Back to the scene of the crime.

Last summer I got hit by a car while riding my bike outside the Colorado Convention Center. I was headed home from work when a car started to pull toward the curb – and into the bike lane. My left hand collided with the car’s passenger side view mirror. The mirror was smashed, my hand was cut, and I toppled over.

I watched bright red blood drip from my fingers onto the sidewalk. I had a white kitchen towel in my backpack, so I wrapped my hand in it. The driver asked if I was okay. I asked for her license and insurance. Strangers put my bike in their minivan and took me to the hospital.

The nurse in the ER frowned at me. She asked why I hadn’t washed my hand right away.

“Uh, I got hit by a car. And then I came here.”

She made me wash my hands thoroughly. I sucked air in through my teeth.

Once my hand was clean, another nurse came in and examined the wounds. No stitches necessary. He smiled. “Skin is the best band-aid,” he declared, delicately placing my flayed flesh in bandages.

After I was released, I went to the bar near my apartment and ordered a whiskey soda. I wiggled my mummy fingers at the bartender and showed off my ER admission bracelet. We laughed. Eventually the lacerations healed and left scars.

I later learned from the insurance company that the driver was an exhibitor. She was unfamiliar with the area. She didn’t see me.

The week after I got hit, the city installed a barrier between the car lane and the bike lane to protect cyclists.

I guess I just had bad timing.

Life must be a circle because I’m headed back to the Colorado Convention Center this weekend for ALA Midwinter. As a member of the 2018 Stonewall Book Award Committee for Children’s and Young Adult Literature, I’ll be sequestered all day Saturday to deliberate titles under consideration for the award. I expect it will be a less traumatizing experience than the last time I was there. I hope. The winners will be announced at the Youth Media Awards on Monday at 8am Mountain time. You can watch the livestream here.

(Unsolicited advice: if you are lucky enough to serve on a book award committee, get a PO box. Thank you, publishers. I’m sorry about all the books that never reached me because I moved three times.)

As I prepare to head back to Denver, I’m stuck thinking about the shape of things. About lines and intersections and parallels. About where I was and where I am.

I left Tacoma. I lived in Denver for a year. Then I moved back to Washington. Sometimes I call it a slingshot move. Or a boomerang. A bounce.

When I lived in Denver, I rode my bike and got hit by a car and got scars.

This weekend, I know I won’t be able to stop myself. I’ll circle back. I’ll check the sidewalk for my blood stains.

I’m going to a conference for librarians. But I’m not a librarian anymore.

I work at the same college where I was a librarian for four years. I have the same e-mail address, the same employee ID number. But everything else is different.

What is the shape of the universe?

Is it a circle, or a triangle, or a spiral?

My ex-husband e-mailed me out of the blue last week. He’s selling the house we bought together when we were married.

Part of his message said, “I’m sorry.”

When we were married, I got a job as a librarian in Puyallup. But we owned a house in Portland, two and a half hours away. So I got an apartment in Puyallup and I drove 392 miles every week to go home on the weekends. I spent a lot of time on Interstate 5. After a year of my weekly commutes, I got a tenure-track job. We got divorced.

Now I live in Seattle and I work in Tacoma, at the same college that hired me six years ago.

I spend a lot of time on I-5.

But now it’s different. I come home every night to my husband. We eat dinner together. He makes pasta sauce from scratch and listens to jazz. After dinner, I read The Odyssey out loud while he drinks Coke floats with vanilla ice cream.

Sometimes when my husband holds me, he says, “I like your shape.”

It always makes me laugh. What is my shape, exactly?

 

Tell me it’s more than a t-shirt.

On Friday, January 20th, I was on my way to Atlanta for the American Library Association Midwinter meeting, and I was looking forward to two things: staying with my friend Jessica and filling my suitcase with free books.

Things I was not looking forward to included: crowds, long lines for the bathroom, awkward exhibit hall interactions where vendors try to force stuff into my hands, and dragging aforementioned free books across the convention center.

I did not anticipate that the highlight of ALA Midwinter would be Carla Hayden touching my arm.

I also did not anticipate that I would completely lose all respect for Neil Patrick Harris before leaving Atlanta.

 

Let’s back up a second.

There’s a reason they call ALA Midwinter a “meeting” instead of a conference. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the deep inner workings of librarianship in America today, the Midwinter meeting is when the professional association for librarians conducts its organizational business. This means that librarians meet with their colleagues from around the country and give updates or make decisions about their agendas for the year. There are a lot of sub-groups within ALA, including Divisions (like the Association of College and Research Libraries), Round Tables (like the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table), and Offices (the Office for Intellectual Freedom is probably the most well-known since it promotes the Banned Books Week observed by libraries around the country every year). This doesn’t include all of the committees and task forces within these groups.  Approximately 5,000 librarians attended Midwinter this year, and most of those folks were there to fulfill their service commitments to the organization.

For me, the most important meeting at Midwinter was the CHOICE Editorial Board meeting. I’ve been a member of the CHOICE Magazine Editorial Board since 2014, but I hadn’t met most of the other Board members in person. We had a great conversation about CHOICE’s initiatives with Open Educational Resources (OER), their successful webinar series, the new ACRL-Choice app, and other exciting developments for 2017.

Before I explain why I won’t be watching “A Series of Unfortunate Events” any time soon, let me mention a few other Midwinter highlights:

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Proof of our #critlib meat feast.

So what did Neil Patrick Harris do?

Harris was our closing session speaker at Midwinter. He was there to promote his new book, The Magic Misfits, which should have been a simple task, but he managed to simultaneously disrespect Muslims, the deaf, and trans people all in one joke. Bravo, sir.

Harris’s session was interpreted by two ASL interpreters: a person in a hijab and another person in a suit jacket. Harris decided that it would be funny to flirt with, joke, and harass the interpreters rather than let them focus on their work. For example, he mentioned that Lemony Snicket didn’t like his new book, so he wouldn’t be asking him for a pull quote.

“Wait a second,” Harris said. “Let me see how you sign ‘pull quote’.” He paused and turned to the interpreter in the hijab.

The interpreter repeated the gesture, hooking her fingers and pulling them toward her chest.

“Oh, that’s right,” he said salaciously. I barfed a little in my mouth. Somehow, it got worse.

A few moments later, while Harris was distracted by a question from the audience, the interpreters switched places with one another. The interpreter in the suit jacket was busy signing when Harris noticed the switch and made the joke,

“That’s what was under there? Wow.”

In just a few painful words, Harris managed to:

  • Insult the person dressed in a hijab, stoking Islamophobic fears that there’s something “hidden” under their clothing.
  • Insult both of the interpreters’ gender presentations. Hyuk, hyuk, men don’t look like women, hyuk.
  • Distract the interpreters, yet again, from their important work of serving the people in the audience who needed them to interpret.

 

The worst part was the laughter.

Everyone laughed.

A room full of librarians thought this joke was funny. My stomach sank. I was disgusted.

It was hard to watch as librarians hustled out of the theater, his die-hard fans in a hurry to get in line for him.

Seeing folks pour to the exits before he was finished, Harris joked, “Why’s everyone leaving?”

“Because you made fun of the interpreters!” I yelled, loud enough for all to hear. Harris  paused. Then he let out a half-chuckle, trying to feign disbelief, and said, “What? No way! I wasn’t making fun of them.” He jerked his thumb toward the interpreter in the suit jacket. “He’s cute!”

Whatever and ever, dude. I walked out. And whatever and ever to all the librarians who laughed at his joke, waited in line, and fawned over him.

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Later, at the airport, I overhead a woman in a “Library Folks in Solidarity with…” t-shirt bragging about getting her tote bag signed by Harris, and the moment burned itself into my brain. What is solidarity to you, I wondered? Just a goddamn t-shirt?