California and sparks of light

Central Library

So, there’s been a lot of darkness in the news, and I’d like to take a moment to focus on some sparks of light. Deviate, if I may, from our visits to library branches, and to focus for a minute on how different parts of California, Los Angeles and books make the world a little brighter. There are going to be some run on sentences because I’m just too tired and I want to share goodness at the moment. Sorry,  not sorry, grammar nerds. This might get personal, which I don’t normally do in my posts.

Let’s start with LAPL’s Central Library. In DTLA, there is this amazing public library (which then branches out to 72 other locations!) where people like John Szabo, the City Librarian work – who is always finding light in the dark. And Amanda Charles, the Digitization Librarian,  who has done amazing work on preserving The Liberator and has led me in the direction of the Rare Books Reading Room (I have yet to make an appointment, but that’s next on my list). Central Library is open 7 days a week, yes you heard correctly, seven days a week people (except holidays of course like this Monday’s Memorial Day). It is free to go here. You can get the best card in L.A. here, it’s called the LAPL Library Card. It gives you access to amazing resources – think of it like the never ending gift card. The Children’s Literature Department was decorated Harry Potter style for a while. . . and now its theme is Alice In Wonderland. Go visit. There are still amazing murals from Oaxacan artist collective Tlacolulokos in Central Library’s historic rotunda through the end of the summer.

And, on June 2nd, you can add your own autograph to the Autograph Book of L.A. LAPL is inviting all Angelenos to add their names and original drawings, poems or memories to the collection. They have recreated the historic stationery, which will be available at Central Library and at libraries all across Los Angeles on Saturday, June 2 (also available for online downloading on June 2nd)! Autographs are definitely a Hollywood, California kind of thing.

Also, on Saturday, June 2nd you can attend the 24th Annual Gilmore Heritage Auto Show at the Original Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax. I’ll be there, like I am most years, volunteering some L.A. history I know of how a dairy farm turned into oil field (California dream, right?) and you can see my dad Mark Panatier, who works for the A.F. Gilmore Company.. (He once wrote a guide about how to start a recycling program when he worked at UCLA. My mom Gail also worked at UCLA before retirement, and my sister Jenna works at the University of La Verne in Los Angeles County. . .). Why is it so exciting this year, when I’ve been to the car show every year? Because this year’s theme is Low & Slow. . . Lowriders! An art form born on the Eastside of Los Angeles.

I got familiar with Cathy Camper (also a librarian!) and Raúl The Third‘s Lowriders series of books in some of our visits to libraries this past year, which include Book 1 – Lowriders in Space and Book 2 – Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, which is a Pura Belpré Award winning book. What’s fun, is that they’re coming out with a 3rd book, Blast From The Past, this year!

Another spark of light, was the wedding of her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, who is from California! Her royal coat of arms was just revealed, and it includes images of California poppies and sunshine. The fact that her home state is California, and the fact that her seal includes quills representing communication and the power of words, well. I just can’t get enough of it. As a speech language pathologist, I work to help other people communicate, including people with autism. Which brings me to two other people in California.

Steve Silberman, who lives in California, wrote NeuroTribes The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity. His book is an amazing history of autism and it explores many aspects of neurodiversity, America’s education system (which is personal for me, since I work in public schools in special education here in Los Angeles), and many other things. One of the families highlighted in his book, is the Rosa family of California, including Shannon Des Roches Rosa, coauthor of Thinking Person’s Guide To Autism.

Okay. More points of light, you ask? No problem. How about the California radio stations KPCC, KCRW, and KUSC. So, I do live in Los Angeles, and commute to work three days a week – which means a lot of time in my car in traffic. (Though I do dream of an expansive train system like the Pacific Electric Red Cars that expands all over California but more like the Hello Kitty Shinkasen. Ironic I know, since I just talked about a car show).  KPCC has great podcasts like Brains On! about kids and science — and The Frame where I recently heard Hiro Murai talk about Donald Glover’s show Atlanta. KCRW has great podcasts like The Treatment  – where on a recent show I heard André Leon Tally talk about lots of literature and his love of reading — and on Design and Architecture DnA where on a recent show I heard Frances Anderton talk to Roma Agrawal about her book that I’m currently enjoying: Built: The Hidden Stories Behind Our Structures. I listen to Classical KUSC and besides great DJs and music, I get tips on shows like one I attended earlier this year at Walt Disney Concert Hall: A Trip To The Moon and Gustav Holst’s The Planets.

So, now that Riley’s dad and I are officially done with our divorce, and have our co-parenting schedule down – I have a few more hours a week to do things on my own (darkness and lightness combined) including this pictureless (except for the Hubble image) blog post.  Los Angeles is home to the TV show, Insecure. I love this show, and I love Los Angeles. And I love Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji – women who are amazing. Los Angeles is home to the bookstore, Eso Won Books where I saw a signed copy of Pete Souza‘s Obama: An Intimate Portrait book in the store and I smiled. The Los Angeles Dodgers, are yes, in Los Angeles! Do you know that they have a reading initiative? It’s called LA Reads. LAPL also has a Summer Reading Challenge.

Ok, let’s talk about the light of the universe. . .Los Angeles is home to JPL! I went to a NASA Social there in November 2013, where I met up with a bunch of people I had never met before but we all kind of knew each other through Twitter. These people include, Lyle Tavernier, Dasha Ginzbourg and Sheldon Thomas and many others. I also saw Reading Rainbow’s Levar Burton there! I’ve been back multiple times to JPL, for free lectures. There are so many events happening in Los Angeles, you could do something different every day of the week all year long.

California is home to Twitter, where along with awful news from the darkness of the cesspool dumpster fire that we currently live in, I also get to see rays of light from random people and handles I follow.  These include: Brainpicker, Colossal, BoredPanda, RidingRobots (who I met at the NASA Social!), BurritoJustice (also in California!).

UCSC is in Northern California, where I went to school for my undergraduate degree in Language Studies (where exactly 20 years ago I spent the Spring Quarter in Nîmes, France).  It is also one of the places where Jessica Love, the author and illustrator of Julián Is A Mermaid went to school- a beautiful book we recently got at a library visit! From UCSC, I traveled to Kazo, Saitama Japan, to teach English and fall in love with cat cafés.

Cat Cafes! One day I will run a catcafe, or an international children’s bookstore that carries books in every language so kids can read books in L.A. with their grandparents that come from all over the world. In that vein, LAPL offers info about immigration and citizenship with their New Americans Initiative! Talk about sparks of light: generations of people who love books, cats and kid lit will illuminate any dark place! Last time I was in Tokyo, I visited  Cat Cafeねころび (Nekorobi) and have been forever changed.  When I lived in Cavaillon, France, I spent a lot of time in the Médiathèque – and was always grateful from a break from reading in French with their selection of books in English.

Los Angeles is also home to CSUN, where I got my graduate degree in Communication Disorders and Sciences, Speech Language Pathology.  One of the first professional conventions I went to was in Los Angeles in 2003, called the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference. I really saw what goodness could come from Augmentative Alternative Communication systems. Maybe this is why I love emojis so much – maybe a universal picture icon like emojis was the logical leap from picture system ideas like Bliss Symbols. The ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) Convention was in Los Angeles just last year in 2017, so I got to geek out in person, and not just by reading other people’s tweets as I sometimes do now with conferences I cannot attend – or even conferences that are not exactly part of my profession but I can snoop in on thanks the interwebz.

Remember I was talking about Her Highness the Duchess of Sussex? Her coat of arms that represents communication and the power of words? This is what I love! And love is a spark of light. Remember I talked about the NASA Social? Well, I read Col. Chris Hadfield‘s book An Astronaut’s Guide To Life on Earth (which he signed at a book signing in the Los Angeles Barnes and Noble at the Grove) and listened to his recent talk about international communication. Two totally different people in different worlds, who do similar things. Communicate with people all the time to find some common ground.

Isn’t that what we all do? Or try to do? Isn’t the world a smaller place now that we can get in contact with virtually anyone through social media and the Internet? We all try to communicate with each other. We all are trying to find light in the darkness. We are all trying to make some sort of human contact with other people who we share time with on this tiny planet of ours.  Books help us find light – even when you’re stuck in a hospital bed.

Our time is too short to get swallowed up in the shadows.  I get sucked into the sadness just as much as you all do (rest in peace Artax from the Neverending Story), but I really try to hold onto what connects us all. Public libraries help us do just that.  LAPL and all libraries all across the world (see WorldCat!) help us be better to each other. Through books!  Also see Carl Sagan’s take on The Library of Alexandria.  I want my daughter Riley to see that our world has just as much light as it has darkness.  I leave you with the sounds of Radiolab, The Dark Side of Earth and other brightness found through LAPL online classes and LAPL E-Media and Digital Content.

Here’s to libraries and finding the sparks of light in the dark. Go visit your local public library and help be the light.

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