Thursday, November 05, 2009

Hey Henrietta!

Dash away

Do I rant? I try not to rant too much. But... I went to the mall today. Mmm-hmm. You smell what I'm sellin'.

It might not have been such a good idea to go to the mall... today. I have been battling our suckass Microsoft network server for a solid week - it is riddled with malicious, suppurating garbage processes spawned by a violent pederast of a Trojan introduced by, I suspect, some lice-ridden neighborhood wifi skeever with the handle "HAIDEEZ something something".

The novelty spelling of "Hades" just screams "thug" to me. I bet it's one of those young people at the church behind us. You can hide a lot under a choir robe. Trust me. Of course, if "HAIDEEZ whatever whatever" is you, and your computer appeared on my thinger just because you brought your laptop by one day to show me something or work at my house... well. Then I guess I would assume you were being all LOLcatty about your machine name. Uh, that's cute! Ahem.

So yeah, I've been in a somewhat combative mood. Also, I hadn't eaten. But I wanted to go to the Apple store, because I think I'm going to pitch that Microsoft piece of shit and plug in a Mac mini and a Mac router and sit back and let that proprietary software do the stuff it's supposed to do.

It's not my ideal solution. Ideally, I'd love to have an all-Linux house. I don't like the sort of... Masonic vibe of the Apple multiverse. And I've been very happy with my Ubuntu laptop. But I am forced to admit that I no longer have the mental flexibility to learn enough Linux to set all that up myself. For example, the laptop hasn't had sound for months, and I just can't figure out how to fix that. It's for the best, I tell myself. Keeps me from wasting time watching Woodentops videos on YouTube.

But back to the Apple store. Have you ever been to an Apple store? If what you need to do is to buy a lizard green iPod nano for The Best Babysitter Everr, their model of ACCOST UPON ENTRY SO THAT NOBODY WANDERS FREE works pretty well. You say, "Why yes, you can sell me a lizard green iPod nano," and that's just super. But if you just need to count the number of USB ports on the back of the Mac mini, you would like the tiny headsetted iDoorman with the skater boi haircut and the idiotic jeans to pretty much just BACK HIS SHIT UP.

And then when you DO have a question, and spot somebody in a shirt, and say, "Hey..?" you would not like that person to say, "Um? If you could just speak to Micah at the front? He's managing my floor today, and he'll set you up with someone." Because Um? I do not know about your floor. And I am not looking for a setup, I just want to know if there's a version of the one-terabyte router that doesn't crap out after 18 months.

I would like to make a comparison now. I walk up to perfect strangers and ask if I can help them probably 50 times during the course of a typical 4-hour shift at work, and I do not think I have ever once done it in such a way as to have made a person want to stab me. You never know, of course. Maybe that lady who said, "Found it myself, thanks!" was really fingering the icepick in her pocket and counting down from ten.

Have I avoided injury because I am unusually talented at public relations? Hm. According to every supervisor I have ever ever had? NO. Have I stayed safe because I do not automatically adopt a patronizing demeanor? MOTHERFUCKING BINGO.

So I learned the thing I needed to learn and then got the hell out of the Apple store before I kicked someone with my big boots. I saw The Gap and remembered that I need a long-sleeved striped t-shirt (because, er, there's one that I don't have?), and I figured it might calm me down to buy one. I swear, striped t-shirts are for me like Catcher in the Rye was for Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory. I just have to buy them.

The Gap was packed with crap. I mean I have never seen a retail establishment so overloaded with stock. The regular fixtures were stacked to the ceiling. Wheeled scaffolds holding towers of t-shirts blocked the aisles. Even the mannequins were supersaturated, wearing four and five t-shirts under two sweaters and a jacket, with two scarves. But they had no heads. Maybe their heads boiled off from wearing all that overflow stock.

So I had a little trouble finding exactly the long-sleeved striped t-shirt I wanted, and I asked a perfectly nice, non-intrusive headsetted teen for assistance. She knew exactly where it was, and showed me. When people are impressed that librarians know the Dewey Decimal System, I kind of internally snort. It's not that much to remember: resumes always come after cookbooks. But have you ever worked retail? Knowing where this v-neck brown sweater is stocked, versus that v-neck brown sweater, that doesn't have the ribbing? Those kids are not just sweater-folders.

I rummaged on the shelf for a Medium - I'll say this about mall shopping, the inflated sizing does make me feel petite - and turned back, thanking her. And found I was thanking a headless mannequin. It sat there, severed neck gleaming, elbows resting jauntily on its thighs as I looked quickly around to see if anyone had heard my little shriek.

Completely unsettled, I abandoned the shirt and decided maybe I should eat something, pronto. Headed for the food court. But between me and it were the Level 3 kiosk ambush people. "Hey! I really like your hair!" "Can I show you something?"

GOD no.

Here is where I wished I'd taken my hallucinogens before coming to the mall. I am not too good at faking freakouts, and I've really really always wanted to respond to a kiosk ambush person by screaming, "WHAT??! OH MY GOD YOUR HEAD! SNAKES! GET YOUR DINGO AWAY FROM ME YOU COCKSUCKING ZOMBIE! NO! NOOOOOOO! DON'T LET HIM TOUCH ME! SNAAAAKES!!"

I made it to the food court though. And turned around and left it immediately. The noise, the smell, the garbage food, what the FUCK? But eventually I found myself in line at a nominally deli-themed food court tenant, where an energetic lady with orange-red hair gossiped with her sisters in an elaborately unintelligible language and made me a tuna on rye garnished with a handful of potato chips so broken as to suggest a profound, possibly culturally based, misunderstanding of how potato chips are meant to work. P
aid seven bucks for that sandwich, too. I reflected that for the same seven dollars I could be trading terrible jokes and wistful anecdotes with the North Indian man at the sub shop down the street, and get an amazing 12" Italian cold cut sandwich (with extra hots) to boot, but I didn't have the time. You know, I think she was speaking Romany. That would be cool - gypsies at the mall!

On my way back down and out, I came to central juncture: a staircase and an elevator linking Level Three and Level Four. I remember that elevator from my days as a stroller pilot. It's pretty small, and I always kind of resented the able-bodied non-strollered folk who used that elevator rather than taking the stairs. As I approached it today, I swerved toward the stairs, just behind a pregnant woman who did not give the elevator a second glance. And when I say pregnant, she was pregnant. PRAG. NUTT. As I descended, I caught up with her.

"Dude!" I said in a low voice. "You totally shamed all those people off the elevator!" It was true. We both glanced back at the five or six people who had abandoned their wait for the elevator in favor of the stairs after seeing Ms. LooksLikeTwins charge past them.

"Look at that - you're right!" she giggled. "But I'm just trying to get this baby to come!"

Used to be, trapped under the squirming beanbag weight of two children born twenty months apart, the mall was an attractive option every now and then. Smooth floors, no weather - the double stroller and I could windowshop and daydream our way to the kids' play area, where the boys could crawl on the play structures that today would be guaranteed to give them swine flu while I read Vanity Fair and drank a coffee. That's some potent relaxation for a stay-at-home mom with kids that young. Then we'd eat pizza in the food court.

But the state of having very small children is quite a bit like senility. You are underslept and understimulated, and probably unwashed. You spend quite a bit of time feeling pithed. Like a frog. In that state, the institutions of the mall can be soothing and safe.

But I think the rest of us should be careful to take our Xanax, as my friend Kristen recommends, first.

Friday, October 30, 2009


I try not to fetishize books. I work in a library, right? Surrounded by books. And by the third time you've helped shift the entire nonfiction collection, books have come to look and feel a lot like bricks. Heavy. Oblong. Kind of filthy.

When I was in library school, I had already worked in several libraries. And when I heard some of my MLS classmates pipe up with, "I want to be a librarian because I love books!" I would look at my feet and make a sympathetic little face. I already knew that the books are only part of the job. Most of the job is (oh my god you sweet little bookworm you are in for an extremely unpleasant shock on your first day of work) people. Brr.

On the other hand, it's not like I became a librarian because I am indifferent to books. Books, after all, are neither demanding nor rude. They don't usually smell. If a book is not interesting, you can close it and put it down. You try that with an uninteresting person, and now it's you being rude.

So, it's a significant daily pleasure for me to scan the New Books cart that we keep in the office at work. I get to browse, flip through, and in some cases, I admit, caress the big fabulous fancy things that I could never afford to buy. Art books. Big gorgeous bird books. Images of eternity.

I've been blurbing the most interesting of these on Facebook, and recently added them all to Goodreads, under the category "your neighborhood librarian's fetish books". You can see the entire list here.

I'm not saying, "GO! Marvel at my taste!" I'm actually saying "The holidays are coming! These are good gift ideas!" I already recommended that my friend Josh buy Renaissance Secrets: Recipes and Formulas for his wife, so that she can make anti-poison potions and glass. I myself am likely to snare New York City Museum of Complaint for my husband, who misses NYC like he would miss a limb. The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death is an orgy of pleasure for aficionados of crime, mysteries, and/or dollhouses.

There's a wide range of nonfiction on this list, from classics like In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made by my late favorite professor Norm Cantor (old man, I hope your afterlife finds you on a balcony outside Tel Aviv, watching the sea and eating oranges) to seriously trashy skeeve like High Glitz: The Extravagant World of Child Pageants or The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll. I cannot look away from either of those books, even though I know they're wrong.

And in case you question my deployment of the word "fetish" (and hi, Japanese porn sites! You're already leaving unwelcome comments courtesy a previous post's use of the phrase "hairless teen," so I might as well give you more of what you're looking for!) (Thanks are due to Token Boy, for identifying the offending term. Kind of more quickly than his new bride might be comfortable with), there really is plenty of porn on this list. Travel porn. Design porn. Food porn. Porn porn (Lotsa naked models in that one. Just because they're shot all arty doesn't mean they're not sexy).

Books. Sexy. Fetishy. Kind of expensive. "Hairless teen". "Orgy of pleasure"! I should really go back to writing about the garden, shouldn't I? I am just asking for perverts and trolls. Hi, trolls! Enjoy my parentheses! Read good books!

books I crave

High Glitz: The Extravagant World of Child Pageants

Ace of Cakes: The Book

Ansel Adams in Color

Extreme Beauty in Vogue

Renaissance Secrets: Recipes and Formulas

Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life

Camera: A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital

Photography Unplugged

New York City Museum of Complaint

Bed in a Tree

Move Over, Rover: What to Name Your New Pup When the Ordinary Just Won't Do

If Your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still Be Okay: How  to Know if Your Child's Injury or Illness Is Really an Emergency

Contemporary Glass Sculptures and Panels: Selections from the Corning Museum of Glass

The Language of Things: Understanding the World of Desirable Objects

Wayne White: Maybe Now I'll Get the Respect I So Richly Deserve

Hair Wars

State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America

All the Wrong People Have Self-Esteem: An Inappropriate Book for Young Ladies*

Charles Harper's Birds and Words

The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright

The World Without Us

Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants

They Call Me Naughty Lola: Personal Ads from the London Review of Books

Road Fever

Rats, Lice, and History: Being a Study in Biography, Which, After Twelve Preliminary Chapters Indispensable for the Preparation of the Lay Reader, Deals With the Life History of Typhus Fever

Tornado Alley: Monster Storms of the Great Plains

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

Envisioning Information

Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative

Prairie Town

River Town

Desert Town

Mountain Town

An Egg Is Quiet

A Seed Is Sleepy

Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash

Chasing the Monsoon

Go Fug Yourself: The Fug Awards

In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made

Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900

A Gap in Nature: Discovering the World's Extinct Animals

Astonishing Animals: Extraordinary Creatures and the Fantastic Worlds They Inhabit

The Soul of a New Machine

Honey Mud Maggots and Other Medical Marvel


Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from the Baffler

Assassination Vacation

Dictators' Homes: Lifestyles of the World's Most Colourful Despots

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen

Don't Tell the Grown-Ups: The Subversive Power of Children's Literature

Over and Over: A Catalog of Hand Drawn Patterns

The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries

I Thought My Father Was God CD: And Other True Tales from NPR's National Story Project

The Red Hourglass

African Reflections: Art from Northeastern Zaire

From the Land of the Totem Poles: The Northwest Coast Indian Art Collection at the American Museum of National History

Drawing Shadows to Stone                                                   C: The Photography of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition 1897-1902

Giotto to Durer: Early Renaissance Painting in the National Gallery


Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet Of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology

Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds

Windows on Nature: The Great Habitat Dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History

Baikal: Sacred Sea of Siberia

Big Dead Place: Inside the Strange and Menacing World of Antarctica

I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets: The Comics of Fletcher Hanks

The Big Rumpus: A Mother's Tale from the Trenches

These Things Ain't Gonna Smoke Themselves: A Love/Hate/Love/Hate/Love Letter to a Very Bad Habit

One Lifetime is Not Enough-21.00

The Agile Rabbit Book of Historical and Curious Maps

I Hate Myself and Want to Die: The 52 Most Depressing Songs You've Ever Heard

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator

Material World: A Global Family Portrait

What the World Eats


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