Saturday, February 7, 2009


Why is it that anything excellent can bring tears to my eyes? I believe I am becoming more nostalgic every day. Everything reminds me of something I miss.

Here's the latest, crazy example. What kind of old fool gets choked up looking at the floor plan of a library?


Cypher Blueman said...

Could be the books, or more likely what they represent. I think it's the end of something --quite literally. I don't want to say "Fall of the Roman Empire" but I think we are the end of some part of our civilization. I think we older folks have seen the details of this passing while younger sensitive people like Hilary and Gasket(I sense that she's young....) may feel they never had their hands around it.

Hilarym99 said...

Even cooler. But still doesn't do it justice.

gasket said...

Can't speak for you, Billy, but I will never love any place as much as I love New York. That doesn't mean I loved any of my dysfunctional apartments or the unreliable F train or the unavoidable stench of piss on the sidewalks in August. But I could accept the downsides because the upsides were so spectacular.

New York is a place you have a relationship with, not to. The city intrudes on everything you do: It demands your attention and rarely disappoints (when it does disappoint, you're allowed to complain about it).

It's exhilarating and harsh, but it provides rewards for surviving the harsh conditions of living there. So, it's not just a library or an art museum or a play: It's the New York Public Library and the Met and Broadway. No other place in the country comes close to the caliber of those institutions.

I think Cypher is onto something as well. Building on the idea of what books represent: When books are really good, they come alive. They are like people (see I'm On My Own); each book contains a universe of experience.

Perhaps you miss the pockets of community you had in New York, including within its libraries. Maybe a certain kind of community is what you are building here. I'd say you are succeeding.

Finally, a seeming non sequitur: As I remember it, February in the Midwest is the worst month of the year.

Hilarym99 said...

Gasket: you've done what no man could do before: convinced me NYC is a place I could live in. (No offense to city dwellers, but I'm a country girl at heart.)

The future of books? All this e-book, e-Reader, online books, and so on...No generation should miss the power of turning paper pages, of new fresh spines or old musty pages.

"It now appears that books in the form so beloved by Uncle Alex and me, hinged and unlocked boxes, packed with leaves speckled by ink, are obsolescent. My grandchildren are already doing much of their reading from words projected on the fact of a video screen.
Please, please, please wait just a minute!
At the time of their invention, books were devices as crassly practical for storing or transmitting language, albeit fabricated from scarcely modified substances found in forest and field and animals, as the latest Silicon Valley miracles. But by accident, not by cunning calculation, books, because of their weight and texture, and because of their sweetly token resistance to manipulation, involve our hands and eyes, and then our minds and souls, in a spiritual adventure I would be very sorry for my grandchildren not to know about."


Cypher Blueman said...

Gasket. You are breaking my heart.
I only feel really myself back in the city. The first thing I do is have a bagel with cheese and coffee. Then I nearly die from a slice of pizza on 94th and broadway --

That is a problem for me in the city. I automatically start to eat.

I still go by most of the places I've lived in. Four apartments with my parents in Manhattan. Two in Brooklyn. Two in the Bronx. And two apartments I had on my own. One on 107 off Broadway. Another on Claremont across from the Riverside Church. Imagine having one of those today ! Who could afford it?

I sold the family house in the Bronx after my mother died. For next to nothing. But who could hang onto to it? It's not just a bad neighborhood --I can live with that --it's a completely drug-infested neighborhood. My old house has bars on the windows. The little garden in the back is filled with dog shit.

My wife's mother is still in her Bronx apartment, barely holding on. I have a hard time sleeping up there. I wake up hearing gun shots. (Grand Concourse and 172) and my wife sleeps through them. Seems like home to her.

My sister still has her place on Columbus and 95th--it was federally supported in the 60's when she got in. I think it's going to be sold and become condos. She's 67. Where is she going to go? She doesn't have money.

Once you leave, it's hard to come back unless you're rich.

But you have the heart of the matter when you say that one has a relationship to the city. All my real friends are still in New York. They held on to apartments, got rich, married someone with an apartment....

One thing about Eugene. When you go looking for a book at the library, all the good books are available.

Have a kosher frank and a knish for me, will you?
Break my heart. Go ahead. See if I care.

Cypher Blueman said...

I ought to say this. I also feel quite at home in our former city, Stuttgart. You want to see a library? You want to be in a place where books and culture are not only respected but supported by the government? Where the opera, the orchestra, the libraries --the civilization itself is supported by the government?

Billy Glad said...

For a long time, Patience and Fortitude wore hard hats, while the library was being renovated. I thought a picture of them in their hats would be easy to find. For some reason, I can't do it.

Never before and never since have I had the sense of neighborhood I had living in Park Slope.

One of my most vivid memories of NYC is going to see the fireworks along the East River. Millions of people had come down to the banks to watch. And, when the display ended, the crowd slowly dispersed, without a push or a shove, drifting back into midtown Manhattan.

Cypher Blueman said...

This post has me all over the place. Aside from the literal catastrophic wound to civilization when the library at Alexandria was destroyed, I've always wondered what it looked like and how it was organized and how one ordered up a particular "book."

One trembles at modern day barbarians who burn books, kill girls for going to school and blow up sacred sites that have passed on wisdom for centuries.

quinn the eskimo said...

Damnedest thing. I've lived in a dozen cities. But none of them mean a tenth of what London does, to me. From the day I landed there at 16, just for a day & a night, I felt at home. Incredibly happy. Ecstatic. I walk that place like I my own backyard. Utterly at home. Food can be crap (though it's improving), weather's crap (and not improving), but I love London, and Londoners.

It's a sea. That's the only way I ever found to describe it. Old. Impossible to modernize, impossible to design, politicians just so much flotsam on an endless sea.

The little street I lived on was called Parliament Hill, just off the Heath. I'd climb a little hill, and look out over the ocean of lights. It was the hill Guy Fawkes was aiming to reach, after he'd done his job. As I walked the Heath, I knew plague pits were everywhere, buried now. I walked where my Grandfather, Father, and now my niece went running. Just as I did. I think of William Blake crossing over it. The Jews who landed further South in the city, coming up to eat. The 1001 episodes from my own life which have taken place there.

All just part of the sea.

GirlFromTheBronx said...

As a die hard New Yorker who was born in Manhattan and grew up in the Bronx, I’ve always had a complex love affair with the most complex of cities. I love what Gasket said about the rewards that come to those who survive the harshness. Great way to describe the ambiguities.

My father, an immigrant from Panama always used to say: “New York has the best and the worst of everything”. So, I guess that idea was imprinted on me from early on.

There’s a feeling I get when I get on the subway for the first time after having been away for a while. I look at everyone around me. I see hard working people, people with troubles, with stories, normal people—secretaries, students, food service workers, homeless people, teachers, mothers, kids, black, asian, white, brown. All I think is: I'm so happy. This is home and they could all be me.

Excellent post Billy.

Hilarym99 said...

All this talk of culture, libraries, opera, New York, London, Stuttgart...

...reminds me of home. ;)

quinn the eskimo said...

That hurt me, 99.

Beware, or I'm gonna bring some kilted musicians in.

Cypher Blueman said...

quinn, you can't out-kilt Hilary. She's a Celt not far removed from her own kilt.

Antepilani said...

Agreed. Is it the floor plan or the experiences from the books in the library?

The silliest things seem to get me choked up when I think about them.

I get the most emotional when I see an individual or team do something brilliant. I can appreciate the hard work, and the effortlessness of those acts.

And mine is selfish, because somehow I know, I've never done anything like that; something that could move someone to tears with my greatness.

I'll be content with watching others and their greatness and remaining absolutely average.

I live in the most disconnected place on earth...Houston--you really have to search out excellence here, because everyone is really just in each others way on their way to work. I can't tell you where the closest public library is; but I know where to find the mall ;)