Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Brooklyn Heights #50, 12/20/06

Oh my god, so yesterday, I was in line at the post office, and I had to wait like FOREVER!!! It was soooooo lame...just kidding. Aren't you glad it isn't one of those kinds of blogs? But seriously, back to libraries.

Yesterday I received something in the mail that I need to make copies of...what it is is of no importance. And I don't know any local copy places, and I refuse to go to FedEx Kinko's, because the one in Burnsville, Minnesota ripped me off to the tune of about a dollar. And then, suddenly, it hit me! Holy shit! Libraries have copy machines! Can life get any sweeter!??!?! Probably not.

Last night I finished Founding Brothers, and it was very good, though I don't think I'd say excellent. I really enjoyed learning more about the personalities of Franklin, Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and the rest, but it seemed like Ellis had somewhat of a bias for certain figures (Adams, Washington) and against others (Jefferson, Madison). He also seemed to let them off too easy on the issues of slavery and the Native Americans, essentially saying "Yes, those things were regrettable, but what else could the founding 'brothers' have done? They didn't want to split up the nation! Revolutionary ideals and such!" Overall though, the book had some good insights, and the way it focused on certain key events in the early days of the republic was very interesting. I just have a feeling I would differ politically from the guy.

Branch: Brooklyn Heights
Location: 280 Cadman Plaza West at Tillary St.
Transport: bicycle
Books: Shutting Out the Sun by Michael Zielenziger; The Quitter by Harvey Pekar
Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2006

So this morning I woke up around 10, loaded up the backpack, and headed over to the Brooklyn Heights Branch. It's a gorgeous sunny day (I really should've written this tonight rather than waste it, but oh well) and the bike ride over was very enjoyable. I went up 3rd Ave., cut across the Gowanus Canal on 9th St., and went up Clinton St. the rest of the way there.

The library is great, really big and well laid out, and it looks nice from the outside too. There was a water fountain right when I went in which is a big plus. The first floor is just the business library, so I headed up to the second. On the way there is a hallway set up by some sort of Doll Museum, with a bunch of fancy dolls in glass cases. It was pretty neat. They also have a stuffed animal type version of a globe, only it isn't an animal and I totally used to have it. The books themselves are very intuitively laid out, and it was easy to head right over to the biography section.

I was initially looking for the book Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller (based on a customer's recommendation back at the old B&N), and they were supposed to have it, so I checked, but to no avail. The woman at the information desk told me it was in the biography section, but when I said I knew, she couldn't give me any more information. Which was weird, because she was under a giant sign that said information. Oh well, she was nice enough.

Then I was panicked, I wandered from section to section, wondering what to read, having no ideas. It's like being in a music store and suddenly getting the odd feeling that you don't like music and you never did. Too much choice! Eventually I remembered there was some book about a Japanese "Lost Generation" called Setting Suns or Sons or something like that. Armed with no real information, I headed to the new in non-fiction area and sure enough, there it was. I also picked up The Quitter because I just reread my two American Splendor anthologies and really enjoyed them. This one is about Harvey Pekar growing up, and fighting people. Seems cool enough. Also I figured I can read a comic quickly, where the book on Japan might take awhile. Plus I still have The Plot Against America. Which I will read, really. I started it last night too. It's cool.

Getting copies was kind of a trip. I asked the info lady where the copy machine was, and she told me, so I headed over there. There was nowhere to insert money on it, just a place to swipe my card, so I did. It immediately told me that my balance of $0.00 was not enough to pay for a 15 cent copy. I then wandered around aimlessly until I found a kiosk where I could add money to my card, which was a bizarrely elaborate process. After finishing up, the guy behind me who was waiting to use the thing said, "It even gave you a receipt!" I had added 30 cents to the stupid thing, and I got a receipt. "Seems a little unnecessary," I replied. To quote Mitch Hedberg, I just needed two copies. We don't need to bring paper and ink into this transaction. Uh, that is, except for the copies themselves. You know what I mean, right? RIGHT???

The bike ride home was sweet, took Court to Union back over the Canal and the went down 3rd, and most of those streets have bike paths. I had a sweet game of cat and mouse going with a bus for a while, which I feel I eventually won. Then it was back up here to shower all the sweat off and write this delightful entry!

And that's all she wrote. Here are some photos.

This was the first part I saw. I thought it was a nice quotation, whatever it's from.

Some of the buildings in the area...

The front, with some neat engravings that I'm not sure are legible in this picture.

And, the whole building in two chunks.

That's it for me, and as for my many fans who enjoyed this daily update schedule for two days, I'm going to St. Louis for Christmas on Friday, so I can't go to any Brooklyn Libraries until I get back, which means no updates. But don't despair, I promise to update before the new year, so check in if you're interested, and thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bay Ridge #28, 12/15/06

I'm going to go to every public library in Brooklyn. Why, you may ask? And more importantly, why should I care? Unfortunately, I can't answer the second question for you, so I'll just stick with the first.

Since I still have no full time job, and because I like to read and go places, I’ve decided to travel to every library in Brooklyn, and get at least one book out from each one. And then read the books! The genesis for this idea comes from when I was living in Saint Paul, and I realized that just because I worked at a bookstore didn’t mean I had to keep buying every book I wanted to read. Plus, you know, saving money is nice. Saint Paul had some great libraries, like the nice, small town vibe of the Highland Park branch, and the big fancy Central Library. So, I started spending lots of time in them, and it was an excuse to get out of the house on the quiet days, and I ended up reading tons of awesome books and not having as much stuff to move when I came back to New York, which was great.

Being back in Brooklyn, and knowing that I didn’t know much about the neighborhoods except for Park Slope and Williamsburg (not to mention the unemployment thing), I decided to go to EVERY library in the whole Brooklyn Public Library system.

This blog is a little overdue, because I’ve already been to twelve of them. In the process I’ve read some great books, from El Borbah to a few different Hunter S. Thompson titles (I am now thinking of learning how to ride a motorcycle due to the Hell’s Angels book…) to a weird retelling of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur by a contemporary Russian novelist, to one of my new favorites(which was also made into a great Russian movie recently), Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko.

But, despite this promising start, I recently decided that I need to start over. No one will ever believe that I’ve done this, I realized. Despite my blabbing on and on about it to family and friends till they just can’t take it anymore, and the “proof” in the form of all the library books that I’ve been lugging around and reading in lieu of all human contact, something was missing. Pictures! I’m shitty at taking them, but I won’t let that stop me; I’m gonna get at least one pic of each library, which means going to some that I’ve already been to, but what the hell. I have plenty of time on my hands, and this seems like a constructive enough way to spend it.

I have an unlimited metrocard (because otherwise I would go crazy), so I have no problem getting to the furthest reaches of the borough. Also, I just recently replaced my bike’s tires and bought a lock, so that’s always an option as well. And that is how I went to what has become the first library on my new photo tour of the Brooklyn Public Libraries, the Bay Ridge Branch.

Branch: Bay Ridge
Location: 7223 Ridge Blvd. at 73rd St.
Transport: bicycle
Books: Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis; The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
Date: Friday, December 15, 2006

This was definitely a fun trip. Biking though Sunset Park (the neighborhood, not the park) at sunset is really gorgeous. I went down 5th avenue for the most part, and dodging the buses, cars, and people kind of sucked, but it also became like a game. Can I ride on the center line without dying? Should I jump up on the sidewalk to dodge a bit of traffic, even though for the most part I think sidewalk bikers are the lowest of the low? Are there cars coming, or can I run yet another red light? Good times.

As for the books, I hadn’t read any history in forever, and this Founding Brothers was always a popular one back at the B&N in Minnesota. Plus it won the Pulitzer, so I guess that’s worth something. And for whatever reason I was jonesing for something on the founding fathers, and 1776 is usually a hardcover in the libraries, so here we are.

The Plot Against America I’ve been meaning to read for a long time, because the idea of an alternate history with a more nazified America intrigued me (not least because it is pertinent today), and because I have heard that Philip Roth is a good writer, but I’ve never bothered to read anything he wrote before. So we’ll see how that one is.

I guess I’ll talk about how much I liked the books in the following entries, which is a bit of an odd format but seems like the only way to do it, since I don’t want to wait until I’ve finished reading them to write about the library.

As far as the library itself, it was dark when I got there, so it was very harshly lit by fluorescent lights. It’s very large and open, and was full of children and adults alike, even though it was closing in only an hour or so. It was well laid out for the most part, though finding the non-fiction was a bit tricky – it’s mostly all against the back wall, behind other, more clearly marked sections. The librarians were nice, though I did have to wait halfway through the transaction for one to get a roll of paper to replace the OTHER one’s roll. Get it yourself, bitch! But yeah, good library, good selection, definitely nicer staff than some I’ve been to.

Some pictures:

As you can see, my skills in this area leave much to be desired. I should also probably take these pics during the day. Oh well.

So, that's what it looks like! For the full sized images just click on those l'il ones.

I just want to end the entry with a comment on I don’t support them, necessarily; I personally try to go to local independent bookstores when I do buy books, and libraries in general. Since I can’t link to information about the books at either of those places, I link to their amazon pages. It isn’t an endorsement, just a way for people to read more about the books and see what other people thought of them. No one will read this anyway, but I’d feel like a jerk if I thought somebody did and then thought I was’s number one fan or something. Well, that’s it for the first entry, hope somebody liked it/read it!

Oh, and a special thanks goes out to everyone who has listened to me talk about this wacky idea and feigned/expressed interest, and an EXTRA special thanks to Priscilla, who suggested writing about it in the first place, and to Natalie, who facilitated said connection, and who is almost always supportive of the crazy ideas I have.