Tuesday, October 21, 2008

67 percent fun!

I am happy and alone and the world feels full of potential. I have gotten into the habit of reading a book about every two days, and I have fallen hopelessly in love with reading again. I have favorite jazz spots now because I have been to so many. I have favorite restaurants, I have favorite bike routes.

And today I did the thing that was perhaps MOST long overdue of anything in the universe: I went to the public library.

The New Orleans Public Library (the main branch) is like a time capsule. I was hypnotized from the start, obviously, but will spare you most of the details (a tiny red book from 1903 called "The Marvellous Genius Works of Comedy of Our Time," toddlers chanting "Namasde" with an octogenarian yoga instructor in the children's wing, dozens of members of FEMA [three years after the fact] set up in the main room to talk to homeowners about options, etc. etc. etc.) I do, however, have to elaborate a little on the third floor. I fell head over heels for the third floor -- a veritable museum of Louisiana annals. There were ancient phonebooks, every newspaper available on microfilm, and best of all a secret exhibit called "Unknown New Orleanians" featuring early, early mugshots of beautiful men and women from the turn of the century, arrested for being "highly suspicious," mostly.

"Old" in the South is not what we think of as "old" in the Pacific Northwest. I used to be startled to find anything from before 1900 -- even when I was digging for it -- in libraries on the west coast. Here, documents date back until the 1700s, and sometimes even earlier. I just finished a book my mom sent me about the history of New Orleans and its music. Did you know that New Orleans was originally so detestable that the French monarchy couldn't get anyone to move here? So instead they had "forced emigration" and used New Orleans as a place to move prostitutes and crooks against their will. With a history like that, no wonder it has the highest murder rate of any city in the country (the murder count rose to 155 today -- a statistic that climbs daily; such terror in this tiny place).

I'm afraid I've been reading too much collegiate fiction to blog without an annoyingly pretentious tone. It's not my fault -- blame Zora Neale Hurston and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I went out to dinner alone. The waitress acted like she was sorry for me, giving me a free beer with my dinner and giving me affectionate-bordering-on-pitiful pet names like "baby" and "sweetheart." Doesn't she realize how much more fun it is to eat alone? Listening in to other peoples' conversations ("And then I boned her! She was so hot I thought she musta been a hooker once") and watching others move outside the window without ever having to try to be interesting or act interested. It's an indulgent gift from God. Well, the poor waitress didn't know any better.

At one point "Return of the Jedi" was playing on silent at the restaurant while "99 Luft Balloons" blared over it. Ecstasy.

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