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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

At the Reference Desk 

For reference services rendered, patrons have blessed me, laid hands and prayed on me, squealed with glee, clutched my hands, burst into tears (for setting up an appointment with INS), slapped me on the back, drawn me pictures (sometimes the pictures were of me), asked me out, written me poems, given me chocolates, coupons, coffee, a homemade smoothie, flowers, and a gardenia corsage, hugged me, offered to give me a shoulder massage (she was a professional masseuse).

Others have screamed at me, thrown tantrums, slammed a fist down on my desk when I wouldn't let them use the phone and instead directed them to the payphone 20 yards away, shot me looks of such hate that I could actually feel it (it feels like heat), aggressively tried to start staring contests with me, drooled on my keyboard, dropped a marijuana roach on my keyboard, and informed me that they paid my salary when I wouldn't let them have extra internet time.

So far no one has spit on me.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Keeps you on your Toes 

You think you're having a normal, pleasant, interesting conversation with a patron and without warning he'll turn on you and hiss, "Why did you suggest this book? Don't you see it has an odd number in the coding? What are you trying to do me?" Then as he's gathering his papers he'll shoot you a look of deep betrayal followed by a smug, "Nice try - I'm on to you" and storm off.

Soon I hope to reach a stage of imperturbability, like a priest or cop who has seen it all and cannot be shocked or surprised by anything anybody does or says. I imagine that it will be almost like a state of transcendence or grace. Or maybe I'm confusing that with severe burn-out.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Dr. Dolan's Follow-up Article about Frey 

Here is Dolan, a columnist for the expatriate newspaper The Exile, with some more about Frey.

Also in the current issue, hilarious but depressing hate mail sent to Dolan by Frey fans.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Wrath of Oprah 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comDid anyone watch Oprah taking a verbal green switch to James Frey’s backside last night for lying and making her look like a fool? I did, and the entire time I had to fight the urge to go run and hide under my bed like a child. Having been on the receiving end of several (well deserved) childhood reprimands dealt by loving but firm Southern African American women, I can tell you there is nothing more terrifyingly effective to make you straighten out. I'll certainly never ride my Big Wheel in the middle of the street again!

I hope that Oprah doesn’t stop choosing living authors for her book club. She has made the careers of many worthy, deserving authors who would have most likely remained obscure without her endorsement. I was overjoyed that she returned to living authors for her book club, but my joy was tempered by her choice of A Million Little Pieces, which I had attempted to read a year or so earlier. I thought the book was awful and unbelievable. I have an open mind, but even I could tell from two early scenes that this book was bullshit.

1) The supposed memoir begins when Frey wakes up on an airplane and finds himself covered in vomit, snot and blood, 4 of his front teeth broken. You can’t even board an airplane in this country with profanity on your shirt. I’ve watched enough Airline to know that a passenger would never be allowed on an airplane in this condition. And Airline features the truly lax Southwest, which practically has zero standards, and allows men aboard wearing cut off sweatpants so you have to see their half boners.

2)This is followed by the whole root canal without anesthesia scene that he lifts straight out of Marathon Man. He claims that the dentist couldn’t even give him a topical anesthetic like Novocaine because he was in rehab. His only analgesic is a tennis ball to squeeze, which is an effective device for him to show everyone what a man he is, and also so he can fill pages with “Oh, the pain, the pain the White Hot Pain.” Bullshit. If he had to have an appendectomy in rehab would they do it without anesthesia as well?

I quit the book after the dentist scene. I’ll read anything, and I mean anything, but the book, even if it's fiction, has to have at least some semblance of authenticity and characters that are plausible, which is why I also despised Memoirs of a Geisha, with its cardboard, inscrutable characters.

Here’s an awesomely mean review, which eviscerates the book efficiently and effectively. With the exception of Hunter S. Thompson and Philip K. Dick, the reviewer pretty much hates everybody, but he reserves special vitriol for Frey.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Meth Thinking 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comA real dirtbag approached the desk.

"Dude - I need some righteous help. I need a recipe," he leaned in, "A recipe, if you know what I mean."

"What kind of recipe?"

"I'm doing some research." His eyes moved about shiftily. "I need a recipe for meth, you know, methamphetamine, and how to go about making it at home. And I need this recipe to be for more than one person."

"We don't have any recipes for the homemade manufacturing of meth, which, as I'm sure you know, is both illegal and highly dangerous. Why don't you try Google."

Yeah, I heard you can find some recipes on the internet. I don't really know how to use it, but one time I needed some lyrics so I went to lyrics.com and found them there. I tried to do the same with methamphetamine.com but it didn't work."

"Sometimes the internet just isn't logical. Why don't you just try putting it in Google as a keyword search. Good luck with that."

My cousin recently did a rotation in the county burn unit in Nashville, which is apparently brimming with careless meth manufacturers. Often patients who suffer extensive skin grafts return again and again with fresh burns. The hospital staff calls these patients 'frequent flyers.'

Meth is truly a scourge. There is a woman who shares my exact name who is a recovering meth addict who is actively involved in jailhouse ministry. During her addiction, social services removed two children from her custody and she almost died, but was saved by Jesus in jail and now serves as a national spokesperson about meth’s evils. If you Google my name she is one of the first to come up. We’re about the same age and I just know old acquaintances who have Googled me mistake her for me.

Methy Repartee 

Overheard on my bike ride this morning.

Working Girl(?) #1: "Quit selling your p@ssy on this corner!"

Working Girl #2 "Oh, yeah? Well I've never seen a FAT speed freak before!"

Snap, girl!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Laundry Day 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comA patron reported that a woman was washing clothes in one of the first floor bathroom toilets. The woman had the stall door open and the patron could see her bent over, both hands immersed, a little pile of clothes next to her. She said that she watched the woman would scrub away, examine the clothing and then flush the toilet repeatedly for the 'rinse cycle.' Apparently, this is not an unusual occurence and our toilets are occasionally clogged when a sock or piece of underwear inadvertantly gets sucked down the pipes.

Happy 30th, Fisher! 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comHave fun in Carousel.

Best of Luck 

A man approached the reference desk and said, “I need help with a website called Craigslist. Do you know how to use it?”

“Sure. What are you trying to do?”

“I need to put a notice in the lost and found. I don’t know how to operate a computer, but I know that a lot of people go to this site. I’m desperate. I would even be willing to pay someone $100 to post it there.” He looked like he was going to cry.

"There's no need for that. I can help you. What do you want the notice to say?”

“Lost: $15,000 in cash on a Philippine Air flight. If found, please return for a reward.”

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Telephonophobia 

A woman called the library on behalf of her grandson, who had accumulated over $50 of charges for some movies he never returned. In a sweet, quavering voice, the patron's grandmother inquired about what her grandson needed to do to have his borrowing privileges reinstated. The librarian, under the impression that the patron was a child, gave the grandmother some options. She then heard the grandmother carefully relay this information to someone right next to her. The librarian then heard this person, an adult, ask a question, which the grandmother repeated into the phone.

"My grandson wants to know if he can still return the videos and have the charges erased.”

At that moment the librarian noticed from the patron’s record that the grandson was 24 years old.

"Wait a minute, is that your grandson right there? Why don't I just talk directly to him? This might be easier."

"Oh, he refuses to use the phone."

"Excuse me?"

"He doesn't believe in using the phone. He just won't. Doesn't trust it for some reason. I’m not sure why."

"Why don't you just have him come in, then. He'll need to settle this in person, anyway."

The librarian immediately regretted her instructions, realizing that it was best if this patron's record remained suspended so the patron would stay away indefinitely. FBI profilers know that living with one’s mother as an adult male bumps up the weird misfit/ serial killer factor, so I wonder what they would say about a telephonophobic grown man who lives with his grandmother.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Drive Friendly? 

Sorry for the sporadic posting but I have been in Texas helping my grandmother convalesce from hip replacement surgery. And let me just say that I’m accustomed to scary urban traffic and have driven across town during rush hour in Third World hellholes where you can see why the population has had to resort to fatalism because otherwise it would lose its mind, but I have never felt more unsafe than in Fort Worth. Every time I got in the car I felt like I was taking my life into my own hands, mostly due to all of the housewives hopped up on Starbucks and valium on the roads in their juggernaut SUVs. As they would jabber into the cell phones, barreling down the roads toward and past me, all I could think about was how their bumpers were aimed right at my throat level. A very nerve wracking experience, which I dealt with by quadrupling my daily caloric intake and reciting the fear mantra from Dune, which I memorized the other night when the phones were slow and I was desperate to procrastinate actual work.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Trapped in the (water) Closet 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comLast night a woman called in hysterics to complain about an incident at the library. A colleague had the pleasure.

"Library, how may I help you?"

"You listen to me. I was in the bathroom, in a stall, and I noticed the janitor sweeping near me. I have an environmental illness with severe asthma, and I can’t breathe in any dust or I might die. So, I asked her if she would stop sweeping, and she ignored me! I asked her again, telling her that I have an illness and she needed to stop, and she just kept sweeping and sweeping, even harder. When I started yelling, she said (mimicking the janitor in the most amazingly offensive sing-songy "me so horneeey" Asian voice) 'Me need to sweepie now! It’s my job! I no care!'"

“All right, now –“

“And then she kept on! And I was in a very vulnerable position so I couldn’t leave. I was trapped because I had my pants around my ankles and was trying to insert a tampon.”

My colleague, wincing, “Oh, now, ma’am – “

“I have environmental sensitivity! I have medical papers to prove this! You have to respect this! I’ll have you know that I’m going to call the mayor’s office, the EPA, the Human Rights Commission and my lawyer.” She then mercifully slammed down the phone. For someone with a respiratory ailment, she was able to deliver a 10 minute, relentless tirade with the ease and wind of a classically trained opera singer.

Earlier that day I had a call from a man who felt like he had been mistreated by another colleague. He called earlier to verify the spelling of a number of simple words like 'always' and 'expect' and felt like the librarian who answered the call had been condescending. I apologized profusely, and asked if there were anything I could do.

“This has really ruined my day. Those words that I asked for may have been easy, but I suffered a head injury and now I have trouble with these things. Oh, GREAT!”

I could hear the sound of jagged breathing. “Sir, are you all right?”

“Now I am having an anxiety attack. That’s just great. I want to speak to that librarian’s supervisor.”

A colleague describes these people as tyrannical victims. We encounter enough of this type at the library that I think the condition is worthy of its own entry in the DSM IV. These people are obviously suffering and in pain, whether mentally or physically, but they use their pain and victimhood as a powerful weapon to rage at or injure others, especially hapless public servants, in some way.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

More Raising Arizona 

An intense man approached the desk and slammed some legal files down and demanded from my colleague information about recidivism rates. I looked up and almost said, "Recidivism! Re-peat offender. Not a pretty name now, is it." But he looked like a completely humorless prick so I kept my mouth shut.

Apocalypse Now 

This morning on my desk was an employee memo reminding us of proper procedure if we should encounter biohazardous and infectious materials in the library. The gist of the memo is that if we come across lice infested clothing and blankets, needles, materials soaked in blood or other body fluids, piles of human feces or puddles of vomit, we should not attempt to pick any of this up with our hands. I was reminded of the joke H.I.’s wife swapping, bigoted boss tells him.

Say, did you hear about the person of the Polish persuasion who walked into a bar with a big 'ol pile of shit in his hands and he says, "Look what I almost stepped in"?

It’s distressing that biohazard encounters are frequent enough in the library to warrant a memo, but I’ve accepted it as an occupational hazard. Besides, this job has pushed me so far off the OCD spectrum that it really doesn’t bother me any more.

When I was talking to my stepfather about some fecal incident at the library he began acting squeamish and confessed to me that he couldn't tolerate the smell, to the point where he couldn't even change his own child’s diapers. I began giving him a hard time, saying things like "Isn't that just like a man! You think you’re so tough. Are you sure this isn’t a clever ploy to get out of diaper duty? Hah-Hah, you big baby."

Later E pulled me aside and told me that the reason my stepfather couldn’t tolerate the smell stemmed back from when he was in 'Nam. He was on a river patrol boat when the bloated body of an African American service man floated by. The crew fished the body out and when they plunked it down on deck the body, grotesquely swollen and taut with gasses, exploded. Immediately every single soldier on the boat was bent over projectile vomiting. Since that incident, my stepfather has suffered from in intense case of olfactory PSTD and cannot stand anything that reminds him of the smell of the dead soldier. Boy, did I feel like an asshole.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Newspeak and Spell 

Doubleplusungood

On-line Ask-a-Question Form:
Question so say u lost ur book do u have 2 pay 4 it cuzthen i help my fd's 2 borrow dat book

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Flirting with Disaster 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comBilly's Angry Inch would have been a lot angrier if E hadn't noticed where Billy was resting his little stub - right in the sliding glass door track! Is Billy Jack engaging in some sort of odd risk taking, thrill seeking behavior, or is he just being a moron? The whole reason Jack Russells' tails are docked is for their safety, because docked tails don't bang into things or impede dogs from turning and twisting around in varmint holes. (Jack Russells are the GI 'tunnel rats' in hunting parties and the war against varmints). You wouldn't think he could get in that much trouble with his overdocked tail, but apparently so.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Weatherman 

"I think it's raining. That or someone's urinating in the second floor stacks."

A colleague in our first floor, windowless back offices.

Ich bein ein Berliner 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI have been suffering from a cold that has filled me with nothing but mucus, malaise and lassitude. All my energy has been devoted to feeling sorry for myself rather than blogging, but here’s some reader’s advisory for you: A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City. It is the diary of an anonymous woman in Berlin toward the end of World War II and it is an incredibly important contribution to the annals of primary historical material. The author is so eloquent, observant, resourceful and wry that you greatly sympathize with her plight. She is never self pitying and never in denial that the population has brought this upon itself. It is a testament to the power of her writing that, for the first time in my life, I actually felt sorry for a German.

When the diary begins, Berlin is becoming a bombed out shell and social order is breaking down. The populace knows that the end of the Reich is near and it waits with bated breath for the Russian tanks to roll in. Although everyone knows to expect no mercy from the Russians, their advance will be a relief in a way, because the relentless bombing will stop. A popular saying circulates: 'Better a Russki on top than a Yank overhead.’ Better to be raped than bombed into oblivion, in other words. Deprivations are severe and there is neither heat nor running water. The author is lightheaded from hunger, and “every thought begins and ends with food.”

In the insane thinking typical of the end of the Reich, the German army has left large caches of liquor for the Russians to find. The theory is that the liquor will weaken and degrade the Russians’ fighting ability, but instead makes them drunk, uninhibited and emboldened to commit rape and other war crimes. There is definitely a payback element for Hitler’s appalling atrocities against Soviet civilians, but other factors come into play as well. Many of these soldiers had been severely mistreated by their own officers, and conquered women were an easy target upon which to take out their humiliation. Most soldiers were lonely and miserable and had been away from their families for years, and desperately yearned for human touch and female companionship.

During the initial sacking of the city the author is gang raped several times, and soon pragmatically decides that she needs to find ‘a single wolf to keep away the pack.’ She is well traveled and knows elementary Russian, and sets out to make some sort of an arrangement with a soldier. Cultivated and pretty, she soon works her way up from supply sergeant to major.

She is wise to do so because all the other women on her block are raped indiscriminately - even grandmothers. She reports that the Russians have a saying: "You old, you must be healthy!" Women hide in crawl spaces or try to disguise themselves as men or crones when they are forced to venture out to forage for food and water. One group of women remains safe on the upper floor of an apartment because a family on the first floor, several children included, all hung themselves, and serve as scarecrows to keep the soldiers from exploring the building further.

What is so impressive about the author is how calm and rational she remains in her writing. She is somehow able to maintain a rational detachment without sounding like an emotionally flat, shell shocked victim. She uses gallows humor as an effective coping mechanism. In her observations of the events, the author is not above a droll vindictiveness for war profiteers.

"She's by far the plumpest woman in our group, very buxom. People say they like that...The older women in particular who had once been quite plump have shrunken terribly. Of course the distiller's wife is an exception. Since the war began she hasn't lacked for things to trade. And now she's paying for her unmerited fat.”

She also mentions the ‘Ivans’ surprising acts of gentleness and decency. For the most part, they adored children and clung to their innocence. They enjoyed dandling babies on their knees and playing Santa Claus by distributing food.

When order is somewhat restored, the author is forced to work doing laundry for soldiers or taking apart and boxing up factory machinery (the means of production) to be shipped back to Russia. The work is pointless and absurd – do the Russians really believe that they’ll be able to reassemble the machinery out of these unlabeled boxes of jumbled parts? – but any protest is impossible.

The diary ends when the author’s boyfriend deserts and returns. When she shows him the diary, he closes it in disgust and inquires why all German women have become ‘a bunch of shameless bitches.’ He doesn’t want to hear or know about what it’s taken for her to survive, and their relationship does not survive.

When the diary was first published in the 1950s, Germany was also neither ready to hear nor come to terms with the collective rape of its female citizens. The diary was met with hostility and vicious attacks against its authenticity. It was treated as if it were some indictment against German men, as if it dishonored and shamed the German men who were unable to protect the women, as well as if it made the women who did what they had to do to survive seem like they had fraternized and prostituted themselves to the enemy. It soon became out of print and relegated to obscurity. The work wasn’t republished until last year, according to the terms of the author, who only wanted it republished after her death.

One unsatisfying element of the book was for all of the author’s eloquence and introspection she never adequately explains why and how the German’s allowed Hitler to come to power. She was not a member of the Nazi party, but she was no dissident either. She has more than an inkling about what was going on in the Holocaust – at one point she compares a woman who looks like a bulldog to someone she imagines would be a good concentration camp guard – but she remains patriotic to her people. She mentions that she had an opportunity to move abroad at the beginning of the war, but decided to stay in her country, right or wrong, evil regime or not. Still, the author is an intelligent, beautiful writer and her descriptions of conditions are harrowing but tempered by her wry, clear eyed observations. Highly recommended.

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