New York City is often referred to as the "city that never sleeps." There are often events at all hours, and the subway train system is open 24 hours, so if you are coming home from a late party or from your graveyard shift job, there is public transportation. And for some there is the motivation... to stay up, stay out, and while away the hours.

There are plenty of unusual activities going on around the city, and sometimes they are--gasp--free. One such unusual and free event was held this past Saturday and Sunday, at the Central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Called "A Night of Philosophy & Ideas," this was held from 7PM on Saturday through 7AM on Sunday.

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This was a first for the large library, a grand art deco building that my own parents remembered being built.  Often called the Grand Army Plaza Library for the Grand Army memorial arch that stands across the street (a Civil War tribute) this library does play host to various events but this was the first time that a group, with various sponsors, held a 12 hour marathon of lectures and artistic performances. And it was free, although there were drinks and food for sale, as well as swag (t-shirts and such).


This sounded interesting to me and my husband, and my younger daughter at first seemed interested in attending as well. (Our older girl was attending a Sweet 16 party in southern Brooklyn.) But our daughter felt very tired so my husband drove home with her and I stayed at the library.

To be honest, one of the main reasons I wanted to attend this was out of sheer curiosity. As a lifelong resident of Brooklyn who has been going to this library since I was a little girl (especially to do research in some of their specialty collections) I wanted to check out the library at night! This would be a first, for sure. It also appealed to me because I had read that there would be musical and dance performances.

Entering the Library around 8:30PM I noticed that it was crowded and much, much louder than the library is typically. No librarians shushing anyone! A disc jockey played ambient instrumental music. A cheery worker handed me a folded paper which listed all the different activities being offered. There were plenty of lectures -- "How to Do Bad Things With Words," "Can A Robot Feel?", "On Hope & Despair," "Yoga & Philosophy," "Reimagining Punishment" and plenty others. The problem was technical: I walked quietly into a few different lectures and they were crowded, and none of the speakers seemed to have been given microphones. So it was hard to hear what was going on. Like many other visitors, I gave up on the lectures.

I sat through part of an amusing film about Tokyo in Reverse (a film of a man walking, run backward), and I enjoyed watching performances by the Trisha Brown Dance Company. These dances consisted of 2 to 5 women, clad all in white, dancing to jazz and older rock and roll songs. Later I watched and listened to a drummer who accompanied a rapper-poet.

I spent about 2 hours at the library, taking in the scene (I was especially amused by two women who lay on the floor, feet up against a table as if in a dorm room). It was a weird experiment overall, and I observed all types of folks here. Old and young, all races, average looking and freakish, and so on. I did see some men who wore kipot and some women clad in skirts,

But the most Jewish thing about this whole event was that it reminded me of Tikun Leil Shavuot, staying up all night to study Torah on erev Shavuot. This tradition, staying up and studying or attending lectures and study sessions into the wee hours of the morning, is an exciting and to some extent daunting yearly event. To be honest, I cannot manage to stay up all night on Erev Shavuot and I sure as heck could not stay up to 7AM at the library, even if there were a complimentary breakfast offered at 5:30AM.

If the Library offers this marathon event again, I do hope they provide mics to the speakers. If I had to program it myself, I would have offered more performing arts and even interactive arts. And this year, on Shavuot, I will no doubt reflect back on this Library event and make comparisons. Learn onward.

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