Of Libraries, Bars, and Corners

I just finished listening to How it Ends by Devotchka, and How Strange, Innocence by Explosions in the Sky just started, and I’m not really sure where I’m going in this post beyond a few things I wanted to mention, so we’ll see what comes, shall we?

I’ve been playing with Delicious Library the past day or two, and I must say: it’s good. It’s a very targeted application, aimed at filling a specific (but arguably necessary) role, namely creating a rich media management system. I’m about a third to halfway through adding my things to the library, which really isn’t bad considering the quantity of stuff and the amount of time I’ve devoted to the project. I feel good enough about the product to have written up a review, and hopefully that show go live in the next week or so (I sent it to Wil along with some interview questions this evening, so when it goes live somewhat depends on when he gets back to me). I’m pretty pleased with the responses I got from my last article (on Scrivener), so I’m hoping this spotlight also goes well. For those who might be interested in its potential for institutional use in some capacity: it currently doesn’t really support ISSN or LOC information (though it does support full ISBN and ISBN-13 lookups), so I’m not sure if it’s really ready for a large scale academic or institutional library. As far as communal (informal) libraries go, however, or small scale operations (say, a coffee house that offers books to read to patrons), I think it would be phenomenal.

Actually, let’s take a second and expand on that idea… I’d really love to see that. A coffee house that also serves a community role by housing a “reading room” lined with books that can be checked out by customers willing to register details with the cafe. Books could be purchased by the cafe to start, and then take donations of money or books to expand and refresh the library. I don’t know if it would fly — I suspect it might (as I’ve mentioned before, the notion of coffee and books seems to have already been imprinted on the public as a good combination). I’m in no position to start such a thing, but now I’m sitting here wondering if I know anyone who might be.

So, as most of you are aware, I don’t really know that many people out here (though that is changing). Aside from whatever other ramifications that may have, it means that I’ve been dining alone a lot. I’m by no means the first person to make this observation (I seem to recall a well known dining critic who wrote a regular column based on dining alone), but in general, restaurants have no idea what to do with the solitary diner. While there doesn’t seem to be as much open disdain for it as has been alluded to in the past, there does generally seem to be an outcast mentality that accompanies “table for one, please.” My observation is that you tend to automatically be placed either in the corner, out of the way, or (if they have one) at the bar. I don’t drink, but I’ve certainly found myself perched on a bar chair (no stools thankfully) more than a few times in the past month or so of being out here, and I don’t imagine that trend is going to subside any time soon.

Personally, I don’t really mind too much: when you’re stuck in a corner alone, it gives you a chance to cultivate other habits that are arguably beneficial. Bringing a book to a restaurant suddenly seems more reasonable, and more often than not, I pull out my pocket notebook and write a journal entry while I wait for my food to arrive. What, you didn’t think this was the only place I write, did you? I may not write as much as I should (and certainly not as much productive writing as I should), but I wouldn’t exactly call myself a complete slouch about it, either.

The past few days have been really good, thinking about it. I’ve been feeling pretty upbeat, and managed to a) actually talk to one of the cute baristas at the coffeehouse; b) catch up with folks from Coccinella and even go to dinner with them and meet some of their friends (which was a blast, if any of you are reading this, I really appreciated getting to come, and hope I didn’t make too much of an ass of myself); c) introduced myself, exchanged cards with, and chatted for more than 30 seconds with Wil, which is actually quite a feat — it’s dumb, I know, but I always feel a little uncomfortable about introducing myself to people who are famous, even if it’s just fame within a select circle (like, say, the Mac developer community). I end up worrying about offending them or looking like a hanger-on, and feel like I need to say something worthwhile and important so I’m not wasting their time. It’s just in general been a pretty good few days. At least for the moment, my bills are paid, and I know I have the money for the rent due in a week, and… well, yeah. Things are okay.

It’s interesting, but a lot of that “hey hey, things are okay” feeling really started accumulating once I started making real progress on unpacking all my books. I guess I’m still a bit of a bookworm at heart: I feel better when I have shelves of books around. Reuniting my things from before the divorce with the things from after the divorce is also a pretty significant act. While I’m not trying to sound like a materialist, it really does make me feel a lot more “whole”. When I packed everything up in 2005, I felt like I’d packed up a portion of myself in the process, and it wasn’t any specific thing that I could point out and say “Yes, that, that’s what makes me feel more complete.” It was more the whole notion of fragmenting myself, losing my anchor point. The entire time I was in Vermont, I didn’t really feel connected (which I will freely admit is largely my own fault), and never really settled down or got comfortable with who I was. And now… well, I’m still not sure if I’ve figured out the whole “who I am” thing to any modicum of comfort, but I definitely feel like I’m back on a path of getting there.

2 thoughts on “Of Libraries, Bars, and Corners

  1. I’ve had a similar experience recently with item reunions. When my parents moved to England, I divided my stuff up into two piles: that which goes into storage, and that which goes to England. When I decided to move back to DC when they were still in England, I took the bare essentials. At one point, I had my belongings strewn across four locations: in storage, in an apartment in DC, in an apartment in New York, and in England. Only recently has all of my stuff come together again (in two places–my apartment and my parents’ house 30 minutes away) and there is a very distinct difference in what’s at home (all of my nostalgic little girl stuff) and what’s at my apartment (work and school-related stuff). What you surround yourself with has a huge impact on your mood and state of mind, and it is important that you know what those things are. I think it’s safe to say that you and I get the same comfort from books. I feel so happy that you have gotten to a place of where you feel like your surroundings positively reflect YOU, and put you in a comfortable mindset. You’re on your way, and you’re doing the right thing. I congratulate you.

  2. *hug* *bow* Danke for the words of support, and likewise in your own reunion.

    I definitely agree with you about how what we surround ourselves with influences our mood and thoughts. I’ve mentioned this before, but I used to say that you’ll never see the house or my office as clean as when a paper is due. I think a lot of that sense of our environment and our minds having a close relationship is the general basis of feng shui. I’ve been meaning to do some more thought and reading about all that, but haven’t had time yet. I picked up The Poetics of Space shortly before I moved, but it was packed up, and so there just hasn’t been a slot to read it.

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