18 January 2019

The Library Book

If you are a fan of books or libraries or Susan Orlean, you know that she came out with a book recently, called "The Library Book".

It's wonderful. It's shaggy, and erudite, and witty, and it rambles from library theory to arson to book conservation to the history of Los Angeles, with discursions hither and yon. Do not pass go; read it.

I was, however, stopped in my tracks early on, in a passage about the joys of discovering what books are shelved close to one another at the Los Angeles Public Library, based on their Dewey decimal numbers:

Do you see what I see? The numbers she's chosen are not in order:


This nagged at me, so I googled Gaydar. Or maybe I googled 306.7662. And I discovered that, in about 2015, the Los Angeles Public Library moved their whole LGBT section from Dewey Decimal 301.4157 to a new call number area at 306.76. Because, it turns out, what seems simple - the Dewey Decimal Catalog - is actually fraught with value judgment decisions about what books should neighbor what other books.

Orlean must have visited the stacks and made her list before the change, and a copy editor must have reviewed the list to check that the books and the numbers matched. And the copy editor found that Gaydar now had a new Dewey Decimal Number and so edited the book copy. But really, Orlean should have found a new book to stick in her list so that the numbers could stay in order. Erik Erikson's Childhood and Society, at 301.43, would have done the trick.

You know, for nitpickers like me.

I digress. The Library Book is a lovely paean to books and libraries and reading, and you should read it. Take it out of your local library.

07 December 2018

Recycling the Reusable

The eco mantra is reduce, reuse, recycle. And always bring your own bag.

I came home from the farmer's market and unloaded the chicken and greens and bread and hummus and pears and mozzarella and cauliflower and onions and, yes, many pounds of food - and discovered that the side seams on the bottom of my sturdy shopping bag were splitting. Happily, they did not give way in an unseemly fashion in the middle of the parking lot.

I turned the bag inside out, and contemplated fixing the seam. But the bag's construction meant that it would have been a half-assed repair, so I took the bag to the garage thinking I'd bin it. But...

The Instant Pot has been living in the garage on the counter next to the toaster oven - remember my summer kitchen? I'd been thinking that the Instant Pot needed a slip cover, and with nary a pause, I slipped the shopping bag on its head. Ta da! It fit like a glove, though a little taller than it needed to be. I took the bag back inside, dredged up some denim, cut the bag down to size, and Bob's your uncle!

I love that I repurposed a reuseable bag.

30 November 2018

In Which We Fall Down A Gorey Rabbit Hole

Diving into the rabbit holes of sketchy draft posts has been the best thing about #nablopomo. Some of have just stopped me in my tracks - they've been nothing more than a hodgepodge of links and a little text, like this one:

I start copying the links to see where they go.


I love that image!

The next one's the same. So's the third - although the third one tells me the image is the Boggerslosh, from The Utter Zoo.

The Boggerslosh conceals itself
In back of bottles on a shelf.

I fell down the Boggerslosh rabbit hole because I'd bought a book of postcards when visiting the Gorey house a few years ago. The Boggerslosh is the only postcard that I didn't mail off to someone. I kept it because it reminded me both of my mother (who was fond of blue & green glass bottles) and of the Gorey house (with its collections of oddments and glass bottles).

I decide to check my Gorey library. I do not have The Utter Zoo - and it is not included in either Amphigorey or Amphigorey Too.

Tucked inside Amphigorey, though, is a photocopied note in my mother's handwriting:

A nonsense verse or composition - a rigmarole with apparent meaning which proves to be meaningless.

A succession of confused, meaningless or foolish statements; prolix and rambling or incoherent talk.

Ragman Rolls
Document having many names or seals (i.e. Papal bull) - from rolls of deeds in which Scottish novels swore allegiance to Edward I of England in 1291.

I do not remember discussing rigmarole and ragman rolls with my mother, but I love knowing that she cared enough to look up amphigory and follow it back to Edward I.

Aimless archeology paused, I return to the draft post.

The Wuggly Ump, by Edward Gorey

It eats umbrellas, gunny sacks,
Brass doorknobs, mud, and carpet tacks.

The Wuggly Ump is in Amphigory, but - sing tirraloo, sing tirralay! - I also have a battered 1963 hardcover, complete with dust jacket.

What I cannot find is the photo I took at the Gorey house, of the small pile of carpet tacks on a mantelpiece. I know it's here somewhere.

Funnily enough, there's a new biography of Gorey just out, called Born to Be Posthumous. I did need to read aloud much of the review at the breakfast table yesterday. Like:

Even some of Gorey’s most ardent fans assumed he had to be British and long deceased. Such intricate, gothic scenes were supposed to unfurl from the pen of a wan, wraithlike neurasthenic holed up in a garret — not some towering Midwesterner partial to floor-length fur coats and busy days attending the New York City Ballet.

Even though I generally don't love biographies, I might need to put that one on my Christmas list.

I meander here, I meander there. And thus concludes a month of posting, nearly every day.

29 November 2018

Throwback Thursday: Cat Scan

Why yes, I did scan the cat once.

And in a completely unrelated event, I wrote a haiku about the underbelly of the cat.

The underbelly
Of the insatiable beast
Is soft, cat, fluffy.

I tell you, I have found some great stuff in the drafts folder.

28 November 2018

Unanswerable Questions

Why does the free WiFi work on the lower level tracks at Grand Central Terminal but not on the upper level?

We have two water bowls for the cats: one in the kitchen and one in the upstairs bathroom. Why do they only drink out of the the upstairs bowl?

Why does my doctor’s office need to text once, call once, and email TWICE to remind me that I have an appointment on Friday. One or two reminders, okay. But FOUR?

27 November 2018

Giving Tuesday, Or How To Kill Two Birds With The Same Stone

You are probably inundated with posts, emails, tweets, and other messaging about Giving Tuesday.

May I offer another way to think about it?

You surely have people on your holiday gift lists who need a gift from you, but who don’t actually need anything. Yes? I know I do. Instead of buying a tie, or a scented candle, or another well-meaning but banal gift, make a charitable contribution in their name.

One less mug out there in the world, one more pair of toe shoes for a ballerina. It's a win/win.

Incidentally, Giving Tuesday is a new phenomenon - it only began in 2012, the brainchild of the 92nd Street Y. The intent was, and remains, lofty: "a way to pivot back to the values of community and gratitude celebrated on Thanksgiving after Black Friday and Cyber Monday." So, even though you're feeling overwhelmed by the solicitations pouring into your in-box, think about how you can kill two birds with one stone: a charitable contribution can be your gift to someone on your list.

26 November 2018

Pinocchio, The Velveteen Rabbit, and Me

Today, because I opted not to go on a field trip to the dirty bowels of our building, my boss shrugged and said "you're a girl".

I replied, "I'm not a girl".

Him: "Well, what are you then?"

Me, snarkily: "Wouldn't you like to know?"

Don't get me wrong. I've made plenty of visits to the cellar. I love the generally off-limits, odd spaces around here. We had a fire drill not long ago, which dumped me out a door I'd never gone through - a ground floor exit through a wood paneled staircase that must have once been lovely.

What I don't love is when people call me a girl. I do not take kindly to people who said "you went to an all girl's school". Nope, I went to a women's college.

I can say, about myself, that I never learned how to be a real girl - but in so saying, I am acknowledging my complete inability to apply or wear makeup, my absolute indifference to any hairstyling that isn't wash and wear (and yes, I don't own a hair dryer), and my refusal to wear spike heels ever.

Unlike Pinocchio (who wants to be a real boy), and the velveteen rabbit (who wants to be a real rabbit), I am perfectly content to be me because, in fact, I am a real girl.

But if you tell me I'm a girl - real or not - I will bite your head off.