Sunday, April 30, 2006

the books i loved this month

Of the books i read in April these are the ones i liked the best:

I'm just finishing up Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. It's a young adult novel, with a supernatural twist, very well written, and it keeps you reading from the first page to the last, very intense feel.

I read two memoirs: Sleeping with Cats by Marge Piercy, one of my favorite authors, the title appealed to me for somewhat obvious reasons though it's not entirely about cats (she says cats have been the one constant in her life); and Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress by Susan Jane Gilman, a new favorite author. Susan Gilman is about the same age as i am and though she grew up in New York City the Jewish daughter of "hippie" parents i could totally relate to this book--plus she is so funny i'm also picking up her Kiss My Tiara: how to rule the world as a smartmouth goddess. we did an online chat with her at my library which was great. I read Sleeping with Cats intermittently while reading other books--it wasn't quite as engaging as some novels but it was still very interesting. Each chapter closed with a poem, i am not as familiar with Piercy's poems though i've read all her novels--she has lead a very interesting life she is the same age as my mother though her life has been very different. Definitely check it out.

I finally read Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos after having it recommended by i don't know how many people. And now i'm recommending it myself--it's a first novel, a quick and enjoyable read, but not not all sunny and happy. My one complaint is that things get to be a bit coincidental--but you know life can be like that sometimes--really it can (i know sometimes in my own fiction i have to rewrite reality to make it more believable).

Historical/ Romance/ Fiction/ Mystery/ Novel The Illuminator by former teacher/librarian/ historian Brenda Rickman Vantrease is a book that pulled me in so deeply that i absolutely had to purchase my own copy after having checked out a library copy to host an author chat. Based in fourteenth century England--this gives you some idea of what it would be like if church and state were not separated and it definitely does not end happily ever after (don't want to spoil it for you but don't want you to get slammed in the face either).

When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka is a beautiful book that can be read in a single day. It is the story of an American-Japanese family's internment during World War II. The type of novel that you devour and are left wanting something just as good to follow it with.

The novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Julie See might be just the ticket. Although it is about twice as long Emperor it is just as involving (if not more so). It can be depressing at times, i found the this woman's narrative of growing up as a woman in China fascinating.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

just another day/night at the library

(I fear this may be another epic post)

I used to have a doctor who would tell me, every single time i went to visit her that her fantasy job was to be a librarian. That when her job got to be too stressful, too hectic, she and her nurse would talk about how nice it would be to work in the peace and quiet of a library and just read all day. I have heard this fantasy from a number of people now and when i hear it i usually just smile and nod--who am i to shatter anyone's illusions.

Once my sister and i were watching Bob (actually a great and terribly funny and underrated show--don't know if anyone remembers it) and one of the characters (Trisha, if it matters) was in a rush to get to a anniversary celebration and, of course, everything was falling apart; she and her companion made a stop at a convenience store and while they were there, an armed robber came in to rob the place; Trisha grabbed the gun out of his hand, shouted, "We don't have time for this!" and tossed the gun aside. The bandit was too shocked to do anything but run away, my sister and i commented about the implausibility of the situation and laughed at the absurdity; but it brought to mind my own reckless youth.

When I was eighteen I worked in a gas station/(supersmall) convenience store. The day i started i was called in to cover for a guy who had just been robbed and was too shaken up to continue working. Somewhat later in my somewhat unremarkable career as a gas station attendant, as i sat quietly reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest i glanced up to spy, coming around the ice machine, two men with nylon stockings over their heads about to enter the door, and i quite quickly realized, "well, Now I'm going to be robbed." So, i set my book down (face down so as not to loose the place,) slid off my stool, and stood at the counter. They came in, drew their guns and demanded all the money in the cash register; i readily complied but they were not happy with the amount (i, ever dutiful, had been making my required safe drops and therefore the cash drawer amount was low). One of the robbers started to come around the counter to check under the till. I was a)extremely annoyed that they wouldn't believe me; b) feeling that they were invading my territory (i.e. MY side of the counter) and c) (here's the biggie) eighteen and stupid (you know that whole bravado thing where you think you're immortal and all...) so i put my hand up to physically stop the guy WITH THE GUN from coming around to My side of the counter. I said, in my most commanding voice, "No, you stay there, I'll do it." And so he did. (interesting that--improbable--i don't really know, maybe everyone just responds to the tone of your voice--or the craziest/stupidest person in the room is the one who gets listened to?)

Anyway, they left with the money. I called the police, then i called my manager (might i mention that i both finished out my shift and never closed the store--neither was a replacement nor closure suggested and i never thought to ask) Once i gave my statement to the police they told me i was the calmest robbery victim they had ever seen--i'm not sure it was a compliment. I was never really too upset about the incident--i was more upset about some things my manager told me that same night, tho i don't remember what they were now--i do remember calling my mom and saying "Julie (manager) said blah...blah...blah...(ranting for about twenty minutes)... and, oh yeah i was robbed." I thought at the time perhaps i was in shock and it would all hit me later--about twenty-two years now--still hasn't hit.

Here's a little campfire tale: I once was camping with some friends, sitting around the campfire drinking some wine, about 11:00 p.m., when out of the woods, comes stumbling a man with a shotgun asking if we'd seen his friend. We hadn't seen or heard anyone else all night and told him so. He continued to talk to us somewhat drunkenly, agitatedly (is that a word?), incoherently and stumble around until he was actually standing in the middle of our campfire. I don't know if it was the level of his intoxication, the thickness of his boots, or the increasing emotional intensity of his ire which caused him not to notice that he was standing in the middle of the fire. I think a few of us softly, meekly, mentioned it to him; softly because as i said he was quite agitated, holding a shotgun, and only seemed to be getting more agitated. He finally wandered off into the woods from whence he came, hollering for his friend, we later heard some shots but never learned anything more. I think what is really interesting about that night is that after he stumbled off and the five of us began to talk we had each believed in the minutes that he had been there that we were all about to be shot dead and yet we all remained remarkably calm about it.
Now you may be wondering at this point, given the title of this post, that's all well and good; but what does it have to do with being a librarian? Quite a lot actually. There used to be a show on TLC called Faking It one of the episodes had a stereotypical librarian (shy, quiet) who had to train for four weeks to trick people into thinking she was a bartender at Coyote Ugly. One of the things she had the hardest time with was learning to talk loud and interacting with the public, now granted, she works behind the scenes in an academic library and there are many types of librarians, BUT i have NO problem talking loud when needed and interacting with the public--i work in a public library--shyness is a little difficult to maintain.
What, in my vast experience, besides library school, best prepared me for a librarianship? Probably pretty much everything. Probably having a gun pointed at me. Time spent with all the crazy people doing crazy things in Theatre school. Sure there are books and reading, but i have almost no time to read at work (i did a whole lot of reading at that gas station--and at various other jobs--but not this one). I was a back-up cook in a bar (two nights a week--the cook's night off) for a year. A bar where almost no one ordered any food, I spent a lot of time playing pool with the bouncer until things got hopping then i usually read 'til the kitchen closed, making an occasional order. I worked for almost three years in one of the most popular campus hangouts, a pizzeria that was open til 3:00am this pizzeria was THE PLACE where everyone came After the bars closed, imagine a bunch of drunk collegians five nights a week. I don't remember Ever having to call the police at either of those jobs. As a librarian i call them on an almost daily basis.
In the afternoons when school lets out its the usual stampede from the junior high across the street (we've talked about this haven't we?) Its surprising how frightening those raging hormones can be. Its kind of humorous in a non humorous kind of way to watch the police arrive to deal with these preteens and teens. First one car with an armed officer or two will pull up, but usually they will wait for backup and gosh we shy librarian have to deal with these Tough Kids all by our little old selves. We've been complaining to administration off and on for years and they stop by for about a half an hour here and there to observe but we're all a little jaded and numb--we just got a new youth services librarian about a month ago who is wonderful and was horrified by what we go through daily--things are beginning to change now--thank you, thank you, thank you Susan! (the interesting thing about this is as i describe daily events to the people in my life they seem to think that things have been getting much worse lately when i think actually what has happened is that those of us who have been living with it for so long have just become inured to it and tend not to describe or even notice how many times our lives are threatened each day.)
Then there are the less routine calls--the ones that seem to hit when i am alone at the desk, like when our regular but slightly unbalanced porn viewer finally blows up and stands at the reference desk yelling at me, refusing to leave, even while i am on the phone with the police; he stands in the middle of the library yelling invectives, explicatives, threatening me and the patron who is trying to calm him down. Or the time when the members from the wrong gang wandered into our library only to discover it was the rival gang's turf and unwittingly incited the invitation for warfare when all they wanted was a ride home; and i (once again alone at the desk) had to to ring the police up to take care of the ever amassing group of Bloods that i noticed gathering in the playground across the street. Actually the Crips were nicer than our usual crowd and i had some pleasant conversations with them as well as set them up with some good reading choices (which i knew they read because i saw their lips moving) as they made numerous calls to their friends who seemed to have a very difficult time finding the library.) When the Metro Gang Unit finally arrived they told them to stay in the library until their rides arrived.
Tonight was a nice change of pace because it was just the paramedics who were called in when our new shelver had a seizure and our court-ordered community service volunteer found her lying unconscious in our backroom. They came and carted her off to ....(i hope it was the hospital, they neglected to tell me where they were going or even when they left i guess they thought i was busy enough since i was alone at the desk...) Anyway such is the quiet, peaceful life (don't you wish there was such a thing as a sarcastic font?) of the librarian, i remember when i was an acting student thirsting for experience and everything was experience. Living every minute of it! I do love to have stories to tell.
(have you noticed that i sometimes tend to get a bit tangential and that brevity doesn't seem to be one of my strongest points?)

waxing nostalgic

so the other day i had my computer playing music on random and some song came on that sounded hauntingly familiar and i knew that it was i song that i had loved in the past and i loved it all over again but i really couldn't place it; so i had to stop whatever it was that i was doing and pick up the laptap and check out the title and artist. To my absolute mortification and embarrassment it was The Buzzrats. Why mortification and embarrassment you may ask? Well because the band is made up of friends (including an ex-boyfriend who is now a very, very good friend) and i used to spend a great deal of time at concerts hearing their sound and songs evolve. Anyway you NEED to hear their music. It is very hard to classify but it is wonderful.

somewhere between 20 & 40

I think between times i was just waiting for life to happen. Just waiting to grow up. Waiting to become a woman. Waiting to become sexy, to grow into that thing that would draw men to me. For so long before that i would just slide along the walls—or that’s what it seemed like in high school—wanting to melt into them so no one would notice me—until that moment when they did.

Now i’m almost forty and it seems that time that “they”’d notice me is behind me (and they did notice me) but somehow things seem a blank.

I waited. And now i look back.

And is that good?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

the fine art of shushing; or i fear i'm becoming the old spinster librarian with multiple cats

I used to shudder everytime i heard that hissing sound come from between my own lips--that "old fashioned librarian" noise that came automatically, unbidden at the sound of seemingly excessive noise or rambunctiousness--and sometimes that single finger would even creep up to my lip for emphasis. Now there are moments when i am sitting at the reference desk where i see opportunities to shush and almost relish the action (Almost and not Always) who am i becoming?

And then i come home, weary, headachey, cranky; i want to do nothing but hibernate. I find myself stumbling over the three cats that allow me to live with them, feed them, clean up after them, be furniture for them--and most of the time that home is where i'm happiest.

I am often up 'til the wee hours of the morning--i've always been a night owl but i used to be out haunting the night "up to no good" whatever for those hours. Now i just suffer from insomnia and migraines--you'll most likely find me mopping my kitchen floor, scrubbing the bathtub, or some other mundane task i haven't gotten to during daylight at three or four a.m. if reading hasn't lulled me to sleep, and the headache has dulled enough. Party Girl was always one of my favorite movies and not just a role model but SO already me.

Now i'm really not complaining here and unfortunately this could all just be age (wah, wah, wah) my goal is to still never grow up--and i still go out, and make people laugh and do my fair share of shocking things (although now it seems to be more tales of past deeds than current exploits--though i must admit i still have a few of those too). I just have to ponder every now and then who i am--which is always the sum of everyone i've been and everything i've done and as long as i'm satisfied with where i'm going i guess it's okay.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

the long and winding (or should that be winded) road

I'm a redhead down to the core of my soul (where-ever that may be) but nature has to be reminded of that fact every four to six weeks. That means i have a temper that flares easily, quickly, and everyone will immediately hear what i have to think--but it will go away just as quickly; and i can't hold a grudge no matter how hard i try.
When i was in junior high i wanted to be a poet (tho I was sure i would die a poetic death by seventeen at the latest). In high school being an architect didn't sound too bad so i took three years of physics, calculus, etc; then my first year of college i continued with the sciences and a pre-med major. My second year of college i took a quite a turn and decided to switch to the theatre department (flashback to that six-year-old-kicking-and-screaming temper tantrum that prompted my mother to tell me that i should be an actress when i grew up--did she ever grow to regret that).
A few years into acting and a few consultations with my advisers in which i was told (among other things–which were more true, and therefore less entertaining) that i was not devoted enough to my art because i was too busy working (to pay the very bills to keep me in school...such is life) i had a brief (perhaps two to three quarters--an antiquated university system since done away with on most campuses) flirtation with psychology {and obviously a never-ending love affair/obsession with parentheses} (a field i swore never to go into because it was my mother’s field). Interesting side note: when you tell people you’re a theatre major all you usually hear from them is "interesting" in that rather odd tone and the conversation either mercifully ends or goes on to another subject from there; when you tell people you’re a psychology major you are suddenly hearing all of their problems/life stories. I went running back to the theatre department, tail between my legs. I finally did graduate with a B.A. in general theatre with a minor in creative writing (that poetry/author bug was still lurking somewhere) and i was quite happy with the education i ended up with. I’ve often said that my degree in theatre gave me a great liberal education because learning the history and culture of people trying to express themselves dramatically is learning the history of the world (because that is what they are expressing after all). The added benefit is that no-one graduating with a B.A. in theatre can realistically be expecting anyone to hand them a job (all sorts of other recent grads unrealistically expect that only to be disillusioned–no disillusionment in store for me!)
Three years in the world of the same kind of work i’d already been doing for years plus a year of free vocational school for office skills (fill in a few forms and some wonderful community college counselor finds funding for "an overeducated/underemployed woman" never found out Where that funding came from–about the only unknown source of funding i’ve ever (not) found) a longing to be back in the hallowed halls sent me in search of graduate schools (and majors). Though i longed i knew with absolute certainty that i did Not want to teach (especially not junior high–did not like that age when i WAS that age). I loved research and i loved learning, this bookworm suddenly realized that i needed to be a librarian and that i should have realized it long ago. And the best thing was that Library Science was only a graduate level subject so tho i was late in realizing my vocation i had not wasted the life leading up to it–not that a life can ever be wasted if you enjoy it and use/learn what you get from it–we are always the sum of everything that we have been.
When i was in Library School i wanted to be an academic librarian (again the lure of those hallowed halls and ivory towers) i remember class introductions and so many members would say "I want to be a reference librarian" and inwardly groaning, "oh god i SO DO NOT want to be a public reference librarian–ten years of customer service, food service, retail, etc, is quite enough Thank You! (Not really a big people person here)". i’m a public service librarian (read reference librarian in a public library). Have been for about eight years, most of the time i like my job–it definitely could be worse. Oh yeah, did i mention that the library is right next to a junior high school? Did i mention how much i love junior-high-schoolers? Sometimes i have to go on a little rampage...or two...or a big rampage...