Existential Sofas

Here I am, once again sitting on the floor of the public library holding my “to read” wish list and surrounded by my purse and my winter jacket. My head is muddled by the several un-shelved books also thrown around me. My task is to decide which books should come home with me today. It’s a major decision after all; as if I were adopting and raising the books, not just taking them home hoping at least one will be my next favorite “read.”

People sidle by me with a jealous look as I try to compact myself into a small clump so they won’t trip over my shoeless feet. How gratifying it is to spot occasional soul mates also strewn on the floor in high anticipation, much like a child in a toy store or a chocoholic in a candy stop.

My history of sprawling on library floors goes back to elementary school and the Rochester Monroe Ave. Branch Library, still in use and still glorious in its cement facade and multi-step entryway, lead–lined glass windows, vaulted ceiling and the imposing (to short stuff like me) central counter. This peculiar behavior continued through high school and into the revered stacks of public and university libraries I have inhabited through the years.

What makes a book appealing? Why select one book and leave other candidates behind? Any analysis has been futile so I seek to understand the thought process for answers. Most often, I arrive armed with a much-edited list of “books to read,” culled from various sources. I trot to the appropriate isle in hot pursuit of the treasures on my list. Perhaps I even find that book but the rich array of its neighbors takes over. I do athletic contortions trying to read the titles on the bottom shelves or tip toeing up high to read the titles on the higher shelves.

I ponder why I look at certain books and leave others untouched? Is it the color of the public end (binding), the cover design, thickness, implied subject matter, a Gestalt moment, a gut feeling or what? I cannot answer. I remain baffled and in awe. I still do not know by what means I decide to pick a book off of the shelf for keeps. I have discussed it with others. Some admit to pursuing only particular authors, genres, subject matter, particular book lengths or paper back versus hardcover. Others join me in awe of the process.

Reflecting further on this “sport” it is no wonder that the library floor has evolved into the “existential sofas” that have sprouted up in coffee houses, small business and big box bookstores and libraries of every sort.

I join the concern that the advent of online books, MP3’s, Ipods and all of that new technology will negate the need to pick up tangible books. Nothing is more satisfying to me than the printed page. Whatever the technology, there will always be the need to pick and choose from the vast list of available books or downloads, pick up the physical book, or highlight and download your choice into your earpiece or text screen to get a high from the great realm of literature.

I’d enjoy feedback on your approach to book selection and where your favorite existential sofa may sit.

Message in a Moment
Ann Carol Goldberg

Disciples, Tailgaters and huggers?

I am a vagabond, a wanderer, inveterate traveler, and even confess to be a voyeur peering through the camera lens. I am restless, always moving, ready to go at a word, forever ancy and hard to pin down. I travel by train, plane and automobile, by motor home, boat or ship, mule or horseback when offered the opportunity. I bike, I hike and I kayak. I have yet to find the opportunity to fly by hot-air balloon, rocket ship or dive in a submarine, soar in a dirigible and long to travel through time via time machine or other fantastical device.

How fortunate I have been to see so much of this planet; to meet people from many lands and diverse walks of life, to experience their habits, characteristics, attitudes and obsessions and to hold lasting memories of those whom I have met. But, their habits seen from behind the wheel of a road vehicle are a whole other animal so to speak.

After hundreds of hours plowing along highways and byways in our motor home, I have gathered lots of data to identify regional driving habits and traits indigenous to those areas. I thought it would be fun to share and compare notes with other “roadies.”

My categories descend from the best to worst;
A. Disciplined drivers apply the “letter of the law,” passing on the left when the oncoming traffic lane is clear, when road markings indicate it is safe to pass, they signal, they follow the rules.
B. Disciples–follow for a while, impatiently following your lead until they can pull out to pass, mostly following rules of safety.
C. Tailgaters-potential terrorists, hug your backside, wavering in and out to see the oncoming traffic and passing in the nick of time, burning rubber so you know they are angry or impatient.

On visits to the Maritimes though, I have identified another category that is baffling but consistent.
D. Huggers-Huggers “hover” snugly against your rear bumper without pushing or stressing you out except to make you wonder why they don’t pass on by. They are patient, they linger. My theory is that huggers are lonely, or just gregarious, crave company and need hugs and reassurances. Often they follow for miles without even attempting to pass.

Texans exhibit their own unwritten behavior becoming a sub-category observed on the roads deep in the heart of Texas; the lead vehicle simply pulls to the right, seldom slowing down and continues to travel along the shoulder until the other vehicle passes on by. It works well and everyone is happy. Texans are friendly and would probably give you a super-sized hug as well.

Stay safe on the road and happy journeys to all.

Message in a Minute
Ann Carol Goldberg

View from the Getty

“Three times and you are out the saying goes.” Not being very sports-minded, I apply the saying to life in general. In this case, I am referring to the J. Paul Getty Museum in downtown Los Angeles. Paul and I have visited the Getty 3 times now, twice in the downtown location and once in the Villa on the coast. It always rains. The Getty Galleries are noted for the artwork and special collections, exhibitions, startling multi-structure architecture and for the incredible views from the locations on the mountaintops.

Generally one associates mountaintop views with glorious vistas of the “oh look” variety; something we have missed because we have only visited in mist, rain, and heavy clouds. One thing you can count on during these visits, if it is raining, is that the facility is well stocked with umbrellas for visitor use. You pick one out of a bin as you exit a building and place it in another bin as you enter the next building.

What high hopes we had for this year’s visit. The sun had been shining and it stopped raining on the third day of our visit. No luck–as we drove to the Getty parking area with our daughter in law, Miriam, the mist settled in overhead and the rain began to fall. Such is life we decided and shrugged our shoulders.

The draw to the J. Paul Getty this year was a newly expanded photo gallery featuring two shows; Public Faces/Private Spaces; Recent Acquisitions showing work by 4 midcareer American photographers, Mary Ellen Mark, Anthony Hernandez, Donald Blumberg and Bill Owen. The second show is; Where we live, Photographs of America, from the Berman Collection. Both shows incorporate images from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

What a treat to see some familiar photographic works of that era; Mary Ellen Mark’s Street Wise Series photographing adolescents on the streets of Seattle and Bill Owen’s Suburbia. However, I was soon distracted by the voices of young people visiting the galleries on field trips with their teachers. The ages ranged from 5th grades to high school juniors and seniors. I confess that being a teacher and having taken my students to many fine exhibits in Rochester, I couldn’t help but hold back a little to hear comments and reactions by some of the students.

They teased and cajoled each other, they needed occasional reminders by their teachers to quiet down or simmer down, but mostly they were thoughtful and engaged, open and curious. They followed the teachers’ ideas about certain photographs and asked pointed questions. One young man asked how a photographer would come up with an idea to shoot as a series. Another student asked if people in the pictures knew that their photo would be shown in a gallery like the J. Paul Getty?

One might say, the sun was shining indoors in the guise of these young people trying something new, but it still did not shine outside, as we exited the museum that day. We waited with some of the students to board the tram to the parking lot. They were active and noisy but I overheard one student say, “I’d like to bring my mom here. I know she’d like it a lot.” That adds up to success and stood out as a bright spot on an otherwise gloomy day in LA.