IT AIN'T ALEXANDRIA, BUT IT'S CLOSE: My thanks this season of gratitude goes not to a single entertainer, but rather the manner in which I now get most of my entertainment, be it books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, newspapers, or what have you.
I speak not of iTunes or Amazon or Borders or Netflix or even the Internet, but of a single source I tap on an almost daily basis: my public library. When I moved to the suburbs from Chicago about two-and-a-half years ago, I worried about all the great things I was leaving behind, but little did I know what a treasure trove I would find in my impossibly well funded suburban library. At any given time I average about 50 items on my account. For instance, among the items I currently have checked out are movies such as The Aviator, Rize, Kinsey, Layer Cake, Team America World Police, Riding Giants, Eight Men Out, and Chariots of Fire; books such as The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios by Yann Martel, the new Mike Wallace autobiography, the new Beatles biography, a Sam Cooke biography, Murmur from the 33 1/3 series, the new Vonnegut book of essays and the Best American Sports Writing 2005; CDs like the soundtrack to No Direction Home, Death Cab for Cutie's Plans, and Coldplay's X&Y; plus a bunch of books and DVDs from my kids. The cost of borrowing all those items (some of which, such as the CDs, I do more than borrow, cough, cough), comes to $0.00, as long as I return them on time.
I have worked the art of getting things at the library to a science. Monday and Thursday mornings are the best days for new DVD releases. The teen section is where movies like The Hitchhiker's Guide and Batman Begins routinely show up a week or so before they do in the A/V room. Always browse the new book section for unexpected finds. The minute I hear about a new book or CD I want, I look for it on the library's Web site and often am able to pre-reserve items on order so that they are held for me before they even make it on the shelves (such as the Beatles book). You can check out back issues of magazines like Vanity Fair and GQ, but not Rolling Stone. On Thursdays and Saturdays they have used book sales where you can pick up library copies of hardcovers for just 50 cents. On other days, they have two shelves of books for sale (paperbacks are just 25 cents).
When time permits, I ove still getting lost in the library. Just yesterday, I happened upon a book about my town's centennial in 1976 and finally confirmed a suspicion that I my street (Gray Ave.) was in fact named for Elisha Gray, a former Highland Park resident and the man who many believe actually invented the telephone. His factory was once located a few blocks from my house.
I could sing the praises of my local library--The roaring fire in the periodical room. The free wi-fi. The extensive graphic novel section. The summer reading programs for kids and adults. The outdoor story times in the summer. The display case for kids' collections (my son was so excited to show off his Lego creations)--but I have a DVD I want to go watch.