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.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Today's Odd Bird

The "Liberry" was mostly uneventful today, save for one odd bird.

A patron came in bearing our paperback copy of the book Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families as well as a brand new pristine paperback copy of the same book.

"I checked this out a while ago," she explained, "and I decided I'd like to have it for myself, so I brought you a new copy to replace it."

I blinked for a bit. "You want to replace our copy... with a brand new copy?" I asked.

"Yes," she said.

I blinked some more.

Normally when patrons enjoy our books and want one of their own, they return ours to us and go buy a fresh copy for themselves. Or they simply steal ours, which is more often the case. Patrons usually only bring us new copies of books when they've lost or damaged the original and feel guilty. As well they should. Our original copy was right there in her hand, though, and looked much the same as when it left some weeks before. Maybe a little shelf-worn, sure, but still respectable. There were several bookmarks and paperclips in the pages of our original, but I only noticed them as she began removing them, I assume to show me that the book was still in good shape.

"I didn't write in it, or anything," she said.

"But you still want to give us the new one?"

"Oh, yes."

Then she opened up the front flap, exposing the Date Due slip and our cataloging barcode. "All you really have to do is just put this paper in the new book and we can call it even, right?" she said, pointing to the slip.

I had no idea how to deal with this. It's just not the sort of thing that ever comes up. I couldn't really fathom why she would want to replace a perfectly good book on bipolar disorder with a brand new copy when she hadn't damaged the original in the first place. It was like she was emotionally attached to the book and was offering us a slightly better copy of it so she could keep the one she'd fallen in love with. I had a little instant vision of this lady sitting up in bed, reading our bipolar disorder book, musing to herself that it had helped her understand the disorder quite a bit better than she had before and how much she wished she could keep it forever. Yeah, it's a terribly goofy vision to have, but that's how my brain works.

I excused myself to go see if it was all right with our librarians, in particular the one whose hassle it would be to catalog the new book.

Normally it might be as easy as slapping on a new date due slip and new barcode and changing its book record to reflect that new code. Unfortunately, we in our particular neck of the WV "liberry" system are in the process of switching to new and hopefully better software to keep up with all our books, patrons, etc. and have had the infinite headache of having to re-barcode every book in the building.

"All three?" I hear someone say. Look, dickweed, you try spending your entire summer rebarcoding 30,000 filthy, dusty books, popping down Claritin's like they were Altoids, repeatedly jamming rigid plastic barcodes under your fingernails and then you come back and try to be Mr. Funny Pants!

Now, for reasons too time consuming and slack-jaw boring to go into, (but which involve all of our collection data being taken by the company who's selling us the new software, just to inconvenience us), we can no longer alter existing item records.

See. Boring.

Anyway, it's pretty much library policy that we prefer the patron bring us the money and we get to buy the preferred edition of the book we're replacing. This policy is in place for the benefit of the flukes of the universe who try to bring in the Dell Paperback edition of Tom Sawyer to replace the $30 leather-bound hardcover that they so thoughtfully left on the roof of their car during a rainstorm.

I tried to plead the lady's case, pointing out that she was replacing a paperback edition with an identical paperback edition, but the librarians didn't go for it. In the end I had to go back up front and break the news to the patron that we were taking her beloved old friend of a book and rejecting her gift of the sparkly fresh new one.

"But you could just move the slip to the new book," the woman argued. We assured her it would be a good deal more complicated than that and she finally relented and left wearing a sad, sad look.

I think we may have shattered her psyche.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Good Omens

Today it rained. Not just a little rain, mind you, but a heavy torrential downpour that lasted most of the day. Because it rained a whole bunch last week, the ground was still pretty saturated so the rain had nowhere to go, leading to serious flash flooding throughout southwest West Virginia. There are surrounding communities that are mostly under water. To paraphrase one of our patrons today, "Where there were fields, there are now ponds. Where there were ponds, there are now lakes. Where there were valleys, there are now rivers. And where there were rivers... well, you'd better just stay the hell away from the rivers." Fortunately, my wife and I live on top of a tall hill, so we're at least high if not dry.

What does all this talk about rain have to do with the "liberry," though? Well, rainy days tend to bring in some of the stranger and more colorful patrons we have. I guess it's mostly because there are very few dry outdoor activities when it's raining, so if people aren't at work and don't want to stay home they can either come to the library or go to Wal-Mart. Which is cheaper?

We have a fairly wide range of mentally handicapped patrons, who mostly come in with aides from the local Unobstructed Doors group. And when it's raining, the aides don't have that many options open for places to take their clients, so they come to the library. I'm not complaining in the slightest. I'd say 95 percent of them are great folks and a joy to work with. However, it's that remaining five percent that's a bit tricky.

Enter Ron the Ripper. Ron is in that five percent. In fact, he's most of it. Ron's a roundish, bearded fellow with a permanent mischievous grin and the wild eyes to accompany it. Ron's not precisely retarded, but he's certainly not independent. He's a lot like a really big three-year old, but without the vocabulary.

I first encountered Ron a couple of years ago when he began stomping around the library while belching at the top of his lungs and laughing about it. You'd think with my own belch history I might appreciate this, but I just don't.

In addition to the belching and having a penchant for subjecting everyone he sees to obnoxiously loud primal caveman growls, Ron's favorite pastime is tearing up our magazines. He does this by rapidly flipping through the pages, backwards and forwards, repeatedly, until there is no magazine left to flip through. He laughs and laughs and primal growls the whole time. It's an amazing sight to watch, if only for the vicarious joy of seeing someone have so much fun. As far as we've been able to determine, it's the only reason he comes to the library. It is his passion. It is his way of life.

We've tried to accommodate Ron by providing him with a large stack of donated magazines he can destroy at will, so he doesn't make for our brand new magazines. Doesn't matter. Ron knows which ones he's not supposed to touch and makes it a point to attack them first thing through the door. We've pleaded with his aides to keep an eye on him but I don't think they really put in much effort at doing this. If they try to take the new magazines from Ron, he starts primal caveman growling at them progressively louder until they back down or until one of us comes upstairs to see what's the matter—then he primal growls at us. Some even send him into the library alone while they stay outside to smoke. Ron always makes a beeline for the magazine rack and then we have to follow him around trying to get him to relinquish them, which always ends in more primal growling and, once, a very minor physical assault upon my person.

Some of the other employees, and indeed his aides, are a little scared of him. He's definitely a wild-card, but fairly harmless, unless you're a magazine.

He was in today, which seemed a good omen toward my blogging future. After all, with guys like Ron walking the earth there will never be any shortage of material.

And, of course, there's always the tale of Ron's Secret Identity. I'll have to get to that one of these days.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Open for Business

Welcome to Tales from the "Liberry" my first official BLOG. I've done bloggy bits and pieces over the years, but this is my first foray into blogging proper. I've been threatening to do this for quite some time now, particularly on days when the patrons of the small town West Virginia library in which I work seem a little too close to being David Lynch film-extras. Basically, there are so many unbelievably interesting and frightening characters who cross my path on a regular basis that I can no longer allow such great material to go to waste. (Particularly since so many of the better ones keep dying or getting packed off to jail.)

Mind you, it's not exactly a non-stop thrill ride, particularly since I only work there around three days out of the week. But between new material generated when I'm there and my immense backstock of tales yet untold, I'm confident I can sustain a proper blog. At any rate, I'm going to give it a month to see how it goes and proceed from there.

So come on in and leaf through the shelves. Loan time is two weeks and Fridays are Fine Free. Be sure to check the hours on the door, cause we don't open til 1 p.m. on Mondays. (We're usually inside anyway, shaking our heads in disbelief as we listen to the tenth oblivious soul in a row banging on the locked front door to get in. We've tried putting up bigger and more obvious signs, but we've found it really doesn't matter. People don't look at signs no matter how large and they just try to come on in anyway.)

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Rogues Gallery


  • MR. STANKY *
  • MR. CRAB (the Third Grumpiest Old Man in all the World)
  • MR. B-NATURAL * (the Grumpiest Old Man in all the World)
  • THE FAGINS (Unseen for ages, but still actively evil, no doubt)
  • WILLIAM SHATNER(the 5th Grumpiest Old Man in all the World)


  • THE PURPLE NUN (Deceased)
  • PARKA * (Shhh! Don't say his name, it gives him power!)
  • MR. SMILEY (the Second Grumpiest Old Man in all the World, has not darkened our door for quite some time)
  • MR. STANKIER * (Haven't seen or smelled him in months)
  • BILLY THE BRAINCHILD * (a.k.a. the Low Rent Larry Flynt. MIA since 2005)
  • THE SERIAL SHITTER (Allegedly Constipated)
  • WAL-MART JESUS* (Has left our door undarkened since 2005)
  • CRUSTY THE PATRON* (The Patron formerly known as Nearsighted Dave, unseen for nigh on a year)
  • THE EVIL FEDEX GUY * (MIA for years. Status Unknown)
  • THE UNTALENTED MR. RIPLEY * (Out of jail, though not in the area)
  • KAMMY K.: THE BOOK HOARDING BIZATCH (Finally brought her damn interlibrary loan book back after 10 months)
  • THE AMAZING BLADDER BOY (Unseen since 2003)
  • BEAR PISS MAN * (Unseen and unsmelled since 2004)
  • CONSPIRACY GUY * (Finally got his own computer, or so he'd have us think)
  • MS. I.N. PHYTE *
  • RED ALERT ( Moved away )


  • MS. GREEN*
  • MR. HINKY *
  • MR. DENT (The Fourth Grumpiest Old Man in All The World)


  • THE FORMERLY SWEATIEST WOMAN IN ALL THE LAND* (Now with no foul smell at all.)



  • * = Innanet Crowd Patron

    Saturday, November 01, 2003



    • JUICE— (ME) A now former "liberry" ass. (assistant)/ninja at the "Tri-Metro" County Public "Liberry" in the Town A/Town B/Town C Tri-Metro area of small WV towns. Has now moved to Borderland, WV, where he is pursuing a variety of writing, web and graphics related gigs. (First Appearance)
    • THE WIFE— A former medical student, turned full-fledged physician. Non-"liberry" personnel. (First Appearance)
    • MRS. A— "Liberry" Director, all around great boss. (First Appearance)
    • MRS. C— Assistant "Liberry" Director, another fine human being. (First Appearance)
    • MRS. B— Fellow "liberry" ass. and also very cool. (First Appearance)
    • MRS. J— Sexagenarian "liberry" ass. in charge of all things cleaning and plant-watering. Prone to heart attacks, hearing lapses and fits of generosity. (First Appearance)
    • MS. M— Former Newbie Greenhorn "liberry" ass. Recently graduated to full "liberry" ass. status with all the benefits that come with it. (First Appearance)
    • MS. D— The most recently added "liberry" ass. (First Appearance)
    • LENNIE— Mentally handicapped volunteer assistant "liberry" ass. who comes in twice a week to hang out, though is no longer allowed to shelve books. Has deathly fear of song "YMCA" by the Village People. (First Appearance) (Whole Saga)
    • MISS TEMP— Temporary Newbie Greenhorn "liberry" ass. Was promoted to full "liberry" ass. status within three months on the job. Left for a job in the real world for a couple of years, but returned to the fold shortly after my departure. (First Appearance)

    • WINSTON— Our cat. Formerly infinitely bad, now not so much. Prone to trouble. Spoiler alert, she died, April 2008. Non-"liberry" personnel. (First Appearance)
    • MR. KRESKIN— Our former president of the board of directors who used to phone us only when both librarians were away. (The Kreskin Saga)
    • MRS. H— Former weekend warrior "liberry" ass. who now runs Town-D's branch. (First Appearance)
    • MISS E— Former weekend warrior "liberry" ass. who abandoned her job with no notice and who we suspect may have been stealing us blind. (First Appearance)
    • MISS K— Former weekend warrior "liberry" ass. who graduated highschool and left for college. (First Appearance)
    • MISS. F— Former highschool aged weekend warrior Newbie Greenhorn "liberry" ass. Left for college. (First Appearance)
    • MS. S— Former evergreenhorn "liberry" ass. Was never promoted to full "liberry" ass. status and lived on to menace us from beyond "liberry" employment. (First Appearance)

    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.