Wednesday, October 22, 2008

the medicine chest of the soul

Today I discovered a magical place full of wonder and intrigue called the public library. When you go to the public library you can get books, dvds, magazines, even audio books- FOR FREE. It is a spectacular, previously untapped resource containing a bottomless pit of knowledge the depths of which are just waiting to be plumbed.

But seriously- this is a new thing for me. When I like a book I want to own it, flat out, so that I can read it over and over and over and over again and dog the pages and take it everywhere. My favorite books get loved to the point where they couldn't be donated to a book drive. So I've never had particular occasion to frequent a library. Sure, we went to the one on Page Street every so often when I was a kid, and we were forced to have "Library" class every week at SF Day, where we had to do stupid things like fill out worksheets on the Dewey Decimal System and find things in the card catalogue (come of think of it, this experience may have fueled my aversion to libraries)- but I've never really made USE of a library. The library at Lick was new and had a stock of mostly useless books; the public library in Evanston had its share of creepy homeless people who camped out all day long; the library at AFI is almost solely film books; and good luck even finding your way out of the library at Northwestern, with its honeycombed wings and hidden corners and circular rooms, let alone find the book you're looking for. At Northwestern I knew how to get to the Media Library, where I spent countless hours in cubicles watching rare and usually boring foreign films, to the Digital Media office I worked in Freshman year, and to the classroom where I had Reading and Writing Poetry. I MIGHT have checked a book out once or twice, but it was probably found for me by a library employee.

My newfound love of libraries stems from the fact that I am broke and don't have a whole hell of a lot to do. Oh sure, I have things I SHOULD be doing, like figuring out what is wrong with my ipod so that I can get music off of it to cut my reel to, but for the most part I have been either working menial jobs (see the Oh, Pretty Woman post) or scouring craigslist at home. So I am not just broke, I'm BORED and broke. It's a bad combination- it means that I would much rather fill up my time with reading all the awesome new books that have come out recently, but that I can't afford to buy them for my very own. This makes me sad, because I want more than anything to own the new Sarah Vowell book, The Wordy Shipmates, and I'm pretty sure that once I read it I will want to own State by State: A Panoramic View of America by Matt Weiland, he of The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup. I want to own these books, and many more, but I am destitute and becoming more destitute by the day, so tonight I set out for the LA public library on Franklin and Hillhurst. It's a nice walk from where I live (and helps with my new, improved exercise regime- the one aimed at no longer having the body of a middle aged mother of four), and it has a decent stock of books, and it's quiet. And, like I said, free! So few things are free these days that I don't quite know what to do with it.

I spent a long time just browsing. They did not, in the end, have either of the two books I was after- the waiting list for The Wordy Shipmates is 52 people long, and the one for State by State is 34 people long-- 34 people, that is, once the library buys a copy of it. At this rate, it will be 2011 before I read either book, and this is unacceptable. However, the library is very useful for all those books I was curious about but not enough to buy them- like Weird California, a coffee table book about roadside attractions in California that seems to just scream ROADTRIP, or I Like You, Amy Sedaris' hospitality guide. These are both large and hardbacked and probably always will be, so there's very little chance of me buying them... but I can check them out at the magical library and copy down all the fun stuff inside them!

I also found a wonderful cookbook for people with food allergies like Yours Truly. Did you know that eggs, nuts, and soy are three of the five most common food allergies in the world? Then how come everyone looks at me weird when I say I'm allergic to them? It's not like I'm allergic to something really specific and random, like, say, kumquats. I have very common allergies, I just have a lot of them. Anyway, this book is awesome because it tells you things to substitute for the five most common allergies (the other two are gluten and dairy), and has lots of fun recipes. Huzzah.

So the library is my new best friend, despite the fact that they can't seem to buy more than one copy of popular books, and I look forward to a long and beautiful friendship.

Note: the title of this post apparently comes from the inscription above the door to the library at Thebes: "Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul." Just one more thing I learned at the library!

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