Hard Times

You can't help feeling it, if you work in a public library as I do, where so many come for help:  a sense of desperation.

A man who remembers me, though I don't recognize him, asks if we have case law bulletins.  No, we don't have any case law, just the Florida Statutes and the Rules of Court.  I suggest the State Supreme Court library, down the street.  He says he has lost his job with the Department of Revenue.  He had thought he was safe. He looks about my age, in his fifties.  Who will want to hire him?   A lot of people here in the state capital are sharing his pain now, as cuts to state agencies take effect.

Outside on the first floor landing, I overhear a black woman shout into her phone, "I have zero in my bank account!  Zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero!"

I remember telling the man cutting my hair back in the mid-nineties, the Clinton years, that we would remember those years as the good times, and I was right.


To Largo And Back

On Sunday the 10th, the day after my last post, while I was at the library, R. called her Aunt Pat in Largo, down in Pinellas County, north of St. Petersburg.  Uncle Ray was in the hospital again, and it didn't sound good.  We must go down for a visit.

We left on Tuesday morning, driving down out of the red hills of Leon, joining Highway 19 at Perry for the long ride south through a monotonous corridor of pine trees and cabbage palms.  The great majority of traffic south uses harrowing Interstate 75, which goes down the middle of Florida, through Lake City, Gainesville, and Ocala, before turning west towards Tampa.  I like a more relaxed pace, preferring lonely Highway 19.  Its 65 mph limit seems plenty fast for me.

We stopped for lunch in Cross City at the Cypress Inn, pulling in among enormous pickup trucks.  Workingmen browsed the buffet, crews eating together.  The burgers and fries were passable, the service was good.  The Cypress Inn is the only place I've ever actually seen Freedom Fries and Freedom Toast on a menu.  I've forgotten why Americans are supposed to be mad at the French.  Rural Dixie County is the whitest county in Florida, and one of the poorest.

We arrived in Largo around 3:00 pm, checking in at the Hampton Inn.  R.'s Uncle Art, Pat said on the phone, had arrived from California early that morning, and was resting up at the Hampton.  Ray was out of the hospital and at home.  We all met at Ray and Pat's at 5:00, and after some conversation, Pat fixed supper for us:  pot roast, mashed potatoes, and vegetables, with brownies and ice cream for dessert.

We returned to the hotel, and walked at sundown in Largo Central Park, across the street.  It was a beautiful park, but it was so hot that I was sweating by the time we got back to our room.

Largo was very familiar to me.  It was much like Maitland, a suburb of Orlando where I grew up, with modest, (by today's standards), residential neighborhoods and schools, built in the '60's to house us boomer children and our parents, now showing their age.  I felt a sense of appreciation for what our parents built, coming to Florida after World War Two, and raising new towns on the Central Florida scrub land.  Hard to believe that was 50 years ago.

We visited again the next morning, and returned to Tallahassee later that day.  We were glad to be back home, and our cat, Claudius, was happy to see us.

Back at work on Monday, my week has been all about broken equipment, reporting copiers with problems, PC's with sound issues and browser search hijack viruses, a printer with a paper jam.  I've often said that they didn't tell us in library school how much time we would spend keeping all the machines in working order.


Blogging Reference

I didn't blog live today.  It had been a long week, and I didn't have the strength.  I rode to work under an overcast sky.  The prediction had been a 70% chance of rain, but the day gradually cleared to partly cloudy and very humid.

I noticed, after opening the conference room for a group, that the large print section was a shambles, so I spent some quiet time in the morning straightening it.  I discovered  a half dozen DVD's that someone had hidden there behind the books.

Our afternoon was dominated by two young, apparently single, mothers, each with two small children, who were collaborating on a school assignment online.  They had deposited the children at a table with some children's books while they worked on a paper for over two hours.  They really did try to mind their children while they worked, but the tots were unable to restrain themselves from making a lot of noise.  We sympathized, and remarkably, no one complained.  Here were two young women, already mothers, with no fathers around to help, and no money to pay a babysitter, attempting to make a future for themselves.  That is what the public library is all about.

An older man, possibly a retired attorney, wanted to find a list of courses at the FSU law school in the fall.  He wanted to take a course on tax law.  I went to the FSU law school site, and navigated to the fall 2011 course listings, which I printed out for him.

He was astonished.  What had he done wrong?  He had done a search for "Florida State University Law School courses for fall 2011", and spent an hour looking, with no success.  He was too specific, I said.  The reference librarian decides where the information is likely to be found, and goes from there.  Google is not magical.  Even the best search engine still does poorly with natural language queries.


My July Fourth

Up at 8:45.  Coffee, cigarette, morning prayer.  Shave; egg & toast & fruit salad that R. made for breakfast.  Strip the bed & launder sheets, mow front & back lawns, hang up sheets to dry.

Shower & eat lunch, chicken salad sandwich R. has made.  We listen to Fresh Air on public radio, an interview of country music singer Rodney Crowell about his memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks.

Now what?  Take a walk?  It's too hot.  We decide to go to Governor's Square Mall, where we both buy new clothes at Dillard's.  I need new shorts, and we find pairs in khaki and blue in the Daniel Cremieux department.

Home.  Make the bed.  What shall I read next?  I had read about half the stories in William Boyd's collection, Fascination, before they became tiresome, Boyd seeming preoccupied  with what Crowley naughtily referred to as The Three Kings, (Smoking, Drinking and F__king).  If sex is the "theater of the poor", I think it must be the church of the intellectuals.

I had enjoyed Alan Bennett's biographical essays in Writing Home and Untold Stories, so I decide to begin reading Anthony Powell's memoirs, To Keep The Ball Rolling, in four volumes, beginning with Infants of the Spring.  Powell writes such delicious prose, with his endearing habit of describing something by what it is not:

If the Powells knew little, and cared less, about their annals, that was not equally true of the Wells-Dymokes, who were not at all disinclined to congratulate themselves on selected aspects of their lineage.

The July Fourth gathering in Tom Brown Park is notorious for being rained out, and though there was only a 20% chance of rain today, the sky turns dark, and at 5:15 the showers pour down.  We had planned to grill a steak for supper, with baked potatoes and salad.  The rain lets up in time for me to light the grill.  I grill the steak while R. makes a salad of tomatoes, lettuce and artichoke heart.

We watch The Journey Home on EWTN.  Tonight Marcus has a military chaplain, who reminds us of our new parochial vicar, Father Tim Holeda, a former Marine.  Then we say the rosary.  We watch Steve Martin play his banjo on PBS's Capitol Fourth, but we have to turn it off when they bring on performers from American Idol and Dancing With The Stars.


Stan Rogers - The Jeannie C.

We were enjoying The Midnight Special this evening, a folk music program on public radio, and this was the final selection.  I had never heard of Stan Rogers, a Canadian singer/songwriter who died tragically in 1983, but his marvelous voice made me sit up and listen.


We'll Meet Again No More

We had a party today to  celebrate the retirement of K. and M. in Collection Management.  I didn't know K. well, but she had been a cataloger since the '70's, at FSU and then with us.  Her extended family seemed to fill half the room.  I had been close with M. in circulation when I started at the library in '89 in the former J. Byron's space at the Northwood Mall.  We used to smoke together in the mall parking lot.  The library moved to the new building in '91, I left circulation to run the bookmobile in '92, and M. escaped to Collection Management some years later.

I spent most of the afternoon moving 40 cartons of rental book returns down to the parking garage for pick-up next Wednesday.  Good to have them out of the workroom.

A woman wants the "Book of Thomas", says it addresses the childhood of Jesus.  She can only mean the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which is readily available online.  But since she doesn't have an e-mail address, I send a request for The Apocryphal New Testament to interlibrary loan.

MC departs for a much-needed week off at Chincoteague Island in Virginia.  I must stand in for her at the weekly management meeting next week.

I am enormously enjoying William Boyd's novel, Restless.  There and in Any Human Heart, Boyd displays an understanding of the revolutionary currents of the '70's.