Wednesday, September 29, 2004

A Valuable Lesson Regarding File Sharing 

We are marveling at Elizabeth's new iPod, which is so amazing that I want to fall down on my knees and worship it like a golden calf. We are having a good time going through and organizing our music library, which although unwieldy is child's play to arrange on this magical device. While I was going through the songs I was reminded of the early, primitive days of music file 'sharing' and I had downloaded a file from Napster containing the Enya song "Only If" (please do not judge me, my secret shame). When I opened the file I heard no music, but instead was bombarded by porn of such a depraved and filthy nature it had to be German. But the porn was not the worst part - the file was trojan horsed with a malignant virus. Elizabeth said she could practically hear my hard drive whirring as it was erasing itself. I'm not sure if the little devil was trying to punish me for my musical taste or for stealing music, but now I make sure to get my music legitimately. Not that I wouldn't have been happy to buy it instead of share it at the time - I'm a librarian and I respect copyright and want the artist remunerated - but this was when the music industry was being unforgivably and confoundingly obstreperous, backwards and resistant to the inevitable and there was no place like iTunes to download it lawfully.

The Devil Made Me Do It 

A man dressed in a sequin blouse, black satin pants and platform boots approached the desk. He looked like animal enthusiast Brian Fellow ("Is that flying squirrel afraid to fly after 9-11?") dressed as a glam rocker, kind of like one of the Spiders from Mars. He had the same prissy, imperious air of Brian Fellow, as well as his short attention span.

He asked me, "Do you have the Bible?"

"Yes, we do. Would you like one to check out or would do you just want one to ---"

"Which bible do you own? Is it the satantic one?"

"Satanic? Do you mean the one by Anton LeV -"

"That is exactly the one to which I would be referring." He bulged his eyes at me and began tapping his foot expectantly. "Would you go get it for me, puhleeze?" He then rolled his eyes and examined his nails.

The Satanic Bible  is one of those library high theft items, stolen perhaps by aspiring satanists who don't feel beholden to any commandments about stealing or as an act of censorship by concerned vigilantes. Fun Fact: Other commonly stolen books are The Prophesies of Nostradamus , Joy of Sex , consequently followed by titles on pregnancy (naturally enough), and exam preparation guides. The most stolen magazine? Sports Illustrated.

I explained that our small branch did not own the item, but that there were plenty of reference copies down at the main.

He waved his hand dismissively at me and said, "Oh, never you mind. I'm going to be over here reading the paper."

He grabbed the local paper and began noisily rifling through it, occasionally shrieking with hilarity and making loud comments like,

"Oh, no, she diinn't!" and "Da-amn!"

Even though I usually like to establish non aggression pacts with our odder patrons, especially when I'm the only librarian on duty, I finally had to go quiet him. He pursed his lips, flipped through some more pages, and said, "Don't blame me, ma¹am, blame the devil. I'm done with this place anyhow." He then made toward exit, swishing his hips insolently on his the way to the door. When he reached the door he whipped around and hissed at me,

"I rebuke you, librarian! I rebuke you."

Friday, September 24, 2004

On the Road 

We're off to Idaho for a couple of weeks. The place where we're staying has wireless so expect frequent updates. Breaking news! Punky's uncle, one of the predators in the park who shakes down all of the SSI recipients for their cash on the 1st of each month, was stabbed. Since he was stabbed with his own knife by someone he was attempting to rob I don't think the police will devote too many manhours searching for his assaillant. Archie is expected to recover fully, after a lengthy, costly stay in the hospital, courtesy of the taxpayer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Punky got Punk’d, by Pancreatitis 

I don't know if last week you felt a strange disturbance in the force, or an inexplicable heaviness of the heart, but Punky passed away while I was gone. The morning he died he was drinking with one of his friends in the park, as is his daily routine. His friend went to go buy another 40 to share and when he returned Punky appeared to be napping. When his friend tried to shake Punky awake he noticed that Punky was a little cool to the touch. An autopsy revealed that Punky had died of alcohol related pancreatitis.

Punky has not been at the peak of health lately. His extremities were swollen from edema, an affliction that must have been particular vexing for someone as vain as Punky. I noticed he wasn't adorning himself with glittery objects with the same flair, or smashing heavy glass liquor bottles into the faces of his comrades with the same spirit, or mugging German tourists with the same predatory zeal. A few weeks ago a man left his bike unlocked outside the library for a good hour without it being stolen, which should have been an omen for me. The homeless community was quite affected by his death and even discussed holding a candlelight vigil but I think most of them just got drunk instead. I will say this for Punky, even though he was dangerously volatile and had probably broken a liquor bottle over the faces of each one of them, he had enough charm that these victims were generally distraught over his passing.

So pour a little bit of your next 40 on the ground for him. Resquiat in pacem , Punky.

Another memento mori…

A disconcerting event at the summer camp reunion was seeing the name of a girl who was about five years older than I was on the list of attendees. This was disturbing because I had heard that she died in a car accident a while back. I became even more bewildered when I saw a blonde woman who looked vaguely similar to her wandering around with her name tag on. I thought for a moment that maybe I had misheard that she had died, that it was all a terrible, out of control false rumor, which actually happened with a guy I went to college with. Someone said that he had disappeared in Thailand and that he had been missing for years and the worst was assumed. I was sad and I mourned for him and accepted his death as a fact but then at a reunion I found out that and that he was just fine and married with children and that he had never once been to Thailand in his life. I thought that maybe this was the case with the girl. I was also reminded of how in some of my dreams dead people I knew will make a guest appearance. In those particular dreams I will carry on conversations with them that I usually wrap up with something like, "I'm so glad that we got to have this talk, because I thought you were dead." These dreams put me in a melancholy mood that lasts the rest of the next day, so I don't particularly enjoy them, and seeing the whole situation at camp was giving me the same creepy feeling. Anyway, it turns out that the girl’s brother, who had also attended the camp, had married a woman with the exact same first name and brought her to the reunion. To confuse matters further, she bore a slight physical resemblance to her deceased sister-in-law, and so it freaked a lot of people out.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Pitfalls of Making an Obscene Phone Call to a Librarian 

We stayed with my good friend Douglas for part of the trip down to Texas at his lake house. While we were catching up he told me about an obscene phone call his sister, who is also a librarian, received. She answered the phone and a man drawled, “I seen you nekkid.”

She retorted, “Now, you listen to me. Say, ‘I have seen you naked,’ or ‘I saw you naked,’ but don’t you tell me, ‘I seen you naked!’”

Apparently a grammatical lecture was not what the caller was after, because the only response she heard was the quiet click of the receiver being replaced in its cradle.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Deep in the Spleen of Texas 

Sorry for the dead air. I've been back in my ancestral homelands of East Texas for a summer camp reunion. I'll be back tomorrow and will write more soon.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


While I was on vacation there was a crisis involving our plumbing at the branch. For reasons that have been yet to be discovered, all of the branch’s toilets suffered massive overflows. As if that weren’t horrible enough, sewage came bubbling up from the floor drains, flooding the public and staff bathrooms with gallons of rank, pathogen bearing water. City workers spent days pumping water out and trying to fix the problem, and then our custodians labored to decontaminate the entire area. The stench was sometimes unbearable and the staff was completely traumatized. By the time I returned from vacation there was no trace of the problem except for a faint dank odor of rot and decay, like that of an old mausoleum or the Metro. I thought I had dodged that bullet and smugly congratulated myself on my lucky timing.

Our stalwart public toilet takes a lot of abuse. It is occupied every minute this branch is open and sometimes there will be a line of people ten deep waiting to use it. When I see people impatiently lined up in front of it I am reminded of those sad stories of enslaved Chinese prostitutes smuggled to old San Francisco Chinatown. Because of the Anti-Chinese immigration laws, Chinese immigrants could not bring their wives and families with them nor could Chinese women immigrate. Chinese women were scarce and the few that made it to San Francisco were brought to work in virtual slavery as prostitutes. Men would line up around the block for these women, who would usually only last a few years before dying of disease and overuse. Anyway, the Department of Public Works informed the branch staff that our plumbing is shared with those in the parks, which might be the root of the problem. As bad as our toilets have it the park toilets have it worse: besides non-stop occupancy, the toilets are constantly filled with inappropriate foreign objects, bear witness to the orgiastic revelries of Loretta and suffer God knows what other indignities.

Yesterday a woman emerged from the stairs to the bathroom and pronounced to me, “It’s just that it smells…FECAL down there! I think something must be wrong.” I explained to her that the branch had undergone plumbing problems and that she was probably just experiencing some lingering odors from that unfortunate situation. I went blithely back to work. I should not have dismissed this Cassandra so quickly, because not minutes later I heard someone exclaim, “Water is everywhere!” I went to investigate and sure enough, the toilet was busily overflowing and murky water was coming up from the floor drain, like someone had exploded an M-80 down the commode. I looked in the staff bathroom and my worst fears were confirmed: inches of water swimming with bacteria and toxins were covering the floor in there as well. I shut down the bathrooms and called DPW, who arrived in a few hours with heavy equipment. After the good men of DPW worked on it most of the night, the problem seems to be fixed for now, but I know this won’t be the last of it.

Saturday, September 11, 2004


One of my colleagues and I were commiserating about working at a certain branch in the system because it is always scarily understaffed, especially at night. The last time she worked an evening shift at this branch only she and one other woman were on duty. The night was uneventful until right before the library was to close at nine. My colleague went back to the children’s area to give a patron she had seen wander back there the ten minute warning. She interrupted him, right among the bean bags and stuffed animals and puzzles, in flagrante delicto  with himself. From the way he whipped around to display himself to her she knew he had planned this.

Instead of giving the pervert what he wanted, (and what was that? For her to fall down on her knees in awe? To run away squealing in terror? I must consult my DSM IV.) she gave him a slow once over that told him in no uncertain terms that she was very unimpressed. She then warned him in an arctic, boner killing tone, “You best hurry and finish up because we’re closing in ten minutes.” She walked back toward the front of the library and calmly called the police. The man quickly got himself together and left, looking rather disappointed and hurt, before the police arrived. I admired her cool headed reaction to the situation and vowed to take a lesson from it for the time when I will inevitably be faced with the same situation.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The Vanishing 

Our league hosted an Ultimate Frisbee tournament on Sunday. After the games were finished I decided to drive back and get the dogs and let them run around on the fields while we cleaned up, which is perfectly within the letter, if perhaps not the spirit, of the contract I had to sign banishing Billy Jack from all Frisbee tournaments. Elizabeth drew up this contract (which is legally binding, according to Foxylawyer) because the last tournament he went to he barked and squealed and had a noisy tantrum each time I went on the field. Besides the horrible noises he made, he was also an all around dangerous nuisance, tearing into other people’s bags and stealing sandwiches and Power Bars, shredding other dogs' toys, “marking” backpacks, and just basically leaving an endless swath of destruction and annoyance. We had even resorted to “aversion therapy” by making him wear a collar which delivered an electric shock to his neck every time he barked. Billy deviously thwarted the collar by raising his bark into this castrato high pitch which is just outside the range of the collar’s triggering device, but well within a particularly painful and damaging section of the human ear.

On the way back I gave Billy his ball (his preeecccious) to occupy him while I drove, which is sort of like handing a ADHD child a Gameboy so he won’t bother you in the car and you can concentrate on the road. I heard him worrying and playing with it and all seemed fine. When I arrived at the fields I parked the car and opened the door to let the dogs out. Spoonie trotted out but Billy was nowhere to be found. It was as if he had vanished. I knew this could not be possible - all the windows were sealed, no doors had been opened. It was just like a locked room mystery scenario, or the movie Picnic at Hanging Rock, and I was convinced I was losing my mind. After running up and down the car and shrieking his name like a hysterical ninny I finally heard a faint wheezing whimper.

I followed the sound and, incredibly, it seemed to be coming out the side panel speakers near the back seat, sort of like Carol Ann’s voice emanates from the television after she disappears into another dimension in Poltergeist. Before I made a fool out of myself and began sobbing, "Billy, are you in there?" into the speakers I saw the tiniest tuft of white fur protruding from beneath the back car seats, which had been flattened so we could load all of the equipment for the tournament. His ball had apparently dropped down beneath the front passenger seat and he had flattened all 30 pounds of himself – perhaps by collapsing his ribcage like a rat – and squeezed himself through a crevice that was only several inches wide. Then he had squirmed and twisted his way down to the air pocket between the flattened seat and floorboard like a drain snake and then had wedged himself good and tight in there. The ball remained under the front passenger seat, just out of snout reach.

His breathing was faint but labored and I was convinced that he was suffocating and there were only seconds to spare. After wailing for help with the car seat, which I couldn't figure out how to lift because I was in a such a state of useless panic that I probably needed a good slapping, we finally managed to lift seat up off of him. When the weight of the seat was lifted Billy gasped a few times and then immediately resumed his mission and began barking and digging at his ball. Now that he wasn’t being crushed by the weight of the collapsed back seats he managed to reach it. He snatched it in his mouth, jumped to his feet and then ran out of the car in a blur like the bat out of hell that he is.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Survival of the Most Cooperative  

This delights me. From the December, 2003 issue of Audubon.

A coyote will frequently hunt with a badger, apparently showing it where to dig out burrowing prey that the two will share. Although a badger will sourly reject a coyote's invitations to romp, when the badger approaches a coyote, the coyote will wag its tail and roll on its back in delight. A badger will allow a coyote to rest beside it and even touch it. The partnership is no anomaly; in fact, when some coyote researchers see a badger in spring or early summer, they instinctively look for its coyote companion.

Sick-up in the city 

One time I was riding the bus and it was crammed with the usual bizarre cross section of this town's society when suddenly one of the passengers, whom I judged to be a $5 hooker (even in what was, at the time, a very inflated economy), staggered up from her seat. She then shouted to the bus driver, “Open the back door!” With the jerky, palsied gait of a crack addict, she made her way to the back door, positioned herself at the back steps and then leaned over and started heaving. In between retches she hollered,

“I said, open the back door!" and, “I know you heard me say open the GODDAMN back door!”

While we all waited with bated breath, the bus driver sprung the door at last and she leaned out and started noisely vomiting. After an encore of dry heaving, she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and said, “All right! You can close it now!” She then sat back down in her seat as if nothing happened and promptly fell asleep. Relieved that she wasn't going to start some horrible bio-chain reaction like on that Southwest flight, I thought to myself “Awww, how sweet. She must be pregnant.”

You don’t have to ride the bus in the city to be spared public vomiting. My dear friend at Neonjungle worked in an upscale office in which one of the secretaries suffered bouts of morning sickness. When she would have spells of nausea she would reach for the handiest trashcan and empty the contents of her stomach. She would do this in public trashcans - in the breakroom, in the halls, in the foyer, wherever - and then blithely go on her way. While working in her own cubicle she would lean over, vomit in her own trashcan and then resume typing, leaving her mess for the janitor to empty the next morning, much to the distress and dismay of her coworkers. Although in a way I admire her grim dedication and perserverance, this behavior was really not fair to her coworkers, and probably reinforced some old chauvinistic attitudes about women belonging in the workplace. This was definitely a problem for Human Resources to address, which is why even though I would love knowing gossip and hearing all about the outlandish behavior of my coworkers, this was a never a field I would be interested in.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Moleman, Your Rageaholic Sponsor Called... 

Perhaps he’s too filled with shame, an emotion of which I believed he was incapable, or he crossed the wrong person FINALLY, or he’s going to a court ordered 12 step program for anger management, but for some reason Moleman has not set foot in the library since his last big fit. Maybe he is on his way to becoming one of those “disappearedpatrons. In any case, we are under orders to notify security immediately if he darkens our doors because they would like to have a little talk with him.

I was telling my stepbrother about the blood art book and he said that in art school one of his class assignments had been for the students to paint a picture of their ‘essence.’ In the studio he watched one of his classmates take a pocketknife and slash his own leg, milk some blood out of the wound, and then use it as paint. That art teacher was really asking for it, in my opinion, and was lucky that the student used his blood instead of some other, less painfully harvested bodily fluid to define his essence.

Tales of Russia are to come soon when I get my pictures together to serve as visual aids. I'm still bitter that a certain family member forgot to bring my camera after borrowing it so I couldn't get any pictures of myself prostrate and weeping in front of Lenin's Tomb.

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