Freedom is the first thing you eat everyday. A big hot heaping spoonful that will stick to your ribs. It is an unbalanced breakfast with the scales tipped in your favor. You can say whatever you want (except for “bomb” on an airplane. “I’m sorry sir I was just trying to warm my toes with my Bic because you insist on keeping the cabin at 35 degrees!”) You can own a gun (s), you can own property ($), you can get into all kinds of debt, you can get paid to not have a job, you can read a book for free; that’s freedom, and you eat it like cereal everyday.
Go to the library with a sense of ceremony, dropping off your used items and inquiring about the book you wanted that had gone missing some weeks earlier (gasp!). Get excited when they bring it out of the back like a new baby. Yes, this makes you an absolutely shameless nerd. Comment on the rarity of this short story collection and see the wide bemused eyes of the part-time worker as she nods and points to the check out line. You love libraries, you especially love this one because of his breath-taking art-deco entrance, it’s perturbed staff, and it’s location; It backs up to the entrance of Prospect Park with a fountain, and a French-Libertine inspired arch in the intersection out front. It really does make your errand seem heavy with purpose.
There is nothing more American than going to the library. The well-read socialist inspired FDR, began the Public Library program as a way to cure lack-luster and inconsistent educations in America ” We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” You know, he had that sort of ability to bust out insanely intelligent sing-song gems to live by. Now, Libraries are some of the last standing relics of an America that could have been. A far-reaching government enforcing the education and imaginations of its citizens, forever employing old maids, and instilling in the collective memory that smell of thin well-worn carpet, human skin, and old paper.
People sometimes forget that books (and now DVDs) are free. Nowadays libraries are associated with homeless people bathing and people sleeping on warm greasy desks. America has forgotten all about the greatness of the public library. But not you, the library is to you, what the Star Trek Enterprise is to… other types of nerds. Its your mothership; your horizon line. As long as Public Libraries exist, America has not failed itself.
You are exceptionally cheery as you step out of the revolving door with a fresh read under your arm and an iced-coffee in the other. In your over-sized purse is a gently wrapped peanut butter sandwich tucked next to a tangerine. The sun is high and hot and a wide bay of grass lays ahead. Just watch out for sports equipment, airborne, or otherwise.
Right up there with Libraries is Public Parks. There is nothing more American than libraries, AND Public Parks. It is free to read books and sit in a lovely groomed park. Sometimes, people forget that.
The thing about parks here in this region (you consider yourself a park and library connoisseur), is that they are all so well-groomed, like paintings from Victorian Paris. Everything is lit with old-fashioned lamps, walkways are meticulous, people actually stay off the grass. The trees look like pleasant cartoon trees, no crippled oaks; or Dr. Suess junipers. No rolling fog on the horizon, no drum circles. Golden gate is a wide spewing mysterious place with its own species of coyote. Prospect and Central park are ruled by polite pathways and plump little squirrels. It looks like a park from a Disney movie. Wooded glens, colorful birds, picnic tables.
One thing that is consistent across all parks in the country : strollers. America has fancy stroller fever. Passing by you on every side are gangs of lulu-lemon wearing moms pushing these robot-pod and Cadillac looking vehicles. Whatever happened to the little aluminum and nylon death-traps of your youth? You know the ones that would launch you into on-coming traffic if the little plastic wheel hit a pebble. Remember 20 years ago, When all a mom needed was four or five aluminum poles, a stretched out nylon floral sling and some hooked handles to drape her over-sized purse on. It was like a toy camping tent. These strollers went for 5 to 10 dollars at Kmart, and your garage was littered with the carcases of many that had been run over or run down, or lost a wheel, or got peed/puked on. They were as disposable as plastic grocery bags (RIP) but now those are taboo too.
There are entire stores dedicated to fancy strollers, There is a parking place in your building for strollers, not bikes. You have counted 2 McClarren’s and one “Stroke” which is a scary Matrix pod looking thing that is able to adjust the height and facing direction of baby. All standard issue strollers are now equiped with 8 zillion pockets, a GPS, Air conditioning, easy folding technique (remember dad trying to get the old stroller in the back of the Mazada? Comedy), Sirius radio, moon roof, and cappuccino machine. The deluxe ones come with their own mexican diaper changing service that folds up into the trunk ( J.Lo’s favorite! Legality not guaranteed)! Whatever happened to getting your little foot caught between the asphalt and the plastic foot rest? Your toes would be bloody and scrapped for the rest of the day, you learned your lesson, Don’t drag your feet! That’s the kind of stuff that builds character. It makes you wonder what these little precious cargos will be like. You wont have to wonder for long, they will be baby sitting your kids in like 15-20 years.
Your point is that American people forget sometimes that no matter where we are, there is a library, and a public park. We like to get caught up in the bells and whistles of things, the politics, the ipads. We forget that kids don’t care what the stroller looks like, because they will end up puking or peeing on it anyway. Remember when your toosh would drag on the ground because you were too big or the stroller was too old? Whenever your mom put something in the “storage sling” she would accidentally kick your back? That was the good stuff, who would want to miss out on that with their high-tech all-weather four-wheel drive?
When everything else is dark and confusing, the world seems to shoot off into all these mysterious tunnels. You revert to your center. The Brady Bunch goes to Sears, Nancy Sinatra goes Downtown, Men go to the YMCA, Yuppies go to the farmer’s markets, and you go to the library. There is not a question in the whole world that cannot be answered at the library. It is a place of magical definitions, of answers. You have tried meditation, you have tried yoga but new-fangled ideas seem to lose you mostly (FDR would equally be confused by “new fangledness”). The library, however, followed by a long sun-burn in the park with a homemade sandwich, is the only cure for a troubled mind. You feel centered, recharged, itchy.
For the rest of the day you will discover small bugs and blades of grass in/around your clothes and hair. Your skin remembers sun and on cue turns a nice card-board color, as dependable as libraries, are the changes in season on your skin.