Have you heard of not peddling religious texts in a public library?

So, yes, yet again, I was at the damn public library trying to get some writing done. If you are familiar with my other library rants — found under the, Have You Heard Of? menu tab at cerealaftersex.com — you’ll know I always seem to run into some kind of trouble or annoying distraction at my local library.

Well today was no different as some miniature Ralph Malph mofo from the Happy Days universe in Milwaukee appears out of nowhere and starts talking to me. I’m sitting there all alone at a private booth with ear buds on, minding my own business, listening to music of high vibration and positive energy, and typing away at my laptop. I give him a perturbed look, remove my ear buds and say “What?”

He starts in on how’s he’s selling books to raise money for something or whatever, I really didn’t catch that part because he was talking so damn fast, and he starts showing them to me and they’re all books about God and living a godly life and going to church and having abundant joy and so on and so on… And then he had a book about Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., too, and I was like “You know he was all about civil rights and equality for all people and an admirer of Gandhi.” And the kid was like, “Yeah, of course I know that… He was also a Baptist minister and had a strong Christian faith so that kind of cancels out the other things.”

As soon as he went on talking, I put up a hand and said, “I’m really not interested.” He gave me a butt hurt look and immediately walked away mumbling something about me being a “Jerk who lacks true faith.”

I had initially heard the boy, who sounded like a girl, talking to someone else in the booth behind me and I seriously thought he was giving an oral book report to a teacher or something but then he just kept dropping the word God and so I thought maybe he was a student at a religious school. Nope. He was trying to sell religious books to people in the public library. Has the whole separation of church and state thing just gone completely out the window?

How the fuck is this allowed? I guarantee if some kid was running around the public library trying to sell Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim texts, people would lose their minds — kind of like how Al Pacino does when he sees a cantaloupe.

Now, the kid can sell religious books out his ass if he wants, I have no problem with that, but at least do it in the proper forum. And I guess I can’t completely blame the kid because there is probably some oblivious nut-job adult behind the whole scheme. Yeah! Sure! It’s a library. The library has books. What a perfect place to try and sell books! I don’t know. Maybe during a book sale? Outside? I surely don’t appreciate someone coming up to me while I am trying to get some work done for my heartfelt, yet edgy and subversive literary website, and push religious books on me. I don’t go to his church on Sundays and try to drum up followers for cerealaftersex.com. Are you kidding? They’d have me sent directly to hell without passing GO. And all without reading one word of my work. Kind of like passing judgment without reading the Bible. That’s called a zinger.

Now, you’ll have to forgive me if I am coming off as a bit harsh today, but it’s not been the best day. I have chemical imbalance issues that no one has really figured out the proper remedy for and so I have days where I lose my shit, get dark and withdrawn, and am generally not very pleasant to be around. I’m also upset about not being very successful. That’s really been buggin’ me lately. I may end up working in the sporting goods section at WalMart next week. No offense if you work in the sporting goods section at a WalMart. It was the first thing that came to me.

Anyways, I’m all about equal rights and religious liberty and all that jazz. If that’s what you believe and the way you want to live, fine, have at it, but don’t try to push it off on me, especially when I’m writing bitchy op-ed pieces at the public library. So, there you go mini Ralph Malph, go be giddy about God and sell your books until you’re heavenly blue in the face, just do it somewhere else.   

And even though I shot him down like an autumn mallard dancing in a blue sky, at least the kid probably has a bright future in missionary work… come to think of it, so do I.


Child of the Cabbage (Ep. 1)

Photographer: Reuben R. Sallows (1855 – 1937)

Gracelyn Polk sat in the Cabbage Junction Public Library reading about the Napoleonic Wars from an old, oversized book.

She sat at a large table by herself surrounded by high shelves filled with thick and important volumes, just like the one spread open wide before her. Her muddied golden eyes intensely scanned the large pages, and then she licked at a fingertip and turned to the next ones.

“I see. How interesting,” she said aloud to herself.

Sunlight streamed in through long, narrow windows situated at the top of the outside walls. The beams bathed Gracelyn in a yellow, angelic glow as if she were dead and doing her homework in Heaven.

But Gracelyn Polk was very much alive, and had been for 413 years now, even though at the moment, she was really just a girl of 11 and the smartest sixth grader at Cabbage Junction Primary School.

She looked up at the ceiling and smiled to herself as she thoughtfully spoke to the air. “I just love history. It’s just so fascinating – especially when you’ve lived through so much of it as I have.”

When the girl decided she had had enough of the Napoleonic Wars, she closed the big book, clumsily lifted it, and returned it to its waiting space on a nearby shelf. She slapped her hands together as if knocking off dirt. “My, my. Books are so heavy and take up so much space… And so much paper.”

She suddenly felt very small surrounded by all the high shelves of books. It was very quiet in the library as it should be. She glanced up toward the windows and could tell the light of day was beginning to fade. A red wasp angrily danced against the glass. She retrieved her cell phone from a deep pocket in her pink sweats and pulled it out. She held it up before her face, smiled, and took a selfie. “I don’t know why I do that,” she said to no one. “I’m such a hot mess.” She looked at her phone again – no messages, no calls, no energy. Gracelyn sighed, snatched up her backpack from the large table, strapped it on and walked toward the exit.

As Gracelyn approached the circulation desk near the front doors, she smiled, waved, and cheerfully called out, “See you later, Mrs. Costilla,” and walked out with a bounce.

Mrs. Costilla didn’t reply. Her bones remained still and silent, gathering the gently falling dust from the comfort of an office chair, just as they have done for a very long time now.


Gracelyn pulled her bike out of the bike rack, got on it, and started to ride down the middle of Main Street. There wasn’t any traffic – only silence and wind. Her burnt-sienna hair flapped and flowed behind her like a torn flag on a motorboat as she passed by the husky downtown buildings of red brick and large windows. A horribly dressed and bald mannequin slept dead on a bed of broken glass in front of the Cabbage Junction Thrift and Antiques store.

When Gracelyn came to the intersection of Main Street and White Chocolate Road, she turned left. The neighborhood there, called Vinegar Village, was cluttered with old houses, most in shambles, yards overgrown, streets empty, odd smells in the air. Her legs pumped faster because she didn’t like the area. It scared her. “Avoid the dream,” she said to herself. “Avoid the dream.”

As the neighborhoods thinned, the landscape became more pastoral – farmland, fields, and wide pastures cradled by forest walls of dark green. The sky above, wide and bluish yellow. She turned right on a gravel road and toward the big white house that rested at the end of it.

She set the bike down in the grass near the front porch painted battleship gray on the floor and peeling wedding-gown white on the spindles and caps. She bounded up the few steps to the front door. She stood on a faded welcome mat as she fished for a key from her pocket. She inserted it and turned it, then her small hand grasped the doorknob and pushed forward.


The Creamsicle-colored cat, Moses, stared at Gracelyn with wide lemon-lime eyes as he squatted on the dining room table just a few feet from her as the girl did her homework. He resembled a wide loaf of bread. The girl was surrounded by jar candles for light, and she warned Moses of the danger. “Don’t come any closer, my dear kitty, or your fur is liable to catch fire, and that would be a terrible thing.”

Moses quickly turned, jumped down and trotted off into an unknown darkness in another room. Gracelyn shook her head and laughed. “What a smart kitty,” she said, and then she picked up half a peanut butter and mint jelly sandwich from a plate by her side and bit into it and chewed as she studied. “The Romans were amazing engineers,” she said aloud to the quiet house as her eyes danced across the words in the book. “I wish I could have been there to see it all. Perhaps someday.” She reached for her can of Elf brand grape soda and put it to her mouth and drank until it was completely drained. “Damn that’s good,” she said, and she threw the can over her shoulder, and it landed on a growing pile of other cans behind her.

Moses reappeared and rubbed himself against her legs below the table. “I know, dear kitty. I need to find more, or I may not have anything delicious to wash down my meals with. If only I could build a soda pop aqueduct, like the Romans.” She sighed. “But I’m afraid that would be nearly impossible without any help.” The cat purred loudly and uttered an instructive meow. “Yes, yes. I’ll get to the recycling as soon as I can. But I’m very busy, you know… With school and studying and everything else. It’s not easy being a young girl in a world such as this. Be patient, Moses kitty.”

TO BE CONTINUED


Have You Heard of a Library?

Has the definition of LIBRARY changed, and nobody told me?

I’ve always considered the public library to be a place of quiet solitude where people go to browse books, read, write, do research, study, and surf the internet — among other things — in a distraction-free atmosphere. Apparently, things have changed.

Once again, I found myself in the local public library to get some writing done. I use the library at times because I don’t have a home office and since we live in the country, our internet is a bit challenging at times. But more importantly, since I am presently a house husband trying to be a writer, it’s nice to get out occasionally and be in a different environment.

This particular trip started out peaceful enough. But then, a gaggle of schoolchildren (probably late elementary, early junior high years) descended on the place and chaos ensued. As the clamor of young voices rose and bodies stampeded to and fro throughout the building, I began to wonder if it was something more akin to an amusement park or a Chuck E. Cheese and not a library as the sign outside read.

I understand children can be noisy and overly energized at times, but when you are in a public library, shouldn’t there be some semblance of decorum and restraint, regardless of age or hormone level?

When I write on my laptop at the library, I use my earbuds and listen to meditative music for writing on Youtube. Yes, that’s a thing. It’s great. But it’s not enough armor to deflect the yelling and carrying on of rambunctious school kids working on whatever project they were working on. It was probably something useless in relation to their future place in the world. How about having them do a project on how to act in the library? There’s an idea for you. Let’s teach our kids something useful.

Maybe I’m just being a stick in the mud again, as evidenced by this previous post: Have you heard of shutting your face?

But is it really unreasonable of me to expect the library to be a quiet place and not a roaring circus with flying methed-up monkeys bouncing off the walls? I think not.

The sad thing is, there was a teacher involved in leading this pack of wild animals. She apparently didn’t set any rules beforehand and did nothing to temper the noise and running around once it took off. Nothing at all.

And neither did any members of the library staff. How is this allowed? It’s a LIBRARY!

I do not get it.

Am I wasting energy on this? Does it make any difference if I bitch about it?

Probably not. Or maybe it’s just good therapy for me. Congratulations dear readers, you’ve been promoted to psychologist.

Now, even though the schoolchildren weren’t technically heckling me, it kind of felt like it. They were disturbing my work. Maybe I should go over to the school while those kids are trying to take a really important math test and start heckling them. That’ll show ‘em. You know, like that Seinfeld episode where Jerry goes to the office of one of his hecklers and boos and hisses her while she’s trying to work. … No? Nothing? It was a TV show. Back in my days. Look it up on the device of your choice.

My wife says I should go to a coffee shop instead. We have a nice one downtown that is rarely busy, and they have free WiFi… And coffee. And pastries. And a clean restroom. I think I’ll try that out and see how it goes.

I suppose I can wrap this up with simply saying that at times I feel as if I am fighting a losing battle against inconsideration as a whole. I often wonder if it’s just me. Maybe my nervous system lacks a protective shield. Maybe I’m not genetically built to live on this planet. Maybe the star people dropped me off at the wrong stop and I’m just wandering around with the wrong kind of soul.

Have you heard of shutting your face?

I went to the local public library as an experiment in trying to get some peace and quiet so I could get some writing done. It failed miserably.

Instead, what I found was a den of inconsideration for the needs of others. I guess that’s no surprise these days. As the running around and wails of children rose higher and higher, I quickly began to question if this was a library or a fucking daycare.

Maybe I’m just a bitter post-middle-aged man who doesn’t care for the free-spirited and clamorous cries of high-octane toddlers in a quiet space intended for reading, writing, and study.

Do I have a stick up my ass? Is it seriously too much to expect a library to be void of noisy and obnoxious distractions?

My god! If your kids want to run around and scream, take them to the park – or a hockey game! Or at least temper their outbursts with some calming discipline or a Flintstones’ chewable valium.

But it’s not just the amped up children causing distractions – full-blown adults are to blame, too. I’m talking about the ones who think the library is the perfect place to carry on a cell phone conversation loud enough for everyone to be a part of. Really? I don’t need to hear about your cousin’s latest bout with explosive diarrhea.

Then there’s the folks who find it perfectly reasonable to yell to each across the entire room.

“Did you find that book yet!”

“No!”

“Then quit wasting time and come up over here and asks the person at the desk!”

SHHHHHHHHH!

It got to the point I wanted to scream myself. But instead, I shut down my work, packed up my laptop and walked out. I was left defeated and uninspired and unable to accomplish anything I set out to do. Frustration. It seems to haunt me everywhere I go.

Part of the problem is, I’m easily distracted. It’s difficult for me to focus sometimes and so I’m much better off in a quiet environment. I’m nothing like my wife. She could read a book at a death metal concert and comprehend it all with the clarity of an unmuddied lake.

But this isn’t the only incident of unwanted clamor when the situation dictates some level of quiet and respect that I have recently experienced. Just the other day, my wife, myself, and my father-in-law attended my stepson’s senior awards ceremony at his high school.

We were all disappointed to see a lack of attention and respect when speakers were at the podium presenting awards. Granted, some of the lists of award winners were long and tedious and maybe some parts of the program could have been better executed, but that still doesn’t excuse some of the behavior we sadly witnessed.

Many people, students mostly, were talking among themselves as if they were in the lunchroom swapping unwanted sandwiches and stories of weekend sexual conquests. There were several points in the program where we couldn’t even hear the presenter speaking – and they were using a microphone. Many of the students lacked any sort of interest in the accomplishments of their peers and made it quite apparent by meditative and deadpan stares into cell phone screens.

The sad part is, there was only one teacher/administrator who even vaguely addressed the problem – and even then, used only a brief, disgruntled glance toward the crowd. Someone should have stepped up to the microphone and politely demanded attention to the matters at hand. No one really did, and when it came time for my stepson’s awards presentation, we struggled to hear what was even being said.

I felt bad for my wife. This was a big deal for her. It was a proud moment for her that she wanted to treasure. But it was left somewhat tainted by the inconsideration of others. Even so, she was glad to be there and requested a transcript of what was said during her son’s presentation. The written word will always have value.

And I have to wonder if it is all a generational thing – this lack of respect and attention and any consequences for it. My father-in-law let it be known that such behavior back in his days would have never been tolerated – it would have been stopped – abruptly, and with vigor.

What can I say? Maybe I am just becoming a grumpy old man and my tolerance level just isn’t what it used to be. I’m not that old, though. I’m younger than Johnny Depp.

Now you kids get off my lawn!