That Which Sustains

A couple weeks ago, I was at the lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere:

Chilling at the Lowest Spot in the Western Hemisphere, 130 Degrees

I look happy there, and I was, but it was 130 degrees when that picture was taken, and I was sitting that way so as to not have any bare skin touching the ground, as it would have burned me. As it was, a minute or two later, I discovered that my necklace and my shoes had grown hot enough to leave a mark.

It was a little troubling, but we had enough water, and it was also awesome. I’ve wanted to experience extreme heat like that since I was a girl and first learned about Death Valley, and now I have.

Since I got home, all I’ve been thinking about is food, per usual–particularly in July when everything is amazing. I wrote about some of my favorite cookbooks for the library web site. I think I’ve written about most of those books here, but just in case. I’m trying to write more for the library site–for the library in general–but I am trying to do a lot of things lately. I have been doing a lot of things. Life has been good, interesting, full. I hope I get to share more of it soon, but, in the meantime, I’m going to go hold onto a little more summer.

Reunited with My Laptop

I was sick and missed a couple days of work before I left on my trip to Chicago, and I really got to missing HPL while I was gone. So even though I got home at 1:00 in the morning, I got myself up mid-morning, did a few chores, and got to work by 1:00pm.

The library was lively and busy, and it was good to be back amid the beautiful chaos.

Then about 5:00, a storm came in. I heard the first rumble of thunder, and I knew it was foreshadowing trouble. Ten minutes later, the lightning and thunder were over us, and the rain was pouring down. I was working the reference desk at the time, and I paused for a moment to look up and ponder how long it was going to be before the ceiling started leaking.

Which is when the lights went out.

The electricity wasn’t out 20 seconds, but if you work in a public building, you know that this is all it takes to shoot everything to hell. A kid in the children’s area started crying, the air conditioning went perfectly still, and the computers all started beeping, since that little blip was enough to make them restart. Patrons whose sessions were just tanked got up and started wandering around, lost without whatever it was they’d been doing. The staff started relogging on machines. The parent comforted the crying child.

The air conditioner remained quiet.

Kristen said, “Adrienne, I don’t think the phones are right.”

I said, “We have to unplug them and plug them back in.”

Kristen said, “Already done. They still don’t work.”

I said, “Is Lynn still here?”

Of course, Lynn wasn’t still there.

This is when the ceiling started leaking.

Kristen took care of the phone situation, as much as she was able on the evening before a holiday–which is to say that we didn’t have functioning phones for the rest of the night but should by Friday. I put a trash can under one of the leaks, and Kristen and Vicki wound up taking care of a couple other ones that sprang up. I had to keep helping patrons find things, and eventually I took a few minutes to climb up into the tower and have a showdown with the air conditioning. I know how to fix basic problems with the heat, but the air conditioning is a whole other set of machines, ones that look like they have been there since the dawn of time. They were making noise, so something was happening, and the staff room and front of the library were the right temperature through the rest of the evening. Not so much in the children’s area, though. Anne may find that Friday is going to make up for all those times this winter when she was freezing back there.

It’s like the building wanted to give me a great big hug and let me know how glad it was that I came home.

As the evening wore on, I got to be more focused on our actual work, and at one point, I was helping at the circulation desk. When I was done checking out one man’s DVDs, I said, “Have a good holiday!”

This man is not a native English speaker and has an extremely thick accent, and so I really had to pay attention to hear him say, “I will! I am going to be back here on Friday, because I have Friday off, too! I have a job now. Remember how you helped me with my resume on the computer a few months ago? I have a job now because you helped me, and I have these holidays when I get paid.”

And then I did remember this man. He is an immigrant from Laos who works in machine shops and had been trying to figure out how to put his resume on various job sites. I have told the story of helping him many times, as it was memorable. He was polite and kind, for one thing, but also he was so self-conscious that he was doing everything all wrong, even though he barely needed my help. The extent of my assistance was periodically swooping in to tell him what button to click and then cheer him on while he did exactly what he needed to do.

“I remember you!” I said. “Do you like your job?”

“Oh yes,” he said. “I love my job.”

“That is wonderful,” I said. “Good news.”

At the end of the night, it was downpouring again. It’s been raining a lot here this last several weeks, and the parking lot was flooding, the water up past my ankles even while I was still wearing my platform sandals.

And all I could think was that it’s good to be home.

We Might Be Staying in One of Those Inns Where the Staff Murders Their Guests in the Middle of the Night and Eats Them

I guess we were on the road a couple hours before the first time I said to Jason, “You are really irritating me with the way you exist and take up space.”

He took offense, but, seriously, he takes up a lot of space.

He’s a decent copilot, though–not super-great with directions, but he did some excellent iPod DJ-ing, and, really, if the music’s good enough, it’s okay to spend some extra time on the road.

Now we’re at an inn we found in the middle of I’m-Not-Totally-Sure-Where-We-Are, Indiana. It’s clean but kind of run down, and maybe (definitely) Jason and I have watched too many horror movies, but we’ve both been suspicious ever since we got here, trying to figure out why the place is so cheap. Jason’s out “exploring” now. If he doesn’t come back, I’m making a run for the car. In the meantime, though, I might as well read a book.

The Daily Bugle

Something I didn’t anticipate about my move to the city this past December was that it would end in me cooking less than I used to. I mean, in theory, I have more free time than I used to when I owned a house, and I do, but I quickly began filling up some of that time eating at the many worthy restaurants within walking distance of my apartment. I’ve filled up my time with other things I can walk to: movies at the Little and Dryden, visiting museums, going out for runs, fitting in workouts at theUntitled gym. The other night was typical of how my evenings go sometimes. Jason came over so we could go check out the Spider-Man set, and as we were walking along East Avenue, we found there was a busker contest going on, and we ran into friends out on the street. Twice. So what might have been an hour out turned into a couple hours out, and I was happy it did.

About a year ago, Tanita predicted that once January 1 hit, I would start traveling a lot, and that’s also turned out to be true. I’ve been on four out-of-town trips since January, and I am busily planning the next one for the end of June. I’ve been on a couple day trips. I go for hikes and out to concerts. There’s a lot of DOING around here.

Of course, I also guard my time at home. I read and write my letters and play my piano. I write in my endless notebooks. I don’t spend as much time online, I find, and I still don’t watch nearly as much TV as I want to. I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with the newspapers. I keep thinking maybe I should stop subscribing to them because they’re expensive, and I never get to read them cover-to-cover. Some days I don’t read them at all. I do read some of the newspapers most days, though, and I learn enough interesting things that I can’t seem to quit them. For instance, this morning, I learned that LA has a subway, which how did I miss that all this time? (I must have known it at some point, but I’d forgotten, and I certainly never rode it.) I read this piece that I found interesting on a number of levels, and I also finally got to Wednesday’s NYT Dining section, which is the one part of the paper I make a point of reading cover-to-cover every week. This week featured an article about Michael Pollan making lunch. That’s the kind of thing that makes life better. Also, obviously, that’s one of the places where I get my regular Mark Bittman fixes.

Which all goes to say that one of the things I do when I’m not cooking is read about cooking. And I haven’t quit cooking altogether. I cook regularly. Just less frequently. Sometimes I eat something simple for dinner like fruit and cheese because there’s other stuff I want to get to.

Two or three years back, I was talking to Olivia about life and my troubles (I think, at the time, it was dealing with anxiety, but I don’t rightly remember), and she said one of those simple things that I already knew but that I really heard and remembered and have thought about a lot since, “You can’t settle in because life is always changing, and that’s a good thing.”

This move has been successful in that I am living more of the life I wanted to live. My energy isn’t being sucked away by chores that bring me no long-term joy, and I’m focusing my energy on things I love and believe in. I’ve mentioned a couple people, but not all the people. I’ve been able to focus on my relationships, too–lots of talks and quality time. I still don’t know precisely where I’m going, but I know I’m walking in the right direction.

Well, lately, I’ve been running.

And now I have to make some lunch.

Some People Go to Bethlehem for a Census, Others Go to See a Comedian

Last weekend, Amy, Arthur, and I went to Bethlehem, PA to see Marc Maron on his Out of the Garage Tour. None of us* had been to Bethlehem before. We came in along a hill packed with small run-down houses that Amy started calling Shantytown. As we were driving on this fifty-degree-and-raining day, I saw a shirtless guy standing in the middle of a side street shouting at, apparently, life, and I thought, Yes, exactly. This is exactly what happens here.

Bethlehem also sports a casino, an amazing vegan bakery, and a Wegmans with a clock tower.

Then it also has an arts complex built in the midst of the abandoned remains of the Bethlehem Steel plant.

I So Totally Wanted to Climb on This

How to Make a Defunct Steel Factory Look Better

So, you know, odd town.

Anyone who spends time with me or reads this blog knows that I reference Marc Maron’s WTF podcast at least once a day and am forever encouraging people to listen to it. I had a somewhat serious interest in comedians before I started listening to the show, and when I listened to my first episode almost two years ago (#163, Conan O’Brien), I was hooked. It’s not just about the comedy for me. WTF has entertained me, and I’ve learned things from it, but it’s also helped me as I’ve been changing my life and coping with a bunch of stuff I never expected to have to cope with, in just the most unexpected ways. I think it’s helped me live my life a little better.

For me, going to see Marc Maron was a big deal, and I’m so glad Amy and Arthur were there, too.

Oh Yeah, That Happened

The show was hilarious. We saw Louis CK perform in Buffalo a few weeks back, and I thought Marc Maron gave a better performance–and that’s saying something, because Louis CK was also great.

My biggest disappointment was that we didn’t get to climb around on the abandoned buildings.

Everything Looms

Maybe next time.

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

*Including Marc. He wrote about his experience here and talks about it at the beginning of episode #380.


One thing about traveling is that you leave bits and pieces of yourself all over, and it can be difficult to get yourself all back in one place again.

Not to mention on the correct schedule.

Our a group, Minus Me

One of My Favorite Views of Las Vegas



I've Wanted to Come Here Since I Was a Little Girl

I Thought I'd Leave a Note for Any Venomous Snakes that Happened By


I’m working on it, although I wonder if maybe it isn’t better to be scattered around a little. Just enough. There’s a line.

I have a couple weeks before I’m out of town again.

Having a Productive Morning Doing Every Single Thing in the World Besides Packing for My Trip

The train to Toronto doesn’t leave until 2:00 (in theory–I haven’t checked to see if it’s running late yet), so I feel like I have time. I’ve been using that time to hang around in my pajamas and finally make all the phone calls I need to make to change my address, since I’ve been living in my new place for two months now. I’ve also been planning two other trips because everyone knows the best time to plan a trip is the day you’re leaving to go on one you aren’t adequately prepared for.

Well, my presentation’s set. It’s just the pesky being-showered-and-packed-and-remembering-where-I’m-staying part I haven’t figured out.

I also don’t exactly know how I’m getting to the train station.

But, whatever, the presentation. I’m going to Toronto for my first time attending the OLA Super-Con, where I’ll be speaking with my colleague Alison McCullough of the Oshawa Public Libraries at 3:45pm tomorrow. Our session is “Helping Homeschoolers in the Library,” and it’s a live version of a webinar we did for the Education Institute last spring. I’ve really been looking forward to this.

So much so that I think I may even take a shower and pack. After I do a few more things.

“Defying Gravity”

I’ve been waiting since the day Lucas was born to bring him to his first Broadway show.

I had no idea how to make sure Lucas would grow up to be the kind of person who would appreciate such a thing, but somehow I got lucky, and he is. Saturday night, I took him to see Peter and the Starcatcher, and we had such a good time. The show was great–funny and inventive. Lucas joked about how we were spending our evening watching people pretending to be something they are not, and I joked back about how most of life is like that. He bought me a pin as a souvenir.

Earlier in the day, I had mentioned that if he wasn’t too tired after the show, I might take him to the top of the Empire State Building. He’s afraid of heights and seemed apprehensive, and so I told him it was totally up to him. I told myself I needed to be okay with that. But after the show, he said, “I’m not tired. Let’s go to the Empire State Building.”

So then we started walking. We cut through Times Square. I’ve been through Times Square I don’t know how many times in my life, but I always just plow through. I’ve never stopped and looked at it. Lucas was gawking, though–staring up while we were trucking along–so I did something I’d never have done if he wasn’t with me. I pulled him aside and said, “Okay. Let’s stop. Let’s look.”

And we looked around for a while: reading everything, pointing stuff out, looking like total tourists at 11:30 on a Saturday night. It was fine.

After that, we went over to Fifth Ave., and that’s when we started sprinting from block to block in an attempt to not have to wait at any corners. That kid may run cross-country, but I can still keep up with him. When we were a block away, I caught a glimpse of the Empire State Building, and I stopped him and pointed it out.

“Oh my God, that’s high,” he said.

“It is,” I said. “You sure about this?”

He nodded, and we made our last sprint.

There was no line, so we walked and elevatored our way straight up to the top. Two steps onto the observation deck, we got hit by this crazy wind–our Playbills went flying and Lucas was laughing, chasing down the Playbills and telling me how my hair was sticking straight up.

“I know!” I said, “Come look!”

So we went to the edge and started going around slowly. I pointed things out that I knew, and Lucas asked questions. He made a point of looking down. He kept saying, “The cars are smaller than Matchbox Cars! They’re so small!”

It turned out that the wind was on two sides of the building and not the two other sides. After we made our first slow walk around, Lucas asked if we could go around again. Then again. Then again. By then our teeth were chattering, so we went inside.

“Do you want to go back to the hotel, or do you want to go out again?” I asked.

“Can we go out again? I want to go around one more time,” he said.

“We can stay here as long as you want,” I said. “This is not every day.”

And so we went out and ran around the observation deck a few more times. One time when we hit the wind, Lucas shouted, “I LOVE THIS!”

It was after midnight by then, so, finally, we went downstairs, I got us a cab, and Lucas took his first taxi ride with me back to our hotel.

I’ve thought a lot through the years about what I want to instill in this child who has given me so much. I’ve taught him some things on purpose, but then he surprised me by developing a love of theatre without my direct intervention. And now somehow he’s becoming the kind of person who doesn’t let being afraid stop him from doing something worthwhile, the kind of person who’s a lot of fun to hang out with in New York City on a Saturday night.

Lucas will be thirteen in a few weeks. Sometimes I’m afraid about him growing up.

But this, this is worthwhile.

I Told the Boys to Look Like They Were Having a Dam Good Time, and This is What They Did

I Told the Boys to Look Like They Were Having a Dam Good Time, and This is What They Did

We made a lot of dam jokes that day, so many that at one point Maxwell became frustrated with Tammy and I laughing so much and shouted, “I AM SICK OF YOUR DAM JOKES!”

Which made us laugh for about ten minutes straight, during which Maxwell mostly growled at us.

We learned a lot about engineering and turkey vultures and history and stuff, too. Of course, some of this was also funny, like the satellite prominently positioned behind this historical marker:

I Won't Tell You How Long We Drove Around Looking for This, But It Was Educational

Way to ruin the mood.