Archive for Des Moines

Hard-Hitting, Clear-Headed Reviews of Libraries

Posted in Reviews and Recs with tags , , , on 05/31/2011 by Tim

Today I went to the library, and then I wrote about it. As I skulked around the stacks like a weirdo, taking photos of books and windows, I planned to complain about the lack of organization in the music section, how the only nod to alphabetic sorting is a grouping of everything by its first letter, so that it’s all a jumble, eight or nine stacks of J or whatever, but then when I got to the albums a librarian was sorting them all with the determined and undaunted grumbles of someone up against a hard but beatable challenge. Bless that woman. I still couldn’t find any of the albums I wanted to check out, but I’ll report back after my next attempt.

I will probably also carry this series of library reviews forward. Des Moines had a pretty unfortunate library system and then around 2005 or 2006 they built a new downtown library with free underground parking, a cafe, two fancypants levels with recliners that faced wide windows overlooking the lawn outside and, beyond that, downtown’s buildings. Their downtown branch went from a cramped and yellowed maze that looked like something from an old elementary school to something modern and airy and well-stocked.

I’m curious to check out the Minneapolis library system as well. The website does not inspire confidence, but I have high hopes.


#125: Toby Goes Drinking with an Administrator from the Department of Transportation

Posted in Story Every Day with tags , on 11/17/2010 by Tim

Alex was supposed to meet us but Alex called and said she had an emergency, something about her friend, a tire, but the noise in the bar was too much and I had to hang up. I was next to the tech guy who always sounded ready to cry and to the counselor who always wore green and to her husband, this red-faced and red-eyed man who was endlessly astounded by my age. “I didn’t know the State took you guys this young,” he said. “You’ll be bureau chief by 40,” he said, and I said, Sure, ha ha, but can you imagine? Me in a suit, a vest, Let’s get this meeting started, parking up close to the building, eating take-out in my corner office and emailing the governor’s aide.

“What do you drink?” the husband said. He was from the DOT and we were between stories about the regulations and laws to come. “Let me buy a drink for the next bureau chiefy.”

I told him and he said, “Jesus, that’s rotten milk, man, here,” and went to the bar and came back with a pitcher of melted chocolate that smelled like wet bread. “Put this to your lips,” he said.

He was nice enough and jolly but I started to poke him, just to see if I could raise some self-awareness, because he’d taken his wife’s keys a few drinks back and told her he’d handle the trip home. “You deal much with drunk drivers?” I said. “You guys handle that, right?”

“You ought to see it,” he said. “Now not me personally, I’m office, but you should hear the stories in my building. People driving through their own living rooms. Their own gardens at least. Their neighbors’ front lawns.”

“Let me pour you again,” I said, when he’d finished, and I did, and he finished again, and I said, “It makes you wonder why people take the chance,” and he said, “It comes down to it: personal responsibility. You know your limit, you know, everyone knows their limit whether they say they do or not and it’s taking that step of saying, Okay I’m there, I’m done.” He drank up and I drank up and in my head I thought, Ha ha ha, and I thought, I’ll follow him through town, I’ll watch for the tilt through the shoulder, but of course there would be no tilt through the shoulder and of course I’d be insane, a car length behind, gripping the steering wheel, rattling with speed, insane. “One second,” I said, and got to the bathroom and thought about escaping, a quick exit, and did. Outside there was no snow but the air came in fast and bit and I felt alive with cold and fresh like the past hours hadn’t even happened.