Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I Kill My Darling

Saturday's love is Tuesday's meal.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bryan's Handler

BO and I bought a motorcycle today. On the drive home I became his handler, following behind so no one would cut him off. I also fended off the ladies with a stick out my window.

People (usually women) keep asking me if I'm nervous for him to be riding a motorcycle. Obviously they haven't spent much time with my methodical, meticulous, intelligent husband. But I understand he can't control how other drivers behave, and perhaps this give me a little apprehension.

Earlier this morning, Bryan and I were in his car and spotted a dog loose in the neighborhood. Bryan asked me to get out and approach the salt-and-pepper poodle. After he led me around the complex a few minutes, he must've decided I was innocent enough and let me pet him. He didn't have a collar, and when I told Bryan this, he said, "We gotta take him home and make up fliers."

But the dog then led me back to a house. After I rang the bell, a man answered, look at me and then at the salt-and-pepper poodle, and said, "Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh."

Dumbly, I asked, "Is he yours?"

He nodded. "Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh."

By this time the dog had sauntered through the door and out of sight. The man thanked me profusely, and I just nodded, said, "Sure," and walked away.

It was Bryan who'd insisted we stop and try to get this dog home safely. I hope other people on the roads will look after my husband, too.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wooed in the Supermarket

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Allen Ginsberg.

I hear the supermarket's a good place to get a date. In Vons this afternoon, I fell in love with a gorgeous eggplant, and just had to ask it to come back to my place. Luckily, the eggplant agreed.

I have no idea what I’ll make with it—probably parmesan—but not today. I want to admire it for a few more days, in much the same way Rosie O’Donnell once said she wanted to hire Tom Cruise to do work around her house, just for the show.

Summer fruit looks to be all done for this season. The trays that had held lofty pyramids of white nectarines and massive peaches the last few months have been replaced with apples. Don’t get me wrong, I love apples—I really do—but it was mid-eighties today. Those apples must’ve been flown in from below the equator. Summer can’t be over yet, can it? Bryan and I haven’t grilled enough dinners. We need more Saturdays in the backyard with Time magazine and glasses of cranberry juice. I want to take Louie on more nighttime walks, and feel the just-cooling air on my skin. In college, a roommate and I used to run through the campus sprinklers behind our apartment on late nights that were still nearly eighty degrees. Can I do this in our complex?

But the last few mornings have been so foggy it’s almost mist. It clears, but soon it will be clearing later and later in the morning. By the time May gray comes around—with the next summer hiding behind a tight corner—I will be thirty-one. Is that too old to run through sprinklers? What peaches and what penumbras!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"In-N-Out Burger" by Stacy Perman

I love working at Miramar College. The students are engaging, the staff is supportive, and there's an In-N-Out down the street.

This book is a look at the history of a family-run company that has historically been extremely tight-lipped about their goings-on. And the history is the stuff of a family saga filled with jealousy, money, drugs, heaps of lawsuits, and some fanatical Christianity for good measure. The Mondavis have nothing on the Snyders.

But this is also a book about a company that has never wavered on "quality, cleanliness, and service." And they pay their employees respectable wages.

At writing conferences, speakers often talk about the primary goal of a story is to keep its reader turning the pages. This book, with its many plot twists and turns, kept me reading and thinking "Just one more chapter and then I'll stop. Just one more chapter. Just one more..."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lights Out

Today, my electricity went out. Whereby I mean my library card expired.

I couldn't log in to my library account, and it was like I was suddenly left without power, water, or some other equally crucial utility. Like my DVR.

This had happened a few years ago, and I just had to go to the library, show proof of residency, and my card was reactivated. Before this, I hadn't known that library cards actually expired.

Here are a few other things you might not know about libraries.

With a San Diego city library card, you can go to ANY branch library and check out books. I got this question a lot during my thirty-six-in-sixty-six. "Doesn't your hand get tired from filling out all those card applications?"

And once you check out a book from any branch, you can likewise return the book to any branch.

I'd always admired the Del Mar library from afar, lamenting the fact that it wasn't part of the city of San Diego. But then I got an email one day from Chula Vista's head librarian, who told me that, with proof of California Residency, I can get a Chula Vista library card for free (out of staters can check out books, too, they just have to fork over a mere twenty bucks). So I checked, and with San Diego residency, you can get a SD County library card that's good for Del Mar and the thirty-three county branches. The Del Mar and Chula Vista libraries are now both on my list of places to be visited.

So I did visit all thirty-six libraries in thirty-six days. But if all I wanted were the books, I didn't have to venture past my local branch. You can request a book from any other branch and have it transferred to a branch of your choice for pick-up.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Beginnings and Endings

Today, the Tri Club has a new President. Very soon, it will have a new Membership Coordinator. After a three years in the position, it's a good time for me to move on.

When I was growing up, my mom used to say that I had a problem with beginnings and endings. I think I had a problem with beginnings and endings that I didn't want to happen. I am completely content to be leaving this Tri Club post.

It is fortunate that people go through different phases. A few years ago, I might've considered it a personal failure that I no longer want to constantly be training for a race. But I've come to realize that if people did continue with something indefinitely, they probably wouldn't discover anything new--they wouldn't progress or evolve. And if they did discover new things, soon they wouldn't have any time to sleep, so chock-full would their lives be. I don't believe there's ever a point of no-return. And while I also don't believe in quitting prematurely, I believe that there is always something new, whether they are a skydiving nonagenarian, or a thirty-year-old writer.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

"Olive Kitteridge" by Elizabeth Strout

This book is awesome. But what I want to talk about isn't the linked short stories within these covers, but the author interview that follows them. In it, not only is Strout interviewed, but her fictional character Kitteridge is, too.

And it's a complete joke. These stories have pathos that crash over you, again and again, like a set of tidal waves. As a reader you really go somewhere with Olive and her town of Crosby, Maine. But then to reach the end and begin the interview, hoping that Strout might explain where these characters came from and how their sum narrative arc was choreographed, and instead find Olive has been cheapened to coy remarks to the interviewer and Strout--well, I felt taken advantage of. Like Ralphie from "A Christmas Story," where Annie's secret message is a crummy commercial for Ovaltine.

In one of these stories, a character rips pages out of a magazine that contain a short story that reminds her too much of her sorry state of affairs. In reading this interview, I wanted to rip it out of the book so it wouldn't contaminate what is truly remarkable writing.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Technical Difficulties

I know. I can't believe I'm going to give up this car in three weeks, either.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I Heart Austin Palmer

And you thought I was done with cursive.

Earlier this week, the ESOL teacher whom I'm assisting said she pays extra attention to her penmanship when writing in cursive on a student's paper. She said many English language learners aren't very familiar with cursive. Which is not something I'd thought about before.

Most cursive and print letters are similar, which I'd imagine make things pretty simple for an English language learner. The uppercase Q is a perfect quagmire, but most letters aren't as difficult. Like the "M" or "m". If you could recognize the printed versions, you'd probably recognize their cursive counterparts.

I think it was my dad who sent me an email forward with sentences consisting of words with some letters out of order. But, because there's enough that's correct, you can read the sentence perfectly well. Your mind makes the correction. (I tried to find a link for this, but wasn't successful. Anyone know what I'm talking about?)

While I like writing and cursive, my cursive is actually a hybrid of cursive and printing. I sort of took the letters that I like from each type, and made my own writing. But this could be difficult for ESL students. So I tried to make my comments only in cursive. Except for my capital "F"s. Too fussy.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I mean no disrespect to my family or my heritage, but these plum dumplings are the best thing about being Slovak.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


The bookstore at the junior college where I take my Spanish class was robbed this afternoon.

I was in there this evening returning a book, and after the cashier had adroitly dealt with a rude customer (who wanted to return a book without a receipt, and wasn't going to take no for an answer), she helped me. I felt compelled to apologize for the rude customer on behalf of all bookstore patrons. The cashier seemed to take it in stride, saying, with more than a twinge of sarcasm, "People like that make my day." Then she told me about the robbery. I was shocked and asked if she were okay. She said she was, but still shaken up. It was appalling that she was even still working. Shouldn't you get to take the rest of the day off, paid, when you've been held up?

Obviously, the rude, receipt-less customer had no idea what that cashier had been through earlier in the day when she was berating her. I lost my cool earlier this week when a neighbor's dog--running loose without a leash--was nearly hit by Bryan's car, and then ran into our garage and wouldn't leave. I shouldn't have yelled at the girl who owned the dog, and who was frozen on the street, refusing to come and get her dog. Maybe she had just been yelled at by her coarse father, maybe kids at school tease her for being chubby.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dotting One's Eyes and Crossing One's Tees

In Spanish class last week, we students had to write sentences on the board. As I was walking up, I overheard one student tell another, "I don't even remember how to do it. It's pointless."

She'd been referring to cursive writing.

I just picked up a piece of chalk and began writing, but what I really wanted to do was turn to her and say, Cursive is extremely practical! People may not often write anything of substantial length anymore (thanks, Twitter), but when they do, cursive is faster and easier on your hand.

I hear lots of kids aren't able to read analog clocks, because it's no longer taught in grade schools. And this cursive-phobic student was younger than me. I am not going to use either example as proof of our society's decline. I fancy myself an optimistic person. And anyhow, I think society keeps getting better (cruise control? Hello!). But I think cursive--and pens and pencils in general--adds something to our society and the way we communicate.

Writing is slower than typing. Which gives you more time to think about what you're writing, and therefore more carefully consider your words. Which just may lead to better writing. Or at least writing that's more thoughtful. I've reaped this benefit with fiction writing umpteen times.

Sure, a cursive capital "Q" looks pretty funny. And both types of "z"s have an awful lot of loops. But, come on. Handwriting. It's so simple. It's tactile. It's real. And if you're left-handed, it's wonderfully messy.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Growth Spurt

The seed packet said these beets would be ready for harvest in 58 days. 77 days in, they are half-inch nubs. I'm hoping they'll hit their teenage growth spurt--although without the awkward voice and bad skin--soon.

This season's to-date fig count: 43.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Mi nueva palabra favorita de español (de mi tarea de hoy) es:


which is pronounced "teekiss-meekiss"
and means "picky."

En relación a comida, Louie no es tiquismiquis. Come todo, incluyendo pretzels, gusanos y Slim Jims.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Like so many things in life, I couldn't have predicted what I'd see and learn before taking on this "thirty-six libraries in thirty-six days" adventure.

San Diego, like most of California, is a car culture. You get in your car, you drive somewhere, and you get out and go about your day. You don't have to interact with many strangers. Spending so much time in local libraries got me out and into our city.

I had no earthly idea how big San Diego is. Really. I'd always thought the southern parts of the city were Chula Vista and National City, and the eastern parts were El Cajon. I drove on the 905 and 94 for the first times.

And I could never have expected my navigational skills would improve, although they did, if only just a little.

I read books that I didn't know I wanted to, but am so happy I did. There was The Driver, which was lacking in grammar but made up for it in adrenaline. And My Antonia, which I am absolutely positively going to go back and read all the way through. And A Woman Alone, which made me want to go on vacation.

I found out that, when you love your job, it shows. I had hoped this would be the case with librarians, but I wasn't sure before I set out. After all, they have government jobs at a time when governments' budgets are being drastically reduced. But every librarian whom I asked about their job responded that they loved it.

How am I faring in these first two days after finishing this project? I've gone to my local branch twice.

Here's what I want to say in relation to September 11. Libraries are so ubiquitous in San Diego, that you almost don't question their presence. But like I was saying yesterday, things can become so routine that they're taken for granted. So many other countries don't have a single library, let alone one every ten miles. It's just one reason that makes us all so fortunate to be Americans.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What You Have Become

At Starbucks this morning, I overheard a man talking on his cell phone. First he made a business call. Then he called someone else, and said he was at Starbucks before heading into a nearby medical building for his first radiation treatment. He said he had to start his treatments now, because the cancer was so far along. Then he made another business call, and proceeded to talk about one of their employees. It seemed that the guy on the other end wanted to can her, but this man kept saying "Nah, she's doing all right."

I'm not saying he had any type of religious conversion, but I wondered if his cancer had changed how he treated people. Maybe the diagnosis had made him realize how caught up he'd become in corporate life.

Like how something can change so much, but gradually this change becomes routine, and you forget where you used to be. I am thinking of my neighbor who's always screaming at her children. Surely there was a time when their house wasn't filled with curse words? Does she ever think of it?

Thoughts on my library journey are coming. I need one more day of perspective.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

#36: Carmel Mountain Branch

Visiting Time: 2:15-1:40 PM
Did I get lost on my way? Nope!

Book Selection: 3 bookmarks
Seating: 2 bookmarks
Staff: 4 bookmarks
Architecture/Atmosphere: 3 bookmarks
Total: 12 bookmarks

Whew. I made it.

Bryan accompanied me to this library so I didn't have to cross the finish line alone. Despite the poor quality of my exterior photo (so many of these wonderful libraries don't lend themselves to a single exterior shot, unless you don't mind standing in traffic, or have a ladder), this was an awesome library to go out on. Bright, airy, and with windows all the way to the ceiling. And, as Bryan pointed out, chock full of tutors and their pupils.

I spoke with a clerk named James, who referred me to the children's librarian named Heidi. She told me the library was built about twelve years ago, when this area of San Diego was developed. When I told her that I loved all the natural light, she said every window can be opened, if so desired. Usually, though, they prefer to keep them clamped shut with the A/C on.

A perk of this library is its proximity to Costco. After leaving, we celebrated there with frozen yogurt. A good, Jewish friend of mine refers to Costco as his Mecca. I might say the same of libraries, although Costco would still be high on my list of holy locations.

Which leads into my book choice: Cooking in Style the Costco Way. What does "cooking the Costco way" involve, you ask? The book is a collection of recipes that can be made with Costco brand ingredients (or ingredients from any grocery store, I'm sure). Later this week, I am going to attempt the cheddar risotto.

Tomorrow, I will have thoughts on this library journey as a whole.

(My thirty-sixth door.)

(I was about to choose this book when I found the Costco one.)

(Nice study areas. Although some chairs might be helpful.)

(Outdoor patio.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

#35: Central Library

Visiting Time: 9:30-11:15 AM
Did I get lost on my way? Nope!
Book Checked out: It's a DVD actually. And it's titled "Learn to Drive Stick Shift"

Book Selection: 4+ bookmarks (It has everything a gal could want)
Seating: 1 bookmarks
Staff: 4 bookmarks
Architecture/Atmosphere: 2 bookmarks
Total: 11 bookmarks

I approached this library with the mindset of Hearst Castle. You can't see it all in one day, so just pick a tour and enjoy what you do see.

Turns out I was able to see most of this three-story library in a decently detailed fashion. The big disappointment was that The Wangenheim Room (rare books) didn't open until 1:30. But not to worry, I will be back.

I did spend some time in the Genealogy Room, which has books on the history of all fifty states, prominent American families, and extensive records of US immigration. I looked for my father's family, but the best I could find was a Panic who'd settled in Illinois.

Even cooler was the Art, Music, and Recreation section on the second floor. Here, I found filing cabinets filled with folders of pictures. I asked a librarian named Vic what their purpose was, and he said stage designers or artists sometimes consult the images when creating a set, painting, or sculpture. Brilliant! He said with the advent of the Internet they're used less often. But they are still used, because there was a stack of folders waiting to be refiled. Some photos come from newspapers or magazines, while others are cut from books being taken out of circulation.

The Mini that Bryan and I ordered (which, by the way, has gone from "On Order" to "Scheduled for Production" to "In Production" to "Awaiting Transport!") is a manual, so he's been teaching me how to drive his manual car. (This weekend, I became a hill driver extraordinaire.) And while Bryan's a fine teacher, extra resources can't hurt. So I checked out a fifteen-minute video on the principles of stick shift driving. It was a tough decision between this and the Romance Reader's Handbook. (I told you, this library has everything!)

The video demonstrates manual driving principles in a Mini Cooper, which was pretty cool. But the DVD was really scratched, rendering most of unwatchable. Proof that digital can't replace old-fashioned books. At least not yet. The video was shot in San Diego, though, so many of the jerky frames I did get to see were of Mission Beach and Point Loma.

I don't like to get into the politics of things, but if you want the latest scoop on building a new central library, go here.

(This is what I call selection.)

(Empty shelves for 519-530. Which means room for more books about astronomy.)

(A picture from the "Bowling Alley" folder. Which was came after "Bowling" and before "Bowling History" and "Bowling on the Green".)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

#34: San Carlos Branch

SAN CARLOS BRANCH (You gotta have friends)
Visiting Time: 12:20-12:35PM
Did I get lost on my way? Not with Bryan as my driver.
Book Checked out: Good Work: When excellence and ethics meet (Howard Gardner, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and William Damon)

Book Selection: 2 bookmarks
Seating: 1 bookmarks
Staff: 4 bookmarks
Architecture/Atmosphere: 1 bookmarks
Total: 8 bookmarks

We are almost there! After this library, I have just two more to go. Thanks so much for accompanying me on this odd, exciting trip.

Bryan and I had originally planned to hit the Central library today. But I wasn't sure I was up to such a challenge on a Sunday. Some people are intimidated by their bosses; I'm intimidated by multiple-story libraries. I think I'll be ready to take it on come Tuesday, when it will be my penultimate library.

The San Carlos branch felt like my elementary school's library. Pretty basic and utilitarian. But, of course, its guts--its books--are as good as the ones in the swanky Mission Valley branch. Bryan checked out the magazines while I looked for my book of the day. Today my interest was piqued by Good Work. Who doesn't want to feel good about the money they earn?

While I was reading this book, a Russian couple came in. I looked up and smiled at the man, who then loudly replied, "Hello." Then he and his wife went to the Russian language section, where they proceeded to argue about books. Too charming.

The clerk who checked out my book said there was no timeline for the construction of the new San Carlos branch. But check back in a decade or so, and they may have broken ground.

(Where the new San Carlos library will be. In one or two decades.)

(Beautiful, no?)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

#33: Paradise Hills Branch

Visiting Time: 12:20-12:35PM
Did I get lost on my way? Nope
Book Checked out: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J. K. Rowling)

Book Selection: 2 bookmarks
Seating: 1 bookmarks
Staff: 4 bookmarks
Architecture/Atmosphere: 2 bookmarks
Total: 9 bookmarks

Not much was going on at this library. The building is a small rectangle, with tables in the middle and bookshelves around it. For a second I thought I was back at the Allied Gardens, so similar are these libraries on the inside. As I drove to this branch, I didn't see many "hills" in the vicinity. And "paradise" is a tough name for any neighborhood to live up to, and this one was no exception. Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather live in a place called "Average," and have the place outshine its name.

I borrowed the first Harry Potter book. I wanted to see what the fuss is about. I didn't get too far into the story, but if time allows, I'll keep reading.

Whatever. If you want to see something really interesting about San Diego, check this out.

(I love me a good homophone.)

#32: North Park Branch

Visiting Time: 11:00-12:00PM
Did I get lost on my way? Nope
Book Selection: 3 bookmarks
Seating: 3 bookmarks
Staff: 4 bookmarks
Architecture/Atmosphere: 2 bookmarks
Total: 12 bookmarks

This library is busier than Starbucks on a Monday morning. There were people reading magazines, people reading books, people in the stacks, on their laptops, on the library's computers, kids in their section. The place was hopping.

I can't go through all the San Diego libraries without learning about them through a book. Today, I checked out a book by one of the library's longest-serving librarians. It was really cool to read references to many of the city's branches and be able to think back over this month and say, "Oh, yeah. City Heights. The one with the bookmobile." I felt so in-the-know.

(Looking towards the children's area.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

#31: Valencia Park/Malcolm X Branch

Visiting Time: 2:00-3:00PM
Did I get lost on my way? Nope
Book Checked out: Innumeracy: Mathematical illiteracy and its consequences (John Allen Paulos)

Book Selection: 3 bookmarks
Seating: 3 bookmarks
Staff: 4 bookmarks
Architecture/Atmosphere: 3 bookmarks
Total: 13 bookmarks

I knew it would happen sooner or later. On today's library trek, I ended up at a branch I'd previously been to. Of course it was nice to be back, but it threw off my catch-up-from-last-weekend schedule.

Before erroneously showing up at Oak Park, I checked out the Valencia Park branch. I am beginning to think that the single biggest impact on a favorable library atmosphere is a high ceiling. This branch feels open and airy, bright, and a place you could study (which many people were doing) or read for pleasure (which I was doing).

This pleasure reading concerned the problems that arise in a society that either doesn't value or doesn't bother with getting statistics correct.

From the introduction:

"I remember once listening to someone at a party drone on about the difference between 'continually' and 'continuously.' Later that evening we were watching the news and the TV weathercaster announced that there was a 50 percent chance of rain for Saturday and a 50 percent chance for Sunday, and concluded that there was therefore a 100 percent change of rain that weekend. The remark went right by the self-styled grammarian, and even after I explained the mistake to him, he wasn't nearly as indignant as he would have been had the weathercaster left a dangling participle."

So writers and mathematicians aren't so different after all.

Paulos' story of the partygoer's error reminded me of Wednesday's ESOL class, in which a student asked me whether the word "studying" were a gerund in this sentence:

"She's in her room studying."

I didn't know. (In my defense, I've been scarred by two years of Latin and its inane use of gerunds and gerundives).

The professor and I figured it out, though. "Studying" is part of the present progressive "is studying" and simply split by a prepositional phrase. Occasionally, it is good to be called out for not knowing something. Because when you find the answer, you won't want to forget it and again risk embarrassment.

(Awkward photo of center computer terminals. From here, a small ramp leads up to half of the book stacks.)

(Fountain near the entrance.)

("Paleolithic Outcroppings" [according to a sign] in the branch's parking lot.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

#30: University Community Branch

Visiting Time: 11:45-12:30PM
Did I get lost on my way? Nope
Book Checked out: The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exúpery)

Book Selection: 2 bookmarks
Seating: 1 bookmarks
Staff: 4 bookmarks
Architecture/Atmosphere: 2 bookmarks
Total: 9 bookmarks

I came to this library knowing what I wanted. Over breakfast, I'd told Julie how I'd enjoyed reading a ghost story to Bryan in Spanish ("¿Dónde está mi d-e-e-e-d-o?"), and she'd told me how much she'd enjoyed reading The Little Prince in a college French class. The La Jolla branch didn't have a copy, but the UC one did. Reading this book makes me want to grow my own perfect, single rose. So far, the only two books I've read cover to cover in this library marathon have been juvenile/children's books. And no, I'm not embarrassed about this.

I must say I was underwhelmed by this branch. Of course, its books are as good as the ones in the swanky La Jolla branch. But there were only four padded chairs, the rest being hard wood. And then there was the disagreeable patron who was unhappy with his computer's wireless connection (I think?) and let the staff know it. I like to think my days at Starbucks have improved my eavesdropping skills, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out what his beef was. To be fair, I'm not sure the staff understood either, and quite possibly not even the man himself. Can't we all just get along? Maybe tomorrow I'll check out something about Rodney King.

So I took this charming children's book home, and read its second half in peace (and heat!) in the backyard.

(Unfortunately, these are the best seats in the house.)

#29: La Jolla/Riford Branch

LA JOLLA/RIFORD BRANCH (You gotta have friends)
Visiting Time: 10:30-11:30AM
Did I get lost on my way? Nope

Book Selection: 3 bookmarks
Seating: 4+ bookmarks
Staff: 4 bookmarks
Architecture/Atmosphere: 3 bookmarks
Total: 14 bookmarks

This is the type of library one could spend an afternoon at. Three levels, lots of cushioned seating (pictures better than mine can be found here), and plenty of space to spread out. The branch was built in 1989 and expanded in 1994. Parking in this park of La Jolla is tight, but a librarian named Deborah told me library staff has an alley they park at. It reminded me of when I worked nearby a couple years ago, and sometimes had to move my car several times a day, because all I could find was two-hour parking. Ah, barely-above-minimum-wage work.

I ambled through the basement stacks for quite some time before settling on a book about fishing. It took all of my might (and the public accountability of this blog) not to break my rule of only borrowing books by authors I've never read before and check out Bill Bryson's Africa Diary. Or The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed. But wait until next week, when my library excursions are over. I'll be coming for you, Bryson and McPhee.

(The only bummer about this library is that almost half of the adult books are in the basement.)

(Reading area on the third floor.)

(Covered reading porch on the ground level with fireplace and water fountain. This room was open-air before the expansion.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

#28: North University Community Branch

Visiting Time: 4:15-4:45PM
Did I get lost on my way? Nope
Book Checked out: Take this Advice: The Best Graduation Speeches Ever Given (Sandra Bark, editor)

Book Selection: 3 bookmarks
Seating: 3 bookmarks
Staff: 4 bookmarks
Architecture/Atmosphere: 3 bookmarks
Total: 13 bookmarks

Librarians have told me how great this branch is. It didn't disappoint. And apparently I and these librarians aren't the only ones who feel this way, because this branch was hopping. It's set in a new part of UTC, amidst megalithic apartment buildings that were burned down by ecoterrorists in 2003.

I tried to find a humor book, but everything was either politically related or involved bodily functions. So I ended up with a compilation of college graduation speeches. Tonight, Bryan is going to hear Will Farrell's 2003 address to Harvard, and Mary Robinson's 2004 speech to Emory graduates.

(DNA? RNA? A divining rod? I'll have to ask Bryan tonight.)

(Adjacent to the library is a dog park!)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

#27: San Ysidro Branch

Visiting Time: 2:45-3:15PM
Did I get lost on my way? Nope
Book Checked out: Historias de Miedo 1 (Alvin Schwartz)

Book Selection: 1 bookmarks
Seating: 2 bookmarks
Staff: 4 bookmarks
Architecture/Atmosphere: 4 bookmarks
Total: 11 bookmarks

After being out of town this past weekend, I am doubling up on libraries to make sure I visit all thirty-six in thirty-six days. After leaving Otay Mesa, I continued south a few more miles to the San Ysidro branch. As this semester's Spanish class looks like it will disappoint--and owing to the fact that I was right next to the Mexico border--I checked out a book of Spanish ghost stories. Si mi professora no quiere enseñar español, me puedo enseñar.

I talked with a librarian here named Mike, a substitute who fills in wherever there's a need. I've talked to quite a few of substitutes this past month, and they have all been a helluva a lot smarter than the teacher substitutes I used to have in school.

One of San Ysidro's permanent librarians (Lorena?) told me the branch opened in 1924 as a county library. It became a city library in 1957, and in 1984 was remodeled and expanded (see picture below). At some point in the future, it's supposed to get replaced with something even bigger.

(Side view. Until 1984, the library was just the left half of the building.)

#26: Otay Mesa-Nestor Branch

Visiting Time: 1:45-2:30
Did I get lost on my way? Nope. :)

Book Selection: 2 bookmarks
Seating: 3 bookmarks
Staff: 4 bookmarks
Architecture/Atmosphere: 2 bookmarks
Total: 11 bookmarks

At Starbucks this morning, I sat next to a trio of homeless people who'd bought coffee and were sharing a newspaper. Not long after sitting down, one man began reminiscing about the time before he'd lost his sense of smell.

Then he proceeded to tell the woman in their group how he and the other man had yesterday gone through the trash cans of what I believe is my complex. Apparently they'd made a good haul, filling two big bags with aluminum cans.

They read the paper some more, and then the second man began reading facts from an article about the La Cañada wildfire. It reminded the first man of San Diego's 07 wildfires, and he described how he'd lived and eaten at the Qualcomm evacuation center. After a few days, the volunteers began asking for names and addresses--which he didn't have--so he had to move on. But he said "it was good while it lasted." The three of them thought maybe they'd try to make it up to LA, and their evacuation shelters.

Towards the end, the first man said this: "I miss two things. A refrigerator and a shower. That's it."

This is a longwinded introduction to say that, after such a morning at Starbucks, I went to the Otay Mesa library looking for a book on homelessness. Surely, I thought, someone's written a memoir about having been homeless. It seems like good book idea, but I couldn't find it. What I did check out didn't disappoint, though, which is proof to me that one can't over-think things.

I checked out The Daily Coyote, the memoir of a writer/photographer who moves to Wyoming. The writing is deeply felt and, as it's accompanied by some of the author's photographs, is something I can recommend to my father.

Anyone know who the Nestor benefactor is?

(A picture of a picture.)

(Courtyard. Really pleasant in the shade. In the sun, freakin hot.)

(View of the library from the street below.)