Saturday, August 04, 2007

Love Books, Will Travel

Today was the reopening of the San Francisco Public Library branch in my neighborhood. It has been closed for renovations for two years. That's a long time to do weekly walk-bys, nose pressed to the glass, cold turkey.

We went to the ribbon cutting and listened to the Mayor and other dignitaries speak about how important literacy is while clowns milled about, terrifying children. A troupe of Chinese dancers performed a lion dance to purify the building, after which we toured the premises, which has been doubled in size. The book collection looks about the same as before, but more spread out. This seems optimistic.

At the buffet table on the patio, I stood behind an old man who yelled four times, "I've been standing here for ten minutes and the line hasn't moved." I glanced at the food and decided to pass. Cold mini-pizza does nothing for me. There were some pawed-over crackers and cheese with a few flaccid grapes, and the "lemonade" turned out to be water that sprayed all over the woman behind me. There was also soda, which I do not drink, ever. I thought of Dick Gregory, who quipped after the lunch counter sit-ins of 1960 that when they were finally integrated, they didn't have anything he wanted.

The whole surreal day had the flavor of a small-town ice cream social, or a Fellini movie. The Mayor's blond girlfriend wore a red dress both short and tight. It must have been hard for him to keep his mind on the festivities. People posed for pictures with the Mayor, who is a handsome young man. Flip snapped some for various people, but had run out of film himself.

One teenager complained that his library card had been revoked because he owed so many fines. The Mayor had his slate wiped clean and got him a new card. The kid isn't old enough to vote, but already has friends in high places. I think that everyone should get library amnesty at least once a year. I could open my own branch with the money I've paid in fines.

It turned out that my library card was inactive because it was over two years old. That can happen when the library is closed for two years.

Still, I was surprised as I really thought the Black-eyed Susan garden had been planted in my honor. There is the not inconsiderable matter of loyalty and the fact that I can carry more books at a time than most people. A woman pushed ahead of me, demanding to be helped first because she had a child.

"Children have short attention spans," she rebuked everyone within earshot. Her little girl didn't look incendiary, but the mother had probably drunk several lattes to wash down her diet pills.

I hope I'll remember not to wear heels the next time I have to walk more than a mile. My feet are mutinous, but on the other hand, I was so tall today.


meno said...

A wonderful view of a day of oddness.

Love the pushy mom. I see them everywhere.

CS said...

I would only ask for special line priveleges when my kids were young if we had a pee emergency. Even then, I would ask.

I agree about library amnesty. Or at least a fee reduction.

liv said...

I am so glad that my espresso problem doesn't get me out of control like that. I mean, I get a little punchy when typing up comments and go on some random tangents, but a pushy mom I do not become.

Oh, books! Glorious books!

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It was a day of oddness. Everything felt disjointed, somehow, like a record played at the wrong speed.

Pushy moms raise pushy kids. We're done for.


I wish the library offered frequent reader points or something toward fines.


Glorious books, yes!!

Increasingly, we live in a world of pushy people, but I am always surprised when they act that way in a library, which seems like such a gentle space.

Tanya Brown said...

"A woman pushed ahead of me, demanding to be helped first because she had a child."

Wow! I wish I'd thought of that one! Gosh, just imagine if everyone who had a child demanded to be helped first. What fun we'd all have.

Of course, people usually beg me to go first when my toddler is a pill, which is most of the time we're in public. "No, it's okay," I'll tell them, "he needs to learn to wait his turn."

Something about seeing me hold him in check by the scruff of his T-shirt like a wayward dog at the end of a leash always does them in, though. I can't imagine why.

velvet said...

That mom is the kind of mother who gives parents a bad name. Ugh.

I don't borrow from the library because my reading habits are so irregular and sometimes it takes me years to finish a book. By buying books I'm scarcely worse off compared to the fines I'd accrue! I can understand the appeal, though.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


My children are grown. I do that with my husband now.


For two years, I have visited the "book bay," the Friends of the Library bookstore, several times a week. I keep outgrowing our bookshelves.

Strangely, I have lived in small towns with better book collections than this branch has, although the main library downtown is great.

I'm glad they're back, but I'm sure I'll keep buying books from their store and Amazon, mostly.

It's hard for me to return books I've enjoyed, hence the fines which have sometimes rivaled the national debt.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

I'm very glad your library is open once again! That's wonderful.
Don't know what I'd do without mine!

Scarlett & V.

eastcoastdweller said...

They tore mine down too, so that they could cut down the beautiful woods behind it and build a bigger one.

Either someone with sympathy for morons or a wicked sense of humor erected a sign near the debris pile.

"Library closed."

Ya think?

heartinsanfrancisco said...


It is, and I celebrated by going to the Book Bay today, where I bought three books.


The sign should have said, "Woods closed."

There is something bizarre about cutting down trees on the site of a library. Is there a paper mill nearby, too?

Crankster said...

Sounds like an incredible day. I'm rediscovering the joys of public libraries, too (largely becuause my apartment isn't big enough for me to buy more books).

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Mine isn't either, but that hasn't stopped me yet. I really love owning books. Borrowing them is not the same.

The library has a huge sale every year in September in a gigantic warehouse on the wharf. They have shopping carts!! I am always among the first 10 people in the door, and I go every one of the 5 days.

I just blocked off those days on my calendar and can't wait.