Friday, June 26, 2009

Bovine Intervention

Sometimes I hate being a woman.

I hate that my sanity is so closely tied to my hormones, and if I’m estrogen deficient (having my period), I have a tendency to snap at people or burst into tears at the drop of a dime. Having sufficient estrogen for six months (skipping my period since January), its arrival this week was both traumatic physically (always a nightmare) and psychologically. Not only had I forgotten how bad it gets, I had forgotten how bad I get, and life becomes one gigantic minefield, with my own self-detonating device between my legs. Never a good time.

Often I can keep the emotions in check, but twice this week at work I cried, and today I had the most unfortunate incident at the grocery store.

Allow me to digress a moment.

Being someone concerned both for the environment and for my own health, I have been moving toward a greener existence, and every day more chemicals are crossed out on my list of things I will allow near my body. The list is long. I tend to scare the crap out of people when I rattle off the statistics on plastics, chlorine in water, Teflon on pans, nitrates, sulfates, petroleum, and anything anti-bacterial, so I’ll spare you the Al-Gore-esque soapbox. But know that you are lucky, because my friends get bombarded with my scary information, and I have near breakdowns frequently when I learn something new I have to avoid, lest I die a horrible death or contribute to making our drinking water toxic and cause a horrible death for something else.

More and more, I’m buying organic products, and as they are becoming more affordable and more readily available, I’m expanding to almost an entirely organic existence. It started with meats and produce, then cleaning products, and now almost all my dairy is organic, including yogurt, eggs, ice cream and milk. I’m holding out for organic butter to drop in price, and use Smart Balance with olive oil in the meantime, mostly because it’s nummy like butter, but lowers my cholesterol, which isn’t high anyway, so bonus!

Most of the time, I try to eat eggs and meat from animals that are grass-fed (if grass is what they should eat) as well as organic, and have not only noticed a taste difference (much better!), but I swear I notice a difference in my overall health, which could be psychosomatic.

Boyfriend Extraordinaire and I have had many conversations about my need to buy only organic, grass-fed chicken meat, and eggs from grass-fed hens. We talked about free-range chickens with a woman from Munising, Michigan when we were up there last fall, and she was raising them. She said they were a pain in the ass because they’re wandering around all the time, and they lay their daily egg wherever they happen to be on the property, so the humans weren’t getting many eggs from these hens at all because they weren’t willing to follow the hens around all day and hope to get a fresh egg. Whether this is a true problem or not, I’m still more content knowing the hens get to roam. When B.E. and I were alone, he mentioned how even the animals they slaughter for food probably live better lives, and maybe, just maybe, the farmers actually grow to love them individually. They probably even have names!

B.E.: Would you feel better if you were eating chicken and you knew it came from a good home, people loved it, and maybe they even named it?

Me: Um. [Pause.] It’s hard to answer. I don’t want to eat someone’s pet, or an animal they loved. But is it better to treat them like property? No! I guess yes, but I don’t want to eat someone’s family member.

B.E.: Well, what about eggs? Eggs aren’t really animals, just byproducts, so would you feel better if each egg was stamped with the name of the hen who laid it?

Me: Awwwww, yeah!

Then the conversation degraded, my voice went up three octaves, and I started rambling in an almost incoherent, ultra girly way about how I wanted to meet the hens who laid my eggs, and thank them for the breakfasts they give me each day.

Well, that conversation was a precursor to what happened today.

I was standing in the dairy department of my grocery store, as I mentioned, looking for the cheapest, localest organic milk, and I came across the Sassy Cow Creamery milk.

Each gallon of milk had a tag around the top. This is what I saw.

After gasping, feeling my progesterone swell up inside me like a big, rogue wave, bursting into tears, and reading all the tags around all the milk gallons, I was faced with choosing whose milk to buy. Not an easy choice, let me tell you! When you can see their big cow eyes and white cow whiskers, you want to honor the sacrifices of all of them. Somehow, I managed to choose, and I proceeded to load two expensive gallons of milk into my cart, and I sniffled with pride for the rest of my shopping experience.

When I brought the milk home, my brother helped me with the groceries, and I got teary-eyed again when I showed him the milk tags.

Me: Look. This milk came from Sheila. She’s almost all white with a couple of black dots on her neck and a black ear and eye patch. She was born from humble beginnings, but insists on being treated like a queen. *sniffle*

Bro: Awwwww.

Me: And this one came from Reily, who would never clean her pen if it was up to her. *blinking back tears*

Bro: HAHA, and you, too, can collect them all!

Me: I LOVE this milk! I LOVE these cows! I wonder if they’re close. I want to visit them!

Thanks to the fact that I still have one working ovary that occasionally chooses to hold back the estrogen and bombard me with progesterone, I have become a cow stalker.

Look out, Madison, Wisconsin. And Sassy Cow Creamery. I’m looking for Sheila and Reily. And they should be warned that I kiss animals I love. On the mouth.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Tonight was the last night one of our shelvers would be working at our library, and he’s not just a good guy, but a true asset to our staff because he does so much more than just the tasks assigned to him. Although I’ve always kind of giggled at the anime group that congregates at our library, he was one of only two members who ever seemed to grow up, and I was proud to work with him.

So, as he worked and wandered the library, saying goodbye during his last shift, we told him to slack off and do something he enjoyed, which he wasn’t going to do.

Being cruel, I suggested he shelf-read the easy readers, which was met with boos and hisses.

My coworker suggested he shelf-read the graphic novels, and the young man said it’s too easy to get distracted and start reading them.

This is where the age difference became apparent.

She said, “Oh, go ahead. If you find a Batman you haven’t read, go ahead and read it.”

You should have seen the look of insult and indignity on his face. He backed up, repulsed, shook his head in disbelief and said incredulously, “Batman?”

It was as if she had just recommended he watch a Rainbow Bright video.

She apologized, laughing, making fun of herself for not knowing what’s cool and for thinking Batman could possibly still be something people under 30 read, and we all chuckled.

Batman? As if!

I said, “Well, we can’t pronounce any of the actual graphic novels you’re into, so Batman was the only thing she could say that was a graphic novel.”

He smiled, shook his head sternly, and insisted he doesn’t read Batman.

You know, there’s only so much condescension we can take from an anime kid, even the one we like, before we have to defend our uncool selves.

She said, with no small amount of accusation, “But if it was a Japanese Batman, then you’d read it!”

I busted out laughing, picturing an anime Batman, and said, “Yeah, Batman would be cool if he was 5 years old and had gigantic eyes, and blue hair cut straight across with bangs or something, right?”

We were all laughing then, and our young Batman-hater said, “No, he’d have to have pink hair, not blue.”

That’s when we lost it.

Damn, I’ll miss him.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Idiot Prints

Patron: I need to use a computer. Can I just go over there and make a reservation?

Me: Sure. Do you know how to do that?

Patron: Yeah, I think so.

Me: Okay.

I turned around and went back to what I was doing. About a minute later she yelled to me from the reservation station.

Patron: It won’t give me my reservation!

Me: It will. You have to click to accept the reservation and it will print all that out for you.

Patron: I did! I clicked the button over and over, but it won’t print out.

With that, she took her index finger and pressed the LCD monitor hard, so hard that I could see the rainbow effect of her killing millions of microscopic bioluminescent organisms that light up a monitor. (Yeah-huh, that’s how they work!)

Me: No, CLICK it.

Patron: I AM!

Me: NO, click with the MOUSE.

Patron: Oh.

Now, this wouldn’t be such a huge surprise if there weren’t multiple steps before this that required her to use the mouse, so why she decided suddenly that the mouse was obsolete and she was now supposed to press the LCD monitor with her finger, I don’t know. She’s not that bright. I blame it on the fact that she’s a vegetarian – she now has the brain of a potato.

I think she was the lady who was ahead of me at Wendy’s long ago, and she was yelling at the pre-menu in the drive-thru lane, which had no speaker to converse with, and when they never answered her, she reached through her window and started pressing her hand against the little menu stuck into the ground with steel dowels, as if it was a touch screen drive-thru.

Why do people think that everything is a touch screen now? Even things that they’ve seen over and over for years and years have suddenly started to confuse them, all because when they pay by plastic, there is a touch screen they have to touch and sign at most stores. These credit card machines have thrown the world for a loop! When did Internet chain-email go out to all the idiots on earth telling them that whenever there was a choice to make, it was a touch screen choice? Is this why books aren’t popular anymore? Do people take them home and push the little number in the bottom right corner of the page, expecting it to flip itself? How frustrating the world must be to them!

Now I know why our monitors are all covered in fingerprints. Idiot prints, I mean.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Why Do I Live In the Midwest?

It started off as a stormy day, but by noon the clouds were clearing and I headed over to the gym. I was the only person there, and only the fifth brave person to show up at all that day, even though it was 1 pm. By the time I left, the sun was out, it was getting hotter, and I was feeling the need to go for a long drive.

[Cue dramatic, foreboding music.]

I bought a $1 large drink at Mickey-Dee’s, bless their soulessness for doing this again this summer, and I swung by the house to grab my camera. As I was driving down the street near my house, I spotted a loon on the small lake at the end of the main street, the thrill of which carried me for quite some time. With some healthy snacks, a gargantuan drink and my camera in tow, and some exotic wildlife spotting already occurring, I decided to drive up to the Wind Point Lighthouse in Racine, Wisconsin.

My car said it was 84º, but it felt hotter thanks to the humidity. With all my windows down and the moonroof open, the second I passed the intersection of 4 Mile Road and County Road G in Wind Point, I felt the temperature plummet. This is not uncommon for Wind Point, which juts out into Lake Michigan. I frequently drive here on hot summer days because it can and often is 10-15º cooler, with less humidity and a cold wind coming off the lake. I watched the numbers dropping on my temperature gauge, and as I parked at the lighthouse, it settled on 66º, almost 20º colder than it was just one mile west.

I wandered the beach, running from the wild waves chasing my heels, watched the mallards buzzing me as I invaded their turf, and contemplated going into the water up to my ankles. It’s my lake, after all. Why not? My nerves could stand getting wet up to my toes, and then I had to scamper backwards into the warm sunlight for relief. After that, I wandered around the flowerbeds, taking close-ups of the blooming explosions of color.

Dark clouds started to roll in and the birds were sweeping all around the sky, so I figured I should pack up before I got rained on.

As I headed south on G toward Racine Harbor, the sky cleared again and it seemed like friendly clouds were in the sky. I walked the fisherman’s pier with waves crashing on the breaker wall, drenching me.

Then I drove to the southern side of Racine Harbor where Ann and I had met a muskrat the previous weekend, and I hoped to find him again.

There he was! Meet Tony.

Tony was on edge because something terrible was going on in downtown Racine and what seemed like every fire truck and ambulance in the county were congregating nearby, though I never saw smoke. Finally he dipped into the breaker rocks and I didn’t see him emerge again.

As I was driving out of downtown Racine, scary dark clouds were coming into the area and I wondered if I’d make it home before the big storm hit.

I was heading west on 20, where it joins Sheridan Road, and the National Weather Service broke into my music and reported a tornado in Kenosha on 50 and Green Bay Road, 8 mere miles away. My intended route home had been to go south on Green Bay to 50, and take 50 to the expressway, but if there was a tornado at that intersection, I decided to skip it and take H south instead.

H was a mess! Not only was I looking nervously at the approaching clouds in the west, but I was also being beaten madly with rain, so hard that the fastest setting on my wipers couldn’t keep up with it.

The tornado was working east to downtown Kenosha, so I felt better about heading toward 50, but the new report had hail and 70 mph winds at 50 and the expressway, with lights out and standing water where 50 goes under 94.

This is a tree blocking H, just north of 50 -- sorry so blurry; it was pitch black out and this tree almost killed me because I did not see it until it was about 20 feet away.

I continued south on H because of all the construction going on, and came face to face with police directing traffic around downed trees, over and over. Fearful that my luck had run out, I turned west onto 165, with the intention of jumping on the tollway to avoid these country roads. As I drew closer, I could see the cars were at a dead standstill as far as the eye could see on the tollway, in either direction, and I could just imagine there were flooded underpasses holding up traffic, so I continued west on 165 and made a quick turn south on the nearest north-south street I found, which was U.

U is usually a beautiful drive if you’re avoiding the expressway and Frontage Road, but tonight it was a bloody nightmare. The farm at the corner of U and 165 was underwater. As I drove south, the orchard on the west side of the road had flooded, with big trees lying in water over two feet deep.

I watched the rushing water draining from the flooded orchard land, down the dip in the road, and it flooded out the street ahead of me. Cars were driving through it, but it looked scary. I forgot what I was supposed to do while driving through water: ride the brakes to keep them dry and working, or keep my foot on the gas, lest my engine die. I chose to keep my foot on the accelerator, figuring I could dry my brakes after they were out of the water, and this seemed to get me through the first flooded out portion of U.

I pleaded with my car not to die, to just get us through this puddle and we’d be okay, and I felt the panic start when the splashes I made came up to my windows. You could easily guess that the water was well up to the chassis of the car, if not higher, and the thirty feet of flooded road seemed like a million miles to my eyes. Once through it, I could see that about a city block ahead was another one, this one deeper, and I started to hyperventilate, unsure if I should risk it, or try to turn around and go back through the first one. Other cars were braving it, so I decided to try. This time I was sure the water was up to the bottom of my car door, and I dared not look down to see if it was coming in the car as I drove through it. My car obeyed my request to not die in the middle of it and I thanked it kindly for its allegiance.

A little further down, there was a much bigger washout, one that saw cars up to their bumpers in water, making splashes that towered over their cars, and I started to tremble. It was still raining like a son-of-a-bitch and I didn’t know how many more of these my car would make it through. U is a hilly street and I could imagine that there would be plenty more of these washouts ahead of me. I considered turning back as I watched a box truck drive through the water ahead of me, and the spray was so high that it reached the windows of the cab on the truck, even though he was going really slowly.

That decided it for me: I was going back to 165, which meant I had to successfully cross the previous two areas of high water, and hope that 165 wasn’t totally underwater somewhere else.

I made it, though my nerves were shot, and 165 had at least 5 more areas where I had to beg my car not to die as I drove through a current of water washing out the road. At one point I crossed a washout and slowed to watch the truck in the opposite lane make it through, and the current was so strong, the truck slid into the guardrail. That made my stomach churn. My brain somehow convinced me that if I could make it to the next big north-south street, I’d be okay, and just before I hit 45, I found myself behind a fire truck on 165 that was putting out a tree on fire from a lightning strike. PEEE-UU, that stunk, but I was allowed to pass and somehow found myself at 45. (Don’t ask me how a tree burns in the middle of a deluge, but it was.)

South! Must go south and get out of this god-forsaken state!

Illinois doesn’t have massive flash floods or trees down in roads. Right?


45 had a number of areas that were just as bad as U, if not worse, even after I crossed the state line. Once the water splashed clear up over the top of my car, totally blinding me for painful seconds as I drove through this rushing, muddy water. The news was reporting the tollway under water in a number of areas, as well as power being out all over the place. They couldn’t even keep up with reporting all the damage and areas to avoid, particularly when the National Weather Service was breaking in every few minutes to report on the hail warnings and thunderstorm locations. The farther south I drove, the better the roads got, but I was still trembling from the terror I’d already survived.

Three mere hours after leaving Racine, I made it home to find the field next to my house, which always fills with water when it rains, was the highest it’s ever been.

My brother’s words echoed in my ears, that we were at the top of a hill, and when the field filled up, it would run down the street before it came into our house. This is a good theory until put to test, because while we are at the top of a hill, we’re at the lowest point of the top of the plateau, so much of the water that fell on our high ground was rushing down the street to drain into the field, which was rushing to drain down the street, and the two currents met…

…At my driveway. What the hell was I going to do?

Nothing. I watched it, all night, fighting for control, water flowing in both directions, causing a huge area of my street to fill with water and the edge of my driveway to get washed with occasional lapping waves from the dueling currents. So far, the house seems to be save. [Fingers crossed.]

So, I managed to survive a severe thunderstorm, narrowly avoiding a tornado and hail, drove through countless areas of rushing water, some washing brown water over the top of my car as I drove through them, blinding me temporarily, downed trees older than me blocking roads, another on fire from lightning, and a field next to my house so overfull of water that it was creeping up to my driveway.

I’m ready for spring to be over.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Let Me See Your War Face

The other day I was at work and Sergeant and I were talking.

Sergeant is a talkative fellow, which he freely admits and says he gets it from his mother, who never ever shuts up. Thankfully, she lives 50 miles away, because if she visited him at work and the two of them started talking, we might as well just tear down our library and build a new one around them.

Even though Sergeant has been out of the army for two years, he was in for eight, and those eight years make up most of his adult life, so when he talks, he talks about the army. A lot. I’m not complaining because he’s taught me so much about my own military and the lifestyle those soldiers live to fight for this country, or whatever it is they’re fighting for (I forget sometimes), that I encourage him to talk about it with me if solely for my own educational benefit. Also, I think he doesn’t have an outlet for his stories since he doesn’t keep in touch with his military friends and he’s from a huge family where he might not be the center of attention. Or he just likes to tell war stories.

So, the other day, when we were talking, he was telling me about a particularly mean guy in the army who trained him.

Sergeant: Maybe you’ve seen this in movies, but he would always come up to you and scream, “Let me see your war face!” Then you were supposed to make a funny face and scream as loud as you could, like this.

And he did it, only minus the actual scream.

I started cracking up. I couldn’t help it.

Me: What good is that? I mean, what does that do for your training? I’d think being quiet would be a better method for soldiers during war than attacking with their war face.

Sergeant: Yeah, I don’t know, it’s just a thing they made you do. And we all had to do it.

Me: See, that’s why they need recruits who are 18 or 19, who will just do whatever stupid thing they say, like make a war face, because that’s not a skill they’re trying to develop. Only folks that young would blindly agree to doing some of these things without really thinking about its use, or lack thereof. We don’t use a war face in the real world, although…that would be hilarious.

Sergeant (laughing): That would!

Me: Yeah, if our director started walking around the library telling the staff he wanted to see our war face, I’d have to quit. It would be funny, but there’s no way I’d do it.

Sergeant: “Nikki, let me see your library war face!”

Me (laughing): My library war face? That would probably be me crying. So do you use your war face at all?

Sergeant: No, just when I’m telling someone about the war face.

Me: You need to use it more. That would be awesome. You’d scare the crap out of people.

We both were laughing and he walked away to do his rounds. I’d forgotten about the conversation until yesterday when he had an altercation with a woman in our parking lot.

Military training demanded they park vehicles with the rear of the vehicle pointing into the parking space, so when they needed to go the next time, they could just start up the vehicle and zip on out. He still parks like this all the time, finds it efficient, so I teased him about stud parking at the library.

As it turns out, he backed into his parking spot that day, as usual, and a woman in the lot started yelling at him for that, saying that’s not how you’re supposed to park and the rule of thumb dictates you drive into a space, not back in.

He didn’t argue too much with her, but said that there was no rule against backing in, that’s how the military trained him and that’s how he does it now, but the nagging woman continued to berate him for parking that way, telling him he was the worst driver she’d ever seen. Being a peacekeeper, he just stood there and let her have her say, shrugged, and they both walked away. As she was leaving the parking lot, a guy in a big, loud truck cut her off and she was forced to slam on her brakes to avoid hitting him. Sergeant said she was visibly shaken and she looked at him with big, wide eyes.

When he got to this part of the story, I was cheering for the idiot in the truck, saying it was her own karma and that’s what she gets for calling Sergeant the worst driver she’d ever seen because he stud parks.

Sergeant: Eh, I felt bad for her. She’s not having a good day today. Everywhere she goes, people are pissing her off the way they drive. Hopefully she doesn’t have kids or someone she’s going to take it out on when she gets home.

Me: Oh, quit being all civilized and evolved! She deserved it! You should have yelled back at her anyway, or said, “Hold on while I go inside and get my badge,” and then come back out ask her what her problem is.

Sergeant (laughing): No, as soon as she started yelling at me, I should have given her my war face.

And then he showed me his war face.

And I almost fell out of my chair from laughing. After wiping tears away for a while, I could see that the war face was going to come in handy after all. It was going to entertain the two of us for a very long time, applying it to situations in our lives.

I need to work on my own war face. The next time that creepy guy comes in and tells me a dirty joke, I’m going to give him my war face.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Exhibitionists and Voyeurs

A few things I’ve been pondering today have to do with blogging, and the more modern version, micro-blogging.

I was reading something about blogs and micro-blogs, society’s “obsession” with them, which I view more as a current fixation, and how it reveals us to be the voyeurs and exhibitionists we are.

Being a longtime blogger and a sometimes blog reader, I take issue with being dubbed either an exhibitionist or a voyeur because anyone who writes or reads anything (poetry, fiction, editorials, children’s books, movie reviews, etc.) then qualifies, and that’s not a sweeping statement that can be made with accuracy.

Like all online personas, Happy Villian is just a facet of my personality, a simple glimpse into my thoughts, and I don’t write to show off in a look-at-me, I’m-so-great fashion, or at the very least, that isn’t a motivation for me at all.

I started writing many years ago because I needed an outlet during a troubled time, and I never expected to develop a readership. All throughout my teenage years I kept journals to keep my sanity. My friends were teenagers, and my deepest thoughts and most painful feelings were not safe in their hands. I wrote journals to confess to no one the turmoil I was going through, and once I was older, more experienced, more mature, and surrounded by people who were the same, the need for a journal dissolved.

The first blog I wrote was about my father’s death, at a time when my friends were no longer patient enough to listen to me trying to work through my grief, and my family was falling apart. I wrote about what it’s like to survive the death of a loved one. It was gut wrenching, but it wasn’t for anyone else but me, and I never figured anyone would even read it. The only reason I chose to do a blog versus another journal in a notebook was because I can type a hell of a lot faster than I can write, and Blogger was so good at keeping it all organized, much neater than previous journals I’d done. As time went on, the release it gave me was intense, and I felt like writing about things other than my dad’s death, so a second blog evolved that was just silly me stuff. The third one was Libraries for Dummies, which, if you’ve been a reader since way back then, bless your soul. It moved to Libraryosis and then to its current location, and I’ve written varying amounts of posts on work related issues, friends, family and anything else that popped into my head. I have a dog blog, a travel blog, and I even contributed to a photography blog for a bit. It’s not about the audience. It’s about the release.

What you may not believe is that writing a blog empowered me. It gave me the courage to look closer at myself to make better decisions and the clarity to recognize those situations so that I could exercise these new life skills. Having a voice, seeing my words and emotions, being able to make fun of people (including myself), and somehow organizing my thoughts outside my head, so I knew what to do with things inside my head, have all made me a better person.

I was the girl throughout school who never spoke. I sat at the back of the classroom and tried to look brave and above it all, defying my own loneliness, but rotting from the inside out. The one thing that scared me more than anything in the world was for people to pay attention to me because I preferred to be invisible. Having to speak in class was a form of torture I can’t articulate, and I suffered from anxiety attacks if the teacher was forcing us to read aloud. I was not emotionally equipped to be the center of attention, and I still hate it. To this day, I would prefer to disappear than to have all eyes on me. Even after I was done with school, I worked for employers who used and abused me, beyond the usual bad management techniques, and I could not speak up in defense of myself or anyone else. Men I dated did horrible things to me simply because I allowed it, because I didn’t have the strength to withstand the judgment of others and was content to not be completely alone. I had no voice.

I have a voice now. And it feels good to know myself, to know better what to do, and to flounder less frequently, gasping for ideas on how to handle what life throws at me. It’s not because I open my robe to the world with a blog, but because I type out what’s in my head, re-read it later, and see myself in a different light. Somewhere in the mess, I became a fighter. The girl who used to cower in school now teaches. The woman who dated men who hurt her is now the one who only dates men worthy of her attention. The friend who used to be afraid of how her friends would look at her now shows her loyalty in useful ways and drops people the second they treat her without respect. I don’t apologize for who I am anymore. I write not because I’m an exhibitionist, but because it allows me to better see myself, for all my strengths and flaws, and that makes me better at living my life.

So, if you consider yourself a voyeur, or if you write and consider yourself an exhibitionist, then good for you. More power to you! If you don’t, and you’re only ever seeking to get a better grasp on life, to understand yourself and others more personally, or just to connect with someone, then pull up a computer chair and let’s chat. We’re in this one together.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


When I first started working at my library, I was naïve and trusting.

And stupid. Not just stupid, but stoo-pit.

While I did realize that I had to be nice to patrons because that was my job, when they were nice back to me, I felt a connection to them, not unlike some of them feel when they deal with me, only not to the extent that many of them feel we’ve connected. If I’m cheery and smiley and laugh at their inane jokes, they think I like them. And not just a polite, how-can-I-help-you liking, but a full on, let’s-hang-out, get-drunk, screw-until-the-morning-light kind of liking, which is so off-base I can’t even quantify the distance off the base that is. But in the beginning, I felt like those who were nice to me were being nice to me because they actually liked me, in a you’re-sweet, if-I-see-you-on-the-street-I’ll-stop-to-say-hello kind of way. Often I was right, and we did stop and chat when we ran into one another around town. Occasionally I exchanged email addresses with patrons, and a few times I gave out my phone number. One patron has been to my house (which some of my friends haven’t even done), and we do spend time together. A few have hugging rights with me, but not many. A few times it’s backfired and I ended up having to screen my calls because a particularly ornery old man kept calling me and asking me out for coffee, which was not why I gave him my number, but lesson learned. I am a wiser library employee now.

I’m nice, but not as nice as I used to be. And when they’re nice back, that’s often a bad sign and I need to tone my niceness down even more. But it’s the behavior around town that has me too spooked to shop in any nearby stores, and it’s why I joined a gym 20 minutes from my house. I reserve my right to have a patron-free existence once I am off the clock.

Last week a young man came in and asked me a question that immediately set off my radar and my niceness level went from about an 8 down to an immediate 1.

He’s a decent enough guy, handicapped by some sort of anabolic problem (he’s often in a wheelchair, though not always) as well as being retarded (to what extent, I can’t say, but he is quite slow and socially awkward, and has supervision most of the time), but we’ve had patrons like this before, who have no qualms about fixating on one employee who doesn’t treat them like a freak, and going overboard proclaiming their affection for that staff member. I don’t want to be this guy’s object of desire, so when he walks up to me and greets me with a huge smile, saying my name in that way that gives me the creeps, dragging out the last syllable for far too long, I just want to run. But I don’t. I just try to restrict our conversations to library-related, professional exchanges. I cannot encourage the guy or I just know there will be trouble.

So, when he approached me last week and opened our conversation with, “Do you want to go to the B-96 SummerBash?” I didn’t even hesitate for a second, but spit an instant no-thank-you out. (B-96 is a Chicago radio station that plays popular rap and hip-hop type music – soooo not my genre.)

He stuttered for a minute and tried to clarify that his boss had given him a whole bunch of tickets to the event and he was just looking for people he liked to give them to, so he thought of me.

Me: Thanks for thinking of me, but I don’t listen to that kind of music and I don’t do concerts.

Half lie. I do small venue, mostly local band concerts, usually if I’m the photographer only.

Him: You don’t listen to B-96? How can you not like that music?

Me: I just don’t. It’s not for me.

Him: Well, what do you listen to then?

There it was. A personal question from a patron who is friendlier than I care for him to be, one teetering on the edge of making me greatly uncomfortable in a harmless kind of way. Years ago, I would have told him the truth and probably set myself up for a lengthy conversation about music, and possibly many subsequent conversations about music, and, worst case scenario, he’d have a bunch of tickets to see Shinedown at some point and ask me if I wanted to go to their concert. Then what?

But now I’m wiser. And I’m colder. And I’m a much better liar.

Me: I…I don’t listen to music.

Him: Nothing? No music at all?

Me: Nope. Music does nothing for me. I don’t even turn the radio on in my car anymore except to listen to the news on AM stations.

Him: Wow! Okay. Hmmm…

And he walked away shaking his head. I breathed a sigh of relief. His whole life is music and he “works” at this radio station, which gave him the box full of tickets last week to Saturday’s event. If he thinks I don’t like music at all, he’s disconnected a huge line he thought he had with me. It’s a gigantic lie I told him, but it is probably one that will save me untold amounts of hand wringing in the future.

And what a gigantic lie, too.

Throughout my life, every summer I have found myself taken by a new song. Maybe there’s a seasonal connection or maybe it’s just because so many bands release albums in the late spring. When I say I’m taken by it, truly, the world stops and there is just a rush from being overwhelmed by a song that speaks to me, that gets into me, that makes me more aware of my state of being alive than anything else. It’s emotional, yet my body responds, my back stiffens, my eyes well up and my pupils dilate, and it’s an awesome sensation that whatever I’m doing, wherever I am, when this song comes on, none of it really matters at all because I can soar above it. Once in a blue moon, two songs (almost always by different bands/artists) will be released and I’ll have twice as much of an opportunity for release during the same timeframe, but every summer of my life is punctuated and lifted by a song.

Last year it was 3 Doors Down’s “Train”, and before that there have been songs by Seether, Shinedown, The Offspring, Breaking Benjamin, Finger Eleven, Tool, The Foo Fighters, Stone Sour and even a Santana song, but this year the early winner is “100 In a 55” by Pop Evil. One strum of one chord and I’m in some kind of alternate universe so distant I can only barely keep a toehold on this one. I’m almost always in my car because that’s where I feel the freest, and if while flipping through the stations I hear it, I become that laughable person in her car on the road with you, with all the windows down, moonroof open, radio cranked to 10, playing air drums on her steering wheel and wailing along with the song, oblivious to anyone else around. That’s me. And you know what? I LOVE IT!

Some people talk about the soundtracks of their lives, and I have those. There are songs I once loved that I cannot hear, not one note, because they have come to represent a time in my life that I can’t bear to reflect on. Certain songs have adhesive qualities, whereas someone who introduced me to that song will forever be in my head when I hear it. There aren’t many events from my life like Kennedy’s assassination where I remember exactly where I was when I heard about it, but there are songs with such associative properties that I can recall smells, sights, sounds and emotions I experienced when I heard them at a poignant moment. There were movies, like Wayne’s World and Singles, that had entire soundtracks of songs that pulled at me from within, and I will always watch those movies just to relive the music, even if the movie doesn’t do a thing for me anymore. Bands I can’t stand anymore, like Nickleback, will always have permanent residence in my good memories because “Too Bad”, my favorite song from that album, was also the favorite song of a boss I had when I worked at Osco, and we were such good friends for a while. Also, “How You Remind Me” was a song played ad nauseum by Canadian radio stations when I made my solo trip to Niagara Falls in the summer of 2001, which is a highpoint of my life, and therefore the song goes down as representative of one of my bravest and awesomest times. Sometimes the memories make the music important, but often the music, above the memories, proved to be more worthy of caching.

And yet I told this guy that there is no music in my life.

And I don’t feel guilty for the lie.

My musical tastes haven’t changed much in the 17 years I’ve worked at this library, but I sure have changed.

And I sing:

“Full speed got me looking out my rear view
I can’t go back
Goin’ 100 in a 55
And I don’t know why I’m still alive
But I do what I can
But I know I can’t take anymore
I still believe in this rock and roll
And I pray the music gonna save my soul
But till then I still believe
Some things are just meant to be.”

Monday, June 8, 2009

How Did We Survive This Video?

I don't ask you to watch all that many videos, but I'm asking now. My love of Lummox's misheard lyrics should reveal why I find this video so hilarious, and I hope you do too. Man, what were we thinking in the 80s?!

Zoo Fun

Despite the fact that I foolishly chose to drive to the Racine Zoo, down Washington, on a day when THIS was going on (over an hour trapped in a traffic jam of hot rods for about 10 miles, after a lengthy drive to get there), the absolutely empty zoo was just wonderful on Sunday.

Black swans. How often do you get to see this? Look at the ruffles on their butts! I want a ruffly butt!

Who can resist a sleeping, baby goat?

Newborn twins! They could hardly walk, they were so new!

This gentleman in his handsome tux, finished his performance and took a graceful bow.

Still stunning are the year-old lion cubs, two left from the four. Two were given to other zoos due to space limitations at the Racine Zoo. From the looks of it, I'd guess we're looking at a male and female cub. Dontcha just love those faint spots on lions? Reminders of how closely related the big cats are, wearing the leopard's spots, but not as boldly.

Ahhhhh, summer is almost here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Catching Up

Tonight I think I invented one of my favorite foods I’ve tried in a while. I’m calling them guacamole bison balls. (They’re smaller than the name would make you think.)

1 lb. of ground bison
1 lb. of fresh guacamole (the chunkier the better)
¼ - ⅓ cup of Parmesan cheese
1 egg
2 handfuls (or to taste) of crumbled tortilla chips

I mixed it by hand, rolled the mix into one-inch balls, placed them in a pan (coated with olive oil), baked them at 375º for about 20 minutes, and then added them to my pasta and marinara sauce. Dude, this is my new favorite meal. I never knew guac and chips belonged so naturally in meatballs, added to pasta. I am a happy, happy girl tonight. And very full.

* * * * *

A patron approached me the other day, and now I’m starting to think I’m being baited or set up, because what she said to me was completely unbelievable.

“I was just over there and found this book called Grey’s Anatomy, and you know, it doesn’t have anything to do with the show. It’s all like body parts and your insides and stuff.”

Is someone sending these people to me? Is she the second installment after the guy who wanted the Yellow Pages with the White Pages and then didn’t know which ones were the White Pages until I pointed out the actual color of the pages. I’m being tested, right?

* * * * *

Although I said my blog color should match my hair color, I have dyed my hair a reddish-purple color and am too lazy to find a blog template I like that matches my hair, so you’re stuck with the same old template. Likely, I’ll go back to purple after this because I don’t think red suits me, so it’s for the best.

* * * * *

For Summer Reading Club, we have adopted a fishing theme, created a fishing hut, and borrowed Briana’s mannequin, Britney, which we dressed up in waders, a flannel shirt, a fishing hat, and affixed a large fishing pole to her manicured hand. To register, patrons must fill out a fishing license, which is based on the actual Illinois DNR logo, and I tweaked it to say the Department of Natural Reading, with a little stack of books on the grass next to the stream. We are giving away gummy worms (lures) and Goldfish crackers (fish) for signing up, as well as other prizes, and more fishing goodies will follow. It’s a grand display of our creativity.

Tuesday afternoon a rather rambunctious pair of sisters accompanied their mother in to the library, and while Mom was registering and collecting her first round of prizes, the two girls, about 8 and 12 years old, stood around debating whether Britney, dressed as a fisherperson, was a male or female, so one girl put her hand down front of the waders of the mannequin to determine gender. I did not see the molestation. Later on, someone else informed me of this violation and I was horrified.

Me being me, I went straight to the director with my shock and concern.

Me: Do you have a minute? I need to ask you a serious question.

Director: Yeah, sure. What’s up?

Me: If something happens to a staff member, like if a patron does something bad to that staff member, and that staff member doesn’t report it, can I report it on behalf of the staff member?

You could see from his face that this was not the kind of question he needed right now.

Director: Yes, I mean, I would hope that staff member would come to me, but if it has to come from someone else, then yes, I would like you to tell me what happened.

I took a deep breath and buried my smile deep inside me.

Me: Well, there were some patrons being…well, idiots…and there was some talk about whether this staff member was a male or female, so one of the patrons approached and she stuck her hand down the pants of this staff member.

All the blood drained from his face. He assumed the “staff member” was a male, and he did a mental inventory of the males present in the building at that moment, and I’m guessing he was kissing his ass goodbye, because if this happened on his watch, there would be police and lawsuits and all kind of nonsense that likely wouldn’t look good in his first few months in charge. That’s a guess, because what I saw was him standing there speechless, not breathing, mouth slightly agape, turning whiter and whiter by the second. He later told me he was concerned about whoever the victim was here, but I’m guessing there was a bit of terror for his own future.

Before he could ask who the staff member involved was, I let him off the hook.

Me: Britney, the mannequin, counts as a staff member, right?

It took a moment, but he realized what I’d done and he started cracking up laughing.

Director: That mannequin is very naughty and needs a spanking!

This was when I backed up, so that I was in view of Arms, and I informed him that Arms had already spanked her good.

Which was true. I told Arms the story of the mannequin being molested and he said she was a bad girl and smacked her on the ass.

We all had a hearty laugh at our dear leader’s expense, and it was not lost on me that our poor mannequin was molested and both our director and the security guy chose to punish her as the naughty one who invited it. Hopefully they were just trying to be funny.

It’s good to have a director who can take a joke like that. He did punish me by telling me I had to buy him ice cream after work that night, but I ordered my own quickly, before everyone else (funnel cake sundae with strawberry topping), and he had to pay his own way when he finally got to place his order. Some might say I got him twice that night. I’m just glad I have a director who will not only tolerate my stupid pranks, but will go out for ice cream with the Kool Kids after work.

* * * * *

A couple weeks ago, I sold my soul. The weird thing is, no one has noticed its absence but me. What’s that say?

After a two-month long battle with an incessant cough, having exhausted one doctor’s ideas about the cause, and moving on to my other doctor for some relief, he determined I had a lingering sinus infection and prescribed a 40-day course of antibiotics, to make sure we beat it this time. Since I’ve been on steroids for nearly a year now, I am guessing my immune system is on permanent vacation, and a month and a half of antibiotics sounded harsh, yet reasonable.

My pharmacy dispensed the medication to me, not only with the fold-in-half page of information on the medication, but inside the bag was two full pages, small print, containing warnings about the medication I was about to start, and all the terrible side effects it could cause, including the sudden rupture of a tendon. It was recommended I refrain from any exercise or doing most activities, and it warned that this tendon rupture could occur anytime between the first dose and six months after the last dose. Skeptical of the seriousness of a stupid antibiotic, I did some online research and sure enough, there were warnings everywhere about Achilles tendons spontaneously tearing, and the class action lawsuit in the works against the makers and the company promoting it.

In addition, I set pill bottle up on my counter to join the others.

Prednisone 1 mg, Prednisone 5 mg, Prednisone 10 mg, HCTZ, Bumex, Allegra, Astelin, Tessalon, Benadryl, Melatonin and the toxic antibiotic made it 11 medications I take regularly. This does not include the occasional aspirin or other over-the-counter analgesic, nor does it even allude to the enormous amounts of potassium I have to consume to counter the effects of the HCTZ and Bumex, which are to counter the effects of the Prednisone.

So, I woke up the next morning and said enough was enough, and I stopped taking everything. (Boys and girls, do not try this at home. I do not promote stopping your therapy without speaking with your doctor first. I just had a total meltdown.)

That day I continued to cough, but I could feel my energy increasing, my spirits rising, and by the next day, I felt like a whole new person.

This was when I entered into the deal that clearly I had not thought through, because while I wasn’t cognizant of the fact that I’d just given my soul to the devil, I have since come to accept this barter for what it really was.

With my new-found energy, I joined a gym.

EGAD, you say! Whatever were you thinking, girl?!

I know, I know. It sounded so simple in the beginning, like it would actually benefit me in some way, but I see now that my life may never be the same again.

I go now at least three times a week, and I have had to dig out workout clothes from my closet and wear them in a public setting. This should have been the first clue that either the world was coming to an end, or I had bartered away the very essence of me.

AND, I had to go out and buy new gym shoes, because your friend Happy Villain has only silly shoes, pretty shoes, and heavy-duty hiking boots. There was no place at the gym for my red leather pumps with kitten heels, or my librarian brown loafers, or my leather ankle boots, or my little black ballet slippers, or my gladiator sandals. I had to leave my comfort zone and go to a sporting good store to purchase shoes. SHOES? IN A SPORTING GOODS STORE?! It seemed unimaginable! It turns out my teenage love of Nike shoes has matured, and now New Balance are the shoes for me. Go figure. And also, someone should look into whether New Balance is doing Satan’s recruitment, because they seemed to be in on my little deal with the devil with their cute, comfortable shoes with pink trim. SATAN’S SHOES, I tell you! But they feel so good.

So, I work out, and while I’m there, I’ve turned into some alternative universe, opposite reciprocal, evil twin of myself. For some reason, I’m fucking perky. I mean, incessantly chatty, telling all my secrets, happy to be alive, fucking perky. The kind of perk that makes you think that pesky perker is either on some major psychotropic drugs, or she’s getting porked every morning by a porn star. I am neither, and it’s not fair. Where the hell were the warnings in the contract I signed that said I was going to turn into my antithesis? You know, I may need to spend some time in a gym, but my personality isn’t in need of a make-over as far as I’m concerned. Perk wasn’t part of the package. Yet, there I am, doing squats until my legs are on fire, and gleefully telling the owner about how wonderful it feels to be in such agony, to be eating whole grains again, to be spending a bloody fortune on fresh produce, and to be pooping some of the best turds this body has ever made. Someone fucking knock me on my ass, tell me to put on some pants not made of jersey cotton, and shoes that pinch my toes! Dammit, what the hell is wrong with me?! I’m not goddamn perky!

I suspected I’d sold my soul not long after joining the gym, but my suspicions were confirmed when one of our most dreaded patrons called up while I was at the reference desk. In the past, I have described her as soul-suckingly needy, and that’s probably an understatement. This is the single loneliest woman on the planet, and when you pick up the phone, you don’t get another word in edgewise until she dies. Which she refuses to do. Her requests from us are always way out of left field, and when she isn’t asking for us to find a place to recycle her kitty litter, she’s telling us her horrible life story again, about her impending divorce, her ungrateful adult children (one of whom is married, and the wife has a restraining order against her because she shows up at her doctor’s office and wants to go into the exam room with her, or she harasses the daughter-in-law’s doctors, demanding to know why she’s being seen and how she’s being treated for her ailments), and you almost end up wishing she’d just ask you more ridiculous questions about how to contact Matt Lauer, so he can tell President Obama that she wants him to get a labradoodle.

Anyway, she called up one day not long after I started my soulless existence, and I did something I never, ever should have done. It was so foolish and self-sacrificing that I marvel to this day that I managed to accomplish it.

I was…nice to her. And I let her…talk…for over a half-hour, without cutting her off and telling her I had patrons to help.

Now she calls everyday, sometimes multiple times a day, and asks for me. I’m her favorite.

Who knew that when you sell your soul, your eternity in hell begins right then, on earth, for you to begin your penance? I certainly did not.

When I returned to see my doctor and told her what I’d done, I fully expected her to put me over her knee and spank me raw for disobeying her medical orders, but instead, she was happy that I’m better, and she said I was glowing. Glowing? Like, someone added radium to my cran-grape juice?? No, she said I’m utterly transformed, and she was so excited for me, she said we had to go out and celebrate. Huh? Like, me and my doctor, having a drink together? Who DOES that? My soul must have been huge if I could sell it off and it would throw the planets completely out of alignment like this.

For hellish reasons I can’t begin to understand, I wake up early every single day, without an alarm clock (for the first time in my life), as if depriving me of my beloved sleep was somehow part of the bargain. And then I put my red hair back, eat the same damn breakfast of two hard-boiled eggs and two pieces of rye bread toast that I eat every damn day, and head straight to the gym. At the gym, I talk and I talk and I talk about NOTHING and EVERYTHING, like I have stepped into a competitive chat contest that I’m determined to win. And I work out until I’m dehydrated, whereupon I drive to work and am nice to people I should never be nice to.

Except the director. Who, it seems, no matter who owns the title to my soul, I can still torture with my dumb pranks, and he will not fire me.

So far.

Monday, June 1, 2009


My new friend, a painted turtle.

(Look at that Michael Jackson nose.)