How to Pay it Forward

I had 18 people attend my class, “Starting a Blog with Stump: the Librarian.” It was a wonderful mix of familiar and new faces, including library patrons, business owners, artists, photographers, and writers.

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My class at the library was an introduction to blogging. Patrons did not create a blog and start posting in my class. There was not enough time. It was a not-too-serious, but informative, learning environment. I told them to think up a clever name that combines who you are with what you want to say, but cautioned some of the good domains may already be taken. “Without a leg to stand on” was my first choice, but Stump: The Librarian is actually better, since I’m writing about amputees and libraries. I hope my passion for blogging was evident in my enthusiasm for sharing what I’d learned about blogging. I wanted each person to determine for themselves if they should start a blog.

Several people signed up after hearing about the class from fellow blogger Karyn Tunks, the guest speaker at Pensters, a local writing group. Library volunteers, Nonfiction Book Club members, Genealogy Club members, and a couple of co-workers sat in on the session. In my last post, I wrote about connecting with community. I could swear these people had read it because that’s exactly what we had in the computer lab yesterday.

Since I had such a convergence of community, I’m paying it forward to another local organization that provides educational opportunities. The Eastern Shore Institute for Lifelong Learning (ESILL) bills itself as “school for the fun of it.” The classes are not free, but they are very reasonable. Four ESILL instructors attended my blogging class who are also part of Pensters. Gene, Jane, Fred, and Rosanne teach photography, art, ancient wisdom, and writing, respectively. Bloggers and future bloggers should check out Blogging 101. I’m constantly looking for opportunities to continue my leg-ucation. Fall is a great time to learn something new.

Are You Part of Your Community?

                              Morning/Afternoon

Yesterday was a day off from work, but I was at the library for a monthly Southern Bloggers Jubilee meeting. We had Pat Smitherman, Crafty Hope’s husband and KPMG Web Developer, show us a few things about HTML and CSS. I learned quite a bit, but I’ll continue to use WordPress because it’s so user-friendly. (Want to learn more about blogging, take my class, Starting a Blog, on Monday September 15, at the library. It’s priceless, as in free, but you have to sign up.) Pat the code walker was patient with us, and it never hurts to pick up a few tips in another language, especially computer speak. Some of my fellow bloggers were really digging it. A few had their heads buried in their laptops writing code like they’d been trained by Anonymous.

After wrapping up our meeting and waiting out the rain, I chatted briefly with Tamara Dean, the library director, in her office. She handed me the DVD about the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, America’s Amazon. Tamara forwarded me the number of Mango users, which continues to soar. Mango is our online language learning program, which also has a popular app version.

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Evening

After an early dinner, I stopped by Fairhope Brewing for Mobile Bay Green Drinks, “a monthly happy hour for environmentally thoughtful folks.” It’s a “get involved/what’s happening” night for local organizations and businesses. It was the first time I attended, and there was lots of information, and free stickers too. Free samples from Sunflower Cafe awaited with additional items available for purchase. As I sipped my Fairhope 51 Pale Ale, a group of about 40 people listened to speakers who stepped up to the microphone, set up in the middle of the tap room.

The Slow Bicycle Society on the Eastern Shore was represented by Molly Peterson, who serves on our library board. I’m part of this group of riders that bike locally and take regional bike ride field trips. Several Slow Bikers were in attendance and Molly also spoke on behalf of Baldwin County Trailblazers, the group behind the Eastern Shore Trail.

Others speaking up were representatives from Alabama Coastal Birdfest, taking place the first weekend in October, Pro Cycle and Triathlon, which has slow bikes for sale and for rent now too. Katy of Pro Cycle was fond of the phrase “rip your legs off,” when describing her rides. Apparently, there are paces for everyone, including people like me. I just want to keep the leg and a half I’ve got left. Alabama Coastal Foundation clean-up, a fishing rodeo, and BARC Rib fundraising events were promoted during the open mic segment.

I enjoyed a delicious creamy coconut pop from Frios, a gourmet frozen treat stand set up inside the tap room. By the way it was delicious! Until I tasted blood. I bit the inside of my cheek chomping the sweet sugary goodness. No biggie, it’s frozen, I just kept eating on that side, and a couple bites later, the bleeding stopped.

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Night

With the tropics still dazzling my taste buds, I went to the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) public hearing on their Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan. Sounds rather somber, but as a reporter I’ve covered much worse. A sewer commission meeting comes to mind.

I thought I might be a sight to stare at, an amputee coming to a bike meeting with shorts on, flashing my prosthesis. Plus, the leg was making a popping sound as I walked in the room. If they stared, I didn’t notice. They were welcoming, and I suspect happy to see another resident at a public hearing. I even saw someone from my book club, “Drinkers with a Reading Problem,” at Green Drinks and at the MPO public hearing.

The MPO staff is eager to hear from the public on what they believe the future walkability and biking needs of the Eastern Shore should look like. Read the draft report, you have until September 22, to send comments. I’ll be advocating for a bike path/sidewalk from my neighborhood, River Station, to Wal-Mart, which is about a third of a mile away. There is no plan to build a sidewalk, even though it is very dangerous for walkers and riders to use County Road 48, the major east west corridor connecting the county with downtown Fairhope. The five other people at the meeting, including two staffers were very encouraging and positive, but realistic. All the goals require funding, not all of which has been secured.

If you want to look at the 92-page draft report, there is one available online and at the Fairhope Public Library. It rests on the ledge of an easel that has an MPO map on display near the public computers. The short term goals of what pathways to build, and staffer Matthew’s “30 days on a bicycle,” are must reads.

All of these organizations, government entities, and businesses have websites, Facebook pages, or both. Check ‘em out!

                                          Full Moon

When the meeting ended, I turned east to head home and was greeted by a harvest moon. It was rising up and looked like if I kept on driving I’d crash into it. It loomed so large, you couldn’t miss it. The moonlight reminded me to say thanks to those who are engaged in what’s going on around the Eastern Shore. We need people in the community to be the squeaky wheels. I’ll be sure and wear my popping prosthesis.

 

An Amputee’s Legs and a Steam Shovel’s Arms

(I wrote the following Guest Book Review for Professor Storytime, a blog by writer, reviewer, and teacher Karyn Tunks)

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton used to fill me with wonder and fuel my imagination. I thought I was over the book, you know, been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. I was wrong. Even now, the story brings back memories, conjures the imagination, and sparks my creativity.

One of the best parts of the book is the diagram of the steam shovel with her name, “Mary Anne,” emblazoned on the “boom.” The “dipper,” or bucket, is labeled from top to bottom as “teeth,” “dipper,” and “tongue.” Mike and Mary Anne are the best digging duo the city has ever seen. They scoop earth and “finish the corner neat and square.”

Mary Anne wears her personification on her dipper, with subtle human eyes, smiling mouth, big eyelashes, and even tears. Mary Anne’s dipper has fabulous facial expressions that match the action on the page, from grimaces and grins, to batting eyelashes, closed mouthfuls of dirt, and mouth agape as dirt drops in brown clouds to the ground.

Burton’s sweeping brush stroke illustrations, in the mind of a seven year old’s imagination, move on the page as the shifting boom billows white steam and the black puffs from the “smokestack” blot the sky.

As a congenital amputee, my prosthetic leg has characteristics similar to Mary Anne. The leg is a lever, or simple machine and built of manmade materials: metal, plastic, fiberglass, and wood. My motion with a prosthesis, while not machine-like, is certainly awkward, and my gait looked a lot like Mary Anne’s swinging arm.

Eventually, technology catches Mary Anne, and she and Mike are overtaken by more efficient gas and diesel shovels. So Mary Anne and Mike’s journey takes them from urban to rural areas, while my trip with Mom to Shriners Hospital took me in the opposite direction. Types of communities, according to my wife Susan, are still something second graders learn. (I’m writing this in her classroom, which has a copy of Mike Mulligan and More. She teaches at Daphne East Elementary, but this is summer, and she’s in a lesson planning meeting with her fellow second grade teachers.)

Mike and Mary Anne are challenged to complete a dig in less than a day in the town of Popperville. Once the digging begins, we read Burton’s onomatopoeia as her words match the sounds and motions of Mary Anne working at great speeds to meet the challenge. “Bing! Bang! Crash! Slam!” This reminded me of my mom and dad who told me “not to hop in the house,” and wear my leg or use my “sticks,” or crutches. “A herd of elephants,” is what dad said I sounded like when hopping around. He warned me, “One of these days you’re going to go through the floor!” The prosthesis made other noises, like Mary Anne’s shovel.  A screw loose “click,” a rubbing “squeak,” a weight bearing “clack,” all combined in a magical simple machine symphony.

Like the labeled parts of Mary Anne on the inside pages, it was also important for me to understand how things worked and to have labels, or definitions for my human and machine parts. How my prosthesis stayed on, and how my prosthetist used machines and materials to make a comfortable socket were things I wanted, and needed, to know.

Back then, prosthetists would often tell my mom and I that I didn’t need an artificial leg.

“He’d walk in a flower pot if we gave him one,” I heard Mr. Williams say more than once.

That’s where mom got the idea. I remember her threatening to make a flower pot or a planter out of an old leg that I had outgrown. She and I did a lot of brainstorminng about how to do it, but the foot always posed a problem, so we never made one.

Mike and Mary Anne do their jobs well. Too well, in fact, as they dig themselves a hole so deep they can’t get out. A classic dilemma, and one we’ve all experienced as children and adults. I am not a golfer, but  Mike Mulligan gets a mulligan, a do-over. He and his steam shovel get a second chance in Popperville.

The best authors engage our imaginations as we empathize and identify with their characters. I’m not Mike Mulligan, the little boy standing over the hole, or even Dickie Birkenbush, the author’s neighbor credited in the book with the solution to the problem.

I’m Mary Anne! Don’t let her name fool you. Mary Anne’s a girl who loves to get dirty digging in the dirt. She’s a boy’s girl. The kind of girl that would go outside and join a game of pickle, ride a bike through the middle of a deep puddle, talk Red Sox baseball, or “play cars” using real Matchboxes in my imaginary town beside the driveway on Nanumet Drive.

Today, Burton’s Mary Anne is an inspiration to readers and writers and an example of our human ingenuity. When people have something that no longer works as it was intended, it can be repurposed to make something new. It’s called upcycling, but I like to think of it as a work of art, just like my favorite children’s book, written in 1939.

I take Mary Anne down from the shelf every once in a while. Susan and I are child free, but we still read children’s books, often aloud, to each other. (The Plot Chickens, by Mary Jane and Herm Auch is the latest we recommend.) There is no higher praise for literature then putting it into new hands, so I gave the book to my co-worker Laura to add to her baby’s library. Rereading it again to write this review, I found some wonderful memories of dad, mom, Mary Anne, and myself. I’m continually amazed at how reading fills our imaginations, inspires learning, and shapes our identity no matter our age.

This is not the end, check out my upcycled leg!

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(Be sure and and click on the link below to check out Karyn’s post, which includes illustrations from the book and an animated video, adapted and narrated by Robert Klein.)

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What Makes a Public Library Great?

I spent four hours, on my day off, in the Fairhope Publlic Library with a group of local bloggers I belong to called, Southern Bloggers Jubilee. The seven of us met in the library to socialize, learn, and hopefully have a few laughs, all before we head to lunch.

We had our regular monthly meeting, and there was a shwag bag, which included an application for a Fairhope Library card, stickers, coupons, and a welcome flyer. Tamara, the director, and I led the group on a tour to show off the wonderful space, architecture, art, books, programs, classes, and study rooms.

During the tour, the bloggers took photos and made notes. Along the way, Tamara and I said hello to patrons and introduced staff members to the group. Everyone blogged about how wonderful the library is in Fairhope, and they conveyed it so well in words and pictures. Please visit their blogs to see and read everything they discovered.

We Are: Clamco

Lorraine had a wonderful photo of Worldbook, a set of encyclopedias now rarely used. She reminisced about a set of encyclopedias in her childhood home. In our conversation at lunch, Lorraine talked about how a friend of hers in Jersey, an amputee, married his prosthetist. I found it fascinating for two reasons. There are not many female prosthestists, though the number continues to rise. Secondly, pyschologists say amputees marry their caregivers. I’ve researched this all the way back to America’ s first amputee, Peter Stuyvesant. He lost his leg to a cannonball, and when he returned to the Netherlands to recuperate, he married his nurse.

 Cozinest

Kim learned about our genealogy collection and even signed up for a class. It was on her Macbook that the group hovered around to learn how to use Picmonkey, an online program to format photographs for your blog, specifally your header, the image at the top of the page. She took a great photograph of our head-dressed staffer Megrez.

 Crafty Hope

When I introduced all these women to Tamara, I got a little ahead of myself and almost introduced Hope, as  Kim. I corrected myself and said Hope makes  jewelry from found items, like washers, brass, copper, glass, metal from file holders, etc.  She makes crafty, creative, and one-of-a-kind bracelets, necklaces, and earings, which she sells on her Etsy site. Also, her husband is coming to our next meeting to talk about HTML. She cautioned us that he doesn’t know much about blogs and confessed, “he doesn’t even read mine,” which I didn’t believe for a second. Even if it were true, she has a real following with us, the Southern Bloggers Jubilee.

Flower Child Designs

Deborah arrived late, but was eager to contribute to the discussion. Many of us complimented Deborah on how well her painted hardwood floors turned out. She talked about the success of her “linky parties,” and I laughed because it sounded funny to me. I learned that “linking parties” are a way for similarly themed bloggers, like fashion art, and jewelry, to connect.

Fairhope Supply

During her tour of the youth services department, Leslie Anne was verklempt. (Talk amongst yourselves. The topic: Is a jubilee a lagniappe?) She got emotional as the memories turned the pages of her mind to her son’s time in the library. She also snapped a photo, the first I believe, of me in shorts in the library, showing off my sleek carbon fiber and titanium prosthesis. Did you see it? She also had me take a photo with the newest Florida State graduate. Tamara just graduated from FSU with a Master’s in Library and Information Science.

Professor Storytime

Karyn, who welcomes guest book reviews on her blog for Throwback Thursdays, was enamoured with the children’s department. Her own children’s book, Jubilee, is wonderful, and you should check it out. On her blog, Karyn has a great photo of a mom and her son reading in a window seat. During the meeting, Karyn said my blog needed a new header, and a sidebar. She also suggested I use three photos in the header. Everyone at the meeting who saw my recent post, told me to use the coffee shop photo in the header.

The Library

During our bloggers meeting we discussed SEOs, Hootsuite, how to insert the Southern Bloggers Jubilee and Bloglovin’ “buttons” into our blogs, Instagram, and gave praise for things we are doing well, and offered suggestions for ways to improve.

It’s only now, weeks after the meeting, tour, and having read everyone’s blog posts, that I’m beginning to catch what the Southern Bloggers Jubilee netted. The value of our library is in the building, architecture, art, books, and DVDs, and the beauty of our library lives in the hearts and minds of the  people who populate this memorable place.

 

Why Oregon?

That was the response from family, coworkers, and friends when I told them Sue and I were going to Oregon for vacation. I told them all the state had to offer and mentioned a few must dos, which we did.

Now that I’ve been back for a week, I asked myself the question again. Here’s a few of the moments that made my vacation such a fun, amazing, and unique experience.

City

Portland’s downtown library is a historic landmark. It was buzzing with activity the day I went. I happened upon a skateboarding exhibit on the third floor by Cal Skate, a local skateboarding shop that’s been in business since the early 1970s.

After going through the history of skateboards and checking out the old decks, trucks, and wheels, I wandered into the Literature and History Room and walked up to the information desk. I complimented the two library guys on the library and the exhibit, and followed up with a question.

“How did Portland get the nickname Stumptown?”

“I don’t know,” was the reply by the man my age. It didn’t seem to me like a difficult question. However, this is often a reactionary response. I say it too sometimes because, even though people come to the reference desk for information, no one likes a know-it-all. Perhaps we were just annoying out of towners, but providing answers or at least attempting to find answers to questions is what makes librarians librarians. I waited for the librarian to say more, like, “let me research that for you.” He didn’t. It was the first time since starting my blog that a librarian didn’t know, and was satisfied with not finding out.

I Stumped the Librarian!

Still burning for an answer, I joined a walking tour, Secrets of Portlandia, a free tour not including tip, led by a guy named Travis. He was a wealth of information on the culture and history of Portland, even though he told some really corny jokes along the way.

The city got its infamous nickname during the mid 19th century. Portland was built for it’s timber and proximity to the river. However, when they took these massive trees down, they left the stumps in the ground. And there they stayed, for decades, rotting away, slowly. Leaders in other frontier cities lured settlers away by giving the city the derogatory moniker Stumptown.

During that time, one Portlandian said, “Portland has more stumps than people.”

“We embrace the nickname now,” Travis told his group of ten tourists.

One company has cashed in on it.

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Mountain

Aside from my own, I didn’t see any stumps in Stumptown. I even checked the Japanese Tea Gardens, International Rose Garden, and Forest Park. I took a day trip and a hike to Mirror Lake, which offers a reflected view of Mt. Hood on its surface. According to a Timberline Lodge volunteer I chatted with on the hike, the older trees were “notched” along the base of the trunk so platforms or scaffolding could be built around the tree. This created a level surface for two loggers to stand on while they cut down the tree using a two man handsaw.  The stumps with notches are over 100 years old, according to our volunteer.

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Sea

Just like Lincoln City’s motto, I did “try something new.” I made a glass starfish at Jennifer Sears Glass Art. This hands on experience is a must do for any artist or tourist. (Also don’t miss a whale watch on a Zodiac boat)

Each step is hands on, from heating, shaping, cupping, pulling, and cutting.

After I finished my starfish, a flat-topped man in the audience (I didn’t know I had one while I was making my starfish) stopped me and said, “I like how you customized your starfish. Is that carbon fiber?” He was pointing to my prosthesis.

“Thanks, and yes it is,” I said.

“A friend of mine back home has a carbon fiber prosthesis too. His AR 15 has a carbon fiber barrel.”

“That must make for a cool Facebook photo,” I told him and he waxed on about guns.

“He’s modified it so there is no recoil when you fire it.” He spoke with the experience still fresh in mind, his hands cradling the make believe rifle.

“Sounds like you’ve got rifle envy,” I said.

“Yeah, I do, but hey, I’m gonna tell my friend about your starfish. That’s an original there.”

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Who is Benito Badoglio

Paper

Reed Books: The Museum of Fond Memories in downtown Birmingham, Alabama is a destination no bibliophile, antiquer, or ephemera collector should miss. Jim Reed, proprieter, is usually behind the counter, a wall of stuff where he has carved out a place to perch, and ring up sales. Sue and I stopped in again while I was in the Magic City for Y’all Connect, a blogging and social media conference. Reed Books is a wonder. Don’t look for anything, is my advice. Let an item find you as wind, meander, and wend your way through a sarcophaguas of paper entrails.

Book

“Did you ever read this?”

I glanced at the cover, it didn’t look familiar.

“No, I don’t think so.”

As one of Sue’s favorite books as a child, her eyes lit up recalling the adventures of the main character and how much she knew I was going to love the book. She handed it to me to look at, but I refused, saying, “Just buy it.”

The Hat, written and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer, was published in 1970 and quickly fell out of print, but it continues to be a highly rated and sought after children’s picture book.

It wasn’t until Saturday night, back home in Fairhope, that we finally got around to reading the book.

“Read the The Hat to me,” I said to Sue as we sat together on the love seat in our living room.

The book cover doesn’t show you much, it’s just a bunch of colorful heads looking up at a hat, but when you turn to the cover page there is man in a weathered soldier’s uniform with chin whiskers, crutches, wearing a peg leg and a charming hat. Okay, so I’m totally intrigued as Sue starts reading.

“A tall black top hat, shiny as satin

            and belted with a magenta silk sash.”

The hat comes alive on the head of our main character, Benito Badoglio, a down on his luck veteran. The Hat begins doing good deeds and saving people from physical harm, and Benito is the benificiary of their generosity.

With his rewards Benito Badoglio bought clothing to match his hat.

Sue turned the page. Benito was transformed!

He had his peg leg fitted with a silver wheel.

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Badoglio’s kicking up dust in his practically preposterous wheeled prosthesis. The crutches are gone, replaced by a highfalutin, yet functional cane. I wish I knew of this book when I was a child because I was fascinated with wheels. Matchboxes, Hot Wheels, Big Wheels, training wheels, bicycles, and especially skateboards, which is a subject I’ve  written about here. We did not have many books in our home. We went to the library occasionally, but we were not a family of book readers. When I played with cars, lying leg free in the dirt beside the driveway, I was in a world of my own. I can only wonder what what my imagination would have done with Benito Badoglio’s silver wheel.

Wheels

A couple of months ago, I bought a slightly used set of wheels for myself. I’ve got mixed feelings about the Drive DV8 Steerable Knee Walker. Instead of getting out of bed and using my crutches to get around the house I’m trying to use the knee walker. It’s not as practical, or as manuerable to me as my crutches, or “sticks”. It’s got the nice channeled knee pad for my stump, and I can sit down on it. The knee walker is safer, and sturdier than my crutches, and it’s good to have alternative forms of transportation available. It takes some getting used to, and I’ve nicknamed it Luke, because whenever I think knee walker, I say Skywalker.

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Rolling

After an hour and thirty minutes and $35 at Reed’s, here’s a list of what came home with us.

  •   TV Guide. March, 1977 Quincy cover featuring Jack Klugman, who Sue adores.
  •   Lectures Delivered in New York at the New School for Social Research by Thomas Mann on Freud, Goethe, and Wagner in April, 1937.
  •   Practical Zoölogy
  •   The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore. Massage, not message is the actual title.
  •   A Still from Jaws. Michael lying on the beach after a scrape with the shark. Just before this scene was when the sailing coach’s leg sinks.
  •   Four totally overpriced ($1 each) retro postcards that I had to have for my collection. Electra, Five Points, Greetings from Birmingham and Rickwood Field
  •   The Hat, by Tomi Ungerer

While in Birmingham, we walked around Railroad Park and Regions Field, home of the Birmingham Barons minor league baseball team. It is a wonderful downtown redevelopment. Right across the street from the main entrance to the baseball field was a place for skateboarders that was blended seamlessly into the park’s urban landscape.

As we were walking along the side I saw these bowls in the middle of the sidewalk in various sizes. Then I saw the liabilty warnings about skateparks.

“I would so drop in if someone came by with a skateboard right now,” I told Sue, who immediately looked toward heaven, probably saying thanks for letting skateboarders sleep in during the summer. I’m not completely irrational, but I can be impulsive. In hindsight, it was probably better there were no skateboarders around that day because in all likelihood, I would have broken something.

Benito Badoglio is now part of my amputee catalog, and his silver wheel has given me an idea. Age shouldn’t be a limitation to amputee mobility, even when you’re not wearing a prosthesis.

If I go to the Y’all Connect conference next year, I’m going back to Railroad Park. I might just doff the leg and drop in on my knee walker.

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Tenders of Information, Libations, and Patrons

The restaurant patio was quieter than the library. There was one woman sitting outside, with a dog lying by her feet. Sue and I walked into the bar at Cosmo’s in Orange Beach and quickly realized we were the only patrons inside. It was 3:30 on the first good beach day in about a week and we were greeted by several staffers. They set tables and did other chores in advance of the maddening red-skinned, owl-eyed tourist hordes that would descend in a few hours seeking liquids and a late dinner.

I had just gotten the news that a former staff member died. Jill was only 35 when “Her heart stopped.” I was shocked by it, and yet I really didn’t know her, outside the library. Except for the time that she almost ran me over in her black SUV shortcutting through the Greer’s parking lot.

It turns out Jill had problems, like the rest of us, though hers in hindsight were a bit more serious. When we got to the bar, I was feeling thirsty after a few hours on the beach, and yes, a bit confused and saddened by the news of her death.

Grabbing chairs in the middle of the bar, we sat down and Sue ordered a Pensacola Bay Raspberry, and I ordered a NOLA Hopitoulas.

We had great service, two bartenders.

“Cassandra,” in dark-framed glasses, was getting stocked up on new work shirts. She was also gearing up for her shift and put on this accoutrement for opening bottles. She attached two bottle openers to her body where a wrestler would rake an opponent with forearm shivers.

We noticed all the stickers about dogs around the bar and both women told us Cosmo’s and the owners’ other restaurant Cobalt are the names of their dogs.

“I’ve got a sticker that you’d love,” I said, in between fried shrimp sushi bites.

“Yeah, what is it,” Cassandra asked.

‘In dog beers, I’ve only had one!’ She laughed, not a patronizing laugh either. I like to believe it was a genuine, never heard it before guffaw.

Cassandra asked how our sushi was and talked about how she was going to learn to roll sushi, by her coworker at Cosmo’s.

“Are you going to get together at work sometime?” I asked.

“No, I’ll just have it at my place,” she said.

“Oh, a party,”

“A rolling party,” she corrected me, and we laughed at the unspoken marijuana reference wafting through the bar.

After some more good conversation and barroom banter we parted ways.

I kept thinking about the sticker on the ride home, and I decided to send it to Cassandra.

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It was only today, writing this card to our barkeeper, that I realized the bartenders and reference desk jockeys have a few things in common. I also sit or stand behind a bar and greet patrons. Librarians are servers too, but of books, information, and computer assistance. Good service, not textbook, but professional, the kind where you form a brief but satisfying relationship, is our aim.

Cassandra’s job is not much different than mine at the reference bar at the Fairhope Library. Some similarities and differences are capitalism, ID for legal drinking age, and food safety. The library is not in it to make money, your library card is your ID to get free stuff and to use the computers, and we allow you a safe place to surf the web, check Facebook, or write your resume.

Patrons come to us when they want to tell a story, a joke, or are simply lonely or looking for answers. Conversation seems to be the most important thing patrons crave. If nothing else, bartenders and reference staff should be good listeners. Sometimes it’s easier being friends with strangers. Telling the problem to someone often lifts a measure of the burden and remember, when you find a good relationship, work at it, don’t take it for granted.

My co-worker Jessica reminded me yesterday about Forrest Little, a former Fairhope Library guy, who died on Father’s Day weekend in 2013.

Why, in less than a year, have the following people died? Theresa Barrows. Roberta Long. Tinley Combs. Forrest Little. AJ Crochet. Michael Mannion. Jill. I’ve been the memory tender for some of them here on these pages. I write the stories for the living, so we can read, and remember, but the tenders of bars will never have all the answers. We don’t always know. Sometimes we can only listen.