The New Parsons Branch

It was a big day today in the German Village/Schumacher Place/near East Side part of Columbus.  The new Parsons branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library opened.

The old Parsons branch was the smallest branch in the excellent Columbus system.  It was really more like a high school or junior high library than a public library branch, but it was the only library within walking distance when the Main Library closed for renovations, and Kish and I visited and used it extensively.  Then the old Parsons branch shut down, leaving us without a nearby library for an uncomfortable period of time for us regular library users, before the new branch opened a few blocks directly south of the old location.

IMG_1146The new branch is a big improvement — literally.  It’s much larger, inside and out, and my brief bit of perusing during our visit indicates that its collection is more extensive than that at the old branch, too.  That’s a welcome change indeed, because I like browsing and grabbing a book that strikes my fancy at the time, and I had just about worked through all of the selections in my preferred literary genres in the standing collection at the old branch.  With the additional book options available at the new location, I’ll be kept busy for a while.

I’m not sure that we’re going to keep using the Parsons Branch, however, when the Main Library renovations are done and Main reopens to the public in a few weeks.  With the shift of Parsons to the south, it’s almost certainly farther away from us than the Main Library.  When you add that fact to the far more extensive standing collection at Main, I suspect that my choice when I’m in the mood for some browsing will be to cross over the freeway and head to Main.

The new Parsons branch will be interesting to keep an eye on for another reason.  It’s part of the ongoing effort to improve Parsons Avenue, and with the move south it’s an attempt to nudge the redevelopment wave a few blocks farther away from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital zone.  The new neighborhood for the branch has a decidedly more gritty feel, but that may change as the new library and some other redevelopment efforts in the area come on line.  I’m sure that civic leaders are hoping that a new library can help the area feel more like a neighborhood and less like an urban renewal project.  Today, at least, the branch was jammed on its opening day.  It would be a good sign if that continues.

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Mutt Morsels

IMG_1137Kish and I went to dinner in Grandview last night, and as we walked to the restaurant we passed one shop that had thoughtfully placed a water dish and a huge gumball machine filled with dog food by its front door.

Kasey wasn’t with us, but she would have appreciated the gesture.  And I have to say that, as a means of point of purchase advertising, a water dish and a dog food dispenser are pretty strong inducements.  Anybody who cares enough about our canine friends to provide such treats is probably a pleasure to deal with, and a decent sort besides.

The Greatest

Muhammad Ali died last night, after a long, twilight struggle with the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s Disease.  His death was a reminder of an era that ended long, long ago.

fistAli was my favorite boxer — hell, he was just about everyone’s favorite boxer — but of course his influence transcended mere sport.  Although he was the greatest fighter I ever saw, his words and conduct had a much more profound impact than he could ever make with his fists.  Ali was one of those crucial cultural figures of the ’60s and ’70s who moved the needle and shifted the context.  He did it when he rejected his “slave name,” spoke out against racism in America, adopted Islam, and changed his name to Muhammad Ali to proclaim his freedom from the old ways of the Jim Crow South.  He did it again when he refused to fight in Vietnam after being drafted, saying he had “no quarrel” with the Viet Cong.  His anti-war stance cost him the prime years of his boxing career, but his words captured, in that special Ali way, the growing American unease with the fighting and dying in southeast Asia.

And, of course, Ali changed the national zeitgeist through sheer force of personality.  He was the flamboyant black man who was unabashedly loud and proud, the sports star who wasn’t afraid to bluntly speak his mind on the issues of the day, the quick-thinking, silver-tongued marketing genius who mocked his opponents, traded gibes with Howard Cosell, and built his fights into worldwide phenomena, and the boxing great with the astonishingly quick hands, the dancing, tasseled feet, and the grit and determination to always fight to the end in some of the greatest matches ever staged.  For a time, he was the most famous man on the planet, and his style and entourage and antics changed the world of sports and celebrities forever.

All of this made an indelible impression on me and every other kid, regardless of race, color, or creed, who was growing up in the America of the 1960s and 1970s.  We all wanted to have the same brilliant flash and dash, the same glibness, as Muhammad Ali.  He was as magnetic and mesmerizing as any national figure I can remember — which made the shaky, diminished Ali of later years, ravaged by his disease, so difficult to see.  The days when the world would stop to focus on one man and one battle in a boxing ring are long past, but Muhammad Ali of that era will live on in memory, and in our cultural history.