Sunday, September 28, 2008

About the library on Friday afternoon

The scent. Always the scent for me, of books and books and books, stacks of books, rows of books, piles of books, old books and new books, fiction and non. Breathing in deeply and feeling so at home among the dusty, papery smell of all the books.

The muted busyness of the library. The quiet calm of yesterday's libraries long passed. The murmur of conversation, the click of computer keys, the beep of the computer scanner, the laughter of children.

Overhearing the conversations: "Have we seen this one? I think we've seen this one." "Can I get another, Mommy? Just one more?" "That's his latest one. Did you read the one before?" "We don't have it but can get it from the main library." "If you like the Weepies, you'll like this one."

My books on hold, treasure just for me, I quickly find, and move to the shelves that always have the newest books, then to the stacks by letter, looking for this favorite author, that favorite author, always searching for that new book I can't resist.

Shelves of books, chaotic rainbows of book spines, hypnotizing me as I walk up and down, looking for the book I seek. So many books I've read and so many yet to go.

My library card in hand, burning like a credit card with no limit, and I am so tempted by all the books, the many many books, that I reign in my need to just check them all out--I can't carry them all.

A long line waiting to be checked out by a very-black-haired, many-pierced, way funky librarian, not named Marion, but Josh.

Finally my turn with my precious pile of books. Josh lets me know I owe $4 in overdue fines from my last fix.

A small price to pay.

Friday, September 26, 2008

About the last games of summer at Tillman Park

Four softball diamonds glowing in the dusk. Green meadows ringed by dark, still trees. A quiet pastel sunset beyond the unseen river.

The park anything but quiet: The thudding ring of the bat on the ball. The pounding of feet heading for base, their owners grunting with the effort.

Chatter of a few spectators, girlfriends and wives and even parents sitting on bleachers and in lawn chairs in the soft, still-summer air, that chills as the long shadows get nearer. A child cries. A little white poodle barks.

Scattered clapping, shouted encouragement with each at-bat: "Get 'em! You're there!" "He's out!" "Good catch!"

At the playground behind the diamonds, children swarm on the slides and walkways, laughing and screaming. But they disappear as the evening deepens, for homework calls.

Teams coming and going as games are completed and diamonds free up: Bat bags and equipment tossed into piles and hung on chain-link fences.

A man selling hotdogs and sandwiches from a little, red-awning cart in the parking lot.

Pop and candy and apples with caramel at the little concession stand near the rest rooms.

Last games of the summer.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

About dancing at weddings

How most of us are so awkward at it.

And lots of us don't care, and dance anyway. Although some just won't dance.

How pleasant it is to watch someone who dances well.

How sorry I am that I know what liturgical dance is.

The pleasure of watching children dance--the wild abandon of it, the concentration they give it, the joy it gives them.

How beautiful a bride looks as she dances, white dress flowing, smiling, laughing, secure knowing all eyes are on her.

How people enjoy dancing in groups, whether to the Electric Slide or the Hokey Pokey.

When a slow song starts, all the recreational dancers sit down, and all the couples jump up.

People still dance to YMCA, but groan as they do so.

Twist and Shout, still gets people on their feet. 

Dancing with the Stars does not seem to have improved the quality of dance at most informal functions.

One should probably really give more than one dollar during the "Dollar Dance" at a wedding.

The amount of time before the groom and his party remove their tux coats is directly relational to the amount of alcohol consumed before the dancing begins.

It's all about the DJ.

It's extremely difficult for anyone to dance to "Sweet Home Alabama."

"Dance as if no one is watching"-type dancing should probably not be attempted ... in public.

Monday, September 22, 2008

About things that make fall tolerable

The clearness of the sky.

The sweet and sticky crunch of a caramel apple. (Because an apple is healthy no matter what it's wrapped in. Or especially because of said wrapping.)

Football lights glowing from the high school on Friday nights.

Music wafting over the neighborhood during marching band practice in the evening.

Putting on jeans for the first time all summer and they still fit.

Fall street fairs.

Warm days that linger well into October.

Leaves going brilliant, even though they fall after.

The scent of leaves burning in a neighbor's yard.

Knowing the election will finally be over in a few weeks. As in, on my birthday.

Turning off the air conditioner for good.

Lots of candy on the shelves at the grocery.

Planning a trip to Chicago.

The World Series.

Maybe combining the last two for the first time ever.

Realizing I really have to work to come up with a whole post of things to like about fall. Because I miss summer already. And it's three seasons away.

Friday, September 19, 2008

About being in the city

Thankful that there are so many tourists you don't feel stupid.

Standing on a corner, juggling three maps, figuring out which way to go. Asking somebody.

Or somebody seeing you juggling maps, and stops and asks where you want to go. And tells you a better way to get there.

The first glimpse of the city, walking up the stairs from Penn Station at dusk, as the street lights glow in a rainy Friday night.

Trying to look at everything at once.

The "I'm in a movie" feeling.

The "I'm such a tourist" feeling.

Buying umbrellas on the street for two dollars because it won't stop raining.

Dropping off the guys at Yankee Stadium (old and new), seeing it for the first time, finally sunny for the Saturday game, following the people in the subway in Yankee hats and jerseys up to 161st Street.

Later to Washington Square, playgrounds full of parents and little kids, college students studying on benches, friends chatting, couples holding hands. Buying bottled tea from a corner vendor.

Nearby a street fair, buying corn-bread pancakes filled with melted motzerella. Real lemonade for $1. Pashima scarves in every color of the world, just $5. Stocking up for winter. Chinese ladies giving us shoulder massages.

On McDougall, finding hummus, fresh, wonderful hummus for lunch, with just-baked, still-warm pitas. Stuffed grape leaves. Regretting ever buying hummus in plastic at Kroger.

Strolling into the Kate Spade store and wanting everything.

Finding Old St. Patrick's, a relic of Mother Teresa on display.

Skirting a blocks-long street fair in Little Italy, that had traffic in a knot all around it, white, red and green arches stretching on and on overhead.

Meeting the guys after the game, sitting down and sharing slices of floppy, warm New York pizza.

Riding the 1 train to Canal Street. Following the crowd to Ground Zero. Flowers, so many flowers, stuck in the fence, wilting slightly.

Construction loud and active even on a Saturday night. Over the Vesey Street walkway, buying souvenirs from the vendors. Taking pictures of the pit.

Trying to figure out how to get to Battery Park, tips from a lady who walked by and helped us, who said, "Just walk through that building, it's a nicer walk than on the street." And she was right.

Walking around the south tip of Manhattan, passing yet another 9/11 memorial, yachts at a marina, around the corner and there is the Statue of Liberty. Taking more pictures. Seeing the torch alight even as we watched.

Dozens of flags drifting in an evening breeze in Battery Park.

A packed Staten Island ferry, boys with skateboards roughhousing, the Brooklyn Bridge with waterfall, the Manhattan Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, this time close up.

Wall Street looking substantial and solid on the outside; somewhere inside the walls, financial institutions are crumbling, as we walk by, taking pictures.

The bells of Trinity Church ringing over all.

Rockefeller Center. Flags and fountains. 30 Rock. Lunch under an umbrella at the cafe, too expensive but too fun to skip.

Window shopping on 5th Avenue, buying toys at F.A.O. Schwartz, tourists and locals with bags and bundles. The toy soldier guy.

Finding Central Park, sudden stillness a sidewalk away. A blue-gray spray-painted Statue of Liberty lady posing for picture for $1. Break dancers entertaining for tips. Carriages and bike-carts. The lawns scattered with blankets and picnics and kids and nappers. Carnival rides just beyond in a meadow.

Walking over a stone bridge, turtles sunning themselves on a rock, the horizon of trees backed by the city skyline.

Souvenir shopping one last time in Time Square, double-taking at the Naked Cowboy Guy, a last glance back as we go into Penn Station.

Long drive home.

Paying for lunch today, I found a subway pass still in my wallet.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

96 hours

On Thursday at 7 p.m. we were driving down SR205 in DeKalb County, slicing a yellow and green soybean field in two.

By Friday at 7 p.m. I was in Times Square, New York City, stepping through puddles as we crossed Broadway, dazzled by the lights, caught in the crowd, not minding the rain.

On Saturday at 10 a.m., I was in the Bronx, facing Yankee Stadium(s), the old on the left, the new on the right.

At 11:30 a.m., I was on the streets of Greenwich Village, then Soho, then Little Italy, and back to the Village, drinking a soda in Washington Square.

At 5 p.m., I was at Ground Zero, fences full of bouquets, a pit full of construction.

At 7 p.m. I was walking towards Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan, on my way to the Staton Island Ferry.

On Sunday at 10 a.m., I stood at the spot on Wall Street where George Washington was inaugurated.

At 11:30 a.m., I was walking among a moving river of people over the Brooklyn Bridge.

At 1 p.m., I was lunching in Rockefeller Center under a canopy of canvas umbrellas, sipping pink lemonade.

At 3 p.m., I bought toys in F.A.O. Schwartz.

At 4 p.m, I paused by The Pond in Central Park and took pictures of a dozen turtles sunning themselves on a rock.

At 7 p.m., I were flying down interstate 80, the New York skyline in the rearview mirror.

By Monday at 7 p.m., New York souveniers were delivered to those who had stayed behind.

Somehow, I'm still hearing the roar of the subway coming up from the street grates, the guy in the red BMW convertible yelling "A--hole!" to the taxi that had just cut him off, the old man asking for just a couple bucks for his medicine, the jazz wafting in Washington Square, cacophony of Times Square, the quiet in Central Park.

Maybe, maybe, a little of that energy came along for the ride home to Indiana. Maybe.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


These walls, this chair, that screen.

Listening, always listening. Personal Muzak. Don't bother me.

Too quiet, too noisy, your phone call, his conversation. 

I think: shut. up.

Reading, reading. Typing. 

Can't find something. Familiar frustration. Looking.

The comfort of a Diet Coke.

And another.

And the bathroom.

Thinking not about what I'm doing. What I'm going to do. What I'm reading. What I wish. Maybe I worry. Maybe.

Something else.

Phone rings. Question answered.

Time and time and time. Same hours, different day.

Email and write and send.


Cross another off the list.

Too quiet, too noisy, too cold, too warm.

Thinking, typing, reading, writing, breathing, talking. Working.


Wondering--how came I to this cubihell? How. Is this -- ?

These walls, this chair, that screen.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

About a coaster ride

The graceful arc of steel track against a blue sky.

The should-we-or-shouldn't-we, is-an-hour-too-long-to-wait conversation.

Nah. We hear it's worth it.

Standing. Standing Standing. Shuffle. Shuffle.

Idle talk and chatter. Eavesdropping on the next queue over.

Reading the signs posted along the way. (Persons with heart conditions should not ride this ride.) (If you are wearing earrings you must take them off.)

Wondering about the condition of my heart, and putting my hoops in my wallet.

Setting little goals as we creep along: We'll be at the next corner in five minutes. The spot by the posts in seven minutes. Near the stairs in four minutes.

Trying to ignore that we have to go to the restroom.

Listening to the coaster as it runs the track, over and over again, a rumbling rhythm punctuated by screams and applause at the end.

Starting to wonder if it will ever be our turn, as we turn and turn in the endless maze, even as we near the end.

All that waiting, then it happens so fast: One last decision, which seat line to enter. The middle looks good.

Next on. A gate opens and shuts.

Following some business major's instructions: Put your belongings in the bin. Fasten your seat belt, pull your shoulder harness down, make sure it's latched.

A future teacher double-checks the belt and harness and it's thumb's up, enjoy your ride and thank you for visiting Cedar Point, ride on.

A short pause, just one breath, and we're flung up a hill--and all of the peninsula filled with coasters, and the azure bay, and the small city beyond spread before us, brilliantly sharp in the August sun.

At the top, here's just a moment between blinks to look--the sky, the sailboats, the sea gulls--and we're launched through a rock-n-roll, up-then-down, upside-down, speed-racer, mile-long, air-time, dark-tunnel, photo-flash who-is-that-screaming-oh-wait ... it's me.

Hard brakes, one last scream that ends in a laugh. Everybody claps.

Welcome back, riders, did you enjoy your ride? asks the future teacher.

Hell yes. Queue me up again.