Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Was Satan Ever A Civil Engineer? The Perplexing Traffic In Washington DC

Our nation's capitol is a very interesting place. There are gorgeous buildings, food from every conceivable corner of the world, a rainbow of people, cultures, languages, neighborhoods and libraries.

You can go two blocks and move from a very nice area to a run down area. You could live in a tenement, or a restored Victorian less than a mile apart. In that respect it is like most cities.

The other thing you will find are the most confusing streets ever conceived by a hominid.

This leaves me with a question that has never been properly answered to my satisfaction:
(The Baby Pierre)

Q: Who the heck is responsible for this fuster-cluck?

A) A Baby?

B) Satan and a gleeful gaggle of sadistic demons?

C) Someone with a really twisted sense of humor?

D) Congress?

E) Someone who wanted make sure that if anyone ever invaded our capitol they would be lost in the first few minutes, unable to figure out how to turn around, confused about how to get out of the turn arounds, unable to figure out which streets were only one way when, caught in the numerous areas where six or seven lanes just collapse into two or three over the course of five hundred feet, and decide that since they'd only been moving at a max of three miles an hour anyway, and it had taken them forty five minutes to go about a mile and a half, they might as well just give up and find a nice place to get a smoothie, take some pictures, and visit a museum.

F) All Of The Above
Union Station! How come I can never find this place when I'm looking for it?

The night before my show at the Capitol View Library in DC on Tuesday, I google mapped three different routes. The plan was simple: Which of these routes would land me at my destination in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of traffic at 9:15am?

After scoping it out, I decided that rather than going through the middle of the city...suicide...or going around the west side of the city and over the Eisenhower Bridge...close to suicide..and then back through the city on 295...parking lot, I'd try the longest route which was going up the east side, cutting over on rte 6, and taking the longest loop of road.

ETA 55 minutes to go about fourteen miles.

No problem.

Best Laid Plans...

Five miles down 495 I realized something was wrong. Then, in my rear view mirror I saw the ambulance with its flashing lights picking its way through the cars that were going about ten miles an hour.

I made the executive decision to bail. But that was all right, I still had almost forty five minutes to get to my gig. 495/95 was too far west, so I hopped on 395 going past the Pentagon. The first five minutes I drove right on through clear and easy, and my hopes were high. Then, I got to the first merge. Yup, two lanes merge in from the right and then collapse down while one lane exits on the right to be replaced by two lanes on the left which also collapse. This is called, for want of a more technical term, foolishness.

Luckily, after all of the creeping and apologizing to people silently as I cut in and out of almost stopped traffic, I managed to get off of 295 with ten minutes to burn about one and a half miles from the library.

It took me fifteen minutes to go one mile and a half. I was five minutes late.

I left at 9:15am for a 10:30am show and I was five minutes late.

Luckily, that was all right. Part of the audience was still filing in when I arrived. It was a day care with fifteen children two years old or younger. At least they could all walk.

photo credit
My youngest audience member was eighteen months old. My oldest child audience member was eleven. We all had a great time. Didn't tell even one of the folktales they'd advertised I was going to tell. None of them would have been able to hold a two year old. I broke out the crazy. I even got adults, who didn't realize they were going to be called upon to take part, to participate with the kids. Johnny and Suzy Thumb was received enthusiastically by all.

Afterwards, I had a great discussion with a fellow who had grown up in the area and had some interesting observations about the black community. We spoke for almost half an hour.

It Pays To Find Out About Your Kid's Interests
His catch phrase is "He's One Hell of a Butler"
P.S. He's a demon
Got to my second show about an hour and a half before it began at 2pm. It was only five miles away from the first library. Actually, it was almost a straight shot...if DC actually had any roads that could be called a 'straight shot'.

This show was much smaller. Only six kids. When I asked if the kids liked to read, the twelve year old boy did not raise his hand.

"You don't like to read?" I asked.
"Well." He said a bit shamefacedly, "Just comics."
"That's reading!" I exclaimed. "If you like to read comics then you do like to read."

Attack On Titan
He looked startled, as if that never occurred to him. By the end of the set we were talking about Manga, Attack on Titan, and Black Butler. Then I found out he liked to draw anime, and I assured him that you can make a good living doing that. He seemed surprised by that as well.

Another great show, even some of the grown ups drifted over to play. Fun, fun, fun.

Tired but exhilarated, sweaty and content...I had to drive home on the same hellish streets that dropped me in the middle of the madness.

I love what I do. I can't imagine doing anything else. I wish I had a magic carpet.

Happy Driving  Telling!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Librarians Have The Best Stories

Blogging has been a very interesting experience for me. As I continue on into the years, I learn more about the insidious way my brain works.

So, I promised to blog about Sydney, but I couldn't think of anything particularly interesting to say about Sydney. Not because I didn't love it. Not because the Conference wasn't fabulous. Not because I didn't absolutely enjoy the sessions I attended, the storytelling I got to hear, the workshop I got to teach, meeting old friends and new. Meeting tellers from new South Wales, and all of the various states of Australia was amazing, and I enjoyed all of the really wonderful things that happened at that conference from the SLAM to the youth tellers. I recommend that if you can get there in 2018 - which is when they will have the next one, you should go.

Other people did all the heavy lifting right after I got home last week when I discovered I was comatose from equal parts exhaustion and jet lag.

Here is a great blog post about what happened at the conference from the blog of 'Storyteller Victoria Australia!'

I also met the wonderfully funny, well published, fascinating author Kate Forsyth, who autographed one of her trilogies to my daughter!

Kate Forsyth

And yes, I got to spend the weekend with that silver tongued fox, Jeff Gere, and his lovely wife Dominique, and once again I was in close quarters with the ever brilliant David Novak.

Jeff Gere

It isn't that I don't have anything to say. It turns out that every now and then I'm just brain dead. My brain has had enough, and it just shuts down, and even though I have lots of thoughts, feelings always...opinions, they get road blocked and nothing will flow. Add the incredibly bizarre election season going on right now, and politics moves into the empty spaces and takes up residence in my thought patterns, blocking any and all hope that I will have any thoughts that are not rage oriented.

So, I had a good time in Sydney, got home, slept almost constantly for three or four days, had a wonderful show at the Jung society that Saturday evening, and started Summer Reading performances on Tuesday.

I have had a blast, as I always do with summer reading. The rules are simple for summer.

1. Whoever shows up gets stories.

2. As long as the audience outnumbers me it is a show.

3. Everything is an adventure, and you never know what might happen.

If you've seen the story 'The Exploding Frog' you'll know what this is!

So, this morning I had a show at a wonderful auditorium. I ended up with an audience of twelve adults and two children. The youngest was nine the older child was twelve. Everyone else, retired or in that neighborhood.

Told adult tales that were appropriate to kids, and a couple of great stories for intergenerational audiences. The kids had a good time, the adults had a good time. It was fun. Sold CDs, always a good sign.

Afterwards, the librarian took me out to lunch. That was the best. There were so many things we talked and laughed about over the course of one and a half hours at the River Room seafood restaurant on the waterfront in Georgetown, SC.

Sheila has been a librarian in Georgetown, SC for forty two years. She has seen some things, let me tell you. The two of us just laughed, thought, talked, and solved all sorts of problems over Asian glazed salmon and an immense bread pudding with bourbon sauce.

I laughed so hard at one point, I had tears coming out of my eyes. So, here are two of the tales she shared with me over lunch.

1. There is a family in their community that is 'as American as you or I', but clearly from China. They are faithful library patrons and the girls just chat up a storm. At one point they came in and there was an elderly Chinese man with them. He smiled and nodded, but would say nothing. The girls explained that he was their grandfather in from China for six months, and that he loved to read, but he couldn't speak a word of English. She asked the girls what sorts of things he liked to read, and they told her after some consultation with him.

Sheila saw that he clearly understood more than he could speak. She immediately contacted another library and set up an exchange program so that she could get books for him written in Chinese the entire time he was in America. He would come into the library as soon as a new offering arrived and stand quietly at Sheila's desk. She'd look up and ask if he'd gotten a notice his book was in and he'd smile and bob his head. She'd go in search of it, and he would check it out. He never uttered a single word to her. He was indeed a lover of reading, and spent his visit reading through his local public library. By the time he left, he made sure his grandchildren told Miss Sheila that he couldn't wait to visit again.

We veered into talking about how important small branches of libraries are to communities, especially places where kids have little access to outside information...I have stories about this as well, but I will save them for another post.  Let us move on to the second story she shared.

2. Sheila lamented that some of our legislators don't seem to see much reason to have libraries. She recalled a recent hearing with the government officials during 'non-profit' day, when all the non-profits are forced to go before the legislature and explain why they should be funded.

An aside here...WTF?

Anyway, they are required to plead their case. One of the House Members, a fellow, stood before this group of people, held up his Apple iPhone and demanded to know why we needed libraries.

"I can get anything I need on my phone!" He told them. "Why should we continue to finance buildings and employ librarians when I have a phone with everything I need at my disposal? All of my children have phones..." he went on and on. Sheila said she just put her head down and raised her hands to her cheeks. She couldn't even look at him.
She felt someone patting her gently on the arm and turned around. A Senator was sitting behind her. He smiled hopefully and said, "Don't worry. It will be all right."

The Head Librarian in the state of South Carolina got up and pointed out that the House Member and his family were quite privileged, and that he could not base his experience on every other person in SC. There are many places in SC where families do not have internet in their homes, or access to books without their community libraries. Apparently this very articulate person had charts, graphs, and stats to back up his comments on rebuttal. 

Still, every librarian in the room was feeling quite defeated. The house member gets to have a say in the budgeting process for the library, the head of libraries does not.

As the librarians were packing up to go, they noted the house member grinning as he began to gather his things only to have his wife storm up to him red faced and about to explode. In a loud voice, she began to harangue him.
"I have never been so embarrassed in all of my life!" She shouted. "Don't you know that every single one of your children has a library card!" She demanded. "I have a library card! How dare you get up there and say something so nonsensical!" She went on and on in a fit of fury and disgust, and he just stood there staring at her wide eyed. "How Dare You!" She thundered.

The librarians were silent as they gathered their things, left the building, and went out to find a place for dinner. Over celebratory drinks they speculated where the house member would be sleeping that night.

Librarians have the best stories!

Happy Summer Reading!