Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Gawky Library

It's smallish, and old.  As far as libraries go, it reminds me of the skinny kid on the edge of the playground with his neck out, his hands in his pocket and his feet shoving dirt because no one is picking him for dodge ball. 

I drive pass it thousands of times without noticing the library sign facing the street, a one story slope roof building on the edge of a parking lot.  It borders the middle school that you also don't notice, even if you walk through the grounds besides the earthquake shelter like classrooms.  They look like track homes from the 1950s, for the low income families.

The neighborhood is posh.  Across the street you will find fusion style cafes and restaurants, boasting a menu full of sun dried tomatoes, organic chicken, and sweetened coffee with fancy Italian names.  A church with steeple roof and stain class windows takes up the southern corner, giving the whole area an air of rich spirituality.  I've stepped inside that church once, it's as mellow as its congregations, unlike the burnt beans you will taste in that Starbucks across the parking lot.

But the boy falls in love with the school, turns out they let the kids surf for PE credits.  Only in California, friends of mine laugh while shaking their heads when they hear this.  So I come closer to this library now, and once I even step inside for a used book sale.

It is quiet inside, hardly anyone about.  The used books are stacked on low shelves on castors, which they scattered in the otherwise empty foyer, save for the doors to the washrooms.  I spot "My Life in France" by Julia Child immediately, something I've been wanting to read ever since I saw that movie - "Julie and Julia" which has become a favorite.

Then I walk about and scan the hardbacks, fingering their stiff spines and shiny covers.  I find "Remains of the Day" and unsurprisingly, the prose strikes me with its beauty.  I can't put it down.  But I don't have my wallet, so I fish around my five pockets jeans, and locate 25 cents which will entitle me to one of the two books. I get the Remains and walk on into the main room.

It is small enough that I can see from one end to the other, even with all the book shelves in the middle - about the size of the great rooms in my rich friend's $1million houses.  The feature shelves in the front reminds me of the "big desk" in book stores, where they pick out reader favorites or best sellers so you don't have to walk around the whole store to find them.  I find some good reads there, Stephen King, teen romance and Goldfinch all make an appearance, nicely balanced in their subject matters, sizes and heft. 

Beyond those there is a row of computers on an extended long desk, where several people are sitting and making clicking noises with their mice.   High shelves line the back wall, above which are transom windows which faces the morning sun, so splashes of white light came into the room and makes everything look cozy and warm, especially the large square desk facing the back wall.

That's where I decide to sit, away from the east side wall where story hours seem to be underway.  Though the reader is merely whispering and the children are merely listening with rapt attention, I sit on the other side of a tall shelf separating me from them.  I face the long wall of books on all three sides, the front door behind me, light pouring down over me like rain from the tall transom.  Scanning through the fiction section, I spot an ample selection of Tolstoy, Irving and more teen romances.  No Nabokov but plenty of T. C. Boyle.  I sit back down, deciding to write rather than read.

It has been tough finding a good writing spot.  The cafes are so noisy and bumpy with crowds that seem to flow in and out all hours it is impossible to concentrate.  My bums cry out in pain after 10 minutes on those hard chairs.  The yard crew goes crazy with the leaf blowers and tree trimmers every two days.   Restaurants, sigh, forget about it with all the "would you like to order anything else" guilt trips.  Conference rooms at work give me other kinds of guilt when I'm not doing "work" work.

Finding the tiny library and making it into my writing space is a blessing I can smile about, as can my bums as they sink into the soft green cushions.  I raise my eyes towards the light filled window, seeing the gawky kid standing at the edge of the field smile back, and taking his hand out of his pocket, to finally shake mine.

2 comments:

  1. Libraries are places of wonder. Although, I confess, the booksale room is akin to what I imagine a junkie feeling when walking into an opium den.

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  2. I tend to agree with you. 25 cents for The Remains of the Day, I really couldn't believe my luck there. If only I had my wallet!

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