July, 2003

29 Jul 2003, by

Everything is packed and ready. We’ve managed to get everything Kurt’s sister asked us to bring. Now I’m just waiting for my ride. Sophia’s eating a waffle. I had strange dreams last night, none of which I remember. I went to bed later than normal (around 11) and when the alarm went off this morning I thought to myself, “I am awake. I’m not even that tired. I can do this.” And then I got up and my bones felt achy and worn. I’m so old. I’ve had tea since then though, so now I’m wide awake and eager, waiting to see what the day, and the trip, will bring me. Hopefully it won’t be bringing me a lot of airport security grief or lost luggage. Bye bye!

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If you haven’t read Part 1 of this saga, you should do that first.

So about three weeks ago a friend of mine (henceforth to be referred to as A.K.) came into the chamber to tell us about a strange note that was left near the back (employee only) elevator. In large letters at the top of a blank sheet of paper, someone had written “If ever mortal painted an idea, that mortal was Roderick Usher”. The basement was abuzz with comments about the strange note. A.K. informed me that it had been left there by Eliza, and when I asked him how he knew, he said it was because a – she works at the desk right there by the elevator for part of the day and b – she’d left notes of this kind before. I asked him about the prior notes and there had been two that he could recall but only one that he remembered the text of. The one he remembered had said “Who wrote the book of love?”. We all had a chuckle about how wacky Eliza was and then A.K., who happened to know the first line of “The Fall of the House of Usher” by heart, slipped the paper into his typewriter and typed out the first line underneath the written note. He then replaced the note to its original location by the back elevator.

Apparently, the response was read and noted, because the next day there was a new note. It said only “Will you marry me?”. We joked that she was so impressed by yesterday’s response that she had developed a crush on A.K. He pondered an appropriate response for a while, and finally replied to that note with the last two sentences from the anti-marriage poem “Love Song” by Alan Dugan, which says ,”I can nail my left palm to the left-hand crosspiece but I can’t do everything myself. I need a hand to nail the right, a help, a love, a you, a wife.” He typed his reply on the note just as he had on the prior day and put it back where she had left it. Now the notes were receiving pretty far ranging discussion, at least in the basement, and others were starting to leave comments on the notes, which I’m sure only encouraged Eliza all the more, as the notes get wackier and more elaborate over time. Most people’s responses where of the “huh?” variety, and not nearly as inspired as A.K.’s.

Two days of typewritten responses in a row must have been making her really curious about the respondent, because the next day’s note said “Who is the best? Don’t force me to make assumptions, people.” The notes, I should mention at this point (though you will see for yourself later) are written in printed all caps. Nothing particular clever or witty was left as a response on this note, though there were the general huh? what? whatever! responses.

Deciding to push the medium a bit, Eliza’s next note featured a crude drawing of two eyes looking out from the page. Underneath the eyes was written “I know what you did.” This is possibly paraphrased, I didn’t really start documenting the contents of the notes until later. At this time I was just checking the back elevator daily and chuckling and commenting with my coworkers.

Note number 7 was a departure into non-sequitir land. I have had to reconstruct it, as I still wasn’t writing them down as they occurred. It had not sunk in to me yet that this would make a good blog entry. At any rate, what it said, as near as I and the people I’ve consulted with can remember, is : “All I have is a de-barked stick. Furthermore, I don’t know why Ford continues to make cars that don’t crank.” There was something else there, but it’s lost to the ages, I’m afraid. I remember feeling like there was a threat involved in the stick, and I thought there was something along the “not afraid to use it” lines in there somewhere, but I just can’t remember it precisely enough. What struck me was the “de-barked stick”. I went around telling people that day that I was in need of a de-barked stick, if anyone had one, to unanimous chuckles. People wrote comments on her note about how Ford cars have always been undependable, but they did not have the combined glint of genius and madness that her original note contained.

Note number 8, and we’re back to the theme of love : “I have never loved anyone for love’s sake except Josephine — maybe a little.” We all figured that was a Napoleon quote, but no one really bothered to look it up. After all, sometimes at work one has to do work, and there’s not always enough time to indulge one’s curiousity. A.K. had pretty much quit responding, after the ravings of note 7. I figured it would be my turn to write something soon.

There was a couple of noteless days in there, and then, almost as soon as we’d begun to think the phase was over came note number 9 : “We can always get more of everything except time.” Riiiiight. Ok.

However, just as we started to think the medium, the message and the messenger were all worn out, Eliza reached back into her apparently still vivid middle school experiences and produced the following masterpiece :


Admit it, you’re at a loss for words, aren’t you? I asked everyone in the basement if they had a lifesaver so I could attach it to the picture, but apparently most people here, if they eat mints, do not choose LifeSaver brand. At this point, my tales of the basement notes had traveled so far and wide that I was able to interest one of our staff photographers in documenting it, hence the picture. I am extremely grateful, as I could not have described that note in words and conveyed its true sense. In fact, from here on out, all further notes were photographically preserved, so brace yourself.

July 18th’s note :


If you look closely, you can see translations of the various non-English phrases written in another hand out to the side. It was on this note, ten days ago, that I finally made my move and replied. I have now been inexorably drawn in to the web of messages from Eliza. The last phrase in the trio on her note is lyrics of a song to a TV show from the 80’s. I’ve never seen this show, but the Internet is my friend, and so I found that the show, called High Mountain Rangers, was created by Robert Conrad, who starred in it with his two sons. So, I printed out this image and taped it to the lower right of her paper:


Alas, unlike A.K., my carefully crafted response had no appreciable effect. Perhaps she only has eyes for him.

The next note features a mixed media work, including that all time teen favorite, stickers.


Then, as if returning to the origins of her note makings, last week she presented us with the plain marker on paper note that she was first known for:


The text in pen that begins “see slide show…” is my response. I know you’ve been waiting for the chance to see my handwriting in all its sloppy glory. Again, the Internet (and google, particularly) is my friend, and I discovered that her statement was lyrics from a U2 song, so I added a few lines from the song, so she wouldn’t feel completely misunderstood. However, the rest of last week was note free. One day she added a Yen/Dollar conversion to her staircase note, but nothing new. It was rather disappointing actually, and maybe this will be the whimpering end of the note saga. I need to go and check if something’s been left there this morning.

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27 Jul 2003, by

There’s some things I’ve forgotten to post. Many others I just haven’t gotten to yet. I have several papers with lists in my laptop bag and somehow I’ll have to combine them all and talk about them here, only by then the things I’m referring to all will all be out of date. Like I never wrote about eating at the Vietnamese place in D.C. when I visited Esthela back in March. Or how Sophia fell down the stairs then. I never wrote about Sophia playing with the dice so intently three gaming sessions ago. Neither did I write about the morning, almost a month ago, when Sophia said a full sentence to me, as if she’d been doing it all along. There’s also the phenomenon of the ever-increasing drafts to contend with. These are half-written posts that I save to drafts because they aren’t finished and then they kind of end up just languishing there. Currently I have one titled “Strange Pronouncements”, and one titled “The Internet is a Gift to Losers Everywhere”. There’s an untitled one too, which is the second run of that brilliant post my blog ate about six weeks ago. It was on a somewhat current topic then, but now it hardly seems worth finishing. And of course, for those waiting with bated breath for the second installment of the story on my co-worker, that’s in drafts too. Unfinished. I don’t know why there’s always more that I have to say than I quite manage to get to. I suppose that’s better than having nothing to write about, but it is a bit frustrating. I guess I’m officially old now, because I feel like I don’t have enough time left for all that I need to do.

So it’s been decided. My draft of Cualcotel is going to stay here while I go on vacation. It’s still not done. November is soonish and I have only the vaguest vaguety vague idea of what to do this year (and last year’s work is 3 scenes short of being finished, still). I told myself I’d firm the new idea up in September, only today I had a panic attack thinking about it because I wondered whether it would really qualify as a novel. It’s a series of short stories! Not a novel! Aaaaaagghhhh! Although actually, I hope it’s really better connected than “a series of short stories”. I really want it to be a novel. We’ll see whether it cooperates.

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26 Jul 2003, by

I’m working right now. It’s one of those infrequent Saturdays in which
I have to work, but it actually doesn’t much bother me to work the desk from
time to time. Some people really complain and bellyache about it a lot
and others live in fear that they’ll make a mistake dealing with a patron.
For some reason I’m not at all stressed out about that. I do the best I
can, and past that, I don’t worry about it. It’s been said that in the new
building we’ll all have to work the desk more often, and I wonder what that
will be like. The only thing that bugs me about working this way is I
don’t have a jack for my laptop, so I can’t be on the web, but I think in
the new building the desk will have all kinds of jacks, so that will be

We all have our passports and our bags are half-packed. The house and
pets will be taken care of, to my great relief. It’s hard to believe
that next week at this time I’ll be in Florence. I’m sooo excited. I’ve
never been to Italy or Switzerland. I can’t wait, and I hope everything
goes smoothly. I’ve decided I’m going to be leaving my laptop, and I hope
that I can live without it for that long. We just don’t need another thing
to cart around, though, really. I may be able to access the internet from
an Internet Cafe or somesuch, but I doubt I’ll have much time to do blog
updates. Fortunately, I’ve been relatively good about updates this month,
so I suppose the previous entries (some of them quite long) will have to
entertain people until I return.

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25 Jul 2003, by

Sophia has started giving me her bears before she gets out of the car in the morning. She used to demand to take one with her, and often the battle was over which one (I always wanted her to take the most battered, beat up ones which had Sophia scrawled on the tag and she invariably wanted the newest, shiniest, cleanest of her animals which I hadn’t written her name on). We lost Ping the Duck in one such argument many months ago, as she won out and took him inside and he was never seen again. Yesterday she said, in a most businesslike matter, before she’d even let me take her out of the car seat, “Here, here, here. Take Trucker. Here.” So I took Trucker and put him in the front seat, and she went to daycare emptyhanded.

So on Wednesday I scheduled our haircuts together. Sophia has cried her way through all 4 of the haircuts she’s had thus far in life, and I figured if she could see me having it done also (I usually get mine done separately from her, though at the same place) then she would see that it was just normal stuff and be more acquiescent about it. She has been more enthused since she realized that suckers accompany H.C.’s but she still sobbed her way through the last hair cut about 8 weeks ago so I was trying to make things easier this time around. Well no sooner had I sat my behind in the chair and Lynn (our fantabulously awesome hair chick) started fastening the apron thing around my neck when Sophia came running over saying “Miiiiiiiiiine” and trying to push me out of the chair. “Sophia’s chair!” she exclaimed, and then, highly annoyed, “Get away! Get away! Get away!” So I had to let her go first. And she didn’t cry a single tear. She hardly even frowned. She told Lynn all about how she had been swimming with Deirdra and asked for her sucker. It was like getting a haircut had never bothered her.

This morning, as we stopped by the trees next to the daycare parking lot to look at them (we do this every morning, no matter how late I’m running, except in cases of inclement weather), she pointed across the playground. “Squirrel! Squirrel!” she said excitedly. I looked over and sure enough, a squirrel was darting around the ground. Moreover, a gorgeous bird of prey (a hawk, perhaps?) was harrying it, possibly deciding on squirrel meat for breakfast. Ooooooh, look at the bird! Isn’t it beautiful? I asked. Boooful, she agreed solemnly. As we walked inside some moments later I realized that she had used the word squirrel and correctly identified the animal, and I hadn’t even noticed that it was a word I hadn’t heard her use before.

These are the ways in which my child grows up, almost unnoticed, before my very eyes.

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Ok, so the time has come for me to tell you about Eliza. I’ve been threatening and promising to do this for about two weeks, and people have become understandably impatient with me to get on with it. Everybody works with crazy people. All of you who have jobs also have stories about one or more of the real nutjobs who work in your building. I, however, work at an archives and this provides me with a greater proportion of insanity vs. sanity to deal with on a daily basis than other types of employment. This may sound harsh and judgmental, but I’m a librarian, and I actually went to library school and so I know what I’m talking about here. There is, for example, the cataloger who thinks West Nile Virus is a biological agent delivered to us by the evil and cunning Fidel Castro. There’s also the woman whose job function (among others) is to decide how our webpage should look who thinks that the whole world sees on the web exactly what she sees on it. If she changes her monitor resolution, you see, she’s just changed the monitor resolution of everyone on the entire Internet. No amount of logic, demonstration or persuasion will sway her from this point of view. Or how about the head of our IT department, who confessed that God was maybe trying to tell her she shouldn’t have gotten leather seats on her SUV when she had car trouble? Yes, as you can see, unorthodox worldviews, to put it nicely, abound in my place of employment.

However, the story I am about to tell you is about none of the above mentioned people. The story I am about to recount is about Eliza. Eliza is a shelver. Our library has closed stacks, which means that you cannot fetch books for yourself and you cannot take them out of the building. Like the Library of Congress, if you’ve ever been there. You look up what you want, you fill out a piece of paper, and the book or manuscript or photograph or map or geegaw is brought from the shelves to you. And then put back, when you are finished looking at it. This is what Eliza does. I think she also does some stuff with the vertical files, but we’re not exactly friends, so I can’t say I really have a good grasp of all her assigned tasks. At any rate, Eliza is most famous among the staff here for her inopportune door and elevator closings. I thought perhaps people were exaggerating when they described this phenomenon to me, but I found out rather recently that they were not. The way this works is as follows:

  • Eliza walks into an elevator.
  • You are just behind her.
  • You shout, “Hold the elevator please,” or “Hang on!” or some other commonly understood phrase that indicates a request to wait.
  • She promptly pushes the button for the floor she wishes to go to and the elevator slides closed before your very eyes.

Alternatively, she passes through a door that is supposed to remain closed at all times. There are lots of these doors in an archives, just so you know. You are walking maybe three to five feet behind her. She turns and slams the door literally in your face. In my case, she actually made eye contact with me before slamming the door, which I found incredible and appaling.

There are other peculiarites about Eliza that I should perhaps make known to you. She’s rumored to be very funny and talkative among a select few people, but the vast majority of the archives staff have rarely, if ever, heard her voice. I’ve only heard it once before (and I shall get to that, in a moment). She appears quite young, but dresses like she’s your grandmother or possibly a pentecostal. She usually wears dowdy long skirts in navy or black and long sleeved blouses with orthopedic looking shoes. Often she has a non-descript dark cardigan. She wears thick glasses (of course! could the stereotype be any more exact?). As my good friend, roomtemp, described her she’s “almost conspicuous in her drabness”. Anyways, I think you get the idea of her appearance.

She’s also been observed performing an odd ritual over her car upon departing from the archives at the conclusion of the work day. Her car is a sad, red, several year old tempo (or equivalent) and she’s apparently regularly seen taking a bottle of water and splashing it onto her headlights and windshield in some kind of strange anointment before getting into her car and driving home. I have no idea what this is about, and your guess is as good as mine, though a clue may lie in the extra little bit she was observed doing last week. In addition to splashing the water onto the regular spots, she also splashed it onto the muddy place on the body of the car just above the tires. Of course splashing a little water doesn’t clean encrusted, dried mud and the attempt was feeble at best, but there you have it. My experience with Eliza and her car, and indeed one of two direct encounters I’ve ever had with her (discounting various door slamming incidents, of course), has further shown she drives like a loon. At the time, I was not able to recognize her car, so I didn’t actually know who I was dealing with until later. I was driving up a street towards work, fixing to make a left onto the street with the archives parking lot when I pause because there’s a vehicle approaching from the other direction. Very slowly. Slowly enough that I begin to think I should have cut in front of the car and made my left instead of waiting. Still, I’ve waited this long, I can wait for the car to cross the intersection. The car, which is in the left lane, does not cross the intersection but instead swings onto the cross street making a right turn out of the left lane. What a kook! I think to myself. I make my own turn, and then realize that the car is turning into the archives parking lot. I realize I must know who this crazy driver is, and that they must work at the archives (the building doesn’t open to the public for another hour and a half) and therefore this person couldn’t have been surprised by the arrival of their designated place to turn. I had assumed they were perhaps lost or something. So I follow this car, painfully slowly, into the parking lot, park, get out, and see that the crazy driver is, in fact, Eliza. This event happened about a month ago, and it, coupled with another incident that followed, is what first sort of brought her to my notice and made me follow the subsequent tale more closely than I otherwise might have.

So, before I recount the grand tale (one that is still unfolding, by the way, so the potential for updates is great) I will submit this last piece of background information by retelling the only time I ever heard Eliza speak. For a long, involved, trivial reason that I’m not going to detail here, I was looking for an employee of the archives. I had looked in all the normal places where she usually worked, had not found her, and some of her officemates suggested that I look in the library. I climb the stairs to the library and look around but don’t see her. I go back downstairs, say she’s not up there, and am advised to look for her in the stacks. Ahhh, the stacks. Of course, why didn’t I think of that? I go back up to the library, open the door to the stacks, and standing before a cart full of microfilm is Eliza. She looks to have been standing there for a while, so I figure I’ll ask her if she’s seen the person I’m looking for.

“Have you seen D—- C—-?” I ask

She looks up at me, a look of complete startlement and horror, half shakes her head and makes a sound that, possibly, might be interpreted as “no” but really is more of a squeak than anything else.

At that moment, a robust and cheery reference librarian comes around the corner and asks what’s up and I tell him I’m looking for D—- C—- and he proceeds to bellow her name over and over and ask if she’s back there. Complete silence follows. He shrugs and says she must not be back there. After all that racket, I tend to agree. I turn away and start toward the door from the stacks to the library, and just as my hand closes on the knob I hear Eliza shouting:

“You can come out now! She’s gone!”

Now, I can only assume that this was meant to be a joke. However, I find it so odd that this woman who to my face can only squeak, can scream at the top of her lungs once I have my back turned. Furthermore, this joke would be funny if it were to come, say, from someone I actually knew or whom I conversed with on a regular basis, but coming from a complete stranger it’s just creepy and bizarre. Probably this joke was targeted to the robust and cheery librarian and not to me, but it was still very strange, regardless.

You are now armed with all the information I know about Eliza. The stage is now set for me to recall the ongoing saga of the weird notes, which will begin in Part 2. Stay tuned.

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23 Jul 2003, by

I am retelling one of those moments that touch you, and are so quickly gone that they are usually forgotten.

Earlier Today:

I told Sophia that after she came home from daycare, we would be going to get an H.C. with Ms. Lynn and that Ms. Lynn was going to make us both so pretty. I was hoping that if I prepared her in advance that she wouldn’t have a screaming tantrum, as she’s had on every other occasion. She looked at me and very, very softly, so that I almost couldn’t hear her, asked, “Sucker?” Hooray! The bribe has worked. Yes! Yes, when we go to Ms. Lynn’s we get a sucker! And there’s animals in her studio. Sophia smiled.

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23 Jul 2003, by

You know, ever since I started keeping a too public dream journal, people have started telling me about their dreams. My husband wakes up and tells me he had strange dreams, then describes them. Some friends have started telling me all about their dreams, and others have posted recent dreams to their blogs. I’m not saying that these people wouldn’t have spoken to me about their dreams anyways, or posted about them to their own blogs, but it seems like there’s a connection there. One of my good friends was even telling me about a book in which a character illustrates her dreams with collages. Of course my talking so much about dreams probably puts people in the frame of mind that I’m interested in them, which I am, but I’ve always been interested in them and people just never really knew.

There’s also the people who tell me that they never dream, or they never remember their dreams if they have them. I find it curious that people should say this. It’s like saying, “I see you’re wearing glasses. I never wear glasses.” I guess it’s a way of differentiating themselves from me. You dream. I’m too busy for that nonsense. I have yet to be surprised by the people who tell me they don’t dream. Guys more often than women, it seems, thought that may have more to do with the predominant gender of people I speak to than with actual statistical variance. I may have too much free time, but I like remembering my dreams. I work at it.

And without further ado, last night’s dream, the show finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I missed, but my subconscious did not.

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