A Kind Of Library

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
― Jorge Luis Borges

Recycled Books
Denton, Texas

Everyone has their own addictions. One key to a happy and successful life is to choose your addictions wisely, and manage them well.

One of my addictions, one that I am managing, is owning books – especially used books. The depth of my addiction was when we lived in Mesquite – our house had a long, L-shaped hallway that was unusually wide. It was wide enough for me to cover the walls with bookshelves and then fill those with books – mostly bought on clearance from Half-Price. You can only read so many books – you only have a limited time on this earth (and so much of it is wasted at work and such) and your reading speed is finite. You can, especially if you buy used, own a practically unlimited number. I know this sounds nuts – but that is how an addict thinks.

When we moved, the movers went ape-shit over the books. “We have never seen so many books before,” they complained and said it would cost us more than their estimate to move us. So, here, in Richardson I limit myself to two full-sized bookcases and one small one (which holds exclusively writing books). If I get a new book, I get rid of an old book. Now the fact that I have… probably a score of bookcases-worth of tomes stored electronically in my Kindle… that doesn’t count, even though I doubt I will live long enough to read a fraction of them.

Kindle

Call Me Ishmael

Jeff Koterba color carton for 7/21/09
“Mars”

So now, I’m remodeling my room (once a formal dining room, then, for years basically a disco and LAN party room set up by Lee – now I have inherited it) with a new desk and a compact sound system. I was trying to figure out where to put the “bookshelf speakers” and decided that they should go on a bookshelf. So I had to remove a few tomes and went ahead and cleared out some space for some new purchases I have been contemplating… and then had a few cardboard boxes full of old books (it’s surprising how much weight and space books take up once liberated from their shelves).

I don’t know about you, but I simply can’t throw books in the trash. Odd thing really… but I can’t. Usually we cart old books to Half-Price, though we don’t really get any money for them (especially when you figure most of them were bought there from the Clearance racks). Then I remembered something I always see riding my bike around.

I’m sure you’ve seen these too – the Little Free Libraries. They are… if not everywhere, at least a lot of places. People build a sturdy little glass-faced box in their front yards, accessible from the public thoroughfare for people to “take a book or leave a book.” There are five near my house with another baker’s dozen within cycling range. What a cool idea!

Dallas, in its infinite wisdom, proposed regulating these, until they realized that was nuts. Reading these stories I love one quote. Apparently the whole brouhaha was started by one person asshat repeatedly calling to bitch about his neighbor’s library until the city stall jumped on it.

“Well, for all you kids listening at home, if anyone ever tells you one person can’t make a difference,” said East Dallas’ Philip Kingston, “remember one jerk using 311 in District 10 caused us all to waste our time here and caused the loss of hundreds of staff hours.”

So, today, I set out on my usual bike ride. Because of the torrents of rain over the last few days I rode my commuter/cargo bike – it is as heavy as a tank, but has fenders that make standing water and mud less of a pain. I have a set of Bushwhacker Omaha folding grocery panniers which make quick trips for food easy (I have six grocery stores with a two mile bike ride of my house). Once I put up the groceries I refilled the panniers with surplus books and headed out to a few close by Little Free Libraries.

I delivered a few books to each one – picking books that normal people might like.

I’m especially proud of the fact that I didn’t take any books (though I did look). Is that selfish of me? I’m feeding someone else’s addiction while I’m dealing with mine.

The sculpture in the outdoor reading area at the library.

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The Great Floodgates Of the Wonder-World

“…the great floodgates of the wonder-world swung open…”
― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick or, The Whale

The ponds at the end of my block, Richardson, Texas

All my life I have wanted to live on a creek lot. I remember living in East Dallas and riding my bike along the hilly lanes east of White Rock Lake (back then I was young and thin and fit and I welcomed hills – now I’m afraid of them) and spotted homes along streams – some with little patios down among the trees perched out over the water. They would have a grill, some seats, and I imagined knots of people at sunset enjoying the setting – always wanted that sort of thing.

My wish finally came true, sort of, when we bought our house in Richardson. Technically it is a creek lot – but the creek (which emerges from the flood control ponds in Huffhines Park at the end of our block and runs a short distance beyond where I live to join with Duck Creek) has been manmade wrestled into an arrow-straight path. It’s really more of a ditch lot.

On most days it’s barely an algae and trash encrusted trickle. There are a lot of ducks and turtles (both the friendly box and the prehistoric snappers) with a nighttime cohort of opossums, bobcats, coyotes and an occasional beaver. There are a few trees – but the number is limited by the Corps of Engineers to insure proper flow. They only allow new plantings when an old tree dies. It’s a sleepy stretch, mostly useful to the local kids and cats, feeding and stalking, respectively, the ducks.

They don’t call it Duck Creek for nothing.

That changes with frightening rapidity when a big Texas thunderstorm strikes. The water rises and moves in a symphony of wet muscular gravity.

Last night one hit, hit hard. The ground was already saturated, the flood control ponds already overflowing when the sky dropped six inches of water in a couple hours.

I opened the garage door and looked out through a forest of honey globs of water caterwauling off the roof into the dark. Illuminated only by staccato bolts of lightning like a galvanic Gene Krupa, the bellowing water stilled by the strobing arcs into impossible waves rising above the creek banks and beyond. The usual quiet night lit up by blue thunder. The gleaming fury as millions of gallons of deafening water scream by is frightening and intoxicating. I watched from my house – afraid to get any closer.

This morning I walked around the strip of creek, grass, and trees. The highest water level was marked by a line of twigs and plastic water bottles. In several places the delimitation moved up over the bike trail and almost kissed the alley that runs behind the houses. By then the creek was down to its usual level, having dropped as fast as it rose, with only a little more water flowing by than usual.

The flow was a dozen feet below the level of the detritus line – which was in turn only a couple feet below the level of the houses (though it would take a lot – a lot – more water to raise the flood up that last bit).

I hope.

I did think of those little patios perched in the winding creek lots of East Dallas. I always liked them – but I’m sure they are all gone now.

Music Or the Misery

“What came first – the music or the misery? Did I listen to the music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to the music? Do all those records turn you into a melancholy person?”
― Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

Kicken’ Brass Band, Arts District, Dallas, Texas

Because They Are Searching

“When lovers kiss on the cheeks, it is because they are searching, feeling for one another’s lips. Lovers are made by a kiss.”
― Émile Zola, The Fortune of the Rougons

Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People

I have never been a huge fan of book series. I haven’t read The Hunger Games, Twilight, or The Mortal Instruments. I did binge read Harry Potter, but I wish I hadn’t. But now I think I’m going to dive in to a much more ambitious string of tomes.

I think I’m going to read the whole Les Rougon-Macquart cycle by Émile Zola. We were talking about… something… at a writing group the other evening, and I remembered these books (though I have forgotten the subject we were discussing). The twenty books follow the two branches of the Rougon-Macquart family in France during the turbulent years of the Second French Empire.

I have read Zola before. A long time ago, maybe a quarter-century. This was before e-readers and the internet was in its glorious dial-up infancy. Half-Price books arranged their fiction by author and it was easy to find Zola at the very end.

I read four:

  • L’Assommoir
  • La Bête Humaine
  • Germinal
  • Nana

Nana was wicked fun, La Bête Humaine was horrific good, Germinal was heartbreaking, and L’Assommoir was a work of genius.

I knew that they were part of a series – people in each book were related to those in the others. But I wasn’t sure of the overall arc of books. You forget how hard it was to find information in the pre-internet days. For the curious, like myself, finding facts was scrabbling under rocks in a desert… rather than drinking from a fire hose as it is now. We are drowning in information.

I no longer have an excuse. Not only do I know of the series… all of the works are available for free on Project Gutenberg. The only problem is the English versions are old bowdlerized translations by the Vizetelly family – but I can soldier through and pick up a modern book when I can.

I will read the twenty novels in the recommended order:

  1. La Fortune des Rougon (1871) (The Fortune of the Rougons)
  2. Son Excellence Eugène Rougon (1876) (His Excellency Eugene Rougon/ His Excellency)
  3. La Curée (1871-2) (The Kill)
  4. L’Argent (1891) (Money)
  5. Le Rêve (1888) (The Dream)
  6. La Conquête de Plassans (1874) (The Conquest of Plassans/A Priest in the House)
  7. Pot-Bouille (1882) (Pot Luck/Restless House/Piping Hot)
  8. Au Bonheur des Dames (1883) (The Ladies’ Paradise/Shop Girls of Paris/Ladies’ Delight)
  9. La Faute de l’Abbé Mouret (1875) (The Sin of Father Mouret/Abbe Mouret’s Transgression)
  10. Une Page d’amour (1878) (A Lesson in Love/A Love Episode/A Page of Love/A Love Affair)
  11. Le Ventre de Paris (1873) (The Belly of Paris/The Fat and the Thin/Savage Paris/The Markets of Paris)
  12. La Joie de Vivre (1884) (The Joys of Living/Joy of Life/How Jolly Life Is/Zest for Life)
  13. L’Assommoir (1877) (The Dram Shop/The Gin Palace/Drink/Drunkard)
  14. L’Œuvre (1886) (The Masterpiece/A Masterpiece/His Masterpiece)
  15. La Bête Humaine (1890) (The Beast in the Man/The Human Beast/The Monomaniac)
  16. Germinal (1885)
  17. Nana (1880)
  18. La Terre (1887) (The Earth/The Soil)
  19. La Débâcle (1892) (The Downfall/The Smash-up/The Debacle)
  20. Le Docteur Pascal (1893) (Doctor Pascal)

I’m digging into the first one, La Fortune des Rougon on my KIndle, and enjoying it so far.

I have no idea how long this will take – 20 books (or 16 if I skip the ones I’ve already read) is a lot of pages. So little time, so many books.

It’s Better To Be Absolutely Ridiculous

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
― Marilyn Monroe

Isaak at the NorthBark Dog Park, Far North Dallas, Texas

We’ve had Isaak since February or so. He was named after this guy:

He was a rescue from Dallas Animal Services – we don’t know anything of his story except that he was not an owner abandon – I guess that means the dog catcher caught him. We picked him up on half-price day; that means he cost: fixed, shots, exams and such, only ten dollars.

The most common question that everyone has asked, of course, is, “What breed is he?” We had to answer, “We have no idea.” If I had to guess I would have said German Shepard (because of his ears and the black along his tail) and golden retriever mix.

So many people asked about his breed we decided to send his DNA swab off and find out for sure. The results just came in… and we were completely off.

25% American Staffordshire Terrier (Pit Bull Breed)
25% Boxer
12.5% Bulldog
12.5% Labrador Retriever
12.5% Siberian Husky
12.5% Breed Groups(s) Herding, Asian, Sporting, Companion

So, that’s about as much of a mutt as you’re going to see.

I’m not sure how accurate these things are (they said their “sophisticated computer algorithm performed over 17 million calculations!“- if I had extra money I would have also sent in my own cheek swab just to screw with them) – but this actually seems about right. Long legs of a Boxer, a bit of a Pit Bull face shape, Retriever snout…. But Siberian Husky?

Isaak jumping into the water.