Thursday, August 25, 2011

I went inside the Courtelyou Branch Library

Never Done: I went inside the Courtelyou Branch Library (in Ditmas Park)

I love libraries. I still have a card from my growing up library, from my college library, from the Portland public library, from the New York public library, from my grad school library, from the Hoboken public library, and of course, from the Brooklyn public library. Among these, I love the public libraries more than I love the private libraries. I love that you can go in to read, get out of the rain or the heat, pee, or use a computer (if there's not a line.) One day last summer, when I was doing a lot of driving around Massachusetts and upstate New York to see if there was a place I didn't know already where I might like to live, I went into a public library to ask the research librarian in Northhampton for help finding a good swimming hole. She had a folder on local swimming holes. (I love that librarian. I did not love Northhampton.)

A while back, I was contacted by Shannon who wanted to interview me her radio journalism blog, The BK Buzz. She had read about my Never Done project in a Brooklyn Based about Madhu Kaza, and asked if she could do a podcast interview about my Never Done year. (I am currently torn between writing about the interview in detail, and waiting to write about it for when it posts. I think I am going to wait, and stick with the library post right now.) Shannon and I went back and forth several times on dates, and once we found a good date, we needed a location.

Since I've produced so many things -- especially film shoots -- I am accustomed to looking for locations that are good for sound recordings, but since I started my new job at the JCC I just don't have time to put in to things that aren't mine. (Which is, in and of itself, interesting to look at. I've struggled for years with being saddled with/taking on too much responsibility and how it relates to being a freelancer -- when the expectation is that my flexibility allows me to do stuff that other people can't do, which is actually true, but it's also hard to be a successful freelancer if one is doing all sorts of stuff that's not the freelance job. Now that I am working an hour's commute from my home, without access to my home email, I am physically and logistically more limited than I've ever been, and it physically and logistically inhibits me from over-volunteering for responsibility.) (That was a very long parenthetical.) Shannon asked me to come up with ideas of where to meet, but I didn't have the time or attention to do a scout for a location with good sound for a radio interview. I wanted to help, but I didn't have any great ideas, and didn't have the time to find out what her sounds needs are. She eventually made a great suggestion for a location, and we were all set. Except that we then had to change the date, and had to start this process over. She asked me for a location; I suggested she find something; she didn't know the area well (we were meeting somewhere different because I was going to a birthday party after work); I felt pulled to solve it; I didn't have time to solve it; and then, all of a sudden, I had the perfect idea: the Courtelyou branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

It was an interesting private moment. The producer side of myself was delighted that I had solved the problem. The neurotic part of myself almost wanted to pretend I hadn't, in order to prove to myself that I wasn't taking on too much responsibility. The producer side of myself didn't know the hours the library was open. The Mussar side of myself noticed that I thought I didn't have time to solve it, but that I had solved it in an instant -- and that this related in some ways to the mides (middot) of Patience, Humility, Equanimity, Decisiveness, Diligence, and Silence. I sat for a moment with all of this swirling inside myself, and then just dashed an email to Shannon suggesting that she check the hours of the library. She did this immediately, and then wrote back to say it was a great idea. Perfect.

I hope you've noticed that this was an entirely internal process -- that all this internal swirl came up when Shannon merely asked me for suggestions, close to where I would be, for a good place to meet. Totally normal, understandable, and good-producer behavior on her part. Exactly what I would have done. Exactly what I have done hundreds of times.

By the time I walked down Courtelyou Road and saw a young woman in a bright green shirt standing outside the library, all these logistics were behind me, and I was reviewing my year, thinking about the important things to talk about on the interview. But as soon as we entered the library, I realized I'd never actually been inside that branch, and I voiced a silent Shehekhianu, thankful that these spaces are still available -- and filled with books -- for public use.

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