Saturday, June 28, 2014

Support Your Local Library

The Saint John Free Public Library - the emphasis is on "free" because it is Canada's first free public library - is a golden opportunity to expand your horizons right at your very fingertips.  I don't intend this to be about the history of the library, but the hows, whys, whens and wheres are just too interesting to omit.

The idea first germinated in 1874, but was put on hold because of the Great Fire of 1877 - it's tradition to bow your head at the mention of this reverent event - so it didn't reach fruition until 1883 when it occupied a room at the City Market.  From there it went to the Masonic Hall on Germain Street and in 1904 it finally had its own splendid building - thanks to a donation from Andrew Carnegie, no less - on Hazen Avenue.

Increasing circulation is a challenge for all libraries and, apparently, the powers that be were enamored with the success of their idea to open the Maritime's first library branch in a mall on the west side of the city in 1967, so in 1983 the main branch was moved from this treasured bit of architecture to Market Square - a glistening modern atmosphere so perfectly suited that it seems it may possess the same interior as it did then.  As I said, they must have loved that mall idea because the east branch is in a mall too.

Now that our history lesson is over, let's get back to why it's in your interest to make use of the borrowing resources contained within the cement walls of your library.

First, it's important to note that the Saint John library is just a cog in the vast New Brunswick Public Library system. This means you can borrow from any library in the province.  Now for a wonderful annotation to this fact: until recently CDs and DVDs were not transferable within regions - I know, that made no sense whatsoever - and there were often two copies of the same album in one region, but none in any other region, let alone your own.  But now that restriction has been lifted, so rejoice!

Next, while the library system doesn't have the extensive inventory available in most of the modern world, you can take solace knowing that if there is something that you want, there won't likely be much of a wait - it doesn't seem as though anyone actually borrows from libraries in Saint John.  Before moving here, I used to make good use of my privileges at my branch of the Halifax Public Library where I would put items on hold, sometimes having to wait weeks for one of their scores of copies to become available, then having to find my name alphabetically amongst walls of shelved material that others had put on hold.  There's none of that here - my first trip to a branch in Saint John saw me asking the librarian to do all the work, having to find my name in the little shelf of requested items while all I had to do was wait and watch.

As an aside, I have The Essential Bruce Springsteen serenading me as I write this article, proving there is some fantastic material to be found.  This is relevant because in other library systems borrowing CDs or DVDs is often futile, having to hope the item isn't too scratched up to actually play - especially on the old, run-down equipment I employ.  Springsteen's vocals, put on this CD in 2003, come clear and unscratched - well, as clear and unscratched as a Springsteen vocal can sound - looking as though the item was just purchased yesterday.

The hours may seem a little odd for a city library, some may even think they would contribute to the lack of circulation, but they do have a drop box with padding at the bottom to try and keep the contents of that special CD together, even if you forget the rubber band it came wrapped in.

Finally, I'd like to let you in on my secret on how I do a little extra to support my local library.  It used to bother me if, when I was in Halifax where their financial pockets seemed a veritable bottomless pit of wealth, I managed to rack up a fine.  Here they will actually extend the due date by a few days, so don't fret if the due date seems too soon, but should I not be able to make it on time, I just view that as my little donation to an important community resource (even more important if it was actually utilized by the community) and know that the item will be waiting on the shelf for me the next time I'm in the mood for The Boss.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Meeting Justin Bourque at a Sport Card Show in Moncton

Moncton, the Hub City of the Maritimes, was recently terrorized by Justin Bourque, a resident of a local trailer park, and as I watched the story unfold from the unnervingly safe distance of Saint John, I became aware that this person was strangely familiar to me.  That’s when I remembered a conversation I had with this individual at a collectors show a few years ago.

CS (cowardly shooter seems an appropriate moniker, since I wasn’t aware of his name until recent events):  Whoa, cool!  [Pointing at a 1974 OPC hockey card of Larry Robinson] Check out the facial hair on that dude.  And that stare, that’s intense – you can see the determination in his eyes.  I wouldn’t want to run into that guy in an alley.  How much?

Me: It’s only $5, it has a couple soft corners.

CS:  Don’t we all.  These old cards crack me up.  Look at the sideburns on some of these fuckers.  And the goalies didn’t wear masks, that’s real boss.  Men were really men back then, everybody fightin’ and shit – not held back by those pansy-assed pigs in stripes.  They can’t do nothin’ these days, they’ve even added an extra pig to suppress those players even more, but who’s watchin’ them?  [He looked up, making eye contact with me for the first time]  You know what I mean?

Me:  [A little unnerved by his stare] Well, the league watches them, I would imagine.

[Thankfully, he looked back down at the cards]

CS:  Yeah, sure, a fuckin’ whole hell-of-a-lot of good that does.  They need another player in that role, maybe some bad-ass retired fighter who knows what it means to have to be out there every game tryin’ to live your life without the man getting all in-your-face about it.  Fuckers.  You got a Claude Lemieux card?  He was a cool player.

Me:  No, I didn't bring any.

[His eyes see something in my case] Oh, fuck man, now we’re talkin’ – it’s a goddam Patrick Roy rookie card!  Can I see it?

[I hand him the card]

Here’s a real man, he goes about his job quietly, while others keep trying to humiliate him, show him up, but he keeps blockin’ that little fuckin’ puck and givin’ them the finger and, when they least expect it, boom!  He fucks them up – pummels some wimpy little American goaltender that’s too cowardly to even drop his gloves.  That dude's got his shit together.  [He looks up at me again]  His son plays hockey too, did you know that?  [I nod and he looks back down to the card]  What a great father, I wish he was my dad.  I bet he doesn’t slap his kid every time the little bastard does something stupid.  Some day I hope a girl will let me have a kid with her.  I’d be a great dad.  No stupid fuckin’ rules for my kid and I’ll teach him to hunt and fish and all the important stuff you need to survive in this fucked up world.

[He pauses for a long time, seeming to look at the card, but his eyes have glossed over and it’s clear he’s not exactly present.  Then he gives his head a shake]

How much?

Me: I need $200 for that.

CS:  Yeah, I thought so.  Some day I’ll buy all the Patrick fuckin’ Roy rookie cards I want and all those fuckers will wish they were me.

[He looks up at me]

I’ll show them, I really will.