A Moving Diary, Part Two

It’s almost here. Moving day. It’s almost here and I’m ready.

It’s almost here and I’m not ready.

It’s almost here and this is the best decision I’ve ever made.

It’s almost here and this is the worst decision I’ve ever made.

I think about all the little annoyances I’m going to leave behind and I grin smugly to myself.

I think about all the little wonders I’m going to leave behind and I try not to cry.

I think about the people to whom I’m saying farewell and I do cry, but I pretend that it’s because of my contact lenses. They are very dry and dusty today.

Packing.

Packing is all there is. Packing is love. Packing is life.

These are my collapsible cardboard boxes. There are many collapsible cardboard boxes like them, but these collapsible cardboard boxes are mine. My collapsible cardboard boxes, without me, are useless. Without my collapsible cardboard boxes, I am useless. I must pack my collapsible cardboard boxes true.

Tomorrow is my last day at the library, but today feels like the true finale. Tomorrow is a Saturday, which means a skeleton crew on staff. Tomorrow is the epilogue. Today is when I’m saying goodbye to co-workers. No, not co-workers. Friends. I’m saying goodbye to friends.

I remember the first book I checked out when I started as a new library employee in December 2007. It was The Accidental Time Machine, by Joe Haldeman. My library card had lapsed years before, so this was the first book I checked out on my new card that I created on my first day. I’ve read nearly 600 books since then and checked out hundreds more than I never finished.

The last book I checked out is Fragile Things, by Neil Gaiman. I’d often wondered which book would be the last one I’d borrow. Now I know.

I should be packing.

Yesterday Recap

I did a lot in Washington yesterday. In fact, based on the estimated number of miles I walked (approximately fifty million) and the amount of food I ate (almost nothing except coffee), I believe I have already lost 20 pounds. This is a nice reversal from my normal vacation tendencies.

Here’s what I did with my time in the capitol yesterday:

8:15 AM: Bureau of Printing & Engraving Tour

This is where paper money comes from! They mentioned they print other stuff here too, like passports and whatnot, but that’s boring. What’s not boring is watching thousands and thousands of dollars roll out of a machine like someone determined to print every single page on Wikipedia.

I also learned how much I’m worth in terms of stacked $100 bills: about $1.8 million.

My single favorite moment during the tour was a cheeky sign posted over one of the printing stations: “Just imagine how feel. I just printed my lifetime salary in a few minutes.”

11:30 AM: White House Tour

The time stamp here doesn’t account for the two hours we spent walking and deciding whether or not we wanted to wait in line for a Washington Monument tour (we didn’t). We also spent some time walking around to find a Starbucks and then we walked around the White House and looked at it from the outside.

And then it was time for our tour!

First impression: holy shit, you know in your mind that the Secret Service is going to have good security but your mind is probably way off base just how little these guys fuck around. A member of our little band was in a wheelchair and since the White House was built long before ADA compliance was a thing, the tour had to work a bit to accommodate us.

That meant when it was time to go upstairs, rather than follow the tour route, a Secret Service officer led us through a staff area, through a kitchen (!) and down some other corridors into a service elevator. You’re kind of used to security guys putting on this fake sunshine thing when dealing with tourists, pretending to be all “I’m really happy to answer your questions, citizen” when you know they’re thinking about all the ways they’ll kill you if you try to fuck with anything. This guy was serious business. “Stand here.” “Walk forward to that door, wait there.” “Walk forward. Stand.” And he said it in such a way that even I, an incorrigible iconoclast, was compelled to obey without question or sarcasm.

He looked like a math teacher, maybe mid-forties and balding, but I’m pretty sure he was the single most lethal individual I’ve ever personally met. It was impressive as hell.

Anyway, let’s focus on the White House itself!

I had that surreal feeling of familiarity even though I was (obviously) in a place I’d never ever been inside before. It’s pretty amazing how much the White House seeps into the cultural consciousness through television in movies, not to mention actual political state functions. I’ve seen all these rooms before; now I’m actually here. Now I’m standing in the halls of power. Many of the most influential people in recent history have walked here where I now stand.

My favorite part ended up being the various Presidential portraits hung through the White House. On our drive into DC, we’d had a discussion about our “Top 5 favorite presidents and why”, so it was fun to pick out where our favorites were hanging.

I mentioned before that the Secret Service guys were absolutely all business. When we reached the end of the tour, I asked where to return the wheelchair we borrowed. The Secret Service agent told me to take it around the White House and back to the visitor’s entrance outside the south lawn. That meant taking it off the property and down the street. He also advised me not to consider taking a White House wheelchair as a souvenir.

I was contemplating the strangeness of this routine (did they do this for all wheelchair guests?) as I pushed the chair down the sidewalk around the Treasury building. Apparently, they do not, because when I pushed the chair up to the visitor’s entrance, the Secret Service agent there cracked up laughing.

“Wow,” he said. “Nobody ever brings it all the way around like that.”

“This isn’t the normal way to return these chairs?” I asked.

“Nope,” he says, still laughing. “I can’t tell you how rare this is. Thanks for returning it, though.”

1:45 PM: The Library of Congress Tour

The Library of Congress was on my list of “must-see” places since, you know, I work for a library. The Library of Congress is practically like a temple to my kind. It has the most ancient books, the coolest collection, and the most profound names attached to its history.

As a building, it’s also freaking gorgeous. It’s literally a temple.

The walls and ceilings are works of art, to say nothing of the actual art that’s filling that place. Sculptures abound. I mentioned how the Arlington Cemetery gave me a feeling of the sacred that had nothing to do with deities. This was a similar feeling. There are sacred books, of course, but this was a feeling that books themselves are sacred regardless of content.

My favorite part was browsing Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection. Or maybe it was looking at a Guttenberg Bible. It’s so hard to decide! I think I’m going to have to go with Guttenberg, since that represented what could be argued as the single most important invention in human history.

3:00PM: Nap

I took a nap at the hotel room. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that I passed the fuck out for a few hours.

7:00PM: The Marine Corps Band

We went to the Marine Corps barracks to watch a field parade and rifle demonstration. The phrase “rifle demonstration” is my own and I’m not sure it really describes what I was seeing. They don’t actual fire the rifles. Twirling also feels wrong. Imagine several hundred people moving in perfect unison, executing crisp and complicated movements with 10 pound rifles. That’s about as close as I can get.

The Silent Drill Platoon (I might be wrong on the name) was the most impressive of all, not only because they had the most precision and the most complicated movements, but because they did all of it in perfect silence without a drum or a sergeant to coordinate their movements.

11:30PM: Sleep

We arrived back at the hotel and I crashed again. I had a weird dream that I was opening a video game themed restaurant but it was invaded by bears which chased away all my customers.

Good News For Fans Of Public Libraries In Arizona

According to its Legiscan page, Arizona HB 2379 has been in the House Rules Committee since February 17. I’ve been told that this means that the bill is effectively dead and that it’s too late in the legislative session for this to be passed.

It certainly looks like the bill’s legs have been cut out from underneath it. If you look at the Legiscan page in depth, you can see how fast things were moving on the bill from January to February. And then it hit a wall and promptly stopped moving, likely due to the massive public response that supporters of the library raised in opposition of this legislation.

There are a few ways for bills to die. They can die dramatically from a governor’s veto, which is what happened with SB 1062. They can also die quietly, buried in committee until the world has forgotten that they ever existed. HB 2379 seems to have died that quiet death.

It’s unfortunate when such a destructive bill dies quietly because for those whom the bill would have harmed, it’s hard to say when the battle is really over. There’s no moment to take a victory lap and celebrate the fact that we won. There’s just a vague feeling of unease that slowly lifts as we look at one another and ask “is it over?”

But we did win and our public libraries are safe, at least for another year. This cynical blogger has a cynical feeling that we’ll be seeing another version of this bill come January 2015. There was an incarnation of HB 2379 that was vetoed by the governor back in 2011. If a veto wasn’t enough to keep this revenant piece of legislation down, I can’t imagine that a quiet death in committee will either.

But that doesn’t matter right now. What matters is that we won. And we couldn’t have won if the people our libraries serve hadn’t stood up and spoken out against this bill.

Well done, Arizona. Thanks for standing up for your libraries.

 

Arizona SB 1062 Is Dead But Arizona HB 2379 Is Very Much Alive

Arizona SB 1062 is dead and that is a very, very good thing for everyone, both in Arizona and the other states in the Union who were considering their own versions of this bill. It’s even good for the people who were supporting the bill, although they’ll never admit it.

But although the “Gays Stay Away” bill is dead on arrival, the other piece of legislation that has my ire raised is still very much alive. Despite reports to the contrary, Arizona HB 2379 is still very much alive.

The Arizona Daily Star reported that:

A major change to House Bill 2379, written by Rep. Justin Olson, removes language limiting how much the secondary property taxes levied by county free library, county jail and public-health-service districts can be increased.

A strike everything amendment, passed by the House Ways and Means Committee, replaces the original text with new language requiring the taxing entity to annually disclose tax-rate information.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said the bill has essentially been neutralized and the county does not oppose the current version of the bill.

On the one hand, hooray for us, we get to keep our libraries, the state government doesn’t get to arbitrarily tell us what to do with our communities and I get to keep my job for at least another year. But to celebrate in the streets à la the protesters of SB 1062? Not so fast.

This is where an understanding of language in politics comes in handy. Politicians choose words very carefully and words don’t always mean the same thing in a political context as they do in others. Sure, “neutralized” might mean “killed” in a military context, but in a political one, it means exactly what it says; the bill is neutral now. It’s not moving forward . . . but it’s also not dead. It’s “gutted” . . . but a gutted beast can recover. It can still inflict harm.

Neutralized is a good thing, but it’s not a great thing for fans of public libraries in Arizona.

Maya Castillo, president of SEIU Arizona had this to say about the neutralization in a Facebook post:

HB 2379, despite Joe’s [Arizona Daily Star] article, is not dead. The striker does gut it to an extent. But I hate this striker too! Why? First, there shouldn’t be any additional restrictions on how library increases happen. It’s our money and any additional requirements are designed to hinder increases– we shouldn’t be hindered, especially when it comes to our library.

Second, it’s a legislative trap. So here’s what happens: we choose through our elected to raise the rate 3%, have public hearings, etc. The next year we do the same but say 4%. Year three, the state leg[sic] comes back and says “See! We told you they needed more oversight! 7% in two years?!” And then we’re back where we started!

Consider the fact that Justin Olson, the sponsor of this bill, has been trying to pass a version of this legislation since 2009. Consider that it seems like Republicans were trying to fast track this bill before anyone could raise an outcry. With that in mind, I don’t think that anything short of a resounding defeat in the state House or state Senate or a veto from the Governor will fully kill this odious bit of legislation.

There’s some lobbying muscle behind this bill and I doubt we’ve seen the last of it. I’d rather not have to worry about half the libraries in Pima County suddenly vanishing every single year and I don’t think members of the public (who have been overwhelmingly supportive of us) want that, either.

I hope the momentum keeps up against this bill. We saw the power of political pressure against SB 1062. Hopefully that power will kill HB 2379. If not, the library’s collective neck will certainly come up on the chopping block again, perhaps even from the next version of the same bill.

HB 2379 isn’t dead. Until it is, it’s too early to let our guard down.

On Reading Signed Copies

I really, really like getting signed copies of books. At this point, I have enough signed copies that it constitutes an actual collection. Best of all, I have signed copies of books by most of my favorite authors: George R. R. Martin, Jim Butcher, John Scalzi, and many, many others. At some point, I plan to reorganize my shelves to keep all my signed books together so I can look at them while working on my Gollum impression.

But.

You knew that was coming. I would never write a blog post like this unless there was a but.

I love my signed copies. In fact, I love them so much that I hate reading them.

Here’s the thing about me and books. When I’m in a book, I take it with me everywhere I go. My current book becomes my teddy bear; it’s with my all the time. It goes with me from home to work and back. I carry it on my lunch break and read it during lunch, which is especially dangerous to the book because I walk a mile or so during my lunch break which means much manhandling along the way.

This is one of the reasons why I will get library copies of books I already own, or buy copies of books that I’ve already read at the library. Reading a library book takes away the pressure and the anxiety. Now, wait just a goddamned minute, you might be thinking indignantly to yourself. Matthew Ciarvella, don’t you work in a library? Are you saying you don’t care about what happens to your library books?

I do work in a library, hypothetical blog reader. And that means I see the inner workings of the public library system. It means I have a library collection I maintain. And that means that, to be honest, I’m not as worried about the condition of my library books because I know the fate that awaits all library books.

That’s the thing about library copies: they’re finite. If you’ll pardon the expression, they have a shelf life. No library book lasts forever, because if it’s popular, enough handling will destroy it. How many times do you think a book can be checked out and read before it disintegrates? Well, depends on the book. I’ve seen hardcovers that survived ten years and roughly 100 check-outs before they had to be retired and I’ve seen paperbacks that destroyed themselves after five check-outs.

That doesn’t mean I’ll mistreat a library copy. It’s not mine, after all, and even we library workers have to pay for a book when we lose or destroy it. One of my life’s greatest shames is the fact that I lost a brand new copy of The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks. I still have no idea what happened to it.

When I read a library book, I know at some point that little book will be removed from circulation. It’s not meant to last forever. If it was, it would be in an archive. Or, as you’ll see now that I’m returning to my main point, in a private collection.

My signed copies are books that I want to keep with me for the rest of my life. Each one is special. It represents an experience I had both in reading it and taking the time to meet the person who wrote it; if I have a signed copy of your book, that means you’re part of my personal Pantheon of Writers. It’s not the greatest pantheon, all things considered, but how many people ever get to say they’re part of a pantheon in the first place? That has to count for something.

Signed copies are valuable and special things to me and while I know that part of a well-worn and tattered book is the mark of a book that’s been read and enjoyed, there’s enough of a draconic-hoarding tendency in me that I want my books to remain pristine. Which makes it tricky when I really, really want to read a book that I have a signed copy of and can’t easily get from the library due to the fact that it has a waiting list on it. When that happens, I have to make a hard choice.

In this particular instance, I’m going to be reading my signed copy of Faerie After because don’t want to wait for the library copy to come in.

But you can be certain I will be reading it very carefully. Possibly with gloves on.

I realize that this probably means I am a crazy person.

Writing Spaces

One of my particular interests is looking at pictures of other writers’ desks and offices. I know that it’s a common trait among bookworms to look at pictures of personal libraries; Neil Gaiman’s personal library is epic, in my opinion. I’m not certain whether writers do this as often, though the existence of various blogs and Tumblrs posting pictures of writers’ offices makes me think I’m not alone in my interest.

It doesn’t update very often, but Write Place, Write Time is a great Tumblr page of writer spaces. One thing that’s particular cool is that one of the writers featured on the page, Manuel Munoz, was my writing professor during my undergrad at the University of Arizona. He helped me develop my writing ability more than any other teacher I’ve ever had. It was cool to see what his writing space looks like, especially since it really matches his writing style in my mind.

If one’s desk represents the state of one’s thoughts, however, I am well and truly screwed. My desk is currently a nightmare. Without moving my eyes, I can see a stack of unopened mail, an empty beer bottle, my keys, a WarCraft III cd case, headphones, a coffee mug, a topographical map of the Chiricahua Wilderness, another pair of headphones, a bookmark of a vampire cat, two candles, sticky notes, two boxes of Magic: the Gathering cards, a signed picture of Boba Fett, a cartoon of Medusa blow drying her snake hair, and you know what, I think I’ll stop there. There’s more stuff.

In fact, I think this might be a sign that it’s time to clean my writing space. Maybe I’ll take some before and after photos to show you the horror.