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December 3, 2018: Lots of Stories

I like simple, uncomplicated days in which I have just a single story to tell. Days in which I have many stories to tell means that I have to pick and choose because stories related en masse lose their individual punch. I thought about this today, as I was helping out at the Mat-Su College Library. The earthquake hit pretty hard there and the books on the second floor shelves went flying, as did ceiling tiles.

When Pete and I got there the library staff were wearing gloves and masks as they reshelved books. Where to begin? Pete was assigned to fix the shelves and restack the books in one of two glass cabinets. I wandered over to where the shelved books had come to rest. Where to begin? I asked myself, as I knelt before a pile of books twenty-five feet long and three feet wide.

I began by stacking books on my left and right and then when I had enough room I moved in and put the books on shelves. Over holiday break the staff will put the books in their proper order.

College libaray earthquake damage

I was at first overwhelmed by the immensity of this task. And I was next overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of stories I was hearing about what toppled, moved, or was dislodged on the stackers’ respective home fronts. There were three librarians on duty when the quake hit. I was told it was terrifying, the sounds of books and rubble falling everywhere. It was like a bomb strike.

I moved back and forth, between the stories that the librarians had to tell and the stories that were before me. I was working in the economics/social history section. I did not write down any of the titles, but I will tomorrow. A book on statistics for those who don’t like statistics made me smile, as did a book on the leadership capabilities of Attila the Hun. I came upon a copy of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, which I remember being a best seller in the mid-1970s. The copies piled in prominent places in Rochester, NY bookstores had bright orange, green, and yellow covers and was about societal impermanence.

What gave me pause was my sense that each publication was hard earned. These writers all managed to get their books published, and each publication was a major accomplishment. And for every book that was published, there were three that weren’t published. I was a volunteer and so I didn’t have to hurry. And so I held each book in hand and looked it over carefully. I thought, if one of these was one of my books, I would like that someone would do the same for me.

And then it happened. Micah, one of the librarians came up to me and said “Look!” In his hands was a copy of the book Pete and I wrote together, the Alaska Bicycle Touring Guide. I said to “Micah, what were the odds of you coming across this book when we were here?” He then shook his head.

Tomorrow I’ll go back and take a camera and a notebook with me. I have a lot going on; however, I feel a great need to surround myself with good stories.

Next: 338. 12/4/18: A Conversation with Hrimmi

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