Saturday, February 25, 2006

Trapped in the (water) Closet, Part Two 

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A woman approached the desk, her cheeks red and flustered.

"I was using the bathroom and…and this janitor barged in!”

"I’m really sorry. Wait, the custodian just barged in? Was the stall locked?"

Her eyes shifted to the left. I'm no cop, conman or poker player, but that seems like a serious tell to me. "Uh - the lock was broken! And I begged, "Ma'am, please, I'm trying to use the bathroom! And the janitor said, 'I don't care! I need to refill the seat covers. Let me do my job! Now!' And I begged and I pleaded and she just wouldn't go away! She just kept pushing her way in. And I had my pants down around my ankles. I was helpless! "

“I’m terribly sorry about that, Ma’am. I’ll be sure to report that to the head of custodial services.”

Wow. Doesn’t this woman sound suspiciously similar to the one with environmental sensitivity who complained that the janitor was trying to murder here with dust motes? She made her last complaint over the phone, so no one knew what she looked like, but I have a feeling that she and this woman are one and the same. In any case, this aggressive, overly enthusiastic janitorial behavior is starting to sound like this woman’s personal fantasy fetish to me. That, or our custodial staff is way too gung ho about doing its job.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Patron Tokens of Appreciation at the Reference Desk 

After I helped him sign up for a computer, a patron reached in his pockets and shyly presented me with some sugar packets from the library café.

Next, a homeless woman pushed a bottle full of some evil looking milky liquid toward my colleague. “I made it for you! It’s a mixture of shampoo, body lotion and the lice treatment they gave me over at the shelter. I think it smells real nice, and should make your skin nice and soft. I mixed it just for you.”

OK, I realize ritual sacrifice might be too severe a punishment for the New Age seeker douches below, but just so you know that while they were writhing together in a big mass like one of those snake or toad mating balls they were also moaning and panting and crying out in this very disruptive, obscene way, which was seriously detracting from any other tourist's experience. I guess they reminded me of the people on this HBO Real Sex documentary I had the grave misfortune to watch that featured a polyandry retreat in Northern California. The attendees were all of these wrinkly hippies who would periodically gather to desecrate the redwoods and beautiful natural surroundings with their swinging lifestyle which they tried to sanctify and elevate as some sort of spiritual, enlightening ritual/journey. There was one particularly revolting scene in which they all made a nude circle, lying on their backs with their heads in the middle, and they all chanted and had this noisy group orgasm and "MY EYES! MY EYES! OH GOD MY EYES!"

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ugly Americans 

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Take a look at these fools. Dan and Eleanor just returned from a trip to Mexico City, and while there took a trip to see the pyramids, which is where they encountered this group having some moaning, ecstatic, utterly creepy New Age style spiritual orgy experience on top of the Pyramid of the Sun. Aren’t you embarrassed for them? Aren't you ashamed for America? Looking at this picture makes me want to rip their still beating hearts out of their chests and kick their bodies down the temple stairs! And then cook up their thighs in a pot with tomatoes and peppers for a nice big feast. Yum.

All praise Huitzilopochtli!

Although there is lively scholarly debate on the subject, it looks like, due to periodic crop failures and a paucity of game and domestic animals, cannibalism was the primary source of protein of the Aztec diet, and their whole cosmology of bloodthirsty gods was set up to justify this. Atkins proponents will be vindicated to know that sacrificial victims were caged and fattened up on a high carbohydrate maize diet prior to sacrifice.

Dan and Eleanor reported that Mexico City has undergone a miraculous transformation and a bodyguard and oxygen mask are no longer needed. Supposedly the mayor hired Giuliani as a consultant to enact a New York style cleanup. That's wonderful, because I recently watched Man on Fire, the jaw droppingly violent movie of kidnapping, torture and corruption in Mexico City that made the hellhole Bogata look like a walk in the park in comparison. The best part of the movie was in the credits, though, which has a bewildering note from the producers of the film:

And thank you to Mexico City, a very special place.

See you at the Library! 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThere is a bench lined park that the dogs and I walk through each morning, and I usually recognize many of my patrons from the library stretched out on the benches. As I pass by and see them sleeping or drinking their breakfast 40s in brown bags, scrutinizing and patting their arms and legs in the search for a good vein, I say in my head, “See you in the library in a couple of hours!”

The other morning this hulking, bearded man arose from a bench, stretched and yelled, “Who’s the lucky lady who’s going to start my day off right with a blowjob?”

I myself wasn’t feeling particularly ‘lucky’ that morning, so I kept on walking.

After the park we pass by a sushi restaurant halfway up a very steep street. There we often encounter the Japanese owner, a woman in her forties, outside with her two Chihuahuas and toy poodle. The male Chihuahua, Yuki, is unneutered and extremely macho. When he sees our dogs approach he’ll run to the top of the hill and stand up on his hind legs and loom down at them, trying to create the optical illusion that he is a much bigger threat than he is. The Japanese owner is always dressing them as well as herself in Japanese street fashion and promenading through the park. They are a sublime sight.

One time when E was walking the dogs she stopped and talked to the woman, who was accompanied by another Japanese friend who had limited English. For some reason Billy suspected the friend had a cookie in her hand, and since his outrageous forwardness knows no bounds (I know, I know, my bad), he jumped up on her leg to try to get at her hand.

She pulled her hand back and said in a very sultry, admiring tone. “Ooooh, ag-gur-re-siv-uh.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

More Tales from the Classroom 

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A mother and her twenty-something daughter came to class, the daughter ostensibly to help the mother. The daughter refused to touch the computer keyboard, claiming that it was 'impure,' and whispered directions to the mother throughout class. After a while the the two began to bicker over the way the mother was typing. This escalated to the mother jumping out of her chair shrieking, "I'm going to kill you! I'm really going to kill you this time!" Our elderly, gentlemanly African American volunteer ran up to separate them, pleading, "Now, ladies, please!"

A woman weaving and bobbing in her chair slurred, "I can't see my screen! It's double! There's two of everything. There's something wrong with the screen."

"The screen appears fine. Are you all right?"

"I'm fine. The problem's with this screen!" The woman then pulled out a pill bottle with a little sleepy eye sticker and began dumping pills into her hand. She brought a couple of the pills to her mouth and dry swallowed them.

I had a man attend my class who was clearly making drug deals in the back row. Every two minutes his phone would ring and he would answer, "Yeah. How much you want? I got that. Hell, yeah, it's the chronic." I asked him if he minded putting his phone on vibrate and to step outside when taking calls.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Image hosted by Photobucket.comI occasionally teach a baaaaasic public internet class. Attendance is a mixture of the cast of Ironweed, cheery seniors and immigrants with limited English. There are also a few senior regulars who faithfully attend class, though they seem to retain no memory or skill from the previous class, even though the content of the class varies little. Each time it seems all fresh and new to them, just like in the movie Memento or 50 First Dates. Teaching class can sometimes be comical and absurd but I love it because they laugh politely at my jokes. I kill.

There was a man sitting on the front row who had the aura of a long term residential hotel occupant. He was hard of hearing, nearly legally blind, and seemed to possess several cognitive problems, including, I suspect, a touch of Korsakoff's syndrome. He brought along a friend to assist him, who repeated every thing I said at the top of his voice.


The man would squint, press his face close enough to lick the screen and then spastically jerk the mouse off the edge of the table.


I had to laugh because it reminded me so much of the old Chevy Chase Weekend News Update with Garrett Morris as Headmaster of the New York School for the Hard of Hearing. The man’s devotion to his friend was touching, but extremely disruptive, and I had to ask him to keep it down because he was about to cause a class uprising. The stink eye the elderly Chinese woman sitting next to them shot them made my blood run cold.

Odd story in Garrett Morris’s Wikipedia entry: “During rehearsals for the Kirk Douglas hosted episode, he ran screaming onto the set, saying that someone had put an ‘invisible robot’ on his shoulder who watched him everywhere he went. He pleaded with them to get the robot off of him.” Garrett Morris had been freebasing cocaine heavily at the time, which can bring about all sorts of bizarre delusions, including Capgras syndrome, whose sufferers believe that their bodies have been replaced by robots or an imposter.

Oh, shit. 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comOne of my colleagues followed her nose to a pile of human feces in the stacks. She discretely ran to call the custodial staff and then looked frantically about for something to rope the section off. Although she was gone only a short time, when she returned some unobservant patron had already stepped in the mess and obliviously tracked it all around.

My colleague told me about the incident a few days ago, and since then the story has popped into my brain at the strangest and most inappropriate times, and my reaction will swing violently between extreme nausea and hysterical laughter. Bless that poor patrons heart - who would think the floors of the library would be as hazardous as the sidewalks of New York pre-pooper scooper laws?

Friday, February 17, 2006

From our Suggestions and Complaints Forms 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comMy psychiatrist, a Dr. xxxx xxxxxx in Rhode Island, has systematically contacted every library in the United States to bar me from accessing the internet. Please lift this restriction. If you are in league with him, then you are denying me my constitutional rights. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

I heard a bizarre interview with Gloria Naylor, the National Book Award winning author of the Women of Brewster Place, on NPR the other day. She was promoting her recently published book 1996, a fictionalized memoir of the ‘chronicle of harassment’ she withstood by a neighbor and ‘government forces’ on a sleepy little coastal island in South Carolina. According to Naylor, her ordeal began when she and her neighbor, a reclusive cat lady, had an altercation over one of the woman’s dozens of cats, a giant gray named Orwell, which kept soiling and tearing up Naylor’s garden. The cat dies when it ingests some poison Naylor put out for rats and the neighbor accuses Naylor of intentionally poisoning it. The neighbor then contacts her brother, purportedly the head of the National Security Agency, and the persecution and harassment of Naylor begins. Soon she notices an unusual and steady traffic of black cars and helicopters driving and flying past her remote corner of the island. She then suspects that someone is tapping into her computer, telephone and mail. Certain that she is under surveillance, fearful to communicate with anyone, she flees the island for New York, and then almost suffers a breakdown because she is convinced, once there, that she is being subjected to mind control.

I'm certainly no psychiatrist, but I encounter my fair share of schizophrenics on the job, and these seem like classic paranoid schizophrenic delusions to me. In the interview, Naylor continuously and unnecessarily describes the woman as Jewish, an irrelevant fact except that Jews are a bugbear for certain Southern African Americans (read The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Richard Wright's Black Boy if you don’t believe me). It also seems too much of a coincidence that the cat is named Orwell. Then, of course, there are the black cars, black helicopters and mind control tactics used by a shadowy government agency. What I found most odd is that the NPR interviewer was questioning and responding to her fantastical allegations uncritically, as if there were no question that these events had really happened, rather than the obvious delusions of a mentally ill woman. Although published in December, the book is already hard to find, which makes me suspect that it had an extremely limited release. The folks at MindJustice.org believe her, though. Perhaps it was all the cat feces in her garden that caused her schizophrenia.

Here is an excerpt from 1996.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jewish God! Thank you, Tom Cruise! 

For Talladega Nights, the Legend of Ricky Bobby.

Fabulous things from the trailer:

Sasha Baron Cohen as the despicable, Perrier sponsored French challenger, taunting and talking smack from a carved tub while he shaves his legs, as if NASCAR is the Tour de France.

Ricky Bobby's two sons, Walker and Texas Ranger.

That he owns a cougar, the redneck riche pet of choice.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Family Portraits 

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My great-grandmother was a Texas artist of some renown. Here are two of her pieces that I'm currently having reproduced through a magical process called giclee. Over the past few years the technique has improved and the cost has plummeted, so I highly recommend this process if your heirloom paintings are fewer in number than the heirs who pine for them. One is a self portrait of my great-grandmother she did during a particularly stressful time, shortly after her husband had a stroke. The other is of my grandmother (the one astride the alligator in my previous post) and her sister Nancy. Any of the family who would like a copy of these, please let me know.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Never Apologize, Never Explain 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comA colleague was at one of the quieter reference desks on an upper floor when she smelled the undeniable odor of marijuana. She went to investigate, and in the stacks, not 10 feet behind the reference desk, were two guys in their early twenties passing a pipe back and forth.

“This may be a stupid question, but what do you think you’re doing?”


“You’re smoking pot. In the library.”

“No. No, we’re not,” one of them said in a “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” tone. The other coughed, allowing a little cloud of smoke to escape out of his mouth.

“You’re surrounded by smoke and I see a pipe in your hand!”

They looked at each other and shrugged. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

They strolled off. My colleague, a little stunned by their gall, called security and described the two. “I think they’re headed down out the security gates.”

Sure enough, they were. The guard stopped them. “Would you two please step inside the security office?”

“No, I don’t think so.” They continued walking outside. Right then another patron set off the security gate alarm. The library security guard isn’t a police officer, so he decided to turn his attention to the other patron who had set off the alarm.

Although I certainly don’t appreciate pot smoking in the library, I have to give them credit for their brazen audacity, as well as their sense not to go into the security office. Polite non-compliance and a "Never Apologize, Never Explain" policy really is the best course at times. I remember when I worked at the Sheriff’s Office how many people would willingly let police officers search their car without a warrant, believing that if they would just cooperate with the police that the police would cut them a break. Wrong! They just made the police officer’s job easier. 90% of the time, the police officer would have just let the person go, vehicle unsearched, rather than go through the bother of obtaining a warrant. My advice? If you’re ever pulled over, and have something to hide, be polite, but never, ever agree to a search.

In the excellent Bangkok 8, a pot smoker receives a terrible punishment. In the passage, the narrator, a Eurasian dectective, is called to the station to interview an American backpacker who had walked into the police station to ask for directions. When the tourist had asked for directions at the counter, he reached into his pocket, and a huge bag of marijuana fell out. The tourist wasn’t acting appropriately scared; he actually seemed rather smug, like he was pulling one over on the police. Acting on a hunch, the detective asks him if he writes for Travelertales.com, an ‘extreme tourism’ website where travelers post their adventure tales of getting into trouble in foreign countries. The tourist goes pale. The detective explains to the sergeant,

Kids get them themselves in jams in faraway countries, nail-biting situations which could land them in a Thai jail for five years, or get them stoned to death in Saudi Arabia, or strangled by a boa constrictor in Brazil, but there’s always a First World safety net of course, which makes it all quite safe really. Then they write about their heroic escape from the jaws of disaster in a foreign land. It’s a way of getting published. Getting caught with ganga in Krung Thep is a a favorite. According to the Net, the standard bribe is 5000 baht for this quality dope.

The sergeant, a man infamous for his temper, asks the tourist for the 5000 baht. The tourist, with a smug, knowing smile, slaps the exact amount on the table. The sergeant burns the money in front of the tourist, and then makes him roll the entire bag of marijuana into one giant joint, the size of ‘a crooked, white chimney.’ He stands over the tourist and forces him to smoke the entire, giant joint, ensuring that he inhales deeply and properly. He then orders him dragged into 'the hole,' a dank, pitch black pit, for ten hours of solitary confinement. When the tourist emerges, he is sobbing, his sanity barely intact.

Instead of the hole, as a fitting punishment, maybe we could have thrown the pot smokers into our purportedly haunted basement until closing time.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Swamp Safari 

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This is a photograph of my grandmother on an alligator hunting expedition on Caddo Lake in East Texas. The man in the pith helmet captured wild creatures for circuses, which is where this poor creature was headed, and somehow my grandmother and some of her friends got to tag along on the trip. Note that the little girl in the picture, the circus man’s daughter I believe, is wearing a flour sack with armholes cut into it. This hunting trip was actually my grandmother and grandfather’s first date. They had just met, but my grandfather had such a good time that he decided that my grandmother was the woman for him and proposed shortly afterwards.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Let your Freak Flag Fly @ the Library! 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comAn older man, probably in his sixties, strolled by the reference desk on his way to get some tax forms. He was dressed in a flowing red cape, a lycra Superman top and a red speedo. His bottom half was bare, except for the speedo, but he did have an oversized captain’s hat perched at a jaunty angle on his head. Thoroughly accustomed to this kind of spectacle, neither patrons nor library staff batted an eye as the man went about his business at the library…

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Nobody Writes Jokes in Base 13 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comA rumpled, Ted Kazinski type wearing an extremely form fitting Weezer shirt - a rather puzzling fashion choice for a man in his fifties - approached the reference desk and began talking about Base 13. I know nothing about mathematics; in fact, I consider it a form of professional malpractice when I help any child at the library above the 5th grade with his or her math homework, so I could not explain Base 13 to you, even with a gun to my head. Here is the Wikipedia entry. The patron continued touting Base 13's efficiency and explaining how advantageous it would be for society if we operated under this system. According to the patron, in a Base 13 world, peace and harmony would reign and love would rule the stars. He then brought up the red flag word, the CIA, as telltale a symptom of schizophrenia as Kaposi's Sarcoma is to AIDS.

“When my father was in the CIA years ago, the agency looked into switching the U.S. into a Base 13 system, and I wish that they had gone ahead and done it, because a lot of the violence and upheaval we’ve experienced could have been avoided. It would have changed all of human consciousness! If only we would just switch to from a Base 10 to a Base 13 model! I want to show you what a superior system it is – take a look at some of my calculations.”

He then began pulling out stacks of John Nash style script and formulas, but thankfully a line began to form and my colleague told him that she had to help with other patrons.

A little math humor from the Wikipedia entry:

In the end of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams, a possible question to have the answer "forty-two" is presented: "What do you get if you multiply six by nine?" Of course, the answer is deliberately wrong, creating a humorous effect – if the calculation is carried out in base 10. People who were trying to find a deeper meaning in the passage soon noticed that in base 13, 6 × 9 is actually 42 (as 4 × 13 + 2 = 54). When confronted with this, the author stated that it was a mere coincidence, and that "Nobody writes jokes in base 13 [...] I may be a pretty sad person, but I don't make jokes in base 13."

Thursday, February 02, 2006


An excerpt from On the Sea of Memory: A Journey from Forgetting to Memory, a reflection on memory and the brain and the self by Jonathon Cott, who had 15 years of his memory erased by electric shock therapy. In the following passage, he discusses the relationship between emotions and memory, and how stress can heighten and enhance the powers of recall.

…(I)n Medieval times, before writing was used to keep historical records, when means other than writing had to be found to maintain records of important events such as a wedding or negotiations between powerful families, you say that a child about seven years old was selected, instructed to observe the proceedings carefully, and then thrown into a river. In that way, it was said, memory of the even would be impressed on the child and the record of the event maintained for the child’s lifetime. That hyperactive amygdala was certainly working overtime.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, 1927

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Image hosted by Photobucket.comI have always been fascinated by the survival tactics of mimicry, camouflage and deception in the animal and plant kingdoms. Some of my patrons could take a lesson from these species.

A shifty teenager, straight out of central casting for Juvenile Delinquent Gang Banger, came in and asked for DVDs on lock picking. This system does not own any DVDs but there are some reference books, reference because any circulating ones are stolen immediately. I was glad that we didn’t have any material for him, because if he were stopped by the police with those books in his possession, a likelihood considering his demeanor, dress and attitude, he would probably be in big trouble.

Then a man who looked like he spun right out of the "Hey, man, is that Freedom Rock" commercial asked if we had any information on growing plants indoors. "You know what I mean? Like," meaningfully wiggling his eyebrows, "hydroponically?"

Maybe this patron was into to growing roses. His intent for the information is not for me to question or assume, but I had to ask myself why he wouldn't want to be a little more subtle. If you're going to risk growing marijuana, don't look like such a goddamn stoner stereotype. It reminded me of college when couple of my friends discovered the Grateful Dead. When they transformed themselves into slovenly Deadheads with dancing teddy bear stickers plastered all over their car they were actually puzzled when the Virginia Highway patrol would pull them every 10 miles.

The guy who was slyest and smartest about his illegal activities in college was an SAE who looked and dressed exactly like Tucker Carlson. He was the biggest acid and MDMA dealer on campus but flew right under the noses of the administration because of his clean cut appearance and involvement in student leadership activities. I had to admire his excellent employment of mimicry, which certainly let him get away with a lot. I wonder where he is today – probably Congress.

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