I set my sights on the library today. After work, I was going to walk to the library in Chinatown. The one that had a copy of Molokai, which is our book club book for this month. I looked at it in Borders and for some reason set my mind to the fact that I was going to get it at the library this month instead of the bookstore. The print was tiny in the paperback at Borders so I decided that if I went to the library I could probably just pull it off the shelf in hardcover.
I thought I would go to the library in my neighborhood. I could stop at home and get my library card first. Handy if you’re checking a book out of the library.
I called to see if they would have the book. They didn’t have a copy. There were copies, however, at the Seward and Mid-Manhattan branches. Seward was not too far from my office. Okay, fine. I’d walk there.
I walk home from work from time to time. It’s a long walk. But I have a prescribed route, skirting around the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. I never go through Chinatown. Since this library was so far east, I decided to plunge down, under the bridge (I never really considered that the foot of the bridge didn’t actually represent the end of the island. There are, of course, many streets, that run under the bridge for many blocks going eastward toward the river.) I was a little apprehensive, though, because it was dark, because I was walking under huge Brooklyn Bridge pylons, because I had no idea where the island actually ended, because I had only a very little idea of where I was going.
As I was walking, though, I started to realize that I’d find my way. (Of course I would. I have a good sense of direction, and there are all sorts of beacons in the city – if you’re by the Brooklyn Bridge and you see the Empire State or the Chrysler Building you’re going north.) As I realized I was safe, not lost, not caught in some strange parallel universe, no wading through the banks of the East River, I started to remind myself that this was part of the city I’d never see before. Blocks I’d never walked. It was an adventure. I was charting undiscovered blocks and storefronts of the city I love. I was getting to know her better!
I made it to the library. I found the book. I walked up two stories of very steep, very long, marble staircases to see what I could find on the other floors. I was sweating and I wasn’t finding anything I wanted. Probably because I didn’t know what I wanted. I took a book by the Dalai Lama, a small one because I wasn’t sure I would read a bigger one if I had to carry it around. Then I proceeded back downstairs to check out.
Turns out, their computers were down. So, even though I called before to make sure I could check out a book even though I didn’t have my library card on me, and was informed that, yes, all I needed was a photo ID, I wouldn’t be checking out any books tonight.
I left the library a little sweaty and without any books. What a failure that mission was, I thought.
It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I was missing the point. Just because the mission was a complete success, the journey was worthwhile. I took a walk. I listened to a great podcast. I used my senses to navigate an unknown neighborhood. And I walked some city blocks I’d never walked before. And the truth is, down there where Chinatown meets Brooklyn Bridge meets Pace University, there are pockets down there that are kinda cute.