The father of my children once said with that dry, wry wit of his that he was waiting for the floor of my study to collapse into the basement some day.
Why would he say that?
It may have something to do with the 142 linear feet of shelving stuffed into a small room which are double and triple stacked with books as well as a 1917 piano, several filing cabinets as well as just general stuff and detritus.
The piano was a rescue. I don’t play. Was never allowed to as a kid (Dad #1 was a piano player) and haven’t learned yet to as an adult. Retirement project? Ha! Like any Gen X’er is going to be able to retire. Or at least not too many that I know.
Got a call at work one day. Guy wanted to know if we wanted a piano for the collection. We already have 4 pianos (and 2 melodeans!) and this one was from across the river so it wasn’t relevant to us anyway. I offered to help him find a new home for it but he said “Nope, I’m going to get my ax. The dumpster leaves tomorrow.”
That brought me right back to when I was a kid hearing tales of when my middle aunt refused to practice piano like my Jadgi thought she should and he chopped it up with an ax and burned the remains in the backyard. My grandfather was always very calm and kind to me but there were enough stories floating around our family about his wicked temper that I knew there was something more lurking under the surface that I saw as a kid.
So I’ve got this annoyed man on the phone who just wants to clear some space in his house after no one touching this piano for years and he’s going to get the ax.
I couldn’t let the piano die.
I told him I’d take it personally if he would wait till the weekend. He was willing to do that. Took four guys and a pickup truck with ramps to get it from his house to my apartment. We left dents in the wooden porch floor on the way in while they rested from getting it that far.
When I moved next door I paid for movers. No one was willing to do all that again and I don’t blame them. This scrawny, almost elderly guy with a scraggly beard and his very young and slight assistant moved it all by themselves with a shifty looking dolly. It was a wonder. Well worth the $300 just to watch. Well, not really but what choice did I have? I may be stubborn but even I realize that I’m not moving a piano by myself.
The piano takes up a lot of wall space, which is unfortunate, but I don’t begrudge it. It is a thing of beauty and has a rich mellow tone. Sterling really did make a beautiful piano. A sorta friend gave it a good workout once and it was amazing. He’s a hellva ivory tickler.
It’s still a lot of potential shelving lost though. To make up for it I have books piled on top of it and in front of it. And in front of two of the three filing cabinets. I can open the top two drawers on each but the other three are lost to the ages.
I have books in the basement of this house and in the basement of the house next door where I used to live. My dream is to have all my books shelved at once in an orderly fashion.
An inventory would be nice too. Who hasn’t bought the same book more than once?
It’s one of the perils of buying the vast majority of my books secondhand. I can afford to make mistakes at a couple of bucks a pop and if nothing else it’s a donation.
I need to go through all these books and decide what I really need to keep. The complete Dresden Files and This Republic of Suffering most definitely. But Dreadnought, eh maybe not. Oh there’s another two inches gained.
Or maybe I should keep it?
How to choose? They made it into this room for a reason. Isn’t that enough?
What metric to use when judging what should go back out into the Great Material Continuum?
What would I miss if I never had access to any outside books ever again?
That seems reasonable.
I’ve always wanted my own private library. Any space I’ve lived in has always had lots of books. I actually used them as insulation in one room. Well it was actually more of a porch and there was no heat so I had to use something to keep from freezing.
Yes, my current study could use a bit more square footage but too much and I would miss the intimacy of being surrounded by dead trees. So many other universes trapped within their pages that I can practically hear them buzzing, just waiting to be opened and explored.
No one but me is ever entirely comfortable in here. I didn’t intend it to be unwelcoming to anyone else, it’s just the way it ended up. This is the one place in the universe I allow myself to do anything I damn please. He once said that being in here was like being inside my head and it felt too intimate, even for him.
Maybe I can use that to judge any future potential mates. If they don’t run out screaming they can stay.
No one besides me can find anything but I actually have a pretty good grasp of what’s in here, which is both terrifying and amusing. Needed to lay hands on the patches for my bag that I bought last year at ConnectiCon. While I was digging them out, which took all of three minutes, I also set aside a pile of magazines and catalogs for recycling and actually brought them straight to the bin. Every bit helps in the Great Sorting.
The youngest is doing a project for her enrichment program and needed some research material on children who were evacuated from London during the Blitz.
“You don’t have anything like that, do you?” she asked.
It took a bit of doing but was still less time than it would have been to take her to the public library. I had to move the Little People house and a stack of about 10 books from on top of the piano to get to the one I was looking for which was specifically about children and their experiences with the Blitz.
For the one about the Blitz in general I had to get on top of a step-ladder and plant my foot on an opposing shelf for a boost up. I handed my phone to the youngest and told her to call 911 if I managed to fall and knock myself out. I was successful in retrieving the book and as might be expected caused a bit of a book avalanche.
While I was tidying the avalanche, I found another book I’d forgotten about printed in 1943 by the The British Information Services with an insert titled “How to Protect Yourself Against War Gasses”. Her eyes lit up when I showed her that. It’s got a lot of photographs in it. All black and white and it’s propaganda so I doubt there’s any bodies. Appropriate for a kid in other words.
People forget how those in charge once more overtly controlled what the people knew. Control what people have access to, like through censoring photographs of military coffins and maybe you can keep the good folks at home from connecting those ever higher numbers they hear on the news every night with an actual flesh and blood person. Control what they see and you control what they know. These days we have the threat of the loss of net neutrality to the development of alternate facts and beyond. It’s all spin control.
Were the cruisers heading towards Korea or away?
Who knows what the truth is anymore?
Who’s willing to do the work to figure it out?
I’ll be choosing my own truth by setting aside this book but not that.
The Library at the End of the World.
Does that Pat Buchanan book I was forced to buy for a graduate Poly Sci class but never even cracked open need to stay?
Does my universe lose something if it goes?
Do I really even need to ask?
No wonder why this room is such a mess.
But hey, I got rid of a pile of recycling today. That particular pile is five inches shorter now.
As long as the floor holds up I’ll eventually get through it all.