After living for a year in Ucluelet, on Vancouver Island's rugged outer shore, we decided to fulfill another dream and move to the downtown area of Vancouver. These are the adventures, in words and images, of a couple of retirees now based in Lower Lonsdale.

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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Of Books and Peppers

Just a couple of images from today... We went out to do some shopping and to go to the library to get new cards for North Vancouver. As a library-goer for almost 60 years, it's been interesting to see the way technology has changed this venerable institution.

I have fond memories of getting my first library card, a child's card, of course, but it was a big deal to be able to walk out clutching a bundle of volumes that could transport you to alternate worlds, giving you a glimpse of experiences and imaginings far beyond your own modest knowledge.

I was always a voracious reader, and much more comfortable with my nose stuck firmly between the pages than on the playing field. I could, and did, lose myself for hours, firmly wedged behind a tome. Early on, I migrated to science fiction, and to all ends, have still got the bug for it. Not only did it satisfy my curious and logical mind, it transported me to realms beyond what was around me. I'd also subscribe to and read magazines such as Popular Science and Popular Mechanics, and marvel about the world to come when we'd all be winging to work in our personal helicopters and flying cars. The vision of the future was marvelous to behold.

In some ways, reality has so far outshone these early predictions, it simply boggles the mind. I now carry in my pocket more computing power than NASA had in rooms of computers for the 1969 moon mission! And yet... and yet, in some cases, we're still awaiting the predictions to come to fruition. I recently saw an article on the web that discussed how Stanley Kubrick's 1968 blockbuster movie, 2001: A Space Odessey, has yet to be even close to our present reality. I'm also still waiting for my personal helicopter.

When we went to the library when I was a child, and even well into my teens and early adolescence, it was all card catalogues for finding books, and tedious, handwritten cards that accompanied the books to track who had what, and when they were due back. Today, as we checked out, it's all scanners and computers.

To a certain extent, gone is the interaction with the stern, bespeckled and ancient librarian who would carefully scrutinize your books, making sure that they were suitable for your children's card. God forbid you tried to check out anything too lurid or salacious! Gone too, seemingly, is that marvelous smell of the accumulations of old paper as you roamed the stacks. You can still experience this in some of the used book stores that seem to be a hoarder's delight, piles spilling untidily off shelves and creating mounds on the floors. In all likelihood, this is probably more to do with proper humidity control and ventilation rather than the loss of something elemental.

Graduation to an adult library card was almost a rite of passage for the avid reader. It meant that you had the keys to the kingdom and could roam at will, no longer subject to the gatekeeper. Mind you, the first time you checked out 'Lady Chatterly's Lover' or 'Catcher in the Rye' (just to see what all the fuss was about, of course) you probably still got "the look" from the censor at the desk, but hell, you could just brazen it out, and really, it wasn't any big deal after all!

Sometimes, you ran across a librarian who became a mentor, a kindred soul who not only understood your passion on a subject or genre, but could become a pointer to more of the same, or even better, suggest titles that far exceeded your expectations. Bless these people! They afforded me so much pleasure over the years, lead me to appreciate literature of all types, and certainly fostered any writing skills that I now possess.

Books became a passion over the years that caused them to accumulate, and I swear, in some cases, breed silently on the shelves. For years, we had more tonnage of books to pack and haul than virtually all of the rest of the household goods put together! There again, technology has come to the rescue... Now, I have a huge collection of books, but on my iPad. Not only has this medium allowed me to easily carry a virtual library in my hand, it has saved my eyesight by offering choseable text sizes and background colour. Unless you are getting on in years, you simply can't imagine the luxury this presents.

Sometimes though, the iPad just isn't the best medium. One thing I cannot understand is why iBooks doesn't allow multiple books to be open at once, like tabs I a web browser. I don't know about you, but most avid readers can have more than one book going at a time. I am certainly in this category, and it incenses me that I have to close one book, then search the "library" to find the other one I'm reading. As forward-thinking as Apple is, in many cases, they are downright stupid.

When we moved from Langley to Ucluelet, I donated hundreds of photography books I'd collected over the years to Langara College. I simply couldn't justify moving almost two large bookcases of volumes yet again. There were a couple of shelves worth, however, that simply had to remain with me. These were primarily books by my favorite artists, such as Cartier-Bresson, Eugene Smith, Doisneau, Nachtwey and a few select others. For these, I simply have to see them on the printed page. In some cases, such as this, the actual book trumps the virtual one.

As Marcelle continued to roam the stacks, I slipped out and wandered along Lonsdale, and spotted these lovely, colourful peppers that are the sole images for today. Now you'll excuse me while I get back to my book.



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