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August 21st, 2016

My library history

The first public library I really remember no longer exists. At least not the specific building. Camarillo, CA's library was a reasonably short distance from where I lived from early 1981 to mid-1982, ages 6 to 8, and since that was where I started walking to more places than to neighbors and my school, I likely sometimes walked to it.

It's the library where I first took part in a summer reading challenge. The more books you read, the more write-ups and pictures you got of certain dinosaurs, and hey, dinosaurs! Cool!

That library's since moved, but most libraries I've known are still around and where they were when I went to them. Including the very first one I remember, the school library at Westwood Elementary in Rancho Bernardo, CA, where I lived from 1976 to 1981. IT WAS ROUND. It was in the middle of campus, with classrooms encircling it.

The main detail I remember from there was a row of portraits of U.S. Presidents, first ending with President Carter and then (for my last few months in town) President Reagan. It's where I first read Shel Silverstein. Probably also where I first attended a Scholastic Book Fair, come to think of it.

Being Navy, we kept moving. Virginia Beach next, first a rental house on Lord Dunmore Dr. then a home Mom and Dad bought on Little Lake Rd. Both houses weren't too far from Virginia Beach public libraries, either, and since Virginia Beach by necessity sprawls, that was a bonus. (It's built around a bunch of bays, lakes, streams, swamps and Oceana Naval Air Base. It had to adapt.) I sort of remember the Kempsville library, I definitely remember the Great Neck library.

Vienna, VA had the extra bonus of the town branch being really easy for me to reach on bike, about a block from the W&OD Bike Trail, which is near the house I lived in from 1984 to 1987 (and where I started seriously bicycling). I was at the Patrick Henry branch a lot, through high school (which was also in Vienna). I read several of L. Frank Baum's Oz books there, circa fifth and sixth grade. Fairfax County has a decent public library system; I took advantage of that, plus until I started driving in 1990 my folks had no problem dropping me off at a lot of branches.

Then I WORKED IN A LIBRARY. My first non-temp job, for about a year at college, was at the IMC, the Instructional Media Center in the Knight Library's basement (and not to be confused with the International Machine Consortium from the film version of Contact). I'd roll TV/VCR carts to classrooms, and I also was a projectionist. I got to show 16mm copies of The Godfather — five reels, not the usual three for 16mm copies of feature films — and others in either an IMC screening room or PLC's big auditorium. I still feel bad about when I got a print of the Polish film Korczak that had its reels divided up differently than a previous print I'd used, so Reel 1 ended before I'd expected it to end. YES, I WAS THAT PROJECTIONIST (once, just once, I hope).

It's ingrained enough into me that I didn't realize it for ages, but the farther from a library I am, the slightly more "off" I feel. It helped when I lived in the small (for me) town of Hermiston, OR to have the town library be two blocks away from my office; not long after my parents moved to Dundee, OR, I tried walking to the Newberg library nearby, and that's at times a harrowing walk but I wanted to be sure I could do it; my first place in Portland was within walking distance of Multnomah County Public Library's Belmont branch; then I lived in an apartment that was...that was a 45-minute walk from the nearest branch (in Sellwood). Which I'd still do sometimes, but I felt the (somewhat) greater distance. My current place? Within an easy walk of TWO branches, and a short bus ride away from others. Score!

Also, after all this, you won't be surprised that getting my Multnomah County library card was one of the first things I did once I'd moved to Portland in 2001. Oh, yeah. Still have the same card.

Read well. Libraries want and like you to.

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Breezes, and getting out in them

Breezes will save us.

Friday was a 90s° day, but with the saving grace of a breeze. Somewhat of one. That helped; I could have my bedroom window open longer in the morning, then in the afternoon I braved the still high heat (I know, I know, high by Portland standards) and spent time at Southeast Grind, my former neighborhood's 24-hour coffee-and-food shop. It's where I fled in the worse heat wave we had in 2009, where the worst day was 106°, tying a record. Got home without wilting.

Saturday: almost no breeze, and almost as hot as the day before. This deflated my interest in getting out; I stayed home, listened to music and read.

(It was still warm enough into the night both Friday and Saturday that I did what I'm still unlikely to do, which is keep my window open (behind the curtain) all night. I hope not to get used to that. Tonight, I won't have to.)

Today, I felt weird and off for not having gotten out; luckily temps moderated today. I left. (Stopping briefly on the porch to visit with a neighbor cat who's comfortable with me.)

My first stop was deliberate, and for a sad reason: a reckless driver killed a 15-year-old girl at SE 43rd and Hawthorne on Friday. Per witnesses, the driver was going 60mph in a 25mph stretch, and hit her when he weaved around traffic and into the center turn lane. Hit-and-run. One of the many ways 2016's been a difficult year: the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in Portland due to bad driving. It's been scary and maddening. People are protesting this: they've set up an elaborate memorial at the intersection. I saw it. Sort of paying homage to a fellow walker. I hate that this has happened more lately.

That was my only planned stop while out today; the rest of the afternoon I explored on whims. Library time at the Belmont branch; then I hopped a #75 bus to its southern end in Milwaukie, and walked around. Decided not to cross McLoughlin to visit the beach on the Willamette River; I'd've wanted to be better prepared for bright light if I'd gone there. (I ducked into shade often today. Friday, too.) Then I rode the #70 north and the #14 east-southeast, then home.

It was good that I got out.