Monthly Archives: February 2010

En Anglais

Today I’m being all Oprah and deliberately counting my blessings. The one that sticks out just at the moment is:

I am now able to preface things that are delicate or difficult to express using the rhetorical phrase, “How shall I put this?” without my first husband interrupting, “In English! HAHAHAHA!”

Yup, every time.

For almost a decade.

It’s not like I don’t have annoying habits of my own. In fact, I have so many that I store most and rotate them with the seasons. The government has asked if I wouldn’t mind keeping some in a secure storage facility outside of Los Alamos.

Weapons of mass annoyingness which I possess:

A tendency to cry, “Awesome sauce!” when pleased by things at work. Brad, our social-media guru at the book store, says that this may be construed as a drug reference by our younger patrons. I am secretly gratified, and like to think this either makes me the “cool, edgy bookseller” in our small, suburban town, or that I am scaring kids straight (Dude, see that chick in the cardigan? That could be you).

A wicked caffeine addiction which renders me unable to process such elementary thoughts as, “Do these socks match?” before two cups of coffee.

An utter disregard for people’s beer preferences. You don’t like Rolling Rock? Bring your own.

The thorough conviction that more is more, and that red sequins can be tasteful.


I talk to myself a lot of the time.

I have an intense loathing for all versions of the song, “Over the Rainbow.”

And, I am one of those women who will approach total strangers who happen to be walking a dog, squeal inanities like, “Ooh, the schnoogums!” and proceed to pat and talk to the animal for as long as a full minute before looking up at the person and shamefacedly saying, “Hi.”

It’s not like I’m perfect.

But I do try not to interrupt.

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Parking with the Dead

Today I had a meeting on the campus of Kent State University. Though around here, Kent is known for its excellent public radio station and for black squirrels (escapees from an experiment), lots of people know it for the shootings.

In 1970 the National Guard came out, shot some demonstrating students, and killed four. I provide this information in case you are too young to listen to Crosby Stills Nash (& Young) songs and remain unaware of this.

In a strange compromise between pretending the whole thing never happened and memorializing the students, Kent State University erected black pylons in the parking lot where students were hit, a little square of black posts marking each victim’s place at the time of the shooting.

But it’s still a parking lot.

So as I went to meet my client at the Kent State University Library, that’s where I parked. Why? Because my friend Marsha, who works there said, “Here’s a parking pass,” and gave me a hang-tag for my car. “Park in the lot where they shot people.”

Oh, that one…

The fact is, I’ve lived in this part of Ohio for a while now, and I’ve even been to the annual May 4th remembrances of the whole awful thing, and so I knew right where she was talking about. On the 4th, when all the hubbub is going on, there are no cars and the atmosphere is sort of reverent and a little rowdy – with overtones of “Down with The Man.” The rest of the time it’s just a parking lot. With what look like hitching posts grouped in some of the spaces. If you didn’t know better, you would think they were marking off areas to fill in potholes.

I sort of wonder what people on campus visits think — prospective students and their parents, visiting dignitaries, new professors — “hey, what’re those?” they might ask.

“Oh, that’s where the National Guard killed some people.”

“In the parking lot?”

“Uh huh.”

But not just anybody can park with the dead. Without a pass, they’ll tow you.

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Awesome Neighbor of the North

This morning I trudged out through a foot and a half of snow to un-bury my car from the drift in the driveway. I live in the Midwest. I should be used to this by now.

 I’m not.

 So there I am, shoveling the driveway (only the part behind the car. I am lazy that way) in my winter bookselling attire (a.k.a. how many layers can I fit under a skirt, boots and a cardigan today?), when my neighbor comes across the street with her snowblower to talk to me.

 I’m on my way to work, the roads are lousy – I have to be rude & keep shoveling as I talk to her.

 She says, “Mary, I’d love to help you, but you’ve got a gravel drive. Merwin could have done it when he was alive, but I just can’t make the blower work on gravel.”

 My neighbor is an 80 year old widow. And she’s apologizing for not being able to help dig out my driveway.

 My neighbor is awesome.

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Return of the Wallpaper: This Time It’s Personal

Did you know that there is *special* wall paper paste, specifically designed to put up wallpaper borders with? Did you know that it’s extra-sticky, so it will adhere to the smooth finish found on most wallpaper? The idea is that if you’re putting up a border, you’re probably wallpapering the rest of the wall in a complementary pattern, because there is just not enough wallpaper stuck on the planet already and you should, if possible, try to incorporate into your every aesthetic scheme.

Guess what happens when somebody who doesn’t care to delve too deeply into the Wonderful World of Wall Decor applies a wallpaper border with the aforementioned, extra-sticky, special borders-only adhesive directly to a non-wallpapered wall.

Yes. It means I am still picking paste out of my hair.

Removing wallpaper is a dirty job. There is a reason that guy in central park used fabric *and not wallpaper* for his installation.

Below: a much needed public awareness campaign.

Wallpaper: Just Say No.

This is Your Brain on Wallpaper (The graphic here is self-explanatory, I think. It involves a .45)

Wallpaper Linked to Baldness, Impotence and Cellulite, say scientists.

Children Exposed to wallpaper as infants show signs of Impaired Taste by age 3.

Certain wallpapers retard the growth of houseplants.

9 out of 10 Skeezy Guys at The Bar say wallpaper offends even them.

Little known fact: When Harvard divested in South Africa years ago to show opposition to Apartheid, it also removed all wallpaper from its campus.

Waterboarding, Wallpaper. They don’t sound alike for nothing.

Thinking about removing wallpaper as a DIY project? I say, just get a sledge & knock down the damn wall. Easier, cheaper, much more fun.

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Wallpaper: it’s not just the yellow kind that’ll make ya’ crazy

Removing Wallpaper

Just in case you are considering taking any wallpaper down soon and were thinking that maybe solvent technology had advanced to the point where you could buy some kind of solution at the hardware store that would make this easy, I can from personal experience tell you, “not so much.”

 There is nothing that will take off wallpaper except hot water and a lot of work. The blue stuff that you buy in the hardware store may promise you otherwise, but it is not so. That nasty blue stuff is just leading you down the garden path.

 What *will* the blue stuff take off? Your manicure, your fingerprints and ultimately most of the skin on your hands. In addition to this it will leave tiny droplets of dark blue on your walls that will resist all attempts at scrubbing them off and then have to be painted over twice because, “oh look, you can see these little blue spots through the paint.”

 This blue stuff often comes with a weird little circular device fitted with toothed wheels. Sounds kinky, no? I hope it is, because its stated purpose of “scoring” the wallpaper so that the blue stuff will penetrate deep into the congealed paste below the paper without damaging the actual wall is, plainly, a lie. If you run little toothed wheels over your wall you will have little tooth-shaped holes in your wall. It is that simple. You will then have to spackle over said holes. Of course, you’ll have to scrub the walls first, because otherwise the spackle will not stick. So sad…

 Then you will realize that, all things considered, that worked for shit & take out your putty knife to sort of scrape the wallpaper away. This should really only be done in 20 minute increments, because otherwise you will get so frustrated at your inability to remove very much wallpaper this way at all that you start to engage the walls with a heavy hand. Plaster will be gouged out — in small dings at first, and then with increasing depth and regularity. Now you have to go to the store to buy joint compound because spackle will just not cut it for the cratery mess you have made of your wall. On the way to the hardware store you will think two things:

 1) That wallpaper paste, because of its supremely tenacious power, should obviously be reserved for use in the space program.

 2) You can’t take off wallpaper. How sad is that? Is this what you got that graduate degree for? How can a person, unable even to remove wallpaper, be expected to form lasting or meaningful relationships?

 You will then dissolve in tears in the parking lot at Home Depot, believing that perhaps what you need is a jumbo box of rat poison. The moral here: Do not put wallpaper up ever. It may be your own life you save.

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Mary’s Bad Marketing Awards 2008: The Year of Misleading Cover Art

In Which a Bookseller Tries to Sell Good Books with Awful Covers

The Chief offenders:

“The Wilde Women” by Paula Wall, from Washington Square Press: The cover makes this look like a panting, heaving bodice-ripper. In fact, it is a well written story about a quirky, southern family with romance and a good portion of humor thrown in. An ideal beach read for the thinking woman.*

“The Gargoyle,” Andrew Davidson from Doubleday – due August 5th: This book looks like some kind of weird, goth, vampires-in-love saga. Not so. Actually, an amazing feat of literature. Redemption without sentimentality. A haunting paen to Dante and a ticket to other times. My favorite book this year.

“Madapple” by Christina Meldrum from Knopf: Looks like “Carrie Part II: Now I’m Really Pissed.” In reality, a lyrical examination of family relationships and identity with a fascinating narrator. Marketed as a teen novel, this book is for everyone and belongs alonside its literary fiction peers with “Before I Die” by Jenny Downham (another brilliant novel unfairly relegated to the teen realm).

*I can include this one since it came out in paperback this year & so the publisher had a chance to Make Things Right.

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The Dog Who Goes “Squee”

*** You should know that the small lizard in the web comic, “Sheldon” also goes Squee! Please visit to enjoy some very funny strips. ***

I have dog. A big, ferocious looking dog. A dog that weighs more than me when I’m in very good shape. This dog is tough. Toddlers ride him. He can pull me down 3 city blocks without even thinking about it. He feels that the neighbors’ boxer-mixes are just there to be eaten, like so many hors d’oeuvres on a leash.

He scratches his ear for a while and then he scratches it too hard and he goes: Squee!

He wants to go out, but only if I go with him, and when I don’t he goes: Squee!

He wants me to get up early and feed him, but not so much that he’s willing to get off the bed. He just rolls over so that he’s squashing me & goes: Squee!

You cut his toenails: Squee!

You try to put goo from the vet in his ear: Squee!

You are on the phone and not, at the moment, taking him for a walk: Squee!

These are heartrending cries. Sounds that make you think, “What’s going on? Some tiny, Hallmark-TV-Star-puppy must be trapped in the storm drain! Quick! Do something!”

He can bark fiercely when he wants to. Mostly he wants to at cats and deer. And woe to any scary, carnivorous deer who lurk on the other side of our backyard fence. They will be barked at. And then some. And then the dog who goes Squee! will look at you as if to say, “Did you see? I chased the deer away! They’re gone! Look! Let me out so I can chase them!” I have no doubt that, should we ever be plunged into extremes of hunger and poverty, I could course deer with the dog and our house would become known as venison central.

The dog who goes Squee! is a sight to behold, striking terror into new neighbors who ask, “Is he friendly?” from a distance.

This dog is a very sweet marshmallow.


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