Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Dead Beat Poets 

There are a bunch of losers - I mean poet artist types - who like to take up space in the local coffee shops and debate and hold forth about Art without ever getting around to creating any. Some of them try to persuade my manager to pay them to give poetry readings at this branch. I often mistake them for homeless when they wander in.

Even though he wouldn't last 5 minutes in prison, one of them, a poet and dramatist, is obsessed with penitentiaries and the lives of famous prison writers like serial rapist Eldridge "Soul on Ice" Cleaver and Jack Abbott, the author of In the Belly of the Beast. Remember Jack Abbott? He was the darling of macho NY literati like Norman Mailer. Even though Abbott wrote letters detailing his stabbing a man to death, his pen pal Norman Mailer championed him as an artist and publicized his case as a miscarriage of justice and made him a cause celebre. Due to Mailer's meddling, Abbott was unleashed on the public where he promptly stabbed some other stranger to death outside of a restaurant.

I have my own theories about why this particular poet - let's call him Gonad Hack - is obsessed with prisons and the men who are locked within them. I think he wants to be buggered, desperately, preferably by an inmate with a nickname like Black Moses or the ironically named "Tiny." For whatever reason, he just won't come to terms with it, and we all have to suffer his conflicted sexuality oozing out in these really gross ways. In the meantime he believes he is quite a devastating lady killer and he is always prowling the neighborhood and hitting on women, especially ones in service positions who are just trying to do their damn jobs and have to be cordial to the general public. He slicks his hair back and dresses in black leather from head to toe like he's Johnny Cash. When I first started working at the branch I became the unfortunate object of his creepy pursuit.

One time in a moment of weakness my manager agreed to let Gonad do a program on, what else, incarcerated writers. About two people showed up and I felt sorry for him so I went upstairs to attend it. He actually had a soothing, soporific reading voice and as he read about the horrors of life in the joint I promptly fell asleep, just like I was prone to do in college during long lectures. This really used to drive my professors batty, and Gonad took it personally as well and asked huffily after the program ended, "Did you get a good rest?"

This didn't dampen his ardor; if anything, he became more insistent. He seemed to be ubiquitous. I couldn't go anywhere in the neighborhood without running into him or even sit down at an outdoor cafe without him materializing and asking to join me. One day he was talking about how he was this semi-famous playwright and said that he would like to give me a tape of one of his performances that he both wrote and starred in. I reluctantly agreed and took it home to watch it. In the play, he does nothing but lumber around and groan incoherently while pictures of female genitalia flash behind him on a giant screen behind him in a sleazy, nauseating slide show. I started laughing, but E failed to see the humor and screamed,

"It's like he is virtually jacking off in your face!"

I thought his groans were much more constipated than ecstatic, but she ripped the tape from the VCR and almost destroyed the cassette in a fit of rage but I managed to save it and returned it to him the next day. When he asked how I liked it I curled my lip and told him that I wasn't interested in seeing any more of his 'work.'

A few days later he called to renew his books on the phone. There is an automated telephone number renewal number to which we're supposed to refer patrons. When I told him to call the number he got nastily exasperated and said that he didn't have time and demanded that I do it for him. I told him that I would do it for him this once. I looked at his record and happened to notice his age. Despite the hip persona that he affects he is really advanced in age, eligible for social security years ago. I knew he was much inappropriately older than I was, but I was truly shocked to see how much older. After shuddering in revulsion to have had someone my great-grandfather's age trying to pick me up, I smiled and said, "Oh, now, you don't worry. If you need your items renewed you can just call me at the library because I make exceptions for SENIORS who have trouble with the automated system." This really wounded his vanity and now he won't acknowledge my presence when he visits the library to try to persuade my manager to let him do another program, which is a wonderful relief.

He was rejected by one of our very attractive pages who told me that after she turned him down he wouldn't speak to her for 5 years, so I figure I will have a respite from his attention for at least a few more years.

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