Thursday, February 19, 2009

add this to my resume

check out tonight's roller derby episode of "kath & kim" on NBC and see if you can catch me.

photo courtesy of Diva Jammers.

(short notice because i am bad at self-promotion (case in point, this under-utilized blog)).

Episode Description:
Kath discovers that she is still married to her ex, Rusty, and must find him in order to finalize their divorce. Kath's search throws Phil, Kim and Craig into the world of roller derby where they meet a rough-around-the-edges skater named Whitney and where Kim falls in love with the sport.

Monday, February 9, 2009


sunday evening, micah, georgia and i discussed my ongoing and debilitating insomnia over beers at el prado.

me: "i can't seem to fall asleep in my own bed at night, but i have no problem sleeping everywhere else. like in my car, for example. at stoplights."

micah: "i know how to fix your problem."

me: "how?"

micah: "race car bed."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

There is money in poetry

I was conducting a site visit in Watts, there to confirm a school's eligibility for a grant from my organization. I observed a meeting of the after-school book club. The topic that afternoon was poetry, and the Library Aide told her students: "There is money in poetry."

Of the nearly 1,000 students at this school, three are white. Ten students were present for the book club meeting on this Tuesday afternoon.

The children sat rapt as the Library Aide related the story of a girl who, once upon a time in the fifth grade, entered a district poetry contest and won One Thousand Dollars (to this, the students responded with incredulous "Ooooohhhhhs!") and a computer, which was practically unheard of at the time, "it being the early 90s." The tale continued, following a convoluted path, eventually ending at Howard University, which the girl received a scholarship to attend, more or less, because of a poem she wrote in the fifth grade.

My job often takes me into parts of Los Angeles I had never seen previously, but when I cruise through Watts in my purple bookmobile, it is the neighborhood that feels the most otherworldly. The streets in this part of town are narrow, patrolled by the occasional pack of dogs, sans collars. Once, I had to stop my car short to let a chicken cross in front of it. Nearly every yard is fenced, the metal spikes piercing the smog, painted in bright, garish colors, and from these, clothes sometimes hang like defeated flags. I am embarrassed for myself because I want to feel like this is my city, my Los Angeles too, but it remains foreign.

On this particular day in Watts, I am wearing a vintage navy blue polka-dotted dress, something that's probably hung in my closet for too many years and has never gone out of rotation, a Meghan Classic -- a dress once described by an ex-boyfriend as the thing I'm always wearing when he pictures me in his mind. In addition to the dress, I wear (increasingly age inappropriate) white knee socks and brown oxfords. I must appear to these children as a caricature of a white girl, a character from one of the books in this library whose life is so unlike their own -- Anne of Green Gables or Pippi Longstocking.

The Library Aide promises her students a field trip to Hollywood, to the El Capitan Theatre (less than a mile away from my apartment), to watch The Tale of Despereaux. To earn the field trip, they must first read the book.

"We don't have any copies in the library," she tells them, "so you'll have to go to the public library, or ask your parents to buy you a copy."

How far is the public library from their homes, I wonder. From the school? How safe is the walk? How many copies of the book does it have? How many parents are able to buy their kids this book? How many of them will, realistically?

That night, in addition to the new library books this school will receive from my organization on the coming Saturday, I order 15 paperback copies of The Tale of Despereaux -- not as library books, but as gifts, for keeps, to members of this club.

Monday, February 2, 2009

work, revealed

technically speaking, i have three jobs, though most weeks, i manage to avoid working full-time. my main gig is as the library program director for a non-profit organization that provides books to school libraries where at least 90% of students live at or below the poverty line, which i wrote a bit about here. i also put in a few hours a week as an adjunct reference & instruction librarian at a local community college. and about twice a month, i work in the bel-air home of a wealthy rare book collector, Snodgrass*, primarily writing bibliographies for his dusty 18th and 19th century tomes, letters and manuscripts.

my office at the Snodgrass Estate is a guest bedroom, and from its ceiling, a chandelier hangs. it is a monstrous, Chihuly-looking thing from which sinister glass flowers dangle, dripping blood and raspberries. One October morning i stepped inside my office-bedroom to find that a white crib -- complete with mobile and teddy bear -- had appeared next to my desk. i wondered if my duties had been expanded to include childcare, or if this was a new receptacle for the works of Samuel Johnson and Sir Richard Burton.

last week, i finally met my unlikely officemate: a 12-pounder in pink pajamas named cleo. so the new piece of office furniture was not a book drop after all.

cleo, the snodgrass's newest granddaughter, is a frequent visitor to the estate, and in my absence, my desk doubles as her changing table.

last thursday, i was left alone with cleo under explicit instructions to "keep an eye on her." for a few minutes, i did no such thing, keeping my eyes glued to my laptop as cleo gurgled happily in her crib. then she started to cry. i thought i should do something, but was clueless as to what. i walked over to the crib, looked down and tried to read her blubbering face. she thrashed her tiny limbs through the air wildly -- a pink beetle on its back.

"please stop crying."

i never know what to say to babies.

it occurred to me to pick the kid up, but i wasn't sure i knew how. i realized that i couldn't remember the last time i held a a baby. i racked my brain, but could only come up with my baby brother -- 23 years ago.

and though i am no nanny, i didn't want the snodgrasses, who were clearly doting grandparents, to think i was irresponsible, or worse, a cold librarian. so i went for it, awkwardly scooping her up and trying to make some sense of this baby business. i held her at arm's length for a moment as she flailed, and considered my options. head up, right? so i brought her to my chest and the feeling was not unlike snuggling up to an overgrown earthworm. cleo didn't shut up. i attempted to bounce her, the way i've seen it done on TV.

"she's nice to hold, isn't she?"

lady snodgrass was standing behind me.

"she's very warm," i said.

with great relief, i allowed lady snodgrass to extract cleo from my grip. she wrapped the baby in her arms like a pro, gave her a few expert bounces, and started with the baby talk.

"meghan's the best librarian, isn't she, cleo? she takes such good care of grandpa's books, doesn't she? yes! yes! yes!"

and somehow, she made it sound quite dignified.

*name changed to protect anonymity