Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I like fish and mango pickle

Stocking loot, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

Man, I know Christmas Is For The Kids and all that, but I have had one kick-ass fucking holiday season so far.

Gonna get him

My husband bought me the lens I had decided I would buy in a year or so - a so-called macro lens, it will focus very very close, and, as it turns out, it just loves light. I do not deserve that lens. Let's be frank - I do not deserve that husband.

Also. I received an email on Christmas Eve from the review editor at School Library Journal. I am one of their volunteer reviewers, I get paid in books. But SLJ is doing a supplement, and they'd like me to do a compare-and-contrast of several nonfiction series, and they are going to PAY ME. MONEY. A paid writing job!

It might seem odd for me to be jumping up and down about it, because, well sure, I write all the time, and most jobs I've ever had have been jobs full of writing... but I got this assignment purely on the basis of me fucking around on the Internet, so it's kind of like making money off a hobby.

Plus it finishes paying for my laptop.

El Charro gala suit, via eBay

AND, after eight years of searching, I found a mariachi suit on eBay. A traje de charro, black, with metal botonaduras down each leg and at each wrist. Yes, basically what Antonio Banderas wears in Desperado. Make of that what you will, and then keep it to yourself.

I fully expected this thing to come in huge and short and beat-up and stinking of, let's face it, a mariachi, and I figured I'd only end up being able to wear the jacket, but after eight years of searching, oh I just wanted to put this whim to bed.

Imagine my delight when the pants fit like they'd been MADE FOR ME, and the whole thing is spotless and new. El Charro, the company that makes these things, only does custom, and somebody just my size must have ordered this suit, worn it once if at all, and decided - what? the mariachi lifestyle was not for them? That's a three-hundred-dollar custom-made suit that some tall, narrow man discarded without a backward glance.

I am grateful though - it means my botonaduras are untarnished.

I can only wish the same for you, amigo.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Walking Spanish down the 649's

The other day at work, I escorted a nice but worried-looking woman in her '30's to the nonfiction stacks to find a parenting book. It was not How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. Neither was it The Happiest Toddler on the Block: The New Way to Stop the Daily Battle of Wills and Raise a Secure and Well-Behaved One- to Four-Year-Old. Nor Sneaky Veggies: How to Get Vegetables Under the Radar & Into Your Family and not Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child : Eliminating Conflict by Establishing Clear, Firm, and Respectful Boundaries, the first 3 chapters of which I actually found kind of helpful one time several years ago.

Thank god, she wasn't looking for Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems: New, Revised, and Expanded Edition, which fucking traumatized us when Mao was about one. It was some different book full of disheartening and shaming messages to parents. Possibly The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler. Or Itsy Bitsy Yoga: Poses to Help Your Baby Sleep Longer, Digest Better, and Grow Stronger. Maybe The Toxic Sandbox: The Truth About Environmental Toxins and Our Children's Health. I hope it wasn't How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor.

I like to think of that aisle as the Bet You Didn't Know How Many Ways You Suck As A Parent Aisle.

Individually, many of these books have merit. If you're a yoga person, by all means you should get a book about doing yoga with your baby. But the way they're marketed, the alarming titles - an insecure person (and what parent isn't insecure sometimes?) could take away a whole pile of disgrace and self-loathing along with her copy of The Five Love Languages of Children.

According to those books, she should be putting her child to bed at 7pm, after a dinner of sprouted quinoa and brewer's yeast. When her child misbehaves, which is her fault, by the way, she should gently but firmly take away a privilege. Or give him one more chance, and then (gently but firmly) put him in time out him right away. Or gently but firmly snap him into her homemade bamboo pillory on the front lawn. She should have been doing yoga, massage, and reflexology since birth so that the child has a chance at avoiding obesity and can integrate his right and left brain. If she didn't teach that kid sign language as a baby, she has doomed him to suffering traumatic storms of frustration before learning to talk, which, by the way, will occur later.

There should not be too many toys. But we should honor the pleasures of childhood. Our job is to provide the safest, most nurturing environment possible, although we do them a disservice if we insulate our children from...

Well fuck it. Taking clothes out of the dryer last night, it occurred to me that if what people are looking for is a book to make them feel bad about how they run their house and raise their children, I could write that! (see, it's totally a trend with me).

  • How often do you scrub out your laundry baskets? What do you use for that? Oh. God. You still have that stuff in your house? Yikes.
  • At what age did you first assign your infant simple household chores?
  • How many languages does he/she know?
  • Do you sit and play with your child at least one hour a day? How do you know that? Were you watching the clock? Shame on you.
  • When was the last time you washed your potholders? Do you know what micro-organisms those things can harbor?
  • Do you still help your child manage his/her little bank account? It's never too early for a child to learn about fiscal responsibility. If you don't fuck up, you can Raise a Future Millionaire, you know.
  • Let me just go through your kitchen:
    • Plastic? Jesus.
    • Glass? What happens when this falls off the counter and shatters? I know kids look cute with eyepatches, but is that a risk you're willing to take? Let me give you a source for bamboo food containers.
    • This cereal has sugar in it.
    • Ketchup has sugar in it.
    • Juice? Well, they're "only" baby teeth I guess.
    • And you know they make saltines without salt, you don't have to buy these. See if you can find whole-wheat, at least.
    • Grapes? See this? Exactly the size of your child's trachea!
    • Placemats. Hm. And how do you clean those? Wow. That's not exactly... sterile, is it?
    • Do you really use these paper towels or are they just for show? Because dishtowels - you know, you can use those more than once, and that way you're not, like, tossing garbage straight at your son's future.

I am enjoying this. After 8 years of getting fucked with by every parent, physician, educator or therapist with an opinion and an editor, I am getting some back. You do it! It's fun!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Into the mystic

Bob and I had the rare chance to go out together last night. Little year-end party, people we knew, people we didn't know that well. Socializing! Colleen's cheese puffs! Beer! Now that's holiday.

Nowadays, living where we do, sooner or later most conversations come around to kids. Or school. Or kids and school. That's ok by me. We love our school. The teachers are motivated and smart and kind, the other parents are G-R-E-A-T, and the lighting is not too soul-crushing. We have lot of nice anecdotes about how well our kids are responding to it.

For example! Last week it snowed a little, and Mao, looking out the car window, started reciting a poem that had been in his Poetry Book last year in first grade.

Snow makes whiteness where it falls.
The bushes look like popcorn-balls.
The places where I always play
Look like somewhere else today.

And! Yesterday Zhou got into a scrap with a kid in his class. It's not like they were rolling around on the floor gouging each other's eyes out, but still, that stuff is taken really seriously: the teacher took them to the principal's office, and since it was the end of the day, the other mom and I were invited as well. The interrogation went like this:

Teacher: First of all, Zhou, are you all right?
Zhou: Sure!
Teacher: Ok, can you tell me why your pal here was hitting you?
Zhou: I was saying something he didn't like.
Teacher: What were you saying?
Zhou: Nuh-uh.
Teacher, turning to the other kid: Ok, what did you say that he disagreed with?
Other kid: I said 'Uh huh'.
Oh, it took forever to tease out what exactly they were arguing about, and by then the teacher was late for a doctor's appointment, so she said she'd put this discussion in her pocket until tomorrow, and then they'd play it out in class. This perked Zhou right up. "You mean a reenactment?" he asked, his eyes bright. "I LOVE reenactments!"

So we're telling all these tales to the other parents last night, and I realize we are BRAGGING. I realize that we brag about our kids ALL THE TIME. We brag discreetly, we brag openly, we do the back-door brag. After we got home, I brought it up to Bob.

"You know, we brag about the kids ALL THE TIME," I said.
"Well, they're pretty great kids," he says.
"Yeah," I said. "I think we should keep doing it. I think if we spend a lot of time talking about how great they are, they're going to think they're great, even if we don't do it right in front of them."
"I think you're right," Bob says. "If our default posture is that they are great, we will be more convincingly disappointed when they act like assholes."

Consensus. The essence of successful parenting.

Monday, December 08, 2008

You don't know me

and why not?, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

Comments perfect strangers have made about my personal appearance in the last 48 hours:
  • "What you need are a few more rings."
  • "Your hair doesn't scare me."
  • "I have to ask." (and then he didn't, just looked at me expectantly)
You know what, folks? I don't look like that young man who worked the entrance desk at the Whitney 13 years ago - the one with 8 piercings in each eyebrow and several in the lip? you know, the one with the large black tribal tattoos crawling up his neck and threatening to pull his ears down into his artfully ripped shirt? All I have is pink hair. But somehow... I just don't bet random visitors to the Whitney Museum of American Art made comments about that guy's appearance. Maybe that's what I need - I just need to look more scary.

I think I'll have horns implanted. You can do that now, I think. That would actually totally rock.

Also. Cleaning up after a few hours on the desk, here are some things I found scribbled on scrap paper:
  • American Red Cross
  • Doris Lessing
  • jaundice
  • origins of yoga
  • taste buds gender difference
  • Movies Christian
  • Ragnarok
  • Essential tremor vs. action tremor
  • painter School of Athens
  • Naked Ape
It's not poetry. But the mere mention of Ragnarok puts it maybe in the category of 'things that might be found lining the pockets of a man currently residing under a bridge.'

Also. Token Boy Librarian has observed that most pictures of my older son are perfectly reasonable until you take a closer look. He is right, in many cases: there are mismatched gloves, books being read upside down, Care Bears being decapitated, Danny Torrance hair. That's why I like this picture: the crazy is right there before your eyes. This weekend he was so stir-crazy, milling around like BBs in a blender, chattering nonsense syllables... I finally told him if he couldn't cool it or go outside I was going to have him tested.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Don't bank on it baby

Painting by Tamara Vandevender

A few people I know and used to know - once and future friends - began to reminisce about an enterprise that I used to be part of, a coffee house, and now I can't get it off my mind. I have barely thought about that place for fifteen years.

It was just a place, we had an espresso machine and cold drinks and muffins that got moldy if you didn't sell them quick enough. Tables and thrift-shop chairs and lots and lots of ashtrays. It was in an arty part of town where nobody would go unless they lived there or drank there or possibly were busting a crackhouse. The day the DEA came for the house two doors down was a good day for us. Cops drink coffee.

My ex-boyfriend Joe started it with some money he had inherited from his grandmother. I helped with the paperwork at first, and painting - lots of us helped. Our friend Chris did all the carpentry.

Our first customers were the resident artists down there. We had a guy who did decorative ironwork, we had glassblowers, a puppeteer, an arborist, mosaicists, a milliner, and the florists from two blocks away - the only people who bought the four-dollar mocha lattes. Loved those florists.

Before too long, the poets and art students and musicians found the spot. Young people. Young young young people, some of them just out of high school. I was all of 26, 27, but still - those people were young. The place turned into a clubhouse. I lived upstairs for a while, and I would come down still in pajamas to drink coffee and see who was there.

SoWeBoHemian festival, 1993

I worked behind the counter to help out. When it was busy, I poured coffee like a river, pivoting from carafe to register, my hands hitting every mark. That kind of physical proficiency is intoxicating: it feels like dancing. And I knew everyone who came in. I gossiped, I flirted: that felt like dancing too. When it was not busy, I hopped up on the counter and read, or daydreamed, or sat at a table and talked. The CD player was on top of the drinks cooler. To change the CDs we'd have to climb up on the counter. We'd put in The Pixies, Mozart, My Bloody Valentine, Meat Puppets.

Did people hook up, fall in love, break up? They did. Meaning compounds when you've had seven cups of coffee and have run out of things to say. Things ran at a pretty high pitch.

(For example, I am writing this at a coffee house, and three people, two men and a woman, are having a conversation about estimating weight. Woman: "Guess my weight. [First guy] was way off." Second guy: "Stand up. Huh. I'd say 106, soaking wet." She: "You guys are crazy! I weigh 138 pounds!" And these people are full-on adults.)

It bothers me that after I took over, the business did even worse. I was working full-time at a publishing company, 4 ten-hour days a week, with one weekday to get all the coffee house business done. Bank, icehouse, wholesale club, payroll, schedule. That was actually great. I loved having the day to myself, barrelling around town, carrying heavy stuff. I just didn't understand that we were losing money - I never saw the bank statements. I'm still embarrassed that I let Joe down.

We closed the thing down right around when I left town for New York. Late 1994 or maybe 1995. My chronologies for the early 90's are a mess: I try to date my few photographs by cross-referencing boyfriends, haircuts, tattoos, apartments. All of which there were too many of.

Polaroid Land camera photo by Katie O'Meara

Maybe that's why I get so blue when I think about those days. All that flux, all that running around, all those crushes and jealousies... it seems pretty pointless fifteen years later. Especially since the relationships I had have all but turned to ash. None of the people in the above picture speak to me, although it's mutual in the case of the tall guy. And towards the end, heroin hit our neighborhood pretty hard, and people died. Died or left town.

On the other hand, the ones who are still talking to me and are still living are some of the highest-quality people I know. Maybe the others are too, but I am not likely to learn of it.

Here are the things I learned:
  1. I am a crappy manager
  2. The correct amount of ground coffee to make a pot is .28 pounds
  3. French presses are not worth the trouble
  4. Poetry is not to be trusted
  5. The eleven-ounce C-handle ceramic mug is one of the most durable items ever manufactured

photo by Joshua McKerrow

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's a bitch convincing people to like you

1. Maybe I can make a laptop bag out of my husband's old ties. Might force him to retire some.

2. Kelly Link's new book of short stories, Pretty Monsters, is offhand and horrific at the same time. Is that good? Well, if you've ever been scared out of your wits and yet laughing at the same time - and you liked it - you'll like this. It's like drinking pure vinegar.

3. What the hell is it with crows? They fly like the dryer broke and they're lugging their wet laundry to Mom's house on the bus.

4. There's a new beautiful gift book out, The Incredible Mr. Don Knotts, by Stephen Cox and Kevin Marhanka. Don Knotts. If Don Knotts can have a coffee table book, sure I can get my lavishly illustrated gift book about the Olsen twins greenlighted. (Whoops! Too late! Bitches beat me to it! (And OH MY GOD it's boring.))

Oh, now I should not be mean. Everyone deserves a fan base at some point in their life. For example, I used to know this woman who moved to New York to break into comedy. She did a lot of stand-up, some writing, some improv. But what she really wanted to do was sketch comedy. She had memorized the oeuvre of Harvey Korman and Vicki Lawrence. She once spotted Tim Conway across a room and made a gigantic ass of herself gushing all over him.

And that girl grew up to be Tina Fey. No, no, I'm just kidding. I don't know what Brook's up to.

5. My boys just got their school pictures. This one, the second grader, insisted on wearing his navy blue blazer and a TIE on picture day. His picture looks, I swear to god, like Ron Burgundy, except with dimples instead of a mustache. And smiling.

6. Tonight is my 25-year High School reunion. Am I going? I'm going. I'm a part-time librarian in Baltimore. I have two small boys and pink hair. I have nothing to prove, and if it sucks we'll leave.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Found a bug

I wrote some porn one time, when I was in high school. Why? Oh, that's kind of a dumb story. Wait, but... I have a blog. What the hell else is this thing for?

Goes like this: one of my best friends in high school was a boy named [Jim]. One morning, as we walked to school, Jim confessed to me that he thought he might be gay. So I bought him four pornographic novels.

Wait, you did what? No, shut up, let me tell it. I bought these novels, or, got someone older to - keep in mind we lived in the suburbs and this was 1982 - because... I thought Jimmy needed more information on the subject, and I wanted to help. It took a fair bit of conniving on my part.

And, well, of course, Jimmy didn't need more information: I didn't realize, then, that when a boy says "I think I might be gay," that doesn't mean he has had a disturbing dream about Ricardo Montalban in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. No, "I think I might be gay," usually means "I have recently had some of that-there homosexual sex, and I really really liked it."

Well, what did I know? My understanding of homosexuality was limited to Victor/Victoria, and while Jim could do an excellent Julie Andrews imitation, I was rational enough not to equate that... with... wait. I may have been wrong about that. Too. What is more, the only porn I'd ever seen was the occasional Playboy in my dad's briefcase when he came home from a business trip.

But most importantly, I was utterly, utterly without experience myself. A purer eleventh-grade virgin there never has been. I'd never even been on a date, and while I was concerned about what that said about me, Social Pariah-wise, I wasn't otherwise all that interested.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I believe I mail-ordered these books (which would explain why my parents got the International Male catalog for so many years). And when they came, I read them, and I was appalled. Outraged; betrayed. THE WRITING WAS JUST SO AWFUL!

Yep, THAT's what bothered me about my first exposure to material that was intentionally sexual in nature. The fact that there was no editorial hand in evidence.

And of course Jimmy thought they were boring, and I didn't understand anything, so I was like, "I KNOW! They're terrible!" So, as night follows day - and this is a common, common phenomenon in my life, and an impulse almost never to be trusted - my next sentence was, "Hell, I could write better than this!"

So for a day or two in College Algebra (sorry, Mr. uhh... the guy who said he didn't believe in South Dakota, oh by the way I am here to tell you South Dakota exists, and it's fuckin COLD) I did nothing but write porn. In pencil, on lined spiral-bound notebook paper. I may even have it somewhere still. There was a stable boy, and a "Washington Monument of passion," and testicles the size (and texture! where on god's earth did I get that?) of overripe plums.

My art teacher, who was patiently waiting for me to graduate so that I would leave town and not get him fired for giving me rides home from school on his motorcycle, got ahold of this thing at one point. Not my fault, believe me - that thing got Xeroxed and sent all over the county. I saw a copy in the boys' locker room of Hereford High School, which is practically Pennsylvania. I was kind of famous for a while there.

Anyway, surveying my parodic penile prose, his comment was, "You know those things don't... get that big..." and when I assured him the whole thing was a joke, he said, "Good. Yeah. Because otherwise... you're going to be pretty disappointed."

Last week I read the last entry in the ten-part graphic novel series Y: The Last Man. It's nominated for a Cybils Award as a Teen Graphic Novel. And it's a good series: funny, well-drawn, with an interesting premise: all the males on Earth have been wiped out (I think there was a virus, I can't recall exactly), except for our hero, Yorick, and his pet monkey. Anyway, the ten books cover five years in which Yorick rambles all over the planet, running from, er, Israelis (among others) and looking for his girlfriend, Beth.

In this last book, Yorick and Beth are finally reunited. Naturally, they immediately get a room and have a whole batch of rowdy sex, which is implied by the disheveled nature of the apartment when we see them next: having sex standing up in the middle of the room. Yorick is entirely supporting Beth - no table, no wall.

They finish their shenanigans, and he puts her down. They stand together talking. She moves a few feet away, and they talk some more. Then they argue. Then he gets his clothes on and storms out. ALL STANDING UP.

I am not being entirely flip when I say that this sequence kind of messed up my ability to read the book. It's not like Yorick is some bodybuilder: he's an emo-looking, slight guy. His knees, his calves... look, nobody has sex standing up and doesn't sit down right afterwards.

Luckily, I cannot draw to save my life, so I'm not going to all of a sudden throw up my hands and go, "THAT'S IT. I can write a better graphic novel than this." Because... seriously, no. Brian K. Vaughn is a terrific graphic novelist.

It's just, if it's being marketed to teens... I don't want them to end up disappointed.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I'm coming up so you better get this party started

Ok, I'm reading about a million children's and teen graphic novels for this literary award, and I'm really very pleased about it. I get books in the mail every day. Books that I am, by and large, interested in reading, or at the very least interested in passing along to our school library as soon as they can process new acquisitions.

Have I mentioned that? The City school system - which is not staffed ENTIRELY by gold-bricking careless jerkoffs, I know this only because I've met a whole lot of people who work there - switched library software this summer, and effed it up so completely that here it is November and some libraries in the system STILL cannot access their own data.

None of it - they can't tell you whether they own a certain book, they cannot take inventory, they cannot even check out a book to a student.

This makes me so mad. For YEARS I worked for a software company that provided database software to museums. The WHOLE DEAL about getting a new client was that we had to get their data into our database, install it, and get it up and running over like A WEEKEND. At the very least they wouldn't let the subscription to the old database expire until we could flip the switch on ours.

And the school system let the subscription to the old software expire mid-summer. No software. No database. And by the beginning of the school year, new software? Not in place. Beginning of October? Not in place. Every public school librarian in Baltimore had to either give up loaning children books, or come up with some kludgey spreadsheet for keeping track of who had what. In our school we gave each kid a bookmark, and the kid was responsible for keeping track of the bookmark, and transferring it when they returned one book and took out another.

That is an unfair barrier. It is a hindrance to pleasure reading, to research, to doing homework. AND it was completely AVOIDABLE.


In addition, no library in the system has added any new books this school year. Our school scraped up four grand for me to pick out new books for the library, but we shouldn't place the order until the software's up. Plus, the donated books just keep pouring in - brand-new copies of books these kids want to read; books we got through a grant; and my books. I counted last night, and I have almost 80 new review copies of terrific books to pass along to the school. They're gonna have the best graphic novel collection in town - if the software starts working before the pages yellow.

And that's what I meant to write about. There are some things I want to say about some of these books - some mean things, some inappropriate things, and that, after all, is what Your Neighborhood Librarian is all about... but I got sidetracked by being really pissed, so the next post is going to be about why the hell someone would try to make The Merchant of Venice a graphic novel and whether a man can have sex standing up in the middle of a room and then stand around talking for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

America: Not as dumb as she looks, for once

(Not these people, of course - their choice of apparel makes them look very smart indeed!)

We watched the returns with a big crowd from our neighborhood at our friends' house up the street last night. Oh, I was so happy to be among friends. We were nervous, tense, jubilant, teary, and, in the end, many of us were REALLY drunk.

Just like at the polls, it was a historically huge turnout. Dozens of adults, and dozens of kids bombing around like pinballs. As I looked at the pictures later, I noticed just how heterogeneous a group it was: vegetarians and meat-eaters, home-schoolers, teetotalers, musicians, bureaucrats, educators, our mailman, and French people. We were diverse in terms of religion, race, age, country of origin, ancestry, height, gender, orientation, hair color, education, taste in music, and opinion on vaccinations. There were jocks and there were geeks, and at least two or three people who identify as both.

But we had a couple things in common: we had all voted, and we'd all voted for Obama - even those of us who, because this is Maryland and the Democrats will always safely win here, often throw our vote to the Independent or the Green candidate. Couldn't do it this time. And when John McCain made his concession speech, we all agreed that it was the classiest speech he's made this entire campaign. THAT's the guy I've always respected, no matter what side of the aisle he was on.

And when the long-awaited, almost unbelievable moment came, and Barack Obama stepped out on the stage with his family, through our tears of joy, we all shared our host's appalled incredulity when he blurted, "WHAT is that DRESS?"

Happy new day, America! You, like Michelle Obama, are beautiful - don't let your stylist push you around.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

One 'man, one vote -- step into the future

I just logged onto Flickr, and this is what I saw:

Just about everyone has posted their version of voter pride.

Mb shows off her free cup of coffee from Starbucks.

Dan Goodsell's popular character Mr. Toast voted.

The whole thing is making Manisha nervous and hungry. God, I know how she's feeling. I have found my way to the Halloween candy I don't know how many times today, and usually I have no interest in that crap.

Heidi out in Ohio is hopefully beating her neighbors until they all promise to vote Democrat.

Leslie rocked the vote - she votes at the church two doors down from me and I could have sworn I heard power chords from down there at one point this morning.

Jessamyn, well-known sexy librarian (also smart) made her allegiance known.

The craftiest woman in Baltimore voted.

And Julie from work, also a sexy librarian, praises democracy.

Lauren from Hampden showed off her sticker.

Inspired me:

I voted

The kids all wanted Sharpie tattoos today. After I gave Friend the Girl a spider and drew Yoda on Juicy Boy's stomach, put a huge Ziggy Stardust lightning bolt on Mao's arm and a rather nice witch on Zhou's, I treated myself to my own Sharpie tattoo.

I am counting the hours until Barack o'clock on pins and needles. I cried coming out of the polling place, and I know I'm going to be a wreck later - either way. Deep breath.

Soundtrack: Johnny Clegg and Savuka, One (hu)man, one vote

Both sides were against me since the day I was born


Will my adoration for Sherman Alexie never end? I love him "tantalizing" Colbert with "skins."

Monday, November 03, 2008

I've seen how you sparkle / when fall nips the air

football, originally uploaded by your neighborhood librarian.

Geahh! What a weekend! Halloween is a battlefield, ask anyone.

Among other things:

Big Man Mao lost a tooth (a baby tooth) due to string-related complications arising from participation in The Gummy Relay at school on Friday.

The gummy worm relay

(Not Mao - our pal WonderGirl)

Let me recommend it - if kid has a loose tooth, get kid to chew a gummy worm off a string as fast as he can. Tooth will come out quickly thereafter, and with no trauma at all.

But DON'T get all drinky that night, not if your kids sleep in bunk beds. Yes, I remembered to put the Tooth Fairy's reward - a cool t-shirt - under the pillow, but the next morning, Bob looked up to see Zhou - not Mao - coming into the kitchen wearing the new shirt. "Look what I found under my pillow!" he crows, beaming. Sensing that I somehow blew the Tooth Fairy transaction, Bob scurried upstairs, only to overhear Mao whimpering that the Fairy forgot him as he crawled into bed with me for another half-hour of shut-eye. "Huhh?!" I slur, "No, no honey, sure she came, she... snurrrr"

So Bob surreptitiously retrieved a novelty football from our stash of once and future birthday presents and put it under the boy's pillow, so when he woke up for the second time and went back to his room to get dressed - Avast! there was Tooth Fairy booty in its rightful place: under HIS pillow, on HIS bed.

The trick-or-treating this year was the best so far. Beautiful warm weather, and children who are finally old enough to run up and down the street without me panicking every time I lose sight of one (or both) of them.

Zhou's Frankenstein costume was both recognizable, due to the green face paint,

Frankenstein makeup and hair

and functional - unlike, for example, the year he went as a dump truck.

Mr. Three and Bob the Builder, Halloween 2005

Hard to climb porch stairs in that thing.

Mao's alien outfit was a little harder to puzzle. He wore his cousin Stretch's old spider top, and Neighbor Girl's starry stretch pants, and Nature Girl's silver boots, but his snazzy silver Captain Smekday cape

An alien with a third eye

went AWOL somewhere between the Gummy Relay and home, so we had to punt a little. How did we do that, you may ask? Well... I drew a red lightning bolt on his face and he was Ziggy Stardust.

Did it make him look more like an alien? Yeah ok no. But he was happy, and it was gorgeous and unbelievably cool, and you'd think so too if my battery hadn't run out and I could have taken a picture.

In addition, there were parties - that's right, parties plural! With GAMES! "Sneak into the graveyard" was a good game: picture about a dozen women in their, ummm... thirties (let's say), most dressed as some variety of witch, crawling up and over and through a chain-link fence, trying to keep their tights, wigs, capes, frizzy hair, hats, and/or lit cigarettes from getting stuck in the chain-link. That was pretty fun. I only got a little hole in my tights and two funny lines of bruises all up and down my right leg. Back when I used to climb buildings routinely, I used to kind of love Mondays, surveying my body's minor dings and dents and correlating them with the weekend's activity.

(At the other party there was Charades. Let us not speak of it.)

But speaking of dings and dents, you should see the ones on the minivan! Here you go:

Bambi fucked up our car

Woo hoo, right?! Deer season started on Saturday, and sure enough, long about 1am Sunday, we bagged us a big one! Stupid damn deer I swear accelerated INTO us as we were driving on Route 231 in rural Virginia. Probably broke its neck, and I know there's a couple thousand dollars worth of damage to the van. Poor dumb deer.

And why were we in Virginia? Because, in a spectacular alignment of stars and schedules, we found it possible to bust out of Baltimore after I worked on Saturday, barrel down the highway for a few hours, and get to, yes, a THIRD Halloween party, this one with music,


and John and Yoko:

The Ballad of John and Yoko

Not to mention the Tooth Fairy,

Joe the Tooth Fairy

jeez, where was that guy when we needed him?!

The next day there was a little nature appreciation,

boy in fall

a little football,

get him!

and back to Baltimore by bedtime.


Dear teachers,
Please excuse my kids from still having a little Halloween makeup around their ears. We have been having too much fun to bathe them thoroughly.
oh and PS if I am late picking them up it is because the car is all jacked up, 'cause of the damn deer.

Your Neighborhood Librarian

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What's your name, little girl?

What happens when you think too hard

I have been giving people nicknames for as long as I can remember - at least since the day I realized that my given name is un-nickname-able. Oh to have been Elizabeth or Margaret - to invent a new nickname every time I changed my wardrobe! But I have one name and I always will, despite real efforts by charitable friends to come up with something interesting.

But that doesn't mean my friends are stuck with their names, and I habitually lengthen, shorten, translate, or completely ignore their first gift from their parents. For example, I am the only person (besides some homeless people in Seattle) who has ever called my husband 'Bobby' instead of Bob. Charlotte, Peter, Jerry and various Rachels have been called Carlotta, Pedro, Gerhard, Raquel. I staked my claim on a friend in college by shortening his already one-syllable name to, basically, just a vowel sound and a fricative.

And my kids - don't get me started on my kids. They've learned to respond to just about anything that comes out of my mouth in a certain tone of voice. Especially since I mix them up pretty frequently. What? They're 20 months apart - pretty much if I need the attention of one of them, I probably need the other one too, or at least he can tell his brother, "O HAI WHATSHERNAME SEZ DON'T DO THAT."

But there's worse. I have kind of a very bad genius for mean nicknames. I'm ashamed. But a little proud. And ashamed. In my defense, I never fire the first shot. It's always someone who has been either mean to me first or is a jerk in general.

My dear friend Bill once had boyfriend who was not nice - to him, to me, to anyone. That guy liked his cat and the Pope, and the rest of us be damned. Which, I suppose, he had a line on, because he was in fact a Catholic priest. On their first sleepover date he took Bill back to the rectory. So come on, he was basically begging to be named... Father Fellatio.

When I was a camp counselor in Maine, one of the girls in my cabin gave me fits. She teased one of the other girls whenever my back was turned, and would openly break the rules, and defy me when I called her on it. She had a habit of sneaking out after lights-out, forcing me to creep around in the dark, skunk-infested Maine wilderness (Stephen King country, full of psychotic rednecks and sentient, evil-minded... whatevers) with only a flashlight and a headfull of expletives for protection. I always found her with one of the boys from Cabin Josh (9 boys were in that cabin, 7 of them named Josh), and as I marched her back to Cabin 10, I would mentally compose the letter to her parents apologizing for sending her back to Fort Lee pregnant. I can't remember her real name. Lisa. But to me she will always be... Titsy.

Linda the Schizoid Drunk. Meatlips. The Scary White. Mistletits. Larry "I Speak French" Jenkins and Heather "Not Her Real Name" Hartman. (Not their real names). Barfy.

Oh god, I am going to get in so much trouble one of these days. No, but I'm not - I'm off it. Nowadays I have a blog, and I can satisfy my eponymical cravings with the nicknames I make up in captions or blog posts to protec
t the privacy of the people I like and love. They ain't ever mean. And when that fails, I can make up names for the 'regulars' at work, although truth be told, most of them name themselves by virtue of their... habits. Ick.

Little old lady got mutilated late last night
Werewolves of London again
Two days til Halloween! Hey, if you have a particularly nice costume - nice enough that it ought to have a name? you call on me.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

We dress like students, we dress like housewives

We went to our first Halloween party of the season last night. Zhou was Frankenstein, and Mao was an alien who called himself "Captain Smekday," inspired, no doubt, by a most spectacular book that I read to them six months ago.

I was very impressed by some of the costumes at the party. There was a corpse bride, and a corpse cyclist, pirates and witches and The Color Purple. I went as a 40-year-old punk rock girl, which, er, wasn't much of a stretch, although I did fish out an extremely aged Dead Kennedys t-shirt from the bin under the bed for the occasion.

The best costumes by far though were the two in the picture above, who did not come together and had not arranged it beforehand (as far as I know).

What's really messed-up - in a HILARIOUS way - is the fact that the grownup is dressed as Bristol, and the preteen (Leslie's daughter) is impersonating the mother! As bizarre as that family is (I mean the Palins, not Kim's or Rockerena's families), I wouldn't be surprised if Bristol's baby emerges a. older than Bristol is and b. already pregnant.

A Flickr commenter added, " I wonder what would happen if it came out black?" This, in addition to making beer come out of my nose, and if that's never happened to you, let me be your helpful informant - it's painful - made me think for a second.

After all, Bristol's baby COULD be black, although given Alaska's demographics that's almost pathetically unlikely... but hell, it could be all kinds of things. What WOULD happen? (Besides a whole bunch of us laughing until we burst a blood vessel and had to be given oxygen.)

I'll tell you what would happen. Given the reek of unreality coming from the Palin camp nowadays? They'd switch the baby at the hospital. Oh, in a heartbeat they would, you know it. It's all 9 to 5 kidnap-the-boss desperate hijinks around there anyway, I bet they totally found a pregnant staffer with the same due date who they're keeping close to Bristol - just in case they have to think fast.