Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Loving a Library


Though a home church still eludes me, I've found a library I'm coconuts about! The La Jolla Public Library is the sweetest of its kind. Just off of Draper Avenue, the outside is painted a buttery color with terracotta roof shingles framed by bright purple-pink flowering trees.

Verdigris benches graced with seashell designs stand guard, one on either side of the library's doors, and offer respite to homeless men and women. To see these bedraggled individuals at the doors of such a knowledge-saturated institution strikes me as ironic and sobering. These ghosts of their former selves haunt the La Jolla Library; a place set in one of the most privileged areas of the United States, a place that offers free knowledge. It occurs to me that if we, its more fortunate patrons, were somehow clever enough, wouldn't we be able to arrive at some solution for the helpless at the doorstep? I imagine what it must be like to be them each time I walk past. A week ago, I observed a woman reclined on the bench with her bags of who-knows-what acting as cushions with a half-drunk soda which, I suspect, was from a trash can given that its cap was no where in sight. She wore a flower absurdly tucked in her matted hair and was perusing a book, whose title I missed. She stroked her skin on the arm that led to the hand that held the book while she hummed to herself as she read. While I was looking at her, I squinted my eyes in order to blur her image, as I would've done when I was a little girl to make lit street lamps look like fuzzy points of light. Thus distorted, the woman was just a shape with color, and I imagined her as some artist's abstraction of one of those paintings of an elite woman, finely attired, reclined on her chaise taking in a novel. I didn't feel pity for her at that moment, I was happy for her, as she sat contentedly in that sun-drenched spot where one can smell the ocean.

Yesterday I returned to the library to return some DVDs and CDs I'd borrowed. I was in sort of a hurry as it was one of several errands I needed to run, so I felt a twinge of impatience when I saw three females surrounding the outdoor drop-off box. I'm not a patient person. I took a deep breath and told myself to not be a jerk, which meant smiling kindly at them and standing an extra foot away so as not to disturb them. I picked out the little girl out of the three first. She wore only a lavender bathing suit with yellow polka dots and a ruffle around the waist, not even sandals, and her fine brown curls rested on her head like a little cloud, so light and wispy they were. Her process was thorough and deliberate: slide one book at a time off of the stack her mother held for her, reach up on her tiptoes and open the mouth of the metal receptor, drop the book in, let the spring-loaded mouth shut and swallow the book, repeat. The stack of children's books was at least 10 high. Her mother smiled at me with a look of appreciation, sans apology which I liked because there was nothing to apologize for and I understood from her smile that she recognized my exercise of patience. The child's grandmother held a canvas bag which, I supposed was the book carrier, and watched the child with fondness. Though I'd be lying to say that all impatience had evaporated, I'm glad I got to watch the collaborative effort of these three generations.

I finally returned my items, went inside, and found the CDs and DVDs I'd been looking for quickly. I heard a couple teens talking and laughing loudly down the corridor and watched a librarian speed walk past me leaving a wake of strong perfume, puffing air, headed directly for them. She stopped and, standing an uncomfortably close distance from them, rebuked them in whispers saying, "High noise levels are jarring to our patrons!" I resumed my perusing when a minute later I was greatly startled by a snorting, guttural sound to my left. I glanced over to see a library guard in a chair against the wall from where he was presumably charged to keep watch. Yet there he was, slumped in the chair and emitting what this patron would refer to as a most "jarring" snore. His head was supported by his second, third, and fourth chins and his hands were folded over his plump middle. He let out another sonorous snore which the librarian, who had returned to her post, conveniently ignored. But when I started to laugh and was joined by a guy next to me who was now snickering too, she, naturally, leaned over her desk and frowning at us, shot us a sharp "Shh!"

Finally, I checked out with my favorite librarian, whose name I don't know. She calls me by my first name; still a novelty in a city where I'm relatively unknown. She always wears earrings that match her outfit perfectly. Sky blue shirt, sky blue earrings the exact same shade, coral, yellow, sage green ensembles are all accompanied their respective pair of earrings; her daughter makes them for her. A couple weeks ago she greeted me wearing a denim blouse with a farm scene embroidered on the front. As for the earrings, she had out-Heroded Herod; in the right ear was the cow's front, and in the left ear was the cow's backside, udder and all. They were a stitch. When she asked me if I liked them, I glanced at the left ear, then the right, again to the left a few times then suddenly I became worried she'd read my act of speechlessness a 'no,' so I told her they were perfect with her blouse. She beamed at me, leaned over the books, and proceeded to tell me all about her single grandson.

1 comment:

G said...

This is me catching up:

1. I love that you love your library. I confess I have only ever visited my own local library out of sheer necessity and to check out books for students who refuse to use books as references (much easier to point and click).

2. Having only ever read Farenheit 451 your recommendation of Dandelion Wine intrigues me.

3. And this is a side note. I love that you have cute coffee shops and beaches. I love where I am living now, but the beach is still 1 1/2 hours away and the only coffee shop I like even a little bit is Starbucks.