Tuesday, December 30, 2003

nothing says auld lang syne like watching library employees beat each other about the face. true, there is still an entire day between now and the start of festivities-proper which means there is an entire day for this plan to slowly crumble apart. as it stands now, however, i will be driving to rural south carolina to ring in the new year by watching fellow library employees don headgear and gloves and beat each other about the face. it seems a couple of co-workers from another branch have been part of an underground boxing club for the last few months. i hadn't heard about this until recently because everyone knows the first two rules of fight club.

the itinerary is shaping up thusly: the two scrappy circulation workers who are hosting will fight in the undercard; this is to be followed by a live band. then, the title bout will feature mark versus some guy i've heard is an ex-marine. michael thinks mark should wear a diaper and sash and fight as baby new year; he also believes we can convince the other guy to wear a long white beard like father time.

sadly, i won't be involved in the pugilism, but, i have to admit, there is a small piece of me that thinks it would be really cool to show up for work with my left eye swollen shut.

last heard: echo and the bunnymen 'never stop'
last read: what I'm really interested in is quality niche magazines containing good writing about a particular subject.

Monday, December 29, 2003

scene: ten minutes ago. a pair of twenty-somethings approach the reference desk holding out their key-chain library cards.

young man: can we sign up for two internet computers?

young woman: …right beside each other, if you have it.

me: only if you promise to hold hands the whole time that you’re over there.

co-worker: [giggles]

last heard: heavenly 'modestic'
last read: By signing the bill on the day of Hussein's capture, Bush effectively consigned a dramatic expansion of the USA Patriot Act to a mere footnote.
bonus: Twitchell reminds us that human beings have always fetishized objects: the seventeenth-century Dutch had tulips; Stendhal had the pulse-pounding frescoes of Giotto; Daisy Buchanan had Gatsby's shirts [editor’s note: can’t wait to be stereotyped? go here and plug in your zip code.]

Sunday, December 28, 2003

as you can see from my squishy, off-center archives, the intricacies of basic HTML tags continue to confound me. the archives have reappeared, however, after several days of floating in the ether. all of the necessary information should appear on this page now; the layout is a work-in-progress because i’m still learning things.

on a somewhat related note-- you see that list of names there on the right? i check each of those sites at least twice everyday. the good folks whose names you see there make me smile a lot and, for that, i am thankful. however, one of them is about to take a sabbatical from the web and, because of that, i am sad.

to help cushion the blow, michael has generously offered up all 47 weeks worth of michaelpellas. if you’ve never seen any of them, you now have three days to catch up. everyone has their favorite; i have several including sexual healing, the jets song, and bali ha'i, but my all-time favorite is to all the girls i've loved before, not only because we had so much fun recording it, but also because the classic features my haunting julio iglesias impersonation. (it's true, i have no shame.) if you close your eyes, it is just like julio is singing to you.

last seen: the royal tenenbaums, the mission
last heard: ballboy 'a europewide search for love'
last read: The place smelled of cordite and WD-40 and I couldn't remember the last time I felt so out of place.
reading: susan sontag in america [editor's note: still reading the lenny bruce, but i had to start on sontag for my bookclub.]

Friday, December 26, 2003

last sunday, after finding out that i'd have four days off in a row, i decided to surprise my family by driving up on christmas day. i'm posting from the guest bedroom at this very moment and plan to leave bucolic front royal, VA sunday morn.

thursday was interesting since the family called me during hour number four of my trip. i was then faced with the decision to answer the cell phone and fib, or let them leave a message. i thought the latter would seem more suspicious. after all, what could i possibly be doing on christmas day before noon that i couldn't pick up the phone? so i answered and traded holiday greetings from the road. i told them i was on my way to michael's and then over to my aunt's house. yep, just making the rounds and spreading the holiday joy. that's me, james kelly, joy-spreader. i practically gave myself away three different times, so horrible am i at lying. an hour after our conversation, i knocked on the front door and shocked everyone. the first thing i did was apologize to my mom for lying; i'm such a dork.

the past 36 hours have been a blur of large meals, many baked goods, hellboy, spilling half a cup of chai down the sleeve of my peacoat, and movies. tomorrow, we are supposed to do some walking in a nearby town that has cobblestone streets, but, besides that, the next 36 hours should look the same...except, hopefully, less spilling half a cup of chai down the sleeve of my peacoat.

last seen: terminator 3, fellowship of the ring, finding nemo, mona lisa smile, one hour photo
last heard: simon and garfunkel 'america'
last read: But I am undaunted, and willing to make my second attempt at speech writing.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

dear internet,
i can't find my archives.
i'm going to shoot myself in the face now.

[update: ok, so, it ain't pretty, but i found my archives here. now how do i make them magically appear on the front page again? anyone?]

i don't make it into churches that much anymore, but that doesn't mean i don't miss them sometimes. the last time i was in a church was for my sister's wedding last winter. before that, it was three winters back. i went to michigan to help carry a coffin. the light blue metal box was surprisingly heavy even though the man inside was very thin and small. i miss church most when i'm listening to the carter family or mahalia jackson or johnny cash and i seem to do this pretty often. more than anything else in this world, it is their voices that fight hard to make tiny dents in my agnosticism.

i also miss church on days like today when i think about midnight mass. it is all of the little details of the mass that make me nostalgic for my altar boy days. how every action happened in an exact right order, every object sat in an exact right place, like a japanese tea ceremony. from my perch, a tiny chair to the left of the priest, i would, alternately, stare at the stations of the cross, which were carved out of wood and hung along each wall, or play with the frayed end of the cord that held my robe on. i didn't think about God the whole time i was sitting up in front of all those people; mostly, i listened for the long pauses in talking which signalled my cue to ring the four little golden bells that hung off of a claw-shaped piece of metal at my side. i miss those bells sometimes and i miss the giant smoky puck-like cakes of incense whose smell meant foreign to me when i was small.

last seen: in america
last heard: they might be giants w/ kimya dawson 'bed bed bed' [thanks, tiff]
last read: Yesterday, my son said "Let’s go see Napoleon's tomb." Yes, let's, I thought. And don't let the fact that I'm blind stop us. Christ.

Monday, December 22, 2003

past years have been much worse. this holiday shopping season i managed to show a little restraint. it isn't the spending on others that i have a problem with; i am usually armed with a list that i've spent days agonizing over and rarely do i deviate from said list. where it starts to get sticky is when i spot things that i might like.

i guess, it isn't that big a deal; i mean, i'm not buying computer equipment or luxury automobiles for myself. it's just that i feel guilty buying things for myself when i'm supposed to be shopping for other people. for example, last year, i really needed that set of dominoes in the orange tin. nevermind that they sat gathering dust for eleven months, until i finally got around to learning how to play matador a few weeks ago...but i really needed that set of dominoes.

what happens is, i'm at the store, my wallet is already hemorrhaging, then, all of a sudden, it is like that time when i went to canada and all of the colorful paper and shiny coins with funny pictures on them started to seem like play money. the more i spent, the easier it became to spend. that is why holiday shopping is like some kind of test. at least this year, aside from a few CDs, i only bought myself things i really needed like clothes for work, a planner for next year, and the coloured girls go doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo.

last seen: ROTK, war photographer
last heard: stereolab 'golden ball'
last read: "It's better to be wrong by killing no one than to be right with mass graves." He constantly hoped to find a peaceful third way between socialism and capitalism.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

the laundry sits in a duffel bag waiting to be put away, but i'm too tired right now. at least, it's clean. there was much wrapping of presents today and, because i got to the post office at 12:10 and they closed at noon, there was absolutely no mailing of presents today. sorry, family, this year there might not be a christmas.

there were two holiday dinners over the past two days, one with co-workers (food from spain) and one with friends (food from italy).

there were three bands yesterday. well, we only stayed for three, really there were like six. i don't remember any of their names. the first was from athens...georgia, not greece. the second had a guy who prayed to the god of young punks to be iggy pop when he grew up. i knew this because he weighed about 85 pounds and didn't wear a shirt and was very bendy and looked like he had never uttered the words sure, i'll have seconds in his life, ever. the last band had matching red shirts. their guitarist looked jolly. they sounded like the band who plays right before the band that actually wins the talent show in every 80s movie; thereby, winning the prize money and saving the rec center.

there was dinner at juicy fruit's house tonight. people were responsible for things. the couple was responsible for bread. mark was responsible for dessert. i was responsible for salad. i brought 1000 tiny glass containers, each containing a variable in the salad equation. some people in our group think certain variables in the salad equation are yucky. they like things to be separated. my 1000 containers were appreciated.

in the morning, i'm having holiday brunch with the jen(n)s. we are having gift exchange and, hopefully, bacon. also, pancakes would be nice.

last seen: morvern callar, down by law, good will hunting
last heard: the decemberists 'song for myla goldberg'
last read: many, many end-of-year lists

Thursday, December 18, 2003

sometimes patrons come up to the desk and ask for books about divorce. it happens a couple of times a week. it just happened five minutes ago. i secretly like it when this happens. they ask for books on how to get one, how long it takes, and how to cope. i'm an information professional, so i don't let on that i, too, bear the scarlet letter D, i just help them find books. still, it's like we're in some kind of secret club. i can't help but smile on the inside. i especially like it when they start to tell me about their personal situation. this usually happens right after their initial query. i'm looking down at the online catalog checking for titles and call numbers; they just can't stand the silence, so they fill it by telling me intimate things about money or having to change the locks or how he's crazy or she drinks. when it gets to really feeling like confession and i don't have anything else to do, i'll admit, sometimes i type slower, because the story is so good. they get to vent and leave with useful information. i get to watch someone else's car wreck of a life and feel helpful all at the same time. see everybody wins.

last seen: seabiscuit
last heard: COCO 'tootsie pants'
last read: I have to vote to make sure I cancel him out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

up until about three months ago, i exercised regularly. some days it was the kind of exercise that required me to count reps and sets. while on the off days, i would simply go for a long walk and try to work on deep breathing relaxation techniques. then i just stopped. maybe it was a lack of motivation or boredom with the routine of my workout or maybe it was the fact that i would much rather eat a BLT at the diner and then lie perfectly still. in any case, i became sedentary and probably gained about ten to fifteen pounds. at least, that's how it feels. my pants are little more snug and now only old women smack me on the ass when i walk down the street.

the other day i was reminded that our initial tuxedo fittings are coming up in february for michael and christine's may wedding. it is just the motivation i need to get myself together. i can no longer ignore the sarcastic look my belt gives me every morning when i strain to tighten it just a little more. lips pursed, eyebrow cocked, it looks up at me like you really gonna try for that fourth notch, hoss?

i have to find some kind of cheap exercise. it's too cold out to get up in the morning darkness and run. i looked into joining the Y, but, since i'm a grown-up now, it costs $100 to join and $60 per month. goddamned Y. i have this friend who is training for the charlotte observer marathon. if you ever want to feel bad about yourself, hang out with your friend who is training for a marathon. while she tells you about the 18-miler she did and pours artificial sweetener into her tea, you can look down at your roundish belly and, if you listen closely, you'll hear a little piece of yourself dying.

last heard: de la soul 'change in speak'
last read: In 1575, he was captured by Barbary pirates and spent five years as a slave in Algiers.
bonus: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983

Monday, December 15, 2003

remember that this comes from extreme jobhunt frustration more than anything else...those of you with library jobs...please take 60 seconds and whisper a quick "thank you, Library Gods"

I'm tryin' real hard to be a shepherd.
-jules, pulp fiction

i read the first quote this morning over at sulky's site. it will become my mantra today; i should be thankful that i'm getting paid to do something i love. the second quote is there to lend balance and to play dueling mantras with the first.

it is my last day working at the tiny library. i wasn't selected to be the branch manager there. yes, at the library that i've been filling in at for the past three months. really, it's ok (he said, to make himself feel better). i interviewed well, did a great job, and now i can put a shiny, new, management experience bullet on my resume. it just wasn't my turn, i guess. plus, i know the woman who did get the job, she's been here a lot longer than i have and she's a swell lady.

yesterday, i had to do a program at my home library, the regional that i'll be returning to full-time tomorrow. seeing ruth made me feel better about everything. she told me that she was glad i didn't get the job because she missed me. i missed everyone there, too, so it will be nice to see them all again. sit at the reference desk with bryon and talk about music in between patrons. sit at the reference desk with ruth and talk about movies in between patrons. sit at the reference desk and not do any circulation! hooray! one thing about tiny branch is you check books in and out a lot. at the regional library there are separate desks which is very nice because let's be honest, the whole reason i went to library school was to escape circulation. so, see, there are things to be happy about.

so, my last day at tiny branch is a half-day and i go in at noon. i have to tie up some loose ends, do someone's annual review, then clean out my desk. they better have a 'going-away' cake for me.

last heard: elliott smith 'bye'
last read: dai sijie balzac and the little chinese seamstress
reading: lenny bruce how to talk dirty and influence people

Sunday, December 14, 2003

there was this girl i liked in college. her name was nora. right before i left new orleans, we went on a few dates. the only reason we ended up on these dates is because i finally asked her out right before i moved. what i figured was, if i asked her out and she shot me down, i'd only have to share the same city with her for a few weeks before i packed all of my things into my car and moved over 500 miles away. she didn't say no which is why we ended up going on those dates. even though i was a much younger man at that time, i am still loyal to that dating style which is why i have so much time to post to my weblog and might help explain why i am not encumbered by things like girls or dates all that often, but i digress.

here are some things i remember about my first date with nora. she wore a light dress printed with really tiny flowers on it and a dark-colored cardigan with small pearly buttons. she only buttoned the top two buttons of the cardigan. after i parked the car, i walked toward the back of my subaru station wagon just in time to see her hop off the curb with both feet at the same time the way a child might. i'm pretty sure i fell in love with her just before her feet landed. oh, and another thing that happened was, we shared a piece of carrot cake.

the reason i was thinking of nora is because someone asked me the other day what is the best gift you ever received? and the mixed tape nora gave me the week i left new orleans is close to the top. i dug it out of a box earlier tonight and listened to some of it for the first time in a while.

a few years after receiving it, i popped the tape in during a road trip i happened to be on with a young lady that i was dating. when she spotted girl-writing on the outside of the case, she asked me the story behind the tape which i told her. she said that girl was so in love with you and you didn't even know it. i'd never really thought about it until she began to hold song titles up to the light and point out themes and tell me what it would mean to her if she made a tape like that for a boy.

all's i know is that i always smile when i hear you're gonna make me lonesome when you go and nora's tape was the first time i ever heard it.

last seen: barbershop
last heard: the quails 'shine a light'
last read: Dean's passionate yet nuanced positions against the war drew legions of fiery supporters to his campaign, despite the fact that he is far less liberal than Kerry.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

our town is awash in dean and deluca stores. you practically can't throw a rock without hitting one. well, at least if you're throwing rocks downtown, near stonecrest, or at phillips place. tonight, jenn and i were throwing rocks at phillips place and, lo, we hit a dean and deluca. i had the cuban sandwich and since they were out of the standard issue baguette, i requested pullman. i'm not all fancy. what do i know from pullman? it's just that there were so many baskets full of bread and i couldn't see what was in the baskets because i'm short and they were far away and there was this line of people behind me and i was feeling the pressure. so i read one of the tags out loud. pullman, i said. i picked that one since i liked the name. if anyone asks you, i discovered that pullman is just a fancy name for regular square white bread. the sandwich was wrapped in a long sheet of butcher paper held on by a thin rubber band, the price written on it with a black grease pencil. little touches like that always make my food taste better.

on our way to throwing rocks, jenn and i stood outside the theater for a little while. they were showing advanced screenings of two films: the house of sand and fog, which is the film that we were there to see, and cold mountain. why they decided to have two advanced screenings on the same night, i do not know, but, at least, we got to watch three guys in civil war garb march down the middle of a busy intersection with muzzle loaders. there was also a limousine and a red carpet for all of the cold mountain people and they got free popcorn. those of us who were there for the house of sand and fog, we got nothing. i mean, i don't need a red carpet, but three guys dressed as ben kingsley walking down the middle of a busy intersection would have been nice.

last seen: the house of sand and fog
last heard: simon and garfunkel 'overs'
last read: I miss the kook at the center of town with his microphone and amp telling all the tightly dressed professional women that they are harlots

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

the tiny library that i work in has its problems but, until yesterday, graffiti wasn't one of them. i cleaned the following sonnet from the men's room wall where it had been loving rendered in pencil and ink.

[reprinted without permission of the author]

this shit
folk nation
[sic] all
kings and
lil jon
crypt king
folk nation 4 life
fuck a slob

dear mr. lil jon,
having served as interim manager at this branch for just three short months, it is only now that your hard work and dedication as crypt king for the folk nation is coming to light. i am writing to express my support for your current fuck a slob campaign. if there is one issue that all of us in the community can rally behind, this, i dare say, is the one.
james kelly

last seen: the life and times of judge roy bean
last heard: x-ray spex 'oh bondage up yours!' [thanks tom]
last read: I ate a cookie that had Skittles for eyes and wanted to drink a gallon of whiskey to get the taste out of my mouth.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

you can imagine how i almost peed my pants when i saw the recent rolling stone cover with the 500 greatest albums of all time. i like lists and i like music. they probably do one of these every year and i bet the first ten albums stay the same and they just draw the rest out of a hat. (by the way, here's the list for those who haven't seen it.)

after you start to read through the list, the obvious questions begin to present themselves like:
-where does the list start to get weird? (i say between 130 and 150.)
-how is the slim shady lp 20 spaces ahead of white light, white heat, 40 spaces ahead of surfer rosa, and almost 200 spaces ahead of synchronicity? (...and i'm not even a big fan of the police.)
-what, no whitesnake?

mostly though, the list made me think of my dad, especially since four of the top ten are beatles records. he always played guitar when i was a kid and i remember he had this ratty beatles songbook. it was the piano part with guitar chords marked along the top of the measures. the front and back covers of the songbook had been ripped completely off. i don't think i ever saw those. i can remember frayed pieces of heavy white twine that held the pages together.

when i started playing alto saxophone in seventh grade, we had these best in class books that taught scales and short, easy pieces like when the saints go marching in or the michigan fight song. sometimes i would practice in my room after school and the whole neighborhood could hear me. they don't make mutes for saxophones in case you didn't know. i would practice arpeggios from the best in class book for a little while and, when i got bored with that, i would play things like the fool on the hill from that beat-up songbook of my dad's.

last heard: crosby stills and nash 'wasted on the way'
last read: philip roth portnoy's complaint
reading: dai sijie balzac and the little chinese seamstress [excerpt]

Monday, December 08, 2003

i spent a lot of time on the new couch this weekend. i can stretch out on it and my feet don’t hang off the end like my last couch. the new couch feels velvety. it is the color of coffee ice cream. i like to lie on it, under a blanket, and stick my bare feet down between the fat cushions.

when i wasn’t lolling around in a wonderful hermitude, drinking warm beverages, i saw lots of friends this weekend. christy flew in from san francisco on friday and we spent some time catching up. the next evening, i met some folks for dinner and a movie. the two-dollar theater is always an adventure. since the last time i’d been there, it seems management has hired most of the off-duty cops from the town of matthews. there was even an officer sitting in the theater with us who had to kick out a whole row of talkative teenagers. i believe that when the revolution comes, the first shots will ring out from the direction of our two-dollar theater and somewhere a concrete statue of martin luther king will cry actual tears. the weekend was capped with the station agent and two chess matches with tiffany. she beat me twice, but at least the second game lasted a good bit longer than the first.

all of this nesting and movie-time adventure and visiting with friends meant that my holiday shopping was, thankfully, pushed back even further. the crowds, the parking lots, the...cheer, they sit there like bullies i can’t avoid. maybe i should be all computery this year and buy everything online. a lot of the kids are doing it. i detest crowds during the other eleven months of the year and, the one thing i've discovered is that this hatred is only amplified when i have to hear johnny mathis singing we need a little christmas, right this very minute while dodging rabid consumers.

last seen: lenny, pirates of the caribbean, almost famous, the station agent
last heard: black sabbath 'sweet leaf'
last read: The irony, notes Mr. Sandel, is that Mr. Bush's decision to emphasize the democracy rationale puts him in the company of Wilson, the president who made liberal internationalism the core of his foreign policy.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

i spent the morning interviewing three people for a library aide vacancy at my library, then i hiked across town and spent the afternoon on the other side of the table, as it were, getting interviewed for the manager’s job that i’ve already been filling in at for the past three months. no comment right now since some work people do read this. maybe after it all shakes out.

so, seeking to unwind/avoid exercise/cleanse the palate of irreversible, i rented all the real girls again. for those who haven’t seen it, please get up now and go rent a copy. i defy you to watch the first five minutes and not get hooked. plus it was filmed in my fair state which is very pretty. when i first saw the film during the summer, i mentioned how it was in my top three movies this year. it holds up well on a second viewing, i can safely say it is tied for first along with lost in translation for my personal favorite of 2003. just thought i’d mention that for those keeping score at home.

the evening was all about catching up with mark. between his new job and end of semester workload, i haven’t seen too much of him. we went to dinner at dish, where i enjoyed the meatloaf with mashed potatoes as the best of louis prima played on the overhead speakers. have i mentioned how 'angelina/zooma zooma' is in my top 500 favorite songs? we walked across the street and met friends at the penguin for drinks. i have a low-tolerance and it is a school night, so three whiskey drinks probably wasn’t such a good idea. could lead to rambling posts after all.

when i pulled in i met the new upstairs neighbor girl, hope, who seemed like a nice young lady. ten minutes after i shook hands with her and a friend, they knocked on my door for help with the 25+ year-old gas heaters that we have in our apartments. the gas company came and took care of that when i first moved in, but that didn't stop the three of us from crouching down on the floor and peering into the bowels of my apartment's heater. it was just a mess of copper tubing and blue flame and dials with the numbers rubbed off. i was of little help. i’m going to bed now.

last seen: all the real girls
last heard: heavenly 'stop before you say it'
last read: [editor’s note: culled from jean’s comments...it almost made me spit a mouthful of life cereal at the monitor this morning.]
Jackie: Have you not heard me go off yet about that friggin' band aid song? My favorite line: "There won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime" No fucking way. In Africa? God, how will the children build snowmen and praise Jesus?
Jean: my other favorite line 'thank god its them instead of you'. nice holiday sentiment.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

i think i caught some kind of 48 hour ennui. probably from touching public phones or drinking from someone else’s glass. yeah, it must be that. my tongue has spots and i feel achy. this is only remarkable since i am not one of those always-sad, chain-smoking, listening-to-too-much-morrissey types.

the usual treatment seems to be working—keep focused on work, go for long brisk walks, take massive doses of the all girl summer fun band every three to four hours. i think i turned the corner on this darkness last night, when i decided to take myself out on a date.

you should have seen me. i was holding doors open for myself. being witty. i am the perfect gentleman. we had thai. the evening was lovely, but i didn't want to give myself the wrong idea, since i only wanted to be friends. it was good that we had that talk or else i would have been all over myself.

last seen: irreversible
last heard: agsfb 'down south, ten hours, I-5'
last read: I hope you see the disappointment in your wife's eyes whenever you bend down to kiss her.
bonus: james kelly...always a bridesmaid

Monday, December 01, 2003

i may have out-of-town company at week’s end, so i’ve had to plan little windows of time in which to clean the place up. this evening, i tamed the refrigerator, washing out glass containers of their remaindered substances before dropping each into the recycling bin outside.

standing there at the sink, i rather enjoyed the feeling of putting my fingers into an old, two-thirds-full, jelly jar, extracting the sticky contents, while hot water ran over the entire operation. i looked over my shoulder, expecting a grown-up to wander into the kitchen, mouth agape, shocked and disgusted at the sight of me playing with food. i have to admit, i did play a little, opening and closing my hand, feeling the stuff under my nails or slowly oozing out from between my knuckles. really, how many times in a year do you find yourself with a handful of jelly? not nearly enough, i say.

did i mention that there was not one, but three jars of jelly? how did i, a boy who lives by himself, imagine that i could consume all of that? other items that were put to rest: several miller high lifes (miller high lives?) that sat against the back wall of the icebox for over six months, some kind of leftover pasta dish, and- a refugee from the cupboard- an expired, almost-full, jar of nutella.

last seen: timeline, alphaville
last heard: the decemberists 'red right ankle'
last read: Absolutely no reason except I have a toothache.