Monday, October 31, 2005

Uncle Dick 

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Cousin May was telling us how she and her husband took their children back to see their grandparents in Jackson Hole last summer. They attended the annual Demolition Derby while they were there, a big family affair with lots of cowboys, stunt clowns, barrel racing and a streaker, who although uninvited, was carrying on an annual tradition of sorts. The streaker was having a high time exhibiting himself to the crowd, successfully evading the rodeo clowns for a while when the police stepped in to take matters into their own hands, by tackling the streaker and tazering him. All the children screamed as they watched the downed streaker convulse and lose control of his bladder while being jolted by the unnecessarily high voltage. Thank God the police were there to protect the children from the nudity.

Here's a darling photograph of May's children with 'Uncle' Dick Cheney, who enjoys showing his soft side and a cocktail. I have entitled it Uncle Dick's Storytime and Cocktail Hour.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Library Defense 101 

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All the animals come out at night.
Travis Bickle

Now that I’m at the Main Library, my time at work is so much less stressful, and I owe it all to having Security. I hadn’t realized how on edge I had been working in the branches. Because the branches are without security, I was always preoccupied by the responsibility of enforcing peace and order. Having to be the law and fretting about what patrons were up to put me in this exhausting state of combat readiness. When I patrolled the stacks (what is known as the creep sweep in the biz) I tried to cultivate a zanshin state of awareness but never could get beyond feeling like a green Vietnam War grunt patrolling the jungle after smoking some especially potent Thai stick, paranoid and jumping at every sound.

The nights were the worst, because nightcrawler patrons tended to really act up then, especially Tuesdays nights when the library was staffed solely by women for some inexplicable reason. Patrons would take advantage and pull all sorts of scary behavior they never would have dared had there been a man working. If it were a cold night, drunken homeless often refused to leave at closing time, even when I tried to plead and reason with them. Only when I threatened to call the police would they reluctantly, resentfully shuffle out. Often they would wait right outside the door to intimidate us when we left.

One night when one patron wouldn’t leave he sat by the door staring at me with so much hatred I really believed he was going to attack me. I looked desperately for something with which to defend myself, but a stapler and hole punch was all I had within my reach. I then spotted the bamboo poles that we thread our newspapers through, and thought that if worse came to worse I could try my hand at martial arts stick fighting. Since most libraries use those sticks to hang their newspaper, perhaps all librarians should be trained in that method.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Cry (Grita) for Help? 

Here I am, just trying to expand my knowledge of another language and culture, and instead I'm being subjected to a man's nervous breakdown, or at the very least his slide into deep, macabre depression. I subscribe to About.com’s Spanish word of the day, written by Gerald Erichson’s, About.com’s Spanish editor. Although the words he selects tend to be ordinary and everyday, over the past few months I’ve noticed that the example sentences he uses to demonstrate the daily word’s meaning have become increasingly morbid and gruesome. Today’s example?

La caudrilla: group, gang, team, squad, small group of dogs used in hunting

Ejemplo: Una cuadrilla de bomberos, peritos y autoridades judiciales exhumaron el cadáver.
Traducción: A team of firefighters, technicians and judicial authorities exhumed the corpse.

Here are some more from the recent past:

Quemarropa: point blank
Ejemplo: Imágenes de televisión muestran a un marine ejecutando a quemarropa a un iraquí herido.
Traducción: TV images show a marine executing an injured Iraqi at point-blank range.

Nadar: to swim
Ejemplo: Los cuerpos de las dos juventudes que se ahogaron fueron tirados del agua ayer.
Traducción: The bodies of the two youths who drowned while swimming were pulled from the water yesterday.

I don’t want to read too much into this, but perhaps he is working out some childhood issues in this one:

Gritar: to shout
Ejemplo: Muchos padres gritan, se burlan, regañan y hasta golpean a otros adultos, sin recibir nunca la ayuda que necesitan.
Traducción: Many parents yell at, make fun of, argue with and even hit other adults without ever getting the help they need.

History lesson:
País: country
Ejemplo: Tras la guerra y las epidemias que asolaron el país, Alemania perdió la tercera parte de su población.
Traducción: After the war and the epidemics that devastated the country, Germany lost a third of its population.

Everything OK, Gerald? I'm worried about you. It's a wonderful service you provide, but perhaps you can keep it a little more light, por favor?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


I watched a little toddler amuse himself stamping around on our steps by the security gate. His harried mother approached him and said, “Ok, it’s time to go.” He ignored her and continued playing around on the steps without interruption. She took his hand he went limp and fell to the ground, a perfect body drop that left her dangling him by his arm. When she bent down to pick him up he went completely limp – a perfect act of peaceful non compliance. His facial expression never changed and he never uttered a sound.

I laughed and said, “He’s like a little protester!”

She looked up and said, “Oh, yes. He’s excellent at passive resistance.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Identity Crisis 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comMy mother worked for a time at an organization that brought culturally enriching programs to the school children of Fort Worth. She got to meet all sorts of interesting creatives and impresarios this way, and part of her job responsibility was to squire these artists to parties and events in their honor. Her favorite performer she met was a half-Japanese half Caucasian American story teller who grew up in Los Angeles. She told my mother that she had attended a culturally diverse public middle school in L.A. during the turbulent sixties, a time and place fraught with racial tension. One day all the schoolchildren were in the playground when they heard the sound of screaming and gunfire from the offices of the school building. After the deafening whine of feedback, a voice came over the loudspeaker:

"This is Bobby Seale. Your school has been liberated."

Hysteria ensued. Everyone immediately assumed that the Black Panthers had taken over the school and they would all be murdered, which is a bit of an overreaction, but funny now to look back upon. She watched in horror as her teacher, a sedate, normally dignified, middle aged woman, abandoned her pupils and tried to scale the fence in her miniskirt. All the children ran to form groups along race lines: the African-American children gathered together, the Japanese children gathered together, the white children gathered together, the Hispanic children gathered together, etc. Because she was half white and half Japanese, the artist was unsure which group to join and remained is the middle of the pandemonium, standing there like the cheese, all alone. She said that that this was the first time that she was truly aware of her unusual status, the first time she felt truly as if she didn’t know where she belonged.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Better Times 

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I'm back home for a wedding. Here are some blackmail quality photographs of the demure bride taken a few years ago at Sewanee Homecoming. See my hands raised so helpfully to spot her? What drunken, magical thinking to believe that would have been effective in any way whatsoever in breaking her fall.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Image hosted by Photobucket.comChildren adore stories of their parents' youthful escapades and misbehavior. I discovered this picture of my mother and her friend Brenda, the statuesque blonde, in a Pat O'brien's photojacket. When my mother was in high school she had run off and taken the train to New Orleans to stay with her sister, who was attending Sophie Newcomb, the women's college of Tulane. She had lied to her mother about her whereabouts but, as so often happens, her deception was uncovered. My grandmother called my aunt sobbing. My aunt had never seen nor heard her mother, a great Southern lady, even cry before.

"This...is...the...meanest...thing...you...girls...have...EVUH...done to me!"

The boys in matching madras jackets have not been identified. My aunt suspects that they were just some blind dates that she set them up with. My mom doesn't look too thrilled with hers.


Image hosted by Photobucket.comI apologize for the abrupt halt in postings. Writing my mother's obituary, truly the most horrible duty I've ever had to undertake, has quelled my desire to write for a while. I promise to return soon.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Scent of an Elk 

Today I went on a hike and saw what looked like Billy breakdancing on the trail ahead. He had discovered something foul to roll in, which I suspect was elk shit, although it smelled more like dead cat. I screamed but he had already finished adorning himself, and he shot me a look of defiance and triumph and ran off ahead. When I caught up I saw that his shoulders and neck were now solid black, like he was wearing a perfect little shrug of elk shit, and he spent the rest of the hike insuffurably smug and full of himself, strutting around like he was prince of the forest. I had to drive home with the windows open, and even then I was retching.

It could have been worse. A few years ago I read an obituary tribute of a dog named Earl, who was quite famous around Sun Valley and had recently died of old age. In the obituary, Earl’s owner recounted a hike he, his wife and Earl took deep in the backcountry, during which they came across the putrid carcass of an elk. Once it dawned on Earl what it was, he ran to it and began furiously scratching at its stomach, which was taut and swollen with decomposition gases. Before his horrified owners could stop him, Earl had torn into the stomach, stuck his head into the belly and attempted to crawl in. Even using their combined strength, the couple could barely drag him away. They aborted the hike and drove home while Earl sulked in the back of the car. The next day his owners went to work as usual. When they returned, Earl wasn’t there to greet them. They searched the house but Earl was nowhere to be found. They noticed a foul, faintly familiar odor and traced it to their master bedroom, where in their bed, under the covers, was Earl, gnawing on the head of the elk they found on the trail the day before. This meant that Earl had scaled a 10 foot fence, traveled 15 miles into the back country, detached the elk’s head from its body, carried the head back 15 miles, scaled the fence with the elk head and dragged it up to the stairs into the bed, where it was waiting for them, like a nightmare scene from The Godfather. Earl had accomplished all of this in the time that they had been at work.
Click here for more dogs in elk stories... This poor woman actually had to drag the elk carcass on a tarp to her backyard because her two dogs refused to come out.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Green and Yellow... 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI watched Prozac Nation last night and it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be, but maybe that's just because I love cRaZy. Right after the psychiatrist finally prescribes Elizabeth Wurtzel Prozac, I'm sure in a desperate attempt to stop her patient's pointless, incessant whining, to get her just to shut the f up, there is a full screen shot of a spilled bottle of the pills. It's remarkable how dated the green and yellow pills look - the colors are so 80s! If anyone ever mixed up their pills and needed help identifying them, we came up with some handy mnemonics, like the kind you use to identify poisonous snakes and ivy.

Green and yellow,
Cheer a Fellow

Black and white
Up all night! (alternately, suppress your appetite!)

Round and white
Make your kid act right

White with a cute little v
Take too many and deaf you'll be

If the diamond is blue
Priapism for you

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