A blog from 2005 during my time at the Public Library. It ought to be adapted for “Withholding.”

A Month in the Life.

…The other day I had a conversation with my mother—

LBG―When your lease runs out in May or June are you gonna move?

JSB―Are you crazy? It took me two months to find this place!

LBG―But you were under duress with that Post-Traumatic Stress thing. And you didn’t go after it full-time.

JSB―I apartment-hunted close enough to full-time. Anyway, it took two months to do and the move was a colossal pain in the ass and probably wound up costing $1000 all told when you add up the boxes and all.

LBG―I just though you might want to live someplace more convenient. And you have no room now—you need extra room.

JSB―Well, I would like to be closer to things, though there are things about this area I like. And I would like to have at least a second bedroom to use for storage so I could actually move around.

But I can’t afford to move in closer. I looked all over the convenient places and I couldn’t find any place that was in my price range and decent and met all my particular requirements. That’s why I wound up this far out.

And my requirements haven’t changed any. I still need a ground floor place that’ll take large dogs, etc. So unless my monthly income increases dramatically, unless I get some windfall of money monthly which I don’t see happening any time soon with the crappy kind of jobs you’re making me take, I can’t see myself being able to move.

LBG―Well, you’re not gonna get a windfall…but I was thinking you might wanna make a down-payment on a condo instead.

…This apartment is cheaper and nicer, and there’s deer and all sorts of wildlife and so forth, but it does take an hour by bus to get downtown.

Anyway, I have been giving thought to the condo idea. There are no pros to apartments, so far as I can see. I’m opposed to the idea of giving an assholes or group of assholes money, then having to abide by a series of bullshit rules issued under their illegitimate authority, as well as having to deal with them using a pass-key and walking into your place whenever they feel like it. There’s always the threat of eviction hanging over your head, the properties are often substandard, and the maintenance people rarely fix anything correctly, and let’s not forget the assholes with the leaf blowers.

So no, there’s nothing good about apartments.

But the thing with condos is there are a lot of apartment-like conditions there too. You may have to share walls, ceilings, and floors with neighbors who like to blast their stereos, or who might call the cops on you if you get too noisy for their taste.

You may not have to deal with landlords, but there will probably be a prick-filled condo-owners’s association. When I was staying last year with James and Nyssa at their condo, the people in the condo across the way were from Eastern Europe, and one day the woman of the house painted some of the bricks that framed her windows brick red.

Well, Nyssa caught this pest cocksucker President of the condo-owners’s association sniffing around this woman’s condo, actually trying to look into the windows. And he got the organization to force the woman to sandblast the paint off the bricks of the condo SHE OWNED. The woman was baffled, because she’d thought she’d escaped oppression to come to the land of the free.

I have a huge problem with most forms of authority, and there’s very few people or organizations I have any respect for, and I’m quick to decry what I consider “illegitimate” authority. Landlords, employers, rent-a-cops and others definitely fit that description. I’ve dealt with enough crooked landlords, inept bosses, and totally useless security guards that my position is genuinely justified.

Anyway, I trotted my thoughts past my mom.  She said I’d need to get a mortgage with a 20-to-30 year note. I said if I’m still in Austin in 20 or 30 years, then I will have failed at yet another of my goals in life, but she said I could sell a condo should I decide to move and the buyer would take up the rest of the payments. (All this adult world, grown-up financial talk is Greek to me, especially since I’ve only made adult-type money in one job.)

I also brought up what I considered an important question—could I even get a mortgage when I have zero credit? Not bad credit—zero credit. I’ve never had a credit card, bought a car (obviously), and I’ve always paid for everything with cash….

My mom did say my monthly payment on a condo would be a lot less than monthly rent on an apartment.

I said if I was gonna pour money into a property, I’d rather get a house, where I wouldn’t have neighbors breathing down my fucking neck, but then again, my mom lives in a subdivision (something I wanna avoid like the plague, as it represents to me just as vile and constricting a prison as San Quentin), which itself has a strict home-owner’s association that tells you what you can and cannot do with the exterior of your house and with your grounds. I wouldn’t be able to deal with that for one second.

Monday―1/24/05―Today’s big project was taking care of my article for my newspaper on the history, renovation, and re-dedication of St. Mary’s Cathedral. I slept late, as is my habit on my day off, though not as late as I would’ve liked. I called the press lady at the Catholic Diocese and she assured me the electronic press kit would be ready by late afternoon.

I took the hour-long bus trip downtown, went to the “Central Austin World” offices, then walked to the Cathedral, uphill, and through late afternoon traffic, in hopes of getting some historical info. from them. But they only gave me a brochure I already had….

Anyway—the Cathedral. I wasn’t allowed inside to take pictures because they still had construction going on. I tried to take some exterior shot, but my Editor hadn’t put a fucking card in the digital camera! (Last time I tried to take pictures for a story, he gave me a camera that wasn’t charged up, so the battery ran down before I’d gotten the shots I needed. So now I’m planing to get a digital camera of my own to avoid any more hassles.)

I dropped the camera off at the office, panting heavily from all the walking. The Editor then added a card to the camera, finally making it functional, as asked if I could get some shots the following morning. Then I went to the Austin History Center to do research on the Cathedral and xerox old documents and articles.

Monday had been my deadline, but the Editor extended it to Tuesday. I stayed up late writing it. Then Max e-mailed me, asking if I’d done the “Gazette” op-ed he’d asked for, that wasn’t due until Thursday.

This other piece was an attack on the latest campaign by the Religious Right, a campaign that claims SpongeBob SquarePants is being used in an insidious plot to recruit children to homosexuality.

I got two-thirds of this piece done before bed.  

I also learned today my old buddy and former uRb-N-gUyDz Copy Editor Phil Lassiter is living in Paris, freelancing for the “New York Times” and the “Washington Post,” just two years after moving to Kansas City, where he was having trouble scaring up work.

I e-mailed him and asked if he needed a houseboy.

Tuesday―1/25/05―I went in a little early and took a bunch of pictures of the Cathedral. I still wasn’t allowed inside, but I did get some good shots of the construction―things like electric saws, extension cords, a pack of Marlboros atop a saw horse, with a Gothic window in the immediate background.

I was struck by the coarse language of the workmen, considering the location. I took a shot of the interior of the bell tower from outside. A man had been working behind the door, saw the flash, and yelled, “What the hell was that?!”

I took the camera to my paper’s offices, asked the Editor if he’d gotten my piece, and he said he’d decided to hold off putting out the paper for a week, so I had another week to add stuff to my article.

I then went to the Library, to do 20 minutes of largely unprofitable work before heading out again for yet another training session: “New Employee Safety Orientation” or “NESO” to those in the know.

I’d been scheduled to take this session a few weeks ago, but I went to the wrong building (actually pair of buildings). My supervisor wasn’t in that day, so I tried to call her perpetually on-the-rag supervisor, and when that didn’t work, I tried to call the Library Personnel office. No one there or at the City offices I’d wandered into knew where I should be, so I went back to the Library and put in a normal day.

Well, this got my supervisor in trouble. It turns out I’d already missed several training sessions, chiefly because I didn’t know about them, because I hadn’t found out how to set up my City of Austin e-mail account yet. My supervisor said that since I was under probation, I could’ve already been fired for missing all those sessions, except that I had the good excuse of not knowing about them.

I couldn’t care less either way.

The session was in a high-rise in South Austin, a building I used to work at from 1990 to 1991, before the City took it over. I used to try to sell credit cards over the phone in that job, and as with any job involving sales, I didn’t do it very well. Anyway, it was strange returning to that building after all these years, trying to see what of it I still remembered, amazed by what little impression all these crappy jobs leave on me ultimately.

The session was to last from 1pm to 5pm, and was taught by a chunky middle-aged woman (the backbone of any and all civil service jobs) and a youngish gay man. I made a point of getting a seat in the very back, so I could spread all my papers and so forth out and draw and not really be noticed.

A co-worker had warned me that the session had been the most boring thing she’d ever attended, but I said that was a pretty bold statement to make. Anyway, she was a lot younger than me, and had not yet begun to see the extent of the Valley of Boredom. The session was dull, though, and I wished I was still on as many medications as I was this time last year.

There were less than a dozen people in the room, but there was some old man there who actually seemed to be interested in this horse shit. He was in Public Works or something like that, and asked so goddamn many questions he easily added a half-hour onto our time.

About 1/3 of the room consisted of new Austin Library employees, yet the trainers insisted on going over crap like driving City vehicles and handling hazardous chemicals. I wasn’t having much luck coming up with any creative new architectural designs, so I worked on my charts of historical genealogy instead. I also made notes for future blogs.

Once in awhile I’d pipe in, to give the mistaken impression I was paying attention, and to try to get a laugh out of the not-too-bright crowd. Lord God King Germaphobe that I am, I perked up when they brought up health and disease-prevention.

They spoke at length about giving CPR, and added something I was unaware of―that almost any time a person gets CPR, they vomit something up.

[Note to self: Then I guess some poor bastard is gonna die, because I am not gonna get dirty or vomited upon or anything to save somebody’s life.]

Gay Guy goes over the contents of the properly-equipped City-mandated First Aid kit. He mentions it includes a hospital gown, “to mop up blood at accident scenes.”

“And,” I added, “for the occasional ‘Casual Friday.’”

Gay Guy hooted at that.

When we discussed blood-borne pathogens I mentioned the problem of the Library, with all the dirty and stinky and diseased homeless people crowded in there all the time, coughing, sneezing, doing all sorts of things in the bathroom and elsewhere. “I was even told at Orientation that some of these homeless people pass out on the furniture and urinate on it.”

Gay Guy squeals, “Eeeewwww!!!….Is that plastic, easy to clean furniture…I hope?”

“Nope, cloth. Upholstered. Stuffed with cotton.”

“Grooooosssssss!!!”

About ten minutes were devoted to showing us how to put on, use, and take off a special type of bright purple disposable glove. I observed that that shade of purple would make these gloves good for Mardi Gras (Gay Guy laughed at that), then added that they make me look like the Joker (Nobody got that).

Gay Guy wiped ketchup all over his arm to simulate blood, then got two people to come up, stanch the “bleeding,” then remove and dispose of the gloves. After that we were shown the proper way of washing our hands after glove removal, using waterless liquid soap in a pump bottle.

One of the volunteers demonstrated a technique that involved lots of elaborate hand-wringing, and I quipped, “Ah, the old Lady Macbeth move!,” and no one, but no one, even the Library staffers, caught the joke.

So a little later when Gay Guy was going over the list of some of the symptoms of one of the types of hepatitis (“jaundice, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, intermittent nausea, vomiting….” ), I didn’t bother adding, “Hmm, reminds me of when I saw ‘Gigli.’”

Chunky Woman showed us a 13-minute film on the dangers of asbestos and how to go about removing it. It reminded me of something I’d not thought of in years—how in my early college years my various dorm rooms still had asbestos on the ceilings. We already knew about the dangers of asbestos and the school was trying to remove all asbestos one building at a time.

But often, when whichever of my room-mates (whom I never got along with) was out for the day, I’d roll up a notebook and lean over and use it to scrape the ceiling over his bed, in hopes that the asbestos particles would waft down while he was sleeping and give him a horrible death decades later.   

Another thing that came out of this session was a reminder of something a friend had picked up in an architecture class he took in grad school: I am a master, albeit inadvertently, of ergonomic design. In all the places I live I put things exactly where I need them when I need them, so that everything flows seamlessly and smoothly. I never really gave much thought to the matter. I told him it was just common sense to me.

Anyway, at the end of this course we had to fill out sheets rating it and its usefulness and so forth. I said the trainers were well-informed, the material was thorough and all, but that little to none of the stuff covered would be of any use to me in my job or private life.
 
Wednesday―1/26/05―Since I’m desperate to get out of this current job, I’ve been looking for work elsewhere. I haven’t had much time to hunt, though, because I’m usually worn out when I get home, despite the fact I’m only a part-timer.

Recently I was working the Circulation Desk and I caught the end of what one of my fat female co-workers was saying to a patron:

FAT CHICK–…we’re not the librarians. The librarians are actually upstairs at the Reference Desk. Go ask them.

JSB (after the patron had left)―Well, what do you consider yourself, then?

FC―A clerk. Librarians have Master’s degrees. What, do you think of yourself as a librarian?

JSB (annoyed)―Of course! I ran an entire school library by myself for two years—acquisitions, processing, shelving, reference, circulation, you name it. “Librarian” was my job description, that’s what they paid me to do, and that was what was on my paycheck.

I’ve always been infuriated by the notion in some circles that only if you have a Master’s or Doctorate can you truly be said to know a subject.

Anyway, this is the same co-worker who, when I asked how to get a job in the Reference Department, told me that the main Reference Desk is staffed by people with their MLS (Master of Library Science) degrees, and all the people in the back room manning the telephone reference lines, are Library School grad students, waiting for the people up front to retire.

So that pretty much killed the Main Library for me. Reference and Special Collections are the only areas that interest me, and I only look on this as a stop-gap job anyway. A decade ago I thought I might want to go to library school, but I know now I don’t want to.

The only special collections in the Austin Public Library system are at the Austin History Center, and they have a very small staff. I almost got a part-time job there recently, and in fact was the leading candidate until somebody who used to work there applied.

In the meantime, the gangly, rather creepy guy who interviewed me at the AHC, seems to have a crush on me, as he’s always coming over to the Main Library and trying to make conversation. Another fat chick and a gay black guy also seem to be trying to woo me, with no success, and an old woman staffer keeps trying to get me to participate in anti-war meetings at her home down in South Austin. I try to make it clear I’m very much wrapped up in my own thing.

Fat Chick #2 even invited me to her birthday celebration at some downtown bar. I told her I don’t go out. Ever.

Anyway, I had applied for some full-time positions in branch libraries, thinking that maybe that’d afford me more of a chance to do reference work, but failing to take into consideration that if I’m miserable working for this fucking library system 20 hours a week, then I’d almost certainly be even more miserable working 40.

But Wednesday I had an interview at some branch I’d never been to. It took two buses to get there. The first one passes near my stop all too infrequently, so naturally I missed it and had to take a cab to the North Lamar Transit Station, which is a nasty place. After a long wait, I got the second bus.

I was the only white man on the bus and we went through some wretched neighborhoods that I didn’t even know existed. I guess I assumed there was something on that part of the map, but I wasn’t really sure of what.

I eventually got to my stop, in a blighted ghetto, and after looking for about 15 minutes, found the library. The building was only five years old and though attractively built, was already being torn up by the locals.

It’s been my observation that the very poor and the very rich always tear up things in their environments, shitting in their nests, as it were. The poor own nothing, so things mean nothing to them. The rich own everything, so things mean nothing to them either, because it’s all easy come, easy go with them.

In about 10 minutes I made a thorough assessment of the library and its holdings, which broke down to 1/3 kid’s books, 1/3 popular fiction, and 1/3 everything else. The collection was unimpressive. The Reading Room should’ve been called “Hell’s Waiting Room” for all the old people crowded in there reading.

I was interviewed by the Chief Librarian and her assistant. I was charming and well-informed. I was sure I’d get the job, but knew already I didn’t want it. They warned me about the neighborhood, how they often have to deal with drunk and doped-up people coming in and causing trouble. There was a Boys and Girls Club across the street, and the youngsters that hang out there often come over to the Library in the evening. And anyway, the more they talked, the less I decided I wanted to fuck with it.

Afterwards I tried to find a little cheap-o restaurant to grab a bite, but was unable to. It took over an hour-and-a-half to get back home. I didn’t want to spend three hours commuting in a city this small, nor did I want to take my life in my own hands working full-time in fucking Gangsta’s Paradise, so a few days later (after I’d wasted my entire day off applying for this job), I called that branch library and asked them to take my name off the list….

I have a nasty feeling I may go through as many as four jobs this year, because although I’m actively searching for something to replace this current job, I know I’ll also be unhappy in any of the jobs I’m currently applying for.

For weeks my friend Paddy has told me about a job at the Convention Center that he claims is mine of the asking. It sounds like it would involve a lot of walking and other activities that neither appeal to me nor are anything I’m good at, but I’m already so sick of the Library I’ve been begging for him to give me the contact information, with little luck.

Wednesday evening I called his cell, which picked up before the message came on, amazingly enough. I heard some laughing and yelling and fumbling in the background: “Is it dah Mayuh? I bet it’s duh Mayuh! Heh heh!….”    

I immediately recognized the braying, nasal voice as belonging to Marc Katz, local restaurateur, coke fiend, dilettante politician, and all-around public menace.

He finally wrested away control of the phone from Paddy:

MK―Yeah…Is dis dah Mayuh?!

JSB (sharply, angrily, the way you’d speak to a five-year-old who’d worked your last nerve)―  NO, IT ISN’T!!!

Then the cocksucker hung up on me.

I immediately redialed, pissed off now, because I’d been hung up on.

PADDY (picking up)—Sorry, that was Marc Katz who hung up on you.

JSB―Yeah, I know. Big fucking deal. I don’t give a shit who it was. What’s the story on the Convention Center?

PADDY―I’ll call you back on that later tonight.

(For you out-of-towners, Katz ran for Mayor a few years ago, and came in second place. He owns a 24-hour restaurant called Katz’s Deli, and makes noisy, annoying TV and radio commercials where he brays, “Katz’s Never Kloses” and “I Can’t Help It, I Gotta Tell Ya!” Plus, since the ‘70’s he’s had an on-again, off-again love affair with the old Peruvian Marching Powder, and has snorted up the equivalent of Mount Bonnell of it, financing it by diverting profits from his restaurants.

A few years ago he even sued his fuck-witted son Barry. He’d given Barry majority control of the Houston Katz’s, then claimed Barry, who had a hand in the running of the Austin location, was diverting profits from the Austin location to prop up the Houston one.

Marc even wanted to get a court order to close down the Austin restaurant, but everything got all worked out in the end, I understand. Anyway, the Austin Katz’s is still going strong. My guess was Marc was back on the blow and wanted to get his mitts on some quick cash.)

Thursday―1/27/05―Although I only had a four hour shift today, I was so worn out from stress and depression that when I got home I took Fred out, fed him, showered, and went straight to bed. I woke up later in the wee hours of the morning, had a snack, and then went back to sleep some more.

Friday―1/28/05―The Cathedral was supposed to have a run-through for the press today. Initially I’d heard it was to be at 9am. I wasn’t scheduled to be at work until 1pm. I didn’t want to have to get up at 6am in order to get to the Cathedral by 9am, then have to find a way to kill 3 ½ hours downtown until work. Anyway, they later set the time of the run-through to 2pm, so I wouldn’t have been able to go anyway. I e-mailed my Editor that maybe he could send his secretary to go get interior shots then.

Saturday―1/29/05―

“So I was sitting in my cubicle today, and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that’s on the worst day of my life.” –Ron Livingston, as “Peter Gibbons” in “Office Space” (1999)―

Got up okay this morning, roll around with Fred, get ready, get a paper and breakfast at Randall’s and go to the bus stop. But the bus is late, arriving well after 11am.

The driver then goes to her lay-over by Home Depot, says we’ll be there eight minutes (despite the fact she is already behind schedule), then she goes over to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and GOES FUCKING SHOPPING!!! She comes back after nine or ten minutes with a bag full of goodies.

A bum with a bike comes up. He puts the bike on the “cow-catcher” on the front of the bus, and brings in a huge plastic tub, 2 ½ feet by 1 ½ feet by 1 ½ feet, which he’d had on the back of his bike.

We move again. A passenger gets on and he and she get to talking. She comes to her lay-over at Northcross Mall, and takes a LONG time there.

I heave heavy sighs. The bum goes up front to tattle on me or something like that, because he says something to the driver and points back at me. Then he takes his seat again and goes back to sorting through the crap he keeps in his tub.

Time passes.

I ask how long this is gonna take. She doesn’t answer, because she is enjoying her talk so much. A few minutes later I ask again when we’ll be leaving, and she says in a few minutes.

We move again. The talky passenger de-boards. Somebody else with a bike comes up and tries to put his back in the other spot on the rack. The bum gets out, panicking, thinking the guy’s gonna mess with his bike.

We move again. The driver gets to 38th Street and WAITS again. I heave a heavy sigh and begin to loudly tap my foot. The bum turns around and gives me a look, as if he wants to know what my problem is. Then I give him a look like I’m gonna beat him to death if he so much as looks at me sideways again.

We move again. It’s 11:50am. I’m due at work at noon. We take a detour, because of some set-up for some “fun-run” or other oxymoronically-named event that’s fucking up traffic patterns.

The driver then pulls up alongside Ken’s Doughnuts of Guadalupe, STOPS THE BUS, and GETS OUT!!! I say, “You have GOT to be kidding!” She eventually returns with something to stuff her face with, and we move again.

I am fifteen minutes late to work.

A few weeks back, when I started at the Library, one of my co-workers, a stuttering, stammering fuck who always sounds nervous, told me that the Library was very bureaucratic and highly hierarchical. I made a scoffing look and gave him a look that said, “Big fucking deal.” No one there has a clue how much I despise and disregard almost all forms of authority.

But one of the things about there being such a hierarchy at work is you always have to report the littlest things to whoever’s in charge. I have to report to my supervisor, or if she isn’t around, or some senior person under her or over her. I really just don’t fucking care.

But since I’d gotten in late, even if it wasn’t my fault, I needed to call my super’s super. This woman always seems to be in a bad mood, all the time—perpetually on-the-rag—and today was no exception.

Saturdays are the busiest, most hectic days at the Library, Unfortunately, I don’t work well under hectic conditions, which is why I never did well in those restaurant jobs 20 years ago.

After a long, cold wait my bus showed up. I had hoped for a peaceful, hour-long ride home, where I could relax in the cocoon of some calming classical music on my headphones and try to put the awful day behind me.  As I was boarding, a young white trash guy with a Mohawk was de-boarding, yelling over his shoulder, “Fuck you, bitch! Yeah, you―you fuckin’ bitch! Fuck you!”

I had walked onto “The Jerry Springer Show.”

In the back of the bus were two or three white trash chicks and one big black guy. The chicks were the usual arrogant types typical of that class, the kind who think they’re really hot stuff, with belly shirts, poor hygiene, cheap jewelry, and voices raspy from too many packs of “Laramies” a day. These are the kinds of trashy whores that spend most of their breath “telling off” other people.

Well, everybody in this group was talking really loudly—piercingly, painfully so, in fact. Not only could I not hear my music over my headphones, but I couldn’t hear anything else either. Sometimes their noise got so loud I’d exclaim, “JESUS!,” and the driver would make a feeble attempt to tell them to make less noise, but it was clear that trash was in control of the bus the entire time they were on board.

Dominating the group was one bitch, who occasionally would sally forth up to the front of the bus, her love handles spilling out of the sides of her shirt, to tell another portion of her sordid story to the driver, then she’d go back and hold forth some more to her friends.

The main thread of her monologue was her “man,” the asshole with the Mohawk, and how badly he had treated her over time and how “this [was] it” and she was finally gonna break away from him. “I’m the nicest person in the world….I’m the nicest person in the world….I’m the nicest person in the world, but if you fuck me over I’ll fuck your shit.”   

She went into graphic detail describing how this guy had beaten her. I decided…she was even stupider than she looked, if she stayed one second with a man who abused her. I have no patience with people who stick with abusive partners for stupid reasons.

Got home finally and checked my mail. There was a notice from the UT Architecture Library, dated January 21st, saying my due date on two items had been changed. Somebody needed these books (presumably some asshole professor) and I was to return the books earlier than I was originally supposed to. If I didn’t return them on time, the fine was $6 a day.

The due date was January 29th, the day I got the notice. I’ll have to call them tomorrow and straighten this out….

I can return the book Tuesday when I return to the salt mine. I don’t plan to get more than 100 feet from my front door for the next 48 hours.

I took a hot shower, to cleanse the filth of the outside off my skin. Then I took a long, hot bath, to soak my aching joints and muscles. Then I took another shower to wash off the filth from sitting in dirty water.

I had no interest in watching TV or anything, so I went to bed early.

I dreamt I was in a Western. I was supposedly with some of the Cartwright boys from “Bonanza,” but no one looked like them or had their names. I rode into a strange, fairly large town with a group of about five men. (Were there sick or wounded men with us?)

Were we regarded with suspicion by towns people standing in upper windows of the buildings? Or had we slipped into town completely unnoticed?

We went to encamp in a part of town that seemed abandoned. That area seemed like a labyrinth, with the windows of some buildings looking onto the brick or stone walls of others.

We were joined by other misfits, men who were hiding out. One guy, played by a famous character actor, had lost his pants and was shivering and embarrassed.

Eventually we concluded we were about to have trouble with the locals, so were prepared a cover story that involved us posing as Confederate soldiers taking care of our wounded. We broke into an abandoned store and got some faded denim shirts and pants, which passed in those parts for Confederate uniforms. I told the pantsless guy to get dressed and he eagerly hopped to it. We were still prepared for the arrival of the towns people when we were all suddenly captured.

The area was under the control of a cruel, tyrannical land baron. Many men from miles around had been captured and denied all rights. We were standing in a vast pasture, bordered by forests and mountains, as well as sharp-shooters, who were standing about 100 feet apart.

The sharp-shooters were so far away that the ones off on the far end of the pasture were barely visible. Each imprisoned man was 75 to 100 feet from the next. Any time any prisoner dared to question the treatment, he was shot dead by a sharp-shooter.

Enough of us got shot down at one point that some sharp-shooters rushed in to gather us together and move us to our quarters. The prisoners gathered together into groups, to enjoy a few seconds of contact, and to offer to help the newer or injured prisoners. I found myself down on the ground for some reason until someone offered to help me.

I soon found myself in a classroom, prior to getting sent to my quarters. There was a blackboard covered with lists of names. Each prisoner was part of a group under the supervision of a specific guard. I didn’t know my group yet, but the guards didn’t seem too upset that I didn’t, as I couldn’t have known that yet.

I also hadn’t known about the test I was supposed to take. On the board, in cramped, illegible handwriting, was an essay test every prisoner had to take. There were about 40 to 50 lengthy questions.

I was given a stubby pencil that barely worked, and was supposed to write my answers on the flat expanse of some mashed potatoes that had been cooked in a casserole pan. Later I was given a small, yellow legal pad to write on, but I realized it was gonna take a long time to answer these questions either way.

So, was I dreaming about my job or not?      

I woke at 5am. Fred wanted to go out. I noticed a message from my mom. She’d awakened in the wee hours and realized she’d forgotten to mail my rent check.

Sunday―1/30/05—Day off.

I have some kind of sickness today, involving post-nasal drip and some crap in my lungs. Yesterday at work some patron came up to the circulation desk with a huge stack of books, I checked them all out for him, then he leaned forward and murmured, “You probably ought to wash your hands now. I’m very sick.”

Well gee, thanks a lot there, buddy!

Monday―1/31/05―Day off. Home. Sick.

Tuesday―2/1/05―I had to work, but thank God I don’t have any recollection of this day.

Wednesday―2/2/05―Day off.
    
Thursday–2/3/05―I went to the UT Architecture Library to straighten out the matter of the tardy “books due” notice. I waited and waited and waited for the top guy to come back from an errand, and when he finally did, he copped a fucking attitude with me.

He didn’t believe my story and wanted proof that the notice was late. What proof? Well, what about the envelope? I said I didn’t have the envelope, or probably didn’t, that I ordinarily toss envelopes like that and keep the contents. He said I had to produce something like the envelope so I could show the postmark and prove the thing had gone out late.

And why had I not come in until Thursday? Well, I was sick, I said, which was true to a degree.

So this… cocksucker wanted to charge me like $72 for these goddamn books, based on something that really wasn’t my fault, but was rather the fault of his fucking library staff or the US Postal Service.

I was beside myself with anger on the way home, and after I got home and walked and fed Fred, I went to my apartment mailbox and emptied the huge “paper only” garbage can onto the sidewalk, and sat there like a crazy old man picking through sheet after sheet of paper, until I finally came up with my envelope, dated January 27th!!! Mother-fucker!

I still bet he tries to dick me on the late fees, though….

Okay, I need a rest. I’m gobbling down some pills and watching “Lost in Translation” again.

Friday―2/4/05―I went to the Architecture Library this morning, and showed that fucker of a librarian the envelope my notices had come in, and he finally believed that I’d been telling the truth. He’d talked to his boss about the matter, and they agreed already to cut the fine in half. I thought it was $72, but it was actually $48, so I’ll just be billed $24. I figured that was as good a deal as I was likely to get, so I said that was okay by me….

Towards the end of my work day I had my first encounter with a crazy, homeless patron….

So about a half-hour before the Library was to close today, I had just checked out some female mucketty-muck from the City Library System, and this homeless fuck comes up and starts to ask something. (Well, he may not have been homeless, but he was dirty and crazy.) The problem was the librarian sitting at the terminal next to me was pulling out a drawer at the time the bum was asking his question, and for some reason the act of opening this drawer was very noisy. This library is extremely noisy anyway, plus I’m basically deaf in my right ear.

JSB (to bum)―I’m sorry, but I couldn’t hear a word you just said.

BUM (copping a fucking attitude)―Well, if you’d let me finish what I was saying….

JSB―I just couldn’t hear because he was pulling out that drawer and…

BUM (angry)—I said are you gonna let me finish what I was saying?

JSB (clipped and really angry)—OKAY. FINE! WHAT DO YOU WANT?!

BUM (losing it)—YOU GOT AN ATTITUDE PROBLEM, MAN! YOU NEED TO CHILL OUT! YOU NEED TO BACK OFF AND CHILL OUT WITH THAT ATTITUDE, MAN!

He stormed off to another part of the library. The fucking useless security guard was nowhere to be seen, as usual. I gave a “Was-It-Something-I-Said?” shrug, with palms up, like a Borscht Belt comic. The Library lady assured me, “It’s okay. That kind of thing happens all the time.”

Saturday―2/5/05―I got up at 9am. Almost immediately, my upstairs neighbor started blasting his techno, making my whole apartment rumble. I called the apartment answering service, which in turn called, I believe, the police.

I missed my bus, so I cabbed it downtown, where the streets were all shut down for a Boy Scout parade. I did manage to run into a coffee house and find copies of my latest newspaper. My column was buried within the paper, and though the Editor went with photos I’d taken (which turned out very well, by the way), they weren’t really the photos I would’ve gone with. I would’ve used the more dramatic shots, while he went with the more tame, picture postcard one.

Early on at work, a woman came up to my station to apply for a library card, and said, “Hey, weren’t you one of the authors of ‘Writing Austin’s Lives’?”

I said, “Yes. Yes I am, but as you see, I’ve fallen on hard times.”

She laughed and said she remembered me from one of the ceremonies, as her boyfriend has a piece in the book too.   

Saturday is always the busiest day of the week at the Library, and it always seems to draw out the lost and bewildered. The only thing, and I do mean only thing I remotely like about my job is when the line of people gets long at the Circulation Desk and I get free for another customer, invariably the next person in line is standing there, jaw dropped open, drool puddling onto the floor, daydreaming. I then call, “NEXT!!!,” but not in a solicitous, well-modulated, “Dear-Sir-or-Madam-how-may-I-be-of-service” voice, but rather in a sharp, bullying, Marine Drill Instructor-like, “Pull-your-head-out-of-your-ass-and-get-the-fuck down-here-double-time-you-stupid-piece-of-shit!!!” shout.     

One of the most important pieces of equipment I use at the “Circ. Desk” (when I started at the Library I mistakenly referred to several days of classes as “Circumcision Training,” which would certainly make work at the Library even more painful than it already is) is a pistol-grip scanner, that emits a wide beam of laser light across the bar codes of our books. I’ve often wondered when noisy, tiresome children come up to the Desk, if I could blind them with that laser. (Hey, it’s at least worth a try, isn’t it?)    

The big thing Saturday was that no one knew what they wanted to do. A man came up with a stack of movies, more than the limit allowed. Then his wife joined him with more material. He went into a panic, because he wanted all the movies. Then it turned out the wife had a card with us, so I explained he could check out some of the movies and she could check out the rest.

But by trial and error I discovered that some of the material they had they just wanted to turn in, but they wanted me to process those items back into the system to make sure they didn’t get charged for them. Other items they wanted to renew. The wife, naturally, didn’t have her card with her, and after I tried tracking her down by all the usual means, she then volunteered that her card was probably under her maiden name.

The thing is, these people didn’t bother telling me what was what from the first―I just had to find out shit on my own as it came up. Afterwards a supervisor told me he recognized the guy and said he was always scatter-brained like that.

A boy came in wanting to check some books out, but found he had a huge fine because some items were marked overdue and others were marked lost. A supervisor had to walk me through elaborate steps of how to deal with this―steps that proved incorrect when the boy said he could only pay part of the fine that day. After that, the boy brought in his mother, and she explained things to other staffers, and the supervisor was forced to go through several years of back “checks received” records to clear things up.

In the final hour, a woman came up with a huge stack of CDs to check out, and admitted she had some complicated matters to attend to. She had overdue materials, lost materials, she needed us to do a search of materials she’d been billed for, she wanted us to mark as returned items she’d dropped in the drop box and that had already been taken for processing to the back room on the other side of the building.

The CDs are kept in theft-proof cases, which require a plastic key and a lot of elbow grease to get open. By then time I’d gotten 20 CD cases open, then opened each case, taken out each CD, desensitized it, replaced it, and closed the case, my arms and wrists were very sore. It’s like assembly-line work.

Taking care of this woman’s problems was out of my depth, and I tried to get the help of Fat Chick #1, who at that hectic time chose to ignore me as a joke, because I called out to her by the wrong name. (Hey, I don’t know these people and I don’t plan to stay at the Library long enough to where I’ll need to know them!)

We had to call people in the back to find the materials this woman had dropped off, and to make a long story short, it took about four people or more at least a half-hour to fix up this woman’s problems, get her $154.45 fine paid off, get her materials checked out, and send her on her way.

She said, “I bet you’ll be glad to finally see my back.” (Not really—she was really fat and had an ass the size of a Yugo.)

I said, “Oh, after all we’ve been through together? I was hoping you’d at least send me the occasional postcard.”

Like I’ve said, I can’t handle hectic work.

After work, I headed up home to the Arboretum, and decided to award myself with some shopping. First I went to Borders, where I bought six magazines, and four CDs (Erik Satie, the Beach Boys, and the Strokes). Then to the Container Store for 17 Lucite picture frames. Then to some neighborhood store that sells pre-viewed movies, where I bought 8 DVDs.

By now I was overdue for dinner, but Texadelphia sandwich shop was getting ready to close, and Manuel’s had a 30 minute wait, so I decided to try out the Brick Oven. The name of the place always sounded inviting to me, and I’ve had some friends who liked this local chain, but I’d never been there before. It was in fact the favorite Austin restaurant of my old buddy Eural….

One of the effects of having been a restaurant critic is I tend to be very hard on medium-range restaurants. Cheapo, greasy-spoon places I enjoy because they tend to do just a few things very well. Places that cost $50 or $100 a person either give you every cent of your money’s worth or they close very quickly. (But then again, even really good pricey restaurants can fold, due to the vicissitudes of the restaurant biz.)        

It’s the places that cost $12 to $20 a person, the ones most people eat at when they eat out, that vary wildly. And it’s places like this where the food is often flavorless, tasteless, and indifferently prepared and served, the kind of restaurant that, when I leave, I often feel like I’ve thrown away my money for nothing.

Now―the Brick Oven. I was lulled in by the inviting name. The interior was nice enough, the wait staff adequate. I ordered lasagna and for an appetizer, mozzarella garlic bread.

Three large slabs of toasted bread were brought out to me. They looked as if they’d been barely brushed with butter. The cheese was melted, but flavorless. But if this bread had ever come withing three counties of any place where garlic was grown, sold, bought, or cooked with, I’m damned if I could tell it. There wasn’t a hint of garlic at all. I basically wasted $8 on a grilled cheese sandwich.

I ate one piece of bread, then saved the other two to take home, where I planned to attempt a salvage operation in my own kitchen, where there is plenty of garlic.

The regular garlic bread that came with the entrée wasn’t any better.

I should mention to anyone who doesn’t already know―I am a garlic freak. You just can’t skimp on that.

As for the lasagna—it was there. I’ve had lasagna just as good or better in a TV dinner. And the portion was too small.

Now some people say that you don’t go to a restaurant known for one kind of dish and order something else instead. There is some wisdom in that. In Chinese places you often see a few American dishes like hamburgers and fries on the menu, just to pacify kids who refuse to eat anything “exotic.”

(I always wonder about parents who let their kids call the shots. “Oh, little Cody won’t eat any foreign food.” Well, just tell the little bastard he won’t have anything to eat at all if he doesn’t eat what everyone else is having, and see him change his tune.)

My understanding is that the Brick Oven’s specialty is pizza. But, as people who should know me by now keep forgetting—I FUCKING HATE PIZZA!!! It usually has no flavor or taste, and it almost always gives me diarrhea. If you ever see me at a pizzeria, it’s because I’m just playing along to humor someone else.

There are only a few places where I’ve had pizza that didn’t bore my tastebuds and make me sick. There’s Asti, in Hyde Park in Austin, which has an excellent white cheese pizza on its appetizer menu. (My friend Paddy, of course, bad-mouths this excellent restaurant to anyone who will listen, because some gal he’s obsessed with doesn’t like it. But he’s never actually eaten there, so that’s something we’ve just agreed to disagree on. It bugs me, though, because he knows more people than I do, and I hate to see a good restaurant dissed.)

And James and Nyssa took me to a pizzeria in suburban San Antonio that was excellent. I had three different types of pizza there, and loved all of them….

I think my hatred of pizza goes back to high school. My parents were band directors, and so naturally I was in the band. In the summer we had marching practice, and after every session of that, my parents, the assistant directors, their spouses, and me, would all go to Pizza Hut. Every single fucking time. I grew to loathe the bland sameness of it all.

In college all the guys in the dorm were crazy about pizza. I never ordered any myself, but would eat it if I had nothing else to eat and was starving. Sometimes I’ll buy frozen pizza as subsistence food at the grocery store, but I usually “doctor-up” those at home to make them edible….

I don’t know what it is that makes me sick about pizza, although I think the slimey consistency of the bell peppers and onions often does the trick.

I was half-hoping my evening at the Brick Oven would give me food poisoning, so that 1) I would have solid justification for my opinion of the place, and 2) I could miss work….

In the early City employee training sessions, they spent a lot of time discussing benefits, which, as a part-timer, I don’t get. But when they started tossing around big numbers, for life and health insurance benefits, the City of Austin equivalent of the 401(k), etc., it was hard not to feel like J. Paul Getty, with some massive fortune to distribute amongst my heirs.

But who are my heirs? I have no wife or kids. Fred doesn’t require much money to be happy and healthy….

There are some charities I like, but that still doesn’t solve everything. And where the hell will all the books go? Of course, since my family longevity is such that I’ll probably at least make it to 100 (lucky me), I’ve got a long time before I’ll have to commit to any decision. Of course the shit-heads who run things will probably make it a crime to own books by then….

Late, late that night, in fact right about the time I was about to go to bed, I found out “TV Land” was having a “Miami Vice” marathon. God, that took me back to the old days. Can’t believe that show’s heyday was 20 years ago. What a steaming pile of shit the last 20 years have been.

Sunday―2/6/05—Superbowl Sunday—for me, traditionally the most boring day of the entire year. Despite several attempts, I have never been able to scare up an interest in sports. It’s always been something other people seem to get, but that I don’t.

I tried getting up twice today, but felt too tired and nauseated. I wound up getting up at 8:20pm, walking and feeding Fred, going to the grocery store, showering, and now I’m settling into a replay of “Animal Planet’s” three hour “Puppy Bowl.”

They set up a pen (about five feet by ten) in a TV studio, decorated it to look like a football stadium, and filled it with puppies, who run, roll, growl, chew, gnaw, sniff, dig, and play. There’s a cam set up under a clear glass water bowl, so you can see the puppies as they drink or try to lap up water. They even have a cam built into a toy football that’s mounted on wheels and operates by remote-control.

When a puppy does something especially cute, they run an instant replay, and when one has an accident, a human referee comes in, blows a whistle, drops a yellow handkerchief, assigns a penalty, then cleans the mess up.

After three hours of laying on the floor, watching this with Fred, I was as relaxed as if I’d taken a handful of horse tranquilizers. Anyway, it beats watching a bunch of sweaty, sub-moronic, over-paid, steroid junkies chasing a ball around.

Monday―2/7/05—Day off. Slept late. No sign of my new modem box from those weasels at SBC. I had a truly bizarre dream about Lee Marvin I won’t go into here.

My feet are killing me as if I’ve been standing on concrete floors for 72 straight hours or marching barefoot over broken rocks. I have no idea why this is.

Just gobbled down 12 vitamins and supplements, plus my useless mood stabilizer. Not interested in watching anything on TV. Will probably retire early….

Fat Tuesday―2/8/05―…I think I figured out that what’s hurting my feet are my shoes. Apparently the shoes I usually wear have run their course and it’s time for an upgrade.

At work I learned my supervisor had re-done the schedule. Now I’m on the Circ. Desk even more hours a week. Joy joy.

My hair is just crazy now. I look like some emo kid, or at least Jimmy Fallon.

Got home. No sign of my new modem. Time to call Indian tech support and rip some Hindu a new asshole.

I have all sorts of things to do tomorrow on my day off. I left a message at the number Dr. Apu, my Pakistani shrink, canceling my visit for tomorrow, and I feel great about it. The mood stabilizers he has me on haven’t helped one iota, and having one less appointment to make and one less place to go really reduces my stress significantly. Having errands to run on my day off makes it feel like anything but a day off….

Wednesday―2/9/05—I wound up doing only one of the various things I had scheduled for today―I took Fred to the vet. Despite the fact the vet is across the street from my apartment complex, Fred likes to take his sweet time walking places, so the office visit and the walk back and forth took about two hours.

Fred the last few months has been peeing on the carpet, then licking it up. The behavior seems more deliberate, and less like the accidental incontinence of an old dog. My vet friend Tree suggested it might be a bladder infection and something worth looking into.

At one point today the vet crew had to take Fred out for a pee sample. He was frightened at the prospect of being dragged away from me by strangers, and I was upset at not being able to be with him. As upset as we both were you’d have thought he was being led off to Auschwitz.

But they didn’t bring him back right away. They picked him up and put him on a table, but they picked him up incorrectly, and he yelped in pain. They apparently did other things to him in the back, then clipped his toenails. I’d warned them about that too. He needed them clipped, but he doesn’t like having it done, and has long cuticles in some cases. Naturally, they just blazed away and succeeded in drawing more blood and making him yelp in pain more.

The doc brought him back. We were thrilled to be reunited. The doc said he saw no evidence of urinary tract infection, but wanted to do some blood work to see if he had a kidney or other similar problem.

I agreed to the test, and damned if the doc didn’t drag Fred away again. Afterwards Fred and I went exploring on that side of the road. When we finally got home I fed him again. He was pretty exhausted the rest of the evening and night after all that.

Thursday―2/10/05—I called the top man of the Driskill (and head of the Downtown Business Alliance) and told him about the story I wanted to do. Traditionally they have been extremely helpful with anything I’ve done with them. But apparently they have a history/cookbook coming out in April, and they’re afraid if they gave me “unknown Driskill” historical tidbits that my piece would steal some of their fire.

He suggested I call their marketing head in the afternoon. I left her a voice mail on my break, but she never called back. I then e-mailed my editor and asked him how he wanted to proceed.

I’m learning a rhythm in this library job. I know just how much to slow myself down when waiting on one customer in order to miss having to wait on the next person in the line and foist him or her onto another staffer, especially if that patron looks like someone I don’t want to bother with. Examples of these sort of patrons are dirty/stinky/crazy types, people with applications for library cards, and young women with kids.

I have found that with few exceptions, young mothers are fucking dingbats. How they get through life without killing themselves and their kids by accident is beyond me. I got stuck with one young mother today, and I saw from far off that she was gonna be no end of stupid complications, and I was absolutely right.

The Circ. Desk really ought to be elevated, like a Judge’s bench, so I can look down on the patrons physically and not just socially. As it is, I’m at a a counter that’s very low to the floor, and I basically face the patrons at crotch level. Their rotten little kids are at a perfect level to cough right in my face (which is what first made me wonder about blinding them with laser light from my scanner).    

I guess it was after I came down with that funk from that patron a week or two ago that my mom suggested I buy some little pocket-sized bottles of “Purel” waterless soap. I was unable to find them in the store, so I kicked my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder one more notch by purchasing some portable baby wipes so I can spend them day cleaning my hands over and over.

(Why the hell haven’t I yet gone to see “The Aviator,” about Howard Hughes, the Patron Saint of OCD?)

When I got home there was good news from the vet—Freddie got a clean bill of health! There’s no sign of bladder infection, and his blood-work proved healthy liver enzymes, kidneys, cell counts, and all that. The doc assumes Fred’s peeing in the house might be due to a need to go outside more often—he knows he’s not supposed to pee indoors, so he tries to lick it up afterwards to hide it.

Poor little guy!  

The doc also said the new arthritis meds I got for Fred might relieve aches that might also be causing the peeing. Anyway, I’ll just have to try leaving the balcony door open when I’m away, even in this cold weather. There’s no way any potential thief could jump the chasm between my balcony and the other side of the dry moat, unless he was fucking Evel Knievel or something.
 
An e-mail comes from my friend Rex, saying he tried to cut and paste my “Time-Warner” blog onto a Word document and print it, only to find out it was 77 pages long. Hmm, it was like 173 pages or so when I was composing it in 24-point size font. (I do that not because I’m that blind, but because a font that size is a lot easier on the eyes, especially when I’m slopping around all this verbal diarrhea of mine.)

The “Bugler” came out today and it made [a friend who’d been involved in a minor scandal] look like a fool. (I’d much rather look like a criminal than a fool in the public prints any day.) Still, it did make it clear to any but the most prejudiced reader that [my friend] really hadn’t done anything wrong, although he may’ve used poor judgment.

I can’t say this surprised me too much, though. Even though [my friend] supposedly has “friends” at the “Bugler,” from Editor Martin White on down, it’s always been staffed by scumbags and weasels, and is…one of the most grossly over-rated aspects of Austin life.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it always bothers me that so many local writers see the “Bugler” and “The Lone Star Times” as the pinnacle of the business, the Holy Grail for an Austin writer to strive for, when frankly neither publication impresses me very much. Both organs are big fish in a very, very small pond.  

Back in 2003 my friend Paddy was sweet on some mousey, dingbat girl reporter for the “Bugler.”… She rode a bicycle to get from one story to the next, she was one of those frustrating “low-talkers”—you couldn’t hear a goddamn word she said—and she was a huge, penis-hating, radical feminist.

So one night during the Brookman City Council campaign, a bunch of Paddy’s political inner circle were sitting around in his office. (Paddy was the Campaign Manager.) I think there was some beer and food going around, and we sat there talking well into the night, long after most of the campaign workers had left for the evening.

Now my buddy Lloyd says that that was one of the most enjoyable evenings he ever spent. I personally was just pretending to have a good time, since the only reason I was still there was I was waiting to get paid.

I was sitting behind Paddy’s desk, in the Big Chair, when this dunce reporter walked in. Now I had an excuse for not being able to hear her―I’m largely deaf in one ear. But she talked so quietly even people with normal hearing were having trouble with her, and when they finally got her to speak up at an audible level, she just started spouting nonsense (which seems to be par for the course with low-talkers).

She went into a litany of all the politically-related meetings and events she’d been to that day, and said, “God, I’ve been around men all day—I can’t stand it. I’ve got to go be around some women to counter all that testosterone exposure.”  

And naturally, most of the men in the room, though probably giving lip-service to being in opposition to political correctness, passively accepted its silly dictates without a comment or word of objection. But I saw red, and I have never been one of those people who can ignore having an 800-pound gorilla in the room.

What would’ve happened had someone come in and said instead, “God, I spent the whole day at meetings and events on the East side— I’ve been around nothing but ******* and ***** all day— I’ve gotta hang out with some white people now” ? Had someone said that he or she would’ve been run out of that office on a rail, or at least shouted down, but no one said a goddamn thing in response to that ignorant, ignorant comment she made….  

Well, this dunce rattled on awhile, and I let her do so for a bit. Then I started baiting her, and was on the verge of dropping a bomb and starting an all-out argument with her when Paddy came back into the office, realized what was going on, and escorted her into another room.

So anyway, that’s the “Bugler” for you.

Friday―2/11/05—Early today some weasel from the “Tribune” came in to do a story on how the Library has hired a collection agency to handle seriously overdue library fines. The guy was gonna take pictures of us while we worked. Never mind if any of us didn’t want to be photographed.

The guy came by during what we call “route in,” which happens about 2 or 2:30pm during the week. A truck brings us canvas bags full of books that were dropped off at other branches but that are supposed to belong to us. Then four of us sit at computers and scan each item, listing them back into the system as being available. (Yeah, really great “brain work” there for a guy with two college degrees.)

If there’s a fifth person back there that schmuck gets stuck moving the processed books over to other carts for eventual shelving. This particular task involves a lot of bending, standing, walking, and straining, and since my back and feet are usually in enormous pain most all of the time, I try to get to the back room early so I can avoid getting stuck with that job.

The photographer showed up and just took picture after picture after picture of us working. I was having trouble keeping my stomach sucked in all that time! He took a lot of pictures of me working, scowling and miserable, then he asked me my name and what I was doing.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit I love the attention. I love being photographed—I just don’t like the way I look in photographs. I know I have an obligation to my public, but I wish I just didn’t look so bad.

The article came out the next day and was very short for all the time the guy spent on it. He wound up going with a picture of a senior staffer, one of these assholes who feels that if he shaves his head everybody’ll think he’s mother-fucking Vin Diesel or something. He was photographed through a network of steel bookcases, looking desperately for some item. In the picture he looked like a caged serial killer.

I tried to make up for a tiresome day and week by going on a shopping spree this evening. At Borders I bought five magazines and five CDs (Gustav Mahler―“5th Symphony”―Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic {I’d heard the “Funeral March” from that on the radio and had forgotten how much I like it.}, “The Essential Simon and Garfunkel,” Jet–“Get Born,” Franz Ferdinand―“Franz Ferdinand,” and Keane―“Hopes and Fears.” Then at Barnes and Noble I bought four more CDs: “The Simpsons―Songs in the Key of Springfield,” “Go Simpsonic with the Simpsons,” Scissor Sisters―“Scissor Sisters,” and John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” (Deluxe edition).

Saturday―2/12/05—Damn, my dad would be 76 today were he still alive. I can’t imagine him at that age. He seems perpetually in his 50s in my mind, though he died at 65.

Sunday―2/13/05—I went to Randall’s today for the Sunday papers and some Indian and Thai TV dinners. Behind me in the check-out line was a guy purchasing a quickee bouquet of a dozen roses for his sweetheart. Then he suddenly thought of something, broke from the line, then ran back with a candy bar. I replied, “Nothing says love quite like a Butterfinger, eh?” He thought that funny.

Monday―2/14/05—I had to get up at 7am on this, my day off, to get downtown by 10am for a tour of the Driskill. I wasn’t told much I didn’t already know, but I was lent a big three-ring binder full of Driskill historical information. I then went to the Austin History Center and did more research. Now I’ve gotta digest about 150 pages of this stuff for my article.

I was gonna go to a movie at the Dobie Theatre, and rushed around like a madman to get there, only to find out they don’t have matinees during the week. What madness!

For you out-of-towners, Dobie Theatre is located inside two-story Dobie Mall, at the base of high-rise private dorm Dobie Towers, one block from the UT campus….

One of the residents then was smug cocksucker Michael Dell. I understand that until very recently the old dorm room where he founded Dell Computers was preserved like a goddamn shrine. What a cocksucker.

Anyway, today I went to grab a meal before the movie trip that never was, and the place was just crawling with Orientals, to the extent I expected a goddamn SARS epidemic to spontaneously break out at any moment.   

Tuesday―2/15/05—I got a laugh today at work. I was at the Circ. Desk and a teenage girl with not unsubstantial breastesses came in wearing a tight pink t-shirt that read, “I Heart Seth Cohen.” That made me giggle like a giddy school girl.

(For those of you who’ve been under a rock for two years, or whose knowledge of pop culture ends at “KC and the Sunshine Band,” “Seth Cohen” is a character on “The OC,” the 21st century’s equivalent of “90210.” He’s a geek/emo kid turned sex symbol, but he’s a Hollywood geek, which means he doesn’t have pimples, he doesn’t smell of stale pizza and dirty underwear, and he doesn’t wear a two-sizes-too-small “Warhammer”
t-shirt.)

I rented some movies at “Vulcan,” and once home I watched the delightful “Garden State” and the dark “Mean Creek.”

Wednesday―2/16/05—Watched “A Constant Forge,” a long documentary on John Cassavetes as film-maker.

Thursday―2/17/05—I was scheduled for yet another training seminar today―this one on customer service (yeah, like after 5 ½ miserable years in retail there’s anything new they can teach me about that!). The catch was they were holding it at the branch library out on Convict Hill Road, which is about as far southwest as you can go and still be in the city limits of Austin. I would have had to have left my apartment about 10:30am in order to get down there by bus by 1:30pm! And the road trip by bus would’ve totaled more than FIVE HOURS!!!

It turned out, though, that one of my co-workers was going to that thing, and my supervisor arranged for me to get a ride with her, thus shaving an hour and a half off my time. I was now to arrive at the Library at the normal time of noon, work an hour, then go with the co-worker at 1pm. As it turned out, the co-worker’s car broke down on Mopac on the way to the Library, and neither of us wound up going.

I had to make a lot of calls and arrangements in order to pacify the bloated bureaucracy of this stupid organization. I re-scheduled and signed up for the next class, in April, but it’s at 9:30 in the goddamn morning, albeit at a somewhat more convenient branch. So I’ll probably have to get up at the crack of dawn, put up with 2 ½ hours of that bullshit, and still put in a regular day of work. I hope I’m not still working at the Library by then.

Nyssa e-mailed me that her instructor in Brazilian jiu-jitsu had just finished writing an instructional book and needed somebody to edit it. I sent him an e-mail describing my current and past credits, and he sounded interested.

The funny thing is that in his e-mail he sound, “It sounds like you have some experience editing.”

“Some?”

I told Nyssa that reminded me of the story of when Fred Astaire took his first Hollywood screen test. A studio exec had made a notation on Astaire, “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Balding. Can dance a little.”

Friday―2/18/05—After work I went to UT, checked out some books (mostly on Robert E. Howard) from the PCL, then had some Korean food, and went to the Dobie Theatre to finally see what I’d planned to see Tuesday: “In the Realms of the Unreal.”

Back in July when James and Nyssa and I went down to San Antonio for a day trip, I had started lecturing about outsider artist Henry Darger at about 7 in the morning. A few weeks later I sent Nyssa some links about Darger and his work, and succeeded in totally creeping her out, and that’s no mean feat.

Darger was born in the 1890s and spent much of his childhood in orphanages and institutions for “feeble-minded children.” He eventually escaped and went back to his hometown of Chicago, where he spent the rest of his life working mostly as a hospital janitor.

Saturday―2/19/05—I kept my mind fairly numb today, and the day was largely without incident. I also amused myself at the expense of Carolyn, the perpetually-on-the-rag supervisor of my supervisor, by replacing “Kyle’s mom” with “Carolyn” when singing “Kyle’s Mom is a Bitch” (from the “South Park” movie)….

{CARTMAN
Weelll…

Kyle’s mom is a bitch, she’s a big fat bitch
She’s the biggest bitch in the whole wide world
She’s a stupid bitch, if there ever was a bitch
She’s a bitch to all the boys and girls! ….}

Sunday―2/20/05—My day off. I spent most of the day asleep, getting up briefly to do my Driskill article. The jiu-jitsu guy e-mailed me. It seems his girlfriend thinks she can edit his book herself. He said he’d keep me in mind for his other books, though.

I stayed awake long enough to go to the grocery store for some food and a Sunday paper. I got a talkative young female clerk who looked a bit like a chipmunk:

Clerk―So, getting some stuff on your way home?
JSB―No, actually this is the first time I’ve been outside all day. I’ve been writing.
Clerk―So, you’re a writer?
JSB―Yeah. Mostly on the side right now.
Clerk― (Seeing my breadsticks) Are these any good?
JSB―Are you implying that HEB would sell anything that wasn’t good?
Clerk― (Laughs)
JSB―Yes, I like them. After I quit smoking I got addicted to holding something long, cylindrical, and covered with sesame seeds in my hand.
Clerk―I love Italian food. I’d love to go to Italy someday.
JSB―Yeah, that would be nice. I knew a guy who lived a semester in Austin in an un-air-conditioned apartment so he could afford to go study Renaissance art in Florence.
Clerk―Did he do it?
JSB―I think so, but come to think of it, I’ve not seen him since he left for that, so he may’ve stayed there.

As I’d not been able to find a Sunday “New York Times,” later that night I checked their website. At the top of the page I saw a file photo of Hunter S. Thompson and let out a gasp: “Oh fuck!” I knew there was only one reason he’d be at the top of the page.

Monday―2/21/05—It was my day off. Just like Sunday, I kept getting up, then going back to bed after a couple hours. I did manage to get out of the house, go to Barnes & Noble, exchange a damaged books and buy a bunch of magazines, then went and made a lot of photocopies.

I had a weird dream where I was going to a college that was very military-obsessed, though it was not Texas A&M. I was one of the students who was not involved in the military.

My chief problem was figuring out what to do with my stuff in such a small space. My roomie was a cadet/ROTC-type, and I noticed him arching his eyebrow when he saw books like “The Che Guevara Reader” on the floor.

I spent a lot of time getting frustrated in a bemused way with all the gung-ho shit at the school. At one point I opened the blinds and saw a large white military helicopter parked in the lot a few feet from my window. A student was sitting in it, firing blanks into the trees with the helicopter’s machine guns.

I said to my roomie, “The problem with this school is everybody has too goddamn much ordnance and way too much free time.”

Then I saw a buddy of mine, dressed in a colonel’s uniform, drive by in a jeep, grinning like a Cheshire cat, and waving. I waved back and laughing called out, “What’s up, you magnificent bastard?!” I was pretty sure he caught the “Patton” reference.

Tuesday―2/22/05—When I got to work today I went to the staff men’s room on the 4th floor. Some Library muckety-muck, possibly the head of Accounting, was standing next to me at the urinal:

Library Dude―Mutter, mutter, mutter.
JSB―Pardon me?
LD―Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you….

It took a huge effort on my part not to reply, “Oh, I know. People are always mistaking my penis for someone else’s.”

To everyone’s amazement, Carolyn, the bitchy supervisor of my supervisor, decided to treat everyone to lunch today. But she took the usual cheapskate’s route—she ordered fucking pizza.

I waited on a patron whose name was listed as “Mister Goodman,” with no middle name or initial. I was just dying to ask if that was actually his real name. My bet, though, is that he’s some asshole with respect issues and maybe paranoia, who wants to insist people call him by that title.

Years ago a man moved in near my parents’s home in Bellville. My parents and their neighbors introduced themselves as “J____ B_____,” “G___ S____,” and so forth, but this guy gave his name as “Mister Smith.” That struck everyone as so pretentious and standoffish he became the laughingstock of the region.

After work I dropped off books at the UT Architecture Library and videos at Vulcan, then went home, napped, and worked three hours on my Hunter Thompson piece for “The Gazette.”

Wednesday―2/23/05—I was awake just long enough to go mail some things at the UPS Store, including a copy of my Cathedral piece to the Catholic Diocese press office, and a resume and clippings to some local hotel magazine I learned about. (The ad was vague, but it sounded like they needed writers and editors for a magazine produced here in town that apparently goes out to the hotel industry.)

Late at night I watched the fascinating “extras” disc of the John Cassavetes “Faces” DVD I rented last week.

There’s a brouhaha now that there are no blacks on the Michael Jackson jury. So what? He’s about as much a black person now as I am. Of course his connection to the rest of the fucking human race at this point is tenuous at best.

I got into an e-mail dispute with Max. I  sent him the op-ed tribute I wrote (and that he’d requested) on Hunter Thompson for his paper. He changed my title to something lame. I said I didn’t like it, then explained why I chose the title I did, and he got mad and said he wished I’d written on something like national health care or tort reform.

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