The Big 3-0

In the end, it came not with a bang but with a store-bought sheet cake and 30 trick candles, and a skate party, a bottle of very-shaken champagne (NOT Andre, for once), a large cluster of zits on the bottom left serif of a stubbornly persistent T zone (still?! I have crow’s feet! Crow’s feet and pimples were never meant to coexist on the same face at the same time! It ain’t natural!), and two greasy, barely-remembered slices of downtown pizza. The twenties ended not with a bang but with a two-day hangover.  

Thus your intrepid blogger entered the beginning of the fourth decade of her life, and it was good. Well, it was alright. It did feel a little weird punching in 3-0 when the elliptical machine at the YMCA asked for her age the next afternoon. It felt a little sad being drunk and awake and raccoon-eyed at 2 a.m. — not the glorious adulthood she had imagined as a child, at least. Weren’t there supposed to be babies, mortgages, shoulder pads?

For the most part, I like the idea of being a Woman In Her Thirties. I’m one of those people who’s felt 30 since she was nine, though I know everyone says that about themselves. Everyone likes to think they’re more mature than their gangly, goofy peers, more deserving of being the protagonist of a novel instead of the supporting character put there for comic relief. But I *have* always felt more serious than a lot of people my age, and now my body has finally caught up. My eyes have that tired, knowing look. When people look at me now they will know I am someone they can trust to pet sit, to keep secrets, to hold babies, to fix a collapsed meringue 35 minutes before the party starts.  

Ways In Which I’m Still Immature
– get nervous when people bring drugs out at parties
– tendency to overdrink (occasionally)
– seeming inability to pay bills on time, even when the money is in the bank
– internal motor that prevents me from sitting in a chair like a normal adult, i.e. not crouching in chair, but sitting in chair / i.e. not rolling on the floor with any pets that may be present, but sitting in chair 

Let 2014, the year I am 30, be my renaissance. It’s probably a good idea to get re-born every 30 years or so, anyway. I’m going to go into hibernation a bit to recover from the holidays, and then watch me emerge, Madonna-like, from my chrysalis of fudge and wrapping paper, a wholly new and improved Ingrid. A kinder, more thoughtful Ingrid. An Ingrid who, if nothing else, pays her utilities bill on time. 

 

I Was a Teenage Binge Eater

Tonight a friend dropped by to give me a bag o’ treats since I watched her cats last week. As I’m attempting to right the wrongs of Thanksgiving by eating only fresh, clean foods (“Better Living Through Celery Juice!”), I was desperately hoping those treats might be gross.

Treats are never gross, dear Reader. Never.

Thirty minutes later, the deed was done — all six homemade pumpkin donuts, co-mingling awkwardly in my belly with the other assorted sins of the day (spoiler alert: not celery juice). I lay or laid or lie (I’m an English major and never know which) on my back on the living room carpet, staring corpse-like into the middle distance — hating myself, hating life, hating my friend, hating her cats, hating the chemical magic that occurs every time sugar combines with fat in the warmth of an oven. Damn it. SIX DONUTS.

Six.
Donuts.

I’ll be 30 in less than three weeks. Is this how I want to spend the last few days of my 20s, frumpy and pot-bellied, unable to muster the basic self-discipline needed to stop at a reasonable, I dunno, THREE donuts, wasting 90% of my time slumped over a glowing screen reading about how I Know I’m a 90s Kid When?! Oh god, please do not get me started on Buzzfeed lists and the time I’ve wasted there.

You know those “Garfield without Garfield” comics someone made a while back? You take Garfield’s thought bubbles away [edit: apparently you take Garfield away completely. Well, this post makes more sense if you pretend Garfield is left in but his thought bubbles are taken out.] and you’re left with the saddest, loneliest man in the world. Jon the Bachelor, Jon the Perpetually Alone, Jon talking to no one at all, blissfully unaware of the tragedy his small life has become (blissful only because unaware!), spending his meager paychecks on novelty lapel flowers that squirt water, replacement drapes, lasagna ingredients, nothing! Bleak nothingness! Cat and dopey-tongued dog staring back uncomprehendingly! Oh, Jon!

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I had this thought the other day that the motions of our daily lives are oddly limited and contained and mostly focused around the little glowing screens of our phones, computers, tablets, and TVs (why am I writing so much anti-technology stuff lately? I don’t know. I honestly am not a Luddite in most areas of life. Long live Facebook!). If you don’t count the bigger motions that get us from home to work, from work to the gym, thirty minutes on the elliptical, fifteen on weights, etc., think about the movements we spend most of our days making: the tiny motions of fingers typing, wrist moving mouse, eyeballs following the line of text from one side to the next. How much of our lives do we spend engaged in these small, repetitive movements?

Then, considering this, I started thinking about what our lives would look like if we mapped them out in a comic panel and deleted all of our screens. Our lives are suddenly very empty-seeming: poor schmucks slouching over and staring into and talking and laughing and crying at nothing, only very rarely making a motion larger than a ctrl+alt+delete. We are hardly any less sad than Garfield without Garfield, if we’re being honest with ourselves; a bunch of Jons spending the panels of our lives loving something that will never love us back.

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Where did that Garfield-themed tangent come from?! I was just going to talk about how fat I’m becoming but took a wrong turn somewhere back at SIX DONUTS.

30. Eek.

Various Thoughts on the Night of the First Deep Freeze

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how do writers drink? all the authors i admire have notorious wine habits or tendencies to go on legendary drug benders (even Stephen King had his coke) (more importantly, do people who go on drug benders call it “going on drug benders”? this sounds somehow wrong), and here i sit, unable to make it through a half-glass of Two Buck Chuck (TBC) without my already loosely tied-together thoughts scattering like balloons on a windy day — balloons filled with important sentences and paragraphs and character motivations from what might’ve been a pretty decent novel. i’m jealous of people who can drink and write. it would be nice to be not fully present for the process, which is 10% joyous charge forward, 90% depressing, sulking backspace.

today the libraries were closed for veterans day, but i had to work anyway, helping with a big project at my branch switching the fiction and non-fiction. do you know how hard it is to move every single book in a library? you would think it would happen in a cheery Mary Poppins sort of way, but this is not how it went, to my dismay. instead it went like this: load every single book in the library onto carts, put every single book in the library on a new shelf, when three quarters done realize there was a horrible miscalculation somewhere, remove every single book in the library from the new shelf and replace on carts, move the entire collection of biographies to another portion of the library, replace every single book in the library on new old shelf. my wrists! my knees!

it’s finally cold here. tonight is the first deep freeze.

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deep thought (or maybe not — will re-read tomorrow and assess whether thought actually deep or not): everyone’s always freaking out about what will happen to these young people growing up in front of screens, posting photos of themselves on facebook, talking lewdly to 43 yr old algebra teachers via chat, etcetera, but i learned in a library meeting that teens are already turning away from facebook in droves, and it occurred to me that we need to worry about ourselves more than the young people. the young people will rebel from all these bad habits we’ve inadvertently (or advertently, one might argue) raised them with — just as the children born to conservatives in the 1950s rebelled and went back to the land as soon as they could (yes, and eventually became conservative stuffed shirts themselves, but that doesn’t fit in with my point, so moving on). the kids will move past it. it’s you and i who are tied to our screens for life, having been there at the renaissance of screens, at the start of it all. it’s you and i who will die with a phone pressed to our ears, texting even as loved ones gather around to say goodbye, making a final status update with palsied hands, that last clever thing we want to be known for saying before drifting off to the Great Beyond.

the kids will be fine.

Real Love

It’s wedding season in Missouri, which means every other Saturday I squeeze into my least runny pair of panty hose, line my eyes with expensive bat poop [is this a myth, or is eyeliner still made with sh*t??], and try to get a little extra life out of a dress that should’ve been put down seasons ago. I consume grotesque portions of foods containing what would be a week’s worth of calories for your average European. I accidentally eat veal. I dance with uncles and cousins, befriend moms, smile civilly at exes. I drink 1-5 drinks; and depending which end of that scale I land on, I either a) stand at the edges of the dance floor eating thirds of cake or b) do the Charleston to Al Green (if you have a weird picture in your head, good! my words have accurately conveyed my wedding dance style) until the DJ packs it up and the only people left are assorted drunk aunts, the weeping bride, and her coterie of consolatory friends.

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Me at every wedding.

Hell, I love a good wedding. And I love love. I’m no codger when it comes to romance.
Cell phones at the dinner table? Show some respect, you @#&ing twerps!
Loud music after 11? I’ve got the cops on speed dial and p.s. Skrillex has stupid hair!
Miley and Justin? Ugh, get off my lawn! And stop being so naked! And tongues are a shameful body part, certainly nothing to be proud of!

But love is beautiful, and there should be as much of it as possible. Gay love, straight love, old love, young love (though not love before the age of 23 — I shake my fist at thee and express doubt that what you’re feeling is actually love and not Sex). Some weddings are just like: Eh, yawn, you’re welcome for the bamboo colander. Now gimme some cakeBut some weddings are affairs of big, true, Real Love. When this happens, it’s obvious in the way the couple beam at each other. There’s, like, I dunno, something going on with the eyes there that you can’t fake. (And trust me — I’ve tried. Alone, in the bathroom mirror.)

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Tangentially: I’m so happy that gay marriage is a juggernaut in our country right now, barreling from one court to the next and taking very few prisoners. Illinois just fell. ILLINOIS. Which, as you might know, is not comprised solely of Chicago. All these conservative rural people now live in a state where love is encouraged and celebrated. Real Love — the beam-y, eye-thingie type. Ha!

Where was I going with this? I dunno. Last weekend was my beloved cousin’s wedding, and tomorrow is an old, dear friend’s. I’ve known her since we were little bebes splashing around in plastic kiddie pools together. The love between her and her man seems to be the real kind, and I can’t wait to attend her rock-n-roll wedding tomorrow and shower her with gifts of kitchenware and eat a bunch of cake and possibly — okay, probably — dance the Charleston.

Say a word for Lou Reed

There comes a moment in every young woman’s life when she has to break from the Beatles and Moody Blues of her childhood and start thinking about drugs and consider wearing dark eyeliner. I was 19 and completely devoid of freakiness, wearing tapered jeans and calling my mom back on Sundays, when I bought a used copy of “Velvet Underground” from CD Warehouse.

Laying on the living room floor of my first apartment, summer of ’02, listening to these songs over and over, thinking about boys I couldn’t have and art I was too scared to make, I felt myself becoming a different sort of person, track by track. Lou Reed taught me how to be an adult — or what I thought was an adult, but which turned out to be the part just before adulthood, the part where you make most of your mistakes. It was important, I guess.

Life in Siberia

Let me tell you about my first week on the new job, in list format.

– My office (how excited I was to have an office!) is in an unfinished corner of the basement, next to the boiler room. It smells like damp socks, my childhood asthma is acting up again because of it, and there are thick bundles of cords hanging dangerously from the ceiling, but it’s mine, dammit. (*proud sniff*) Black mold appears to be growing in one corner, but after filling out the proper work orders and getting approval from their boss who got approval from his boss, Buildings & Grounds has confirmed that it is not actually black mold. I’ll put a plant in front of it.

– A group of older homeless men and one older woman come in almost every day and sit at the round reading table. They talk about food, all day long, and it’s the saddest thing. They describe, in sensuous detail, a ham sandwich they once ate, the corned beef their mothers made when they were children, the quality of the Thanksgiving dinners at various local churches. They talk about it reverently, like soldiers in the trenches describing home. They seem to enjoy describing food almost as much as if they were eating it — as if the right words could conjure up a big, steaming hot meal right there at the reading table.

– Found 17 syringes and a spoon in an open McDonald’s bag behind the utility box in front of the building yesterday.

– Our library partners with a local organization that makes sure homeless women have a safe place to sleep each night, and these women start coming in with their luggage in the afternoon after the sketchy veteran’s center around the corner closes for the day (“sketchy” because it’s not government sanctified, there appears to be no organizational infrastructure [sort of an inmates running the asylum sort of thing], and, once, a woman came to the library saying she’d been beaten up there). Except for some hygiene issues, the women with this program are generally model patrons, sitting at the tables reading books (imagine!) and keeping to themselves. But there is one woman who just sits at the table closest to the reference desk, staring in front of her and periodically laughing at nothing. “What is it?” I asked her once, on my first day, and she shot me a look that suggested I’d just insulted her recently deceased grandmother. Note to self: do not ask patrons why they are laughing at nothing.

– Met a patron named Dumpster Dan (that’s how he introduced himself) who said Uriah Heep was his first real concert and asked what mine was, but when I started to answer [The Decemberists circa 2002 if you must know, Dumpster Dan. JEEZ.] he talked over me like he’d already forgotten the question, complaining that the sound on his computer was broken. When a patron says something is broken, 9 times out of 10 it means that they are just confused about a very simply process. Showed him where the volume toggle was and he proceeded to happily watch Uriah Heep videos for the rest of his hour.

– Female patron dressed as Batman, sitting at the computer checking her Facebook.

– Seriously, I feel bad for those of you who don’t get to work with librarians. Librarians are the weirdest, most interesting lot of kooks, and my new co-workers are among the weirdest and most interesting I’ve met. Since our branch is located way over on the north side of town, far away and forgotten (for the most part) by library administration, there’s a sort of isolated, Siberian feel to our building. Anything goes. Fashion choices that would’ve been cause for write-up when I worked at the main branch flow freely out here. There’s the herbalist who wears pentagrams. Actually, there are two herbalists who wear pentagrams. Cleavage and hoodies abound. None of the other managers seem to observe the dress code (which tells us to always wear a suit coat), which is great since I’ve never managed to pull off shoulder pads without feeling like a kid in mommy’s wardrobe.

– I asked a co-worker (one of the herbalists) if there were any ghosts haunting this old building and she went to her desk and dug out a CD mysteriously labeled: “J.R. GHOST HUNTER. EVIDENCE OF THIS LIBRARY.” I guess a ghost hunting group set up camp here a while back. I can’t wait to watch this disc; saving it for Halloween.

– Apparently changing from air conditioning to heat is a massive, two-day project, so the temperature inside the library has been more or less what it is outside this whole week. My hands and the top of my nose are always cold. There aren’t enough cardigans in the world.

This Blog Just Got A Lot More Library

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“Say, chappies, have you ever seen such a meteoric and dizzying rise in status [we’re Brits, so pronounce it ‘stay-tus’] as all this?!”

Dear Readers, I have formally advanced into the magical world of meetings and red tape and politics known, in modern English vernacular, as Middle Management.

Thanks to positive karma (earned from letting people with less stuff in their shopping cart butt in front of me in line at the grocery store), a few years of decently hard work, some haphazardly-laid plans, a bunch of dumb library school papers, and a dose of old fashioned good luck, I have transcended directly from lowly part-time peon (no offense to my fellow peons…’tis a noble, underpaid profession) to Reference Manager Supreme.

REFERENCE MANAGER. SUPREME. (<– though I added the “supreme,” on account of its sounding important and fancy.)

Tuesday will be my first day in my new position at the “new” branch, which is actually the oldest branch in town — a Carnegie library with a slightly unfortunate late-90s makeover that I choose to believe has it’s own ghost creeping about somewhere amongst all the sleeping homeless people.

Twenty-seven years ago, more or less to the day, I appeared on the front page of the local newspaper dressed as a zebra and sitting on the floor of this very library, too distracted by whichever picture book the librarian was reading and dangerous levels of Halloween sugar coursing through my young veins to notice the camera. And now instead of the zebra I’m the librarian!

Full circle.

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On Friday nights Margie let loose her silver curls and sipped brandy freely while reading the latest non-fiction, and she always swore to herself if Geoffrey came calling she would not turn him down this time — no, she would not turn him down at all.

We’ll see how this goes. I’m nervous and excited and nervous, but I guess the worst that can happen is that I fail miserably and get fired and have to start from scratch as an accountant or a plumber or perhaps the firing will be the final blow to my self-esteem and I’ll have to move back in with my mom and recover slowly and she’ll wheel me out each morning onto the lawn with a rug on my lap so I can get some fresh air and all the neighbors will say “Remember when Ingrid was vibrant and young?”…and…and…and. Well, let’s not think this through to the end. I CAN’T fail. I must succeed!