Tuesday, November 30, 2004

i was thumbing through a baby name book last week. i needed to buy one as a gift. there were lists of the most popular names from various foreign lands and lists of names that celebrities had selected for their own children. these were, not surprisingly, almost universally horrible. there were lists of name variations, alternate spellings of common names.

i learned that some people name their kids things like brooklyn and democracy. this didn't really surprise me though having, just in the last few months, met a boy named champagne and girl named marvellous at the library where i work.

every once in a while, my eyes would fall upon a hazel or a henry and i would breathe a sigh of hopeful relief for my as-yet-unconceived progeny.

mostly though, there was page after page of names that sounded like characters on soap operas. names which could believably be attached to rap sheets. names for strippers. names i could see strung together in threes, read off on the evening news, like john wayne gacy or lee boyd malvo or c. thomas howell or jonathan livingston seagull.

i'm not generally a mean person. i have good penmanship. plus, i floss.

last seen: who's that knocking at my door?
last heard: isley brothers 'footsteps in the dark'
last read: Then I went home from work and took a long bubble bath while drinking a whiskey and lemonade from the skull of Dakota Fanning, and felt a little bit better.
bonus: what barry says [via tom]

Sunday, November 28, 2004

by the end of the workday last tuesday, an achiness had begun to set into my muscles and joints; my skull felt dull and heavy and full, and my throat was not-right. against the advice of two co-workers and my own better judgment, i set off on a northbound highway, determined not to let this cold or flu or whatever it was keep me from starting my five-day vacation.

armed with only the corrections on CD and half a pack's worth of ricola cough drops, i began my holiday journey during tuesday's rush hour traffic. earlier in the day, on my lunch break, i'd found the cough drops squirreled away in the back of a cabinet. now, as i drove, i unwrapped each crumbling lozenge and tried to keep its associative gelatinous film on as few of my fingers as possible.

it didn't take me long to surmise that these drops were past their expiration date and that any amount of healing power they were invested with likely evaporated as each small drop had died its own tiny death at the hands of last summer's humidity. still, i ate them. i pretended that they were helping.

after a little more than three hours, i made it halfway up the back of virginia and decided to stop for the evening. my teeth chattered as i walked across the restaurant parking lot and i think it was at that point that i resigned myself to the fact that-- yes, i was sick. i was going to be sick on thanksgiving. i was sick in a hotel and not in my own bed. i was sick and i was going home for the holidays to make everyone else sick.

a small convenience store sat on the corner, opposite my hotel. i shuffled up to the counter and placed one bottle of water and a couple of packets worth of alka seltzer cold medicine in front of a forty-year-old cashier who looked like she had been smoking for at least fifty years. the register beeped as she scanned each item, then she looked me in the eye and asked, very warm and kindly, would you like a cup, sweetheart? i wanted to come around the counter and lay down on the sticky floor at her feet. i imagined that, in my sickly state, i could lie there and moan and the smokey-nice cashier would rub my head and tell me that everything was going to be OK.

over the next twelve hours, my fever broke-- in a strange hotel room, in the middle of virginia. i slept for an hour, then woke up freezing. i turned on the light, put all of my clothes on, including my jacket, and then got back under the covers. another hour passed and i woke up sweating buckets. i turned on the light, stripped, and fell back to sleep. around 4am, i woke up and summer rental was on, john candy's voice emanating from my TV. naturally, i stayed up to watch most of that.

last seen: midnight express, harry potter and the prisoner of azkeban, in america, shrek 2, alexander
last heard: mos def & talib kweli 'astronomy'
last read: Larry Brown, a writer whose spare stories bluntly conveyed the painful hope of the rural poor, died on Wednesday at his home near Oxford, Miss. He was 53. [editor's note: go, read, now.]
bonus: So I shaved it off, stopping briefly to contemplate my mustache.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

the book club i started at my last job still meets; my old boss leads the discussions now. i feel the same way an incarcerated parent must feel when they find out their kid is on the honor roll. i'm not really around anymore and i don't have anything to do with their current success, but i'm proud nonetheless since i birthed them.

this month the group read as i lay dying. faulkner has always intimidated me, not that i ever tried reading him, mind you. he intimidated me on reputation alone. i figured if i were ever going to read him, then doing it with a group would be the most painless way.

i had a deadline which forced me to finish the book and, after i turned the last page, there were other people to discuss things with. well, apparently, faulkner intimidates a lot of other people, too, because the ranks were thin for this meeting. still, we met, and it turns out i am not as dumb as i thought i was. i may even brave absolom, absolom soon.

the other thing i did this week was attend a play. my friend, jenn, had the lead in wit. if you've not seen it, the main character is an english professor who is diagnosed with stage four cancer. so, not only did she have about 80% of the lines, but her lines were weighed down with either complex medical terminology or lengthy deconstructions of john donne's sonnets.

i'd never seen my friend the actor act. i was amazed. afterwards, during a dessert reception, i stood a few paces away, watching her bask in the adulation of fellow cast members and fawning strangers from the audience. i was so happy for her.

last seen: sideways, ong bak
last heard: pale saints 'kinky love'
last read: I just had to watch the latest episode of America’s Next Top Model, because I like the feeling of my brain melting and the loud, unmistakable crushing sound of a woman’s free will.

Friday, November 19, 2004

every weeknight, just before lights out, i reach across my bed and turn on the radio. the plan is to lie there in the dark and listen to fifteen minutes worth of BBC world service, then turn off the radio and go to sleep. more often than not, a short time will pass and i will fall completely asleep without turning off the radio. when i open my eyes seven hours later, morning edition will be playing.

some days, the stories i wake to are unpleasant, but then there are days like today. i awoke to people talking about food.

the southern drawl sounded vaguely familiar. i thought it might be food writer john t edge. i turned my head and stared at the plastic grate covering the clock radio's tiny speaker, waiting to hear if my guess was correct; not fifteen seconds later, an announcer confirmed this.

i first discovered mr. edge through his monthly contributions in oxford american. i learned a lot about southern culture and history from his articles. for example, he taught me that duncan hines was a real person, not just the name of a company that made box cakes.

diversions
southern foodways alliance
documenting the american south
american folklife center
the rest of the hidden kitchens stories

...or you could go to your library and check out one of my favorite reference books, the encyclopedia of southern culture. i bought my hardcover copy on ebay; the shipping charge for the 1,600 page book cost me more than my winning bid.

last heard: the zombies 'maybe after he's gone'
last read: marjane satrapi persepolis 2
reading: philip roth the plot against america

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

now that it is officially cold here, i can't put off getting my heater all rigged up. i had been putting it off. i knew it would involve calling the gas company and getting off from work and waiting around my apartment for hours and hours. i just haven't felt like doing that. though now, as i say, it is officially cold here, so i can wait no longer.

after enduring a needlessly labyrinthine phone tree, one in which i was made to hit an inordinate amount of threes, i finally found a real-live person to talk to. she was behind four. the earliest appointment she had available was next tuesday. she called it a window because they couldn't be there exactly at noon. no, they might be there between 11 and 3.

so i have another whole week of chilly house. another whole week of freezing cold toilet seat. another whole week of drifting to sleep wishing there were someone else here against which i could warm my cold bits.

last seen: operation petticoat
last heard: iron and wine 'each coming night'
last read: bill faulkner as i lay dying
reading: marjane satrapi persepolis 2
bonus: Shortwave Numbers Stations are a perfect method of anonymous, one way communication. [NOTE: original story here.]

Sunday, November 14, 2004

last week is a blur of ten-hour days and the crush of faceless librarians that filled the halls of the convention center in hourly waves. a small army of us scurried from room-to-room, in the five minutes before each session, asking presenters whether they needed LCD projectors or random computer cables. i felt less like a librarian and more like one of those high school A/V kids, clutching my bulky walkie-talkie and running awkwardly behind a large metal cart. talk about sexy.

the conference ended on friday and, even though i spent part of that afternoon loading boxes into cars in the pouring-down rain, i was giddy.

the next morning, my day-off, i was at the branch helping set-up for a health career fair. there were booths for various colleges and tables for different specialties. students could talk to EMTs and nurses and x-ray techs and pharmacists and pediatricians, all kinds of folks. many of them even brought interactive displays. i heard rumors that, later in the day, one of the hospitals planned to bring in a plastic torso and kids could dig pieces of candy out of it laparoscopically. how cool is that?

with the set-up underway and students arriving, i cut out early and drove to chapel hill for a show. the open road let me clear my head. i was thankful for two hours worth of quiet and the opportunity to use the cruise control on my car for the first time.

at pinky's suggestion, i decided to attend holly golightly's show; though, until very recently, i'd never owned even one of her records. i met the aforementioned pinky and mr. p and robin for dinner beforehand, then we all ventured over to Local 506 for the show. there, we met becky, a longtime friend of pinky's, who had driven in with her husband from wilmington.

the venue was very small but seemed to be just the right size for the crowd. ms. golightly did not disappoint and played some older songs which i was, only this week, starting to learn the words to. the show let out right around 2AM and i wanted nothing more than sleep. i didn't even have the strength to watch my three free HBOs, something i'd been looking forward to, when i arrived back at my hotel room. instead, i slept the sleep of angels and drove back to charlotte this morning.

last seen: chungking express
last heard: the maybellines 'battleship'
last read: ...my father used to say that the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time.--from as i lay dying
bonus: That would be like JFK getting a rifle tattoo.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

fred,
breast wishes!
jasala deville


pushed against one wall, an enormous grey toolbox sat, scratched and dented from everyday use. each square inch of the large metal cabinet held a different-sized drawer and certain parts of the box flared out like a steamer trunk. its top, propped open like the hood of a car, jutted out and almost level with my head as i walked by.

on the inside of this top, beside a bumper sticker that read follow me to hooters, was scotch-taped one lonely press photograph, an 8x10 glossy.

in it, a voluptuous woman stood dressed as a belly dancer. her arms crooked above her head, belly dancer style. her body wrapped in what looked to be one long piece of blue fabric. tiny bits of ornamental metal clung to the edges of the cloth, like coins only smaller. they caught light from the camera's flashbulb.

in the upper left-hand corner of the photograph, written in sharpie, was a short personal greeting. a co-worker and i broke off from the rest of our tour and leaned in close to make out the words.

he read each line aloud, as though it were a question, and i followed along with my eyes--

fred?
breast wishes?
jasala deville?

last seen: the awful truth
last heard: the hollies 'bus stop'
last read: The south gave us Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Michael Jordan, Hank Williams, Tennessee Williams, fried chicken, Gone With The Wind, Truman Capote, pecan pie, barbecue, Mark Twain, and manned flight. The list goes on and on.

Monday, November 08, 2004

i went to a wedding on saturday. i knew the girl. we met eight years ago when we were moonlighting at the same place. we worked evenings at a bookstore. well, she worked. i mostly just straightened shelves for five hours per night and then got picked to clean the men's room.

if you're kind of on-the-fence, ending every thirteen-hour workday with your thinly-gloved hand in a public toilet is, i've found, the best motivation for graduate school.

the wedding was very nice. it was in a church. i never met the guy before. his groomsmen were musician-y. that means they had longer hair than the bridesmaids. they were wearing more rings on their fingers, too.

there was a cello solo.

they didn't release doves.

i left before cake.

last seen: eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, the incredibles, northern exposure: the complete first season
last heard: the aislers set 'through the swells'
last read: Incentivize your teammates.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

at the laundromat yesterday, i drafted a very cathartic rant, long-hand, with my feelings about the election. my plan was to post it here, but then i thought better of it.

i am as disappointed as the rest of you that more than half of our brothers and sisters think things are hunky-dory and have decided to hold out their plates for a second helping. i think what makes this fact hardest to swallow is that there's been nary a whiff of the voting irregularity funny-business that marred the last election. therefore, those of us on this side of the aisle are forced to face facts: perpetual war, the erosion of the first and fourth amendments, no-bid contracts, 10,000+ dead iraqis, anti-choice legislation, mounting debt, the lapsing of the assault weapons ban, the subjugation of foreign theocracies so that we may impose our own-- this is the will of our people.

still, now that the ballots have been cast, it does none of us any good to wallow. so, rather than fill this space with any more vitriol, i'll point out three good things (a la christine) and i invite you to leave three more in the comments. maybe we'll all feel better.

3 good things
-our county commissioner race- dems now hold a 6-3 majority (hooray! library funding, maybe.)
-leftover halloween candy since not enough trick-or-treaters showed up
-the winter coat drive i helped organize for the library. grand total= 389 coats! mark and i delivered them to crisis assistance ministry on friday.

last seen: shadows
last heard: the meters '(the world is a little bit under the weather) doodle-oop'
last read: isaac bashevis singer enemies, a love story
reading: lil' billy faulkner as i lay dying