You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2008.

I’m getting the winter hair. Pair that with the librarian hair– and you’ve got one gnarly mop-top requiring a lot of product just to look passable. When I leave the house in the morning, it looks just fine; but after a day in the dry, dry, dry library air– my curl says “ohforfuck’ssake”, and flattens out; the static blossoms and grows on my hair like a fungus; and what was previously straight gets a strange, inexplicable kink to it like I’ve had my hair in a ponytail all day.

I’m not completely surprised by this since it happens every year, but I thought maybe the New England maritime climate would lessen it, maybe it has, but now I’m spending more time in dry libraries and overheated classrooms so I’m slowly turning into one of those dried out corncob dolls the Ingalls girls used to play with.

So, how do I deal with this? In past years, I’ve cut my hair short– eliminating the problem; I’ve employed an elaborate regiment of conditioners and cremes; I’ve washed my hair every other day instead of daily (which I can’t stand doing and will not try again); and I’ve cut it slightly shorter and just waited for more humid weather so it could grow back. Currently, I can neither afford an elaborate regiment of cremes and conditioners, nor can I afford a haircut.

As far as I can see, my options are to use household methods i.e. eggs, mayonnaise, beer etc. as conditioners. The drawbacks to these are obvious: you smell like either a sandwich or a brewery, and you have to put cold, slimy, and fizzy things on your head (also, waste of beer). The other option is to cut it myself a’la Natalie Imbruglia in the Torn video where she had that super-rad hank of hair on the side that made her look nonchalantly amazing.

I wouldn’t mind looking nonchalantly amazing, but I’m not heart-stoppingly beautiful like Ms. Imbruglia, so there’s a good chance that I would look like an asshole. I don’t mind looking a little silly sometimes, but I’d rather not be ridiculous.

Also, there’s the problem of my wardrobe. As I get further and further into librarian chic, I wind up looking quasi-respectable, and I kind of like it. A funky home-haircut would confuse what I have going on– possibly. I also fear turning into a hipster librarian since I don’t care for hipsters in the first place, and hipster librarian is right up there with the question “what do you do in library school, memorize the dewey decimal system?!?” guffaw guffaw guffaw, possible knee slap– as things I’ve heard too much recently, and do not care for.

Presently, I do not know what I’ll do. I may try to raise the humidity level in my apartment by boiling pots of water on the stove, and I may crack an egg or two. Probably, I’ll just wait it out, and avoid mirrors until Spring.

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When I was in third grade, I was all about the group Exposé. They were three girls pumping out kick-ass 80’s jams with soulful lyrics about love and saving the world occasionally with that awesome sax so you know they really, really mean it. I was all about these girls, I defended them to the boys in my class who said their music was crap. For Word of the Week, where you look up a word and share the definition with the class, I chose Exposé, which I can still say without missing a beat means 1. the showing up of a crime 2. trickery, or fraud.

They were a diverse bunch: the Aryan princess, the feisty Latina, and the girl with the sassy haircut that I always thought looked Italian.

I recently rediscovered these ladies at job #2 when I was digging through the CD bins. The cover of their Greatest Hits album shows that they have aged well, and can still stare off into the distance looking deep, and soulful… and apparently Asian. The Aryan princess, and the feisty Latina look basically the same, but the girl with the funky haircut– not like I remembered her. How could I have missed this?

Immediately, I was reminded of the first time I saw Wayne’s World, and how I didn’t understand why Wayne had to learn Cassandra’s language. I knew she had an accent, but it didn’t occur to me that that would mean she spoke a different language originally, or that she was Chinese.  I would make a terrible racist since I guess I just can’t tell.

Upon closer inspection of the liner notes, I found out that Gioia (the one with the funky haircut), was forced to leave the group at the peak of their success due to irreparable throat damage. Such drama! And they replaced her with the girl on the cover of the Greatest Hits album– and blew my mind.

I lived in Providence for about 2 months with only a chair, TV, and bed. Finally, schedules were co-ordinated, a U-Haul was rented, and I got stuff. In one day, I got a sectional couch, table and chairs, desk, and lounge chair with bamboo on it. The table was a bit rickety, but when one is unwilling to spend money– one deals with these things. I dealt with it by making the table into something different

I use my desk as a bedside table, so I turned my table table into a desk, This required that I pull it apart, unscrew the metal bits that hold two side of a table together (to add the leaves, you know), break off the wooden dowels (that hold the leaves in place), and move one leg from the unused half of table to the new “desk” table creating a tripod-style desk. I set it next to my windowsill, and it makes a wonderful, quirky little desk that I never actually use. It’s pretty amazing. Everyone who has seen it has been quite impressed (or pretended to be), most people don’t care one way or the other, and one person said “that’s the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever heard of, what is wrong with you?” I say– jealous?

I may not use it for desk-type activities, because as much as I’d like to try to be, I just can’t manage to be a desk-type girl  (also, it’s still a bit wobbly). This desk exists to keep my actual table (acquired about one month later) from getting too cluttered, and to hold the two pictures that I can’t quite decide where to hang, but don’t want to set on the floor. Also, I usually set my filer on top of it because I file things frequently (bills, bank statements– I AM super cool), and it’s a lot of hassle to reach down and grab the thing from the bottom shelf of my bookcase.

When I came home today, my desk (half table) was lying on the ground. My filer was on its side and my bank statements were EVERYWHERE. It was alarming, but less alarming because the desk (half table), was completely intact. I had figured a leg popped off or something, signaling the end of my experiment, but it was fine. I propped it back up, and set my filer back on top. Now it’s not only a desk, it’s a source of constant intrigue. Will it fall again?? How far will the bank statements fly that time?? Was their a minor earthquake in Providence that only registered on my desk (half table)?? It’s a testament to my ingenuity and awesomeness that it managed to fall so thoroughly and not break, of course, I’m not going to set my laptop on it.

There’s a city in Rhode Island called Woonsocket that I’ve been intrigued by since before I moved here. Initially it was because it sounds Dr. Seussian, now it’s because people are telling me not to go there. My landlady works there, as does her boyfriend, and I mentioned to both of them (at different times) that I had never been. Both scoffed identically and said, “there’s really no reason to go to Woonsocket unless you have to.”

Then, at job #2, boss lady mentioned she had had to go to Woonsocket recently. A co-worker asked “Did you drive fast your car?” This intrigued me, so I probably made an interrogative noise like “bah?” I was told that Woonsocket has a large French-Canadian population who talk funny– kind of Dr. Seussian.

Of course this heightened the intrigue.

Every time I say to someone “I’ve never been to Woonsocket.” They say something along the lines of “Don’t go.” Now it seems forbidden, and the brat in me wants to make a special trip there just to spite people. “Yeah, I spent a day in Woonsocket– and it was amazing!” Then there’s the other side of me that worries, maybe Woonsocket really is not worth visiting, and if I do go, I’ll end up hating it as much as I hate Warwick (man, I hate Warwick). Is it better to keep it magical in my head, or to just get over it?

Addendum:

After doing some web-based research, I found that there is another Woonsocket in America. It’s in South Dakota, and named after the Woonsocket in Rhode Island (cause, seriously) so I grew up about 6.5 hours from Woonsocket and never even knew it! Oh man. It seems that all the signs are saying I must go, but I’m so torn.

As I mentioned earlier, I totally scored a free calendar for doing nothing more than mentioning off-handedly that I needed to get one. I had also mentioned to the same person that I recently took up knitting and needed to go out and buy more supplies. This wasn’t done in a calculating “little match girl” kind of way– just “I need to go do this one of these days.” The day after she brought me my calendar, my supervisor brought me a bag stuffed with yarn and knitting needles that she doesn’t use anymore.

A few weeks before that, I mentioned to the appraiser I work with that I was in the market for some ice skates. He’s lived here his whole life, and knows everything, so I figured he’d be a good person to ask. The same day that I got my knitting supplies, he brought me in a pair of skates that his daughter never used and no longer wants (at least that’s what he told me). Also, every day we work together, he brings me cookies.

Then yesterday, another boss and I were talking and she said “My boyfriend and I have something for you.” I’m sure I just looked puzzled, so she pressed on, “You know, he’s a doctor, and people give him gifts all the time. Usually it’s restaurant gift certificates, which we never manage to use because we’re always eating at our neighbor’s restaurant. So we have $50 in gift certificates for fancy Providence restaurant for you.”

And she just gave them to me– no strings attached– because in true Rhode Island fashion it takes a lot of effort to drive to Providence and back from where she lives.

So now I’m faced with a decision: Do I go get lunch alone for about three times and really maximize my food dollar in a totally selfish way? Do I splash out on fancy dinner with my equally poor friends? Do I wait until poor friend from cowboy ski-pole country comes and visits me? I’ll mull this over while I knit a free scarf and break in my free skates.

Ok, here’s what I really love. A very considerate friend of mine once called me “kind of a poor.” This was a bit jarring to me because I grew up comfortably middle-class and have reduced myself to poverty by pursuing one graduate degree after another. Now it’s gotten to the point where I’m hanging out with enough over-educated people that I don’t even have to say anything about being kind of a poor– they just understand, and give me things.

Saturday was the opening night for the exhibit of Carl Van Vechten’s photographs of the Harlem Renaissance, at job #1. It was also my first opening ever at this job. The place was packed with fancy people swilling champagne and munching on canapes. Apparently, one of the Grande Dames of Newport society put in an appearance as well– what a coup!

Rich people wear ridiculous clothes. There were a lot of ascots, and fancy dresses, faire isle sweaters, a tracksuit, and running shorts with leggings underneath. My favorite was a quasi-military ensemble that reminded me of something Michael Jackson would have worn around the time HIStory came out. There may have been some monocles as well, but it was just all so much to take in… I was swilling champagne from a plastic cup behind the circulation desk and trying to look smart even though I had nothing to do. I still haven’t actually seen the exhibit, since I was there in an official capacity and the gallery was packed with bodies.

The highlight of the opening, for me, was right before I left, when I spoke to my boss briefly. Obviously, the following re-creation is not verbatim– we did a lot more gushing and patting ourselves on the back for a job well done.

Me: “I need to get going, but your speech was excellent. This is all so impressive.”

Boss: “Oh, you have to leave? Thank you so much for staying. You know, this is the best turnout we’ve ever had for an opening.”

Me: “Really? Yes, I do need to get back to Providence, I have RENT tonight.”

Boss: “RENT? oh that’s right”

Me: “I’m going from Harlem to AIDS in under an hour.”

Boss: “That’s really going from bad to worse, isn’t it? Have fun.”

And I did have fun, surprisingly. I admit, I was very apprehensive about seeing this play (musical? musicale? show?). I’d watched the movie, and of course, seen Team America: World Police, so I knew what to expect, kind of. I was expecting it to be slightly cheesy and odd, and irritating in a way that only musicals can manage. I planned on scoffing and squirming uncomfortably, but feeling well-rounded for making the attempt. Instead, I can honestly say, I loved it. I loved seeing RENT. And when Angel died, I got a little choked up.

Why do I not have an amazing voice that makes people applaud until their hands bruise? Not fair.

Of course, there was some dumb superfan sitting behind me singing along to practically all of the songs. That pulled me out of the story, as I pictured the home life of a person who would do something like that.

I’m sure she auditioned for all the musicals her high school staged, but never quite made the cut, because her singing voice is weak– at best. I’m sure she has never seen RENT on Broadway, but just watched the movie over and over in her parents basement, singing along, wishing she had AIDS so she could feel ways about things. It’s odd to listen to someone who is not in the production sing to a packed auditorium. She must have known she could be heard, and you’d think the people she came with would have told her to shut up. I don’t go to a lot of musicals, so maybe this is standard and people don’t mind paying $60 to listen to some virgin butcher well-written and catchy tunes. I mind; I mind big-time.

So I started a second job recently, because my motto has always been “why have one job when you can have 2 or 3?” I’m fairly excited about this one because it’s another library job, and something that I’ve never done before, so it’ll look good on the old resume. My supervisor seems like a pretty rad lady, and I believe it will be quite fun.

First day of work, I show up promptly at 9am and get the lay of the land. Then my supervisor looks at me, “So they’re hiring at your other job? What do you know about that?”

I blinked, “I know there were four interviews yesterday, and that’s about it.”

“So, have they made any decisions, are there any candidates that they liked better than others?”

By this point, we were in the office, ready to do my HR form-filling-out, which I have never been so eager to undertake in my life, but I tried to be accommodating. “I really don’t know; I spoke to the director at lunch and she said that the interviews were going very well. That’s all I know.”

She pressed on, and all I could think was: this woman has seen my resume, she knows that I am in no way important at this other job. Certainly, I don’t make hiring decisions, and no one discusses potential employees with me. I was completely baffled, but kept repeating that I didn’t know anything until she finally let up.

Later that day, we were discussing my role at the library, which is kind of a big question mark at this point, and she told me “I was thinking that you’d do one night of family programming per month, and then have a teen book group—do you like teenagers?”

How does a person answer that? I have no contact with teenagers at all, and haven’t really since I was one. At the other library where I work, the average age of the members that come in, is probably 60. What 28-year-old who is not a high-school teacher, or teen librarian has any contact with teenagers? So I answered honestly, “I don’t know. I like books written for teens.”

By this point, I was starting to feel like a bit of a gimp, answering questions with “I don’t know” has never sat well with me, because I like to have answers, and can usually say something else. So I sent a follow-up email later that day regarding the teenager question that said something like, while I don’t have the occasion to hang out with teenagers, I don’t doubt that I can get along with them well.

Second day of work my boss informs me that she’s going to send me to one of the branch libraries for some more programming training. “How are you with transitions?” she asks.

“Transitions as far as what?”

“Just in general.”

Well, I moved to a state I’ve never visited, where I knew no one with only what fit in my car—so I’d say that I am good at transitions, but that seems a bit broad as relating to children’s and teen librarianship. Then I wondered if she just meant the transition of driving to a different building partway through the day. Then I realized that I had been paused for too long and any answer was better than just standing there slack-jawed, so I said, “good?”

In retrospect, I suppose I shouldn’t be so shocked that I’ve gotten a lot of strange questions at the public library because the last strange questions I got that stands out in my mind was at my interview for the public library I worked at before this one. They asked me if I belong to any clubs or organizations. I told then that I had in college and grad school, and then they asked if I still did. I was completely flummoxed. Is that something grown-ups do? What, like, Kiwanas or something? So I said no, and felt like a non-joining bench-sitter with deep-seated social issues that I didn’t ever realize were holding me back.

Maybe librarians just ask really weird questions. Maybe I do it too, or will do it soon enough. Maybe I’ll never understand it, but come up with some way to answer odd questions sounding intelligent and not at all confused. I really doubt it though.

There’s not much more to say besides that.  I thought I had this problem conquered, and then tonight, I went into a room I’d only ever gone in during daylight and… ending is obvious. 

The first time I had this problem, it was in one of the offices.  The walls are made of glass, hence no lightswitch.  The lightswitches themselves are also rather weird– the push-button kind that look like they could potentially control things other than lights. So I found the bank of switches (buttons) across the corridor, pushed all of them, plunged the mystery section into darkness, but did not light up the office.  Finally, I asked, and the woman I asked said, “I don’t know.  Did you try these?” Indicating the bank of switches I’d just used.  I said yes, she pushed them anyway (one at a time rather than slapping her palm across all four like I had done (perhaps that was a little hasty)), and the office lit up.

A few weeks later, I got into the elevator, and only realized that the light wasn’t on when the doors closed.  I managed to get the door open again by jabbing blindly, but once i had light (from the hallway), I couldn’t find the switch (again).  I pushed a button that looked a little like a lightbulb, but that made a chirping sound.  Then I heard people above me wondering out loud what that sound was, so I rode down to the basement in the dark, to figure out the switch issue in privacy.

Once I got to the basement, however, all the lights were off as well, so it was just me and the inky blackness–possibly bats as well.  I managed to feel along the wall, find the switch, and then, finally,  determine how to turn on the elevator light.  After that incident, I thought I’d turned on every light in the building, eliminating the potential for new problems.

Not so.

In the room I had only previously visited during daylight, after determining that I could not find the switch, I tried to shelve in the dark. That’s nearly impossible, and is more frustrating than admitting you have a problem.  So I asked where the lightswitch is.  In my defense, it’s by a door other than the one I used, and rather hidden.  As I walked the perimeter of the room, trying to figure it out for myself, all I could think was I am smart right?  I have degrees, and common sense why does this elude me?

This time I’m not going to assume that this will never happen to me again, instead I choose to assume that it will.  Because why wouldn’t it?

I went to the mall on Saturday. I had to go pick up a pair of shelves (at some chick’s house) that I found on craigslist at 11am, and while I was carrying them to my car, I realized that it was a beautiful day. The sun was shining brightly for the first time in quite a while, yet it was crisp and refreshing—the kind of weather where you want to get shit done. So I went to one of the places I hate most in the world, (also indoors because regardless of how lovely the day is, I’m just not an outside girl. I don’t have an outside agenda, and as much as I do sometimes long to walk for pleasure, I prefer to walk somewhere so I know when I’m done). I went to the mall because the post-x-mas sales made it seem very foolish to not at least look and see what was available to me.

So I walked to the mall.

In its defense, the Providence Place Mall is very pretty; but like all shopping, the idea wears me out much more than the actual execution. Also, this mall has the vendors that don’t have actual stores, but rather carts in the middle of the walking aisle—this is normal—what isn’t normal is how pushy these people are. They’re all attractive young people with an accent and a story, and they won’t let you leave. Apparently, I’m an easy mark because the first time I went into this mall, I was rounding the elevator when I found myself wearing some kind of heated shoulder wrap getting a neck massage from a short man who murmured “Do you like that? That feels good, yes?” Yes, it felt fine, but was still out-of-bounds when all I wanted was a pair of brown sandals.

I can handle this behavior when I’m prepared for it. I mastered the firm “no” in many countries, but I still don’t expect it at the mall, and therefore am at a disadvantage until I’ve built up my resistance.

Since I avoid the mall, this resistance will be a long time coming, I imagine.

I had a successful time at the first store I went to and almost called it quits, but I forced myself to go on finally ending up at Victoria’s Secret. I actually found a decent bra, and tried it on in under 15 minutes, then waited in line for 15 more minutes to pay for it. Naturally, I realized while in line that I had forgotten my Victoria’s Secret credit card.

It seems foolish for me to have a Victoria’s Secret card since before Saturday I had, like, 1 bra, but this is one card I can’t seem to get rid of. I first got it when I was 15-years-old, and should not have had a credit card at all, but they foolishly accepted my Visa debit card as some kind of proof of financial responsibility, and awarded me a $500.00 limit. That made me feel special. So now, I rarely use it, but keep it open because they require you to write an actual letter in order to close your account, and I figure, what’s the harm in keeping it? They award you points for every dollar you spend, and even though I can’t imagine spending enough to actually see a return on those points, maybe one day I will need more than $500 worth of underwear and pajamas in a year. Someday when I’m fancy and flush with cash, and just dying to by bras made of space-age materials, I will say “my god, I’m glad I hung onto that card.”

Except, on this day, I had forgotten to bring my card along. I asked the sullen girl at the cash register to look up my account and provided her with the necessary information, and after awkwardly waiting, new bra in hand, she rang up the sale. She then stuffed a whole lot of paper into my pink and white bag and told me “I’ve just included a temporary card for you to use along with some coupons.”

I was touched. I had underestimated this girl by assuming that she was just coasting along until her break, hating her job, and, by proxy, me. “Thank you so much.” I said, but she had already turned around. I left the mall and walked home where I put away my new purchases and made myself some lunch.

Finally, the next day, I looked at the receipts and whatnot I’d pulled out of the bags to see what kind of coupons she gave me. There were no coupons—at all. She gave me the temporary card and the sheet of paper where I’d written my SSN and phone number—nothing more. I wasn’t expecting coupons when I went into that store, but I was certainly expecting to leave with what was promised to me. Who does that?? Why do that?? I would, most likely, have either scoffed at the coupons, or shoved them into my purse until they expired, but I should have had those options.

I think growing up in a land-locked state made me obsessed with all things nautical.  When I was very little, my friend Erin and I found an empty beer bottle by the side of the road when we were riding our bikes one day.  We had the idea to leave a note in it, that would be found by someone else years from then, probably in a different country.  So, in our neatest printing, we wrote what we thought must be an intelligent, well-constructed letter sure to impress anyone who found it.  Because we were in a land-locked state, and we knew that throwing it in the Red River would never get the bottle to India (or somewhere else exotic), we buried it in the ground, hoping it would burrow its way to China.  Of course that didn’t happen, but in the week before someone from school found it, and asked if we did it, we imagined all sorts of amazing scenarios.

When my parents were visiting for Thanksgiving, we spend an afternoon at Plimouth Plantation.  We’ve always been a family very interested in historical re-enacting, so this was just the most logical thing for us to do.  Leaving Plimouth, and trying to get back on I-95 to go back home, we came to one of those charming New England forks-in-the-road that is actually five roads, poorly marked, and you’re choosing your path at 55 m.p.h.  We chose wrong, and ended up going way out of our way by Cape Cod–New Bedford–Fall River.  It was scenic, though, and had I not been completely sick of driving, I would have enjoyed it more.

As we were driving through New Bedford, we saw a sign for the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and my dad started freaking out.  “The New Bedford Whaling Museum, that would be great.  We’ve just gotta go to the New Bedford Whaling Museum.”

My mother and I ignored him because he tends to get very excited about things when they’re right in front of him, and then forget then later.  I’d exhausted my patience trying to secure things to entertain him with that he had previously expressed interest in, so I was waiting out anything else he mentioned to see if it stuck before committing.

This one did though.  “I’d really like to see that New Bedford Whaling Museum,” he said the next day over Tim Horton’s (just kidding, this was Thanksgiving Day, Tim Horton’s was closed—thank god).  Since he’d remembered the Whaling Museum two days in a row, I said that yes, we could go if we had time.

Sadly, we did not have time on that trip, but it got me thinking.  A few weeks later, I had a Saturday off and thought I might cast about for some culture.  I googled the Whaling Museum and found that on January 3rd they have a 24-hour Moby Dick Marathon.  At 8 bells in the forenoon watch (12pm), people start reading Moby Dick, and they don’t stop for 24 more hours.  Traditional whaling fare is served (cider, coffee, clam chowder… no hardtack), and the whole thing is free.  Amazingly, I found some friends interested in going to this thing with me, and it was so much more than I expected.  There were readings in Danish, Portuguese, Japanese, French (we caught the Japanese reader, and I must say, she didn’t seem as into it as some.  The coordinators practically prodded her up to the podium, but once there, she read quickly, of course I didn’t understand a word of it).  For chapter 41, we adjourned to the theater for a performance-style reading followed by a rousing round of sea chanties accompanied by a concertina. 

People of all ages were there, and two boys probably 10 and 12 got up and read, and didn’t even giggle when then said sperm whale.  I have to say, though, the most astounding thing was sitting and listening to Melville’s words describing the sheer enormity of the whale, while sitting under a giant whale skeleton mounted to the ceiling– filling the entire ceiling.  The audaciousness of men to go out in puny boats and hunt these prehistoric monsters, and the madness of Captain Ahab to think that he deserved to kill a giant creature who let him live—it’s mind-boggling. 

The people singing the chanties, and doing the re-enactment were so into it, and so proud of themselves and of New Bedford, it was a really heady experience.  Like I’ve said before, I’m always really surprised and amazed by people who are so proud of where they come from, especially since this is so different than what I grew up with (the whaling, not the pride).  Sadly, we didn’t have time to see the actual museum, but we’ll do that later.

We’re already planning to go next year, and read as well.  Hopefully, they’ll have the promised grog too, I was pretty disappointed that it wasn’t offered, and more than a little irritated when the woman I asked about it looked at me like I came to the Moby Dick Marathon to get wasted or something.  I now have bumper sticker that reads “Call me Ishmael”, and no idea what to do with it, but my obsession is growing.