Sunday, February 29, 2004

"Dear, that was all due to the Union army."

From Outside the Magic Circle, the memoir of Virginia Foster Durr, Southern belle turned civil rights activist. This was her father's response when she asked him why some 'negroes' were lighter skinned than others.

Saturday, February 28, 2004


"You know folks, I don't blame women for getting upset with men. Do you realize when Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia arrived in Texas this week to meet with President Bush he demanded that no female air traffic controller be allowed to land his flight? Hey Abdullah, I don't think anyone from Saudi Arabia should be telling us how to land a jet anytime soon, okay? [...] You know, just because the women in your country can't see through the burlap sleeping bag you make them wear to shower in, that doesn't mean you can tell our women what to do! That's Oprah's job!"
-- Dennis Miller 3 May 2002

Saturday Night Live has been disappointingly hit or miss lately, but last Saturday's Oprah skit parodying Oprah's 50th birthday episode was brilliant. In the skit, Oprah's studio guest audience, already in a heightened state of excitement to be there on such a momentous and joyful occasion, gets increasingly worked up as Oprah opens each of her gifts. When Oprah announces that all members of the audience will be receving the items as well, the studio audience begins to lose control until it's in one big ecstatic orgy of hysteria. The women scream, sob, tear their hair, and rend their clothes. Like ferocious wild animals, some begin to gnash and gnaw on giant gift turkey breasts still sealed in plastic. The guest audience ends up in an uncontrollable mob free-for-all, tearing each other from limb to limb in this Dioynisian/Maenadic frenzy. Having seen Oprah's 50th birthday party epidode myself, I didn't think the skit was much of an exaggeration.

If you've read my posts before you know that I am in this sort of helpless thrall to Oprah and that I Tivo her show every day. If her topic is some heartbreaking human interest story (like her recent episode on a fistula hospital in Ethiopia), there's nothing more cathartic than to sit down and cry along with Oprah and her audience. If her show is more of a authoritative and directive nature, it's like Oprah is swatting me on the backside with a wooden spoon and scolding me to do right. After she chastens me and sets me straight, it's like she then gives me a hug and envelopes me in her soft bosom, then gives me a hot bath and tucks me into a warm bed. It's heaven, and my day doesn't feel complete without it.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Tobacco Road

I can't decide whether Erskine Caldwell was trying to write an exposé on the abject poverty of rural South during the Great Depression or lurid, exploitative trash. While it certainly is not a Depression literary classic like The Grapes of Wrath, it is a highly entertaining black comedy about the physical and moral squalor of poor white sharecroppers in rural Georgia during the height of the Great Depression. Caldwell’s purpose seems more to ridicule and entertain than to effect social change, because the characters are highly unsympathetic, grotesque caricatures who are active agents in their own misfortune as they try to eke out a living from the exhausted and depleted soil of the sand hills of Georgia.

The central character is the Jeeter family patriarch, Jed, a shiftless sharecropper who daydreams of raising a big cotton crop but never quite gets around to doing the work that that would entail. The only thing he’s capable of producing seems to be children, of which he has 17 (best that he can recollect), who all flee the farm for marriage or the mills of Augusta as soon as they reach adolescence, never to be seen or heard from by their parents again. This saddens Jed, not because he misses his children, but because he thinks that they should be sending money home. He and his wife and remaining children are lethargic and anemic from hookworm, and suffer from various other 3rd world nutritional diseases like pellagra and rickets. Picture the inbred backwoods cretins of Deliverance (also set in rural Georgia). But Burt and friends would have been safe from being stalked, terrorized, and raped by Jeeter and kin, because that would require the Jeeters' having the gumption to get up off their porch and expend some energy.

Whatever the literary merit of Tobacco Road, the Jeeters remain in our national consciousness and have affected perceptions and stereotypes of the rural South ever since it was published (it was also made into a long running Broadway play and a movie), much to the dismay of the those interested in Southern boosterism. Jed and his family were clearly inspiration for the Clampetts of The Beverly Hillbillies. One of Jed Jeeter's daughters is even named Ellie May, although his Ellie May is a harelipped half-wit who is perpetually in heat, not at all like the comely but wholesome animal healer Ellie May Clampett.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Profiles in Homelessness: The Loretta Story

After a trip the post office I was caught in a downpour of rain and hail uncharacteristic for this city. I was walking with my head down against the wind and almost collided with local homeless vamp Loretta as she was wretchedly making her way toward the church steps. She has really not been looking good lately, so please...don't get too attached. Her lifestyle on the streets is taking a real toll and her eye is infected and swollen shut again and she is still on crutches. Later when I was at the reference desk I asked the Fiesty Old Broad about her. The FOB knows everyone’s business in this neighborhood and she gave me a brief history of Loretta’s life.

Although she came from a well-to-do family, her mother was an alcoholic and Loretta ran off and married a black ex-con drug dealer when she was 17 and had a whole passel of bi-racial children with him. She soon tired of domesticity and began to hit the bottle hard and have affairs. She hatched up a plot to have her husband arrested so her boyfriend could move in with her and they could live happily ever after on her husband’s drug money. Her plan backfired when the police couldn’t find any of the contraband after they came to search the house, and soon after the police left her husband gave her a good and solid beating and threw her out. She slinked off to Sacramento and never saw her husband or her children again.

She was living in a homeless encampment down by the river in **** when she somehow bewitched a Mormon prison guard with a serious savior complex into marrying her. Being a good Mormon he was temperate and naive to the ways her devious and manipulative alcoholic mind worked. He wised up pretty quickly, though, and it was not too long before he threw her out too. Having blown her last chance at lower-middle class respectability, she became a permanent resident of the street and residential hotels of this city. Even though the state and various charitable institutions have sent her to rehab and halfway houses countless times, she cannot remain off the streets.

The FOB actually took her in to her apartment and nursed Loretta through pneumonia last year. Loretta was the model patient, until the FOB said,

"Loretta, you're almost well and you've been sober for 12 days. How about we see about getting you in rehab?"

"Uh-uh. It's the first of the month tomorrow, and I'm going to go get my check and get drunk."

"Get the hell out of my house."

Even though she is pushing fifty, her face ravaged from exposure, her body fat and swollen from drinking, she has retained enough of her charm so that she is the belle of this neighborhood’s homeless. At this point she is not too choosy, but she does prefer black men and she always has an entourage around her to do her bidding. She rewards them frequently for their troubles in the bathroom stall of the park until the police come and break it up. I promise to do my best to get a picture of her before she dies and is buried courtesy of the state.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Yesterday's blog entry had me musing on the scourge of meth and I was reminded of a friend whose brother was sent to court ordered rehab up near Humboldt County for a DUI. Practically everyone else in that rehab was there for meth, which has become an intractable problem in rural California (make that rural America). Many of his fellow patients were missing fingers, hands and even forearms because they had blown them off being careless in their sloppy bathtub labs. Meth is also hell on your teeth, from either the poor nutritional choices the drug leads you to or just utter neglect, and what few his fellow patients had remaining were black and rotten with decay. I bet 'Family Day' at rehab was something else.

Meth is absolute poison. Few people realize that the Matthew Shepard's killers had been up several days on meth, and that probably had a lot more to do with the utter barbarity of his killing than homophobia or 'gay panic.' Because with meth you're not just dealing with the drugs effects on your brain but also sleep deprivation, so users become delusional and paranoid and violent, especially in the final stages, called tweaking. Supposedly it's impossible for mental health professionals to distinguish someone who's tweaking from someone suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

Although meth ravages your looks, heroin perversely preserves them, like a youth elixir. My friend who is a social worker says that some of her heroin clients look twenty years younger than their actual age. Well, as long as you don't look at their veins. My cousin Garrett who worked needle exchange said that they would hand out vein charts because addicts who had burned out all of their veins would just plunge the needle into their skin in sheer frustration after searching for hours unsuccessfully for a good vein, which would cause these these horrible abscesses (and a disappointing high). One time someone with a black abscess on his arm about the size of a cupcake asked him,

"Do you mind if I have some of that antibiotic ointment?"

Like a little Neosporin was going to fix that right up.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Porn Dude says, "Take it from me, man..."

Remember the hippie porn enthusiast who liked to cruise porn sites at our very public internet terminals? One day I glanced over and noticed that he was engrossed in a video of a woman on his screen who could only be doing one of two things, one of which was bobbing for apples, which I didn't think likely. I alerted my boss who had a little talk with him and he agreed to visit more family appropriate sites while at the library or to go down to the more private terminals at the Main.

Well, besides being addicted to free porn he's a big fat liar because on each of his subsequent visits to the library he has had to be warned again and again about his taste in internet sites. I also have noticed that he wears the exact same tie-dye everyday, and it has become increasingly filthy and his dreadlocks more matted. Sometimes there is a fine hygiene line between hippies and street people, but I suspect that this guy is actually living on the street or in one of those depressing residential hotels that this city has way too many of.

Well, my boss reported to me the other morning that he saw Porn Dude writhing on the ground outside the bakery down the street, sobbing and screaming to all the passerbyers giving him a wide berth,

"NEVER smoke meth, man!"

The Voice of Experience recovered enough to dust himself off and pay the library a visit a few hours after his public service announcement, and although I watched closely I did not catch him on any inappropriate sites. Maybe he is trying to clean up his act, and he's starting by curtailing his internet porn and trying to get the word about the dangers of smoking methamphetamine.

Someone who shall remain nameless basically accused of me of quashing Porn Fan's civil liberties because I alerted my manager to the HIGHLY inappropriate sites he was visting at our public terminals that have children walking by them at all times. This person's lame-o argument was:

"Well, it's just that I'm a libertarian. He should be able to look at whatever he wants at the library."

To which Elizabeth responded, "If you were really a libertarian you wouldn't believe in libraries in the FIRST place!"


Spoon's Vida Loca

I took Spoon for a walk in the rain and the fur on the crown of her head frizzed up in this really fetching and endearing way, like a curly toupee or an L.A. girl gangbanger’s bangs. I remember reading years ago how schools in Los Angeles were having to enact these very strict dress and grooming codes because the Latina students were teasing and ratting their bangs up into stratospheric heights to signify their membership and rank in the gang social hiearchy. The bang’s height corresponded with the girl’s standing in the gang, like they were chickens who had decided to establish pecking order according to comb size. The girls were having horrible fights over rank and were trying to yank their rivals’ bangs out so the schools had to establish limits on the size of bangs to restore order. Each morning the girls would have to line up to have their bangs measured with a ruler. I think the height limit was 2 inches, and if the girls’ hair exceeded that then they were sent home or they had to wet down their hair so it would lie flat against their skulls.
The hair on Spoon’s head stayed fluffed up in the weird little cowlick until yesterday, when she had a long overdue grooming. Although I miss the patch, her beautiful tawny caramel undercoat is now exposed and she is so crazy beautiful we’re now calling her Tawny Kitaen.

Billy Jack also got his nails clipped, always a traumatic and dangerous experience for everyone involved. Elizabeth had to restrain him by laying her entire body over him while our friend Lynne, a professional groomer, hurriedly clipped them. Billy emitted these terrifying, unearthly squawks like he was being stretched on the rack but seems to have made a full recovery and forgiven us.
It’s a big relief that they’re now trimmed because they had grown to such Howard Hughes lengths that he was jabbing us painfully and clawing at us to get his way and I was beginning to live in fear of him and his pungi stick nails. Being intimidated by your 25 pound dog is a really pathetic way to live.

Sunday morning Elizabeth fried up the last of the bacon that Dan smoked back in the Fall and I made the mistake of putting some pork fat in their food as a special treat. Now the puppies refuse to eat their food unless I put a dollop of pork fat in it, and Spoon keeps trying to lure me back into the kitchen to give her more from the tin can full of it which rests on the top of the stove. She spends the rest of the day gazing out the window, screaming at other dogs who 'trespass' on the sidewalk, and daydreaming of pork.

Monday, February 23, 2004

It's official, Emily is going to give Sid a daddy!

Elizabeth's brother John officially proposed to Emily, his lovely Malaysian girlfriend, pictured here with Spoon's puppy, Vin Diesel. He asked for her hand while he and Emily took Sid on his walk in Charlottesville, where John is in business school. After John exhausted Sid with the tennis ball, Sid went down to wallow in the mudbog as usual. While Sid occupied himself, John got down on one knee and proposed.

Best wishes to the happy couple, who plan to wed in Bali, Indonesia because of its exotic beauty, proximity to Malaysia, and large population of frisky monkeys.

There is no more invigorating way to kick off your morning than filing a police report, which I had to do on the dogs' and my daily morning walk, usually the highlight of our day. I was minding my own business listening to Howard Stern on my Walkman when I was assaulted verbally by a homeless man, who for some reason didn’t like the looks of us. I’m not sure what set him off, but he materialized out of the thick fog about 30 feet ahead of us and began to glare and spew a stream of malevolent and filthy threats at us. Most of his rant was unintelligible word salad but I got the gist pretty quickly: he wanted to do us bodily harm. I immediately turned around and he started to follow us but a group of joggers came by and whatever tiny remnant of reason left in his destroyed brain thought better of continuing his hostile oration and whatever else he had planned at a closer range. He then stalked up toward Fisherman’s Wharf, I’m sure to go on to traumatize some unfortunate tourists, and then probably on to my branch. I hope the worst he will do is give them a good tale to bring back home to Des Moines.

I certainly didn’t take it personally and have become inured to raving street people, but this one seemed special so I thought I better at least start a paper trail on him. The gardeners and park police hadn’t seen him before either so he’s seems to be a new transient. The park police were going to go question the usual gang of homeless that hang out in the park down by the water to see if they know anything about him. That regular group of homeless does a fairly good job of policing themselves and cooperating with the authorities as best they can. They do quite well for themselves begging money from tourists and they know that it is in their strong interest to do whatever they can to prevent a crackdown.

Speaking of transients: It seems that no one (meaning my readers, certainly not the police and the local neighborhood merchants) can get enough of local homeless minx Loretta. I’m sorry to report that she has injured herself yet again and is now hobbling around on crutches, which can't be easy loaded. She is really milking it and has her retinue of admirers waiting on her hand and foot and escorting her tenderly as she weaves through the neighborhood in this theatrically pathetic way. I watched her hold up traffic in a crosswalk as she took about 5 minutes to make her way across, oblivious to (or deriving spiteful satisfaction from) the fury of all of the drivers she was holding up at their green light. This morning I spotted what I thought was a purple Tam o’Shanter, Loretta’s signature hat, in the crowd waiting outside the door for the library to open, but instead it was some other woman with a taste for purple headgear. I will be on the lookout for her and be sure to keep the Loretta tales coming.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Years ago one of my old colleagues was in Atlanta for business and decided rather than hole up in her hotel as usual she was going to take in some of the sights. Always a fan of Gone with the Wind, she had heard that one of Margaret Mitchell's old houses had been turned into a museum with guided tours. The house was in a terrible, dangerous part of town, and had become so dilapidated that it was on the verge of demolition before being salvaged to become the museum. The museum had just opened and she and her friend were the only people to make that morning's tour. The docent, oddly enough, was a Japanese woman in ante bellum costume whose accent was so thick she was almost unintelligible.

About halfway through the tour the docent turned to both of them and said,

"Margaret Mitchell's husband. He terrible alcoholic."

She leaned in and looked sharply into their eyes, and then leaned in farther and hissed in a stage whisper.

"He BEAT her."

She then raised her clenched fist with all of the force of Scarlett when she made her "As God is My Witness" speech and swept past them up the hall, her hoopskirt bumping against them, to continue the tour in the kitchen.

"Her husband. He loved to cook for Miss Mitchell while she work."

Recreating a conversation that they might have had, she threw her voice down the hall, like she was Margaret Mitchell calling from her office.

"Hey, what you doing in there?"

Lowering her voice to indicate that she was now playing the part of a man,

"Hey, Miss Mitchell. I'm here cooking up a mess of fried CHICKEN!"

While she was impersonating Mitchell's husband she also began to pantomime frying chicken over the stove. As she was describing how he cooked for her she began violently shaking the imaginary skillet back and forth over the stove. If this skillet had really held a 'mess of fried chicken' she would have splattered grease over her herself and the stove, resulting in third degree burns and probably a large enough grease fire to consume the entire house.

Although my friend was a little disappointed she didn't get a proper tour, (she doubted that the guide had received little formal training or if she had, she had forgotten it completely) I would have preferred this kind of tour to the actual one.

Like when my aunt and cousins went to see Camelot starring the  Richard Burton as King Arthur. The curtain opened and it was obvious that he was loaded because he began to stagger around and couldn't even say his lines. After a moment or so the curtain dropped suddenly. The curtains began to rustle, evidence of the violent struggle taking place behind them. Then Richard Burton began to scream, "Get your goddamned hands off of me!", which was then followed by silence.

A few moments later the music started up again and the curtain rose as if nothing had happened, except King Arthur was now being played by the understudy, which was a lucky break for him, because that's how careers are made. Like Shirley MacClaine's. Or Nomi's from Showgirls.

Many people attending the play wanted their money back, but I would have paid extra to see that performance.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

American Fabulous

A while back I watched a strange little documentary which consisted of nothing more than a southern homosexual named Jeffrey Strouth chain smoking and nattering on in this oddly compelling nasal sissy-twang from the back seat of a Cadillac. As he and the car meander over the backroads of Ohio, he reminisces about his trashy Southern Gothic childhood (complete with a rarely employed Elvis impersonating father) and various other adventures, all of which are - what else but - outrageously fabulous.  His non-stop monologue is like a cross between Bobby "luxuuuuurious" Trendy and Spalding Grey (God rest his soul).

His best story is when he and Wolfgang, his even more flamboyant boyfriend of the time, were hitchhiking ill-advisedly through Oklahoma en route to Los Angeles. They weighed about 90 pounds a piece and were dressed to the nines, complete with sumptuous feathered boas. In addition to all of their luggage Strouth was carrying a teacup poodle and Wolfgang a large white gilded birdcage.
They get picked up by a sub-white trash man and his 10 year old son in a filthy old truck. The father and son pass back and forth a bottle of whiskey in silence for about an hour, until the father leans over toward them and says conversationally,

"You know what you boys ought ta do while yer in Oklahoma? You ought to head on down to one of these Injun reservations and get you some squaw pussy."

Wolfgang and Strouth sit there in stunned silence, clutching the tea cup poodle and white gilded birdcage to their respective chests. Then Wolfgang shrieks,

"OMIGOD, did he just say SQUAW PUSSY?"

A little offended by their reaction, the man dumps them off on the side of the road and it takes them weeks and some jail time before they finally escape Oklahoma.

One time when he was a little boy his brother and his gang of friends had him on the ground beating him for being such a fairy, he shouted this novel, but ultimately ineffective, defense: "But you cain't beat me! I'm pregggggnant!"

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

How far do you go to humor insane patrons?

So, this patron swept in with the manner, bearing and dress of Norma Desmond (white silk turban and all!) and began asking all of these complicated questions about evolution and taxonomy, most of which were completely beyond the capacity of this small branch and my limited scientific knowledge. She then sighed and said nevermind, because she was on her way to Stanford to conduct more research. While I was attempting to help her with a question concerning the evolution of elephants I found a site about manatees and remarked how interesting it was that they were relatives of the elephant. She gave me a piercing look and replied with icy hauteur,

“They most certainly are related. Manatees have breasts, you know, and are milk producing. That is why sailors would drag them on board and have sex with them.”

Whoa. I know manatees are rumored to be the inspiration for mermaids. I also realize that they are slow moving and that sailors get very lonely at sea, but I refuse to believe that the sailors would haul these 1 ton creatures aboard deck and resort to that sort of desperate and unnatural behavior, especially with cabin boys so handy. In any case, it was a very odd thing to say and I didn't know really how to respond and how much further I should keep going along with her on her research.

After I submitted an interlibrary loan for some obscure book on bushmen she thanked me and strode regally out of the library. At the door she crossed paths with the library tech, who saw my face and started laughing and filled me in on her. I apparently got off easy today, because she is notorious here and throughout the neighborhood for her imperious peculiarity, which lately seems to be taking a tragic turn toward raving lunacy with sexual overtones.

She was recently banned from the coffee shop across the street, not for saying something you would expect, like “I’m ready for my closeup, Mr. Demille, " but for screeching repeatedly at the owner of the packed coffee house, “I know you want to look at my pussy!”

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

When I arrived at work this morning I was heartened to see the city gardener pruning the trees and bushes in the homeless-friendly garden nooks in front of the branch. The gardener trimmed the foliage practically bare so it looks like Loretta and her gang of paramours will no longer have the habitat and privacy that the overgrown branches and leaves offered. They were leaving a squalid mess for us to clean up each day and one of them had just acquired a boom box so all Friday I had to listen to tinny music in addition to all of the other annoying sounds of their raucous partying. They are as loud, messy, and unwelcome as a flock of grackles.

With the protective covering now gone I'm hoping that the front of the library will not the be the attraction it has been for the homeless, who have been even more of a problem than usual due to a recent politically expedient crackdown on homeless and aggressive panhandlers in a popular tourist area near this branch. During the diaspora there's been a real influx into this neighborhood and we're all suffering for it.

One character named Dennis, whom my boss calls Dennis the Menace, threatens my boss' life regularly because he threw him out of the library once. When he's not revolving in and out of prison, he lies in wait in the park and tries to ambush my boss. Recently when my boss and his six year old son were walking by the park Dennis staggered drunkenly toward him and threw a punch. Fortunately he was way too drunk to make his target and he lost his balance and faceplanted down on the sidewalk. A few days later he wandered loaded into the library during children's story time and plopped down amidst the mothers and children, but the police were hot on his trail due to a prior complaint so they just followed him in and arrested him on the spot.

Back to Loretta, neighborhood street vixen... Our local beatcop paid us a visit today and told me that Loretta has a violent jealous streak and will attack any female who draws her beaux' attention away from her. She's all talk and not much action, though she can really scream some filth at perceived rivals and did so this last week right across the church steps as people were streaming out of mass. She also fell on her face recently and for a while one of her eyes was sealed shut. Now the swelling has gone down but the eye remains damaged and wanders lazily around. This hasn't seemed to detract from her allure significantly because I saw her surrounded by her usual group of admirers earlier today.

Monday, February 16, 2004

We're babysitting Michael, Elizabeth's little stepbrother, in Marin on this President's Day and have been working on our Dogster profiles all day, a fun activity to share with a 9 year old boy. Check out Spoon, Billy Jack, Angus and friends.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Or, I officially have back

Yesterday I was punchdrunk and exhausted from a full day at the reference desk at at the busiest branch in the system, but my day still wasn't over because we had signed up to play in a Valentine's Day Ultimate Frisbee night tournament. Although I had a wonderful time, this was the first time that I have touched a disc or done any serious running around since the beach tournament in Mexico back in the beginning of December. An extended holiday season of gluttony and sloth has resulted in a sad state of physical condition for me, especially concerning the size of my ass. The Chinese girls at work have turned me onto these instant noodles that are soaked in fat and humming with MSG, which have compounded the problem because I now crave them daily like opium and they are sold at the convenience store right across the street from the library. In any case, I am so sore today from the tournament that I've been staggering around all morning in this really stilted and embarrassing way, like I've been afflicted by a palsy.

I really have been in a serious denial and needed the Ultimate frisbee wake-up call. I should have been clued in that my butt had become seriously badonkadonk by the renewed interest of all the brothers who hang out in the park that I have to pass through on my way to the ATM and post office. Their recent ardent attention and catcalls are a more accurate gauge of the size of my backside than any scale or constricting tightness of my clothes. I'm relieved that Ultimate season will put me back on a more salutary and clean living path. I love Ultimate and I really have come to rely on it to keep the baser parts of my nature in check.

Saturday, February 14, 2004


Last night I broke a cardinal rule I had established for myself when I started working at the public library: I saw one of my patrons socially. I made this exception for a lovely and elegant Dutch woman for whom I am always ordering Inspector Maigret mysteries from other branches. Even though it's the easist thing in my job description to do, she makes a huge production out of it and carries on like I'm pulling strings and granting her special favors and really going out of my way for her. She is always so charming and thankful and tells me things like, "I would have nothing to reeeeed if it weren't for you." She is a nice compensation for some of the borderline personalities who wander into the library that I have to deal with.

My friend Jack and I helped find an apartment in Paris over Christmas for her and so she wanted to take me out to dinner. She's a neighbor of mine so we had dinner at a Thai restaurant down the street. She's led a very interesting life (she lived under German occupation as a child) and it was a lovely dinner and I'm glad that I did it.
I'm also considering breaking my rule again and taking the Feisty Old Broad to an Irish pub for her birthday and getting loaded with her. She always keeps me entertained with her outlandish statements and stories which always make for really good blog material.

I have a sad feeling that I am the only meaningful human contact a lot of my more lonely patrons have, and their intense neediness and desperation for companionship can be a little overwhelming, and at times, scary. Some patrons misinterpret my librarian service ethic as an invitation into my personal life. We had to change my listing in the phone book because a few patrons who lack proper boundaries somehow found out what my last name was and were calling me at home, sometimes at 7:30 in the morning, which really freaked me and Elizabeth out. There's a balance between being civil servant rudeness/apathy and friendliness and I'm still working on it.

Take John the Fisherman, the one who wanted to give me crabs (see Feb 5 post). He doesn't see the the fact that I live with a woman, that we have a 30 year age difference, that he's semi-homeless and lives on a boat, or that he reeks of brine and dope as any sort of barriers to our love.
He's a Vietnam Vet (I'm surprised that his bantam stature - he's only about 5'6 - didn't earn him a 4F deferment) and seasonal fisherman. On the first occasion I met him, he leaned over my desk to look at my computer screen and a fat smoldering marijuana roach fell out of his pocket right onto my keyboard. The next time I helped him he gave me this sad song and dance of how he left this paperback book belonging to the library on a boat and had no way of getting it back. This book was just an uncatalogued donation so I gave him a break and took it off his record. This was evidence enough for him that I had fallen deeply in love with him. Now whenever he's in town he's always trying to chat me up while I'm trapped at the reference desk, mostly to complain about his treatment at the VA hospital, especially how it will only cover two Viagra pills a month, which, he said to me sauvely with a raised eyebrow, "is hardly adequate."

When I declined his invitation to accompany him to some 'happening' up in Marin for the weekend he didn't take the news too well, but when I didn't react with appropriate gratitude (i.e., I didn't want to have sex with him) when he donated a Harry Potter book to the library he acted really hurt, like I led him on or something, and had cruelly wounded his pride intentionally. I shouldn't feel bad but I do, so I'm making it a goal to work on my personal boundaries and make my intentions more clear.

Friday, February 13, 2004


When I lived in Birmingham, Alabama there was a dive gay bar that was so nasty no self respecting homosexual would dare to be seen in it until 4:00 AM, at the very earliest. One night the bar and all of the patrons were held up. When the gunmen demanded that everyone get down on the sticky, sludge covered floor, all obeyed immediately except one defiant drag queen, who said, "You can beat me, you can shoot me, but there is no way on God's earth that you can make me lie down on THAT floor!"
The gunmen gallantly allowed her to remain standing while they completed the robbery.

Grandma Fontaine

The other day I picked up a copy of Gone with the Wind and was once again reminded why it remains my favorite book of all time, one that I'm drawn to read again and again. Margaret Mitchell’s classic endures for many reasons, but one of the most compelling is Mitchell’s ability to make even the most minor character fully realized, characters that ring so true that they have become Southern archetypes. My favorite example of this is the O’Hara’s neighbor, the fierce dowager Grandma Fontaine, who makes only two brief appearances in the 1000 plus page book.

After she shoots the Yankee deserter, Scarlett takes possession of his horse and in a few days rides over to the neighboring Fontaines’ for the first time since the war began. After Scarlett tells them all that the Yankees burned most of the cotton crop, Grandma Fontaine responds.

"Be thankful it wasn't your house," said Grandma, leaning her chin on her cane. "you can always grow more cotton and you can't grow a house. By the bye, had you all started picking your cotton?"

"No," said Scarlett, "and now most of it is ruined. I don't imagine there's more than three bales left standing, in the far field in the creek bottom, and what earthly good will it do? All our field hands are gone and there's nobody to pick it."

"Mercy me, all our field hands are gone and there's nobody to pick it!" mimicked Grandma and bent a satiric glance on Scarlett. "What's wrong with your own pretty paws, Miss, and those of your sisters?"

"Me? Pick cotton?" cried Scarlett aghast, as if Grandma had been suggesting some repulsive crime. "Like a field hand? Like white trash? Like the Slattery women?"

"White trash indeed! Well, isn't this generation soft and ladylike! Let me tell you, Miss, when I was a girl my father lost all his money and I wasn't above doing honest work with my hands and in the fields too, till Pa got enough money to buy some more darkies. I've hoed my row and I've picked my cotton and I can do it again if I have to. And it looks like I'll have to. White trash, indeed!"'

Grandma Fontaine shrewdly preceives that Scarlett has more to unburden, and takes her aside so Scarlett can tell her the real truth of all the horrors and deprivation that she has had to endure since she last saw the Fontaines’: her mother’s death, her father’s descent into madness, the horror of Melanie’s labor, their harrowing escape from Atlanta, how the entire household is on the brink of starvation. After she listens she tells Scarlett a story I have never forgotten, a story that we can all draw strength and courage from.

"Child, it's a very bad thing for a woman to face the worst that can happen to her, because after she's faced the worst she can't ever really fear anything again. And it's very bad for a woman not to be afraid of anything. You think I don't understand what you've told me--what you've been through? Well, I understand very well. When I was about your age I was in the Creek uprising, right after the Fort Mims massacre--yes," she said in a far away voice, "just about your age for that was fifty-odd years ago. And I managed to get into the bushes and hide and I lay there and saw our house burn and I saw the Indians scalp my brothers and sisters. And I could only lie there and pray that the light of the flames wouldn't show up my hiding place. And they dragged Mother out and killed her about twenty feet from where I was lying. And scalped her too. And ever so often one Indian would go back to her and sink his tommyhawk into her skull again. I--I was my mother's pet and I lay there and saw it all. And in the morning I set out for the nearest settlement and it was thirty miles away. It took me three days to get there, through the swamps and the Indians, and afterward they thought I'd lose my mind... That's where I met Dr. Fonatine. He looked after me... Ah, well, that's been fifty years ago, as I said, and since that time I've never been afraid of anything or anybody because I'd known the worst that could happen to me. And that lack of fear has gotten me into a lot of trouble and cost me a lot of happiness. God intended women to be timid frightened creatures and there's something unnatural about a woman who isn't afraid... Scarlett, always save something to fear--even as you save something to love..."

Mitchell has been accused of romanticizing master/slave relations and slave conditions. She was most harshly criticized for never mentioning miscegenation, but those detractors obviously overlooked Grandma Fontaine’s comments about all of her family's black female slaves running off with Yankee soldiers.

"They promised all the black wenches silk dresses and gold earbobs. . . . some of the troopers went off with the black fools behind them on their saddles. Well, all they'll get will be yellow babies and I can't say that Yankee blood will improve the stock."

"Oh, Mama Fontaine!"

"Don't pull such a shocked face, Jane. We're all married, aren't we? And, God knows, we've seen mulatto babies before this."

Part of my library job description is reader’s advisory so I highly recommend this book to you, one of the great masterpiece’s of Southern literature.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Ve’re from Holland, may ve use your interrrnet?

Despite the relentless globalization efforts of Nike, a sure-fire way remains in identifying Euro tourists before they even open their mouth: their footware, especially if they’re wearing tennis shoes. Even if the brand name weren’t completely unrecognizable, the shoes just look different and slightly…off.
The neighborhood branch where I work is in area heavily frequented by tourists, and the Euros love to come in to use our free internet, even if it means waiting an hour for the 15 minute express terminal. There is pay internet right across the street, but I have been forced to come to the conclusion that these tourists are the cheapest people on the planet and prefer to wait in a chair next to a reeking homeless man who is muttering to himself about the Kennedy’s beaming thoughts into his head than pay a few dollars to check their e-mail.
See for yourself if you can spot the European tourist by playing Blair Magazine’s Gay or Eurotrash and Lesbian or German Lady games.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


Before my recent posts have you running off to your doctor for a thorough worming, I want to caution you that hosting a few parasites might be such a bad thing. There are theories that the recent rise in auto-immune diseases such as Crohn’s Disease, Lupus, MS, arthritis, etc. could be in part blamed on our excessively sanitary, parasite-free lifestyles. Studies suggest that our immune system turns on our bodies if there’s nothing foreign for it to fight off, like a bored army stationed in a village might. With nothing to occupy the soldiers, they begin to drink, carouse, and terrorize the local civilian population: your body.

Thanks to my appetite for raw fish and meat and, most of all, my slatternly ways, I probably have a gut teeming with the little fellows, plenty to keep my immune system distracted. I feel like I have established a nice host/parasite equilibrium, with the exception of my relationship to Billy Jack, the Jack Russell terrier.
I have always suspected that there was a good and healthy reason for my aversion to cleanliness.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Differing Perspectives

How the pendulum swings in just a little more than a decade. May I also add that I'm really tired of teachers assigning their hapless students heavy research projects on some obscure little Indian tribe (probably invented for casino privledges) or mission and then requiring the primary source for the information to be from a book (internet or encyclopedias won't do), which often does not exist, anywhere. Teachers, please let's work together on this, and do a little homework of your own.

Mission to paradise : the story of Junipero Serra and the missions of California / by Kenneth M. King. Chicago : Franciscan Herald Press ; [San Francisco] : distributed by the Society of California Pioneers, 1975

The Missions of California : a legacy of genocide / Rupert Costo, Jeannette Henry Costo, editors.
Publication info. [San Francisco] : Published by The Indian Historian Press for the American Indian Historical Society, c1987.

Photographic Evidence of Billy Jack's Parasitic Qualities 

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For more fun and educational photographs of parasites (including more of the little tongue biter) please check out the work of photographer Matthew Gilligan.

Monday, February 09, 2004

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Look deeper…deeper.

Now give it a cookie.

This is not a dog, but an alien shapeshifting parasite with appalling powers, including the ability to suck all of your will and judgment completely away and turn you into its souless host that exists only to do its bidding.

We should have drowned him when he was a puppy, while we still could, before he and his powers reached maturity and we became helpless against him. We would probably have been stopped by well meaning fools anyway, like the Americans in John Carpenter’s The Thing, who can’t figure out why a helicopter full of scientists from the neighboring Norwegian Arctic base is trying to shoot down that cute Siberian Husky. After a grenade misfires and destroys the helicopter and its occupants, the Americans take in the poor little ‘dog’ (who they believe is a victim of the Norwegians’ cabin fever induced psychosis) and the gorefest begins. Nobody survives, not even macho stud Kurt Russell.

OK, maybe I’m letting my imagination run away with me here. I’ve been engrossed lately by this fascinating book Elizabeth gave me called Parasite Rex, which is all about the tiny free-loaders of the animal kingdom. It is absolutely riveting. I bet you didn’t know that parasites outnumber free-living species 4 to 1, or that there are parasites that can enslave their hosts through mind control, or that can trick other species into caring and raising the parasites’ young, or make women slutty, or that can eat out the tongue of a fish, latch on, and act as the tongue’s replacement?
My interest in parasites began when I took a zoology class and my professor had such a single-minded passion for parasites that I began to wonder if she wasn’t hosting one herself, in her brain. We spent about 2 classes on vertebrates and the rest on parasites. She would spend most of class recounting grisly but enthralling tales of all of her far flung parasitological studies and adventures. “And one time in Africa we did some exploratory surgery on a boy who couldn’t keep any food down and discovered the reason: he had so many Ascarids writhing around in his intestines that they had created a blockage were preventing food from entering. And actually that proved quite handy because we had run out of Ascarids to dissect in the medical school there and now we had plenty for the students…”
I was attuned enough to know what she wanted, and wrote my term paper on Giardia. I and the other students who wrote about parasites received As, unlike the rest of the class who wrote papers on Chordata.

“I was seduced by her evil. After she would lie on her cell phone to her fiancée she would just giggle in this really sexy, evil way. I also liked it when she would back up on all fours naked toward me and say, 'Is this the way Daddy likes it? Is it?'"

From this week’s episode of Cheaters, the greatest show on television, ever.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Money, Money, Money

Not much is free in this world anymore, except Loretta.

Phone call I received yesterday at work.
"You got tax forms?"
"We have reproducible federal and state forms. You can make a copy of them for $.10 a page."
"You mean you don't have them to hand out? I have to pay for them? Well, that fucking sucks!"

My cousin Garrett volunteering at the needle exchange.
"Yeah, so my husband, he's in a wheelchair and can't make it so I need you to give me his needles too."
"Ma'am, we can only give out 20 needles per person. I can't give you both your needles and your husband's needles. He needs to come down here in person."
After a lot of indignant huffing, "What? Damn. Look, I don't know how much money you're making off all of us..."
"Ma'am, the needles are free, and we're volunteers."

From a librarian comrade's blog, Sex and the Library

This woman came in today and asked if we had typewriters. I gave her the
spill about yes we do, and they cost a quarter for about 10 or 15 minutes (I
couldn't remember). She scrunched her face up and said, "What? They cost
money to use?"
"Damn! That's Ghetto!" Then she wandered off grumbling to her friend, "This
is a Lieberry, they should be free, that's so ghetto! This is America!"

Friday, February 06, 2004

Finally, accessible scripture.

The Brick Testament

Y'all Hiring?

I was cleaning out my drawer and found this note a chronologically confused woman (notice how she dated it) handed to me one evening a few months ago. She had spent most of the day hunched over a German textbook, conjugating German verbs on page after page of notepaper. On the backside of one of these pages she composed this note/job application. After this poor lost soul gave me the note she left immediately and never returned again to check the status of her 'application,' as far as I know.

Oct. 11, 2006

Dear Library, (Chinese Branch)
I would like an application (not the N.I.M.H. one, nor Consumer Affairs one, etc.) at least to prove that I really applied for a job and really was in this city. (Proof to my OLD UNIVERSITY in NORTHERN COLORADO)

a female

I do not have a degree, therefore, you are not required to hire me, but helpful if you do. Besides, the library owes me $250 from having stolen from me in 1993 (or was it 1994)? Don't worry - I'm not collecting.

P.S. When did this branch separate from the one downtown? And why?

Random Memory of the Day

When I was around ten years old I was going through the cafeteria line at school and I asked the cafeteria lady for some fried chicken. Instead of asking for dark meat, I mistakenly said, "May I have a piece of brown meat?" She laughed and replied, "Honey, I'm the only brown meat around here and I ain't on the menu!"

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Unintentional Porn is everywhere

Today, I told a patron, "Follow me. The adult videos are this way."

And to another, "Those VDs are available to be checked out." I believe I meant DVDs.

The subject line of an e-mail from my manager: John the Fisherman came by to see you. He would like to give you some crabs.

I just bet he would.

The Lady is a Tramp

Loretta is a neighborhood nuisance of a homeless woman in her mid-forties (although it's hard to tell because of her deep exposure tan; alcohol and the elements really are hell on your skin) who is a tramp in every meaning of the word. One of her favorite pastimes is to entertain gentlemen callers in the public women's restroom in the park. The beat cops know when Loretta is in there because there will be a queue of men waiting their turn outside the stall door. She doesn't even charge money, so the cops don't bother arresting her for prostitution. How pathetic is that? My favorite patron, the Feisty Old Broad, has a very low opinion of Loretta for this: "Women who give it away for free should be shot!" The FOB also told me that Loretta comes from a well-to-do family and receives money each month from a trust, which combined with her money from the Cash, Not Care program of this sickly codependent city keeps Loretta well stocked in booze.

One thing Loretta does not use the public bathroom for is to go to the bathroom. When nature calls Loretta answers, and due to her massive intake of intoxicating liquids, it calls frequently. On many occasions I have suffered to the sight of her fat white ass hovering between parked cars in front of the branch, the fuzzy ball on her signature purple tam-o-shanter bobbing as she squats. It's a common sight to see her peeing in the park, in the alley, on the sidewalk or wherever she may happen to be when she feels the urge.

Loretta has been hanging around the library lately because she has been eightysixed for two weeks from the homeless center down the street. She was spotted leaving waste of a more solid nature on the doorstep of one of the merchants who has the grave misfortune of being adjacent to this shelter, which a certain big shot movie producer opened up as a ploy to relocate the homeless who were loitering and harassing the customers in front of his own restaurant a few blocks away. During her temporary exile she has taken residence in one of our homeless friendly garden nooks of the library, where I have to listen to her simpering cackle as she holds court and flirts with a group of male homeless admirers that always seem to surround her. I am hoping that she behaves herself and doesn't get kicked out of the shelter permanently because each morning we have to clean up a trashcan's worth of empty 40's, cigarette butts, cardboard, and other detritus from Loretta's boogie nights. It's a real drag.

Truly, what every girl wants

I know I've been coming down pretty hard on porn at the library lately, but is this really appropriate material for young adults?

From this month's teen ordering list at the library:

Record #1013095 WHAT A GIRL WANTS. Warner Home Video 2003. In this coming-of-age comedy, spirited U.S. teen Daphne (Amanda Bynes) yearns to meet her long-lost father (Colin Firth). She finds him in London, an influential politician. But can she remake herself as a proper lady to fit into Dad's butt. VHS Price=$19.96

We think it's supposed to read "Dad's button down world."

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Quote of the Day

"Well then, she was pregnant at her wedding!"

My grandmother displaying her lightning fast, indisputable computation skills, when I off handedly mentioned that a friend of mine had given birth.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

No smut on my watch, mister!
And keep both hands on the keyboard, please.

The screens of the public internet computers at my branch are in my line of vision when I sit at the reference desk. We're supposed to keep an eye on them to make sure that people don’t try to sneak and restart the 15 minute express computer, which automatically shuts off when the user’s 15 minutes are up, signaling that that person’s turn is over and it’s time to let the next person in line on.
Today when I glanced over at the computers I did a doubletake, because there was a seemingly normal looking young man kicked back, hangin' 10 on an exceptionally filthy pornsite. He had a dreamy, limbic smile, and was actively perusing the site without any apparent shame or embarassment, as open about it as he could be, unfazed by the heavy foot traffic in front of the computer.
My library system does not use filters (which don't work anyway) but we haven’t really needed them at my branch because the computer screens are so public. Even if people don't have a sense of decency, they do have a sense of shame, and that maintains propriety far more effectively than any filter, which are generally clumsy and easy for the porn peddlers (who are fiendishly clever) to outsmart. Our official policy is that if someone (employee or patron) complains that the images are making them uncomfortable then the surfer has to stop. We then can tell the surfer that there are computers at the main library that are a little more private. I enjoy passing the buck to the Main, because I'm pettily resentful that they get to have full time security.
My manager had a little talk with the surfer and he agreed to cruise more family friendly sites.

I do believe it is a mission of the library to bridge the digital divide, and I realize that not everyone can afford to have internet access in the privacy of his or her own home.
Even if access to technology is not equitable, I don’t think you have the right to surf porn at the library, and if that makes me the priggish, sexless functionary stereotype that haunts the librarian image then so be it.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Quote of the Day

"Not only could he lift all the heavy furniture, but he could arrange the flowers just right..."
My deeply southern grandmother, speaking wistfully of her mother's old houseboy, on the topic of homosexuals.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Mmmmm... Pork Butt

This morning, Fisher pulled out the two pork butts he had been slow smoking in the Big Green Egg for the past 20 hours and carried them to his kitchen downstairs. When the odor of roasted pork began to seep up through our floorboards like savoury radon, it dawned on Billy and Spoon what Fisher's kitchen was harboring. Billy began performing a frenzied location dance for us, while Spoon did a lot of bratty foot stamping and squawking until I took them downstairs to pay Fisher a visit. Fisher carved them a little bowl of gristle and fat and they spent the rest of the afternoon splayed out on the couch in a pork coma.

By the way, for those of you who don't know, Spoon and Billy are dogs.

I want to make that clarification because I received a complaint from an upset reader friend after she read my entry on MLK day. She didn't realize that Spoon was a dog and thought that I was monster because I seemed so callously fatalistic about the deaths of what she thought were children. The reverse chronological format of the blog added to her confusion and it took her a moment to realize I was writing about puppies. She was so shaken up that she almost had to end a conference call with a client. I apologize if anybody else made that mistake.

To prevent confusion of that sort my great-grandmother would not allow family pets or animals of any kind to be named after people. One day she had received a frantic phone call from one of the farmer workers at my great grandfather's farm. The farm employee shouted into the phone, "Mr. Baldwin (my great-grandfather's business partner), he's not well! He's laying in the field, foaming at the mouth. His eyes - they're rolled back in his head. All you can see is the whites. Please hurry!"

My great-grandmother wasn't able to reach my great-grandfather, and thinking time was of the essence, she sped in her car all the way out to the farm so she could put Mr. Baldwin in the car and rush him to the hospital. When she arrived she was led to Mr. Baldwin, but Mr. Baldwin the bull, not my grand-father's business partner. My great-grandfather had humorously named his bull after his business partner, but my great-grandmother did not know this. Well, my great-grandmother failed to see the humor after that incident and issued a family edict prohibiting the naming of animals after people from then on.

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