Friday, September 28, 2007

a book review

I guess it's kind of odd that with all the reading I have done over the past couple of months, I haven't included any book reviews on my blog. I have read some really interesting and thought-provoking books, and I do write short reviews of them on LibraryThing, but that is more for my own reference.

I recently read a book, however, that I do want to share. It is Miss Alcott's E-mail: Yours for Reforms of All Kinds by Kit Bakke. I took it off the new book shelf at the library and paged through it several times before I actually brought it home with me. It is a difficult book to describe. Although considered "fiction", it is actually part memoir, part biography, and part social history.

The author, Kit Bakke, must be a few years older than me as she was very much a participant in the turbulent political conflicts of the 1960s. Seriously. She was a member of the Weather Underground. As a middle-aged wife and mother, she is now wondering how she can stay vitally involved in the important issues of today. She decides to "contact" a woman of a similar age who was known to be an ardent reformer all her life - Louisa May Alcott. So Kit e-mails her, and Miss Alcott replies. Okay, you do have to suspend belief for that part, but I don't have a problem with that. The important thing is the dialogue between the two of them.

When Kit e-mails Miss Alcott, she details her own early life of activism, and then shares what she has learned from books and letters and diaries about Miss Alcott's life among the great thinkers of her day; Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, her neighbors, foremost among them. Miss Alcott, when she replies, reminisces about her life as a writer and ardent abolitionist, and corrects some of the misconceptions we commonly hold about her.

You might think otherwise, but this literary device really works. The imagined interplay between their two personalities is fresh and believable, and, my gosh, I learned a lot. Not only about Miss Alcott's early life in a commune and her brief stint as a nurse during the Civil War, but about Kit Bakke's years on the run from the United States government, as well. And the author does an admirable job of presenting the slippery concept of transcendentalism so that even I can understand it.

I enjoyed the book a great deal, so I did something I have never done before. I e-mailed the author and told her so. And you know what? She e-mailed me right back and thanked me. How cool is that?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lucie-inspired haiku

I used to write haiku about Bobo, and when Ben asked me why I never wrote any about Lucie, I told him she has to inspire me. So she did. Here are some haiku I wrote about her. (Yeah, she's been barking a lot lately.) The last one is my favorite, I think. I'm not sure...

the little dog starts
then the bigger one joins in
what an awful noise!

Sunday newspapers
quiet afternoon reading
shit! Lucie went off

Lucie! shut up now!
can't you see I don’t need that
adrenaline spike

didn’t you know that
when Lucie swims through the air
she just wants closer

it is so quiet
when the little brown dog sleeps
then she growls softly

Lucie warned me twice
before she bit my face off
she's not a pillow

Oh, and here is my favorite one that I wrote about Bobo. A copy of it is in the urn with his ashes.

a hot summer day
the white dog sleeps in the sun
what does he dream of?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

spinach... it's not just for Popeye anymore

All right, I know. The rest of the civilized world has been enjoying the taste and health benefits of spinach for some time now, but it's just hard for me to learn to eat cooked vegetables. When I was growing up, all the cooked vegetables that came to our dinner table started out as frozen bricks in the freezer with "Birdseye" on their labels. The spinach (served weekly with a particularly awful homemade macaroni-and-cheese that had nothing to do with creamy) was one of the worst. The texture was incredibly slimy, exactly like the seaweed that wraps around your ankles when you walk in the surf. As I well remember, if you let the spinach get stone-cold sitting on your plate, it doesn't smell as bad, but it does make you gag when you try to eat it. So, cooked spinach has been verboten for me for a long time.

We do occasionally eat spinach in salads, but we find that we cannot finish a whole bag of it before it starts to go bad, unless Julie is home, and then she eats most of it. I have had a lot of success adding spinach to different recipes. We really like it mixed in with couscous, and I have added it to a variety of homemade soups. It is really good in fried rice, as well. The fact of the matter is, it pretty much disappears in these dishes, and that is what makes it palatable to me. I had some cooked spinach at a restaurant last week, however, that was so good that I am on a mission to replicate it at home.

When Ben and I were finally able to go out to dinner to celebrate his birthday (that's a whole other story) we went to Mangiamo in Twin Lakes, where we frequently like to eat on special occasions. Here is the link: (Again, sorry that I don't know how to pretty that up.) Anyway. We have eaten there many times since they opened, but I think I had the best meal ever there last week. In keeping with my healthy eating regimen, I ordered the "Pan-roasted Atlantic Salmon", which you will see if you check the menu. My dinner included lobster-chive risotto and crispy baby spinach with balsamic drizzle.

My meal was delicious. As I said, probably the best I've ever had there. Here's the thing, though: every component was perfect, even the spinach. It was like crisp little pieces of parchment that dissolved on my tongue. The familiar spinach flavor was negligible, and the balsamic drizzle was the perfect accent. I resolved to make spinach just like it at home.

When we went grocery-shopping, the bags of baby spinach were buy-one-get-one-free, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity for experimentation. I checked on line for recipes for "crispy spinach", and I found quite a few, actually. The bad news was that they uniformly called for the spinach to be deep-fried. Now, I have never owned a deep fryer, and have no desire to have one now. Here's where the experimentation comes in.

Using one of the bags of spinach I spread it out in a thin layer over two cookie sheets. (There was too much spinach for one sheet.) I drizzled enough extra virgin olive oil over the spinach to coat it all, and also to prevent it from sticking to the cookie sheet as it dried out. I tossed the spinach with my hands to make sure it was coated, then sprinkled it with sea salt and freshly-ground pepper. I put it in a pre-heated 400 degree oven, and I watched it carefully. It wilted pretty quickly, but I could see that it still held a lot of water, and I wanted to drive that all out. When I noticed that a couple of spinach leaves had turned brown (as if they had burned) I removed the spinach from the oven. I drizzled the spinach with balsamic vinegar, and Ben and I ate every bit of it - a whole bag of spinach.

I have to say that the "recipe" is not perfected. I think the next time maybe I would keep it in the oven longer at a lower temperature since the object as I see it is to dehydrate the spinach as much as possible. If you have any suggestions, please don't hesitate to send them along.

Who knows? Maybe I'll be eating asparagus next... Na-a-ah!

Monday, September 24, 2007

natural radiance

I was sitting on the patio yesterday when a stray ray of sunlight illuminated my leg, and I noticed, to my delight, that my natural radiance has returned. Yes, I could see tiny little sparkles all over my calf and ankle. Ben laughed when I pointed them out to him, but they make me very happy.

Okay, it's not natural, strictly speaking. My radiance is a result of finding a new source for Aveeno Positively Radiant Moisturizing Lotion, which isn't carried anymore in the store where I used to buy it. I looked everywhere I could think of, but couldn't find it anywhere, and couldn't find an acceptable substitute. This is a constant problem for me, and many other women, as well, I suspect.

I used to buy all my moisturizing products at Bath and Body Works, but I stopped shopping there several years ago for a couple of reasons. First of all, there was their incredibly annoying habit of systematically getting rid of every product they ever made that I actually used and liked. I tried not to take it personally, but there it was, all the same. The reason that I actually quit spending my money there, however, is that their parent company is politically red, that is to say, they contribute more money to Republican candidates than to Democratic ones.

I found this out at a nifty website called, which currently seems to be defunct. As a Democrat living in the corrupt red state of Ohio, I tend to feel somewhat disenfranchised. I can, however, "vote" with my purchasing dollar when I spend my money at establishments that support the same candidates that I support. So, no more shopping at Bath and Body Works for me.

When I found the Positively Radiant lotion, I was very pleased with it. It has a pleasant but not overpowering scent, and it rubs in easily without being sticky. It's not real expensive, and I could buy it at the local Walgreen's. Oh, and did I mention that it makes me naturally radiant? Then, as I said, they stopped carrying it. In desperation, I recently looked at one of the local grocery stores, even though I knew they never used to carry it. Now they do! I resisted the urge to buy all the bottles of lotion on the shelf, but a couple of weeks have passed now, so I may have to go back and get some more.

The next time you see me, if I look positively radiant, it's because I am, but it's also because of my lotion. (But don't tell anyone.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

going to the chapel...

I went to a wedding last weekend with my friend, Kristen. Our good friend, Vince, married his long-time sweetie, Kristin, on a beautiful fall afternoon. I love going to weddings, especially when I know that the bride and groom are absolutely meant for each other, and I am confident about their happily-ever-after.

Kristin wore a beautiful ivory wedding gown and a tiara, and she looked like a real princess. Vince was dashing in an ivory tux, and their 18-month-old daughter, Skyler, was in ivory, as well; the skirt of her little dress was many layers of tulle, like a ballerina's. What a beautiful family they are.

I most especially wanted to see the look on Vince's face as he watched Kristin walk up the aisle towards him, and it brought tears to my eyes, as I knew it would. After the service, Skyler waved to her parents as they walked, newly-married, back down the aisle.

We had a great time at the reception, in spite of getting hopelessly lost multiple times on the way there. I am not exaggerating when I say that I think our very first turn out of the church parking lot took us in the wrong direction. But we got there. We got there.

Over the years we have known Vince, Kristen and I have often wondered (frequently to his face) why he had never married. Now we know. He was waiting for Kristin. Good things are worth waiting for.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

is it warm in here or is that my blood starting to boil?

KSU is in the local newspaper again this week. One of this morning's front page stories informs us that university president Lester Lefton has hired a "special assistant" to "develop university and business sector partnerships meant to capitalize on university research and intellectual property, while assisting with resource development efforts." He will also "serve as a key adviser and strategist to Lefton on vital opportunities and policy issues."

The story does not tell us what salary this special assistant will be receiving, but the article directly below it states that KSU students may soon have to pay a "$100 to $500 technology fee to be charged to students for the purpose of updating aging classroom technology." This would be in addition to the cost of their tuition, which has been frozen by the state. The fee would be for a technology update, you understand, not to pay Lefton's new assistant.

Now, I guess I can understand that Lefton might need an assistant for that sort of thing. I mean, he is kind of an old guy, and he has to attend a whole lot of fund-raising luncheons and dinners all across the state of Ohio. It's just more than he can handle, you might think. But, no, you would be wrong about that because earlier this week the university announced that not only would Lefton be receiving an increase in his already obscenely high salary, but a bonus of $70,000 as well, because he has just been doing such a darn good job.

Let me summarize for you. Lester Lefton will be doing less work for more money and the students will not be paying for his raise or his new assistant with this new "technology fee," which is not a tuition hike because the university is not allowed to raise the tuition. And if you believe all that, then I wish you a belated happy birthday because you were born freakin' yesterday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

September morn

Personally, I think Ben is a little biased, what with September being his birth month and all, but I do understand why this is his favorite month. There is a certain quality to the air, especially in the morning, that is simply lacking the rest of the year. It is a clarity, a freshness, even a smell, that is uniquely September's. Then there is the color of the sky on a clear September day. It is the very essence, the definition, of blue.

I might even join Ben in his preference for September were it not for one thing - yellow jackets. I know there are perfectly valid scientific reasons for why they act the way they do this time of year, but I just can't deal with it. Now that it is finally cool enough to eat outside comfortably, I can't, because I will be swarmed by yellow jackets trying to eat my food and land on my hands and in my hair. I try to keep my hands in my pockets whenever I am outside because it just freaks me out when they crawl on me. I can't sit outside and read (which I love to do) for the same reasons. As soon as it cools off, I am longing for the first frost to kill, kill them all.

Rufus and I have increased our twice-daily walks from two blocks to three, and it is an absolute joy to be out on mornings like this. Rufus is a good little walker, and generally trots right along, but he has started to develop the bad habit of stopping at each acorn he finds on the sidewalk and picking it up. He generally drops it after a few paces, but this time of year there are countless acorns on the ground in our neighborhood, and we just can't stop at all of them. So we are working on that.

It has been a long time since I have been able to experience the changing of the seasons as I am this year, and believe me, I am savoring it. I will continue to try to share it with you. Stay tuned.


Today (September 19th) is Ben's birthday. Please join me in wishing him a good one. You can post your good wishes here or on Ben's blog at:

Just go ahead and post your comments on his Necco wafers post. He'll find 'em.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I read the news today, oh boy

Lots of photos in the local newspapers this morning of a grieving family at a military funeral. A young man from the little town just up the road was killed in Iraq on his 21st birthday. When I first read reports of his death, my heart ached for his parents and for his very young widow, whom he married before he left. Then I read that his father was not only a veteran himself, but an "unpaid volunteer military recruiter", whatever that means. This guy has a rec room full of military paraphernalia that glorifies fighting and war, and he invites local high school kids there to try to talk them into enlisting.

Here's what I think about it now: At least he got his own son killed instead of someone else's.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

if it's fall, it must be time for grape pie

We went to the Farmer's Market yesterday morning. I love going to the market this time of year, when I know the produce is genuinely grown by local folks instead of being shipped here from somewhere else. I was mainly looking for tomatoes, which I love more than any other seasonal produce. I wanted big, red tomatoes to slice thick and eat with my dinner, and I also wanted more of the heirloom cherry tomatoes we bought last week. The heirloom tomatoes are mottled purple and green, and very flavorful, with none of the acidic taste so characteristic of most tomatoes. Happily, I found all the tomatoes I wanted.

I noticed a dealer with a peck basket full of Concord grapes. He was selling them for a dollar a pint, but I bought everything he had for eight dollars, at Julie's encouragement. "We don't want to do grapes this weekend, do we?" I asked her. "Yes, we do," was her quick reply. As the dealer was bagging the grapes for me, an older woman with a strong eastern European accent asked me what I planned to make with them all. "I'm going to make grape pie filling," I said. "Have you ever had it?" Most people have never tasted Concord grape pie, but it is an old family favorite at our house. My mother used to make it once in a while, and my understanding is that the recipe was passed down from my dad's Grandma George - Carrie Krear Gould George, whose father was killed in the waning days of the Civil War.

When we lived in our house on Denison, Ben planted grape vines along the chain-link fence at the back of our yard. Before too many years had passed, we were harvesting enough grapes each September to make several pies. Eventually, it was quite a production. Ben and Tom would harvest grapes and put them in five-gallon pails, which they would flood with water to drive off at least some of the assorted critters. Julie and I had our assembly line set up in the kitchen where we would pick the grapes from the stems and wash them, then skin and boil them until the seeds cooked free. Then we would just add sugar and freeze the grapes until I was ready to bake them into a pie. Some years we froze fifteen or twenty bags of grapes. We ate most of the pies ourselves, but they were also in great demand at family gatherings and at our workplaces. As I said, most people had never tasted grape pie before, but became fans once they tried it.

If you want to make a Concord grape pie yourself, I include my recipe. I warn you, although it is not difficult, it is quite labor-intensive. I think if you try it, though, it will become one of your favorites, too.

Concord Grape Pie

4 very full cups Concord grapes, removed from stems, and well-rinsed
1 shallow cup sugar
3 Tbsps. flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
2 Tbsps. butter

Begin with a pan and a bowl, set side by side. Each washed grape must be squeezed above the pan, so that the pulp and seeds fall into the pan, then the skins are dropped into the bowl, which is set aside. The pulp and seeds should be boiled on a low flame until the pulp has completely broken down and all the seeds have floated free.

Pour the hot grape pulp into a strainer above the bowl of grape skins. Force the pulp through the strainer, and onto the skins, leaving only the seeds in the strainer - these are then discarded. Dissolve the sugar in the hot grape mixture.* Add the flour, salt, and lemon peel, and mix well. Pour mixture into pastry-lined pie pan. Dot small pieces of butter over pie filling, then cover with second layer of pie crust - I find a lattice is very attractive on this pie. Alternately, a streusel topping works very well on this pie in place of the upper crust.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the filling starts to bubble. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. You'll thank me if you do.

*This is the point where I pour the mixture in a bag and put it in the freezer. You can do that, too, if you want to.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

only my hairdresser knows for sure

When I was growing up, I never liked my hair, and it seemed like my mother didn't either. Before I left for school every morning, she would brush it back and braid it so tightly that I cried as she worked. She would get angry, then, and, let's just say, my days didn't start off well. When she tired of that, she got my hair all cut off in the "pixie" style that was so popular in the late 50s. Photos show me smiling happily with my new short haircut, and I'm sure I was delighted to have my daily hair-pulling at an end.

As I got a little older, however, my mother decided to put my hair up in pincurls every Saturday night so that it would look "nice" for church on Sunday mornings. I hated that. Once again my mother pulled my hair to make the pincurls and poked my head with the hairpins as she worked. Then I had to try to sleep on the bobby pins that encircled my head. I guess my hair didn't look "nice" enough, though, because I was taken to the beauty salon for a perm. And taken back again because the first perm didn't "take" to her satisfaction.

Then there was the color of my hair - a light brown that became lighter in the summer, but was darker the rest of the year. The terms my mother used for it were less than flattering: "dirty blonde" or "dishwater blonde." So, no, I didn't like the color of it, either. I always thought my brothers had nicer hair than I did. Thomas' hair was so thick and dark and wavy, and Bill had beautiful red curls that stood up all over his head when he was little.

In the 60s, when I was in junior high, I let my hair grow out. I longed for it to be straight, like the Yardley's of London girl, but it always fell in unattractive bumps and waves. Still, I let it grow and grow, all through my high school years, and my mother threatened to cut a big chunk of my hair away as I slept so that I would have to get the rest of it cut. When I lived in the dorm, every night I pulled my hair into a loose pony tail on top of my head and rolled it on three huge rollers so that it wouldn't wrap around my neck as I slept.

The first time I colored my hair I was a sophomore in college. My friend, Gloria, and I streaked each other's hair with blonde one Saturday night in the communal bathroom of our dorm. I loved it. For the next ten years, my hair was always streaked with blonde, at first Ben doing it for me, and later I had it done professionally. Eventually, I went all blonde, and I stayed that way for many years.

A couple of years ago, I felt ready for a change. I still loved the color of Bill's hair, and believed myself to have a redhead's fair complexion. So I became a redhead myself, with fiery red hair that caught the sunlight. I have to say, I really liked it. I thought it suited me, and so did most of the people who knew me. I never thought of myself as a redhead, however, and was genuinely startled when an elderly woman at an antique show complimented me on my "beautiful" hair color.

I have always been afraid of becoming one of those women like my Aunt Joanne, who doesn't know how to age gracefully, and began to feel that it was time for me to let the gray hairs, which I knew were there, show through. My friend, Kathy, who is a month older than me, stopped coloring her hair several years ago, and she looks fantastic (and much younger) with her salt-and-pepper hair. Well, she would look fantastic no matter what, but thanks to her, I felt ready to take a peek after all these years, at what my natural hair color had become.

My hairdresser and my manicurist and all the other sweet young things - still in their twenties - at my salon dissuaded me for a while, but when I left my job, I knew I wanted a radical change. "Cut it off," I said. "And let's start getting it back to my natural color." So right now, I guess you could say my hair color is in transition. It is two shades of brown with some blonde highlights, but I am done with having it colored for now, and, hopefully, soon the brown and gray that I see in my roots will be the new color of my hair. And, you know, I think I'll like it. I think I'm ready for it.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Art in the Park

It's a good thing we went to Art in the Park yesterday, because it is pouring rain today, and it doesn't look like it's going to stop. That may be a good thing for me, though, because I am sorely tempted to go back and take another look at one of the booths where we made a couple of purchases yesterday.

I love going to Art in the Park, and we have attended it every year since we moved here. I will tell you two awesome things about it, right off the bat: it is free and it is a five-minute walk from our house. Once we get there, we stroll through the rolling hills of Fred Fuller Park looking at a wide variety of beautiful and interesting things created by talented artists and artisans. There are paintings and photographs, jewelry and clothing, handcrafted wood and ironwork, and, our perennial favorites, blown glass and ceramics. (Some of you may think of it as "pottery," as I did prior to my stint in the College of Fine and Professional Arts.)

If we only had the money to buy everything we wanted, our house would be even more overloaded with beautiful and unique things. But we have to choose carefully, which is not a bad thing. Yesterday we bought a Christmas present (for one of the regular readers of this blog, so I can't divulge what it is - other than to say that it is beautiful and unique, just like the person it is destined for.) Ben bought me a necklace that is a ceramic (big surprise!) leaf on a cord. It is in beautiful earthtones, and I put it on as soon as he bought it for me.

We also bought two ceramic pieces from an artisan we had never seen there before. She is from South Euclid, actually, and attended Ben's alma mater, Charles F. Brush High School. Her work is so interesting and different from the things we usually see there. It is her booth that I would like to take a second look at, but perhaps it is best if I don't. Although I think I could fit another piece or two on the bookshelf in my bedroom...

Friday, September 7, 2007

look out, Mama...

Ben was listening to some Neil Young music that he had downloaded the other night, and it reminded me how much I love Neil Young's music. Not all of it, of course. I mean, there is just too much to love. The man has been writing and performing music for, like, forty years now.

I love the songs on the Neil Young tape that Ben made for me so many years ago. And I mean those songs and those versions, specifically. No others will do. And Julie feels the same way I do about that. We have nearly driven Ben crazy over the years, with demands to exactly replicate that tape before it is worn out and lost to us forever. (As an aside, I am delighted to report that the tape has been successfully tranferred to CD, so it will never be lost to us, but that is not what this post is about.)

I love different songs for different reasons. You might think Four Dead in Ohio would be my favorite, what with living in Kent and all, but after parking in the lot every day for five years where four innocent college students died, it's just too sad for me. Southern Man always takes me back to the times when Julie and I sang or hummed the song softly to each other as we walked through countless flea markets and antique shows all across northeastern Ohio.

Hurricane was my favorite for many years, and how convenient it was that Ben had placed it as the first song on Side 2 of my tape. I could re-wind and play it over and over again. And I did. I loved the story Ben told me that this particular version had been a pre-concert sound check, and the musicians just kept playing as they realized how incredible it sounded.

I realized a couple of years ago, however, that my favorite Neil Young song was actually the live version on my tape of Powderfinger. To tell you the truth, I don't know why I love that song as much as I do. Well, there is Neil Young's guitar-playing, of course. Need I even say that? But, also, I find the lyrics so sweet and sad and evocative. Imagine my surprise when Ben and Tom and Julie all agreed this was one of their favorite Neil Young songs, as well. Ben even found some fascinating on line discussions where other fans discussed what they thought the enigmatic lyrics meant.

So, what the heck, I include the lyrics below. What do you think they mean?


Look out, Mama,
there's a white boat
comin' up the river
With a big red beacon,
and a flag,
and a man on the rail
I think you'd better call John,
'Cause it don't
look like they're here
to deliver the mail
And it's less than a mile away
I hope they didn't come to stay
It's got numbers on the side
and a gun
And it's makin' big waves.

Daddy's gone,
my brother's out hunting
in the mountains
Big John's been drinking
since the river took Emmy-Lou
So the powers that be
left me here
to do the thinkin'
And I just turned twenty-two
I was wonderin' what to do
And the closer they got,
The more those feelings grew.

Daddy's rifle in my hand
felt reassurin'
He told me,
Red means run, son,
numbers add up to nothin'
But when the first shot
hit the docks I saw it comin'
Raised my rifle to my eye
Never stopped to wonder why.
Then I saw black,
And my face splashed in the sky.

Shelter me from the powder
and the finger
Cover me with the thought
that pulled the trigger
Think of me
as one you'd never figured
Would fade away so young
With so much left undone
Remember me to my love,
I know I'll miss her.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

blowing my own horn a bit

Hey, check this out! I found it today when I was, well, googling myself. Oh, come on, you do it sometimes, too. Anyway, it seems that the Cleveland Plain Dealer considers this a "local blog", and, well, I guess it is. How about that? Here is the link: (Just disregard the part about lice - that has nothing to do with me.)

libraries (day three)

Yesterday's list was not meant to be an exhaustive one of all the libraries I have ever been in, of course. I have been in most of the public libraries in Lorain County at one time or another, for example, and I remember that Ben, Julie and I went to a branch library somewhere in Columbus one time when Tom was participating in some sort of academic competition. (Help me out here, guys. I don't think it was Academic Challenge - some sort of math competition, maybe?) I remember my dad taking us into the Carnegie Library in Oberlin once when we were kids, and being quite awed by it.

Of course, there are the libraries I have tried to visit, but found them closed. Ben and I stopped several times as we drove through Wellington to check out the lovely little Herrick Memorial Library, but it was never open when we were there. Julie and I found the Reed Memorial Library in Ravenna not yet open at 10:00 a.m. on a weekday morning, and decided it wasn't, perhaps, the library for us. I think we tried to visit the Bowling Green Public Library one weekend when we were there, as well. And we did wait in the parking lot of the Athens Public Library while Julie went in to pick up her Phi Beta Kappa cord right before commencement, but I don't really think that counts.

As Julie pointed out in her comment, there are the university libraries I have visited. Our landmark library at KSU, of course, and the library at LCCC, to begin with. I have been in the libraries at BGSU, OU, and the U of D, and, also, it occurs to me, the Mudd Resource Center at Oberlin College. I may well have gone into the library at University of Chicago with my brother, but, alas, that is too long ago for me to remember now.

And, you know, I want to say that I feel guilty that I have damned the Elyria Public Library with faint praise in my earlier posts. It is a fine little library, and what makes it that way is its collection of books, of course - and everything else a library has to have nowadays. But equally important is the library staff. Some of the women on that staff have made it their life's work to serve at that library, and they have done a damn fine job. I mentioned the wonderful children's librarians who enriched my kids' lives in an earlier comment, but I also want to recognize the outstanding reference staff of Rose Burton and Eve Major and Marianne Mahl. And I can't forget Terri Miller, who has been ably running the circ desk all these years. If each of these women has not yet reached twenty years at the library - and I know some of them have passed that milestone - they are real close. They are just as crucial to the library as the bricks and posts of the building and the books that are housed there.

I thank you for your time. *steps down off soap box*

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

libraries (cont.)

My family often chides me that I make my posts "so long that no one will read them," but I was not finished with all I had to say about libraries.

Although my heart will always belong to the old library on Third Street, I do love libraries in general. For eleven years while Tom and Julie were growing up, I worked in the square, brick box the library re-located to in 1968, when the old one was torn down. The library had followed the YMCA to the wealthier north side of town from their central locations near the town square. The YMCA closed its doors several years ago, and the library has long since outgrown the small lot it occupies, so I can't think the city planners were very forward-thinking, but that's often the way of things.

On the vacations we took when the kids were younger, we often stopped at local public libraries in the places we visited. We have been in a small branch of the Morgantown, West Virginia library, near where my sister-in-law and her family used to live. We have been to the small Chincoteague, Virginia library on Main Street, and on days that it rained, we left Chincoteague, and visited some of the libraries farther south on the Eastern Shore. We have been to the library near Ben's parents' house in Tampa. (If I am forgetting any, you guys just jump right in and tell me.)

More recently, we have been to the Harold Washington Public Library in downtown Chicago, and Julie took me to the very nice Bel Air, Maryland library, where she and Andrew now live. Tom and Kristy live right next door to a library, just like Ben and I did when we were first married, although I am sorry to say I did not find time to stop in there when I was in Chicago last year. Next time for sure.

There are other libraries I have missed seeing, as well, and I regret that. I never went to the library when I was in New York City, and I have never been to the Library of Congress. I would love to go there and request the book we wrote, which I know is there, because I have searched for it on line. If Las Vegas has a public library - and I assume that they do - it would have been fun to see what that looked like.

Well, perhaps tomorrow, we will examine university and college libraries. Who knows?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I love my library

I went to the local public library today. Although, here in Kent we don't have a "public" library, we have a "free" library. Now, I like that distinction, but my cousin, Dave, says it is just like us fucking hippies in Kent to have a free library. I have tried to explain to him that it is called the "free" library to differentiate it from the old concept of paid subscription libraries, but those of you who know Dave know how he would react to that.

I have tried to like the library in Kent, and I am still trying. The good citizens here actually passed a levy to build a big, fancy, new library. They have attached it to the old Carnegie library, which I feel was a mistake. The old library sits forlornly off to one side, looking dowdy and small and slightly embarrassed. Maybe I am just resentful of the fact that the old library here in Kent was saved, while my beloved old library in Elyria was thoughtlessly torn down.

Words fail me when I try to describe how much I loved that library. It was in the old Reefy house on Third Street across from the old YMCA. The house had a big wraparound porch, and the late return box was actually a big wooden box that sat on the front porch. To get to the children's room, we had to go outside and down the steps on the side of the porch. There was a separate entrance, and inside the door, sandstone steps led down to the Longfellow Room, as the children's basement room was called. The sandstone steps glittered and crunched underfoot as we walked down them. Miss Vivian Hackett was the children's librarian, and Miss Yarish - who liked my brother, but not me - worked there, checking out books, until she got married.

My family always walked to the library - which was a good thing, as there was virtually no parking. I walked there with my dad, I walked there with my mother, and when we got a little older, my brother, Thomas, and I walked there together many times. When we were children, we were only welcome in the children's room, and our cards would only check out books down there. Needless to say, there were no CDs or DVDs or video games. The books were enough. And how proud we were when we were allowed to switch to adult library cards and check out books from the big upstairs library. After that, we never went back to the children's room.

There were small reading rooms across from the circulation desk, and old men sat at the long wooden tables there, reading the newspaper on wooden dowel rods. I longed to be a grown-up and read my newspapers that way. Alas, by the time I grew up, that library was long gone, and I have always had to read my newspapers the regular way. A new library was built in the late 60s, and the church next door bought the property and demolished the old one.

Of all the places now lost to me, the door to that old library is the one I long to walk through more than any other. With Thomas Wolfe, I lament, "O lost."