Fire, Books, Cigarettes

You can’t just leave for five days and think you can come back with a quick entry that updates everything. I’m also totally behind in my work. So I’m printing a letter from Chris, updating the book list, and then giving another classic entry. You’ll hear my Atlanta stories tomorrow.

Many of you have written to ask how Al and Chris are doing in the aftermath of the fire. Here’s what Chris had to say:

[readermail]I’m writing this because Allison isn’t. I wish she was. She would write something very funny that would end with some southern wisdom that her grandfather used to say. Something along the lines of, “Well, like Grandfather used to say, the cow never moos very far from the henhouse.”, and then everything would make sense. I’m from New Jersey, my grandfather made radios for RCA and the only time we ever saw cows was on the side of an ice cream truck, but I’ll do what I can.

We were talking about the six stages of grief the other day. We couldn’t exactly remember what they were and, really, I don’t think they accurately describe what we are going through. They seem a little too general. There needs to be a subsection called the Six Stages of What the Fuck To Do When Your House Burns Down. And there possibly needs be eight stages, three of which are anger, two are shopping, and one is the carpal tunnel syndrome from filling out insurance paper phase.

I’m in one of the anger phases right now or, as I described it to pamie and AB, the “shitfuckgoddammotherfuckerpussycocksukercuntbitch
whoreassholeblowjobdickwadarrrgghhhppssrrtffrrr!!!!!!” phase.

So its been a bit hard. I’m trying to look at things the way they are and not attach any negative connotations to them. Just because my mattress and boxspring are on the floor and I only have three forks does NOT mean I lost the last 13 years of my life and have reverted to being a recent college graduate. Although, I was looking around the new place right after we moved in, took in the computer on a card table, the paper plates, and the television on the floor and fantasized a little that I was an FBI agent deep undercover on a top-secret surveillance mission. Because we all know that the worst criminal masterminds live in apartment complexes in Lawrenceville, GA.

But life is slowly returning to normal. We are adjusting as much as we can. We have tried to be kind to one another and not take the frustration out on each other just because the other person is there. We are starting to remember the funny things about Murphy. He used to chew our toilet brush. Not just chew, though, but eat. He would actually chew down to the brushhead a whole toilet brush every six months. We had to keep spares around the house. The checkout clerk at Home Depot knew my name.

And we continue to be thankful for what everyone has done for us. We could have had ten times the insurance and replaced everything single thing we had within a week of the fire and it wouldn’t have given us any of the hope, joy and silly amounts of happiness we felt from what everyone has done for us. Your generosity seems boundless and we just can’t say thank you in a way that approaches how we feel that gratitude in our hearts.

I know that the right perspective will eventually come and that it may be a long time before that happens. I can live with that. For right now, we are just getting through each day, with varying degrees of success, holding on to the belief that it will get better. Who knows, maybe today will be the day we get a lamp! One can only dream.[/readermail]

There was a time on Monday night when Chris and I were sitting on his couch, watching his television on the floor and I turned to him and said, “I cannot believe your house burned down.” It truly makes no sense. Even when you see the horrible, charred remains of what was once the Mayflower apartments. Even when you see the empty apartment they are slowly rebuilding back into a home. I kept waiting for them to pull their old apartment back from behind door number two. So many times when bad things happen you can find the good parts in it all — the end of someone’s suffering, the chance to finally change your life into something good, the ability to become a better person through a challenge. In this case there is nothing. They are already the strongest, wisest, bravest people who have faced some of the hardest life challenges in the world. And then this.

But they do have a pretty stocked kitchen, thanks to you guys. I’m assuming it’s a small comfort to have a spatula right where you need it to be, to have enough glasses for everyone in the room, to have something to wash and dry and put away.

But I’m talking about my trip to Atlanta tomorrow. Now: books.

[readermail]Hi, Pam,

I got so excited after reading about your Michael Moore encounter that I had to donate more books. I sent The Big Book of Knitting by Katharina Buss and Nursing School and Allied Health Entrance Exams to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Branch, because knitting is cool, and so are nurses.

Yay, books!


Shannon sent to the Piedmont Branch:

Pigs Rock, by Melanie Davis Jones and Bob Staake
You Can’t Taste a Pickle with Your Ear, by Harriet Ziefert and Amanda Haley
Tooth and Claw: Animal Adventures in the Wild, by Ted Lewin

Oh, and I should say that got a lovely thank you letter from the Piedmont branch with a personalized note at the bottom (and a way cool Dr. Seuss bookmark). I think it’s nice that they took the time to do that, since they must have so many to write by now, thanks to everybody’s efforts.

And with her donation, we’ve hit the 500 mark. Huh-to the-zzah, people.

[readermail]JeniMull here – TWoP lover, reader of M.Giant – who alerted me to your efforts initially – and all other writers found via TWoP and/or DHAK.

Your Michael Moore story had me choked up. I had to finally make my donation! So the Temescal Library is receving two magazine subscriptions – Mothering and Nickelodeon.

I remember the magazine stacks in the library as one of my favorite places. There were magazines I had never heard of – and it made me remember how very vast the world was. After college, when I was selling my blood plasma to buy groceries, being able to read People magazine at the library was a siimple pleasure.

You are a good person, Pamie! Michael Moore is so right![/readermail]

I used to read Nickelodeon all the time when I was a kid. I watched about six hours of that station a day. Turkey Television created my love of stand-up comedy, and taught me the all-important “Fish Heads” song. And I still know every word of You Can’t Do That On Television. It’s why when you get me drunk enough, you’ll hear my semi-Canadian accent.

Old school Squishite Liz/Chicken Grrl writes:

[readermail]Well, you’ve done it now. You told me something couldn’t be done, so I went and did it. You said OPL’s Golden Gate branch had received everything on its wish list save one item, which was out of print. So I bit. I went and found a non-out-of-print edition. (It’s not the same binding they requested, so I told them to return it if it won’t work [at my expense] and wait for the edition they want, or get something else.) I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go to all that trouble, to be honest, because it meant finding their address and phone number (since that edition’s not on their wish list), plus I want to help my local libraries, I had a headache, fishcakes. Then I saw the title, Tippy-Toe Chick, Go! (with a cute chick illustration on the front), so I HAD to get it, being the Chicken Grrl and all! So I did it, and sent them a note letting them know to expect it. Thought I’d let you know as well, since your hard work’s paying off in spades![/readermail]

Mary Farrell, one of the librarians pulling at my heartstrings with their nice emails, writes:

[readermail]Your conversation with Michael Moore was great! Listing our wish lists directly on your web site is wonderful. I saw that one person wrote that books were coming to Lakeview. We can’t wait!!!! Our list is long because people keep asking for titles we don’t have, so I’ve just kept adding those titles and books I know our people want, that are new, or titles to fill holes in our collection. I added your book to the list today. This list is also an easy way to keep track of titles I hope to buy when/if the city gives us some money for books, that is why it is so long.

Thank you again for really making a difference![/readermail]

My friend Dave writes:

[readermail]Thanks for posting the links to the I’ve been wanting to contribute to … you know … represent where I’m at and whatnot. I’ve ordered the following books: Walter Mosley’s Fearless Jones and Virginia Wolfe’s Mrs. Dalloway and the following cd: Quality by Talib Kweli.[/readermail]

Mary Jeys writes:

[readermail]I saw your May 1st entry on, well, May 1st. I thought you would get a few too, but I was planning on joining the few. Then a friends wedding came along and my budget was strapped. I don’t know what happened today, maybe it was the Michael Moore endorsement that sent me into a frenzy. Michael Moore! Michael Moore likes this website too! I love it too! Me and Michael have something in common! And Cesar Chavez. I am also from Austin and love the Chavez. Uvas No! So, i donated to the Cesar E. Chavez Library. What an amazing list! I gave em:

Secrets in Stone : All About Maya Hieroglyphics,” by Laurie Coulter (Author)

Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection,” by Anthony White (Editor)

and “A Witches’ Bible: The Complete Witches Handbook” Janet Farrar, Stewart Farrar

Thanks so much for giving me another cause to bang my drum with. Over here McConaughey![/readermail]

I actually own that Witches Handbook. I wish I had a library that would have loaned it to me back in my sophomore year of high school so I could have saved myself some money on the Wiccan lit. Why is it still on my bookshelves? Conversation starters.

Jenn writes:

[readermail]Dear Pamie,

Hello. First, I love your website. I’ve been reading for years, but this is the first time I’ve ever written an e-mail. (I always figure you get so many admiring e-mails that it must almost get tiring.)[/readermail]

That’s not true. I get so many apologetic emails from you guys. Of course I want you to write. Sometimes it takes a couple of weeks for me to get back to you, but I try to answer all of my email. Will I be able to do that this summer while I’m touring and my book is getting reviewed? I don’t know. But by September I’m sure it will have all died down and I can get back to answering your email. But don’t ever hesitate to write. I’m glad you’re out there reading.

[readermail]Well, I bought the Lakeview Branch a copy of “Why Girls Are Weird“. It was on their wish list and it seemed fitting to buy them your book. It’s actually on pre-order, but they should receive it 3-7 days after it comes out. I’m also buying it because I when I heard about the libraries, I wanted to do something, but I didn’t have a job. Less than a week ago I decided that if I got a job, I’d immediately order a book or CD for one of the libraries. That must have helped me get a job, because just three days later I got offered my dream job. YAY![/readermail]

See? It really does help your karma.

Catherine sent:

[readermail]The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions by Huston Smith
and The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror by Bernard Lewis[/readermail]

And Mary Farrell, madam librarian, writes again (I was out of town! The mail piled up, I’m sorry!):

[readermail]I just wanted to let you know that your efforts have gotten more books for Lakeview Branch Library in Oakland. We really appreciate the extra comments you have made which have spurred additional support. Today we received around 12 books. I wrote personal “Thank You’s” to each donor and put gift book plates in each book with the name and the state or country the donor is from. You are doing a marvelous thing. I have seen the discussions pro and con which discuss the merits and problems of such donations, but the reality is, we would not have new books without your fans. These gifts have renewed my faith in people. Thank you again.
Mary Farrell
Lakeview Branch[/readermail]

How cool is that? Your name in a book.

Emily writes:

[readermail]I’m a library worker in Nashville’s public library system, and I just wanted to remind you how much you kick ass for helping Oakland and other libraries. I sent a copy of Living History by Hillary Clinton, mainly just to spite my Hillary-hating in-laws, and a copy of Zane’s The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth because many of our patrons have been asking for it, and also because the combination of black erotica with first lady-memoirs made me giggle.[/readermail]

Kristi Jennings, who recently wrote to me about how to start a journal? Your email address doesn’t work. But I was telling you to try LiveJournal or DiaryLand if you want a fast way to start your own journal. Don’t hire a web developer! (Unless it’s my friend Michelle.)

Okay, now on to the classic entry portion of my massive may/june entries. Whew.

Todd writes:

[readermail]Pam (can I call you Pam?),[/readermail]

Yes, you can. Most people do. It’s always jarring to hear someone call me “pamie” that isn’t a relative or a very close friend.

[readermail]I don’t want to get all “kiss-assy” (My teacher was Mrs. Houston (who wasn’t even FROM Texas), but I got my learnin’ on in Oklahoma!), but I started reading your journal back in 99 and I will never be able to tell you the number of times you’ve made me smile, laugh at loud, challenged me to think about things, or changed my outlook on certain subjects.[/readermail]

Aw. Thank you. I say that like a Texas girl, head to the side with a squint. All whispery like Renee Zellweger, too.

[readermail]Thank you for sharing your life with me.[/readermail]

Are you breaking up with me?

[readermail]I was so sad to see you leave Squishy, but at the same time I completely understood your need to get away from it.

I was absolutely thrilled to see a couple of months ago, after checking to see of you had updated your on-line resume. You’ve matured so much as both a person and a writer.

Congratulations on getting published! You deserve it! I already have my copy reserved.[/readermail]

Yay! doesn’t know what to do with me, but I’m very excited to be one of their summer reading picks.

[readermail]So much more to say, but I know you have a bajillion e-mails to get through so here are my requests:

“Cigarettes” – In the style of James Gandolfini (can’t remember the exact title). By the way, when I quit smoking three and a half years ago I used that entry to do it. I would imagine the cigarettes being all, “You gonna fuckin’ quit me? You can’t quit me.” Then I’d get all mad and tell the cigarettes “If you wanna fuckin’ war, you got a fuckin’ war!”. It was me against the tobacco mafia. I won.

Thank you Pam.


Letter from Bill Pullman – the one Stee wrote.

Keep doing what you do.[/readermail]

Well, letter from Bill Pullman is easy, it’s still up at stee’s site. It’s funny that Dave is mentioned here donating books to Austin, because I vividly remember receiving this email on a hot summer afternoon when I was working for IBM. I called Dave into my office and said, “This is the funniest thing I’ve ever been sent.” I read it to him and Dave said, “Aw, you gotta write that dude back.” Ta da. It’s still the funniest thing and cracks me up every time I read it.

And as for Cigarettes, here you go.

Gave up on: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. I couldn’t do it. I tried. Man, did I try. But I ended up reading two other books instead while I was forcing myself through this. I’m sure Balzac is a lovely, enchanting ride through the mystical blah blah of blah, but I was mostly lulled to the magical world of Nod every time I turned a page. So I read Getting Over Jack Wagner, another Downtown Press book about girls who date musicians, and I Bought Andy Warhol, which I thought was going to be fiction, but instead was several short essays about life as an art dealer. Would I have read it if I knew what it was? Probably not. Would I have read the entire thing if I wasn’t trapped on a plane and forced to choose between this and Balzac? Nah. But I read it and now I have a deeper understanding of the people who purchase art and why some art is worth more than others. I think I’m a better person for it, somehow, in a Trivial Pursuit game that is yet to be played.

Please donate a book to Oakland

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