For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
March 22, 2001 - Audio Books, and Existential Terror
Last weekend, I had a religious experience.
I had driven via US 24 over the Front Range, then down to Salida, where I had lunch with Jeffrey Donlan, the library director there. Then I drove over to Montrose, where I had a beer and sandwich with Paul Paladino, Montrose's library director. (This wasn't a work day, of course.)
I was supposed to be in Durango by about six p.m. I figured I would make it by 8 p.m. -- I was running a little late, and it had started to snow. So I took off on US 550 as the darkness fell.
I believe I may have taken this route once, maybe six or seven years ago, in the late summer. Clearly, I wouldn't have taken it again, not in a snow storm, had I remembered that trip with any clarity.
Red Mountain Pass is somewhere around 11,000 feet. At one point, I saw an electric sign that said chains and snow tires were required. But, right then, the road was absolutely clear, and to be frank, I ignored the message. I did not believe this message applied to ME.
In technical terms, this is the problem of aliteracy. I CAN read. I just chose not to.
Well, the road went up and up and up and up. And the snow fell faster and faster. Finally, the universe was two tone -- flecked with white ahead of me, in the spotlights, with the dark tracks of the truck on the road before me, and a vast and sheer blackness to the right, the edge of the road.
I really couldn't believe that the pass could possibly be any higher. This impression was heightened (no pun intended) by the fact that I was driving slower and slower. Finally, I got to the summit. Before me, the truck pulled over.
I put the minivan into second gear, and started down.
The snow storm picked up. Ice began to clot on my windows, faster than my wiper and defroster could deal with it. Hairpin turns, I discovered, are emotionally very different when going downhill. Every now and then I would have to pull over (gliding gently to the right, my foot tapping the brake, and only when there was a distinct pullover with a big rock behind it). Then I'd jump out into the snow and scrape the front windshield clean.
I knew, in a word, terror. An existential terror that is both very much of the moment and utterly timeless.
Now, I have a vivid imagination. I could clearly see myself coming around a corner, slowing, sliding, hitting the break, sliding, and plummeting into craggy vastness. And I tell you true -- I would have missed me.
What saved me? Well, caution, certainly. Some years ago, I was a truck driver in one of the worst winters in 100 years. I made no sudden swerves; I was slow and steady.
But let me put in a good word for books on tape. When adrenaline, not blood, was sluicing through my veins, I very much appreciated the fact that my conscious mind could distract itself with the life and times of Mozart. On the other hand, when a tape was done, I did not root around for the next tape except for those moments when I had stopped to clear the windshield.
My trip, there and back, was illuminated by the works of Peggy Noonan (who, in "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness," alternated between political reminiscences and what she described as an experience of religious conversion), the aforementioned biography of Mozart (by Peter Gay), and Ian McKellan reading Homer's Odyssey.
In the end, I suppose, everything is a story. My story is that we live in a spectacular state, awesome and awe-inspiring. Thank God I'm still here to tell you about it.