favor of the use of "Ma'am".  Not one listener echoed Ms. Angier's unhappiness with the usage.  She dug in her heels, but admitted that her own daughter was embarrassed when she gave a waiter a hard time about it.  She ended up sounding like a cranky old feminist.  Should we call everyone "citizen" or "comrade"?

Still, it's made me pay attention to my own use of "Ma'am".  I use it quite a lot.  One perspective that my wife offered, which was left out of the discussion, is the racial one.  It means a lot to African-American adults to be called "Sir" and "Ma'am", and she's right.  I have noticed it myself.


Return to African-America

It's back to work Monday morning, and I realize that I've not so much as spoken to a black brother or sister since I left.  From dealing with my parents' house with my sisters in Windermere, to our visit to R.'s aunt & uncle among the retirees of Clearwater, to my attendance at a 60th birthday party today  in a crowd of boomer hippies, I have been in a wholly white world, like a missionary home from the tropics.

It reminds me of the time we passed through Boulder, Colorado in 1981, and were uncomfortable with its unalloyed whiteness.  It will be good to return to the company of my African-American friends at the library.  I have missed them.


A Visit with Uncle Ray and Aunt Pat

Birdsong Motel

We rolled into Clearwater late Tuesday afternoon, checking into the Birdsong Motel in Largo, just to the south, (click on the picture for the album of Birdsong Motel photos).

Depositing our things in our room, we went with Ronda's Aunt Pat to see Uncle Ray in the hospital, where he was being tested.  I was so tired from my house-cleaning efforts in Windermere.  Ray showed us an album of photos of his quite remarkable paintings.  I kept drifting off, closing my eyes.  I had to force myself to sit upright and attend to his narrative.

Ray must have noticed my fatigue, because he sent us off after a little while.  We went from there to Bob Heilman's Beachcomber Restaurant on Clearwater Beach.  The Beachcomber  is a time machine to the 1950's, with a serious bar; professional, mature waiters; live lounge music; and excellent, if old-fashioned, food.  Ronda had veal picatta, and I had "bronzed" jumbo gulf shrimp.

It rained while we dined, so we had to forego a walk on the beach.  St. Pete/Largo/Clearwater has the best white sand beaches in the world, bar none, I say.  You're wasting your money if you go to the Yucatan or the Caribbean islands.

We returned to the Birdsong Motel, had some drinks, watched some TV, and turned in.  I slept like a dead man.

We had breakfast at the Largo Family Restaurant, a watering hole for local seniors.  I had ham & eggs with grits and rye toast.  Talk was of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team.

If you want to feel young, plan your vacation for St. Pete/Largo/Clearwater.  Away from the beaches, the area runs on Social Security and Medicare.  People call you "kids", even if you're in your fifties.

Ronda called Pat.  She had taken Ray home, and we were to join them there.  Ray looked so good, back in his house, and we had a wonderful visit. He and Pat have so many interesting stories.  They have been faithful Catholics all their lives, and it was easy to see that they had true peace of mind, whatever may come.  We were glad that we made our visit.  It was like what the Hindus call darshan, a blessing received by being in the presence of a guru.  Just being with Ray and Pat was like getting a blessing.

Then we climbed back into our Subaru Impreza wagon, which has been such a great car on this long journey, and headed north toward home.  I don't usually listen to music while I drive, but the Dead's American Beauty had been playing in my head all during this trip.  After lunch in Crystal River, as we drew clear of Central Florida for the long run up Highway 19 to Tallahassee, I put the CD in:

In the book of love's own dream,
Where all the print is blood,
Where all the pages are my days,
And all my lights grow old,
When I had no wings to fly,
You flew to me.


Departure from Summerport Beach

From Summerport Beach

It seemed fitting, on this last day of emptying my parents' house, that I got lost trying to find it, and later drove back to my sister's house in Eustis through a summer storm so intense that I could hardly see the road.  Both of these these things commonly plagued me on visits to my parents in recent years.

The topography of the land between Winter Garden and Windermere has been remade so utterly, and the names of real places have been so freely borrowed for new "places", that I often become disoriented.  There is for example a "Summerport Village", a housing tract nowhere near Summerport Beach, nor any body of water.  Today I simply went too far along County Road 535, missing my turnoff to the lake.

My own task was to deal with my parents' books.  They both were intellectually active, and they left many collections of books about German language, history and travel; botany & horticulture, mineralogy, family genealogy, surgery, Central Asia, Scotland and the Hebrides, the colonial South, cookery, oriental rugs, the Mennonites, Alaska and the Russian Orthodox Church, the novels of Arthur Upfield, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Ann Bridge, the memoirs of Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

I once read in a book on book collecting that among the enemies of books are to be counted librarians, and I confess that it is true.  You can't bear to throw away the set of the World Book Encyclopedia that you bought for your children in 1975?  Not to worry, donate it to the library and we will throw it away for you.  Out of three rooms full of books, I culled five boxes that might find new homes, which I left guiltily, like foundlings, at the entrance to the Windermere branch of the local public library, (which was closed for Labor Day).  The rest I pitched into the shipping container-sized dumpster we had rented.

My mother, a former journalist, and my father, a retired doctor, were both masters of paper-era office procedures, and they left a number of file cabinets full of meticulous files of research and correspondence, and many cardboard storage boxes of the same.

My father was an active photographer, and there were countless boxes of slides and prints of family events, orchids & bromeliads, and medical procedures.  I was surprised to find a boxed Graflex camera, which it seemed he had not done much with.  There was also an Olympus 35mm SLR with many attachments, which appeared to have been his main camera.  He never made the leap to digital photography.

Dismantling my mother's workstation, I uncovered layers of PC history.  An expert typist, she moved to word-processing as soon as it appeared, back in the early '80's, (many years before I myself became computer-literate), with WordStar.  I found installation disks for IBM DOS 1.0 and 1.1, and for WordPerfect 5.1, line printer paper, and boxes of unused  5¼-inch diskettes.

Breaking for lunch on Saturday at Taquitos Jalisco in Winter Garden, my sister Amy recognized a girlhood friend with her family.  They knew someone who was interested in the house.  He came by on Sunday with his wife, and again today.  They live in Windermere, but they want to raise their small children on the lake.

I had taken the book donations to the library and come back with a Subway sandwich, which I was eating by the sliding glass doors looking onto Lake Butler.  I saw the man's wife come around from the side to the back terrace, and stand looking out at the lake.  In that moment, watching her from behind, I knew that she wanted the house.  He called Amy later today to say that he would send a contract with a down payment.

So, all's well that ends well.  Tomorrow we're off to Clearwater to visit Ronda's Uncle Ray and Aunt Pat, and then home on Wednesday.


Gravitational Pull

Today was all about preparing to leave the library for a week in Central Florida.  I will be joining my two sisters to dispose of my parent's belongings in their house in Windermere, in preparation for putting it up for sale, and then visiting my wife's aunt and uncle in Clearwater.

I had to sort through the book donations that had accumulated on the "For The Library" shelves in the book donation room, mail out my list of book donations sent to Collection Management in July and August, arrange for a substitute to take my hour next Thursday for the AskaLibrarian digital reference service, fill out my time sheet that will be due next week while I am gone, update a South Asian Fiction list for a display that starts Monday and fetch the poster for the original display from the Graphics room, ask my supervisor to see to e-mail reference questions and toner inventories.

It's not easy, handling your parents' things.  But it's time.  We are  ready for closure, now that my mother is gone, and my father can't do it himself.  Alas, time waits for no one, no favors has he.

Who will deal with my stuff, when the time comes?  I don't have children.  It is incumbent upon me to deal with it while I am still able.