Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Your Neighborhood Librarian Goes Out 40

My friend Laurel has so many good ideas she has to dole them out like Communion wafers.

"Body of Christ," she'll murmur. "You should write a picture book biography of Thor Heyerdahl."
Next person walks up. "Sanguinis Christi. You need to open a gelato stand in Collier Heights."

"Mother of God," she said to me one gusty December night getting hammered on tequila on my porch. "You're going to write a series of blog posts about getting shit done."

I had been complaining about having to do jury duty and judge a book award and how difficult it is to slot all this stupid shit in to the crappy December turmoil that is December, and she says, "You really need to make it a thing: Your Neighborhood Librarian Gets Shit Done. Your Neighborhood Librarian Renews Her Driver's License. Your Neighborhood Librarian Gets a Mammogram."

And you know, it's not a bad idea.

Your Neighborhood Librarian Gets the Oil Changed

So there I am and I'm relatively hung over because it's a Tuesday and that's my thing on Tuesdays, I'm a little bit hung over. I spend Monday nights with my girlfriends and recently each of us has had more than our fair share OF DRAMA and we have to soothe each other's way through it, and that usually means a BUNCH of cigarettes and some alcohol. For me that's two beers, okay, two beers. If you think I am immoral or dissolute or something for having a hangover on a Tuesday, I drink TWO BEERS on Monday night. All right so last night I had three.

I have to go out to the car dealership to get my oil changed and that's way the fuck on the other side of town. Past town. Through the county. Into another county. Because that's where we bought our car and the dealer gives us one free oil change for every four. So in order to save thirty-two dollars and seventy five cents on the oil change I spend like seventeen on gas and drive way the fuck out to Ellicott City.

It's ok. I take the highway. I know what I'm doing. I contemplate things. I look at the sky. I do not turn on the radio. I put on my sunglasses EE. Mediately. I get off the interstate at Baltimore National Pike, Route 40 West. The in fact by-god National Road.

Baltimore National Pike from the Baltimore city line out to the Patapsco River is a cornucopia of middlebrow temptation. I wrote that on Facebook. On my phone I did. It's a Cornucopia of Middlebrow Temptation. There is Taco Bell. There is WalllllMart, which I NEVER go in, but Jesus Christ wouldn't some discount fleece pants be just the perfect thing right now? There is the overstock furniture place, which is having a Warehouse Moving Sale, and I haven't bought any furniture made out of chipboard in YEARS, and who the hell do I think I am not buying furniture made of chipboard? That is who I am. I am crappy chipboard chest of drawers people.

There are dollar stores of every stripe. There's Latina Tienda Mercado. There's H-Mart! There's Hanoori, which will have dumplings filled with weird protein shit that I won't want to think about but which will be deeeelicious. Salty and greasy. There's Kabab Hut, although no, I don't want a kebab right now.

There's the hair braiding place. There's NTB, which is like National Tire Something, but I always think it sounds like Off Track Betting, and so I always want to go in just to see. Because I already reek of cigarette smoke and despair, so it couldn't get any worse, right? There are HUUGE beauty stores that my cousin The Talented Cousin Rachel goes into to try on wigs.

There's the carpet warehouse, where they will RIP you OFF like you are a tag on a stolen mattress.

And when I was in high school, there was a place called Color Tile right along here, I forget what they sold, formica or something, and during the campaign for Senior Class President of Catonsville Senior High School my senior year, Scott Clendaniel campaigned on the very solid basis that what you really want in a Senior Class President is the ability to raise a ton of money so that you can have a good prom. "Because I would like to have our prom somewhere great," he said from the podium, "But if you want to have your prom at Color Tile, go ahead, vote for my opponent." He didn't win, but it was a pretty compelling argument, and in fact, if you watch Friday Night Lights, Tyra Collette wins the same office on basically the same platform. Except she is very explicit: "We want our prom to be good so that we can all get laid," and Scott Clendaniel didn't quite have the balls to get up on stage at Catonsville Senior High School and go there. Scott, I know you grew 'em. Out there. Wherever you are. None of us debate team G and T class kids would have had the stones to do that.

Anyway. Where was I? Route 40. So I get out to the dealership, and I'm kind of happy about doing this today, because I'm just going to sit there and read my book, and play Jewel Breaker or whatever on my phone, and I could really use that solid 45 minutes of total bland inertia. Inertness. Inertability.


I really could.

Plus, since we recently got the car towed, there's still that chalk shit on the windows about what car it is and when it got towed, and so every time I drive the minivan I see that date staring me in the face, 12-24-11, just reminding me of one of the Very Best Christmas Eves We Ever Had. And one of the things they do when they change your oil is they wash your car, so after today maybe we can Put That Behind Us. Although one of my husband's co-workers suggests that for the next six months or so, if ever we disagree about something, I just hiss, "CHRISSSTMASS EEEEVE, motherfucker."

They also check the tire pressure when you get your oil changed, and we've had that little tire pressure light lit up on the dash for about two weeks now, and I just could not be fucked to get out of the car at a service station and get my hands all dirty, kneeling on the wet pavement getting grit on my tights to put the little thing on the tires and pump them up and use about a million quarters because how come it always seems to be me doing that? I'm a lady. I'm a lady and I'm getting my hands all dirty doing that. So I know they'll do that too.

They do. I sit. I sit quietly and everyone else is playing like Jewel Brick Slasher on their phone too, and the TV is on, of course, and of course it is on CNN and they're up in New Hampshire. There are pictures of Ron Paul, who I always mess up and call Ron Jeremy, and Rick Perry, who I swear I thought was the lead singer of Journey, and I get that wrong every time, and I kind of wish it was. Seriously, if Ted fucking Nugent can run for office, how come we can't have a Portuguese-American falsetto singer in the White House?

Anyway, I don't pay any attention to that. I read my book. Which is also a thing that Laurel suggested, there you go Laurel you are just completely running my life, I might as well just hand over my checkbook. Lot of good that would do anyone. And they change my oil. And there was horrible music playing! My God. This is probably where I got the whole Journey thing, I haven't been able to get "Separate Ways" out of my mind since. And then right after that,

You say you stand by your man
Tell me something, I don't understand
You said you love me, and that's a lie
And then you left me, said you felt... shy

There are some things I can't explai-hain away - *

WHAT is that SONG? It's Clash, is it just called Stand by Me? So they play that, which is fine, you know, Clash, I'm singing along in my head, and then the very next song that comes on is Seasons in the Sun! Terry Jacks!

Good bye PaPA please pray for me!
I was the black sheep of the FAmily,
Too much wine and too much song,
I didn't know right from wrong
And... I'm just dying now...*

And if I wasn't quite so hung over, it would be funny, but I'm pretty hung over, so it's not funny, and it kind of makes me want to stick a pin in my scalp.

But the oil change is indeed free, and it's done, and I get out to the car, and they've washed it, but the chalk is not off the windshield. Grease pencil. China marker. Something like that. Not chalk. It still says 12-24-11, subtitled The Worst Christmas Eve Ever.

Although really, I say that, but I was just saying to my girlfriends last night, we have all endured so much drama this holiday season, a lot of fuckin drama - jobs lost and morbid in-laws and spending Christmas Eve in a TRAILER and cats in trees and husbands that couldn't bend their arms for a week - but look, our KIDS have been AWESOME, have they not? And there's really nothing more important than the kids.

Nothing behind us but chain link and Baltimore
None of our kids have been to the emergency room, no kid was, like, asleep in the car when it got towed, no kid actually fell off the lip of Ravens stadium where we were sitting - oh look there it is out the window right now (I was driving and recording this). I was right there, above the sign - above the sign! I'm going to find a picture of that and put it on the Internet. ABOVE THE SIGN. Trying not to throw up or soil myself for three hours. I am phobic about heights. Up high, my body says, "Eject all effluvia and FLEE. FLEE NOW." And it was cold. So cold. I spent three hours clutching the children and wailing softly whenever one of them stood up to cheer.

So, you know, all this crap that has happened, the kids have been great. I'm bitching about nothing. The Worst Christmas Eve Ever is not the worst Christmas Eve ever. Not only were they not in the emergency room and didn't get towed with the car, but they were not dicks. Which can happen.

Where was I? Oh yeah. I picked up the car. And it still had the scrawl on the windshield. And that's when I go to Han Ah Reum. Which I can't pronounce, and they know that nobody can pronounce it, and so they changed it to H-Mart, but I never remember that, and then when somebody says it I think they mean K-Mart, so I just call it the big Asian supermarket on 40. And all I want to do, I want to buy some peeled garlic, because I'm running out of stewed garlic. Garlic jam is what I'm going to start calling it. Like the bacon jam. Garlic jam is even easier to make. And "stewed garlic" sounds gross.

Maybe I could do bacon garlic jam. I'm a genius. I am going to. I am going to make Bacon Garlic Jam! I know just how to do it! I'm going to invent this recipe, and I'm going to... I'm going to once again not be rich. Man. I'm totally going to do that.

So I'm going to H-Mart, and they have got chive blossoms, that's cool, and they've got pears, once they ripen up they should be very lovely to eat, I love a juicy pear. They've got my garlic. I buy the biig thing of garlic, no messing around with the garlic. They've got nice looking onions at a good price. Some fresh pork bones, I think maybe I'll make chili. Chili would be good, I've got a sister in law coming for a visit this weekend, she likes chili. I'll make that.

And I'm scanning all the pork stuff, and you know, I am not squeamish about pork. I just carved an entire fuckin pork on New Year's Day, we roasted a 110 lb pig for 8 hours and then cut it up and ate it and it was just me and this one other guy who cut it up entirely. Including the head, including sticking my knife into the eye socket and fiddling out the meat. From the eye sockets - plural - of a mammal. All right? Not squeamish. This is not a problem that I have.

But. H-Mart. Has. In its pork section, along with the strips of ribs and trays of chops and aforementioned neckbones, in these pink styrofoam tubs just like the ones that the ground pork is in, they have this squiggly looking sort of puffy... inguinal type... matter. And it's labeled Pork Uteri. Uteri. Uteruses. This is a company that cannot spell "bean" right 100% of the time - cannot get its act together on how you spell "okra," and they get the plural of "uterus" correct? Just so that I can stand there and think, "If I were a squeamish person I would probably be running for the exit right now. Or god help me if I were pregnant?"?

I didn't take a picture. They really frown on you taking pictures in the grocery store, I've been kicked out of more than one for that. As if industrial spies go around with 35mm cameras and toddlers. I did however, a couple aisles on, I did see one of those things you put in the sink to keep the crap from going down the sink? And they called it a "sink hole garbage saucer." Which was so perfectly apt for the way I was feeling at the time - and I'm feeling much better now, thanks for asking - that I had to take a picture of that. So I did, and I was really really sneaky.

I pulled out my phone, and I made it look like I was checking my email. I did check my email just in case someone was looking, and I made it look like I was sending a text, I turned my phone sideways even though it doesn't have a keyboard like that, and I held it down and angled like as if I had bifocals - well I do, I have trifocals, but that's not how you do it if you have trifocals. Luckily nobody came around to check - anyway I took a picture of the sink hole garbage saucer very sneakily and got away with it.

I never get why they get so mad about taking pictures in the grocery store. Also Starbucks. Isn't it in their best interest to let me stay and spend my money? Are you really not going to let me buy my goddamn nori crackers and rice scooper and oyster sauce - I can't believe I bought oyster sauce hung over. Can you believe I bought oyster sauce hung over? I was able to contemplate like seventeen different brands of oyster sauce - oyster flavored fish sauce to be very precise - ON a HANGOVER. I am hardy, ladies and gents. I am a hardy, hardy bitch.

So then I left. I put the stuff in my reusable grocery bag. The bag broke. This bag that we've had ever since recycling was invented, the bag broke. Luckily the oyster flavored fish sauce didn't hit the pavement and explode. I might not have been able to hold it together spattered with oyster flavored fish sauce after my encounter with pork uteri. Not that hardy.

And that's it, you know? I am hung over, on a very bright shiny day, and still getting stuff done. I went to the Han Ah Reum and I didn't forget anything. I always forget stuff there, that place overwhelms me kind of a little bit, pork uteri et cetera. And I didn't forget anything. I even found a water bottle in the van. I drank a little bit of water. You know how sometimes you're so dehydrated it doesn't feel like the water is actually making it to your stomach? You can feel it absorbing through your mucus membranes. It hits your gums and you can feel your gums sucking up the water. It hits your throat and you can just feel it trickling into the walls of your esophagus. It makes it sort of to the stomach but mostly it's just sucking into the tissues of your poor dehydrated body.

Two beers, ladies and gentlemen. Two beers.

All right. I'm going to go. Signing off, this is Your Neighborhood Librarian Getting Shit Done. Next up... let's see I'm not due for a mammogram for a while - no I know! Next up, we'll have Your Neighborhood Librarian Gets the Emissions Tested on the Minivan! Thanks! See you then.

Talk to you later.

*Not all lyrics 100% accurate.