September 17th, 2007

krazy koati

These rock and rollers need something to read

I had gone up to my alma mater to get books from the library and I wasn't expecting to find squads of yellow-vested people sitting in chairs around most of the parking lots. Since I've never paid for a parking sticker I was counting on the general ability of mortals to just park anywhere when it's outside Monday-to-Friday, 8 am-to-6 pm and besides I happened to be in my brother's car. But I nudged the car in to the lot next to the student center and asked ``is there any public parking available today?'' The guy seemed unsure what I mean. ``I mean parking for the general public.'' Ah, yes, there is, and for only ten dollars. It turns out there was a football event that night, and so they were closing off parking lots and charging for admission. An alleged bowl game is such a burden on following years. ``How about just for people who want to use the campus facilities?'' seeing as how the game would not be for five hours at least. He had no idea. Happily, I found that they didn't blockade the parking lot outside the Science and Medicine library, although that went against my instincts by being the first spot I wanted to get to. (I like to park next to where I'll end up the day.)

On the way in to the physics library I noticed in an office opposite the library one of my old professors from way back when. And I realized that I had absolutely no idea whether I should say anything to him. I'm aware that people remember me far longer than any reasonable expectation would dictate, but on the other hand I did have him for only one class, and that fifteen years ago, and I was always one of those students who was certainly present but not really distinctive. Ultimately I let my shyness and my certainty that past a quick introduction everything else would be awkward and left with the book I wanted and nothing else.

The mathematics library is a two-level facility inside the mathematics building (you see how well-organized the campus is), which had the bad fortune to be built in the late 60s and so is a huge pile of Tetris blocks paneled in brick and tall windows too narrow to actually see out. While walking down the stairwell in the middle of the library I realized: Brutalism may have its awful side, but in its not bothering to make interiors any more warm or inviting than its exteriors, it does mean that you can look at the walls and be fooled into thinking you're outside and that the library (or whatever) happens to exist near but not necessarily confined by the building. That loss of the sense of containment ... well, perhaps that was part of the inspiration behind the building. And it only took me roughly twenty years from the first time I saw it and hundreds of trips to it to get that point.

Trivia: The Chicago Board of Trade traded onions until 1957, when they were banished due to price manipulation. Source: Devil Take the Hindmost, Edward Chancellor.

Currently Reading: A History of the United States Weather Bureau, Donald R Whitnah.