Monday, September 30, 2002

i bought a copy of i thought my father was god as a gift for my mom this morning. it is a collection of true tales, most only a page or two long, which were submitted to NPR's national story project by average joes and josephines like me and you.

when i read it a few months ago, it felt like i was sitting at a big dining room table after a holiday meal, listening to family and friends trade old stories. that feeling you get when dirty plates are piled high on every available counter in the kitchen and folks are reclining in their chairs, making each other laugh, and cradling cheap white coffee cups with "see myrtle beach" or "world's best grandpa" printed on their sides.

as i drove to work, i thought about how most everyone has interesting stories. the man in the truck who was making faces at the dog in the next car, the mexican guy with the leaf blower in front of the bank, the curly-haired little girl who loudly kept counting to ten, and, yes, even that white kid who zoomed by me today with the 'i love jesus' air freshener and the pimpmobile bumper sticker.

last heard: great lakes 'parachutes'

Sunday, September 29, 2002

i should pause and express my gratitude to the readers of this site. the three of you have shown unflagging support. back in may, i began to carve out this tiny space on the web hoping that it would force me to write a bit more and, if i were lucky, make you laugh once in a while. however, as some of you know, it has been a trying last couple of months. the truth is that many mornings i had to wipe away tears before i caked on all of this clown makeup for the merriment of you and my mother. so many things were up in the air and, until today, none of us really knew how it would turn out...

would francie's plans for a restaurant take off?
what were the extent of vaughn's injuries?
will sydney's reunion with her mother be the stuff of dreams?

as the last hours of eager anticipation for tonight's alias premiere tick away, i just want to say thanks for being there for me to lean on. you are the wind beneath my wings.

last seen: the filth and the fury, carrie
last heard: the gentle waves 'evensong'
reading: back issues of preservation

Saturday, September 28, 2002

"where's alison?"..."THERE SHE IS!!!"
"where's alison?"..."THERE SHE IS!!!"
"where's alison?"..."THERE SHE IS!!!"

this went on for about 20 minutes. the mother mumbling babytalk, hiding behind her napkin, and then 'jumping' out from behind it. while the first, oh, ten times were rather endearing, this mother's tourettic impulses did little for the digestion of myself or the other eight adults gathered around the teppanyaki bar.

for her part, alison, the nine month old, kept quiet, fascinated alternately by the cheerio in her clenched right hand and the leaping fire that belched forth from a volcano that the chef had constructed out of an onion. he went through the motions, doing the requisite spatula-knife-flick-combo launching shrimp tails at the shirts of small children. the rest of us quietly prayed that he would finish cooking alison's mom's food, tout de suite, so that she could fill that hole and grant us the calm friday evening dinner we were all expecting.

last seen: the magnificient ambersons, one hour photo
last heard: yo la tengo 'damage'
funny- dave eggers in the new yorker
not funny- IMF/world bank protests in dc

Thursday, September 26, 2002

it has been a day devoted to books. i didn't have to work until noon, so i took advantage of the rainy morning by sleeping in and then listening to the water and birds and traffic sounds coming through my bathroom window. after lying there for a little while, i tried to read some more of motherless brooklyn. it is next month's bookclub selection and you should come. i'm frantically trying to finish it, so that i can at least start lullaby before i go to see chuck next tuesday.

now i'm at work. i've been reading book reviews and trying to find bookclub titles for december, january, and february. there are all kinds of rules when i'm selecting titles. most importantly, i have to want to read them. i also try to pick things that we have more than ten copies of in the library system. finally, i want to be sure that they are available in paperback in case anyone wants to buy them.

so far, we've read:
charles baxter- the feast of love
myla goldberg- bee season
zadie smith- white teeth
da chen- colors of the mountain

on deck are:
jonathan lethem- motherless brooklyn
manil suri- the death of vishnu

for future picks, i'm considering:
mark dunn- ella minnow pea
tom mcneal- goodnight, nebraska
bharati mukherjee- leave it to me
eliza minot- the tiny one
thornton wilder- the bridge of san luis rey
arundhati roy- the god of small things

i could end up pitching all of these. who knows? but it is fun to get paid to sit here and think about these things.

last heard: the beta band 'needles in my eyes'

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

isidore will spank new orleans on thursday afternoon.

even the slightest rain makes for mayhem in the city. what with being below sea level and all, the pumps have a hard time keeping up with the rainfall, so streets begin to flood fairly rapidly. i can recall many storms where people drove their cars up onto the neutral ground (medians, to the layperson) in the hopes that those six inches would mean the difference between a dry interior and puddles in their floorboards. we'd wake up the next morning to garbage can lids or scattered pieces of trash in the yard which had floated over from unknown parts of the city, maybe miles away.

during huge hurricanes like andrew (and isidore, too, i'm sure), the local news station would put their weathermen on the bench and call in the big gun. i can't remember his name, but this cat was old, really old, years into retirement. he didn't mess with fancy computers. he was old school, standing there in a crumpled suit and tie with a dry erase board behind him. it would be full of manically scrawled equations and a hand-drawn map of the storm's projected path. he was never wrong.

bonus entry
a young woman just came up to the reference desk and asked for access to north carolina general statutes. i brought her over to a computer and asked what her topic was, so that i could get her started in the database. she said that she wanted health law, because she didn't want her child to get any immunations.

last heard: johnny cash 'delia's gone'

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

in an effort to meet our organization's united way goal, the honchos have enacted a challenge. if you donate five dollars (on top of the amount you've already authorized them to deduct from your paycheck every two weeks), you will receive a voucher entitling you to casual dress for the entire month of october. naturally, not every employee will be participating, so those who are participating will be required to have the voucher on their person during all work hours. i envision managers wearing shiny jackboots, riding crops gripped tightly under their arms, stopping library employees in the stacks and, in heavy german accents, barking 'let me see your papers!'

last seen: bread and tulips
last heard: xtc 'harvest festival'
last read: ...deep within the bowels of the tomb are the stolen skulls of the Apache chief Geronimo, Pancho Villa, and former president Martin Van Buren.

Monday, September 23, 2002

of the few bad habits that i adopted from my ex, perhaps the most insidious involves shopping. it isn't so much a problem with the accumulation of countless items. no, the problem is that i now have 'an eye' for things. i am discerning to a fault. i won't buy an item unless it is the exact, right object. for example, most heterosexual american males do not have an opinion about hair care products. however, i now have an addiction to aveda clove shampoo and rosemary mint conditioner. this is made all the more comical as i usually have less than a quarter of an inch of hair on my head at any given time. during our brief tenure together, i learned how to pick things for the kitchen (fiestaware and mccoy). i learned how to make hospital corners on my bed. under her careful watch, i learned my sleeve length, my neck width (nee circumference), my jacket size (hence, 42short); i even had pants altered and hemmed for christ sake.

it's been a while since the split and i felt like i'd kicked, but now i need new workshirts. i haven't stepped into a mall in several months. i was starting to feel like a man again. my heroin days were in the past and i was now only fighting my methadone addiction. but, alas, the wagon is made for falling from, and i shall be walking with my head bowed and shoulders hunched, when i go to brooks brothers this weekend for two, 100% cotton, forward point collar dress shirts with stays.

last heard: pizzicato five 'the earth goes around'

Sunday, September 22, 2002

a few weeks ago, michael, christine, and i were driving around the university area. a light blue nissan in front of us was trying to make a tight u-turn. the woman's front tire popped the curb and got stuck in a muddy rut. we sat there for a moment, watching as she cut the wheel from left to right unable to move the car. after a few quick words, i convinced michael that we should help. we lifted the front of her car a bit, i told her which direction to turn the wheel, when to back up, and we soon had her on her way.

the karmic credit that i built up with that little deed was repaid on saturday.

i was driving 77-south, my windows down, and the hot rock cranked. i started to hear a repetitive bump-bump-bump, then the unmistakable sound of metal grinding on the pavement. calmly, i moved into the breakdown lane in time to look in my rear-view and watch what was left of my tire rocket into the grassy brush off the highway. i emerged unscathed. during the next ten minutes, as i fought with lug nuts, two guys in a truck pulled up with a t-bar and changed the tire, michael showed up, and a state trooper stopped to see if i needed help.

last seen: silence of the lambs, shadow of the vampire, romeo is bleeding, 24 hour party people
last heard: aislers set 'holiday gone well'

Friday, September 20, 2002

it is almost fall. almost time for the air to cool. almost time for comfortable evening walks and sweaters. almost a full year since my last date.

several things have conspired to remind me of this. the most recent of which was reading this really, funny article by an author who sounds almost as picky as i am. my close friends never let me forget their belief that my standards are foolish and set too high, but, i know that if i settle, the relationship will be doomed to failure. they also tell me that i should 'just be going on a date' and not 'going on a relationship.' to that, i pound my fist on a table, all forcefully and powerful-like, then, while making one eyebrow raise really high and the other not, i reply, 'who has the time, energy, or cash for haphazard casual dating with people who you already consider sub-par? what is a date, if not a prelude to a relationship?'

in the article, the author presents her own list of standards; i agree with most of them. naturally, there are a few things that i would add. some are simply preferences for what i consider attractive, others are near-commandments and non-compliance would be a deal breaker. not a comprehensive list and in no particular order:

short hair- preference is given to brunettes. i will propose marriage if it is styled like buttercup.

glasses- they are sexy, but please no monocles or pince nez, as they are not flattering on the girl face. dark-framed or cat's eye a plus.

music- must have a working knowledge of several (any) genres of 20th century music, or ability to learn and appreciate same.

film- must love film, no subtitle-phobes. (and, by film, i mean no movies starring freddie prinze, jr or the cast of american pie)

reading habits- simply knowing how to read does not qualify. you must be a reader. when people ask what you're reading, you should have a response. it should not have been several years ago and assigned.

intelligence- i'm not talking nobel laureate, but explaining my own jokes or those of my friends is so tiresome.

quick-witted, clever, funny- yes, all of the above.

if you think you might be that special girl, applications are now being accepted at the email address at right.

last seen: nico icon
last heard: sleater-kinney "burn, don't freeze!"
last read: article mentioned above

Thursday, September 19, 2002

since the great reverse migration over a year ago, i've been slowly whittling down my material possessions, pursuing some crazed form of a-religious urban monasticism. it is of my own design and its tenets have never been codified.

when assigning value to an object, the terms necessary and unnecessary become relative. for every stick of furniture or kitchen appliance that i donate to a thrift store, there is a green plastic army man or a rusty S-shaped wrench sitting somewhere in my apartment. (for the record: yes, both objects were deemed necessary.) my space is awash in inconsistency.

microwave oven = unnecessary
500 personalized business cards that read I Like Pie. = necessary

more than two sauce pans = unnecessary
painted cement statue of the virgin mary = necessary

bed frame = unnecessary
baritone ukulele = necessary

last heard: octoroon jihad "olive oil voice and guinea charm"

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

i helped michael assemble a computer desk last night. we stumbled through the arcane, printed-in-three-languages-for-our-convenience instructions. we held misshapen bolts up to the light and stroked our chins. after an hour, the desk (with handy wheels) was put together. during the process, the tools felt odd in my hand and, wondering why, got me to thinking...

it ain't right for a boy to live far from his uncles. he misses out on certain things. my uncles get their bread and butter from a wide cross-section of masculine occupations: carpenter, electrician, plumber, welder, mechanic. growing up far away from them, i never had the chance to learn the practical and useful tasks that they could impart.

now, my dad is no sissy. he was a career soldier and passed along many useful bits that i may one day how to make molotov cocktails using only palmolive dish soap and gasoline. (so you see, when the glass bursts and the fuel ignites, the fire rides on top of the dish soap making it almost impossible to wipe the fire off of your skin or clothing.)

but, as a kid, i never really helped my dad build anything, like a bookcase or an engine. i never poured concrete or laid sod or learned the finer points of unusual-looking power tools. [insert chuck palahniuk-styled rant about the emasculation of young american males here] i feel like there is a whole set of skills that are supposed to be common knowledge for fathers and husbands and i am somehow ill-equipped.

last seen: the first two episodes of mr. show
last heard: stereolab "munich madness"
last read: da chen's colors of the mountain
reading: jonathan lethem's motherless brooklyn

Monday, September 16, 2002

ok, time me.

tonight, i will attempt (without a net, protective headgear, or guide-wires of any kind) to read the remaining third of da chen's "colors of the mountain."

most of the time, my book club reads literary fiction, but one of the members thought it would be nice to read a memoir. i heard chen interviewed on NPR, so i picked his book. i don't know why i thought life in communist china would be a lot more interesting. it isn't. so far it can be summed up thusly: studious young boy, descendant of landowners, bullied by schoolmates, spends days smoking and playing he is good at ping-pong.

my only hope is that wednesday's conversation about the book is lively. i've been concerned that discussing non-fiction might be harder than discussing fiction.

last seen: sopranos premiere
last heard: the magnetic fields "(crazy for you but) not that crazy"

Sunday, September 15, 2002

during saturday's health fair, my job was to stand in front of this for several hours. the first sixty minutes passed in relative quiet, but i felt like a bouncer in the afternoon...trying to maintain crowd control, getting kids to stand in a straight line, ensuring that no contraband wandered into the inflatable funland. the following is a sampling of some questions that the little people asked me during the course of four hours:

do you want to see me blow a bubble?

will you hold my balloon/pen/bag?

what time is it?

why is there air in this thing?

how many minutes do they have?

how many minutes until it's my turn?

can we flip in here?

can we wrestle?

how much does this thing cost?

can i go again?

[pointing at her brother] will you take his shoes off?

...however, none of those can top this...

how come you have black hair? because white people are supposed to have peach-colored hair like him [pointing at a co-worker of mine].

last seen: leon, M*A*S*H
last heard: the sundays "she"

Friday, September 13, 2002

as we walked away from the counter, clutching our freshly-rented copy of repo man, neither of us were surprised by the conversation we'd just overheard, but, rather, michael and i wondered who'd be the first to include it in their weblog. since i see that he didn't mention it in his most recent post, i feel it my civic duty to recount the episode for your amusement.

the scene is the visart video store. the counter guy is extremely helpful, but, nevertheless, doesn't get off of the phone for our entire transaction. as i hand him my case and he disappears to retrieve the DVD, we hear his side of the conversation. this continues as he scans my card and i sign the receipt:

"was it busy today?"

[unheard response at the other end of the line]

"so, you didn't do many piercings?"

[unheard response at the other end of the line]

"well, i wasn't sure how you'd do today, so i bought the cheap cigarettes...that way we'd have enough money for the bus."

[unheard response at the other end of the line]

last seen: repo man
last heard: saint etienne "lose that girl"
reading: 'drain the swamp and there will be no more mosquitoes.'

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

words. words. words. words. words.
words. words. words. words. words.
words. words. words. words. words.
words. words. words. words. words.
words. words. words. words. words.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

remembrance of things past...

for a brief time, i worked in the art, music, and video department of the wichita public library. since we had a separate general reference section and a whole floor devoted to business resources, my department only got the really cool questions about architectural styles or potters' marks or foreign film directors or people wanting the sheet music for 'oklahoma.'

my flamboyantly gay boss would spend most of his days in the warm confines of his office shopping for antiques on ebay or searching the internet for estate sales within driving distance of south-central kansas. this often left me with the run of the department. he and i got along fairly well due to his hands-off management style and the fact that he would let us play music or watch movies during work hours because, in his words, "that's what the department's all about."

we had a large tv. it was strapped to a black metal cart on wheels and, one night, i pushed it out to the desk. this enabled me to watch 'notorious' while helping patrons. every five minutes, i'd hear a loud blast coming from the convention center which was conveniently situated directly behind the library. these mini-explosions made concentrating on the film difficult and piqued my curiosity. three hours later, the library closed and, as i made my way through the parking lot, i heard another loud bang. i turned my gaze toward the roof of the convention center where i saw a man with a tiny cannon. when i asked one of the library veterans why he was doing that, she told me that it was to scare off the thousands of geese which would land here at night and shit all over everything.

last heard: sleater-kinney "taking me home"

Monday, September 09, 2002

throughout the course of a typical day, i engage in many activities that solidify my status as nerd (...such as writing verbose, pedantic entries into a weblog for the edification of my two readers); however, on sunday, i did something so nerdy that, in retrospect, i shocked even myself.

in a recent post, i noted that i've lived without cable television for over a year. nevertheless, i agreed to attend a sopranos premiere with some friends next sunday. it wasn't long afterward that i realized i would have no idea what was going on or who the characters were. being the nerd that i am, i checked last week's issue of 'entertainment weekly' out from the library because it came with a handy sopranos primer. i then spent the greater part of sunday evening reading synopses for all 39 previous episodes in an effort to catch up.

last heard: the white stripes "live in glastonbury"
last read: 'i will now pass the dutchie back to you and thank you for passing it to me originally because i really enjoyed the dutchie'

Sunday, September 08, 2002

seven things i didn't know about frida kahlo

-her paternal grandparents were german

-at 18, she was riding on a bus and a trolley crashed into it; her spine was damaged in 3 places, her pelvis was fractured in 3 places, and a steel handrail entered at her hip and exited through her vagina.

-her husband, diego rivera, had an affair with frida's sister, christina.

-frida had an affair with leon trotsky. trotsky and his wife lived in frida's home for two years.

-frida said, 'i never knew i was a surrealist until andre breton came to mexico and told me i was.'

-frida had a leg amputated.

-in 1939, frida and diego divorced. in 1940, frida and diego remarried.

last heard: stereolab "op hop detonation"
last seen: happenstance; frida kahlo

Saturday, September 07, 2002

the first year that i went to the greek festival, i bought a pile of blue and white raffle tickets in the hopes of winning a trip to greece. sadly, i didn't win. the next 2 years, i repeated this exercise. still, no such luck. so, last night, after passing my entrance fee to a stocky man in a cloth apron, i made my way over to the raffle tent to begin the sisyphean task of ticket buying. this time, i limited myself to one ticket thinking that victory would be that much sweeter if i won having only purchased a single try.

even if i don't win the drawing on sunday, the festival itself is well worth the two dollar admission price and i implore anyone in the greater charlotte area to fork over your two hundred cents. food, dancing, and amazing greek women to sigh about. the curious thing is that i only ever see them at this once-a-year festival, never just strolling down selwyn or at the grocery store buying milk. olive skin and black hair and voices like angels i tell you. i'm beginning to think that the local orthodox church has them shipped in from out-of-town to mingle with us mortals for these four glorious days in september.

last heard: mama cass "dream a little dream of me"
reading: egg; freedman's editorial

Friday, September 06, 2002

"do these red, white, and blue hotpants go with my dickey and sweater vest?"

today, that is a rhetorical question, but, according to an office email that i received, i may be asking someone that very thing next wednesday morning. said memo read: As part of the upcoming remembrance activities, library staff members are permitted to dress in red, white and blue attire on September 11th.

aside from the obvious question of 'what constitutes remembrance activities?' (is there a 3-legged race? do i have to hang a stocking on the mantle? will a mythic bunny hide eggs and chocolate treats before i wake up?), i really don't know what to say. in the back of my mind, i hear thumper whispering "if you can't say nothin' nice, don't say nothin' at all," but, honestly, it's getting to be a bit much. my pop works at the pentagon, was there that morning, and was spared in the crash, but i see no reason to have my car and my person dripping in patriotic symbolism.

it's getting to where south charlotte looks like the cultural revolution more and more everyday.

last heard: mel torme "poor little extra girl"
reading: north carolina indymedia

Thursday, September 05, 2002

thanks to my philanthropic tendencies, 42short has, in the past, dontated precious weblog real estate to flesh out the always-controversial topic of child naming. many of my friends find themselves somewhere on the "about-to-have/planning-to-have babies" continuum and baby naming often bubbles to the surface of casual conversation. michael and christine even refer to 'little rachel and little duncan,' their not-yet-conceived spawn, as though they were living, breathing toddlers. so, it wasn't all that unusual when, on sunday evening over mexican food, talk turned to baby names. i recounted for those present a conversation that i'd once had with my mother about this very topic. in it, she told me about a name that she and my father were considering for the soon-to-be-birthed me. thankfully, my aunt was present and corroborated this tale...

mom: we almost named you melt.

me: did you say melt?

mom: yes.

me: why would you ever name me melt?

mom: because when your father and i looked at each other, we made each other melt.

me: oh, man. thanks for sparing me that.

(and before you ask...why, yes, it was the early 70s.)

last seen: repulsion
last heard: dub narcotic sound system "basemess"
last read: carter's op ed in the washington post: "We have thrown down counterproductive gauntlets to the rest of the world, disavowing U.S. commitments to laboriously negotiated international accords."

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

receiving dispatches from tom is always a welcome respite from a typical workday. lucky tom gets to spend hours reading and researching in pursuit of an advanced degree in public history while the rest of us are worried about everyday things like commutes and bills and parole officers. his emails brim with esoteric references and historical potshots.

an excerpt from today's message read:
I'm sure you'll all agree the sectional crisis of the 1840's and 1850's is the best period in american history for finding whacky phrases.

after reading his latest, i have decided that the 1840s and 50s are also an untapped mine of horrible indie rock band names. a few of his finds appear below followed by my fictitious musings. feel free to start a band from the options below (provided you pen a ballad about me).

wilmot proviso- an emo trio from the midwest. these grad students write very sappy, shoegazing compositions about girls and third-party presidential candidates from the 1910s-1930s.

the treaty of guadalupe hidalgo- hardcore speed metal. they are an all-girl band, never seen without their lucha libre masks.

the ostend manifesto- the ubiquitous one-man band. a multi-instrumentalist, accompanied only by a drum machine and a sampler. stage props include: 4 mannequins clad only in the flags of third-world nations.

last heard: beulah "emma blowgun's last stand"

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

ewok, our whitewater rafting guide, had a firm handshake and the kind of swollen body that one gets from drinking cheap beer and sleeping in late. despite his obvious girth, he proved himself to be a strong and capable raft captain, steering our tiny vessel hither and yon, whilst gracefully speaking his commands to us paddlers. "two forward. left forward 2. one back."

at gentler spots along the north carolina/tennessee border, we'd crane our necks and stare back at ewok as he'd spin a yarn for us or offer up bits about his own life; how, long ago, this valley used to be home to many bootleggers, or how he raced cars as a hobby. what i found most interesting though was that he was a river guide in the summer, but sous chef in the fall and winter. this stuck with me for the rest of the trip home. when there was a lull in the conversation, my mind worked through various occupational permutations to come up with pairs that i would enjoy if money and education were no object...and, if i weren't already a librarian, which is, of course, the best job in the world. here are my favorite pairs:

architect (spring/summer) -
baker (fall/winter)

tenured professor of literature (winter/spring) -
sommelier (summer/fall)

museum curator (year round) -
piano tuner (weekend hobby)

last heard: sade "the sweetest gift"
reading: da chen's colors of the mountain for my bookclub; this funny review

Monday, September 02, 2002

conversation with the front desk

setting: saturday night, 10:30pm at the hotel. people upstairs are making noise and it is impossible for me to sleep.
players: me & jake, the front desk guy

[on the phone. ringing.]

jake: guest services, this is jake.

me: hey, jake. this is james in room 227. the people above me are jumping up and down, or chopping up a body, or something and i just thought i'd call to complain.

jake: i'll take care of it for you.

me: thanks.

[ten minutes pass...then complete silence. thank you, jake, and the continental breakfast was superb.]

last heard: rainer maria "feeling neglected"
last read: Doris #18 (a zine from Asheville)