About a year and a half ago, we moved from our lovely, cute, quaint, cozy little 1951 era house in downtown West Palm Beach, to a roomy house in the burbs (Greenacres) with a pool and a 2 car garage and nearly twice as much living space.
Its a nice house, and a few months after we moved in, I told Suzanne, “if we ever win the lottery, I might want a nicer house, but I don’t think I would want a bigger one.” So, this morning in the pre dawn quiet of a Saturday, I began to think about how I would build a house if we did win. I decided I would like a pool, a bigger one than we have, but not too big, and a kitchen with a window and a bar so we could pass food and drinks out to the pool area, then i thought for a moment if we wanted a door into the kitchen, decided against it, so the kitchen would have to be on the back. It would have to be bigger than our already large kitchen. I love a big kitchen.
the formal dining room adjoining to one side, with the fairly large living room immediately between the front door and the kitchen, with the master bed and bath off to the opposing side of the kitchen from the dining room, but maybe not directly opening into the kitchen, but a short hall to the living room, and in front of the master suite.
i thought of our library. we have always had several thousand books shelved in order, though they have lined our dining room, our living room, our bedroom walls, but never have we had a room dedicated just as a library.
In my youth, my fantasy would have included grand patios with stone colonades and french doors opening all around the place, a grand staircase going up with three or four landings. In fact, one of the things I most enjoyed about reading the Great Gatsby, as a kid, was the house, though I never thought I should try to ask my neighbors to let me thatch their roofs. At any rate, my grand house has downsized, as the reality of age has caught up with me. Why would UI want a monstrosity? to impress somebody? If I was that rich, why would i care? If I wasn’t why would I want to work to hard to make the payments, just to work twice as hard to keep a big old house up?
So now my fantasy is limited to this nice two story house, with the master suite and the living quarters all down stairs and 3 bedrooms upstairs, so all of my sons could come home and I would have rooms for them, but most of the year, we could leave the 2nd floor closed off after Christopher grows up.
The problem is, I began to think about this imaginary library in this house I will never build. A library. Any library. I began to think about the wonderful times I had as a kid when libraries were the sole repositories of books in my life. There were not any bookstores in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1960s, (why, my grammarian friends, do we put a comma between city and state?) at least, not any that i was aware of. then, as Barnes and Noble and other chains appeared, and as i discovered some wonderful independent bookstores, and especially old and used books stores, books became a part of my life until one day my fantasy of owning a bookstore became a reality, though in a few short months, we had burned through all our meager savings and all of Suzanne’s 401K retirement that we cashed in at a serious penalty, and closed our doors, and inherited even more books. at one time we had about 10,000 books in our garage. we sorted through and added to our collection and gave away to friends and donated to goodwill the rest.
check that dream off the bucket list. it was about as successful as my time playing bubba gump with a shrimp boat in tampa bay, though unlike shrimping, i didnt nearly get killed in the bookstore business.
anyway, i lay there thinking about libraries and bookstores and shrimp boats (no, actually, i didnt think about the shrimp boat until i was just now writing this), anyway, and it occurred to me, that in my grandfather’s generation, there were livery stables in every neighborhood, then when i grew up, there were still twon squares that were the hub of commerce.
in about 1966, my mother took us to a mall in memphis. it was the first time i had ever been in a mall, or had ever heard of a mall. did they exist before then? maybe. did the world end in 1966? not exactly, but within 10 yrs the town square was dead, then about every 5-6 yrs they would build a new mall and the old mall would become a ghost town like the square had become.
then the newspapers which had been a mainstay of life, more so than the town square, in about 2000, we quit taking the paper, the only vestige of my 1960s life is the TV. It isnt the same, but its close enough. I dont really watch TV, Suzanne does. I watch two-three shows per week, and no, they arent sports, news or nature shows. but I know a lot of yung people dont really watch TV, they watch their computer. I dont watch stuff on my computer. i look at stuff, but i am old.
As Arlo said, that’s not what i came to tell you about.
It hit me. the library. in what 20 years, will there be a library? Will every major city still have one, with books as museum pieces, or will they go away altogether? i know they are called media centers now, and i know they are diversifying, but can they or bookstores or any of it still exist by the time i die? will anyone have a library in their home? why? to show off the books they read on their e-books? or like educated and well to do folks have for centuries, to show off the books they havent read but want people to think they have read?
Sad to say, one wing of my fantasy house just crumbled into the heap with drugstore counters, record stores and livery stables…. blame it on the lottery for giving me a reason to think of this.