Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Back in Da Patch

We're back in Starkpatch, MS, for a bit and we just got in from a fabulous evening out with friends, dining at a great new Japanese restaurant (which is run by a bunch of Mandarin Chinese, as far as we could tell), scarfing sushi, crispy fried fish and hot saki. Good stuff. I can't recall the name of it, but it's on Stark Road, in case you're in the neighborhood.

We've spent the last couple days down in Wayne County, MS, visiting my Aunt, Uncle and Cousin and doing the late Christmas thing with them. We also visited my Mamaw, who is still in her resident care home. Can't say that this visit went as well as the one last month. I suppose it could have been worse, though.

It was not one of Mamaw's good days. Unlike last time, when she was semi-energetic and attentive, this time she mostly slept. When she was awake, she was kind of confused, though we did manage to get a smile out of her when we told her we'd helped clean her house and fiercely missed her cooking. It was not an easy visit for us, though. She's not doing well and is getting progressively worse. She had lost a lot of weight since even our Thanksgiving visit, and she didn't have that much weight available to lose in the first place. She is skin and bones at this point, wrapped up in blankets in her bed where she spends most of her time sleeping. Her Alzheimers has progressed to the point where she can no longer swallow properly on most days and she's not much interested in food to begin with. They're feeding her as many cans of Ensure as they can get down her, which is, again, not many on most days. Doctors have already begun discussing the possibility of a feeding tube with my aunt, which is a prospect none of us want to see happen. Mamaw made her wishes clear that she didn't want to wind up like that. We think she would hate it if she knew she was in the residence care home at all, which thankfully she doesn't seem to.

Mamaw was a terribly private person in life, very quiet and reserved and unwilling to be beholden to anyone nor to have people sticking noses into her business. Those traits as well as her hearing loss helped mask the extent of her condition for quite some time. No one was even aware she had any mental problems until she began forgetting names of close family members, or calling them by the wrong names, or imagining that she had house guests when there were none. Looking back, we can see that there were lots of signs, but most of these signs could also be interpreted any number of other, less harmful ways, so it's no wonder they were missed. You could chalk any number of things up to bad eyesight, loss of hearing or simple frailty, only seeing their true significance after the fact. I now look back on the conversations I've had with her over the past five years and I can see that even before the disease began they were much the same as after. The only time I can really pin down a major warning sign is when I called her in April of this year and she seemed to think I was my sister for a few seconds. (For those just joining us, I'm male and have a fairly deep voice, whereas my sister does not.)

I keep praying that God will call her home, reuniting her with the souls of her own grandmother (who Mamaw evidently cared for in much this same way when she was much younger--she's actually mentioned this in the past few months), her parents, her husband, her brothers and that of her daughter, my mother. Barring that, I pray that God will give her comfort in the days to come.

If you're inclined to prayer, how bout say one on her behalf. You can refer to her as Miss Bessie, if you'd like a name to use. Please say one for my Aunt Dora too. She's having to make most of the hard decisions here and I pray for God to give her guidance and wisdom.

While we're at it, please also say a prayer or two for my Uncle Chuck, on my Dad's side of the family, in Missouri. He just underwent double bypass surgery this afternoon. From what I'm told, he's doing well so far, particularly since the surgery was supposed to be triple bypass, but the surgeons scaled it back when they saw he didn't need all three. He and his family are going through the ringer on this, so they could all use positive thoughts and prayers.


Saturday, December 27, 2003

"I can't get into things without my keys"

Before leaving for this trip, I figured there were a few automotive issues to take care of first. No need having a repeat of the serpentine belt shredding incident of Thanksgiving,especially when that very belt has been squeaking for the past three weeks since our return. My thought was that it was just a bit loose and needed tightening. I also needed an oil change, so we wound up taking the Malibu to the local dealership since I knew they would have the proper belt tightening and oil changing tools that my usual place might not.

The dealership called a few hours later to say that I'm in need of a belt-pulley replacement. They didn't have the pulley in stock so it was up to me to decide what to do.

"Well, is it safe to travel with?" I asked. I figured, if it'll hold out til after the new year we can just change it then. After all, we don't want to make a 1,200 mile plus road trip in my wife's `91 Escort Station Wagon. Beyond being far from the most comfortable vehicle we own, it's also 50k miles past its 80k mile life expectancy. And we hope it lasts another 50k, or however many it takes to get us past Ash's graduation.

The dealership guy put me on hold to consult the experts. The experts said I should be fine.

When I came round to pick up the car, I marched up to the payment window where the dealership clerk guy I'd dealt with earlier stood, along side a large managerial-looking fellow.

"Hello," I said. "I'm here to pick up a blue `99 Malibu. I probably owe you guys some money for an oil change as well."

The managerial fellow sorted through some paperwork, found a page he liked, grabbed a keychain off the hook board behind him and slid it across the counter to me. I noticed immediately that the key was not mine.

"Um. This isn't me," I said.

"What?" Manager said.

"This isn't my key."

"Yeah, it is," he said, matter-of-factly.

"Uh, no, it's not."

"Uh, yeah, it IS," he insisted.

I picked up the keychain. It had a black plastic remote door unlocking device and a standard Chevrolet key with the black plastic grip.

"Sir, I promise you, I know what my key looks like and this is not it. For one thing, I don't have a little door clicker on mine. And for another thing my key is bent." I held up the unbent key for his inspection, then put the whole thing back on the counter.

The big managerial guy was getting angry now. Something wasn't making sense in his world. He snatched up the key chain and turned to the dealership clerk guy.

"Well, this is the key you gave me for it earlier! This IS the key to the Malibu!" he snapped. He was starting to turn red. Then he spun round, key still in hand, and stomped out of the office and out the side door into the lot beside the dealership.

The clerk gave me a confused and possibly irritated look. I had stirred up trouble.

"Um," I hazarded. "Is there a possibility there are two blue `99 Malibus in for service today?"

"Hmm. Could be," the clerk said. While he looked through more paperwork, I glanced through the window in the garage doors to watch the manager stomping around the lot in search of a blue Malibu in which to test the key.

"Oh, here it is," the clerk said after a few more seconds. He found my paperwork and shortly thereafter my true and properly bent key.

"Thanks," I said. "I sometimes forget I'm not the only one driving a Malibu."

The door flew open and the manager stomped back into the office, a triumphant gleem in his eye.

"I told you this was your key!" he said.

"No, Bill, it's not," the clerk said.

Bill the manager started to launch into a loud rant about how he'd just tried the key out in the Malibu and it had worked just fine when the clerk somehow managed to wedge the doppleganger Malibu theory in as well as point out my real key dangling from my finger.

"Oh," Bill said. He looked disappointed that the steam of his rant had been taken out of him. I can sympathize. Then he looked angry again. "Dammit! I hate it when I'm wrong!" he shouted. Then he smiled. "Well, it's still the first time I've ever been wrong... today."

Friday, December 26, 2003

Crazy Town

We're at Ashley's `rents' house where Christmas is a time to celebrate the festive season by spending time with loved-ones, laughing, telling stories and eating tremendous amounts of fantastic food. (And to me, that is the definition of a good time.)

My moms-in-law is a famed cook who spent much of yesterday and the early morning hours crafting an exquisite brunch for the "fambly." We fell upon it at 9:30 Christmas morning, feasting on quiche, country ham, biscuits, eggs, cheesy grits, baked french toast and other sundry foodstuffs. I then spent the rest of the day avoiding going into that part of the house, for fear of being drawn inextricably to the food table. Didn't work.

As to our Christmas...

None of us are particularly well-to-do money-wise at the moment so for the past few years we've put a moratorium on gift-buying. Basically, we might buy gifts for any kids who happen to be around, but none for anyone older than ourselves. And every year, just about everyone cheats and gets stuff for people anyway, pissing off the people (i.e. us) who DIDN'T cheat and DIDN'T get anyone anything, as per the rules of the game. (Not that I'm complaining too much, as my wonderful mother-in-law gave me a home-made, hand-knitted, actual-size Doctor Who scarf a couple of years ago, and I count that as one of the all time greatest Christmas presents I've ever received.)

This year, though, we finally managed to convince everyone not to get us anything and it worked. And there were very few kids around, so no one had to wade into the fray of Christmas shoppers fighting to buy the best stuff. On our way into town Wednesday, we drove past the enormous lines of cars stretched down the interstate near the exits leading to the Mall area of town and we cackled gleefully and unsympatheticaly at them. "Stupid Christmas shoppers!" we shouted. "Who would be dumb enough to venture out on Christmas Eve to shop?"

What a difference a couple of days makes.

This morning, at 5:30 a.m., I was roused by my sweet wife who was about to go out to do a spot of Day After Christmas, pre-dawn shopping. Her quest was to find a DVD player to serve as our Christmas present to one another this year. However, she wasn't sure what I might be looking for in a DVD player and had opted to consult me on my surprise. I don't know if that was good or bad idea, at this point. Perhaps I should have just said, "Get a good one" and left it at that. Instead, I decided to drag-keister out of bed and accopany her on her quest because I didn't know what I want in a DVD player either.

We went to Sears, Best Buy, Target and Circuit City. Most everyone was fresh out of anything we were interested in. Some had woefully cheap DVD players, but I've spent many years buying the cheapest appliances on the market and have almost always regreted it later, so we didn't go that route.

Now for those of you who've never shopped for one of these things, you might wonder what the hell is so complicated about it all that it has to be made into a major life-decision. Fair question, I suppose, but there are a lot of factors to consider. See, I'm sort of in the market for a DVD/VCR combo, because my VCR has suuuuucked for the past couple of years and refuses to be programmed. So I could use a new VCR with my DVD. But I don't want a sucky VCR with my DVD, so I have to make sure it's got the whole four head system, etc. My stereo is also on its deathbed and is no longer willing to actually play CDs, so a DVD player that can do that would be handy too. It would also be nice if it could play MP3s. I don't actually have any MP3s, but should I ever stumble on any, I'd like to be able to play em. Hell, I'd also like an FM radio frequency tuner in there too, (see the above bit about the crappy stereo), and a home theater sound system would be handy, while we're at it. I'd also like progressive scan as a feature. I don't own a digital TV, or anything, nor am I likely to won one in the next 10 years, but I'd like to have something that can hook to it and play DVDs most efficiently when I eventually do own one. (Like any piece of electronic equipment purchased today will actually last 10 years. I've been through 2 VCRs, 2 TVs and a couple of stereo systems and any number of computer systems in the past 7 years. Electronics in this day and age are not made to last.)

Basically, I want a miracle machine that does everything I might want it to do, exactly when I tell it to do it. No one makes one of those, though, so we have to wade through ones with lesser options.... at 7 in the morning... with 5,000 other pre-dawn after-Christmas shoppers dogging our steps.

After searching the world over for the better part of four hours, we gave up. Nothing ideal was available and what was available was of debatable quality. We slunk home empty handed.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Comfort Food Par-Tay

This past Monday we had our "liberry" Christmas party, featuring the previously heralded theme of Comfort Food & Cookies.

The food was fantastic, the company excellent and a glaze of carbohydrate-euphoria (i.e. "comfort") settled over everyone.

The cookie part supposedly involved us mixing and baking 8 dozen cookies to give to our fellow employees as gifts. I cheated and baked 8 dozen store-bought peanut butter cookies with mini Reese's cups in them instead.

And Mrs. J was able to make it too. She's doing much better, though she still can't get around as well as she'd like nor eat much.

My only complaint with the evening is that I couldn't eat much either. Not that I didn't try my best. It's just that my and my wife's digestive systems have now been altered by our near 3 month long stint on the Atkins program so that we, sadly, can no longer consume the mass quantity of food that we used to. I used to be able to put away two brimming-full plates of food and have room for desert. Now, I'm lucky if I have room to breathe after one plate. It's great for our health but is a massive bitch otherwise. When we cheat, we feel obligated to really do some damage, but we just can't now and it pisses us off. We weren't the only ones in that boat at the party, though. After our meal the entire staff sat around looking at all the plates of tasty cookies none of which we had any desire to eat because our brains were screaming "YOU'RE FULL, YOU FOOLS!"

After dinner, we all gathered in Mrs. A's living room where we took turns keeping her dog out of the cookies and telling each horror stories about problem patrons. (Ironic, in that Mrs. A's living room is the former living room of the Dufus's grandmother.) A couple of employees from libraries in neighboring towns joined us at the party and we were surprised at how many problem patrons we have in common, but it was valuable to share our most effective techniques for dealing with them.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Lord of the Rings

Caught a matinee of LOTR: Return of the King on Saturday. It was a damn good film and a lot more faithful to the book than the last one.

Our viewing was only marred by a couple of teenagers on a date seated directly behind us. Three and a half hours of "That's just retarded" and "Oh, that's disgusting." In fact, I think the girl half of the dating couple said "Oh, that's disgusting" no less than fifty times during the course of the film. And their ongoing commentary was of a nature that could only aspire to the heights of wit and observational skill of the great critic team of Beavis and Butthead.

The only time they ever shut up was toward the end of the movie, when all the disgusting stuff had ended and the girl was too busy crying at the sad bits to say anything. The guy, of course, had no idea what to do about his girlfriend crying so he shut up too.

The incident made me realize something, though. I almost hate to say it, but I think I've now become one of those old people who used to turn around and stare at me and my friends whenever we got talkative during a movie. What's more, I now understand we were in the wrong then and those whippershapping, drugstore soda-fountain drinking punks behind us were wrong Saturday, by gum!

Friday, December 19, 2003

Dawn of the Dufus Part III

When the Dufus wasn't lobbying for a job with us, he was plenty busy being a smarmy little turd-blossom on a day to day basis. His interactions with library staff, or indeed anyone else, were peppered with his usual name-droppings. It was as if he could not exist without letting everybody know that he has had some degree of interaction with a few people whose names we might recognize and is therefore worthy of recognition himself. And anyone who came within twenty feet of him got their own personal copy of his lone article about the library. (I once saw him on the street corner, promising a passerby whose aquaintance he had just made a copy of that most blessed work.)

And because he's obviously such an enormously important individual, library rules like time limits on the patron computers obviously don't apply to him. With most patrons, all you have to do is let them know their time is up and someone is waiting for their computer and you walk away, affording them the time to wrap up what they're doing and log off. With the Dufus, the ONLY way to get him to get off a computer was to go back and tell him his time was up and then stand there like the Colossus at Rhodes, giving him the stank eye until he actually got off. If you didn't, he would immediately start a new and lengthy e-mail as soon as you stepped away, and would often try to start one while you stood there waiting.

And what was so all-fired important that he just HAD to write just one last e-mail? Normally, I wouldn't know because I don't make it a habit to pry into what sort of activities our patrons are up to on the net. But since I was usually the guy who had to stand there giving him the stank eye, I sussed it out pretty quick.

Was the Dufus, perhaps, writing to a grant agency, pleading with them for library funds? No.

Was the Dufus corresponding with friends back West? Oh, no, my friends, no.

The Dufus was, in fact, REPLYING TO HIS SPAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That's right. The Dufus read each and every e-mail he was sent, spam or not, and replied to all of it. Never mind that most spam can't be replied to, the Dufus tried it anyway. And would tell you about it!!! In great detail!!!!

"George W.'s office just sent me an e-mail asking for a campaign contribution," he said, referring to an obvious mailing-list spawned e-note. "They want $20,000. Well, I'm writing them back and tell them what I think of the way they're running the country right now. And I'm not going to send them anything."

He also enjoyed trying to discuss current events with you, but kept twisting the events around to suggest he was actively involved in them.

"You know, it's a sad day that Arnold Schwarzeneggar was elected governor of California," he once said. Then he added, "Well, I might go to the inaugural ball, but I'm not making any donations."

Now why would a guy who supposedly has all this money that everyone keeps wanting him to give them have any need to hog up the patron computers at a public library? Couldn't he just buy his own computer and while away the hours at his parents' house replying to all his spam until his heart was content?

All his computer shennanigans were irritating enough, but the Dufus usually chose to do them dangerously close to closing time. He'd pop in for a computer at a half an hour til close (surpassing even Mr. Big Stupid in inconvenient computer usage) or less. You would think that telling someone "We're closed now" would be more of an incentive to get off the computer than merely saying "Your time is up." Alas, it was not the case. I would warn him 15 minutes before closing that we would be closing in 15 minutes. Then, 10 minutes. Then, 5 minutes. Then, we're closed. Then, no, really, we are closed. Then, I'm not kidding, we truly are closed as of five minutes ago. Then, I'm locking the door and turning off the lights. You need to be on the other side of it when I do.

And while I would have been well within my rights and posted computer policy to just shut the damned computer off in his face, I've always chosen to try the polite route first. Again, though, the only effective method was to just go Colossus on him and stand there til he got off. (Or hit him with a chair, though I only fantasized about that option.)

It seems the Dufus may no longer be bothering us so regularly. A couple of months ago we heard he took a position with the board of directors of a foundation established by a half-way famous long dead WV author in said author's former home town. We considered calling them up to warn them but figured if they hadn't been able to see through his smarm-infested weasel nature they probably deserve him.

His position there may or may not have gone well for him. As of Friday, Mrs. A informed me that the Dufus had moved out of the area entirely. He hasn't returned to the West Coast, but is at least a comfortable distance away in a neighboring state where he is probably even now plaguing library assistants.

The Dufus, 2003-2003, Inactive Member of the Liberry Rogues Gallery.

Dawn of The Dufus Part II

Following the Dufus's miraculous return to town, he had become desperate to find some sort of use for his oh so obvious talents in areas of publicity and fund-raising.

Can ya guess who he chose to inflict himself on?

You see, our library board is in the process of raising money to build a new library. And while they have already raised 40 percent of the $3 million needed to start the building process (all without the Dufus's help, I might add) the Dufus felt we were in dire need of his P.R. services and has taken every opportunity afforded him (we quickly learned to stop affording him opportunities if we can at all help it) to sing his own praises in the art of fundraising and publicity and drop a few dozen important names while doing it.

It turns out the Dufus had been hogging our computers for two afternoons to write an article about the library itself, which he hoped to peddle to one or more of our local papers and use as a big weasely foot in the door while stumping for a job to our board.

In the following weeks, he was in a constant state of panic trying to get a meeting with our head Librarian, Mrs. A, in order to discuss his sprawling and unsolicited plans for a marketing campaign. Mrs. A, meanwhile, was in a panic to avoid the Dufus at all costs. Through a series of incredible coincidences, he always seemed to come in to see her just when she was headed out the door on important errands.

It also didn't help that Mrs. A had recently purchased and was living in the former home of the Dufus's grandmother. So not only did he stalk Mrs. A for a job interview but also to beg permission to come by and see the house he spent so much time in as a Dufusy little whelp.

Seeing that he was never able to sync schedules with Mrs. A, the Dufus took to sitting in on as many library board meetings as possible. This is completely cool, as the meetings are open to the public, but the Dufus used the time to continue singing his own praises, listing off congressmen he's friendly with, actors and socialites he personally knows and famous authors who regularly throw him birthday parties, (though I somehow question whether Homer Hickam actually threw the Dufus's weasel-ass a birthday party, being as how the only reason Hickam was in the state in the first place was for a Rocket Boys reunion down in what's left of Coalwood, a party the Dufus no doubt crashed in the first place). The Dufus also went on at length about the tremendous amount of fundraising he did for a library in California and how he could do the same for us. The board actually researched this point. It turned out that the Dufus's part of the fundraising was a miniscule portion of a much bigger project involving thousands of other people, in which he mattered very little.

As you might guess, our board was not at all impressed by the Dufus and his name droppings, particularly since one member of the board already IS a former congressman and another is the heir to the fortune of a major toiletries manufacturing corporation, a lady the Pope might come to for a loan.

They were equally unimpressed a few weeks later, when they heard that the Dufus paid a visit to the state library commission and introduced himself to one of the state officials as the new P.R. man for our library's building project. The official hadn't realized we'd chosen anyone for the job yet, and phoned us up to inquire about it. Mrs. A informed them that we hadn't chosen anyone, but we now had a permanent candidate for the DO NOT HIRE list.

(To Be Concluded)

Dawn of the Dufus Part I

I've had to move another member of our Liberry Rogues Gallery from the Active column to the Inactive column. You might think losing another active member was a setback. However, in the case of this patron, it's good news since we liked him almost as much as we like Chester the (potential) Molester. Not a damn lot.

I am speaking of none other than The Dufus.

Allow me to tell his tale.

I first encountered the Dufus after coming in one Thursday afternoon to hear the library staff complaining about some jerk who had refused to get off one of the patron computers for most of the afternoon. Our computer policy is that each patron gets a half hour on one of our three computers and after that, if someone else is waiting to get on one, they have to relinquish it. If no one's waiting, they can stay til someone is. This guy, however, had been told multiple times by multiple staff members that his half hour was up and he needed to get off--information he chose to ignore. This went on for over three hours, with various staff members popping back to ask him to get off every ten minutes or so. Finally, one of our librarians went back and threatened to turn the computer off in his face, causing him to lose all changes in the document he was working on. Only then did he reluctantly get off. As soon as another computer came open, he was back at it again.

The next day the Dufus came back for Part II of this behavior. The first time his allotted half hour ran out, I went back to his computer and politely said, "Excuse me, sir, but we have a patron waiting..." nodding toward the computer to indicate what they were waiting for.

"For meeee?" he said.

Now, the tone of his question did NOT say, Are they waiting ON me? No. His tone said, Are they waiting FOR me? It was exactly as if he thought there was someone up front who had heard he was in town and had rushed right down to the Liberry to meet the fabled Dufus and shake his hand.

Ten minutes later, I had to go back to the Dufus to again alert him that we had other patrons waiting.

"For meeee?" he repeated, in exactly the same tone as before.

"No, ON you," I corrected. "You need to log off. Now."

Why, you might ask, would someone think so highly of themselves as to actually believe someone might be waiting FOR them? Ahhh, therein lies the rub.

The Dufus, I later learned, comes from local old money and grew up in the area but has spent the last several years living on the West Coast. To hear him tell it--and he takes great joy in telling it--when he was back on the West Coast, he was a minor deity and part time journalist who spent his days hobnobbing with the rich and famous, dear and trusted friend to all of them. He's quite accustomed therefore to people falling all over him, so it would have come as no surprise that someone was waiting FOR him. After all, surely EVERYONE had heard how the Dufus had miraculously returned from the West Coast to grace his home town with his presence (and move back in with his parents).

You only THINK I'm laying it on thick here. I promise you, I am not.

(To Be Continued)

Thursday, December 18, 2003

The People of the Caller ID

My friend T used to write a blog called Poocakes. It is, alas, no more, but she did one of the best rants I've read on people who use their caller ID units as answering machines.

Caller ID people, as they're known, come home, check their caller ID units and then sit and call every number that has called them throughout the day, familiar or not, to find out who was calling them and why. T and I share the opinion that Caller ID people suck the pituitary glands out of dead chickens. We think they should be tied down and forced to watch multiple reruns of Small Wonder and She's the Sheriff until they learn the valuable lesson that there are better things a person can do with their time. (Says the guy with nothing better to do than write a blog.)

At the time of her rant, Theresa had the misfortune of working as a receptionist in a medium large non-profit organization and was constantly plagued by Caller ID people calling their office back to find out who had called them and what they wanted. Theresa would point out to them that there were 40 people who worked in the building any one of whom might have been the culprit. This never seems to matter to Caller ID people, though.

Our point is, if someone didn't leave a message on the answering machine in the first place, it probably wasn't important enough to matter. And if the Caller ID person doesn't own an answering machine, well they need to get off their butts and go get one. Right Now! I mean, for Shank's sake, they're dirt cheap these days! People get `em in the bottom of cereal boxes! So if knowing who called you and why is so all-fired important then join the rest of us in the 21st century and go get an answering machine! It's not like you have to feed it or anything. Just put it in a corner, record a nice outgoing message, join the call-screener's union and quit calling everybody all the time. (And this goes double for you people who have books put on hold for you at the library and then are never home when we call. You folks frustrate the ever-living just-you-nevermind out of me!)

*sips nerve tonic*

Today we had one at work. A lady named Tammi called to ask why someone from the "liberry" had "called me on my phone." Mrs. A took Tammi's name and asked around if any of us had had reason to call this woman. We had not. Mrs. A explained to Tammi that none of the employees had called her and suggested a patron might have borrowed our phone to do so. Nope. Caller ID people don't care for logic. Tammi insisted that she had no business with the library so there was no reason for anyone to have called her from it and she wanted to know why we had anyway. Mrs. A tried to defend our good name, but it was to no avail and Tammi hung up, irritated.

Something about Tammi's name rang a bell with Mrs. A, though. Sure enough, a quick check of our computer login sheet showed that either Tammi herself or perhaps a relative of Tammi's named Tommi (we were never quite sure, as the handwriting was so poor) who shared Tammi's last name, had been in and had used one of the patron computers today. We theorize this person probably even borrowed the phone to call home. If it was daughter Tommi, it makes sense. If it was Tammi herself, though, she maybe needs to cut back on the weed. The jury's still out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

The Greatest and Best Blog Entry in the World... tribute

Today was a day most "liberry" bloggers would dread. It was almost entirely uneventful. Some might even say boring. Our only Rogue was Mr. B-Natural, who came in with his dog and proceeded to behave himself admirably. Makes me almost long for the days when he would get all worked up at having to share a computer hallway with the likes of the Untalented Mr. Ripley, or throw a huge tantrum if we told him his time was up and someone else was waiting for his computer. The worst he did today was turn the computer sign-in clipboard upside down before signing his name. This is standard procedure for Mr. B-Natural, who seems to be operating under the misconception that it somehow annoys us that he does this. Far from it. It actually makes it easier for us to read his name from the other side of the counter and therefore see when it's time to ask him to get off. (We once printed up a special sign-in sheet that was exactly the same no matter which direction he turned it in. He failed to notice, killing our practical joke.)

Probably the most eventful moment of today's workday came when I and Mrs. A and Mrs. C, the librarians, came up with the greatest and best food-theme in the world for our upcoming staff Christmas party.

In years past we've either gone out to eat or done a covered dish dinner where everyone brings a dish or two and a mighty feast commences. These have been most enjoyable occasions, but this year we wanted to do something different. We were wanting something similar to the covered dish dinner, but which somehow involved buckets of KFC chicken being brought in.

(And while I'm at it, let me just mini-rant on KFC's whole "Hey, get us, our chicken is low-carb friendly, so you're not gonna get fat eating it" ad campaign. Yeah, it's low carb... IF YOU REMOVE THE POUND AND A HALF OF BREADING ON IT! What a bunch of damned morons!)

So, anyway, Mrs. A really wanted the KFC to be a part of all this, as she's been craving it like mad for days. Then we hit upon the brilliant part. Fried chicken is comfort food, so why don't we just throw a comfort food party and bring nothing but huge vats of carb-laden fatty dishes we can all stuff ourselves with until we're soaked in food afterglow.

Oh, and cookies too! I almost forgot the cookies!!!! We're each gonna bring, like, 8 dozen cookies, so we'll have 8 different 8 dozen batches of different kinds of cookies. This way, everyone can walk away with a cookie sampler pack of at least a dozen different cookies. It's just frickin' brilliant, I tells ya! BRILLIANT!!!!

Frankly, it's such a stroke of damned genius that I really don't need anything else interesting to share today.

Comfort... Food... Party.

Three words defining true blog value right there.

I could have just signed on, spat that out there and walked away and it would have been a fine entry. Being the benevolent soul I am, through, I threw in the 8 dozen cookies variety pack for bonus added value.

Good night, everybody. Thanks for coming. Don't forget to tip your waitress!


Sunday, December 14, 2003

More Snow (oh, AND brains)

Nothing terribly Liberry related to say at the moment.

It's been snowing again here. Started Saturday night with some sleet and freezing rain then turned to snow overnight and has vacillated back and forth ever since. Made getting around town kind of a pain. Actually, it wasn't that big a pain, since my wife, the former Alaskan, took the wheel and chauffeured me around to my day's events.

Both the community chorale and church choir I sing with had their Christmas concerts/cantata today, so it was a bit of a busy party in the ol' vocal chords. Both concerts went very well, though the wifeonly barely made it to tonight's cantata. I had to be there early for rehearsal so I left her at home to finish packing to return to her surgical rotation this week. Before I left at 5:45, I warned her that she still needed to de-ice her car and not to piddle around and forget about it.

Shortly before our 7:30 cantata started, I looked out into the audience and didn't see the wife anywhere. I was a bit worried about her, but being as how the cantata was starting and I was the narrator, I couldn't do much about it other than pray.

Finally, bout three songs into the program, the wifecame through the door.

She had not, as I assumed, forgotten to de-ice her car. Instead, dutifully de-iced it at 6:30, well ahead of schedule, but couldn't get her Ford Escort station wagon up our steep driveway afterward. She had to put on her snow chains, one of which broke and wrapped itself around her axle, forcing her to get out and proceed to get soaked and filthy digging it out and putting it back on again. And then she just barely made it up the driveway at 7:35.

All things told, her day was still a sight better than Saddam's. Just for historic note, today's the day the world found out Saddam Hussein had been captured after 8 months on the lam. And on a personal note, I'm sure it's a shitfer to live in for any period of time, but the 4th grader in me thinks his little hidey hole looked kinda cool.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Update on Mrs. J

Got some fairly good news on the Mrs. J front. Her tests in Charleston proved that her heart-attack-like symptoms were caused by some blockage in two of the lesser vessels near her heart. The doctors are going to try treating her with medication and have put her on quite a few different medications, including daily insulin shots and have given her a strict diet to follow. I think this is good. Mrs. J was already a diabetic, yet she ate loads of sweets and whatever else she wanted, despite our protests. Now she says she's going to stick to the diet, as her doctor told her she could either stick to it or die.

She'll be out for another two weeks, during which time the rest of us will have to pick up the work Mrs. J did. And let me tell you, she does A LOT of work. We wound up letting the upstairs shelving go for a couple of weeks and I turned up Wednesday to find a massive pile of books that had to be shelved.

Mrs. J, we miss you.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Best Patrons EVER

I spend a lot of time here telling tales about the worst patrons who visit the "liberry" and writing up Rogues Gallery lists for them, but I've not spent much time on the best patrons.

If I were to write a Best Patrons EVER list, the Asners (not their real name) would be at the top of the list. Unlike some families who frequent the library (such as the Fagins--which is not their real name, though I shouldn't care if I wrote their real name here as we have documented proof of their many years of treachery and theft), the Asner's are simply wonderful, wonderful patrons.

Mr. and Mrs. Asner have five or six kids, (they're hard to count because they're never all in at once, though frankly we wouldn't mind if they were). These kids must come from some kind of angelic genetic stock, cause they're all just the best-behaved, most polite, loving, cherubic, bright and beautiful children you'd ever care to know. Most of them are probably around year or two apart in age, ranging from, I'm guessing, 12 down to 2 (and the youngest is, in fact, the Cutest Baby in all the World, bar none). They're always just quiet and helpful and polite and everything you could ever wish for in children. I've never seen them angry or even a little upset. I've never seen them sad or crying. They obey their parents without question, with nary a tantrum if the don't get to check out something they want. I think I can say with full conviction that the Asner kids are the best children I've ever encountered. They're just a joy. I've told Mrs. Asner exactly that.

And better patrons have yet to be born! Most patron families of their size load up each and every child's card with the full limit in books and videos, which makes for a freakin' long checkout time and check in time, should they return with all they borrowed, which they never do. The cards of most families of that size are a tangle of overdues and even blocked patron records due to unreturned books from decades past (See: The Fagins). Not so with the Asners. They're a librarian's fantasy come to life. They never take more than they need in books or videos, almost always less than half the 10 item limit, and they always bring them back well before the due date or call to renew. There's never a fine to be seen or a lost book unfound. And they read quality stuff. Even the little ones, who love the Magic School Bus series and Winn!e the P00h, but never get mindless pap like Barn3y or T3letubbies.

I don't know how Mr. & Mrs. Asner managed to do it, but I know their house is a loving one.

And it's been something of a family tradition that as they reach the front door to depart, the Asner girls almost always turn around and sweetly tell us, "God bless you" before leaving. (They even say it on their answering machine.)

Now I know this sounds like a very Ned Flandersy sort of family, but it SO does not come off like that at all in person. It's utterly genuine. And for me, a guy who has to suffer through bitter patron after bitter patron (some of whom are the grumpiest people in all the world), the Asners are refreshing.

As to the Asner's secret behind their amazing family-skills, I firmly believe it lies somewhere in their daughter's parting quote.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The fix is in

I used to work a lot of Tuesdays at the "liberry". Somewhere around a year ago our schedules got juggled and I wound up taking over the Wednesday slot. Mostly it's been a good thing, since the "Weird Wednesday" factor assures me of loads of fun patrons to observe. However, there's something to be said about the "Terrible Tuesday" factor.

On Tuesday--the day I wasn't here, mind you--around 5 p.m., a patron parked their `88 Chevy pickup in front of the library and came inside to avail himself of our services. He neglected, however, to set his parking brake. Our library is situated about mid-way up a fairly steep hill at the edge of the downtown area. You do the math.

Yes indeedy, Auntie Gravity and Uncle Laws of Physics took notice of the brakeless truck and sent it hurtling down the hill where it careened off a utility pole, changed direction and crashed into the window of a down-town restaurant. Fortunately, no one was injured.

This is actually not the first time this sort of thing has happened. Over the summer, while working the desk (no doubt on a Wednesday) I heard a tremendous noise from outside, rushed to the door and saw a large Chevy Suburban rocking back and forth on its wheels. It took me a second to notice the little white pickup truck practically sticking out of the Suburban's grill. It was a parking brake incident. The owner of the Suburban, which was barely scratched, was using a computer while the truck's owner was no where to be found. The police came and took down information. The owner of the Suburban decided he didn't really care about any of it, since his vehicle wasn't damaged, and drove away, leaving me to inform the owner of the truck--one Mr. Welsh, another of our regular patrons--why his back bumper was damaged.

When I heard about yesterday's incident, I said, "It wasn't Mr. Welsh, again, was it?"

It wasn't.

Mrs. C, our #2 librarian, held up the local paper and read aloud the details of the crash to the rest of us. I stood there, slack-jawed in amazement, first at my lost opportunity to witness people running and leaping, Little-Rascals-Style, to get out of the way of a runaway truck, then secondly at the ad I then noticed on the back page of the newspaper.

The ad read: "Jac0b's Treeh0use. Collectibles. Toys. Gifts. Comics. For the young and the young at heart. TRI-METRO Mall."

"Sweet crap on a cracker!" I said. "A comic shop!"

You see, in the two and a half years since my wife and I moved to this tiny little West Virginia burg, I've been without my accustomed weekly comics fix. Since 1988, I've always lived in towns that had at least one comic shop, that is until moving here. The closest shop to where I live now had been about an hour away from me and not exactly feasible to get to on a weekly basis. (Plus, it's not an especially good one, either.) The prospect of a comic shop closer to home seemed a distant one. I'd even toyed with the idea of starting my own, but the fact that I didn't think the area could support one and my lack of any business sense convinced me otherwise. In order to get comics at all, I've had to go through Westfield Comics, a mail-order service and a darn good one too. However, with Westfield, I only get a monthly fix of comics and have to pay $6 in shipping. And sure, it's almost like a mini-Christmas when that big ol' box with WESTFIELD COMICS printed on the side arrives at my door (causing the feMailman to beep her horn for me to come out and get it from her car so she doesn't have to walk up and ring the bell), but it's still not the same as walking out of a bonafide comic shop with a brown paper bag full of comic-reading goodness under your arm. Damn, I miss it.

"Oh, yeah. I saw that store," Mrs. C said. "It's a little kiosk out in the middle of the mall."

"What?" I said. "You mean you knew about this?"

"Um. Well, yeah. It was open back during the crafts fair."

"The crafts fair? That was, like, a month ago. You've been sitting on this for a month?"

"Well, I thought to mention it but figured you already knew," Mrs C said. Mrs. A, our head librarian, backed Mrs. C up saying that she too had seen the shop a month ago and also didn't think to tell me, but only because I probably already knew.

"Darn all of you," I said.

They laughed and joked that they knew where I was headed on my break. Sure enough, I headed over to the mall as soon as I could.

The TRI-METRO Mall is hardly a proper "mall," unless by "mall" you mean a collection of empty storefronts and Armed Services recruiting stations set within an enclosed shopping environment. Oh, sure, there is a big chain clothing store there as well as a hair salon, a shoe store and a New Age Crap store (with a fine selection of rocks, tribal masks, jewelry, crystal stuff, rainsticks, artsy twigs, hemp-products and bout any other cheap thing you could want to have imported from India).

Sure enough, right out in the middle of the mall aisle as it were was a little kiosk shop of several glass cases full of action figures, both vintage and new, and models and statues and other geek related things. Toward the rear of it were two display shelves with backissues of a wide assortment of comics. There were also a few comic long-boxes, with issues going for $2 or so. The owner of the shop was on the phone, but hung up shortly after I started browsing.

"I would have been here sooner, but I just saw your ad today," I told him while greedily savoring the bagged and backing-boarded issues gleaming before my eyes.

As far comic shops go, I can't say this one ranks with the best of them. (By the way, for my comic buying dollar, the best shop I've been to in years was Austin Books and Comics, in Austin, TX. It's everything I want in a comic shop and so much more.) But then again, it's only a kiosk store--what can you really do with a kiosk store? Every shop has to start somewhere. Hell, my original home town comic shop, the late lamented Gun Dog Comics, began in a warehouse full of dog food and music equipment. Even the New Age Crap store, now a good sized corner shop in the mall, began as a tiny kiosk just over a year ago. I'm sayin' it's got potential.

Garin, the owner of Jac0b's Treeh0use, seems to know his stuff and is not at all like Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons. (Worst trait EVER!) Furthermore, Jac0b's Treeh0use already has a monthly subscription service in place, meaning once I'm shed of my obligations to Westfield (i.e. waiting the two months it will likely take them to ship the remainder of the comics I've ordered in advance) my comics fix will once again become weekly.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Brothers in Arms

Well, this blog's made headlines. Over at LIS Blogsource, a library blog about library blogs, they've put up a link to me as part of their Dec 3 entry. Mighty nice of `em. Turns out there are quite a few library related blogs out there. And I haven't exactly cornered the market on the use of the term "Liberry", either.

Probably the biggest and best of them that I've found so far is http://liberryblooze.blogspot.com. This site just irritated me. Not only has it already been around for more than TWO YEARS, but it's using the same frickin' template that I originally chose for this site (hence why I've changed all my colors recently).

The worst part is, it's a great Liberry Horror story site! I should aspire to be that entertaining.


I'm of half a mind to say "Screw this blogging business" and just go read LiberryBlooze.

But I'm not gonna.

What I'm gonna do is continue making cosmetic changes and proceed business as usual. Oh, and I'd also like to say congrats to Jonathan on reaching the two year mark with Liberryblooze and wish him many years to come. You're a brother in arms, sir, and I salute you.

Monday, December 08, 2003

The Patron Who Must Not Be Named

Out of all the members of the Liberry Rogues Gallery, Chester the (potential) Molester is the one we hate the most.

Actually, our hatred for him varies from day to day, depending on who's in the library, as there are actually people who irritate us far more than Chester, but he's probably the most serious threat we have to look out for, therefore he makes the top of the list.

He is the Patron Who Must Not be Named.

Chester looks like the stereotypical child-molester. In fact, he could be the child-molester poster boy. He's in his 30's; he tends to wear baggy, dirty clothing, often of the sweat-pant variety and always, ALWAYS wears the same ratty-assed vest and little short-brimmed hunting cap; he does indeed possess a traditional "Chester the Molester" mustache; and he most definitely has an unsavory interest in young ladies (and by young ladies, I mean under age 16, usually under age 12). He's SO stereotypical in his predatory molester-like behavior that when you see him actually behaving that way you stop to question your sanity, because you think that no one would EVER possibly behave so openly and obviously like a child-molester and you think that you MUST somehow be mistaken. Then you realize that, no, you're not mistaken and he truly is a sick bastard.

In Chester's defense (what little there is) in the year and a half he's been darkening our door, we've never actually had any incidents of illegality from him--in other words, he's never attempted to actually molest anyone while in the library. Otherwise the police would have been called on him long long ago and he would be making "special friends" in prison. However, the fact that he hasn't actually molested anyone may only be due to the fact that we never give him the opportunity to do so. From the time Chester hits the front step, we're on his ass like westerns on shelves at Tabor Evans' house.

Chester's usual M.O. is to enter the library and immediately head upstairs, pausing on the way to case the children's room for any occupants. When he comes in, we do a quick inventory of any and all kids in the library and where they are. If we don't know, we go look and make sure and if there are any kids near Chester we make sure there's a library staff-member tailing Chester at all times. If there are no children, we let him be, but we take special notice of any girls who come in.

Once Chester finds out there's no one of interest upstairs, he comes back downstairs (stopping to check out the parenting magazines, with their usual young cover-girls on his way) and either leaves disappointed or heads for the internet-access computers. We've never been able to catch Chester viewing anything untoward on the internet. We're not sure if this is due to any skill on his part at keeping only harmless pages up whenever prying eyes are around. We suspect he might just not know how to use it in the first place. Almost as though he can sense that there's porn there to be found, but is stymied at how to access it. We've seen him sit and stare at our home page for minutes at a time. Chester's also not a big fan of signing up at the desk to use one of our computers and is always on the lookout for one that's already logged on but unattended so he can just hop right on. (We keep em logged off whenever he's in the house, just to force him to come put his name on our clip-board. Not that we need his name. Everyone knows his name. Librarians in surrounding counties know his name. So far, the only people that don't seem to know his name are the sex-offender registration pages for WV, which we check regularly.)

So Chester usually stays on the computer for a few minutes and then leaves, provided there are no young girls about. If there are young girls about, he will make any and all excuses to leave the computer area and meander back into the kids' room to stare at them. His favorite excuse is that he needs a pencil. Once this is decided, he gets up, goes into the kids room and, instead of making the straight line from the reference/computer hall through the kids room and into the library's front room, he curves around to the left and pretends to be terribly interested in the Easy Reader section, all the while stealing glances at the girl(s) in the room. It's really pathetic that he seems to think no one can tell what he's up to. Chester will also try to move out of line of sight of the front desk, at which time I move from the front desk until I have line of sight on Chester; this usually means planting myself into the children's room door frame, from where I can stare at Chester and give him the "stank eye." Once Chester spies me spying him, he breaks off from his own staring activities and either heads back for the computer until such a time as it occurs to him that he really needs a pencil (i.e. five seconds later) or he heads to the front desk to get said pencil, at which time I point out to him that there are plenty of pencils by each of the computers and that he should use one of those. This happens EVERY SINGLE TIME. And it really doesn't matter to him that it happens every single time, because he only wanted a pencil so he'd have an excuse to go through the children's room and now that he's been told where the pencils are he has his excuse to go back through the kids room to get one. There, once again, he starts to meander off track and tries to stare at the girl(s), restarting the cycle.

I used to try and intimidate Chester as best I could. I'm not a physical violence kind of guy, but I'm told I can exert an intense angry stare when pissed. I used to turn that stare on Chester whenever he came in and continued beaming it at him the whole time he was around. I even followed him from room to room, just to stand idly in the corner and turn the stare on him whenever he looked my way. My goal was to make him as uncomfortable as possible in the hope he would finally realize he wasn't welcome and we were on to his sick little game. As far as I can tell, though, the stare has never had any affect on him whatsoever.

We've talked to other libraries about him to see if they had any better dirt that we did. We even tried to be discrete about it, phoning up the library in the county he lives in and saying, "We wanted to ask you about a problem patron we've been having who lives in your area?" to which the other library responded, "Oh, you mean CHESTER?" That library told us that Chester once confronted their head librarian, accusing her of calling the police on him, as the police had apparently been to his house to ask him about his behavior. The librarian had not called the police on him, but assured him that she would be happy to, should the need arise. More likely what happened is that a concerned parent called the police on him, being as how that particular public library is located on the property of an elementary school and Chester was only there to watch the scenery when school let out.

The only method we've found for keeping Chester out of our library is to stop talking about him altogether. You see, Chester is the Patron Who Must Not Be Named for a very good reason. We found that if we stopped using his real name in common conversation, he stopped turning up so often. Then, on days when we happened to use his name, he DID turn up. So it has become unofficial library policy to never mention his real name. If we refer to him at all, it is as The Patron Who Must Not Be Named. (He knows when you're talkin' about him... so DOOOOON'T even talk about him.)

A part of me would LOVE it if I were to catch him doing something wrong (or something demonstrably wrong, as lascivious staring ain't technically illegal). I would love being able to call the police and tell them something they could actually use besides, "Uh, he was starin' at her," which just doesn't seem to cut it. So far, though, Chester's been playing it careful. But we the library staff remain ever vigilant.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Benign Legion of Liberry Rogues

Friday was a really boring day at the "Liberry." During the course of the day, we were actually visited by nearly the entire membership of the current Liberry Rogues Gallery, including Ron the (Magazine) RipperChester the (Potential) Molester and both Mr B-Natural (the Grumpiest Old Man in all the World) and Mr. Smiley (the Second Grumpiest Old Man in All The World). Unfortunately, there was narry an incident of misbehavior or even anything interesting out of any of them to report.

In fact, the closest thing to an incident we had was when Mr. B-Natural told me that his puppy, Bubba, had recently given him the gift of a slightly soggy, though still edible, Milkbone dog biscuit and insisted that he take it no matter how many times he threw it away. Mr. B-Natural carried it with him in his pocket, just to show to people. This might strike you as a strange thing to do, but I personally think it's very cute. Plus, it's actually a big step in Mr. B's evolution toward becoming Not Quite the Grumpiest Man in All The World. The dog has mellowed Mr. B-Natural quite a bit, and anything that can accomplish that is a good thing in my book.

Mr. Smiley is still the Second Grumpiest Man in All The World, but he seems to like me so he doesn't give me any crap. This is probably due to my never having had cause to give him any. As far as I can tell, Mr. Smiley has some anger-managment issues. Unfortunately for the purposes of this blog, most of his glory days of raising hell at having his Wallstreet Journal reading time disturbed by even the slightest sound seem to be over. And it's been nearly a year since he caused an elderly lady to fall half-way down the stairs due entirely to his own deep-seated rudeness. No, these days Mr. Smiley seems to be taking an active interest in not being so grumpy. He even tries to be nice, on occasion. It's such an alien behavior for him that he just can't get the hang of it and it always comes off as just wrong and creepy.

I covered Ron the Ripper earlier in this blog's archives, (though I still haven't revealed his secret identity).

And Chester the (potential) Molester? That sick bastard is a whole other post entirely...

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

UGH!!! Part III

Odd bird of the day prize goes to Cap'n Crossdresser, who favored us with a visit this afternoon. The good cap'n was wearing a stylish black quilted ladies long winter coat with a green fleece long sleeve blouse, dark skirt and knee-high leather boots. Oh, and he had a purse that matched the coat.

I'm going home now to prepare for the onslought of sleet and freezing rain we are about to receive.

Tomorrow should be interesting, as I'm going to spend much of it at the W V "Liberry" Assoc's annual conference, held this year at the world famous BIG HOITY TOITY HOTEL AND RESORT . If I can dig out of the ice, that is. I'm supposed to MC a group of W V author readings, including Belinda Anderson, Sharon Gardner, Edwina Pendarvis and Stephen Coonts. Should be fun. I might even cheat a little for some HOITY TOITY HOTEL grub.

UGH!!! Part II

The day actually got much better. Several of my favorite patrons came in and brightened my day, got some good news from a friend, plus I was able to order and early lunch from the Atkins-friendly downtown restaurant that delivers locally. (I'm back on the Induction period of Atkins, after damaging my carbohydrate avoiding/fat burning digestive system over Thanksgiving. I'm frankly glad to be back on the program, because I can't recall feeling as bloated and sluggish as I did after consuming all those tasty, tasty, empty carbs.)

Other than the fact that I now have about 400 paper cuts on my tongue from licking fund drive envelopes all morning, and the predicted 9 inches of snow we're about to get, and the phone ringing off the hook every time I sit down to type something, and the fact that there are probably 5 handicapped patrons upstairs who, from the sound of it, are trying to jump through the floor, I'm doing pretty good.

Even better is the news that Mrs. J did not have a heart attack after all, but merely has some suspected cardiac blockage and is going for treatment in Charleston tomorrow. This means she likely didn't have any damage to her heart from her episode yesterday. Very good news indeed.


I'm at the library and am having a spectacularly crappy day so far.

  • I had to open today at 9.

  • I forgot to set my alarm and woke up at 8:20.

  • Had to quickly gather clothes, coffee and breakfast, which I was planning to take with me to eat here. Coffee took far longer than necessary so I wound up leaving the house at 8:40.

  • My commute is 15 minutes, on a good day.

  • 8:55, I roll in to the "Liberry" and realize I forgot my breakfast! (Though I did manage to get my coffee.)

  • The person who closed the library last night did an irresponsibly poor job, the trash is brimming over and the stupid carpet runner to the door is filthy (mostly because patrons insist on wiping their feet on it despite the fact that it is NOT a doormat and that there's a perfectly usable doormat RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE EFFing DOOR!!!!)

  • And someone has already called to ask what time we close.

  • So now I'm hungry and cranky and probably have a tendency to snarl at people. It can only get better from here.

    Tuesday, December 02, 2003

    And the drama just keeps on coming

    A few minutes ago, our chief librarian gave me a call to let me know that Mrs. J, one of our library workers, is in intensive care right now due to a heart attack. It doesn't seem to be a severe one, at this point, but any heart attack is bad news.

    Mrs. J is a nice lady who's been with the library staff for several years. She started out as a Green Thumb worker, paid by the local Green Thumb group to work there, but after they dropped her from their payroll last year our library board agreed to pick her up as a regular employee at the same rate. Mrs J is a good soul, who every year we have to try and talk out of spending her entire paycheck buying presents to give us at our Christmas party. We rarely succeed entirely, but can usually convince her to give us food instead.

    If you're of a praying mind, please say one for her.

    Monday, December 01, 2003

    Thanksgiving Part II

    We left Waynesboro Thursday morning and headed north for Starkville again. We were only in town for an hour or so before setting off for Missouri, where Thanksgiving dinner was to take place on Friday evening, instead of Thursday.

    My parents (dad and step-mother) drove in their Lincoln while the wife, I and my sister took my Malibu. Before leaving, Dad asked how fast we wanted to drive, as he was taking lead. We agreed that 5 mph over the limit would be good, as there were going to be many troopers out then. Dad then proceeded to drive 1 mph under the limit all the way to Tupelo.

    In Tupelo, we flashed our lights and pulled over to the side of the road after Dad seemingly missed the turn to Memphis. He explained he intended to continue north on Hwy 45 through Corinth, MS and on up to Dyersburg, TN on the way to Missouri. We opted to head up I-78 to Memphis, which is a far faster trip.

    "Oh, sure. We'll see who gets there first," Dad said in a tone that suggested it was a forgone conclusion that he and my step-mother would be the winners.

    We laughed and took off at a good 10 mph over the limit.

    In Memphis, we missed the bypass loop around the city and wound up plowing through it on I-78 proper. At one point we crossed the loop again and the wife, who was driving, turned on the ceiling light of the car so she and Alison could consult our atlas to see if we needed to go back. We did. In the process of turning around to go back to it, though, we wound up in a very questionable neighborhood where there wasn't a great place to turn around. The whole situation made me nervous. I didn't like the idea of driving around in a bad neighborhood with our interior light lit illuminating us as the atlas scanning lost idiots we were. The wife seemed oblivious to all this. She pulled off the bad side street we were already on onto a potentially worse one (or at the very least, deeper into the questionable neighborhood) and then up into an empty lot. She thought the lot's driveway looped back around to the street, but it turned out not to be a driveway in the first place, let alone one with a looping road. The lot was also rather junky. I was worried that we would run over a glass bottle and have a flat. We were not in the sort of neighborhood in which I wished to have a flat at night. I tried very hard to keep my cool, but our situation kept getting worse and I couldn't help groaning about it. I reached up and turned off the interior light, but the wife immediately turned it back on and stopped at the next intersection, STILL in the bad neighborhood, to spread the atlas open once again. My sister, sensing and sharing my nervousness, suggested we get out of the neighborhood before we broke out the maps, so the wife drove on. Now, chances are we were never in any real danger, but I'm a fairly paranoid person when it comes to the potential death of me and my family and tend to insist on avoiding behavior that MIGHT get us killed and or injured.

    We arrived at my grandmother's house in Missouri a good hour ahead of my parents and had lots of fun rubbing that in their faces. My dad gave us the bird.


    The wife's first Thanksgiving with my family went pretty well. No major arguments broke out and good food was had by all. Her only complaint was the smoke. My extended family consists of one part militant chain-smokers, one part reformed militant chain-smokers and one part semi-militant, usually uncomplaining non-smokers. The wife and I fall into the latter category. We spent most of the weekend trying to avoid the more smoky areas while gamely tolerating our burning lungs and reddened eyes as best we could.

    Other than that, my family was my family. Most of them I've not seen in a year and a half, some longer than that. It was a good visit over all.


    We wound up leafing through photo albums there too. In fact, there are considerably more photo albums at my grandmother's house, as my grandfather was a habitual photographer. At one point we found a strange photo featuring a child none of us could readily identify. I brought the photo around to everyone who came in to see if any of them knew.

    "See, there's Pam, Little Steve, me, Uncle Chuck, Jason, Cameron and then... mystery child."

    The truly strange part, though, was that the child LOOKED as if he was a member of the family. He looked a little bit like a cross between me and one of my other cousins, in fact. But we didn't have another cousin that he could possibly be. All available candidates were either far too old or far too young. For a while, we toyed with the idea that this was a photo that fell through into our world from an alternate reality, in which my mother hadn't had a miscarriage between my and my sister's births.

    We then accused my Uncle John of inserting a photo he'd digitally doctored, since that is one of his many talents with computers. He claimed he didn't do it, but we all agreed that it would have made a fantastic prank. Just go borrow someone's family photo album, scan in the pictures, digitally insert strangers into them and take it back. Oh the trouble I could get into.

    Sunday, November 30, 2003

    Thanksgiving Part I

    We got in late last night from our Thanksgiving holiday adventures. It was so nice to be back in our own, comfy bed, the covers pulled up to our necks, especially after our 12 hour car trip. I was even able to sleep well, despite our cat Winston's attempts to wake us up by meowing every ten seconds. This is typical behavior for the little kitty when we've been gone for a week.


    The car held up for the rest of our journey, but our travels were not without incident. We made it to my Mamaw's house last Tuesday night (pausing only briefly to pick up my sister at the airport in Jackson) with no problem, but almost as soon as we walked through the door I was viciously attacked upon by my cousin Amy's pit bull mix dog, Sandy. It was my own fault, really. My usual tactic when confronted by a barking dog belonging to a relative is to bark back, just to annoy it. Usually I've met the dog before and once it recognizes me it stops barking and becomes friendly. Not so with Sandy. She didn't know me from Adam and didn't take too kindly of my dismissal of her presence and she tried to take a chunk out of the back of my thigh as I walked by her on the way to the kitchen. Hurt like hell, but got my attention. I didn't make that mistake twice and was very careful to make as little noise as possible on my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.


    We visited Mamaw in her residence care-home last Wednesday. She was having a good day and was happy and talkative for most of the time we were there. She didn't seem to recognize any of us, though she did seem to think that I was my father. Her Alzheimer's had progressed far more than anyone knew before it was diagnosed. She is taking medication to dramatically slow the process, but at this stage it's only a mixed blessing. She often doesn't know her own daughter and while she tends to remember names she usually doesn't associate those names with their owners. It was an interesting visit.

    I think I was feeling pretty collected about the whole thing until my aunt mentioned that Mamaw often seems to think that she's a young woman and is concerned with her own grandmother's failing health. That got me thinking about the cyclical nature of life in general and how I'm now in her position, worrying about my grandmother's failing health. Someday, perhaps, my own grandson (should my wife and I ever get around to honking out a kid who grows up to honk out a kid) will have the same concern about me. This line of thinking kind of put me in a funk that was hard to shake, particularly after we got to Mamaw's care-home and had to contend with trying to carry a conversation with her while avoiding one another's eyes lest we all burst into tears.

    Our conversations with her were sort of limited. We would tell her things and she would seem to understand some of it but would gloss over for others. It was a lot like trying to carry a conversation through a bad long distance phone connection; we could understand one another once in a while but a lot of it was fuzzy on both ends. Once in a while, though, she would try to explain to us where she was in terms of her memory. She said that she didn't really know us but felt that if she stared at us long enough something might come up. She also said that while she couldn't remember people she could remember animals very well.

    It was a sadly positive visit. It breaks my heart to see her like that, but I can see that she's in good care and good spirits despite her state of mind. I still pray that God will take her on home soon.

    My night leafing through photo albums at my parents' house only whetted my appetite for things of the past. I mentioned it to my aunt and cousin at Mamaw's house and they broke out Mamaw's photo albums and we all started going through them. They were in poor shape, the pages barely holding the photos under their plastic covers. My sister the photobug purchased some new pages and redid all the albums that needed repair. It was amazing to go through them, seeing not only pictures of my sister and I as little kids, but also black and white photos of my mother and aunt as kids and of ancestors on both Mamaw's and Papaw's sides, almost all of whom have been dead for decades. A lot of that history is lost forever. Mamaw is one of the only people left who could have told us the identities of nearly everyone in the photos, but the chances of her being able to do that now are pretty slim.

    We found a fantastic photo of my Papaw as a young man and took it to Wal-Mart, where we scanned it in and made copies of it that were superior to the water-damaged original. We each now have a copy of it. I wish there was a similar photo of Mamaw, but she was a terribly camera-shy person, who almost only brought out a camera for birthdays and then only to take pictures of her grandchildren.

    Among the photos we also found bookmarks made of obituaries clipped from a newspaper and then laminated in plastic. It's apparently a service provided by the local funeral home, where most of my deceased relatives on that side of the family had their funerals. My mother's obituary was among them. How odd to read of your own parent's death, almost exactly 27 years after the fact.

    Saturday, November 29, 2003

    Slow Readers At Play

    One of the frequent patron questions in probably any library is "What's good?" This is one of the most paralyzing questions for me. There I am, surrounded by books on all sides (we've got a few in the basement too) and when a patron asks that I can NEVER ever think of anything good.

    I keep meaning to start making a list of books patrons recommend when they return them, but other than a few scratch paper attempts, I've not managed to accomplish it. Plus, everyone's tastes are different. We have one patron, Mrs. Sneeks, who reads everything we get and hates probably 80 percent of it. Books that the vast majority of our patrons are practically getting into fistfights over just to get on the Hold List, Mrs. Sneeks wouldn't deem to use as toilet paper.  And when she doesn’t like a book—again, 80 percent of the time—she has a tendency to hurl said book across the circ desk at us.  We don’t take offense, because she’s not trying to be mean.  She’s just demonstrating her ire with the talent of the particular author in question by trying to get their book out of her hands as soon as possible, and if she can put some spin on it as she does, all the better for her.  However, when Mrs. Sneeks actually likes a book and recommends it to me, I tend to pay attention... for about five minutes, then it slips out of my short term memory like that guy in.... in... um, that movie about the guy who... um... Oh, hey, a cup of coffee. How'd that get there?

    Another of my problems is that I'm a frustratingly slow reader. (Frustrating to my wife, primarily, who devours big fat Diana Gabaldon books in a sitting.) And by slow reader, I don't mean that my reading rate is particularly slow, only that when I'm reading a book I tend to read a page or two before bed, or in the can, then I'll put the book down. Sometimes for days at a stretch. Or even years. Hell, I put down Fellowship of the Ring, 30 pages from the end of the book, in 1991, and haven't picked it up again. I know that's nerd sacrilege and puts me in danger of a geek card revocation, but it's true. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy the book, far from it. It was pretty good. I just set it down, intending to come back to it, and was... distracted, I guess... Hey, look... coffee!

    However, there is a book that I have recently finished that I must highly recommend to one and all.

    Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. It's one of the best books I've read in the last decade. (And, yes, I've read other books since putting down Fellowship, ya jerks!) It's a funny, beautiful, frightening, wonder-filled, heart-wrenching, kick you "squar" in the head sort of story. It's about a sixteen year old East Indian boy named Pi Patel whose ship sinks half way across the Pacific and who has to survive for several months in a life raft, with his only company... a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. It's a story that, as it proclaims on the inside of its dust jacket, will make you believe in God. (Though some might argue that it will make you believe in God while kicking you in the nuts.)

    If I were to pick a director to adapt it into a film, M. Night Shyamalan would be the number one person on my list and I would burn the rest of the list before anyone could see it and get any bad ideas. In fact, the story of Life of Pi is almost tailor-made for Shyamalan.  It's so HIM you'd think he wrote it in the first place.

    And the cool thing is, from what I've read, Shaymalan has read it, agrees with me and is now looking to adapt it to the screen as his next film.

    If you've not read it, get thee to your local "liberry" and grab it. It's out in paperback too.

    Thursday, November 27, 2003

    Happy Turkey Day

    Just wishing you and yours a Happy Turkey Day. We'll be ignoring the hell out of the good Doctor Atkins today and hogging down with the best of `em. And in my family, that's saying something.

    On Thanksgiving, it is tradition to gather at my grandmother's house in Missouri, eat massive quantities of turkey, gravy, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, dressing, cranberries and that evil evil staple of Thanksgivings nationwide, three bean salad. Afterwards, we're usually too full to do much other than collapse onto soft furniture and snooze. But tradition also has it that some time during the holiday period, my father and sundry uncles MUST get into a screaming argument about religion. While these fights are usually quite heated, they almost always are over minor points of dogma that I contend is pointless to argue about since neither side can EVER prove their point to the other nor make any headway toward even an impass on the subject. I contend that in most instances it would be far preferable and certainly easier on the less conflict-oriented members of the family for all arguing parties to simply wait until they die and then ask God to settle it. Alas, this rarely happens and so some of us have had to resort to staging walkouts in protest of the noise-level.

    This will be my wife's first sojourn into Thanksgiving at the AARON household and my first in several years. Should be interesting, as she could hold her own in a religious argument with any one of them and is apt to take on the whole clan if necessary. Fortunately, from what I've been told, the past few years have been quiet on the argument front, so perhaps we'll have peace and tranquility this year too. If not, maybe I can try stuffing turkey down people's throats while their mouths are flapping and let the soothing power of poultry take control.

    So may your Turkey day be filled with food, fellowship and fun and not with the screams of my dad and uncles.

    Tuesday, November 25, 2003

    I have a photograph

    Last night my folks took us out for a semi-Atkins-free meal at Barnhill's. The brown food was good.

    The wife and I spent much of last night looking through old photo albums at pictures of me as a baby and of my parents and both sets of grandparents. It's so strange seeing Mamaw young and vibrant. Or my grandma with black hair. Some of these photos I don't recall ever seeing before and it was a great little view into my folks early life when they were my age. Makes me think I better enjoy looking that young while I am that young.

    Today I found a bunch more old loose photos in need of albums. A couple are some of the rare photos of me back when I was skinny and had long hair. Most folks think I've been lying about the two years I spent svelte and unshorn, but I now have photographic proof!

    We're off in a couple of hours. More to follow...

    Monday, November 24, 2003

    Juice `n' the Wife's Perilous Journey

    Despite the fact that we were driving a recently ailing vehicle... and despite the fact that we very nearly hydroplaned into other vehicles during the rainstorms that initially showered us on our journey.... and despite the fact that we narrowly avoided being killed by several five foot long, six inch thick wooden beams that hurled at our car off of a tractor trailer flatbed whose driver neglected to tie them down properly... and despite nearly being killed yet again by a couple of the usual unbelievablely reckless assholes driving in Tuscaloosa, AL... we managed to make it all the way to my home town of Starkville, MS, in one piece.

    This was actually a pretty typical journey, all things considered. Especially the part about assholes in Tuscaloosa. Don't get me wrong, I love the town and spent quite a bit of quality formative time there in my childhood, but the place is full of assholes who drive entirely too fast. I've never been through there without being nearly side-swiped by someone driving, quite literally, I assure you, 90 mph in a 60 zone. Well, Tuscaloosa or Birmingham. I think they have some kind of auto-asshole exchange program going on. Either that, or assholes commute from one to the other and have to drive really fast to make up time. Come to think of it, Mobile is pretty full of assholes too. In fact, I once spent a terrifying, white-knuckled 15 minutes in the back seat of a car being driven 90 mph through the streets of Mobile while my cousin's then fiancee sat in the front seat playing with a revolver. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt at the time, but my cousin's then fiancee has since proven himself an enormous asshole. Whatever the case, there are a WHOLE buncha assholes in Alabama who truly need the healing power of jail-time, a body-cast or both.

    So now I'm home, back in my old stomping grounds of Stark-patch, (or StarkVegas, depending on your preference). This is where I grew up and lived from ages 5 to 25 and where I had actually intended to stay, until I took a job in radio in Tupelo, MS, moved there, met the woman who would become my wife, and moved away to North Carolina and now to West Virginia. Seems like only yesterday that I actually lived here, in this very house, or in the house I shared with friends in college across town (DaCrib).

    Even after I moved away, I always intended to return here, perhaps as leader of a glorious revolution that would overthrow the evil general manager of the radio station I worked for here, taking his job as my own and living out my days ruling with a benevolent but iron fist. I no longer entertain such notions. For one thing, Mississippi is %#@!ing hot 8 to 9 months out of the year. West Virginia is only hot for 2 months out of the year, and even then it's not Mississippi hot. For another thing, West Virginia is a lot prettier than Mississippi. Sure, both states have just about the same level of poverty, low literacy, domestic violence, inbreeding and congressmen with controversial views on racial issues, but at least West Virginia has glorious lush mountains to help ease the pain. Mississippi has mostly humidity, heat, dirt, pine trees and the comforting knowledge that at least it ain't Alabama.

    Starkville's an okay place, though. It's a college town, so it tends to cater to a more worldly crowd than most small towns in the state. It's not everyone's idea of shangri-la, particularly folks from more urban areas who are used to being able to, what they call, "go out" and "have a good time." Or people who are used to being able to buy beer on Sunday, let alone cold beer AT ALL. But I think it has a lot to offer and has grown tremendously over the past 20 years. Its where I grew up and where I've made most of my longest-lasting friendships.

    Most, though not all, of those friends have been scattered to the winds. Unfortunately, we're only going to be in town for a few hours tomorrow before having to drive to Jackson to pick up my sister at the airport, on our way to Mamaw's.

    Still don't know what to think about all that.

    Saturday, November 22, 2003


    Wow. Didn't mean for this blog to get dramatic this quickly....

    Called my sister in Austin tonight. A month back, we learned that our 92 year old grandmother in south Mississippi has been diagnosed with Alzheimers. The disease had already progressed quite a bit by the time it was diagnosed, so most of the medications available to treat it will only slow its progress. My aunt says Mamaw has good days when she is still able to recognize people occasionally.  But on her bad days she doesn't know anyone and doesn't even realize she's at home and keeps telling people she wants to "get the hell out of here," and that she knows good and well she's not at home. (This is a life-long church-going woman whom I've never heard curse and she's rapidly developing a colorful vocabulary.)

    Since learning of Mamaw's illness, my sister and I have been planning a trip down to spend Thanksgiving with her and my aunt and uncle. (We normally spend Christmas at Mamaw's and Thanksgiving with my wife's family, but decided to do things differently this year.)

    Tonight, though, my sister told me that my aunt had to put Mamaw in a nursing home, this past Wednesday. It's been discussed before, but we didn't figure it would happen this soon. Apparently Mamaw's becoming a danger to herself. She sleeps a lot during the day, but she keeps trying to get up in the middle of the night to wander around her now unfamiliar house. My aunt has caught her several times, but it's difficult to catch her every time. Mamaw has apparently fallen several times as a result. She's very frail anyway and has fallen a few times over the past couple of years, even breaking her arm in the process, once. If she's allowed to keep falling, she'll break something more important.

    I truly hate that any person should have to spend time in a nursing home. It's one of my greatest fears for my own future. However, I also realize that there are circumstances that make it necessary. I think my aunt probably made the right call in this case. We also have the consolation that most of the time, Mamaw doesn't know where she is or who anyone else is, so one confusing unfamiliar location is probably as good as any other. At least in the nursing home, she'll have people to look after her 24/7.

    I hope and pray the home is a good one. We're headed down there on schedule to see for ourselves and spend Thanksgiving with Mamaw.

    In some ways I hope it's our last Thanksgiving with her. This is not a disease you bounce back from and no one should have to live like that.

    If you're of a praying disposition, we could certainly use them.

    On The Road

    The wife and I are on the road for a week for kind of a Thanksgiving vacation, so I won't be at the "Liberry" for a while. I will have a couple of back-stock entries to add, so don't drift too far. Plus, if our trip continues its horribly true nature, I might just turn it into a travelogue of terror for the week.

    Last night, while driving through Virginia on my way to my in-law's place in North Carolina, I stepped on the gas to pass an 18 wheeler and my engine suddenly began making a loud rhythmic flapping noise. However, no engine lights came on and there was no loss of power, so I continued on, hoping to find a good place to pull over, but after a couple of minutes the flapping subsided.

    I thought, perhaps, a tie rope had come off the 18 wheeler and wrapped around my axel and had flapped against the road until it came to bits. I drove the rest of the way to NC and didn't think much more about it. My wife suggested I might have lost an engine belt of some sort. I figured it would be the airconditioning belt, as I'd had no problems driving so it wasn't likely the drive belt.

    Turns out, it was the drive belt AND the airconditioning belt, since a `99 Malibu only has one belt for all. Fortunately, God was smiling on my journey, for my car was instilled with some Blues Brothers grace and only half of the belt had shredded, leaving me another half to limp in on. We determined pretty quickly that it was beyond even my industrial mechanic father-in-law's ability to fix out in the yard and we found someone who was open and could do it for a decent price.

    Friday, November 21, 2003

    Colorful Addendum

    I thought I was going to be able to get away with only one entry today. Then Cap'n Crossdresser, our area's resident transvestite, walked through the door.

    Today, the good Cap'n was wearing a very fetching low-cut gray sweater, that accented his thatch of red chest hair. Below that he wore a brown satin skirt, with matching hose. I didn't see his shoes.

    The Cap'n is probably the least feminine crossdresser I've ever seen. He's a rather burly, lumberjack of a man with a Larry Fine-style half-doughnut halo of wild, unkempt hair surrounding his bald head.  I've often seen him sporting a beard as well, though today he only had the moustache. I get the impression that it's not his goal to actually become a woman--he just wants to dress like one.

    Cap'n Crossdresser, our honorary Twin Peaks patron of the day.

    Complaint Department

    I think it's important, this early in the blogging game, to establish that I'm really not here to bitch and gripe about my job. I know that pretty much comes with the blogging territory and a lot of what I'm going to do here may seem like that, but I'm really not complaining.

    My life is pretty good, all things considered. I live in a beautiful state (And, yes, West Virginia is quite stunning. Just miles and miles of rolling green mountains, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, snowy peaks, rivers, valleys, and temperate climate.) And I have a great job! I get to work in a library that's in a stately old, pre-Civil War, historic building. I have great fellow employees who are both colleagues and friends. The vast majority of the patrons I encounter on a day to day basis are enjoyable people and there are several of them who actually make my day brighter just by their walking in the door. While this job is far from being the highest paying job I've ever had (it, in fact, is pretty close to the lowest paying job I've ever had, actually--but when your wife's a medical student and her school is located in an economically depressed region of an economically depressed state, you take what you can get) it is certainly the least stressful job I've ever had.

    That said, I really really REALLY hate the telephone at work. It might be okay, if it weren't incessantly ringing all the time. Even that might be okay if I didn't have to answer the same question every other time it rang: What time do you close? It's a perfectly legitimate question, but after you've answered it twenty times in a single week it starts to wear on your soul. Some days I actually growl at the phone when it rings. (And while I'm at it, let me give a ringing non-endorsement to GE for this piece of crap telephone/speaker phone/cordless phone combo, no doubt purchsed from $%@#ing Wal-Mart. It's got a main phone unit, with corded handset, hold buttons, the whole works. Then, across the room, is the mobile phone power-station which is not plugged into a phone jack at all but relies upon the mobile phone signal from the main phone unit for all its telephonic activity. This means that every time the phone rings, you have to wait for both the main unit phone and the mobile phone to stop ringing completely, to be in mid-ring, you see, before you dare pick up the main handset, otherwise the mobile phone goes ahead and loudly rings for another three seconds. The whole bloody thing is just too loud in general. It loudly beeps every time you press a number. The volume on the mobile phone handset is set permanently to either deafening-roar or mouse-whisper, with no middle ground. I tell you, it's the devil. Or, if it's not the devil, it's in league with our photocopier, which I assure you IS very much the devil. )

    Back to the phones...

    In addition to What Time Do You Close?, I also get a number of other irritating calls.

    We get frequent calls from Birthday Lady. She's an elderly woman in town who calls us every time a celebrity dies to ask what the deceased's birthday was. Every... single... time. No matter how obscure the celebrity might be, the second they kick off she's on the phone to us for their birthday. And the thing is, there's not exactly a reference book to tell you the birthday of every famous person who might be eligible for croaking--or at least not in our library, there's not. So we have to cheat and resort to looking them up on the internet for her. She also has an irritating habit of not waiting patiently for us to go and look up the information for her, despite our pleas with her to hold for just a moment. So unless you take the devil mobile phone with you and converse with her the whole while you're looking up when Art Carney's mom honked him out, Birthday Lady will hang up on you every time. Then she'll call back the next day to plague you again.

    I'm told she's keeping a record of all these famous dirt-nappers. I can just picture a great heaping scrap-book, its bulging covers filled with yellowing newspaper obituaries of famous people stretching back to the 1920s. And, written in pencil, beside each brittle, glue-soaked clipping, is their birthday--information dutifully delivered by her friendly neighborhood library staff. It would be a fascinating tome, for sure. I would love to get a look at it.

    That's pretty annoying. But that was LAST week's most annoying phone call.

    THIS week's annoying phone call was from a different lady, who began the call by saying, "There's this poem I want, but I don't know the title and I don't know who wrote it. The last line of it is `And all these things will be repeated, at Thanksgiving'."

    Just like that. That's all she knew.

    Now, I understand her plight. You've got a fragment of an unidentified poem stuck in your head, who ya gonna call? The place that ostensibly deals in poetic works as part of their raison d'etre, that's who.  But it's a crap shoot, really. When making such a call, you almost have to hope the person who picks up the phone will be familiar with the poem and know the answer off the top of their head. As far as I know, there's no book that will tell you a poem's title and author by a snippet of the last line. (We do actually have one that does this by first line, but she was SOL on that one.) If we don't know the poem, we would have to comb through every poetry book in the joint (or find one with a subject index, which we don't have) to come up with an answer. And frankly, we don't have that many books of poetry in our tiny little 30,000 volume collection anyway.

    My solution: cheat. I went to Google and typed in, "And all these things will be repeated, at Thanksgiving," figuring if the poem is out there on the web it'll come up.

    Nada. Zip. Bupkis. Shite.

    I searched under "Thanksgiving Poetry." This was a little more successful in that it actually brought up several sites of poems about Thanksgiving, many of which played tinny little computer music to put you in the festive mood for Thanksgiving Poetry. But again, I'm the guy who'd have to wade through all of it and I wasn't planning on doing that. If it had all been nice, crisp, crinkly Robert Frost poems, and I didn't otherwise have a JOB to do, perhaps I'd have given it a go. But most of it amounted to people who've spelled THANKSGIVING vertically down one side of a page and created a line of poetry corresponding to each of the letters, while the one-voice Casio version of Amazing Grace plays in the background. No thank you.

    My thought is, the lady on the phone didn't even have the last line correct in the first place, otherwise I feel sure it would have popped up somewhere. I had to apologize that I wasn't able to find it for her. She seemed a little put out at first, in a way that made me think she was surprised we didn't have the entire poem embroidered on a pillow at the desk, but she didn't offer further complaint.

    An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.