Friday, April 30, 2004

I've taken a couple of days off to enjoy the spectacular weather. I realized I needed a break when I got all embarrassingly choked up after this totally scary gangbanger whipped around and asked,

"Got any good teen fiction in lately?"

He had already read most of my favorites, but I did send him away with M.T. Anderson's hilarious Burger Wuss.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004


We have a new pet! A spider has established residency next to our Wriggly Wranch, the composting bin that is home to our industrious colony of worms, collectively known as Shayna. Shayna makes nutrient rich plant food out of all the produce scraps that we feed her, but unfortunately the produce also attracts flies and other swarming, freeloading nuisances. A clever spider spun its web right next compost bin yesterday, and Elizabeth noticed today that it already had hauled in a big fat housefly. We watched the spider wrapping up the fly in its final silky resting place this afternoon - fascinating! Our own little tiny Wild Kingdom.

We keep the compost bin on the back stairs landing, so I'm sure that the fly was en route to our apartment - trying to sneak through the back door. I'm very grateful to the spider for waylaying it permanently before it ended up in our bedroom where I just know it would take big, lazy backwashing slurps out of the glass of water I like to keep on the nightstand and torment us all night buzzing and hurling itself retardedly against the blinds.

No shoes, no shirt, no dice 

When spring weather hits town many of our patrons thoughts turn to flights of fancy (see the DSM IV & Tennyson). As the temperature becomes milder patrons often need to be gently reminded of the library dress code, which although lax, does require shoes and shirts. I have to say that I’m blown away by the number of people who wander around this city barefoot. I’m not even talking about the mentally ill who don’t know any better, but hippie Bohemian types who skip around the city streets like they’re Zola Budd. What are these people thinking? This city’s sidewalks are an obstacle course of health hazards: little ponds of saliva from old men of a certain ethnicity who will not be broken of their spitting habit, bottlecaps, glass, dog/human feces, thorns, litter, and other disgusting pathogen bearing matter that I don’t know what else to call but filth. They're just asking for some hookworm to drill its way up through their heel. (OK, that’s just in the South where I grew up, but still. Have some common sense.)

On the first day of good weather last year, a homeless man wearing only soiled khaki clamdiggers walked in and approached the reference desk. I used to keep some a bottle of hand lotion at my desk because the hand sanitizing lotion that I was rubbing on my hands compulsively was very drying, so I liked to alternate between the two. Before I could tell him that he needed to have a shirt on to be in the library he spotted the lotion and asked,

“Mind if I have some of that?”

Not waiting for a reply, he leaned over my desk and vigorously pumped about a third of the bottle's contents into his hand. He then began lovingly and sensuously rubbing it all over his upper body. After he was finished caressing himself, he stood preening before me. After inspecting himself carefully to be sure that he had applied the lotion evenly and thoroughly, he thanked me. He then sauntered out, a new and confident hitch in his step, and I never saw him again. Now I keep my lotion in a drawer, hidden away from the public's sight.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The Wrath of Punky

The Feisty Old Broad told me the other day that Punky assaulted one of his buddies, Steve-o, in the park. Punky can be very dangerous because he is treacherously temperamental and does not fight fairly. The other day he approached and, without warning, sucker punched Steve-o, another park regular. He then struck him in the right eye with a heavy glass Jim Beam bottle. Now Steve-o has a black eye, brilliantly hued and swollen. It is quite breathtaking.

Punky has been in a very petulant and resentful mood toward Steve-o lately because Steve-o struck the homeless/residential hotel dweller equivalent of the lottery: he began successfully collecting SSI. After petitioning the system with the tenacity of the herpes virus, Steve-o was finally approved for disability by his exhausted caseworker for some vague psychological disorder, which I have diagnosed as chronic shiftlessness.

What I didn't realize about SSI is that you are paid retroactively to the date of your initial application, so if it has taken its sweet time wending its way in the system through all the various rejections, appeals, and red tape then you are going to receive a sizeable lump payment. Steve-o himself received $7000, which is $2000 dollars more than earned marrying a Chinese woman in the immigrant scam ring he freelances for. In something straight out of Catch-22, the maximum amount you can keep in a checking account if you are on SSI is $2000, so you have to either keep the rest of the money in cash or money orders or some commodity like collectible stamps or heroin. Since Steve-o doesn't have a mattress to squirrel any valuables away in, he immediately squandered the entire amount on very lavish solo methamphetamine binge. Now he doesn't have one dime left, but at least he has a steady source of income courtesy of the taxpayer.

As Steve-o's friend, Punky felt entitled to a cut of this windfall, but as soon as Steve-o cashed his check he sensibly vanished before lampreys like Punky could suction themselves on. When he reappeared, jittery and 15 pounds thinner, he didn't have any money or drugs left to share. Punky had been brooding and stewing about Steve-o's lack of generosity and selfish extravagance until he finally erupted and assaulted Steve-o in a fit spiteful rage when he saw him strolling through the park. Punky will not be denied.

Not to sound all Reagan, but is this really the best use of our tax dollars? I'm grateful that we don't in our own small way contribute to the problem by keeping a copy of the DSM IV at this branch. When I work at the branches that do, I see hopeful welfare scammers poring over it, intently searching out information to build their disability case. That way, when they meet with their case agent they can be all prepared to recite verbatim the definition of whatever diagnosis they're after.

My friend who is a social worker would sometimes have up to 4 patients a day tell him exactly,
"I'm having flights of fancy and feel as though my thoughts are racing. My attention is too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli," which is straight out of the DSM's definition of bipolar disorder.

Monday, April 26, 2004

This is your life
We’re having an unusual spell of gorgeous weather in the city. On my daily morning walk with the dogs we pass through a bench lined promenade next to the bay. This morning, every single bench was occupied by a homeless character I recognized from the library, including the kicker, who has been disturbingly dark roasted by sun, grime, and exposure. Each one was stretched out with a breakfast 40, sunning him/herself. They were all lined up, just like intoxicated turtles on a log, or like deceased, beloved relatives beckoning you by in the tunnel that leads toward the white light in a near death experience.

It was like a stroll down memory lane, and as a couple of them recognized me and waved I thought to myself, “I really need to vary my walking route.”

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Haiku for Punky and his recent permanent wave

Mullet resplendent
Crowning glory, but the perm?
Gilding the lily

Friday, April 23, 2004

Dear Porn Seeker,

Thanks to Nedstat, a website traffic monitor, I can see what search terms people have used to find this site on Google. When looking to get your freak on, here's a tip: using proximity connectors will really help you with your searching precision and rate of relevant returns. Otherwise, Google's algorithm, powerful but by no means perfect, will return some results that might surprise and baffle you. I'm sure the person with a very creepy fetish who used the search string: heroin addict lesbian goth girls cutting themselves in the bathroom was highly disappointed to see this website, which has nothing to do with the subject he/she was looking for, as one of the top returns.

Here are some other good searches that lead to Foxylibrarian:
ethiopian prostitute san francisco herald

young asian boy guy man men smoke smoking cigarette -blowjob -pussy

I don't seem to have near the misdirected traffic that my comrade at Sex and the Library has, though.


From an interview with Isabel Allende in the 1994 May/June issue of Common Boundary  entitled, “Writing from the Belly.”

I recall a story you told about one of the accounts in one of your books. You wrote about a mine where peasants had been murdered. There was a kind of psychic thread that moved through your writing process.

That story is from Of Love and Shadows…The story you are referring to is of a political crime that happened in 1973. Fifteen peasants were murdered, and their bodies were never found. Five years later the Catholic Church opened an abandoned mine and found the bodies. No one knows how they got the news and how they opened it before the police could stop them. It was in the media, and there was a trial; that is how I learned about it.

When I wrote the story, I had some partial information, but only what the Chilean government released. I had to fill in the gaps with my imagination. When I finished the story, my mother read the book and she said, “This is totally unbelievable. The fact that a priest learns in confession that the bodies are in the mine, takes his motorcycle, goes to a place that has been closed by the police during curfew, opens the mine, finds the bodies, photographs them, and brings the photographs to the cardinal – that’s impossible!” And I said, “Well, Mom, it’s a literary device. I have no other way of solving the plot”

The book was published in 1984. In 1988, I was able to return to Chile. While I was there, a Jesuit priest came to speak with me, and he said he had learned in confession that the bodies were in the mine. He had gone there during curfew on his motorcycle; he opened the mine, photographed the bodies, and took the photographs to the cardinal. That’s how the Catholic church opened the mine before they were stopped by the authorities. He asked me how I had known, because the only people who knew about this were the cardinal and himself. I said, “I don’t know. I thought I had made it up – but maybe the dead told me.”

Thursday, April 22, 2004

I'm from the government and I'm here to help you

The library tech at the branch I'm working at today gave me a head ups about a patron who has become a bit of a problem. Imagine if Lenny and Squiggy had a baby - and by Lenny I mean the lummox from Of Mice and Men.

Characteristics he shares with Squiggy:
  • black hair, greased and slicked back

  • black leather jacket

  • an annoying relentlessness

  • Characteristics he shares with Lenny from Of Mice and Men:
  • hulking physique

  • mental retardation

  • capacity to suffocate things accidentally

  • Whenever I'm here he always comes in and asks for books about careers in the FBI. There is only one FBI vocational book in the entire system, and it is a reference book down at the main. Each time I print it out the record for him and tell him that he has to go down to the main library if he wants to look at it.

    Well, now it was reported that he is impersonating an FBI agent in the neighborhood. He has really become emboldened and will go so far as to whip open up his jacket like he's flashing his badge and gun when he is trying to enforce random citizens to do things like pick up a piece of litter on the street. The other day he told a frail, elderly Asian patron that he was with the FBI and he was going to arrest her if she didn't stop that man immediately, a vagrant who was urinating outside the library window. She was terrified, and cowered in the children's area until he left when she then reported him to the tech.

    Now we're supposed to tell him if he comes in that falsely identifying yourself as an FBI agent is a federal charge. I'm hoping that I will be on my dinner break.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2004

    The library where I was stationed last week is in an industrial, toxic wasteland of old shipyards, petrochemical refineries, and munitions factories: a case study in environmental racism. There is not much around the library now but projects, liquor stores, and Nation of Islam temples.

    Aside from the depressing and carcinogenic surroundings, it is actually a very pleasant place to work. The stern old African American librarians who work at that branch brook no nonsense and have all the patrons, especially the children, walking the line. After the rowdiness and insolence I have faced at some of the other branches, it's really a welcome change. While I was there a little boy actually raised his hand like he was in some English public school and asked in a quavering voice,

    "Mrs. Lieberrian? May I please have a turn on the computer?"

    While I was there, one of the support staff, a teenage boy, told me with gallant delicacy, "Well, ma'am, see, that gentlemen over at the far table. Well, well he sometimes does things with his er... man parts that can be quite offensive. But I'll keep an eye on him for you."

    I feel very safe there. Another librarian,a small and gentle rabbinical man who also floats at different libraries, was stationed there one time. He doesn't drive so after the library closed the two librarians escorted him to the bus stop and waited with him until his bus came, glowering like German Shepherds at anyone passing by. No one messed with them.

    Tuesday, April 20, 2004

    Who needs another Brittney?

    A thank you to Asian immigrants for salvaging good old fashioned names languishing in antiquity. Some of the children at the computers today: Herman, Vincent, Romeo, Helena, Beatrice, and Hector.

    Loretta Graduates from Rehab and Immediately Resumes Drinking

    The travails of the taxpayer and Loretta continue. The neighborhood street socialite was spotted in the park yesterday, fresh out of rehab, stinking drunk. She was raising hell and spewing filthy invectives because she thought some woman was making a move on one of her admirers. Loretta can be a real wildcat when she perceives a threat from a female rival.

    My manager also reported that not only is Loretta's foot not healing, it looks like she has broken her arm as well. Now she has two limbs in casts. I don't see how she remains mobile, since she needs both arms to use her crutches properly. Maybe Medicaid or some other social services agency will issue her a Jazzy or a Rascal, so it can be immediately stolen from her. Or maybe her entourage will carry her about on a litter like Cleopatra. She did fatten up grotesquely on all of the institutional carbs while she was in rehab, though, which might make that an impossibility.

    I was walking by the park today and saw a long line of men in the park and thought for a moment that Loretta was feeling up to entertaining gentlemen callers in one of the stalls again, but then I realized that it was elderly Chinese lined up for information about senior citizen services. I'm sure I'll have a sighting of my own soon.

    Saturday, April 17, 2004

    The Sorrow and the Pity

    I intentionally took April 15th off, because after suffering through the past several April 15ths at the reference desk, I finally wised up and now avoid working that day at the library at all costs. April 15th at the library has the same desperate air of panic and confusion as the Fall of Saigon. All of the procrastinators pitifully running around clutching forms, wretchedly pleading and demanding tax advice from us (which we're prohibiting from providing) is too much for my fragile nature. Sometimes in those situations I feel hyper-sensitive to other people's energy, sort of like a Precog. I can just feel my body being bathed in cancer causing stress hormones.

    Inevitably, after we discover that some egregious jackass has stolen all of the the most commonly needed reproducible forms out the IRS notebook, the IRS site crashes so replacement forms can't be downloaded, and the level of panic rises to DEFCON I levels. I wish there were enough inter-agency government cooperation for us to request that anyone who files on a form with punch holes in it be automatically audited, because if they steal from the library in such a contemptible and low way, chances are they're cheating on their taxes.

    Please remind me to take Aug 15th and Oct 15th, the extension deadlines, what Elizabeth calls the 'new' April 15th, off as well.

    Friday, April 16, 2004

    Papa's got a brand new gun

    Since I don’t particularly enjoy reading about carnage and butchery I am not a big Hemingway fan, but I really did enjoy A Moveable Feast, his autobiographical account of the time he spent in Paris as a young writer in the twenties. In this memoir, he is as gossipy and catty as a schoolgirl. He dishes about many of the famous expatriate literary figures he consorted with in Paris like Gertrude Stein and James Joyce, but reserves the most acid for F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, who come across as alcoholic loons. At one point, Hemingway recounts how F. Scott sheepishly showed Hemingway his penis and asked Hemingway if it were as abnormally and inadequately small as Zelda is constantly telling him it is. The couple was always trying to enmesh Hemingway in their dysfunctional, alcohol fueled bickering, and Hemingway finally tires of it and gives F. Scott good and matter-of-fact advice despite the risk that it might strain their friendship.

    “Forget what Zelda said," I told him. "Zelda is crazy. There’s nothing wrong with you. Just have confidence... Zelda just wants to destroy you.”

    He should have added, "But I will destroy you (or at least your reputation, for you will have drunk yourself into an early grave by then) more when I, your supposed friend, reveal this embarrassingly intimate confidence about you and your wife to the world." (In Hemingway's defense, this book was pieced together and released posthumously without his creative control.)

    Hemingway also offers us the most awe-inspiring example of passive aggression I have ever read.

    Hadley, his first wife, decides on a whim to to pack up every single unpublished manuscript (and all of the carbon copies) in a suitcase to bring to Hemingway as a surprise when she joins him late on a ski trip. She ‘accidentally’ leaves the suitcase on the train station platform where it is stolen, never to be recovered. In essence, his life’s work is lost.

    Here is Hemingway’s description of how Hadley breaks the news to him.

    “I had never seen anyone hurt by a thing other than death or unbearable suffering except Hadley when she told me about the things being gone. She had cried and cried and could not tell me. I told her that no matter what the dreadful thing was that had happened nothing could be that bad, and whatever it was, it was all right, not to worry. We could work it out. Then, finally, she told me. I was sure that she could not have brought the carbons too…
    It was true all right…”

    Hemingway was most likely carrying on with her best friend at the time, the one he eventually leaves Hadley and their young son for, and this was indirect revenge at its finest. My hat’s off to you, Hadley Hemingway, for your non-balls.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2004

    Lost Patron, Part Deux

    Like so many people in this city, you had no visible means of support. I suspect you lived off of the income from a small trust (rumor had it you were from an old, well to do family) or maybe disability for your borderline personality disorder. The amount was not enough to keep you in style, but enough for you to subsist, as long as you kept your expenses and expectations low. Having a rent controlled apartment in one of the most desirable areas of the city certainly helped you get by.

    In your fitful attempts at finding a job, you thought you would impress your potential employers by putting, "Hello, this is X, and I am DESPERATE for employment!" on your home answering machine. Did you really think that would help you sell yourself? I wonder if you used a similar tact on your Craigslist Men seeking Women profile, because certainly there is nothing women find sexier than desperation. Your more direct approaches, like telling me that I had a killer rack while you leered over the reference desk, certainly didn't get you far, although it did almost get you banned from the library, you smooth talker.

    Since you couldn't find legitimate employment, you invented a 'job' for yourself, which was to ruin mine. Each day you would skulk around the reference desk and ply me with a constant stream of wild goose chase reference questions about any flight of fancy that happened to strike you, like

    Especially charming was your hatred of children, and how you would invoke the sunshine laws in your demands for user studies that determined how we allocated resources. You acted like the children were maliciously poaching your resources, like your competition with children over library resources was some kind of zero sum game.

    What a tool you were.

    My colleague who for some reason that I cannot fathom attended a party you threw appreciated how you put your guests at ease by screaming without warning, all Norman Bates, in your elegant mother's face,

    "MOTHER, are you TRYING to ruin my party?"

    Recently you were ousted, much like former Haitian President Aristide, when you came home drunk and got in a fist fight with your roommate and broke your front door. Finally, the landlord, who had patiently waited for so many years, had reasonable cause to evict you from your rent controlled residence.

    That was when you decided to give up on the United States and relocate to some very lucky third world country to stretch your dollar and make foreigners hate Americans more. I overheard you tell another patron with a smirk on your face that the reason you chose that particular country was because the average age of the females there was 14. You make my skin crawl. Stay lost.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2004

    Lost Patron of the Day

    For years you appeared each day outside the door 15 minutes before the branch opened, ensuring that you would have first dibs for the newspaper. When the doors opened, you would hustle in, take possession of the paper, and disappear inside the bathroom for 20 minutes. You would while away the rest of the day reading or staring contemplatively at the wall, with frequent breaks to go outside and smoke your pipe. I found the smell of the maple flavored tobacco you filled your pipe with distasteful, and would shoo you away from the windows when the smoke would waft in. One day you abruptly stopped coming, and I haven't seen you since. You were as constant as that maroon Members Only jacket you always wore, as dependable as the U.S. Mail used to be.

    What has become of you?

    Monday, April 12, 2004

    Miracle of Easter

    This was my 4th straight weekend of solid Ultimate, and my body is starting to hate me. I feel like I stepped on a nail with my right foot. I must have pulled a muscle, or I have a stone bruise, or maybe it’s some sort of stigmata miracle in honor of Easter. In any case, I’m having difficulty walking because it hurts like hell. That's what I get for treating my body like the girls at Car Stuck Girls treat their cars.

    The fields we played on have a landmark bridge as a very beautiful and dramatic backdrop but there was so much fog that we couldn’t see 30 yards around us. It was eerie and bone cold. I felt like any minute undead sailors inexorably bent on revenge would appear out of the mist and interrupt our games. All the bitter, nipple aching cold was worth it, though, because, mirabile dictu, our team won the tournament! Not bad for a non practicing team.

    Sunday, April 11, 2004

    A while back I went through a memoir phase and read a couple written by significant women in the life of reclusive literary icon J.D. Salinger: Dream Catcher, by his daughter Peggy Salinger, and At Home in the World, by Salinger’s waify ex-girlfriend, writer Joyce Maynard. Whether they were seeking retribution, or this was a healing act on their part, or one of raging spite, these women were definitely kicking him where it hurts. Salinger, in case you don’t know, is the Greta Garbo of letters. Since retreating at the height of his fame and success to a cabin in the New Hampshire woods, he has pathologically guarded his privacy, refusing to interview or publish (although he has been writing steadily, locking all of his work away in a fireproof house safe) or answer most of his fan mail. Well, unless it happens to be from a nubile fans 40 years his junior, like Joyce Maynard. He seems to be kind of a creep in that regard.

    It's a little sad that someone who is so obsessively guarded about his privacy has had not one but two tell-all memoirs published about him in the space of two years.
    You have to feel a little bit sorry for the guy (but not too sorry to read them, of course). Whatever he is like, he sure did something to provoke the wrath of not one but two women, because they set out publicly to hound him like Furies and destroy what he treasures most: his privacy. My theory is that he is suffering from a permanent case of battle fatigue caused by the action he saw in WWII which, combined with the pressures of fame, turned him into a very peculiar hermit.

    As far as Peggy Salinger goes, it cannot have been easy growing up with a cult literary icon as a father, one who wrote a book that psychotic assassins like John Hinkley and Mark David Chapman carried on their persons when they were captured. It doesn’t help that she found him to be an autocratic perfectionist and hypochondriac, whose delvings into bizarre medical remedies and quackery led him to do things like consume large quanties of raw lamb and drink his own urine, about which Peggy S. goes into in embarrassing detail.

    Peggy might not be the most reliable narrator, though. In her memoir, Peggy Salinger also writes about how her mother, Claire Douglas, a Jungian analyst famous in her own right, was a London child war refugee in WWII. While her mother was on a boat headed for the United States that boat’s sister ship, the Benares, was torpedoed by Nazis. Peggy writes that her mother had been waving to the children on the deck of the doomed ship at the time, and witnessed all of them burning to death. I was in a morbid mood one day and decided to research this horrific event, which was easy because the sinking of the City of Benares was a notorious incident because the U-boat captain ordered the attack on a ship full of refugee children late at night so rescue would be impossible and was tried as a war criminal because of it. (Too bad for him that he didn’t know enough about V-rocket technology or other Nazi science useful to the U.S.'s Cold War efforts to have escaped that fate.) Since the Benares was sunk in such stormy conditions late at night, I couldn’t believe that Claire was on the deck waving to children in such rough weather at that hour. This obvious error cast a pall of doubt over everything else that Peggy writes in the book, and I wrote that on my review on Amazon.

    A few months later I received a telephone that, according to the caller ID, originated from the Jungian Institute in Los Angeles. A woman identifying herself as Claire Douglas, Peggy Salinger’s mother, wanted to discuss my Amazon review of her daughter's book. I thought she was calling me to upbraid me and defend her daughter, so I almost hung up on her like a coward. Instead, she told me that she wanted to thank me for exposing one of the many, many lies in her daughter’s books, and for defending those who would not come forward to defend themselves. I gather that she and her daughter are estranged. Anyway, it was quite an interesting experience and goes to show you the risks and rewards of putting yourself out there on the internet.

    I'm still awaiting J.D.'s phone call.

    Thursday, April 08, 2004

    There is a band of losers I mean people (mustn't...judge) on a methadone maintenance program that likes to gather in the park near the branch where I work. The church across the street feeds them, and there are plenty of tourists passing through to hit up for money, so they don’t want for much and seem content to while away their lives in the park in a pleasant, if thoroughly unproductive, narcotized haze. Good times.  They're kind of like the Lotus Eaters in the Odyssey, but not nearly as appealing or attractive.

    I always wonder what the recent Chinese immigrants who also congregate in the park to practice Tai Chi must think, and if they can’t help but get a little wistful for their former homeland’s solution to drug addicts and drug dealers, which is to round them up periodically in the town square and execute them while the entire town is forced to watch. Since this isn’t totalitarian China, whose answer to the problem of drug addiction seems simplistic and - to use my favorite word so often associated with China- draconian , I am a firm believer in the principles of harm reduction. Methadone is an integral tool in treating heroin addicts in the harm reduction method. Believe me, it’s better having them in a pacified stupor in the park than desperately hitting someone over the head with a lead pipe for money for their heroin fix.

    Interesting fact: Like Sarin nerve gas, the Autobahn, and Volkswagens (and, by extension, Fahrvergnugen), Methadone is a gift of the Nazis. The Third Reich was concerned about getting its supply of heroin and morphine from opiate producing countries cut off, so it had its finest scientific minds come up with a synthetic source: methadone. Eli Lilly then got the patent as a kind of spoils of war arrangement in 1945.

    At least when a person uses methadone they're somewhat coherent and functional. The other day a middle aged heroin user (whom I've nicknamed Cap'n Syringe) wandered into the library and pretended to look at videos. He kept nodding off while standing up, slumping over into the bookshelves, startling himself awake when he would knock over a book. When he passed out face first into our plastic bucket of DVD covers I asked him if he were OK, and did I need to call an ambulance. He replied that he was fine and continued to browse and nod off. Meanwhile a very lovely young woman accompanied by her elderly mother were having a nice mother daughter outing and decided to come to the library. They both applied for cards so I assumed it was their first visit. The daughter was browsing through the videos when Cap'n Syringe spotted her, and his pin pointed pupiled eyes lit up like he had just seen a big shimmering pile of uncut China White. He then smoothed back his hair and lurched toward her to chat her up. He managed to get out a few slurred words when I intervened and asked him to leave before he fell into her, ensuring that her first trip to the library would be her absolute last.

    He was compliant and left right away, much to my relief. I'm still getting my sea legs as far as asking people to leave the library. We don't have security, and the last thing I want to do is to set some paranoid schizophrenic off. But then again, it is my responsibility to ensure that the library is a safe and welcoming place for families and patrons who want to use the library legitimately. I’m wondering if a Masters in Social Work might not be a bad thing to get in addition to my Masters in Library Science.

    Tuesday, April 06, 2004


    I wish we had a cat. Nesting pairs of Mockingbirds and Blue Jays are waging a noisy turf war over our backyard, and it's like the Battle of Midway out there. I think that the berries on one of the trees in the backyard have fermented, making the situation even more obnoxious because the birds alternate between being drunk and belligerent or cranky and hungover. The action begins around 5:00 AM, when we are awakened by their hideous, raspy battle cries, and the onslaught continues well into the morning.

    Usually I welcome wildlife and enjoy observing nature. There is a neighborhood Red-Tailed Hawk that sometimes hunts a flock of pigeons outside our front window and the swooping, swinging motion of the hawk as it corrals the pigeons is absolutely hypnotic to watch. If I happen to spot the hawk in action I will stop whatever I'm doing and stand by the window transfixed until something snaps me out of it. Afterward I will often notice that a significant amount of time has passed and a thin trail of spittle is running down the corner of my mouth.

    Our backyard birds just seem belligerent and mean. Why couldn't it be beautiful songbirds roosting in the backyard? Both pairs of these birds have become fiercely territorial, and the puppies are caught in the crossfire. Billy was minding his own business trying to poo in the backyard and they were buzzing him like he was King Kong on the Empire State Building. Billy was oblivious, fortunately. I have seen Blue Jays flip cats on their backs - they can be quite vicious.

    Speaking of pests, our new neighbors, the 24 hour party people, have installed a hot tub and carry on almost on a nightly basis. Spoon despises their sloppy, dumb, neglected Lab and his presence in the backyard behind ours will send her into a full scale barking jag, her tiny tail quivering in outrage. Border Terrier's were bred to be heard through many feet of earth when they tunnel after varmints, so her bark is jarring.

    It could be worse. Some friends of ours had a mockingbird in residence who would imitate car alarms perfectly in pitch and volume.

    Saturday, April 03, 2004

    "What kind of novels do you write: fiction or non-fiction?"
    U.S. Customs official interrogating British author Ian McEwan, who was recently detained at the Canadian border.

    We're off for an Ultimate Frisbee weekend in ###, where temperatures are expected to be high, at least for my standards. This city has turned me into a real wimp as far as heat is concerned. How did I use to play in 100 degree temperatures in Alabama and Memphis?

    We're also playing next to the dairy, so it will smell stockyard fresh.

    Thursday, April 01, 2004

    Mrs. Jon Benet

    So, we have a 15 minute express internet computer that, after issuing several pop-up warnings, reboots, signaling to the user that his or her turn is over and it's time to relinquish the computer to the next person in line. Unfortunately, we often have to rely on the honesty policy because the people in line are waiting in folding chairs off to the side and cannot see when it's time to assert their right to their turn. I can see the computer monitors from the reference desk, though, and I catch people restarting the computer all the time. When I call them on it they act indignant or play dumb (Oh, is that what the computer shutting off meant? Why, I had no idea...), or try to play me with some sob story how it's a life or death situation that they send off this one Yahoo e-mail.

    I hate babysitting the monitors but I do try to remain vigilant. If I don't, patrons often will try to sort out the issue themselves, often resorting to such uncivilized tactics as verbal harassment (One young woman was told, "Suck my c*ck, you big bootied white woman!" when she tried to take her turn), shoving matches and even fists. It can be a very volatile situation, and we are not blessed with security.

    A while back I watched a woman staying put while the computer rebooted. She then initiated a new session and got back down to work. When I walked over and told her that her time was up and that there were others waiting, she pulled a face and started whining about how when she got on the computer there were six minutes left from the previous user's session and then the computer cut off and her and so she was 'cheated' out of the rest of her 15 minutes. She told me she needed more time because she was doing something very important, like that entitled her to a special dispensation from the rules.

    I told her that she would have to make sure that each time she used the express terminal she would have to restart it at the beginning of her session, because if I ever saw her reboot the computer after her turn was over I would revoke her computer privileges for the day.

    As I watched her carefully to make sure she didn't reboot the computer yet again, I couldn't help but see what she was doing. She was filling out an on-line registration for the Mrs. California International Pageant. You can see the urgency and need to resort to deceit. All I can say is that she needs to work on her attitude if she wants a shot at Mrs. Congeniality.

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