Helluo librorum

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A glutton for books? Why yes I am. And teamed with my desire to challenge and be challenged, I decided to combine my love of all things papery with my love of a good mystery.

So here goes. Since my last challenge, of visiting a huge Hot Dog joint (Crif Dogs), picking up an old fashioned telephone receiver, dialing a single digit and waiting for the entrance to appear into a secret, underground speakeasy, I was keen to bounce back with an equally bizarre task! Incidentally, the title of my last adventure was Please Don’t Tell so that is unfortunately all I can reveal of that escapade.

I should mention at this point that I have been recently involved in the Twitter following of a certain escapee. By the name of MIA (Missing In Action). Mia is in fact a renegade Egyptian Cobra (a venomous variety of serpent) who managed to squirm her way past the tightly regulated security at the Bronx Zoo and spend a pleasant few days in the city enjoying all the sights and sounds it has to offer. I was enchanted, some might say, by the witty and constant updates covering Mia’s adventures in the Big Apple and became quite the fan of this cheeky legless beast.

– Got a bagel at H & H Bagels on upper west side. When I ordered I said, “I’ll have the snakes on a PLAIN.” He did not laugh. Tough crowd

– Getting my morning coffee at the Mudtruck. Don’t even talk to me until I’ve had my morning coffee. Seriously, don’t. I’m venomous.

– Dear @CharlieSheen, know what’s better than tiger’s blood? Cobra venom. #winning #snakeonthetown Also I’m 20 inches long. Just sayin’.

– Holding very still in the snake exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. This is gonna be hilarious!

– What does it take to get a cab in this city?! It’s cause I’m not white isn’t it.

So now you know the back story hopefully you can sympathise more with the challenge I am about to set. Having recently acquired my library card for the New York Public Library (mainly for the Ghostbusters library facility known as the Schwarzman Building) I was primed to instigate the clue.

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

With a small slip of paper and a book call number one can conjure up any book in the stacks (after a short wait in the majestic Main Reading Room of this historic book emporium).

Majestic Main Reading Room

So having researched an appropriate title beforehand I summoned:

“The Serpent’s Tale: snakes in folklore and literature” edited by Gregory McNamee

for obvious reasons!

15 minutes later and I was presented with a rather bland brown cover of a book composed of tales of snake-y folklore. I was happy to discover one such tale was primarily concerned with a cobra and I pounced. Having previously browsed the library for continuations of my clue trail I was struck by an elegant print of a comet by Antonia Contro. Not knowing this artist but loving comets nonetheless I decided he would be my unrelated treasure hunt finale to this challenge. So armed with a crisp, fresh, but not too sticky post it note (respect for books is essential and has always been an important lesson in my upbringing) I inscribed the following and placed it firmly (but not too firmly) on the cobra’s page:

Dear J, Hello and welcome to the first clue in your compound challenge. Please now try to locate the celestial object depicted in a print currently showing in the Schwarzman Building by a certain Antonia Contro. The identification of this object will be classified as a successful challenge completed.

Then carefully I closed the book, eager not to make my outlawed actions too obvious, and marched discreetly back to the Return Books counter. I smiled unconvincingly at the librarian, suspiciously handing over the book as if, perhaps, I had smuggled something within it’s pages? However, she failed to register my guilt and proceeded to pile the tales of serpents on an already formed ‘return to stacks’ shelf. Breathing a sigh of relief I pondered over my latest challenge. What clue to give my fellow competitor? How little could I reveal while still making the task doable? Simply the call number. It would be cryptic but altogether achievable in the same measure.

This is your clue for the latest challenge: JFD 00-17606. Good luck 😉

And it was. The challenge had been posed and all I could do was wait.

One day later…….

Soon after posting the clue to my fellow contestant I received the unfortunate news that having first acquired a library card and subsequently calling the aforementioned book from the stacks my ‘opposition’ was informed that the book in question had been regrettably MIS SHELVED! So disappointing. He should call back in a week or so to see if had been retrieved.

He did and it hadn’t. Now we are in the unlucky position that the book may never be located since one can only imagine how many books must be housed in the cellars of this magnficently huge library.

A stunted and unsatisfactory end to this challenge you might say? Yes quite. Well I await my next challenge and will just have to keep the comet print stored firmly in my memory. A secret.

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