You’re either on the bus or off the bus. Tom Wolfe

This past Wednesday I was on the bus!  This trip I chose to leave directly from the bus terminal and not rely on the Curbside Pickup service (forever to be known as Curbside Driveby!).   My niece, Judy, who lives in Indiana was spending a week in Connecticut and had a free day to meet up in New York City. Who am I to say no???  We booked a couple tours and kept our fingers crossed for good weather.

I boarded the bus in Wilkes Barre before the sun was up and during the trip I watched the sky turn from violet to red to a beautiful blue.  By the time that oh so familiar skyline came into view, the sun was shining with the promise of a great day ahead.  The bus makes a couple of stops on the way into the city and I always marvel at the number of people who use it for their daily commute.   In addition to the commuters, there are folks like the group of four women who boarded in Scranton, heading in to take advantage of NYC restaurant week.  Then there’s the woman I shared a seat with over a decade ago who was on her way to Lackawanna County Prison in Scranton, PA to visit her incarcerated boyfriend.  Along the way she asked to borrow my compact so she could check her makeup before meeting him.  You have to look good for your man.

I met up with my beautiful niece at the lion-guarded New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue for our first tour of the day.  This is something that has long been on my bucket list and I was pumped!  We watched the Visitor’s Film before our guided tour of the three floors of this magnificent Beaux-Arts style building.  This amazing structure filled with marble, soaring arches and incredible artwork did not disappoint.  

The library took ten years to build and opened to the public in 1911. The research collections are unparalleled, including a map collection which includes over 10,000 maps of New York City alone.  Fun fact – During World War II, Allied military intelligence used their map division to research and prepare battle plans.  

After our library tour and a pass through the gift shop, we hot footed it over to the United Nations for our second tour.  Founded in 1945, the four pillars of the United Nations are:

  • Peace and Security
  • Human Rights
  • The Rule of Law
  • Development

Located on a strip of international territory on the east side of the island of Manhattan, this complex has served as the official headquarters of the United Nations since 1952.  The tour was exceptional and I felt humbled in these lofty corridors of international diplomacy and began to better appreciate the work of the UN. 

 I was not aware that in 2015 all the UN Member States adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, “a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone everywhere.”  The members hope to meet these goals by 2030.  Progress has been made, but more ambitious action is needed to deliver these goals on time.  To assist us all in helping achieve these goals, they have issued The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World.

We walked the city, catching up on family news, until it was time for Judy to head back to Connecticut.  We parted ways at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.  She headed downtown and I walked up to Rockefeller Center for people watching and to peruse a couple of shops.  I ended my day in the city by stopping into Morrell Wine Bar overlooking Rockefeller Center for a glass of Sancerre and some delicious French fries.  Then it was back to Port Authority and back on the bus for a quiet ride home, wondering who my next travel companions might be.

C’est la vie.

The only thing that you absolutely need to know is the location of the library. Albert Einstein

I’m back home for the next couple of weeks, valiantly trying to empty all the moving boxes and find a place for everything. When I feel frustration building, I take a little break to refocus. During a break this morning, I checked my email and found one from the New York Public Library. The email was about the magnificent lions in front of the library on Fifth Avenue, Patience and Fortitude. It contained a quiz I could take to determine which one I had the most in common with. My quiz revealed that Patience and I share the most attributes. That’s a good sign for me because getting this apartment the way I want it is going to take a lot of patience. Although some fortitude wouldn’t hurt either.

You can take the quiz and see your results. I’d love to hear what your find out!

C’est la vie.

Libraries raised me…

Ray Bradbury

I’m just a little girl sitting on the front porch, praying the next vehicle that comes down the road is the bookmobile!   

Living out in the country with no other kids my age around, I was often left to mastermind my own fun and games.  “Play dates” hadn’t been invented, but there was the bookmobile. I looked forward to its arrival like kids looked forward to the ice cream truck.  I would have liked an ice cream truck too, but I didn’t know they existed!  On the day the bookmobile was to come, my older sisters would help me gather up the books to be returned and I would sit on our front porch, eagerly watching for that fabulous, cumbersome box full of yet to be read treasures.  We lived in Galena Township which is part of LaPorte County in Indiana.  I called the county library and a very helpful Information Services Librarian provided me with a photo of my beloved bookmobile from the 1960s!

Around my eighth birthday we moved from the country to a small village of approximately 3,000 people, but it had a real library!  It was one 18’ x 18’ room with two doors and two windows, but no bathroom.  When Mrs. Ebel, my beloved librarian, needed to use the restroom, she would have to close the library and go next door to the IGA grocery store and use their facilities.

Mrs. Ebel in front of my very first library.

To me, it was perfect. I spent hours at this library.  Often it was just Mrs. Ebel and me.  She was so kind to a lonely little book-hungry child.  It never entered my mind that she might not enjoy my company as much as I enjoyed hers.  During summer story hour, she would let me sit at her desk and check patrons out while she read aloud to the children.  I felt so grown up and important.

Years later when I had children of my own, taking them to story time was something we all looked forward to.  I will never forget sitting in the reading circle on the floor of the library with my son, Adam.  It was animal day at story time and the children’s librarian had some local folks bring in different pets.  We did not have a pet at our house. But I was still a little taken aback when Adam raised his hand and said, “If our dad dies, we can get a cat.”  He was just looking out for Mr. Smith and his cat allergy.

Libraries have been a constant source of pleasure throughout my life.  Whenever we moved states, I would get my new driver’s license so I could get my new library card. It was always fun to discover a new library and get my shiny new library card.  When Mr. Smith and I moved to Chelsea, Michigan in 1980, it was a wonderful step back in time for me as you still signed out your library books by hand and got the lovely stamped due date card.  When visiting my granddaughters last month, we spent some time playing “library”, checking books in and out.  They would make an electronic “beep” sound every time they checked out a book.  I understand the need for automation, but I wonder if it will hold the same nostalgia for them that signing out a library card by hand holds for me.

In this time of technology – E-readers, Kindles, Nooks, and on and on, this grandma is thrilled every time I see one of my grandchildren curled up with a book.  It warms the cockles of my heart to see my children taking their children to the library.  And I hope they have memories of their libraries as wonderful as I have of my little doll-sized library that had such a wonderful influence on my life.

C’est la vie…