The cold weather's gone, for the time being. On Monday I drove with my friend Lonnie to his country house upstate New York. Bad news - it was so cold that the oil for his furnace had gelled and there was no heat to be had. So up we went to light some fires in the wood stoves to keep the pipes from bursting.
Man, was it cold! Lonnie's hi-tech digital indoor/outdoor thermometer read 1.3°. Even after three hours of roaring fires in his two wood stoves the house temperature could only be brought to 59°. I cooked up some pork chops and made a salad and we had a nice dinner huddled in the kitchen keeping close to the wood burner. And when we turned in it felt like I was sleeping in a walk-in freezer in one of the upstairs bedrooms. No matter, a few blankets piled on and my body heat warmed up the bed after a few minutes. Needless to say, the furnace repairman came about 3am (it must have been a busy night for him) but still couldn't get it fixed. Apparently, and this I learned from Google, most homes use Heating Oil #2, a thick, gooey fuel that can gel and freeze-up as the temps get very low. In those climes where sub-zero temp is a regular occurrence one must add Kerosene (aka Heating Oil #1). This is a more-refined fuel and prevents the gelling that occurrs. Too late now though.
The next day brought another repairman. But it also brought warmer temperatures. The combination produced nice warm heat for Lonnie's house. But it was back to the city for me while Lonnie stayed to keep an eye on things.
Yes the cold was gone and downright warmth had returned to Brooklyn. Enough to go exploring on my bike again. With temps in the 50's it was a beautiful Wednesday and I rode around carrying out some errands to the bank and post office. Then I decided I would visit the Brooklyn Central Library. It was years since I had a library card and I wanted one because this beautiful building and the immense collection it houses are only a few blocks away beckoning.
It was late already and the solstice sun was getting ready to call it quits for the day as I rode up to the library. What a magnificent building. But it, according to the Central Libary History, a sheet I picked up inside, was a long time in coming.
Take a look at these dates:
• In 1889 the Brooklyn Park Commission was authorized to select a site for the Central Library.
• In 1905 the choice of the triangular plot at Prospect Park Plaza (now known as Grand Army Plaza)was adopted by the legislature.
• In 1912 ground was broken for architect Raymond F. Almirall's Beaux-Arts building
• From 1915 to 1927 construction slowed down and then halted for WWI and the Great Depression.
• In 1935 new architects, Alfred Morton Githens and Francis Keally were selected for a new design that would be more modern and would cut costs.
• In 1937 plans were approved for a $1.88 million dollar structure.
• In 1938 construction began and in 1941 regular service commenced.
Wow! A long time to build a beautiful public library. And the story doesn't end. Over the years, there were additions and renovations and terrible budget cuts (more to come in the era of Bloomberg/Bush). But the library stands and serves the community as a focal point of public information and education.
Steps leading from Eastern Parkway up to the main entrance of the Central Library.
I didn't realize it but the building is shaped like an open book. It's clad in limestone and has beautiful Art Deco detailing around the 50-foot high entry portico.
The dramatic entrance to the Central Library has columns on both sides with gold-leaf figures depicting the evolution of art and science. The panels on the bronze screen above the doors are sculpted by Thomas Hudson Jones with favorite characters in American writing, including Tom Sawyer, the Raven and Moby Dick.
Well getting a library card was a harmless 3-minute task and then I set about to figure how the library was organized. Being a member of the male genus, I refused to ask for help but did pick up some sheets on using the catalog system. The library has dozens of terminals for conducting searches which I tried. Then I decided to browse some of the reading rooms. I ended up with the following:
• A book on how to write poetry.
• An anthology of Poetry classics from the last 200 years.
• A how-to write your own greeting cards, bumperstickers, t-shirts.
• A history of the assassination of Lincoln.
• "How The Irish Saved Civilization."
These have to be back by january 10th (or you can renew on line now!)
I haven't been a reader all these many years. Mostly periodicals and a very occasional book. I'm not proud of that. Perhaps I can use retirement to catch up and make ammends. Stacey is sceptical. Time will tell.
When I left the library after an hour or so, this was the sight that greeted me - the fabulous arch at Grand Army Plaza, Park Slope in the backgroud and an impossible blue sky with fading sunset.