Wednesday, January 25, 2017


309. VOX, POX, 
One hundred ways
of nothing. I decided
long ago that sums
it all up. It's the
same suicide as a
love affair. It's the
same designation
as a lousy death.
When I was (working)
at Barnes & Noble
at the turn of the
century (boy, that
sounds weird) we
were stocking books
with the craziest titles
-  not literature and
stuff, I mean all
the other drivel
that went into
those rabid
sections of things
like 'Self-Improvement'
and 'New Age'  -
marginal categories
of meaninglessness
except to some
Barnes & Noble
boardroom geek in
the Marketing Department
who had to answer for
this stuff monthly.
'The Noonday Demon,'
some crazy book about
'Depression' with a
really serious old-iconic
farm tractor photo or
something on the cover.
I actually forget what
it was and don't care
to look it up. It
was supposed to,
I think, suggest
the haggard,
long idleness of
actionless farm
afternoons, open
fields, little to do,
dark-weather doldrums.
Probably trying as
well to play off of
Michael Lesey's
book from 1972,
'Wisconsin Death
Trip.' Who knows.
Another book
was entitled 'The
Good Death.'
Which was
followed up,
I'd bet, by another
title somewhere
called 'The Bad
Death'  -  when
your neighbor comes
home early and
finds you in bed
with his wife,
and bludgeons
you to death with
a sledge hammer,
right there in
front of her, and
the kids too. Whew!
Lots of good reading
there. And, like
they always said
in the brassier industry,
'so uplifting!' They
always say the
women think totally
differently than men
do about sex. I never
knew. Couldn't tell.
When your down
at the business end
of the action, it
never much matters
anyway how anyone
got there. You're
just there. That
was probably an
equally apt description
of sex for me : one
hundred ways of
nothing. And to
think, Freud
and Jung had
their huge falling
out over, yep,
a woman. Jung's
girlfriend shooting
for Freud. Now,
That's deep.
I used to get,
often enough,
these mid-day
housewife types,
(speaking of mid-day
demons),all crazy
nut-cases. They'd
somehow come
over to me pleading
for help. One lady
once was actually
crying, bawling
her eyes out, just
about treating me
as her spiritual advisor,
seeking serious advice.
The gist of her deal
was, 'You have to
help me, my teen-age
daughter, I can't
control, she's
cutting herself,
what book can
you give me that
will tell me what
to do? Please.' It
was a really bad
scene, for me  -
and for her obviously.
Firstly, at that time
I wasn't actually
even sure what
she meant, about
the 'cutting herself'
stuff. I couldn't show
falseness either, so
I got around the
issue by generally
and eventually
asking her to
actually 'describe'
the issue she was
facing.Which is
how I learned
about teen-age
girls and their
problem, and cutting
-  self-inflicted. I'd
never faced that
before, and helping
people in these
situations was
most definitely
not to be about
part of my job.
I couldn't rightfully
say  -  though I
wanted to  -  'look
lady, it's not my
problem. We have
a lot of books here,
find one to fit
your needs.' But
that wasn't cool
either. So, I
Kind of just talking
her down, walking
her through some
adolescent crisis
type books, etc.
She was grateful,
but I don't know
whatever came
of it. Don't want
to, and didn't.
That entire section
of books was crazy
-  it should have
 just been called,
in big letters : DESPAIR.
With maybe an arrow
too, pointing over to
the nearly 18 rows
of crap-books about
religion we had too.
Then another time,
this nice-looking
lady comes at me,
with her attractive,
maybe 16-year old,
creepy-Goth style
sexpot daughter.
OK, what's with
that. She pulls me
over to the fiction
section, with her
daughter, and pops
out a book, off the
shelf. SHE gives
to me, and says
'you ought to read
this. My daughter
and I have decided
you should read
this book.' Some
sort of look between
annoyance and 'get
the hell out' must
have passed my face,
they should begin
explaining the
book to me. Which
they did. 'Vox' was
the title. I forget the
author. No, now I
remember. His name was
Nicholson Baker. It's
about phone sex. Two
people carrying on this
crazy, sexual relationship
by phone in streams of
consciousness and
thought formats.
They both told me it
was totally fascinating,
and quite absorbing. It
would engage me, and
they thought I seemed
right for reading this
book. Funniest thing
was, I put my copy
back, and they walked
away with one, actually
buying it. It was a 1992
book, meaning that,
by 1999 the paperback
version was out,
which is what this
was, for about
$12.95, then, or
close. I never
did read the book;
never again saw
those two charming
characters either.
Another time a
came in with her
son, same self-help
section. The kid w
as weird, one of
those kids who
act possessed  -
quiet and still,
then suddenly
stomping around
and making all
sorts of loud noises
and grunts, and
then quiet again,
and it just goes on.
I finally did walk
over to the kid in
the midst of one
rant, and told him,
nicely, to be quiet,
pipe down. In a
gentle manner.
The kid was a pest,
20 minute's worth
already. The lady
steamed up like I'd
set her panties on
fire, attacking me.
'Don't you dare say
that to my son! He's
autistic! You leave
him alone! He's
very advanced!'
She was clearly
crazed. (Maybe
that sign should just
read, 'In Despair
AND Crazed!). I
had, at this point,
frankly, very little
knowledge of what
'autistic' even meant
 or what it was
driving at. I wanted
to say 'well then
get him some pencils
and a a drawing pad.'
(She was a sloppy
talker, and I at
first did think
she said 'Artistic').
But I knew that
would sound stupid
-  these advanced
self-help women
never went over
to the Humor section,
I'd noticed. So I kept
my mouth shut,
stayed cool, and
just said, 'Oh, OK.
 I just didn't want
him to be disturbing
others.' And left it
at that. The steam
kettle lady went
back to her
Then we'd get
the boys, 12,
maybe 14 year
olds, always
taking the
porno mags
from the magazine
sales area and for
the obligatory
look-see sessions.
It was endemic;
we'd find crumpled
up, torn out pages
in the stalls, wet
magazines from
the wank-sessions;
 and even super-realistic
sex-scene photos
torn out and stuck
onto the walls. It was
OK, you just lived
with it  -  about boys,
I mean, what are
you going to do.
Somebody wants
to be the magazine-in
-the-bathroom police?
Actually, yeah, there
was someone, once.
One of the other
managers, on shift,
a female, stormed
into the men's room
one day when someone
got wind of a session
going on in there
and blasted open
the stall door to
this kid in there
doing his wrist
exercise and
dragged his sorry
ass out of there.
His friends had
scattered. I actually
felt bad for the kid;
poor slob. This
middle-aged female
Managerette rips
him a new asshole,
loudly berating him,
in earshot of everyone,
describing what he
was doing in there
and how she'd have
his parents over
here in 15 minutes
and how would he
like that and how
does he feel now
that everyone in
the store knows
what he's been
doing in there?
It was horrid and
I wanted to die
for the kid, and
at the same time
I sorta' wanted
to drown her
Manager head
in the nearest used
toilet I could find.
It was just all so
wrong. If that kid
had left the store
and just killed
himself by walking
right out into Raritan
Road traffic blindly,
I would have
understood. I still
think about that
poor kid, and
what he ever
became, and
what he must
think of the
world now.
things just
ain't right.
Lastly, the thing
that also used to
rile me up was
the Religion
section. For
whatever reason,
the Barnes &
Noble plan-books
always had the
Religion section
adjacent to, and
running into, the
New Age section
-  which was
mythology, Devil
worship, Satanism,
spiritualism, ghosts,
stuff about death
and reincarnation,
Illuminati and
conspiracy stuff,
etc. We constantly
had these mad,
crazy people
coming in,
religious fanatic
types, I guess,
from Clark and
Colonia, Fanwood
and Westfield,
Cranford  -  all
those surrounding
areas  -  getting
all provoked
and really vocal,
about those
two sections
being next to
each other.
That was a
weird one  -
I guess they
thought wherever
we put them
the store wasn't
big enough to
keep those two
sections far enough
apart from each
other. I always
figured, 'get over
it; a searcher's a
searcher.' The
Religion section
itself, fairly deep
and dense, had very
many Bibles, in
every version. It
also drove me
nuts to see how
many versions
of the same Bible
were always in
production; and
we had to have,
and display, each
of them, in quantity,
for sale. The one
we'd miss is the
one you could
bet some fool
would come in
screaming for.
Same God, same
racket, same stories
and tales, and the
ending never changes.
It went from King
James Version to
New American Version
to the Hipster Bible
and back. There had
to be thirty versions.
Not a one of them
could have been
too exciting, because
they never ended up
in the men's room.
That always made
me curious. Vox,
pox, and John
Knox; what
d'ya know
about that!

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