Sunday, August 29, 2010

I Sold My Soul to a Bookstore

I sold my soul to a bookstore for five years. I never knew how many crazy people there were in the world until I started working there.

You don't get your usual crazy person in a bookstore, oh no. You get the crazy person who reads. Therefore, because said person reads, he/she thinks that he/she is an intelligent crazy person that can challenge anything you say. He/she considers him/herself to be cultured.

Beyond the usual, “I’m looking for a book but I can’t remember the title or author. It’s blue, you had it here a year ago, can you grab it for me?”, people think it’s fine to spill coffee on the shelves and walk away. People think it’s fine to put gum on the books. People think it’s fine to bring books to the bathroom and shit on them. Seriously. Each of the crazies, for the most part, can be placed under one or more of the following categories:

The Man Who Jacks Off In The Corner
This man would take a huge stack of our sex books, plunk down in a corner, and jack off. He is in a wheelchair, and thus would spread his jacket over his groin area and think that we couldn't tell what he was doing. Then, he would leave his books there when he was finished, and the unfortunate new hire would be stuck putting them away (however you interpret "stuck" or "stickiness" is up to you, kiddies).

The Mother Who Thinks the Bookstore is a Daycare
For some reason, Moms think that coming to the bookstore is a good way to relieve their babysitter for a bit. These moms would let their children defecate on the floor and ask you to clean it up. They would let their children pee on the Thomas the Tank engine table and walk away. They would let their children spill bottles of glue, puke all over the Robert Munsch books, and destroy perfectly arranged displays that took hours to accomplish. These moms would think the store was their living room and could let their children run around freely and even ask the sales assistants to “watch the kids” while the moms would go shopping for hair magazines. We'd sometimes leave copies of Hold Onto Your Kids around the kids section, but nobody ever took the bait.

The Nazi
There is this one psycho chick who always wanted to complain about something. She would be far more compelling if she didn’t look like she was 17. She was freakin’ scary though, because she would talk in a very harsh, loud voice. The latest complaint that I recall was that we didn’t stock Mein Kampf (no joke!). I told her to go to the used bookstore if she wanted a book about how to brutally eradicate an entire race of human beings, but it wasn’t the book itself that she wanted. No, no, no. She wanted to complain about the fact that the book itself was not available, that our CEO was banning literature and hindering free speech. I told her to go f*ck herself (well, almost did), and said that many, many, many people would be offended if we stocked that book. She responded with, “Well, I get offended every time I walk by the sexuality section!” with her nose in the air, and stormed off (after everyone in the store heard the exchange). I thought, wow, someone must not be getting some.

The Middle-Aged Person who Thinks He/She Knows How the Economy Works
You would not believe the people who think that they know about exchange rates and the Canadian pricing vs. American pricing. If you didn’t know, books in Canada have both the US & Canadian prices printed on the inside covers (the American price is always cheaper, only because Canada is smaller & everything will always be more expensive up here, not to mention that the publishers set prices on books, not the stores). People would come in with American cash & think that they could get the American price. “Why not?!?” they would ask incredulously, before throwing their items at me and storming off. “Because we live in CANADA, you stupid idiot!!!” I would say. People also will go on rants about conspiracy theories, about how we were trying to rip people off, about how we were corrupt. I didn't correct them. 

The Pervy Children’s Author
There’s this local children’s author who is SUCH a perv. He won a literary award for his book, so he now thinks he’s the shit. If he had a book signing and we would offer him a free coffee from Starbucks, the bastard would order 2 venti frappuccinos (totalling $13). He would hit on many a young girl (including myself, even when I was 17). Before he was deemed a total perv, he offered to look over my children’s book that I was writing for my Children’s Lit. class. Fortunately, that never happened, because he kept leaving me messages like “I’m going to a bachelor auction, you should come” and “I’m brushing my teeth.” I pretended that there was a death in the family and that I would be unavailable for get-togethers for the next five years.

The Man With Personal Space Issues
There was once this scary, ginormous man who apparently was offended that somebody (another customer) "brushed by him too closely" and proceeded to shriek at her. My manager went over to tell the huge man that she was calling the cops. He said he was going to kick her ass (he didn’t), but nobody likes my manager, so we were all hoping that he would.***

The Man Who Comes to the Bookstore to Pick up Girls
There is always a man who thinks that “You’re too pretty to work in a bookstore. So, what do you want to be when you grow up, a librarian?” is a good pickup line. There's a particular doctor who would come in and stand soooooo close to you when he was talking (he would make you look up titles for him for an hour, but never buy anything). Whenever I saw this particular doctor come in, I would dart for a counter to put between us. But you could see him twitching on the other side, inching to get closer.

The Girl Who is Just Plain Crazy
There was once this girl who approached me. She had a giant unibrow. I asked her if she needed any help, and she said, "I haven't eaten anything all day. I'm anorexic." She walked away. After finally deciding to buy something, she went up to the cashier and asked, "Where's the closest bridge from here that I can jump off of?" Yentl (who worked at the cafe right next to me) told me later that this girl had previously come over to the Starbucks side and had both a juice and cookie sample. So she did eat something that day. The liar. From then on, I rethought my "Do you need any help?" question. 

Besides these crazies, I do miss the everyday assholes. The ones who would throw pens at me when they were upset. The ones who would stick their hands in my personal cashier counter space and try to rip their receipt out of the machine before it was finished printing. The one (only one, thank god!) who asked me when my baby was due, and didn't understand that I wasn't pregnant. The ones who would jabber on their cellphones the entire time, and then be appalled that I never asked them if they wanted a bag. The ones that I would call to tell them their book order was in, which would result in them telling me all about their diabetic neighbour, dead husband, and pet hamster for a half-hour. The ones who would highlight/scribble/spill coffee on their books after buying them over a year ago, and attempt to return them. 

Thank you, Bookstore, for all these great moments that I will cherish forever. 

***FYI my ex-manager is the epitome of what I never want to be in life. Single. Middle-aged. Works in a bookstore. Owns a million cats & a million books & thinks that everyone secretly aspires to be her. A total power tripper. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

How To Spend One Last Perfect Day of Summer

Today my bestie (who shall forevermore be known as "Yentl" -- don't ask) and I celebrated our last day of summer vacay. We start orientation for Teacher's College in... 9 hrs...frigg. I guess I should go to bed soon. Anyways, I've always loved Lou Reed.
Transformer, his best album by far. The scotch tape on the cover does not hinder the sound quality.

One of his songs, "Perfect Day," is so wonderfully cute & mentions all the best activities to do on a perfect day: Drink sangria in the park, watch a movie, feed animals in the zoo, etc. Inspired by this song, we created our own perfect day.

Activity #1: Homemade Bruschetta

Yentl cooking up a storm.
Activity #2: Yoga 

Just ignore the fact that we aren't using yoga mats...
Activity #3: Cover Ourselves in Goop

Goodbye summer. Hello caffeine addiction, nail biting, sleep deprivation, and thousands of dollars down the drain.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

If Only That Bear Would Have Eaten Me

As much as I hate telemarketers, acne, serial killers, and global warming...I hate camping more.
This topic is fresh in my mind because I just recently came back from our 2nd annual camping trip. By "our" I mean myself & four other girlfriends who, for some reason, think that joining the ranks of the great unwashed & almost getting eaten by a bear are good times. Thus, here is the ultimate list to remind me of why I will never, ever go camping again. 

Freezing & sleepy while my friends were off hunting/gathering/doing camping things.
1) The Succulent Smell of Camping 
There's nothing I love more than the smell of outhouses, body odor, bug spray, sunscreen, clothes that smell like old campfire smoke, and morning breath from the person in the sleeping bag next to you.
You wouldn't believe all the layers I have to wear to cover up the smell.
2) The Harsh Elements
Glacial winds, torrential rains, snow (yes, in May), hail (yes, in the middle of summer), and waking up covered in dew. Yes, the Canadian landscape is unpredictable at times. Yes, there are plenty of gorgeous hot summer days to go camping. But it's far more fun complaining about the crappy, cold weather we always seem to luck out with when we do go.

A cry for help, written on the beach. I'm laying on a towel wearing 3 sweaters & a blanket at the time.
3) Unnecessary Work/Effort for Things You Can Enjoy From The Comfort of Your Own Home
There is tons of work involved with camping: packing hundreds of things into your car; unpacking hundreds of things from your car; setting up a flimsy shelter (known as a "tent"); chopping wood for basic warmth and wielding an axe without looking like an idiot; blowing up air mattresses with your mouth; maintaining the fire and risking smoke inhalation, burns, and potentially falling into the fire; cooking as though you're a caveman; using the last of your battery on your MacBook; and having to poop in the forest and/or fly-infested outhouse. I would much rather stay in a hotel room & order room service -- far less time consuming & strenuous. 

Chopping Wood. IN THE RAIN. It's not me chopping it (are you crazy?!?). I'm sitting in the car.
We were only able to watch half of Edward Scissorhands before my computer died.
The poop tree. You sit on it, with your butt hanging over the edge, and go. 
4) Life Threatening Situations
So it's 4:30 AM and I'm lying wide awake on my damp, lumpy air mattress. Everyone else is snoring. I'm paralyzed with terror because I hear ripping, slashing, crunching, growling, and tearing coming from the eating tent (which is a few feet away from the sleeping tent that we're in). I wake everyone else up. Somebody exclaims, "whoops, we left the garbage out!" Rule #1 of camping that even I know: DO NOT, under any circumstances, leave the garbage out for fear of unruly night creatures. Nobody knows what to do. I suggest that we make a lot of noise to scare the bear away (friend #2: "maybe it's a skunk!" as the tearing and growling are getting viciously louder). Friend #3 says: "How about we just sit here and be quiet until it goes away?" I love being a sitting duck, feet away from a ravenous bear, with nothing but the thin tent material to protect me. So, we get up, run to the car, drive around the campsite for a bit to "shake the bear off."

Campfire protective gear. This is a necessary precaution if you want to spare your feet from burns, bites, and/or amputation. Unfortunately, it won't help you outrun a bear.

5) Disgusting Things
Flies, soot in your spaghetti noodles, dirty fingernails, animal feces, cobwebs, having food prepared by friends' unwashed hands, kids screaming at 7AM, sour milk, sand in your sleeping bag, hanging your jeans up to dry & finding a cocoon in your pocket a couple of days later, people stealing your firewood, etc. etc. etc.
Me holders pincers from a crayfish that was eaten by a duck. Who wants to go swimming? 
Yes, the great outdoors is wonderful to enjoy. In small doses. From my backyard.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why Collecting Vinyl is Ridiculous but Awesome

Collecting vinyl LPs has been a hobby of mine for the past 2 years, ever since I found my Dad’s rickety dusty old record player stored in our shed. You may be wondering why the heck I would collect prehistoric, incredibly awkward, bad-sounding circular things when I can download a flawless mp3 in mere seconds? I have my reasons.

I consider a classic LP to be like a fine wine: it becomes more valuable & delicious over time. There’s nothing like the scratchy sound of a record to make me feel like I’m living in the 70s. I love the plunk of the needle touching the vinyl, the dizzying motion of the record going round & round, and the aged faded ring around the cover.
Jethro Tull's Aqualung. Notice the ring that's formed around the top over the years.
It is much, much more expensive to collect vinyl than it is to buy a CD, download an album off iTunes, or download it for free (obviously!). If you want an original pressing of an LP (which means that it hasn’t been re-issued as brand new vinyl), then you have to decide how much you’re willing to pay for the quality of the vinyl. The more damaged it is (scuffs, scratches, how many times it’s been played, rips/tears/stains to the cover, and whether the packaging inside known as the ‘inserts’ are original and intact) the less it's worth. Thus, finding a classic album like Abbey Road or The Velvet Underground & Nico that is an original pressing & in excellent condition can cost you quite a bit, especially considering that the cost to buy it 40 years ago was ridiculously cheap.
The Velvet's Underground's classic The Velvet Underground & Nico. The cover is famously designed by Andy Warhol, and the original pressing with the peel-able sticker intact is rare. Sadly, mine is a re-issue, but I still love it.

I like the sense of authenticity when I’m holding an old record. Many have names, initials, and stickers on them -- who knew that vinyl would be worth so much many years down the road? I have one LP that is covered in Braille labels on the back, and one belonged to a Turk, shown below. Who was Turk? Who, other than Turk, owned this record? Did he sit alone in his basement, playing this over & over? Was he a Rocky Horror superfan? (I’m guessing yes, because this particular record has clearly been played at least a thousand times and is almost worn out).

The Soundtrack to The Rocky Horror Picture Show
I get super excited when I come across records like the ones below. These are long out of print and are nearly impossible to buy as CDs or download as mp3s. Muahaha.

Tim Curry's Fearless and Read My Lips. The best/worst song ever created is called "The Brontosaurus" and is on Read My Lips.
Sometimes, I break the rules and buy new pressings of contemporary artists, like the ones below. I figure, if I plan on buying their CD, I may as well buy a giant, super-fantastic, pretty version of it.

Tegan & Sara's Sainthood, Amy Winehouse's Back to Black, and Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster. Go ahead, poke fun.
And you can’t get all this pretty artwork with an mp3, can you?

Left: The inside of T.Rex's Electric Warrior.  Right: T. Rex's The Slider

David Bowie's Live in Santa Monica. Quite possibly the best bootleg album ever. The double LP set includes original artwork by George Underwood, Bowie's childhood friend. Underwood created the artwork for some of the early Bowie albums & concert posters.
 I usually have to order specific records off eBay, which is not always a blast. Some records you can only get from certain countries, sometimes you engage in tedious bidding wars, and sometimes the shipping costs are extraordinary. There is only one decent place in my town that sells large quantities of records, but most of them are junk. Hitting up yard sales & thift stores sometimes pans out well, though.

The Kids From Fame. Both the show & this LP are extremely cheesy & wonderful. Plus, I got it for 99 cents at a thrift store. Kaching.
I love my record collection. I’ve spent lots of time & money on a hobby that most people would consider to be useless. Yet the fascination of record collecting with young people is growing. Old records are being issued more than ever before, LP sales have risen majorly since the beginning of the decade, and you can even buy USB record players to transfer songs to mp3s directly to your computer. So there.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Harry Freakin' Potter

Harry Potter. Musicals. My two favourite things in life. Combine them and you get...A Very Potter Musical.

This musical was created by Starkid Productions, which is a bunch of talented University of Michigan students. I've watched the whole thing a couple of times now & laugh my ass off each time. The sequel, so appropriately named A Very Potter Sequel was posted on Youtube a couple of weeks ago. You can watch each scene of both musicals as a separate video on YouTube. Both musicals have been insanely successful & popular with HP fans. The writing is hilarious (Harry defeats the Hungarian Horntail Dragon with the power of song, Malfoy falls in love with Hermione, Dumbledore has a Zac Efron "Zefron" poster in his office, Voldemort is a tap-dance-loving lonely man just looking for a friend, etc.) and most of the singers are awesome. I don't want to give too much away.

I watched another one of Starkid's plays, Me & My Dick, which features a lot of the same cast from the Potter musicals. Just as fantastic.I am so excited that Potter lovers have made such an entertaining parody, that I bought the Starkid & Me & My Dick albums off ITunes. Darren Criss, who plays Harry & wrote the music, also has an EP for sale on ITunes, called Human. He sounds like Jason Mraz.

Left: Me as Bellatrix, Right: Rita Skeeter. At the launch for Book 7, three years ago.
Visit the Starkid Productions Website

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Mean, Green, New Beauty Regime

I’m not a germa-phobe, a neat-freak, or OCD. I just came back from camping for 3 days (almost died!) and my friends thought it was completely fine to NOT wash their hands and/or use hand sanitizer that I was carrying around with me all day long, constantly asking if anyone wanted to squirt, after using the yucky outhouse. Then, they would go prepare unwashed food with their poo-infested hands. “This is what you do when you’re camping!” they would say. “What are you afraid of, it’s not like you’re gonna die!”

I’ve always had a strict regime about what I put into my body. I make sure that I wash all my fruits and vegetables thoroughly (and try to eat organic when possible). I abide by expiry dates. I always double check everything to make sure it’s fully cooked. And, believe this, I clean my hands before I eat. Shocking, eh?

But what about the crap I put on my skin, my face, my hair, my elbows, my nostrils? How in the hell am I going to get rid of 3 overflowing baskets of body products piled in my bathroom cabinet within my lifetime? And what exactly is in the stuff that I slather all over my innocent body everyday? So, I did a little research.

Here’s what you should know about body products:
-They are often loaded with chemicals, preservatives & synthetic ingredients, which can harm your body & the environment
-Companies often mass produce them with cheap ingredients & keep them stored in their warehouses for long periods of time before they make their way to you
-A lot of them are made using palm oil, which destroys the rainforest
-Although a product may be labeled “not tested on animals” it doesn’t mean that the ingredients themselves weren’t tested on animals
-When you apply product to your skin, it gets absorbed and goes directly to your bloodstream. And our bodies are covered with it!
-Most companies use tons of non-recycled packaging. A lot of people throw their empty shampoo bottles directly into the garbage, which in turn takes up tons of room in landfills
-Most products don't have expiry dates -- yuck! How long can you use them for?

This is a popular shower wash from Bath & Body Works. I can't pronounce half of these ingredients. And of course the "finished product" is not tested on animals -- but what about the pre-finished product?

So I invited my friends over. They graciously took all my half-used bottles of toxins. Then I started fresh.
Enter Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics. 

Turkish Delight Body Polish. You apply it in the shower & it polishes, moisturizes, and leaves your skin smelling like you bathed in rose petals. I know what most of these ingredients are -- and I can pronounce them too!

Most of their products come with a sticker of who made it, when it was made, and when it expires. Plus, who doesn't want a cute cowboy mixing up their shower jelly goodness?
 Fresh facemasks. Oatfix smells like yummy cookie dough. BB Seaweed is loaded with moisturizing seaweed chunks. Plus, if you bring any 5 clean black pots to a Lush store for recycling, they give you a free facemask like these. Saweet.
Some of my fave Lush products

Why you should shop at Lush:
-They do zero animal testing. This means that they do not buy their ingredients from companies that do animal testing either
-70% of their products have no packaging (they are called naked products: solid shampoo bars, solid conditioner bars, massage bars, soap bars, bath bombs, bath melts, body butters, sugar scrubs, emotibombs, bubble bars, etc.)
-All of their products are vegetarian, and the majority are vegan too
-They use natural, organic ingredients in their products, which they hand make in small batches. These are sent out to stores following store demand (this means that products don't sit in their warehouses for years)
-The packaging they do use is recyclable and made from 100% recycled materials. They can also gift wrap items in scarves made from recycled plastic bottles.
-They buy fair trade ingredients from small farmers & use no palm oil (yay, save the rainforest!)
-They support charities with their Charity Pot hand & body lotion & raise awareness about important environmental issues
-Their products smell great, last a long time, and make you feel like a princess :)

Seriously, after I'm done school, I may go and work at a Lush store for life.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Wall

Throughout my entire life, I've never had control over decorating my own bedroom. My parents "surprised" me when I was eight by painting my entire room bright green (my dad spilled some of the paint on the white carpet, which was never changed). I snagged my big sister's room when she moved out -- completely designed by her, for her. With a new place to live, THIS is what happens when all your creative decorating ideas stay bottled up for too many years.

Andy Warhol's Diamond Dust Shoes
The Beautiful Twiggy 
The Dark Mark from the Harry Potter Series
I can't take credit for all of these paintings, though. My friend, the artiste extraordinaire, is really the mastermind behind everything. Yet with all the school work, eating, and sleeping that I have to do, it's unlikely that this mural will be finished soon. But hey, it's a work in progress.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Unlikely Blogger

I hate blogs.

I’ve had to write them weekly as assignments while completing my English degree. I’ve had to critique, review, and demolish other people’s blogs for credit. Urgh, blogs. I hate how people blog about their kids spilling paint on the kitchen floor and post pictures about it. I hate how people don’t know how to spell. I hate how I’m in danger of plagiarizing myself because blogs are considered to be “published material.”

I love lots of other things though! Here are a few:

1) Shaving cream
Really, any kind of yummy creamy substance in general (please don’t take that dirtily, kiddies). I love piling a heaping amount of whipped cream on a piece of pie – or without the pie. I love squirting so much hair mousse in my hand that my hair becomes hard and crusty and impenetrable after I apply it. I love lathering my legs in so much wonderful smelling shaving cream that I sometimes forget to shave them.

2) Goats
My family used to own goats. One of them was gay, but that’s besides the point. Yes they smell and sometimes get hemorrhoids (and you have to castrate them by putting elastic bands around their balls) but they are soooooo cute. They have these adorable little beards they make them look like little old garden gnomes. Some have horns (straight, lopsided, or curvy – again, don’t take that dirtily, kiddies). They headbutt each other for fun, jump off of ridiculously high surfaces, and do a weird kind of body jolt/fake seizure thing while in mid-air. Sometimes they stand still without moving for so long, like pot-bellied statues. Like Buddha. You can try to ride them like horses – they don’t like it very much, but you’re much less likely to get paralyzed this way. Oh, I just want a goat to hug right now.

3) Men Who Wear Makeup, High Heels, and/or Angora Sweaters
Sometimes, I think there’s nothing more beautiful that a man with flawless skin, perfect makeup, hairy legs, and Michelle Obama toned arms. In my defense, women have flocked towards people like David Bowie and Tim Curry FOR YEARS. My idols are indeed David Bowie, Tim Curry (but only as Dr. Frakenfurter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show or attempting to create a solo career in 1977-1980), Marc Bolan, Ed Wood, Wilson Jermaine Heredia (the original Angel in RENT), and RuPaul. One of my most favourite books is I Am Not Myself These Days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell: a memoir about a dude who works a corporate job by day, and becomes a drag queen named “Aquadisiac” by night. However, I do think there’s nothing more horrendous than a bad drag queen who clearly has put in little effort.

4) Music
Who doesn’t like music, right?
My aunt doesn’t. She says that she “doesn’t really care about it.” Like any music at all. Actually, that’s a lie – one time I found “The Best of Simon and Garfunkel” in her car. I can understand if you’re indifferent to politics, tattoos, or flossing your teeth…but music? That’s akin to being indifferent to bathing, or global warming, or – or death. I bought her an Ipod for Christmas, with the hope that she would discover music…I think she may have used it once.
Back to me: I love music, but not all of it. I dislike almost all country, emo bands, hardcore screamy death metal (I can handle mild screamy death metal though), and any harpsichord music. I love love love 70s rock (in particular Glam Rock), the British Invasion, select Punk Rock, Broadway soundtracks, and Amy Winehouse (yes, Amy Winehouse is her own genre). But really, anything with good harmonies will win me over. I grew up singing in church choirs; I play the piano (well), the guitar (okay), and the violin (horribly). My grandma and mom are choir leaders/past piano teachers/singers, my sister is a piano/voice teacher, and my Dad plays the tin can.

5) Diagnosing People with Partially Correct Disorders
I love reading case studies about people who have had a horrible childhood and ended murdering a village (okay, that sounds gruesome, I don’t love that). Let’s rephrase that: I love reading about psychological symptoms, and making a diagnosis. I’m usually wrong (Asocial and Antisocial are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS, stupid!) but I like to pretend I know what I’m talking about. I’ve taken quite a few psych classes, but I could never ever do it as a career. I’d be the therapist doodling on her clipboard while the client goes on and on, and probably ask him/her: “Do you mind if I lay on the couch for a bit? I’m just a tad sleepy.”

I’ve decided to give this whole blog thing one more shot. I’m sick of writing essays. Plus, I’ll be able to fulfill my need for narcissistic rambling. And if one other person besides myself actually reads this, it will all be worth it…right?