The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Monday, April 25, 2005

LIBRARY: Constant readers of The Passing Parade will know that while our happy little burg boasts of many a great attraction, what with an art museum and art galleries and quaint little antique shops and broad open fields where you can catch Lyme disease with little or no effort on your part; we have the deer, they have the ticks, and the deer are, in a spirit of friendship and harmony, more than willing to share the ticks and the disease with you and yours; in fact, Lyme disease is one of this county’s leading exports, along with computer chips and parolees; the literate citizenry, and we do have a few, despite efforts of our many detractors to prove otherwise, are stuck with the public library that I am sitting in right now to serve their informational needs, a building I am only modestly insulting when I call it an egregious mold pit. In truth, it is not an egregious mold pit, only a disgusting mold pit. I am sure there must be some sort of difference between the two, but at the moment I can’t think of what that difference might be. Suffice it to say that we don’t vaporize with Vicks around here; we use Lysol.

We were not always stuck in this oversized Petri dish. Up to 1976, the library did its business out of a Norwegian chalet designed for us in the 1870’s by Richard Morris Hunt; the Hunt building is our burg’s cultural center now and is still easy to find, being the only Norwegian chalet on Main Street. But we outgrew those premises; the building had no air conditioning and as books suck the oxygen out of the air, according to my mother, patrons on the topmost floors wanting to look at the U through Z fiction stacks had to bring their own oxygen tanks with them up or face the very real possibility of asphyxiation; and so in 1976 we packed up the collection, the furniture, and the mummified cadavers of a few P.G. Wodehouse fans who couldn't hold their breaths long enough to pick up The Code of the Woosters and get it down to the circulation desk before apoxia set in; and came up the street to our current mold pit, which is neither Norwegian or a chalet of any sort, but rather an ugly product of the form follows function school of architecture, its function being to give the library staff life threatening respiratory diseases with the form allowing this to occur with maximum efficiency. But in 1976 the library needed more space and so we went, or rather, the staff at the time went to where I sit now, to better serve the informational and educational needs of our community, and to see if they could grow penicillin on their lunches. No one, as far as I am aware, has succeeded in cultivating penicillin, although we do have a tuna and dill pickle on rye sandwich left in the staff room in 1981 that does wonders for eczema sufferers.

I bring all of this up because there’s a movement afoot to tear this place down and build a brand new library on the wreckage. I am all in favor of this, as you might imagine, but there is a small hitch: the price tag. The new library will run the taxpayers of our happy little burg some ten million dollars or so, a sum that we can only raise by getting the community to put out a bond for the money. We’ve had some good press about it, and many people seem to like the idea, and I have been enjoying a feeling of quiet confidence about the whole thing, which is much at odds with my usual gloomy self. I enjoyed that feeling until I read this morning’s newspaper. There, in the local news section, was the report that the city school district, the body that collects our taxes for us, announced last night that they will try to raise the local school taxes by 18.5% in the coming fiscal year. The school superintendent tried to make the increase sound comparatively mild, the superintendent being a man renowned in this neck of the woods for his ability to sell almost anyone on the idea of almost anything, one local wag once telling me that the superintendent could convince a drunk to remove his own liver with a steak knife while he was reasonably sober and make the operation sound like a reasonable thing to do. But I think this time he is fighting above his weight. 18.5% is not as big a hike as 20%, but it’s close enough for the people who will hit the roof at this news to say, “Almost 20%, they want to raise taxes almost 20%!!!” The shrieks of protest from the quick, the dead, the halt, and the lame and all the rest of the good citizenry of our town in between will commence shortly, the school budget will go down to ignominious defeat, and that loud sucking noise you will hear, ladies and gentlemen, shall be the sound of the new library going down the metaphorical toilet, said library becoming what is now popularly known as collateral damage. It appears that I am stuck in this old dump for a few more years. I’ve come to think of this as a peculiar sort of Purgatory, marooned for most of my working life in a building I used to steal stuff out of when I was a kid. Ah well, such is life, as they say, whoever they are.


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