Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Library Observations

There is a woman who comes into the library every day, and yells from one end of the room to the other to her son. Not just yelling his name, but shouting demands at him. To make it worse, this kid, who's got to be around 10 or 11, is already one of the most obnoxious patrons I have to deal with. Considering how downright angry his mother seems, I'm shocked at how arrogant her kid is. He's rude to her and basically treats everyone like he's above them. I have no idea what's going on in their home, but I do know it isn't good parenting.

Some guy was playing music loudly while on a laptop. When I told him to turn the music off, he said that it was his phone and not the computer, as if that made the slightest bit of difference.

A man walked into the library wearing jeans and a leather vest but no shirt. I was told that it was ok, because other patrons dressed even worse than he was. Maybe it's unfair, but I felt ill at ease about this man because the first thing he asked me was for the phone number and address of a local drug rehab center. I should never judge a person for trying to get help, however, when he whipped out a knife and started playing with it while in the computer lab, he was finally deemed "a potential problem."

Another man was kicked out of the library because of his exceedingly bad stench and lack of personal hygiene. In fact, his condition was so bad that a few staff members, myself included, are worried that this man could actually be dying.

Not so much anymore, but there is a woman who occasionally comes in carrying several bags and use the 15 minute computer stations. At some point, she starts silently doing what looks like religious dance movements. A coworker suggested that it was to "release spirits," which actually makes sense given her gestures. She also tried to sleep in the patio after closing.

Someone defecated on the floor in the men's room. While disgusting in and of itself, the guilty party also accomplished the admittedly admirable task of doing this between stalls. A coworker suggests that it was a teen.

A woman in a short skirt came up to the information desk and asked for the bathroom key. When she came up I was startled, because she was by far the ugliest woman I have ever seen in my life. When she gave me her ID in exchange for the key, I found out that “she” was actually a guy in his sixties. It didn’t occur to me at the time to check which restroom “she” went into.

An old man came to the info desk with a walker. I had helped him before, when he asked for a Dale Carnegie book. When I saw him come to the desk and order the book, I remembered that I donated my own personal copy to the library, and I checked the book sale shelf to see if it was still there, so I could give it to him. Unfortunately, someone already bought it. I told him that we didn’t have the book, and he asked to order it. My coworker ordered it for him earlier, and I told him that he would get a call when it came in. He then asked if we had that day’s paper, and I told him that someone was reading it and that they would hopefully be finished soon. He then asked me what day it was, and when I told him he said “all day?” as a joke. He used the same joke with me before when I helped him, and I laughed. He then said “wonderful thing getting old. I’m 90, can you believe it?” Then he stood there for a few minutes, and then walked away. Half an hour later, he came back to the desk and we went through the same routine. He asked if we had the book, then asked if we’d call him when it came in, then asked for the paper, then asked what day it was, then made the joke, then said “wonderful thing getting old,” then told me his age, then walked away. About a half hour after that, he did the same thing, except this time he asked if I was ever in the service. I told him that I wasn’t, and he told me that he was in WWII, and that he bombed Japan. He then asked me if I was married, and when I told him I wasn’t he said it was obvious because I was smiling. He stood there for a few minutes, and then walked away. About half an hour after that, the same routine as earlier. Each time I felt worse and worse, because I remembered helping him a few months before, and he didn’t need a walker at that point. Finally, a woman who I assumed was his wife came to the desk asking for the restroom key. As I walked her to the restroom, she asked me if he asked about the Dale Carnegie book again. When I told her that he did, she said, “Don’t order it for him. He has a copy at home. He does this every time he comes in.” When I got back to the desk, I kept my fingers crossed that the situation wouldn’t get any sadder than it already was. Thankfully, it didn’t.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Memories as Things

According to Proust's In Search of Lost Time (which I haven't read), the protagonist is suddenly flooded by a surge of memories by the simple act of eating a madeleine. I have always wanted to study the connection of the senses and memory, since sometimes even the smallest things will trigger a slew of images and scenes ripped from certain moments of my life. There was one time when I was at some park with a friend and this girl he was dating. We were all on top of some kind of jungle gym-type thing when a man walked by, reeking of cologne. As soon as that scent tickled my nostrils I was sent back maybe two or three years, when I would occasionally have a tryst with a girl I went to high school with. Everything was real, tangible, uncannily so. Those evenings when we would meet in random areas around my neighborhood, her eating a popsicle and slobbering all over herself, telling me to repeat everything that I say because she wasn't paying attention. It all came back and horrified me. The discomfort made me want to leave immediately, but I was stuck and tried to focus my attention back on the two love birds and their discussion of penis sizes.

The smell of chlorine reminds me of most of my friendship with the above-mentioned fellow. I had known him since elementary school (kindergarten if he is to be believed), and because he lived in a condo, my only chances for swimming would be either at his place or at my aunt's. The smell of chlorine brings it all back; swimming under a black sky, lit up by the lamplights, smoking cigarettes, talking about girls, music, our band, and why I needed to convince my folks to move to Dana Point.

Songs are notorious memory-fetchers. The song "Studio Hair Gel," possibly more than any other song, reminds me of when I started going to dance clubs. I don't remember when the DJ started playing that song, or for how many months (years?) it was played, but it reminds me of drinking Jack in the Box cups filled with vodka and orange juice in the parking lot, going up the stairs buzzed, and dancing frantically in a dark room. Unlike many songs that I was introduced to by this club, this specific song brings back that venue and those nights, and the nostalgia gets the best of me. If I ever want to remember how my life was in my early 20's, I need only play that song.

Then there are books. The final pages of Ulysses reminds me of my aunt's house, near the pool, where I finished it. A section of 1984, where a note that says "I love you" is picked up by Winston Smith, reminds me of the break room at my old library. The part of Grapes of Wrath where the mother is trying to buy hamburger from a cold-hearted store owner reminds me of my current library's parking lot, where I heard this section played in my car. The part in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler where the "bologna" clue is discovered, along with a scene in Necroscope where a corpse pops out of a river, reminds me of the couch in my living room.

Memory itself is a changeable thing, and I wonder how many of these memories have been unconsciously manipulated by me. They certainly seem real, like lucid dreams where I have both made love and died, and it felt as real as the memories described. I guess the world that has been created over the years in my mind is the only true thing that I have, since reality, as I know, is filtered through my senses and processed by my brain. As long as I can pull these things back up at will, nothing that I have experienced will be gone. There is something comforting about that, and if death is merely a kind of dream state that just shuts off at the end, the final memory fading away, then I should have no fear of dying.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Garfield in Pompeii

I mentioned in my previous blog that I was reading about graffiti in Pompeii. I'm going to share some highlights with you by hopping on an old, dead bandwagon, and putting some of this graffiti into the mouths of Garfield, Jon, and Odie. Unlike many of the folks who do variations on the "fucking with Garfield" theme (Garfield without thought bubbles, Garfield minus Garfield, Random Garfield comic generator, etc.), I actually loved Garfield growing up and have many fond memories attached to this "flabby tabby." Anyhow, I have only un-modified one, leaving the final panel the way it appeared in the original strip. For fun, you can guess the unaltered panel and win nothing.

Here is where you can find all the delightful graffiti:

http://www.pompeiana.org/Resources/Ancient/Graffiti%20from%20Pompeii.htm