Monday, November 15, 2010

It's like the song, George! Downtown! There's your answer!

Here at Casa Jaquandor, our regular day to go to the library is Thursday. That's carved in stone. We always go on Thursday. Except for weeks when Thursday is some kind of holiday, such as the upcoming Thanksgiving Day...or last week, when Veterans Day fell on a Thursday. So, we decided to postpone until Saturday, and instead of going to our own Orchard Park Public Library, we headed instead into downtown Buffalo and the Central Library. We've been to the Central Library a few times, but not in a while; we like to get down there a few times a year. One great thing about living in a county where all the libraries are members of a larger County Library system is that you have access to all the books, county-wide; but that's only a help if you know what you want. For browsing, you're limited to what's available at the library you actually visit. Now, the Orchard Park Library is a lovely facility and over the years we've spent a lot of time browsing there. But the Central Library is something else.

First, though, we had to actually get down there, into downtown Buffalo. And that meant...Route 5 and the Skyway, which is actually our favorite route into the city anyway. Below the fold are photos from the day.

Route 5 leads past a lot of Buffalo's industrial past. First, you come to Lackawanna and the steel mills that no longer do much of anything at all.

Buffalo's industrial past I

Buffalo's industrial past III

Buffalo's industrial past II

These kinds of urban ruins are endlessly fascinating. All these giant machines used to be so much of the source of money in Buffalo...and now they just sit there, idle, unused, slowly oxidizing.

And then, we're past the former steel foundries and we're into the region of Buffalo's earlier mega-industry, when the city was the shipping terminus on the eastern Great Lakes. Next up are the grain elevators.

Buffalo's industrial past IV

Buffalo's industrial past VI

Buffalo's industrial past VII

Up onto the Skyway

Finally, it's up and over the Skyway itself. This is a very tall bridge that rises up over Buffalo's inner waterfront, presumably built this way to accommodate the huge ships that once pulled into the inlets to load and offload at the grain elevators. Nowadays, there are almost never any ships down there, and the Skyway itself has become a source of much debate 'round these parts; many folks think it should be demolished and replaced with ground-level highways and drawbridges, in order to allow for easier access to the waterfront and in order to remove from Buffalo's dormant waterfront an enormous eyesore. I, personally, don't have much of a dog in that fight; the Skyway's not the most attractive thing and it does cast a large shadow on the ground, but it does provide a fast way into the city from where we live, and lots of cities manage to have bright, vibrant waterfronts even with expressways and big bridges towering over it all. (Toronto is one of them.)

Plus, there's the view you get when you come over the top of the Skyway, with the entire city of Buffalo looming right before you.

Into Buffalo!

After a bit of driving around downtown trying to remember which street we were looking for admiring the architecture, we arrived at the Central Library and headed inside -- but not before finding this fountain, which we hadn't seen on our last visit (because we'd gone into the library through another entrance).

Fountain gifted by Turkey to Buffalo

It's a beautiful object. The water wasn't running, I suppose because of the onset of colder temperatures. I did find the placement here kind of odd -- the fountain's just sitting there, at a street corner. I wondered why it wasn't placed on the Library plaza or in Lafayette Square, across the street.

And then it was into the Library, where we spent about two hours, reading and browsing. I spent some time in the Mark Twain Room, which is devoted to the display of various ephemera pertaining to the great writer. I loved his chess table:

Mark Twain's chess table

But what really caught my eye, over which I lingered for some time, were the pages from the manuscript of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Twain's warning

First page of Huck Finn

Last pages of "Huck Finn"

I find something very appealing about seeing these pages: Twain's neat cursive script, his large hand contrasted with the small paper he used, and his on-the-fly editing. A writer's work-in-progress always fascinates me -- you can see the progress, right there, on those slightly faded pages.

A trip to the library is mainly, though, about browsing the stacks.

Browsin' the stacks V

It's funny how, over the years, that particular stance there has become totally natural to me. It comes from almost four decades of working my way through bookstores, libraries, and my own bookshelves at home. It's the rightward head-tilt I adopt in order to better read the titles on the spines.

Years ago, my sister took a trip to England for one reason or another -- her first, actually, she's been there many times since -- and she brought me home a copy of a musical score. Mozart's Requiem, if memory serves. I still have that score, in my parents' home somewhere, along with all of my other scores which will come home with me one day when we have space enough to house them. But the score was printed in the UK, so the title on the spine was printed in the reverse of the way we do it here in the US: the title ran up, not down, relative to the front cover. I suppose if I ever take a journey to England, I'll have to recalibrate my neck for their bookstores, the same way I'll have to recalibrate my driving for their roads!

This led to a bit of experimentation with self-portraiture, whilst perusing the cookbooks:

Browsing the Stacks I

Browsing the Stacks III

Browsing the Stacks IV

And you never know when you'll find a book seemingly tailored exactly to your interests!

They have books on EVERYTHING!

Yup, a book on donuts. In fact, they had several books on donuts. I checked out two. Yay, donuts!

When we finally left the library, the daylight hours were waning quickly. The view of Lafayette Square was very pretty, though:

Lafayette Square

And then it was back to the car, and back to the Skyway. Over the Buffalo Naval Park (note to self: Go to the Naval Park! It's ridiculous that you've never been there!)....

USS The Sullivans

And along the lakeshore as the sun began to set over Lake Erie.

Sunset over Lake Erie

On the way back, it was back past the steel mills and the neighborhoods in their shadow.

Homes in the shadow of the steel mills

These neighborhoods always look sad to me. I suppose that many years ago, they were the homes of families whose fathers and husbands worked in those now-dormant mills. Now, they're houses that have outlived the reason they were built there.

And lastly, the Ford plant in Hamburg. This factory is still going strong, although it somehow manages to end up on the "endangered list" every few years. We'll see what happens, I suppose.

Such was our day.

(And, between The Wife and I, we actually managed to max out my library card! Time to read some of this stuff.)


Unknown said...

I know that browsing stance, but I would have to recalibrate if I ever moved to the US. I remember that it was a bit awkward when I bought books on my last stay there, it's strange how such small things can trip you up.

The Naval Park looks interesting and they have a submarine which means that you couldn't keep me away, I'm such a sucker for submarines. So if you ever go, please bring back a lot of photos :)

Roger Owen Green said...

You MAXED OUT your library card! How delightful! Really. Didn't know you could DO that.

Jason said...

Regarding the subject of books from the UK, I bought a lot of books when I was over there in '93, and off the top of my head, I can't think of any that had the title reversed on the spine. They were all the same as our American title-runs-down books. Perhaps that musical score was a special case, because of what it was?

Now what I did notice with UK books is that paperbacks are a slightly different size, a bit taller than ours, so they stand out on my shelves... for whatever that's worth...