June 1, 2011

San Francisco. November, 2005

Why, I wonder, do I always wind up at the public library whenever I visit a new city? Miami, Las Vegas, Montreal and here in San Francisco, the most beautiful library of them all. Open and airy, with a multistoried atrium dotted with the names of writers of consequence. And where else but in this populist city would they paper the walls with the old cards from the card catalogue when they switched over to a computer-based system? Everything about this wonderful library speaks to its vital place in the lives of the people it serves. One example: the quiet and hallowed room devoted to gay and lesbian studies. A small and dignified space, it is crowned by an awe-inspiring trompe l’oeil ceiling that depicts a community in the process of building a monument to honor gay and lesbian authors, artists and other leaders throughout the world, throughout history. Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, Gertrude Stein and James Baldwin, of course. But also Raphael, Michelangelo, Frederick the Great, Ma Rainey, Cole Porter, Yukio Mishima, Aaron Copland, Willa Cather, Lorraine Hansberry, the list goes on and on, as the building of the monument seems to. A place so uplifting, it’s hard not to become emotional. Plus, Vasco da Gama...who knew?

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