There is something simultaneously comfortable and awe inspiring about a room full of well-bound books that will be lost if we ever go entirely to electronic media. In 84 Charring Cross Road, Helene Hanff wrote of a first edition (1852) of John Henry Newman’s Idea of a University, ‘‘The Newman arrived almost a week ago, and I’m just beginning to recover. I feel vaguely guilty about owning it. All that gleaming leather and gold stamping and beautiful type belongs in the pine-paneled library of an English country home; it wants to be read by the fire in a gentleman’s leather easy chair—not on a secondhand studio couch in a one-room hovel in a broken-down brownstone front.’’ Such a book adds quality to any room, and a room full of such books creates an almost numinous sense of wonder.
Laetitia browsed the Emerald Victorian’s library in anticipation of today’s tour with a steaming cup of Nicaraguan dark roast in hand. She always marveled at what she found there. She had no idea who chose the books in the library, and she noticed that the collection seemed to change from time to time. Today she picked up a book about fish, and when she flipped through the pages quickly, she happened upon a section on the family Echeneidae, and in particular, the remora. Remoras are mostly tropical open-ocean fish that have a sucking disk that they use to attach themselves to sharks and other large marine animals. Essentially they get a free ride and free meals from whatever food their host drops. The book wasn’t germane to today’s tour, so she moved on to a guidebook about Nebraska.
Grand Island, Nebraska, is a city of about 43,000 residents. It is not, in fact, on an island, but it is near the Platte River, and there is a large island nearby from which the city presumably gets its name. The river environment has great bird and wildlife viewing, including sandhill cranes. Laetitia had seen the cranes previously when her group was at Kearney, but she was with a different group on that day.
After a day among the wildlife, Laetitia went to happy hour before meeting her group for dinner so she could find a subject for a limerick. At this point in her career as a leader of imaginary tours, Laetitia had become adept at getting local residents to talk about themselves and their hometowns. She sat at the bar next to a man from a nearby, unincorporated community named Tamora. There isn’t much to the town; it’s in wheat country and on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad line, so it mostly consists of grain elevators. The man had several stories about Tamora, but the one that became the limerick of the day was about a woman named Lenora from there who had reached her twenty-fifth birthday without marrying and was becoming desperate and clinging with each new marriage prospect she met.
An ambitious lass named Lenora
Was the scourge of the men of Tamora
When she sensed a good match
She would try to attach
With a suction just like a remora.