Next time I'll come on stilts, wear a white tie, and carry a tennis racket

A very significant event happened in our community recently: our new library opened. Or I should say our new library opened!!

It's not just a library, it's a library/educational center/community center/art center/bookstore, and it is wondrous to behold - at least the first dozen or so times you go there. I suppose the wonder will abate with time and increasing familiarity, as wonder tends to do.

My involvement with the new library opening was in three parts or rather three phases:

1. The Gala. This was a fund-raising dinner just prior to the public opening. Lots of people paid $150 each to attend a preview tour of the library and eat a fine dinner in the new community room. I volunteered to be a docent, which meant, in theory, that I would study up on one or two of the art installations and station myself near them for an hour or two before the dinner so that I could intelligently inform appropriately awestruck attendees about just what it was they were looking at, and then scram before the dinner started. I was given a pamphlet with the pertinent information contained therein to aid me in formulating my spiel and I was told to wear black.

On the afternoon of the Gala, I dressed in the nicest black clothes I have, which aren't terribly nice but at least are not threadbare or ill-fitting. Much. There had been some discussion among my fellow docents earlier that day about wearing something special for the occasion, and I had joked about wearing earrings. Nobody really got my joke, but that's okay. Anyway, as I was getting ready, I decided that, indeed, I would wear earrings. I also decided to wear my lei kukui.

The lei kukui, in case you don't know, is a lei made of kukui nuts or candlenuts, which were a source of oil used for lighting purposes in ancient and not-so-ancient Hawai'i. Because of the association with light, the lei kukui symbolizes enlightenment, knowledge, and learning, so I thought it would be an appropriate item of adornment to wear in honor of the opening of our library.

Me in Hawai'i (in 2009) when I received my lei kukui on my birthday.

So, when I walked into the library that evening, ready to carry out my docent duties, you may imagine my consternation when the first thing I saw was some of my fellow docents eyeing me like I had two heads. Was it that they were so unused to seeing me dress in a color-coordinated fashion? Was it that I looked, all dressed in black, like a bizarre sort of gunslinger? Was it the unaccustomed sight of me wearing accessories?

I took a slight detour to the ladies' room and looked at myself in the mirror. Perhaps it was the long zebra stripe of white dust that had somehow and mysteriously attached itself to my trouser leg sometime between leaving my house and arriving at the library. I don't know. Anyhow, I brushed off the dust and headed to my post, where I proceeded to try to stave of boredom for the next hour and a half.

Entrance (outlet?) to the reading garden, my post for the Gala.

Close-up of artwork in the reading garden

The living room, complete with functional fireplace

The computer center

I spent the first little while opening the door to the reading garden, smiling at people I didn't know, and listening to a very good musician play the half-grand piano (that used to be Steve Allen's, and he signed it right here, don't you know) and trying to name that tune. In her first set, she played a bunch of art songs; in the second it was show tunes. The rest of the time I just kind of stayed out of the way.

When someone has paid $150 for a dinner ticket, is carrying a brochure explaining everything you spent the last two days memorizing, and has been very recently fortified with a glass or two of wine, they're not very likely to want to listen to a middle-aged docent in black trousers and sweater and a lei kukui tell them about the symbolism of a particular art installation. Then, when other docents start bringing small groups by and giving your spiel for you, it's time to draw the line. It's time to pull out your phone and start making little notes to yourself. Which I did. And that brings us to the end of Phase 1.

2. The Grand Opening. A week later, the library held its Grand Opening ceremony, with speeches, a ribbon-cutting stunt, and many family-friendly activities like face-painting (which I think is a little creepy), stilt-walkers (which the children thought were a little creepy), a puppet show, a pirate, a jazz combo, and cake, chips and salsa, and other fun stuff.

Giganto-scissors for cutting ceremonial ribbons

Stilt-walkers for frightening small children

Pirate: Do you know what a pirate's favorite letter of the alphabet is?
Children: No.
Pirate: Aaarrrhhh!

Cool jazz on the Poet's Patio

Artistic entrance to the Poet's Patio

I was again a docent, but this time I felt slightly more useful as I helped pass out brochures to the approximately 17 kajillion visitors to the library, and slightly less useful as I tried to keep little children from jumping on the famous "avocado couch", which was made for lounging on with a book but which actually looks like it was made for jumping on.

Swarms of people trying to get in

I forced these kids to stop jumping on the couch and pretend
to read books so I could take this picture. I also cautioned them
about safety and the need to avoid cracking one's head open.
I think they started jumping again as soon as I left.

My favorite area was the children's section of the library. If it weren't for all the actual children who congregate there, it would be perfect.

Tunnel of Books with Giant Sunflower and Caterpillar Couch in the background

In fact, I sort of wish I could be a kid and spend some time in this library. It doesn't have the mysterious, slightly musty, semi-dark charm of the bookmobile I used to frequent in my childhood, but it looks very stimulating to the imagination nevertheless. Thus endeth Phase 2.

3. The Bookstore. The new Bottom Shelf is, to me, just as important as the new library. in fact, without the Friends and their bookstore, the library probably wouldn't be all that it now is. But we have a new and beautiful space, with a larger selection of books and still at the same low prices. Many people say it's the best bargain in the county. Sometimes when I go to bed at night, I lie with my arm under my head, looking up into the darkness, and I think, "Tomorrow I get to go to the bookstore!"

Phase 3 continues to be an active part of my life. On the first anniversary of being in our new location, I shall wear my lei kukui, no matter how many stares I get.


Megan said...

I think that's so odd that they were staring at your lei kukui!! Why is it so strange? I've seen lots of people wear them.

Your description of the gala was funny, and I think the people on stilts are kind of creepy, too. And a pirate??? So random!

Anyway, everything looks great and wonderful and new and I'm excited to see it when we come.

Shannon said...

That's so awesome! I like how colorful the library is now :)
Also, they invited a lot of strange characters to your gala, and from the sound of it, to the fancy dinner too. I find your lei kukui very fitting for that circumstance, no matter how many sidelong glances you got.
Can't wait to see the new library/bookstore!

eric and adrien said...

If I had known the symbolism of a lei kukui, I would have worn it too. I guess everyone just isn't as knowledgeable as you are!

I'm also really, really excited to come see the new library and bookstore, especially after all these pictures. It looks great.

I hope that creepy purple stilt person never comes back.