Monday, February 26, 2007

And who shall I say is calling? 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI think my iPod's fucking with me. I’ve been experiencing a lot of eerie synchronicity with the music on my Ipod and the world outside. The other day I was listening to the song Southside on my way to Krav Maga. When I arrived at the studio, the instructor was blasting Southside on the sound system at almost the exact point of my iPod. While I was walking home after class a sign in my neighborhood's bookstore caught my eye. The sign was informing customers about the memorial services of one of the employees who had died unexpectedly. Leonard Cohen's Who by Fire was playing on my iPod at that moment, a morbidly appropriate sound track for the moment. Thank God I don’t smoke (a lot) of meth or have schizophrenia and am not obsessively trying to draw meaning about the significance of these odd coincidences.

Who by Fire
is such a searingly, hauntingly beautiful song, an exquisite memento mori. It sounds like an eerie incantation, a prayer, a dark but beautiful lullaby. Cohen modeled it on the Unetaneh-Tokef, liturgy recited on the Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed,
And on Yom Kippur it is sealed.
How many shall pass away and how many shall be born,
Who shall live and who shall die,
Who shall reach the end of his days and who shall not,
Who shall perish by water and who by fire,
Who by sword and who by wild beast,
Who by famine and who by thirst,
Who by earthquake and who by plague,
Who by strangulation and who by stoning...

I can just see the members of the congregation chanting the prayer while looking askance at those around them, imagining and pondering everyone's, including their own, fates.

Cohen's lyrics:

And who by fire, who by water,
who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
who in your merry merry month of may,
who by very slow decay,
and who shall I say is calling?

And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate,
who in these realms of love, who by something blunt,
and who by avalanche, who by powder,
who for his greed, who for his hunger,
and who shall I say is calling?

And who by brave assent, who by accident,
who in solitude, who in this mirror,
who by his lady's command, who by his own hand,
who in mortal chains, who in power,
and who shall I say is calling?

One of my favorite songs of all time is Cohen's exquisitely depressing Bird on a Wire, which contains some of the what must be the most haunting lyrics ever written:

Like a baby stillborn, or a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out to me

As depressing as the song may be, it also contains some excellent advice.

I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
He said to me, you must not ask for so much.
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
She cried to me, hey, why not ask for more?

Hey indeed, why not ask for more? Why listen to the beggar?

Youtube.com is lousy with Cohen performances. Here is a good one of Who by Fire with a violin solo that will tear your heart out. In fact, if you feel like wallowing in melancholia a good rainy day activity is watching all of the different performances and covers of Cohen's music. (Warning: may cause clinical depression.)

I especially enjoy Rufus Wainwright's campy, Shirley Bassey-esque version of Everybody Knows.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Miss Lonelyhearts 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI apologize for the lack of updates but I have been handling the bulk of the email and IM reference and it’s been much more physically and emotionally draining than I could have ever anticipated. This electronic reference seems to reach a whole new…class of patrons and sometimes the magnitude of their problems, desperation and witlessness fills with me with this sort of despairing wonder. They're just so lost. I’m certainly not going to let their questions get to me until they destroy me like Nathanael West's Miss Lonelyhearts, but they certainly have sapped my vitality and creative energy while I’ve been shoring up and fortifying my boundaries.

Anyway, here are some choice samples. Details have been changed to protect the patron, and I have also have made an attempt to clean up the spelling and grammar for your sanity as well as mine.

Patron: : i got this girl pregnant and today her other baby's daddy gets out of jail and is just crazy. If he beat her up so she lost the baby would I be able to press charges? Even if she didn’t want to? Like if he kicked her or threw her down the stairs or something?

These two just seemed like shit-smeared pungi stick lined traps set by extremists. I wouldn’t touch them with a ten foot pole and instead directed them to Planned Parenthood.

Patron: i live in XXXXX county people tell me an abortion can be done within 3 months, others say up to 5 months. i need to find a place that will do abortion at 7 months

Patron: My daughter is 16 and I want her to have an abortion but she won’t. Can I force her?

Medical Emergencies:
Patron:Hello. My father-in-law accidentally ate all of our dog’s Heartguard flea and heart worm medication. Is it poisonous? It says keep out of reach of children.


The “All in the Family” or “My Bitch ex-wife” category. Oftentimes these are written in ALLCAPS. These are always referred to legal aid.


Patron: How do I enforce visitation when the other party won't open the door even for the sheriff?

Patron: I have been paying child support for 15 years for a child that is not mine never signed birth certifi cate, even though I was married. Is there a law that states if you are not the biological father and can prove it do you still have to pay and can I get refunded.

Patron: A temporary Restraining Order was granted against me. However,a permanent order was not granted. How can I get this erased. My employer requires background checks and I don't want this to come up.

Patron: Can I appeal a judges order to change child custody orders if I feel I was misunderstood and my ex wife lied?

In any case, I used to think the grotesque characters of Flannery O’Connor and Nathanial West were a lot funnier than I do now that I'm dealing with them. But I do have to say that I am still in awe at the brilliance of West naming Miss Lonelyheart’s cynical, tormenting boss, Shrike. Shrike, who sadistically revels in disillusioning and destroying any religious or romantic notions Miss Lonelyhearts may express, shares a name with a carnivorous bird that impales its prey on thorns. The shrike, also known as the butcher bird, uses the thorn as leverage to tear its prey apart as well as handy storage for the little corpse. Mother Nature is one strange bitch.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

More Rave Reviews from our Patrons 

From a popular on-line review site...

A junkie in the bathroom asked me to help her shoot up as she attempted to simultaneously wrap a slender piece of rubberized hose around her bicep, tugging at it with her teeth and holding a disgustingly dirty needle in the other hand. I'm nice but I ain't that nice...

The crazies will talk to each other out loud here and then bitch about the librarians talking! i was told by someone who witnessed this guy running in to the library holding his butt and headed straight to the bathroom. unfortunately the men's room was closed for cleaning and the guy still holding his butt started to kick and scream at the bathroom door. He had to be escorted out of the library.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Pearls of God 

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A patron keeps pestering us about when the library's copy of The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers will be available for circulation. True crime is a popular subject - we can hardly keep Ann Rule books on the shelves - and many patrons, including sweet little old ladies with a twinkle in their eye I have come to recognize as bloodthirsty, are serial killer/sensational murder enthusiasts. This patron’s overweening passion for such a grisly subject, however, gives even the most imperturbable and beyond caring burnt out of us pause. Although I would definitely classify him as misfit loner, he seems to be a nice enough guy (as the neighbors always say), but he smells eye wateringly bad - like carrion, to be exact. Perhaps that's from all the bodies of his victims that he keeps plastered up in his walls “for company.”

Recently, another patron approached the desk wearing filth caked rags he probably hadn’t changed out of since the first Bush administration. He looked like some raving, wild eyed prophet and after we could catch our breathe I said to my colleague, “He smelled like an anchorite!” Oh, the Middle Ages... Supposedly at the height of that unfortunate fad in early Christianity, Europe and the Holy Land were lousy with anchorites and stylites. Reportedly, they stank so wretchedly that people could smell them for miles.

From Sex and Salvation by Margaret Bhatty:
Since sex depends heavily on the chemistry of sex appeal, those anxious for their souls rendered themselves as unattractive as possible. Adornment and finery was of the devil, while bathing was a sin. Anchorites, fleeing temptation by women, lived in the wilderness unwashed for the rest of their lives. St. Abraham, "a man of singular beauty", fled on his wedding night and never washed for the next fifty years. The dirt on his person "reflected the purity of his soul." Body odour was called "the odour of sanctity" and lice, "the pearls of God." Those celibates who couldn't live in the wilderness, climbed to the top of tall columns and were called stylites. Up there they were assured of being free from the contact with women which could put their souls at risk.

Sweet Jesus, the closer I walk with thee! I can’t wait to call security to report a patron flicking “pearls of God” from his body at passersby in the magazines area. For further entertaining reading about some of the gross, fleshly-mortification-and- debasement-as-a-route to holiness notions in early Christianity, please read Holy Feast, Holy Fast. It contains a nauseating yet riveting section about a favorite custom of saint wannabes: sucking the pus out of and plucking and eating the scabs off of lepers. From what I can gather, those saints were quite competitive, always trying to one up each other in the gross out department. One profiled saint, Angelina of Folina, claimed she found the leper pus “as sweet as the communion.” Not to be outdone, Catherine of Siena boasted, "Never in my life have I tasted any food and drink sweeter or more exquisite than this pus." In any case, those girls make that albino with his cilice in The Da Vinci code look like a total pussy.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

IM Reference: Last Refuge of the Shiftless Student 

Patron:I need you to tell me what photosynthesis is.

Librarian: From Encarta: Photosynthesis, process by which green plants and certain other organisms use the energy of light to convert carbon dioxide and water into the simple sugar glucose. In so doing, photosynthesis provides the basic energy source for virtually all organisms. An extremely important byproduct of photosynthesis is oxygen, on which most organisms depend.

Patron: But I need it in your own words

Librarian: What grade are you in? Do you want a definition that might be easier to understand? Would you like the definition from World Book, a children’s encyclopedia?

Patron: 7th. Just give it to me in your own words. I need it in your own words

Librarian: Is this for a homework assignment?


Librarian: Sorry, I provided you with the definition. I’m not going to do your homework assignment for you. Anything else I can help you with?

Patron signed off

IM Reference, last refuge of the profoundly lazy

Patron: I need some facts about President Wilson

Librarian: Here are some quick facts from Encarta:
Lowered tariff rates and established a federal income tax with the Underwood Tariff of 1913.
Established the Federal Reserve System in 1914 to supervise and regulate banks.
Asked Congress to declare war on Germany on April 2, 1917, after many diplomatic attempts to end World War I.
Signed peace treaty with Germany to end World War I in 1919.
Received the 1919 Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to end World War I and to establish the League of Nations.
1902-1910 Served as president of Princeton University.
1911-1913 Served as governor of New Jersey.
1913-1921 President of the United States.
Wilson allowed sheep to graze on the White House lawn during World War I; their wool helped raise money for the Red Cross.
Wilson was the first president to cross the Atlantic Ocean while in office.
Wilson established the practice of holding regular presidential press conferences.

Patron: I just need 5. Pick out the five best facts and give them to me.

Librarian: I gave you five facts. Pick out the ones you want.

Patron: I just want five facts that are the best.

Librarian: I gave you the material. It’s up to you to judge which ones you need. Please don’t ask me to do your homework.

Patron signed off

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