Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The book sale

The following paragraph is taken from the book Biblioholism: the Literary Addiction by Tom Raabe:
The book world was also intense in those days [mid-1800s to early 1900s]. Fights
occasionally broke out in bookstore aisles. When the English translation of The Devil on Two Sticks came out, the books were gobbled up insatiably, to the point that, when two noblemen entered a shop where one copy of the book remained, the lords drew swords. Only the intervention of the bookseller with a borrowed copy of the casus bellus precluded the letting of blood. When John Morley's Life of Gladstone came out in 1903, the chaotic scene in the Macmillan offices made the run on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire look like a couple of tykes arguing over who gets The Cat in the Hat at the neighborhood bookmobile. Today, the only place one experiences this sort of intensity is at the martial arts exhibitions that are euphemistically called "Friends of the Library" sales (pp. 117-118).

Ah yes, the "Friends of the Library" book sale. It's one of my two favorite days of the year - the other being Groundhog Day. The annual sale of the Friends of Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library begins this Friday evening - 6pm to 9pm, Friends members only, but memberships are sold at the door if you don't have one and you really don't want to wait till Saturday - and is open to the "general public" most of the day Saturday, and a few hours on Sunday afternoon. I'm a bit envious of those towns that have two sales each year (usually fall and spring), while TSCPL only has one, in September. But oh, what a sale it is!

I love how Raabe compares these sales to "martial arts exhibitions." I've never seen fighting at the local sale, but speaking only for myself, the "sort of intensity" he mentions is not necessarily an overstatement. I start working on my "wishlist" of potential purchases several days before the sale - this year's list is already in progress. Approaching the Expocentre close to when the sale opens, I feel a wonderful excitement, a sense of possibility, and rather than going all the way to the end of the line, I wait a couple minutes for people to go into the Hall, and the line to shorten, and then I get at the end when it's closer to me.

Once I'm in there, I've got my list in my hand, and I'm ALL BUSINESS. I always see at least one person I know, usually a few - either members of my book group, no surprise there, or people from work. But there's no time for chatting - I limit conversation to maybe 30 seconds, and even during that time, I'm scanning whatever table I happened to stop near, my eyeballs doing some combination of gymnastics and sprints across the spines, catching titles and authors as they go. I make my way through at least half of the inventory - there being some categories and topics that don't interest me - and I stay for at least two hours, becoming warm, tired, a bit frantic to find one or two titles that really MUST be there somewhere! I check my list frequently, move books set on top of the piles to see what's underneath, skim through boxes under the tables for books that haven't been laid out yet, and periodically assess what I've picked up to see if there are any I've since decided not to buy. Example: often the third or fourth book I pick up will be deemed "not worthy" once I've found an eighth or ninth book (one that was actually on my list), and especially if that third or fourth book costs maybe three dollars, when most of my choices are two dollars or less. There's impulse buying, yes, but also time to consider which books and how many to buy on impulse.

I already own over 300 books that I haven't read, according to my LibraryThing catalog. You might be thinking, Does she really need to go to this sale and buy another ten, fifteen, twenty books, most of which will remain unread by the time next year's sale rolls around? But I wouldn't think such a thing - not go to the sale?!?!? I love the sale!!! It's the kind of thing where I think to myself in mid-May, "Only four more months till the library book sale!" I can't not go to the sale. And, they also have DVDs, videos, and CDs, and the past couple years, Jeff goes in with me and looks at kids' books and movies, and we have a list of items that Stacy and Grandma want us to look for, and a book or DVD might be included with the Christmas gifts if it's in good condition. And you can't beat the prices! Yeah, you bet I'm going. If you see me there, you can say hello if you want to, and I appreciate it, but if I'm distracted - I will be distracted - please understand, it's nothing personal, I'm just a woman on a mission, building my life's library.

Friday, September 5, 2008

No more donations

I've made my last blood donation. I waited more than a year and a half after the last one, when I nearly passed out, but yesterday, they were having another blood drive at work, and I thought I'd give it a try. I got through most of it, then almost passed out again. Nope, I'm not going to give any more.

This makes me a little sad. The first time I donated blood was in 1991, when I was 20 years old. My grandfather (my mom's father) died in September of that year, and I donated at a blood drive at Community College of Rhode Island (that would be "See See Ah Rye" in Rhode Islandese) about a month after his death. When I was done, I remember feeling really good, the best I'd felt since Grandpa died. For a long time after, I associated blood donations with a measure of contentment, a happy inner peace.

At least once, here in Topeka, I wasn't allowed to donate because my blood pressure was too low. While I was at Smith, I donated once or twice, and I remember one of the workers walking by me and wondering what was taking so long. She looked at my paperwork and said, "Oh, no wonder, your blood pressure is 80." (It was actually 88/60, but yeah, probably too low, they shouldn't have let me donate.) I can't say for sure if that was the same donation that resulted in "the bruise," but it probably was. That would have been during the 1993-1994 school year. I had a bruise on my arm for over two weeks! I got worried after a while when I felt a bump under there, called Health Services, and they said it was probably nothing to worry about - if I recall correctly, it was basically a kind of scab under my skin. (Oh, okay, that sounds great!) A few days after my donation, this picture was taken:

The flash was bright, but even so, you can see the gray area on the bend in my arm. Before it finally went away, that thing turned all kinds of colors. But still, it didn't prevent me from continuing to donate blood, when there was a blood drive I could fit into my schedule.

But in early December 2006, the last time I tried to donate before yesterday, I had a bad reaction for the first time. The woman had told me to squeeze my hand every three to five seconds, which I later guessed was probably faster than was good for me - because I had never had a bad time before, only a bruise, so if that's not the reason, I don't know what it was. After that, I was sort of afraid to donate again, which is why I waited so long - until yesterday.

It's weird how fast it happens: I'm lying there, my breath and my chest start to feel just a little different, and then I'm suddenly warm all over and everything looks surreal, and when I try to close my eyes, the blood drive workers say, "Open your eyes, keep your eyes open!" and yesterday I could feel drops of sweat falling down each side of my neck. Then they tilt me back, and put one ice pack on the front of my neck, and one under the back of my neck. They give me apple juice, and ask about every thirty seconds, "How are you doing?" and then, "Are you doing okay?" And the thing is, you can't be sure how you are, it just feels too unreal. They had an Abbott and Costello DVD on, up on a big screen, and it was the disc menu, and I just kept looking straight ahead at it - "Don't close your eyes, keep them open!" - and thinking to myself "Play All, Episode 1, Episode 2, Bonus Features," and again, "Play All, Episode 1, Episode 2," and I nearly said it out loud, "Play All, Episode 1..." By the time you really are "okay," you don't have to think about the question when they ask you. If they ask and you aren't sure, request some juice, and just keep breathing. And whatever you do, don't close your eyes!