Larkin’s Main Branch Library was my hangout space on days when I felt that I made a wrong choice to study MFA in Writing at CCA. Especially, during the winter my mood swings were really bad, I made sure that I picked my mood dead carcass to the Library. The choice was between Mission Library and Larkin Main Branch. Mission won mostly.
During my stay in San Francisco, I was entirely dependent on Google Maps for directions to any place in US. It was almost close to real address. I am a person who gets lost in my bedroom, so it was quite a challenge to reach places. But it used to be so exciting to take that printout at the Writer’s Studio, kind family members house or even jotting it down on a piece of paper.
This also meant that I had to plan my visit to the place way ahead of the time, since I needed the printout of the directions. I would only take printout of those directions, which are really crucial; but for the rest, I would depend on writing it down.
Surprising thing about the Google Maps would be, that you can actually plan to the last minute of your travel plan. Of course, I took longer to walk to the BART and Muni stops, so I would plan a couple of minute earlier departures from my start point.
So the first time that I went to Larkin Library was on a sunny chill morning of October. I needed to find some material which the Mission Library indicated as available in the Main Branch.
It was pretty much easy to go to Larkin Street, if I took the BART from 24th Mission Station to Civi Center Station. I would find a spot to sit down to dream away hugging my backpack.
My backpack was special because it had everything that I needed. There have been times, when I felt, if I started to walk away with just my backpack, then I really didn’t need anything at all.
The interesting thing about going to the Main Branch Library was that I would be confused which exit to take. It happened every single time I get out of the Civi Center Station, even if I have visited the place almost many times, I would get lost and have to figure the place despite my jotted directions. I simply don’t get the left or right directions and get confused very quickly.
I had very few friends and I tried not to disturb them with my pestering company. But I must say my friends in US were really interesting people, who I enjoyed spending time with. The pull of a quiet library is very stronger than talking with people. I still remember the day when I shared silence with a fellow writer Veronica. She didn’t mind my being quiet and talking intermittently.
That’s one thing you can say for the friends from CCA, they provided me space to just shut off and remain silent. I read so many of their works for the workshop and I wished that I could talk to them about it on a one-on-one bases. But my shyness got the better of me and I couldn’t really talk to them all. I always landed not stating what I felt about the piece even in the workshops.
My first semester was such a huge stress for me. I didn’t know the place but it was not strange that I was in a new place. Since I could connect to the place at a higher level, it was the people that I needed my energies to settle down. Once I settle down, then it is so easy to converse.
One fine October Sunday in 2010, my mood swings were really high and I needed the calm space of the library. I got ready and started towards the Larkin branch library and religiously jotted down the details of the directions. It so happened that I had arrived early to the destination. So I had to hang out until the library opened for the day.
Out there at the location, I found a Sunday market and hung around to look at things being sold in temporary stalls. There was this sense of places mixing in my head and I remembered markets of Singapore and Chennai. All my commerce day lessons came rushing to my mind.
The sense of place in my life is very connected and especially when I needed to find my inner balance. After hanging for about an hour the library doors opened and I went in.
My first impression of the library could be summed up in a word, Palace. The architecture of the library was so Roman and I felt like Alice floating in air. For the first visit, I was just hanging out there on polished floor and tall rooms. I felt I might have lost a few inches, since I felt the rest of the people were taller than me.
I remember the grey shades of the library warmed by brown shades of desks, shelves and splatter of colors that were the bound books. The first visit was just spent walking around the place. It was only in my second visit that I even try to take out the book that I had searched in Mission Library.
I relaxed to the moment spent in the library and my peace restored with my confidence in me to go on. There is no amount of talking can get me to calm down, as much as a visit to a library can accomplish. Larkin Main Branch Library was my angel in disguise.
Image Source: https://sfpl.org/