A Tale of Two Bookstores … and a Library: Personal Challenge, Day 15 (10.1.12)
Apparently Mother Nature forgot to inform California that it is the first day of October. It should not be 105 degrees in Los Angeles in the fall. I know I am a Midwestern transplant but I think even native Angelenos would admit that this weather is ridiculous.
So today, the only option is to beat the heat and I thought the best way to do that would be to stop at a bookstore/coffeehouse and then head off to library to do some writing.
Since I am loving the local Mom and Pop stores and restaurants all over Los Angeles, I decided that I would stop by the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse. When I walked in, my first impression is that this is a smaller version of Vroman’s Bookstores in Pasadena. But Vroman’s doesn’t have an Espresso Book Machine where you can publish your own books. I stood, in awe, watching as this machine printed and bound books created by local authors or books selected from their “On Demand” printing service. I had never seen anything like this before and it instantly got me thinking about publishing my own book. How cool would it be to create your own paperback novel or memoir?
With this new wave of inspiration flowing over me, I decided to grab an ice blended coffee from the Flintridge Coffeehouse and head home to grab my laptop. Then it would be off to the Altadena Library. I had never been there before but it was close to my house, it has air-conditioning and free wi-fi. Also, the book “Hometown Pasadena” described it as an ideal place for writing that is “quieter and less crowded than the Pasadena Central Library” and it has a reading area with armchairs. It sounded like the perfect place to create a novel.
When I arrived at the Altadena Public Library, located on the corner of Mariposa and Santa Rosa, I noticed the large area in the center set aside for reading and writing (via laptop). But I also noticed the noise coming from the kids area. I walked around, looking for a place to sit that would be as far as possible from the kids area. The library isn’t that big so there really was no escaping the kids section. Ironically, the area furthest away from the kids section is an area reserved for teens and young adults. Seriously? So the “Adults” are sandwiched between chatty teenagers and obnoxious kids who were never informed by their “bad parents” that you are supposed to be quiet in a library. I guess that explains why so many adults trying to work or read in the middle section were wearing noise-cancelling headphones.
I was grateful that I remembered to bring my ear buds but cursing myself for not thinking to bring my own noise-cancelling headphones. It was so hard to concentrate, even with my iPod at full blast (I could still hear the children). Kids were screaming, throwing tantrums and one little girl was even singing as loud as her voice would allow her. It was just like the kids running around the San Gabriel Library (I only noticed one girl running around and dancing between the book stacks at the Altadena Library). “Hometown Pasadena” said it was quieter and less crowded at this library than the Pasadena Central Library so I guess there is no need for me to ever go there. I tried my best to tune out the noise and concentrate but I couldn’t. I have trained teacher ears that can hear the tapping of a teenagers fingertips on an iPhone’s touch screen from across a classroom. I just couldn’t take it so I packed up and left.
Now I don’t blame the children for being obnoxious little brats. I blame the parents for not teaching them manners. When I was a kid, I loved the library. I loved all the places I could go in my imagination while turning the pages of the different books that lived there. My Mom used to take me to so many different libraries and she always told me that I had to be quiet. It was common courtesy and common sense to be quiet in a library. And if you were not obeying the silence rule, there was always a scary librarian who would enforce it and make you leave if you were bothering others. What happened? Why are parents letting their kids behave in such a rude manner and why are the library officials allowing this to happen. I can honestly say that I won’t be returning to the Altadena Library and I am rethinking possible visits to other libraries. I have been to two public libraries within the past week and they didn’t feel like a peaceful learning institution; they were Chuck E Cheese bounce house playrooms from hell.
So I decided to head down to Vroman’s bookstore on Colorado in Pasadena. It is a strange, strange world when a bookstore is a quiet, peaceful alternative to a library.
But it was a good thing that I showed up at Vroman’s when I did. There was a poetry reading and book signing going on upstairs. My last book signing occurred when I was in college and listened to the late great Ray Bradbury during one of his many visits to USC. I had never been to a poetry reading so I thought I would check it out.
The author was Dana Gioia reading poems from his new book “Pity The Beautiful: Poems.” I arrived at the upstairs meeting area just in time to hear a poem about the past. I didn’t get a chance to hear the title of the poem but the words reminded me of my own past and seemed to describe feelings that I once felt with a man from my past, my own Mr. Big. I listened a bit longer but left before the crowd started to line-up for the book signing. (I noticed his website has a link to an article, written by Carol Muske-Dukes for the Huffington Post, that mentions his new book, “Pity the Beautiful.” While I was at USC, Carol Muske-Dukes was my poetry professor in the English/Creative Writing Department).
So my lessons learned today: I am very disappointed in the local public library system but I am in love with the local independent bookstores. I don’t think I could ever go back to the chain stores like Barnes and Noble. And I don’t think I will return to another public library (to actually work on my writing) until parents learn how to be parents–or the librarians start to stand up to these obnoxious familes and maintain a peaceful working environment for all.