Saturday, April 28, 2007

Defying Librarian Stereotypes, One RenFest-Hating Shot at a Time

OXFORD, Ohio (ZP) -- For the record, nobody I hang out with on a regular basis ever calls me The ZenFo Pro.

Hell, I'm lucky if anybody I know even bothers to call me Jason.

The night this photo (at left) was taken, months ago, the women who requested I join them for one of just about every damned shot at a certain Oxford bar simply referred to me as that guy.

According to my staff, colleagues, and friends, there are several others floating around Oxford Fucking Ohio.

Some of the nicknames are flattering; some are probably meant to somehow piss me off.

To many folks, I'm known simply as The Librarian. I'm also known as The Cowboy, Tex, Boots, Drunken Master, Brokeback Librarian, The Motherfucking Asshole Who Slept with My Girlfriend / Ex-girlfriend / Friend's Girlfriend, Professor Punker, Old School, Peaches (no clue on that one), the Hot Librarian, The Chach Hunter, and, of course, That Weird Guy from the Library with the Blog.

But there's one nickname that only friends are allowed to call me here in Oxford, particularly in bars, taverns, or, well, wherever fine libations are served.

Church Lady.

Does the picture above make anybody think of church?

* * * *

Yes, Church Lady.

As in The Church Lady, a recurring Saturday Night Live character from the 80s and 90s.

A buddy of mine gave me that unusual nickname a few months back.

Whenever he thinks of librarians, or people who work in libraries, he usually thinks of Dana Carvey's legendary Bible-thumping, uptight, crotchety prude.

I'm sure the fact that my buddy thinks of Dana Carvey's character as being symbolic of the physical appearance of librarians just pisses the hell out of a lot of folks.

C'mon people. Lighten the fuck up.

Have you ever seen that stupid Librarian Action Figure? The outfits, stiff movements, and glasses are virtually identical. Who the fuck do you think most people think of when they hear the word Librarian? Winston Churchill? Cameron Diaz? Roger Clemens? Betty Paige?


Give Mr. Carvey's character 700 cats (20 of which are named after Jane Austen characters), a stack of genre fiction on the night stand and an overworked vibrator in a drawer, and, well, you've created the Perfect Librarian Stereotype...

* * * *

This morning, I had one of those oh-so-awkward run-ins with a woman I briefly dated (i.e., a fling) at the grocery store. She was back in town, helping a friend move.

She told me she'd dated another librarian, in the city she currently calls home, a few months ago. It didn't last long, apparently.

Jason, I never thought of you as a librarian. You're more like going home with a cop or a construction worker or something...

...Oh my God. He took me to a RenFest. A RenFest! And he recommended that I dress like an elf or hobbit or some shit. The dude was fucking weird, like serial killer nerd weird...

...I mean, you're weird but not like scary homeless guy weird...

You know, I've only been to one Renaissance Festival, ever.

I ended up puking in a porta-john for 20 minutes. I was seventeen. The bellyful of Thunderbird, combined with an overabundance of guys who reminded me of more obnoxious, armored versions of The Simpsons' Comic Book Guy, drove me to purge away a perfectly good afternoon.

I'm not knocking real-life Comic Book Guys here. Comic book conventions? I can deal with Comic Cons, no problem. Get me into a good debate about the DC Universe, about how Ted Kord was a much better Blue Beetle than either Dan Garrett or the new kid, and I'm set for an afternoon.

Hell, there are more hot women working in comic book stores than in most strip clubs. I quit collecting comic books because, well, I tend to get into quite a bit of trouble when there's a fangirl involved.

But RenFests? Nope. It's psychosomatic.

Fake broadswords and Highlander wannabes? Well, even writing about them now makes my stomach churn.

* * * *

So Friday night, a couple of friends of mine, including the guy who named me Church Lady, turned their garage into a concert venue, a celebration of Oxford Fucking Ohio's biggest holiday - the annual Running (Away) of the Local U. Kiddies.

Two local punk bands, no cover. Enough booze and cheap beer to deliver Boris Yeltsin unto Russian Alcoholic Valhalla in working-class style.

It reminded me of, well, my high school days - a bit of soothing balm for the ol' Quarter-Life Crisis. I'm fairly certain that I was the oldest guy at the party, actually.

With age comes a lower alcohol tolerance and, well, by midnight I was already nursing a pending hangover from earlier in the evening, dulling the pain with a second round of intoxication.

Let's put it this way. I'm going to be 29 next year. I've been attending impromptu garage rock-outs in college towns since I was 13 years old. It is probably not the best idea to leave me alone for too long near the keg.

One of the nasty little reminders that I'm, well, approaching the beginning of my fourth decade on this planet is the fact that my poor ears are a bit sensitive to prolonged concert-volume music. I've already sustained some hearing loss, thanks to my own years playing in various punk and hardcore bands back in the day, so I'm extra careful about spending too much time in small, reverberating pits o' sound.

At one point, I stepped out of the garage to let my ears rest and to get some fresh air. The bands were breathtaking, but the large crowd was downright suffocating.

A pair of intoxicated women huddled together against the building, arguing about whether to continue drinking my friends' free beer or move on to the next party.

I lit a cigarette. One of the women, mid-sentence, turned to me and asked if I'd be willing to bum her a cancer stick. I obliged and, well, being a bit too tipsy to be better behaved, I butted into their conversation. The smoking girl, my tobacco thief, seemed to appreciate the male attention.

"So do you live here?"

"Nope. But I know the hosts. Name's Jason, by the way."

"I'm _______.So what do you do? Do you go here?"

"Nope. I'm a librarian."



"Nuh-uh. Where?"

"______ Library."

"Nuh-uh. You're too young."

"How old do you think I am?"

"Um... 23?"

Bless you, my child. Nice to know that I won't be mistaken for a stupid librarian action figure anytime in the near future.

* * * *

I was almost willing to forgive the fact that one of her friends ended up puking all over me and one of the party's hosts.

Definitely not the kind of women I'd ever allow to call me Church Lady, much less allow the chance to develop their own pet names in more, er, intimate settings.

Ugh. Regurgitated corn and rum. My jeans were covered in the stuff. I simply scraped the kernels off with a stick and kept on going.

The smell reminded me of that RenFest porta-john. And I haven't even seen the bottom of a bottle of Thunderbird in more than a decade.

* * * *

I managed to make my way home by four o'clock in the morning. I grabbed a quick slice of cold pita bread from the fridge, put some Magic Sam on the stereo, and tossed my vomit-covered jeans in the shower to further ripen.

I stretched out, butt-naked on the bed, reading the same line from Ginsberg's "Howl" over and over until I finally crashed:

...they were only mad when Baltimore gleamed in supernatural ecstasy...

No, I wasn't thinking about something literary or snobbishly intelligent.

I was thinking about the Orioles being in second place in the American League East, despite going winless against Oakland and Boston last week. I was hoping, somewhere in my half-sober superstitious state, that somehow reading the line over and over, here in Ohio, would jinx Cleveland for the weekend series.

* * * *

I think I passed out at five or five-thirty. I awoke at 9:30, fight as a fiddle, with only the smell of corn and rum soup to remind me of the previous night.

The compact disc changer had played through all five CDs in the stereo - the sounds of Tom Waits, Nick Cave, the Wu-Tang Clan, KMFDM, and, of course, Magic Sam drifting through the apartment.

Well now ...

Isn't that special?

- # # # -


EsotericWombat said...

Can't say I've been to a RenFest, but I have some friends who go and enjoy them. Being myself a thorough geek I know how embarrassing it can get when the arrogant ones get on their high horses

I'd be glad if it was the Sox and the Orioles duking it out down the stretch. The 1-2 streak has at long last been broken, though not the way I'd have liked. This time I see no reason not to cut New York out of it.

Last year we were hemorrhaging games to the O's though so maybe I should keep my mouth shut

Cat. said...

RE "I'm, well, approaching the beginning of my third decade"--dude, hate to tell you, but you're actually approaching the end of your third decade!!

'sokay, tho--I'm into the fifth. So to speak. Decade. Not Thunderbird.

The word verification is "gyipy" closer to what I think of you as (so much for grammar this morning!).

Woeful said...

People's librarian stereotypes are WAY off! I get the same, "You're a librarian" thing all the time. Usually people are left in some level disbelief. Actually, librarians are some of the most partying people I know. I never though about how much that travesty of a doll resembles Carvey's character, LOL. That thing was a bad idea. I imagine the doll's creator got her 15 minutes. Thanks for perpetuating everything the profession is trying to shed, dumbass.

The only things I think of regarding Renaissance Fests are the Movie, "Garden State," and that chain of ridiculous restaurants. I put that shit right up there with people reenacting Civil War battles for fun. I like history, I find it fascinating, but that's way over the top.

As far as comic conventions go... Same deal. Unless you're there to either make money, or meet a specific writer/artist you admire for an autograph perhaps (j michael straczynski or joss wheadon, etc.). Otherwise, it's primarily a sad sausage fest.

cooper said...

ha ha

I hate Ren Fests - I admit to going one in high school for the sole purpose of my friends wanting to consume alcohol.

Here's to more expensive liquor as we age.


I have my own - not used to drinking headache going on having consumed more than I should have well into this morning.

The puke think though...that is nasty but funny how it doesn't bother you and write so wistfully about it.

When do I get to call you Church Lady?

coyotemike said...

Ahh, back when SNL was worth watching.

I've been to a ren-fair, and I thought it was alright. It was interesting to observe people, and I've developed the sort of scowl that keeps people away from me, leaving me free to gather future story characters.

You do realize that all the ladies who read you are going to be picturing you, reciting that line over and over while they are having some . . . alone . . . time, don't you?

You have my pity about the corn-jeans. That really can't be pleasant, no matter how cute the co-ed.

I'm tagging along to the big Comic Convention in San Diego this summer, although I might spend more time at the beach than in a large auditorium full of people who haven't bathed in the recent past.

The ZenFo Pro said...

It's so damned silly, but for some reason I feel as if I reverse my Cleveland jinx by even posting about it, and now the Os have dropped a half-game behind the Jays for 3rd place. Not that it matters this early in the season...

With regards to RenFests, well, you're not really missing anything. For one, Renaissance is a bit of a misnomer - the focus is usually on the English Renaissance period with a heavy dose of Robert Jordan novels and Tolkien hobbits thrown in for good measure. Just no my scene, really.

Lol, well, I'm fortunate I was even able to write anything. No hangover (despite 12 hours of drinking - kept that nice buzz going, didn't get blitzed) but man, was I sluggish most of Saturday...

Correction made.

Lol, yeah, I friggin' HATE that thing. It's a toy.

No disrespect to Nancy Pearl, an amazing writer and ambassador for libraries in person, but, yeah, not everybody's big into the whole "Book Lust" marketing gig. Great for book-centric libraries, and I agree with her that the profession has become unbalanced by the electronic access push...

Lol, I've actually participated in a few Civil War reenactments - have a relative who, in all honesty, used to spend his weekends as J.E.B. Stuart. The thing that separates RenFests from Civil War actors is the general attention to detail. Huge in the rural South, esp. Virginia and Mississippi, mainly because it helps draw in tourists to the national battlefields.

But RenFests? What the fuck does 21st century North America really have in common with ancient England? The first Europeans to arrive in this country came to escape that culture...


Trying not to laugh as I read about your own binge there...

Okay. It has passed :)

Well, hmmm. When can you call me Church Lady? Hmmm....

We'll just have to see, won't we?


Lol, there's a reason I steer clear of drunk women and, well, pointless hookups...

Cleaning up vomit is one of them, of course.

RenFests are indeed interesting places to people watch, fair enough.

As for the visuals...lord, I hope not. Hell, I'm not even cute.

And hey, you'll be surprised with the ComicCon. Sure, the Militant Nerd thing can be kinda annoying, but, hey, you might run into a few hotties. Been known to happen out there. :)

zydeco fish said...

I have no idea what RenFest is, which either makes me ignorant or old. Sadly, I think it's the latter.

Liz said...

The part about the overworked vibrator in a drawer made me laugh. Somebody recently told me that vibrators are, like so many of my interests and belongings, so 1980s.

The ZenFo Pro said...

Nah, actually it's probably more telling of the differences between U.S. and Canadian cultures. Hopefully, the plague has yet to infiltrate your neck of the woods :)

Well, true. And they're horrible for the environment, too.

One day, if the Religious Right has its way, the female orgasm will be banned and our landfills will be filled with buzzing plastic eggs, washing machine parts, and there'll be rubber pricks poking up through the piles of garbage...


Liz said...

btw, I have no idea what RenFest is either.

pia said...

Won't tell you all the names people call me :)

How about running into somebody, as you're leaving to go to work, who is coming out of an apartment, with a resident that is a friend with benefits of yours?

This was about ten years after high school--last time I had seen her. After we said hello etc, all I could think to ask her was about certain sexual things the guy in the apartment did---didn't.

Jacob said...

People only call me Jacob or Jake.
I can only hope to be called something else some day.

There is a Ren Fest here or at least there used to be. I think last year was the last one ever because someone purchased the great plot of land it was held on.

It had gone on for years almost part of the history of the area. It was strange but interesting to attend if you were into people watching.

Steph said...

corn jeans. Now that is nasty!!

The ZenFo Pro said...

Liz:'re very fortunate :)

Lol, I only put down the somewhat nice ones, appropriate for mixed audiences :)

I HATE those moments! Ugh!

Well...we could just give you a nickname in the ol' Blogosphere...

Yup, there's a lot of good fun to be had watching RenFests. Veritable freakshow.

Oh the smell... just imagine bad mexican food mixed with rum...

And curdled.

Jessica said...


Though I have a pierced nose, several tatts, and beautiful coffee-colored skin (all so not librarianish), I also have cats and an overworked vibrator - so there ya go.

I slept with a (male) librarian - oddest fucking two weeks of my life. Dude was just plain odd.

xboxgirl said...

Ahh, its nice to read your blog after driving for 10 hours straight [coming from a somewhat uneventful first time trip in Las Vegas, being as I had to spend most of my time at the hotel waiting around].
And 'Peaches' just means you are cute.

The ZenFo Pro said...

Lol, how many cats are we talking about here? As long as you're under 50, you're probably doing okay...

Yeah...there's a reason I don't date library folk. We're all fucking weird -- including myself.


Ha, I've made that trip a few times myself.

Peaches?!? Sorta an unmasculine sounding compliment.

Bob Patterson said...

Hah! Screw the librarian stereotypes even though they are mostly true! I'm 40 in June and I promised myself to get my black belt before 41. So, don't fret over 30.

IMO the library world needs a few more people who do look like construction workers or cops!


Anonymous said...

Church Lady! Funny how most of the names i stick people with at the local waterin' hole seem to catch, whether it be employees or Red Needle drinkin' regulars. Couldn't resist commenting to this entry, especially knowing that somewhere on this damnable interweb of yours I'm compared to an Opium-addled Chinese mystic. Seems I came out on top in the nickname exchange.
-Minister of Apathy

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