Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Shooting Hooky and Aspirations of Becoming A Writer

The three moments I remember as being a realization that I was on to something with this writing thing were the time I overheard my mother on the telephone bragging to one of her friends that I’d written a ‘book’. I was in the eight grade at the time, and she found out about it because I’d gotten into trouble for working on my ‘book’ (a story about a fashion designer named Casey Wycliff) during class time. And, in my junior year in high school, I entered a national scholastic writing competition and won fourth place for a one-act play about a teen-aged boy molested by his mother. I also got a fifteen dollar check from NBC for my efforts. Then there was the time my sophomore English teacher asked me to write an essay at the beginning of class. By the end of class I’d finished it, and unbeknownst to me, he entered it in a district wide composition competition, and I won third place. My essay was about what I did when I occasionally played hooky from school. Now, call me what you will (nerd, geek), but when I played hooky I’d go to Forest Park in St. Louis with the guy I called my boyfriend and…no, not climb in the backseat of a car. We’d go to the Municipal Opera (MUNY) during the off season, sneak in under a padlocked fence and see how it felt to be on the stage of an amphitheater. I’d fantasize about receiving a fifteen minute standing ovation for the opening and closing of my award winning play. But, there was another favorite hooky spot that I relished even more. Don’t laugh. It was the St. Louis Public Library.

Ah yes, I have fond memories of walking up the grand marble staircase from Olive Street which was used in the past as a reviewing area for parades passing through downtown. And, of scaling the Maine granite and marble panels with relief carvings of early printers' marks, decorative medallions, notable authors and inspirational inscriptions as I approached its doors. Traipsing its marbled floors modeled on the floor of the Pantheon in Rome; inhaling the aroma of the aged oak tables, marble, dust and old books is a scent that is eternal, and I will always treasure it. I recently learned that in 1901, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie offered the city $1 million for construction of this central library. And, that architect Cass Gilbert, who was the architect for the Saint Louis Art Museum, the U. S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. and the Woolworth Building in New York City, was selected to design the building. It opened in 1912.
Perhaps it is that geek in me that compelled me, while on a mini-vacation over Labor Day to visit my peeps, to drag my beloved to the place where I fell in love with books. He sat so patiently in the car while I got out, much to the intrigue of the downtown vagrants, and photographed this building that all of these years later still enthrall me.

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