Thursday, September 29, 2005

Quiet in the stacks...

I am sitting here in my quiet library, admiring all the students who are studying so earnestly. Some have been here for hours. And of the last 10 who have left for the evening? Nine have thanked me, even if I didn’t do anything directly to help them. I guess they’re saying thanks for being open, thanks for making people turn off their cell phones in here, thanks for giving me a place that is quiet and still so I can absorb all this information and take my place in running this world one day.

I’m sooooo sentimental.

It makes me nostalgic for college. I’m one of those weirdoes whose nostalgia doesn’t revolve around parties and drunken nights (although I won’t say I didn’t participate willingly in a few of those). I get nostalgic for the days when I holed myself away in the darkest, tiniest nook in the library stacks, memorizing and highlighting and thinking. I loved it when the new schedule of classes was published and I could run my eyes over the hundreds of interesting classes I could take. I signed up for things like cultural ecology and gerontology, and a history class that was taught entirely in Spanish, just because I was curious. I often took 18 or more credit hours, because anything over 15 was free.

I was really into college. I WAS that girl in the slick promotional booklets, standing in the center of the green, green quad, clutching a stack of books to her chest, breathing deep the wonderful aroma of learning.

What, you thought they hired a professional for that gig?

But seriously, I appreciated every minute that I was there. I appreciated the fact that my parents enabled me to be there. And since I couldn’t stay in college or grad school forever, I guess my job is the next best thing. Because I really do learn something new every single day. And nothing I file away in my brain ever goes to waste here, because there’s always a library patron who needs it.

The library is still quiet. I just heard someone turn a page.

And we’ll be closing soon, so you’ll have to excuse me for now. I have to shut down the computers and put away the books and journals. I’ll move the chairs back to where they belong. I’ll wake up the student who fell asleep in his anatomy book and send him home. I’ll turn off all the lights. And then I’ll lock the doors on my way out, so that all these wonderful tomes will be safe until tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


I was tagged by Bearette sometime last week, but I was in such a state of stress that I was in no shape for math. And when you see what "math" the challenge involves, I know I will look like a total idiot.

Here it is:

1) Delve into your blog archive.
2) Find your 23rd post (or closest to)
3) Find the fifth sentence (or closest to)
4) Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions
5) Tag five people to do the same.

And my sentence was.... (drumroll, please!)

"My insides are really churning!"


So who am I tagging? Anyone who wants to do it. Come on, math whiz or not, anyone can play! Just leave a note if you do so I can come and laugh at your sentence.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Of planting and ranting

This past weekend I spent a happy Sunday buying and planting flowers. I scrubbed very hard, but I still have dirt under the fingernails. I also found dirt in the pockets of my jeans, in my eyes, and under the band of my watch. When hubby and I had to run an errand that afternoon, I imagined that I looked like Pigpen, with a brown cloud hovering over me. Hubby joked, “Cleanup in aisle 4… and 5… and 6… damn, just follow that filthy girl around with the broom.”

Last time I went to buy plants and seeds, it was in the spring. I was ecstatic, as I always am when I go to the nursery, because buying plants and seeds means that it is not winter. I despise winter. So I was walking towards the store, happily picturing what I was going to buy and looking forward to burying my whole face in the basil plants.

However, an unfortunate incident bummed me out before I got to touch my first flat of petunias. A woman in a SUV pulled up to the loading zone and proceeded to sit there with the engine idling. This annoyed one customer, who found that he could not push his cart over to the roses because the SUV had pulled up very close to all the merchandise.

The customer must have said something to the SUV driver, because all of a sudden I hear the woman screaming and hurling filthy, filthy profanity at this poor guy. To his credit, he walked away from the SUV and didn’t feed the fire. But all the customers (myself included) were staring at the SUV with our mouths hanging open. Because it went on and on.

I was further horrified when I saw that this woman’s son, who looked to be about seven, was sitting in the backseat. All I could think was that this was this little boy’s training for Acceptable Adult Behavior. And one day he’s going to cuss me out or run me off the road when I do something to piss him off on 295. Such as use my blinker.

(little side story: in Italy we met a guy from North Carolina who said, “Wow! I don’t know anyone who lives in your area on purpose!”)

So every time I’ve returned to that store I’ve thought about CrazyAss Potty-Mouth SUV Driver and her poor, poor kid. And that puts a little damper on my plant extravaganza.

But on when I went there on Sunday morning? I observed a father holding his little daughter’s hand as they carefully crossed the street. A CrazyAss Honda Civic Driver came speeding around the corner and WAS NOT PLEASED to see gasp! pedestrians crossing the street. He yelled something unpleasant at the father. Then I heard this:

Daughter: Daddy, that man yelled at you.

Daddy: Yes, he did.

Daughter: But you didn’t yell.

Daddy: Nope. Just because someone yells at you, that’s no reason to be mean.

That man came veeeery close to getting a spontaneous hug from a CrazyAss plant lover.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I once was lost, but now am found

Okay, here are a couple more odd search engine queries that have brought people to Quiet in the Stacks.

First was a search in Blogger for "italy toilet". That was courtesy of my husband, who couldn't remember the URL for this site and wisely utilized two sure-fire search terms to find me.

Second, someone used a well-known search engine to look for "I hate chain mails about jesus". And bam, there I was! That, on top of another strange search that brought up my blog, has me questioning my contribution to this world.

So while people are finding me because of searches based on Satan and Jesus email hate, I'm not evil.

I swear.

Tomorrow I fully expect to find that someone has found my blog with this search string:

"Liz is a devil-worshipping child abuser. And she's always in the damn bathroom."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Venice in Pictures (and a few words)

As I said, Venice was a beautiful city. Of all the places we traveled, I could see myself living there. But then our neighbor pointed out that I've never been there for the worst of the summer when it's sweltering hot and the streets are flooded and the canals are stinky and you just want to kill yourself, you're so miserable, and I said, "Oh well, I'll just go to Florence for those 3 months, you killjoy."

It was beautiful, and not too hot, and not at all stinky during the time that we were there. And it's my kind of place. Laid back, plenty of old buildings, petunias and geraniums decorating every balcony, and very romantic at night. And the windows-- they're all open and you would be hard-pressed to find screens in any of them. Every stroll down a narrow street brought you the sounds of televisions, and laughter, and music. Every window seemed to have something sitting on display: a bowl of fruit, a pair of shoes, a birdcage with parakeets in it. And people really do lean through the windows and watch the scene on the streets below, just like you see in movies and photograhs.

And? I never thought I would get such a thrill out of watching other someone else's laundry dry on a clothesline, but I did.

And here are my two favorite Venice pictures from my long-awaited, brilliant series, "Animals of Italy":

These two cracked me up. They stood on the balcony and barked at all the big dogs that walked by. I named them Yip and Yap.

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Monday, September 19, 2005

International Toilet Search 2005

Our trip to Italy may henceforth be known by this title, since it seemed like all I did was search for bathrooms in Italy, from Venice to Capri.

I'm the kind of person who instinctively takes inventory of all available facilities wherever I go. Even when hiking I'm always on the look-out for areas with particularly lush foliage, just in case. I don't know if it's because I drink more water than most or because my bladder is the size of a thimble, but I spend about 75% of my waking hours in search of places to pee.

I panicked when I heard that public bathrooms are few and far between in Italy. Kind of like when I have a long flight and I'm in the window seat? As soon as I get on I'm wondering if I can make it to the final destination without having to go. Because for some reason I'd almost rather die than ask that stranger on the aisle to get up for five minutes. And what if that person falls asleep? A bathroom trip is TOTALLY OUT OF THE QUESTION.

So wherever we went in Italy, I was taking note of possibilities. And friends? There were not many.

Venice was our first stop and I quickly discovered that the McDonald's close to San Marco's had a bathroom. Only problem? After using it once, I was never able to find that McDonald's again. If you've been to Venice, you might remember that the streets are tiny, winding, and very confusing. Our hotel was out in the less-touristy Cannaregio area, so we had a good hike to the center of the city.

After trying to be discreet and find our way without looking like total tourists, we gave up and just marched around with our big, laminated map flying out in front of us like a flag (laminated! in case it falls in a canal!). And we weren't the only ones. Despite painstaking navigational exercises, we still got lost almost every single time. There was a lot of exclaiming, "How the hell did we get all the way out here!" But Venice, it is beautiful. And if getting lost on those lovely streets was my biggest problem, I considered myself lucky.

My first ever encounter with pay toilets was down by the San Marco waterfront. We always kept "Liz's Emergency Euro" in hubby's pocket, just in case. You put your money in and these plexiglass doors in front of you allow you to enter the Land of Relief. When you're done, you push a red button and the doors open to let you out. And since the same doors are used for both entrance and exit, you had a lot of bandit bathroom users who tried to jump through the doors without paying.

You may be relieved to know that I did not take pictures of any bathrooms in Italy. I planned to, actually, thinking that it would be funny to put some framed black and white prints in my bathroom at home. You know, toilet-themed decoration. But I couldn't find anything even remotely camera-worthy, even when I was trying to be avant-garde. So future visitors, be advised: you will NOT be required to look at pictures of Italian toilets when you use my powder room.

Now, I have a lot more to write about Italy, but I thought I should start with what was foremost on my mind during the trip. Now that it's out of the way, future posts will likely have less to do with the alarming frequency of my bodily functions. You may all thank the Lord.

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My Name is Satan

Okay, I promise I will post pictures and stories from Italy very soon, but first I have to take a quick moment to tell you that someone found my blog by typing "my name is satan" into a search engine.


Friday, September 16, 2005

A toast

I don't want to dwell on this too much, since I know everyone's heard plenty about Katrina and the devastation in New Orleans and good lord, does Anderson Cooper ever take a break? He's standing in ankle-deep water and squinting into the camera every time I turn on CNN.

We got to talk to my father-in-law last night, and he and his wife have lost pretty much everything. They went back to their house last week to see if there was anything to be salvaged, but it's all gone. But at least they were able to get out before the storm hit, and they are physically (if not emotionally) okay. I know many families were not as lucky. At least they have insurance, unlike many. At least they'll be able to put their lives back together eventually.

How I cry when I see the news on TV! I imagine arriving where my house once stood and finding all my worldly possessions stripped away. At first that made me feel like the biggest hypocrite in the world, because I've always prided myself on being non-materialistic. But I realized eventually that it's not just about losing things. It's about losing things that hold memories, things that represent hard work, and love, and people you hold dear. I would mourn the loss of irreplaceable pictures. Of my dining room table, where family and friends have gathered so many times. The antique ring that my grandfather gave my grandmother decades ago. The journals I kept since elementary school. The spaces where I celebrated, and cried, and envisioned my future.

And what it really makes me realize is this: if I were to lose everything, I'd hope like hell I'd invested as much in myself as I had in my home, bank account, and job. Because when everything else is stripped away, what you're left with is you.

So here's to making memories and living life to the fullest. To being happy with the person you are, and being at peace with the way you've lived your life. To being kind. To loving. To taking chances, making changes, and collecting experiences that can't be washed away.

To life.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

I'm baaaaack....

...and I didn't offend anyone in Italian!

We are back from Italy and we had a GREAT time. It surpassed my expectations on so many levels. I have lots of great and funny stories to recount, which I'm sure I will find more hilarious than anyone else. As usual.

I am also so tired that I'm amazed I've been brash enough to use multisyllabic words such as "surpassed" and "expectations". I really have no business trying to spell or form coherent sentences. When I woke up a few minutes ago? I thought I was on a boat in the Bay of Naples. As I became more conscious and looked across the darkened room, it registered that the bathroom was now to my right, instead of to the left as it had been in our last hotel room. I concluded that I must have been sleeping upside down.

I am now fully aware of my location, but don't ask me what time it is.

So as soon as I can catch a nap and upload my five thousand pictures, I'll have lots more to share from the trip. I know many of you will look forard to my coming photographic series titled "Animals of Italy", which I'm sure will sweep the nation and be shown in many prestigious galleries. Because what's more interesting than a picture of a dog sitting on the sidewalk? A picture of a dog sitting on a sidewalk in Italy!

But first there is the small matter of collecting this dog from The Lap of Luxury, also known as his kennel. If I leave now, I think I'll only have to wait two hours for the owner to let me in.

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