It was my 39th birthday on Tuesday September 27th, and I went to work knowing that I had a fun weekend getaway to Los Angeles planned, leaving on Thursday evening. The ceiling in the library was still exposed after our recent deluge, but it appeared that the old pipes had been repaired and that everything was drying out.
The carpenter stopped by to check on the progress as he noticed a few sections that were still bubbling, suggesting that water was trapped in the beams housing the sprinkler pipes. He got up on the ladder and started cutting out more sections of the drywall. The first chunk exposed some creepy red mould, and then he got busy and hacked out several panels of the dreaded black mould. We were shut down immediately.
I must have huffed some of the mould because I soon found myself feeling dizzy and nauseated. The team transferred over to the Central library, and we started making a plan. The only other library in the Downtown Eastside was closed to the public, in anticipation of the brand new library, which was not complete. So, we decided to create a “Pop Up” Carnegie library in the lobby, taking over the chess players’ table and using our mobile circulation apps on laptops and tablets.
I’ve never been so proud of my team! I was exhausted (and actually took an afternoon off sick) but the crew forged on and created a really successful set-up, with the ability to accept returns and check-out materials, with a decent selection of books, music and DVDs. It is still on-going, even on Thanksgiving Monday.
It was a weird mental battle behind the scenes, trying to arrange for our daily 300 photocopies of crossword puzzles and Sudoku, without sabotaging our relationship with the Carnegie Centre administration team upstairs, trying to communicate with the rest of the VPL system, and waiting for information. But ultimately, we are proving our loyalty to the community when we easily could have abandoned ship and been deployed elsewhere.
I was also able to enjoy my weekend getaway with Emily and Amanda in L.A. We got a seat sale in our flights, I used my airmiles to rent a vehicle, Amanda found a super sweet AirBnB in the Fairfax neighbourhood, and it turned out to be pretty affordable. The motivation to go was to check out a women’s motocross competition at the Glen Helen raceway, explore a bunch of thrift stores and consignment shops, as well as the Fairfax market on Sunday.
Traffic in Los Angeles is pretty notorious, but with GPS we were fine and I actually felt more comfortable driving there than Vancouver where folks seem to always be pushing amber lights and make erratic moves! We cruised around, hitting up Venice Beach, the Beverly Hills hotel, and our race out in San Bernadino was impressive. The women’s heat included girls and women of all ages and abilities, with one very dominant pro rider (she actually lapped the 2nd place girl). The course included a huge banked wall right off the start and a massive two-tier hill climb and descent, followed by hair pin turns, whoop-de-doos, and table-top jumps.
I think Amanda, Emily and I were the only spectators besides friends and family, but we had a great time! Amanda had given me a tiny plastic Japanese camera that shoots little square photos, so hopefully I have some pretty unique pictures to scan and share.
Other random highlights include a most delicious meal of smoked trout at the “Hare and the Hunter” restaurant, with its lovely decor and tiled walls, and popping in to the trendy motorcycle shop, “Deus ex Machina” only to find it was a reunion and BBQ with the “Chosen Few MC.”
The history of the club explains that they were established in 1965, and were one of the early 1%er crew that was African American men, although later became more diverse. We were greeted to a pretty awesome scene when five members dramatically merged into traffic, with one rider blocking the cars and blasting the loudest music (music that over-powered their huge Harley Davidsons!).
I took a few pics with my ghetto tiny camera… hopefully that wasn’t off-limits, but they were pretty cool looking with their red patches. The funniest part was that once inside the store there were all these white youth on laptops, using the wifi, immersed in their virtual world, oblivious to the radness paces away. At first we thought they were media, documenting the party, but they were simply awkward randoms.
We enjoyed the California heat, some fancy drinks, exploring the market (apparently Drew Barrymore had been spotted there just a week before – alas!), playing Uno and Bananagrams at night, and then in no time we were back to reality Vancouver style with the cold and rain.
I admit that going back to work this past week was initially a chore and I dreaded the waiting game and the repairs, but once again the library patrons rocked my world! Everyone was so grateful that we were out there in the lobby, that they could get their movie fix and chat it up. I had one wild patron (he has an Einstein look with his shaggy white hair) offer up an Evangelical prayer for the library, and I had to pump fists with him, it was so awesome.
At this point we’ve had a team of dudes in white hazmat suits for two days suction cup the entire library, spraying some lemon / vinegar solution that will essentially kill any mould spore or germ. They have one more day of cleaning, we’ll have another air quality test (we failed our first one), and hopefully be back in by the end of next week. In some ways the procedure validates my suspicion that we were working in unsafe conditions, but I am grateful that the ceiling was cut out in a controlled fashion rather than collapsing on patrons!
There is still a lot of work to do at the Carnegie, and yet instead of dread and frustration I’m just feeling grateful for my co-workers, the library patrons, my friends, family and husband. This morning I heard a great quote by Rick Warren at church, essentially explaining that when you envy others you are resenting God’s blessings upon other people, while simultaneously denying the good gifts you have received. At this moment I feel overwhelmed when I think of such good gifts. Contentment is a good place to rest in, even when things are swirling about you in chaos.
Part of the chaos at work was a deep sadness for the disappearance of a woman named Debbie Blair. It happened last Thursday, September 29th when the Carnegie hikers were up at Cypress mountain. There were two groups, one faster and one slower. Apparently Debbie, who is 65 decided to join the slow group mid-hike. But when the slow group came to the end, Debbie was not with them. Emergency crews were immediately called in to search the area, since she was not dressed to withstand an overnight in the wilderness, and fifty people could not find her. It is now October 9th and she has still not been found.
My heart breaks because this hiking group is such a tight knit crew of Downtown Eastside residents, mainly seniors who have experienced so much suffering over their years. This regular outing was a positive outlet, to give them a chance to embrace the outdoors, away from the harsh urban streets. I want a miracle and an answer.
It reminds me of the expression Deus ex Machina… while I suspect the motorcycle shop leans towards the straight up definition being “god from the machine,” it also has connections to the theatre, where it is a plot device during a scene that has no way out, and there is a divine intervention that somehow resolves the conflict. It seems pretty hopeless, but I pray for some ray of hope or meaning to break through the darkness and heal Debbie’s friends.
I suspect it would be too easy to have her dramatically come through the wilderness now. It would be like a Greek Aeschylus or Euripides play as explained in wikipedia where a crane literally drops the gods onto the set to trigger wonder, awe and an emotional and moral response. But, I can’t help but hope for it. I know that God sometimes answers none of our prayers, but then answers all of our prayers in a way so mysterious and unpredictable that instead of a rhinestone we receive a diamond (thanks Ken!).