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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Curiosity Killed the Cat but Satisfaction Brought him Back 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comOne of the records management clerks, a man named Jeff, had the most extravagantly decorated cubicle I had ever seen. It was something to behold, every surface covered with University of Alabama football crap: ceramic elephants, banners, posters, buttons, ribbons and other things I can only categorize as ‘flair.’ It looked like the lair of a hoarder with fanatical school spirit. Upon learning that Jeff had never attended University of Alabama or college, most people would find this school spirit rather strange. Actually, this wasn’t too odd in Alabama, which lacks a professional football team so college football is elevated to fill what is obviously a gaping hole in people’s lives. Usually the first question out of people you meet in Alabama besides “Where do you worship” is “Auburn or Alabama?” The big Auburn/Alabama game was the highlight of the social season for many people, and attaining the annual “braggin’ rights” if one’s team won could make or break one’s year.

I’ve always thought it was intrusive and controlling for a company to set rules on how many pictures and plants and decorations their employees could have but after taking a look at his cube I could see the point of such regulations. Jeff was a heavy smoker but even I with the sensitive nose had no idea that he smoked because he was so circumspect and fastidious. I don’t know if he scrubbed his hands after each cigarette or wore gloves, but I worked with him 8 months before I discovered he was a smoker, and only then because I saw him myself taking a drag in the outside smoker’s area.

I never met his wife but he had some pictures of her amidst all of the University of Alabama crap. She looked like a bantam version of Joy from My Name is Earl. She was a hot little number but dumb, mean and utterly, helplessly dependent upon her husband. She refused to work and exerted considerable financial pressure on him. The field of Library Science, even in the more remunerative corporate sector, traditionally pays just enough to keep a spinster from starving, and records management doesn’t pay much better, so this was a constant source of strain in their marriage. There was a picture of her as a toddler being dandled on her daddy’s knee, dressed in (what else) a University of Alabama cheerleading outfit. There was something creepy infantilizing about the picture, as if she had gone from one daddy to the next.

She used to call her husband all day, sometimes more than twice an hour. She called for any random reason: because she thought she smelled gas, because there was a strange man at the door, because she was bored and lonely, because she heard a strange nose. It was evident that these calls made him miserable. I could hear him talking to her with strained patience, pleading with her to let him get some work done. One time at a sales meeting she kept him on the hotel line for three hours while he calmed her down and ran up a $400 phone bill, for which our manager refused, rightly, to pay.

I left for a new job, but I kept up with the old records manager. She told me that Jeff had back surgery, which I had always heard can be accompanied by depression. As soon as he was ambulatory he drove across the state line and checked himself into a motel room in Mississippi, where he blew himself off the earth with a shotgun.

His wife wore an all white denim outfit to the funeral, an unusual choice for the widow, and put on quite histrionic performance.

What I will never forget about this story is that Jeff sent a time delayed email to one of his coworkers, a woman for whom I suspect he had always had an unrequited love. She didn’t receive the email until after the funeral. She read it, but would never say what was in the email. My question to you is would you have read it? I don’t know if I could have, but I’m a very curious person, and may not have been able to help myself, no matter how horrible the contents may have been.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Epater le Bourgeois 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe library is executing a crack down on the size and number of bags patrons are allowed to bring into the library. For security and hygiene reasons large bags have always been forbidden, but patrons have traditionally managed to drag in ridiculously large bags with impunity. I suspect the recent reinforcement has something to do with an epidemic of a super strain of bed bugs that is bedeviling all of the residential hotels and shelters in the city. Several of my patrons, victims, have rolled up their sleeves to show me their shockingly red pocked arms. They look like they have a severe case of the measles or tropical impetigo. I sympathize with certain patrons' reluctance to part with their bags, especially if they are homeless and have no place to keep them, but for reasons of practicality and safety the library simply cannot acommodate them.

One man brings in filthy white king size sheet stuffed full of grimy papers and wadded up clothes and God knows what else. He spreads out the contents over an entire table and spends the day fussing with and folding paper. He carries the bundle atop his head, which droops down around his head so when he walks by the desk he looks like some kind of ambulatory toadstool. He has been trying his luck every day, hoping to slip by an inattentive guard or for enforcement to loosen.

One of our patrons was trying to drag in a couple of bags and I waved over at the security guard. One bag ended up being crammed with feces caked blankets, potentially seething with hepatitis. He had been coached well by the advocates and wrote down the badge numbers of the guards. He has a long history, and used to come in smelling so wretched that he constituted a public nuisance. He finally was told very compassionately that he was going to need to shower before he returned, and was provided with a list of free showers around the neighborhood. The next day he was returned all scrubbed clean, but accompanied by two homeless advocates, who marched him right up to the chief’s office to file an official complaint and threaten the administration with a lawsuit.

I don’t know who some of these homeless advocates think they’re helping. I don’t mean to denigrate the valiant altruists who are trying to make a difference, and more power to them for working with this population. But there is a certain tragically misguided faction that believes people have a God given right to live in their filth, and contaminate and ruin the library’s furniture and other peoples nostrils, even though an odor and lack of hygiene are indicative of a horrible sickness, like an animal that stops grooming itself right before it dies. Just as there is a military industrial complex, I believe there is a non-profit charitable complex. On some level, members of this complex have no real interest in these people getting better because it would put them out of a job and remove their purpose from life, which just must be an orgy of angry self righteousness and crusading codependence. As an extra bonus, these people get to be a thorn in the side of decent society and “The Man,” who I suspect they have somehow confused with their father, since most of this type seems to be from a very privileged background. I can’t quite put my finger on it but there is something creepily Oedipal about the whole business.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Hold on to that Feeling 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comAt the library I often see women who look just like Charlize Theron…in Monster. Although the movie Monster was about the quality of your average Lifetime for Women made for TV movie, Charlize Theron’s transformation into Aileen Wuornos, drifter, prostitute and serial killer, was truly extraordinary. The scene I remember most in the movie took place at a dingy roller skating rink. Christina Ricci and Charlize Theron have recently met and Ricci asks Theron to join her at her favorite hang out, the local skating rink. Wournous, a hard, used up truck stop hooker in her 30s, looks hopelessly out of place there. They skate slowly arm and arm during the couples only skate, and stare tenderly into each others eyes. When the song "Don't Stop Believin'" swells around them they fall passionately in love. They’re sad, down and out losers – one is even a budding serial killer - but their emotions are authentic and your heart just goes out to them. The song is the perfect soundtrack for the women: cheesy, pathetic, and risible but at the same time completely poignant and hopeful. It's awesome.

Everyone who watched the brilliant Sopranos finale has probably had the song stuck in their heads all week. It’s such a gloriously cheesy song, the perfect anthem for the two monsters, Aileen Wournous and Tony Soprano, that you can’t help but root for.

Here’s a fitting tribute. Get ready to be rocked.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Yuck 

A woman in a sequin top and fucia beret, drunk as a lord, wobbled up to the desk. “Why, hellllllo! Do you have the movie Sounder? I just came from a Mother’s Day lunch.” She leaned in and mimed knocking back a drink. “Now I’m finished with my lunch and I want to watch SOUNDER!” She threw back her head and howled, “Soundeeeeer!

My colleague led her over to the public catalog and helped her look up Sounder. There was a copy up in the children’s room. As my colleague was pointing out the good news on the computer screen she stepped on a mucus filled, wadded up tissue. She grimaced and kicked it away.

The woman scoffed at my colleague’s fastidiousness. "Oh, I'm not afraid of that. In fact, I need one.” She picked it up and stuck it in her pocket.

My colleague stared at her. "Yes, I'm sure that tissue will come in handy when you watch Sounder."

I’ve written, well, ad nauseam about the filthy things that go in the library, but this one was particularly upsetting. Some of the pages who handle the books wear cloth gloves as a cautionary measure. One of my colleagues overheard a patron say, “How nice that you all wear acid free gloves to protect the books!”

Friday, June 08, 2007

Multicultural Adventure 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comIt’s a hard world for little electronics, especially if they’re owned by me. In all my lifetime I have never lost a cell phone, but in a dark period of less than 3 months I have lost two of them.

The first phone suffered a gruesome fate. I was leaving work and reaching for the passenger side door handle of the car and the phone slipped right out of my hand and dropped with blade like precision through the narrow slats of a sewer grate. I heard it hit the muck with a sickening plop. As I peered into the grate, I saw its red light blinking piteously at me as it slowly disappeared into the sludge at the bottom of the drain. This is a particularly foul sludge because this drain receives, along with the usual urban filth, all of the industrial chemicals used to wash off the biohazard waste such as urine, vomit and feces that 'patrons' leave against the side of the library. The phone falling through the narrow slats like that was damndest thing, and I'm still marveling how the chunky little phone did that. Perhaps urine forms some sort of gravitational or magnetic force of its own. I was going to write off the loss but then I found out that although this phone came free with my service it would cost $200 to replace it. Any fastidiousness I had about putting the phone back to my face vanished and I called the Department of Public Works. The gentlemen at the Department of Public Works met me at the sewer grate and fished it out for me. I told them that this was probably not the strangest thing they’ve had to retrieve and they told me, “Honey, you don’t even know.” The most common items they were called to retrieve were jewelry, wallets and keys. I tried to tip them $20.00 but they refused the money and instead tried to talk to me about Jesus Christ. When I lived in Alabama I was constantly fending off the unwanted advances of evangelicals but I was a little out of practice since I moved to the city and it was so unexpected that I just kind of froze and stared at them. I handled my hairdresser's Scientology pitch the following week much more gracefully.

The phone had shorted out so I did have to replace it. This was about 2 months ago. Then last Friday we went to the movies and saw Black Book, which was awesome by the way, like a cross between Showgirls and Schindler’s List. I must have lost it in the theater, perhaps during the shocking scene where the Jewish resistance fighter dyes her carpet to match her drapes to pass for an authentic blonde if you know what I mean, but didn’t notice its absence until the next day. We checked Verizon's records which confirmed that someone, presumably the person who found the phone, had been making many calls all day so we canceled the service.

We were able to do some forensics and called some of the numbers that the person had called. Most were to Mexico but others were to a neighboring city, so we called and texted that number until finally someone wrote back, “no english.” I called and he finally answered and we had a short conversation in Spanish, which I speak in a very broken, limited sort of way. I lived in Costa Rica when I was seven and mastered Spanish in that effortless way that children do so the neural pathways in my brain have been laid down, but were in such disuse, however, that I imagine them as some post-apocalyptic abandoned city street covered with vines and trees and giant potholes. They're still there, in other words, but in terrible shape. It was amazing how tongue tied I got as my mind groped around for the right word, but with the help of AltaVista Babelfish and the offer of a $50 reward (recompensa) we were able to arrange a rendezvous the next morning at an intersection near home.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe person who had my phone was late and I called his friend who arranged another meeting about 6 blocks away. I stood on the street corner and eventually two Mexican men strolled up. After ascertaining that this wasn’t some sort of sting and that I hadn’t brought along La Migra one of them produced the phone and a hasty exchange was made. E discovered that he had downloaded about $36 worth of games and pictures (one was of Jack Sparrow with a monkey on his shoulder, the others were the Women of Maxim) but other than that, had done no real damage. He had basically taken my phone on the equivalent of a joy ride, and when the phone’s service was cut off he lost interest. The picture featured at the top is his self portrait he left on the phone.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sugar, the White Devil 

Image hosted by Photobucket.com I became disgusted by all the sweets I had mindlessly been eating over the holiday so I quit eating sugar as a New Year’s resolution. Since then the weight has been melting off my body at an outstanding rate. I never really had a sweet tooth and consequently didn’t even eat that much sugar, but obviously the amount I did consume was doing one hell of a whammy on my metabolism. I’m not saying this approach will work for everyone, but it truly amazes me that something so simple as eliminating sugar could be the key to such a transformation. My recent loss has not pleased everyone, especially certain African American colleagues and Italian patrons, who, true to cultural stereotype (God bless them), appreciate a voluptuous woman with a well marbled rump. The rowdy group of homeless who carouse by the backside of the library voice their dismay every time I walk past them, and inquire about my health with great concern, as if I have been afflicted with some sort of wasting disease.

Sugar, and its lab invented twin high fructose corn syrup, really is the devil and its affects are insidious and disturbing. A few years ago I watched a reality show called Brat Camp. The premise was that parents, at their wits ends, have professionals kick in the doors of incorrigible delinquents in the middle of the night, place a bag over their heads and drop them in the Oregon desert in the middle of winter. Groovy counselors, some graduates of the program themselves, give the teens a totemic name like "Running Bear" and then force march them around the desert until they acquire a new attitude. It was terrifying how medicated these children were on drugs from Big Pharma: Ritalin, Seroquel (what my bipolar patrons take, or rather, are supposed to take), Ambien, but what really stood out was these children's diet, which was total crap. Some of the teens had been consuming a mind blowing 10 cokes a day. Since food is the biggest drug you put in your mouth, I had to think that perhaps their diet was the core issue of their behavior. For breakfast the counselors fed the 'brats' plain oatmeal and they retched and gagged like it was the most bitter poison. Their palates had obviously been so blasted by high fructose corn syrup that it was if anything not completely sugar saturated was repulsive to them.


The link among farm subsidies, high fructose corn syrup and a fat ass populace:

You are what you grow and When a crop becomes king.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Give me back my green thing 



One of Billy and Spoon's favorite pastimes is to torment each other in that special sibling way. They especially delight in lording over the fact that they have a toy the other one wants. We cannot figure out how a toy achieves most favored status, because a toy will be shunned for months and then become the one most sought after by both of them. It doesn't matter if the toy is it is a chicken flavored Nylabone or a filthy, soggy old piece of rope. When the possessor has the toy he/she will prance and chew and celebrate while the other one looks on and sighs in this heartbroken way. Sometimes one of the dogs will even stage a little tableau and feign sleep with the toy nearby, and when the other slinks up to snatch it away the sleeping dog will spring up and stand over the toy and growl smugly. Hours of amusement, I tell you.

Billy sometimes does not suffer Spoon’s gloating in silence, and demands intervention from us, even though we generally try to adhere to a prime directive policy. Here he is trying to force us into action by emitting these little yelps, painful and impossible to ignore because they are the same piercing frequency as a dying smoke alarm battery.

The toy featured in the video is a green Nylabone. I returned from vacation one time and this Nylabone was shoved way in the back of my underwear drawer. I was puzzled as to how it got in there until it dawned on me that the dog sitters must have mistaken it for some kind of sex toy and had shoved it into the farthest recesses of my underwear drawer. How anyone could mistake the Nylabone Hercules Dental Chew Wolf, nicknamed by us as 'the green thing,' for a sex toy is beyond my comprehension. Did they really believe that the plaque destroying bumps covering it were actually some sort of 'rough rider' feature? Eeeeew! In any case, I will spare us all the mortification by never, ever speaking of it to them.

Speaking of discretion with sex toys,
here's a fun weekend do-it-yourself project.

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