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Category Archives: Memories

Let’s face it. Not everyone can be as awesome as Geoff.

Seriously. Awesome.

I was properly introduced to Geoff via one of my professors at UCCS, a man named Tom Napierkowski. This was during my junior year, and one of the rare occasions when V and I actually had a class together. I learned a lot about classic literature from this class, and I started to learn more and more about the authors that I was studying. Now this was hardly the first literature class that I had taken where my professor was highly knowledgeable and very passionate about their particular subject. After all, it’s hard to argue with the people who wrote this or this. Still, my class on Geoff (for that is how Dr. Napierkowski will always refer to the man) was one of the first where I realized that I could understand my professor’s desire to know everything there was to know about a writer.

It’s not just that Chaucer wrote fantastic pieces of fiction. The Canterbury Tales are still read and retold, over six hundred years later. It’s that Chaucer wrote incredible characters. The man understood other people. Want to get a handle on an ensemble cast centuries before Stephen King did it? Read Chaucer. Every one of the characters on the pilgrimage to Canterbury has a story to tell, and each one of their tales reveals a little bit about who they are and what they believe. Whether it’s the noble Knight or the foul-mouthed, but funny Miller, Chaucer put in something for readers of every class and standing. He understood his audience, and he crafted something for everyone, and did it in a believable fashion. If that’s not a sign of an awesome writer, I don’t know what is.

Unlike Dr. Napierkowski and V, I’ve not had the opportunity to swing by Westminster Abbey for a chat with Geoff. I’d love to find myself in Poet’s Corner, and just think about the great people that have been buried there since he was. That’s going to have to wait a little while, I’m afraid. For now, I’ll stow that goal away with all the rest, and try to do some writing that will likely pale in comparison. I had what I hope will be a great idea for a short fiction piece the other day, so I’ll be spending my free time today (so, you know, today) working on that and a load of job applications. If it turns out to be a long enough piece (1000 words or so), I may submit it to Chuck Wendig’s latest challenge, since I’m still waiting to see what Sonia‘s going to throw my way this month. No rush, Sonia, seriously.

As for my reading, well, I decided to go with Larry Niven’s Ringworld to start, and snagged a copy of Fahrenheit 451 for the next reread, since those happened to be the two best titles in their respective shelves at the local branch of the public library. Halo fans take note. Ringworld is a huge inspiration to the titular Halo devices. Potential science issues (which have been addressed by Niven) aside, it’s shaping up to be a great sci-fi read. I’m sorry I didn’t get to it sooner, back in the days when I was first discovering things like Dune and Gateway and 2001.

Yesterday was pretty much awesome. I rocked both of my job interviews (I think) and should be hearing back from them by the end of the week. The one at Sofa Mart was one of the coolest interviews I’ve ever had. I mean, in a building full of comfy furniture, the manager just picked a couple of couches for us to sit on and chatted about where I came from, what my interests are, etc. None of the boring situational questions like “Tell us about a time when you had to do such and such a thing, and how you reacted to it.” Quite honestly, those kind of questions just irritate me as an interviewee, and I don’t feel that they are nearly as effective as getting to really know a person. I digress. My point is that my interviews both went well. I’m hoping that I can secure new employment (or additional employment, because I would like to still be able to at least sub/volunteer at the library still, I love that job) before the end of the month, because it would make the house/apartment hunt a LOT easier. Knowing where I’ll be working lets me narrow my search to a certain area, and knowing how much I’ll be making lets me know how much I can afford to spend on rent each month. Oh yeah, and in addition to those two interviews, I decided to make the most of being a former Resident Assistant at my college and a former resident of a particular apartment complex. I dropped off a copy of my résumé (I love using the accented “e” when I type that word) at my former home, thinking that, if nothing else, my experience living there would give me a slight advantage in their hunt for a new leasing agent.Productivity: awwww yeah. Today’s goals: Get down to Motor City to pick up my parts for my car, pick up some stuff from the library, and submit a story to Strange Horizons.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my time at Borders, the good and the bad. One of my coworkers, and the first person I met at the location where I would eventually work, contacted me recently, asking if I would mind providing a personal reference for him. We chatted briefly about the end of things at our store, and he told me that I missed nothing but sadness and boredom. I’ve recently come across some pictures of other stores that were closing, and I found humor, resentment, and sorrow.

Closing Borders displays empty hangers with the sign "Invisibility Cloaks: 50 Percent Off"

Pottermania persisted until the bitter end.

Pictured here: The humor. Some Borders employees decided that, with nothing else to fill the shelves, they would attempt to make their customers laugh one last time. I know that when I went back to my store the last time, I wouldn’t be going in as an employee. I wasn’t going in as a customer either. I went in to say goodbye to friends, and to a place that, despite being sold out of invisibility cloaks, still held some lingering magic.

Borders employees list things they never told you.

And the transition from hilarity to bitterness begins...Sadly, this list is accurate.

Have you ever wondered if the booksellers are judging you for every question you ask them? 98% of the time, we were. The other 2% of the time we were too busy marveling that you were one of the smart ones, and trying to secretly signal our coworkers that we had someone who actually knew what they were doing in a bookstore.

Last, but certainly not least, is this image down here. Faint of heart, turn back now. This is the sorrow.

"I cannot live without books." And now my heart has been mercilessly removed...

I found this via an article critiquing this marvelous photograph. The composition of it is sheer beauty, the content is heartbreak for people like me. As the critic said, there is nothing quite so telling about this photo as the small “World History” sign on the floor below. Say what you want about big chains and corporations ruining bookstores. The loss of so many places so loved by so many is a genuine tragedy.

I’ll do whatever is within my power to maintain the written word. Yes, I said frequently that I was considering buying an eReader device of my own. Dear customers of mine from Borders, I lied to your faces. I was a salesman. I’m sorry, I truly am, but the lie I told you allowed me to survive. I don’t think that they’re all that bad, but I have no desire to replace my collection with an electronic device. Those of you who wanted one, you might have needed some convincing, and I got bonuses to my paycheck at Christmas for every one of the Kobos I sold to you. I thank you sincerely for providing me with the income I needed to get by. Those of you who didn’t want one? I share your feelings. I said a great many things at Borders when I knew that my managers were listening. I’ll keep my books. I’ll take yours too, if you don’t want them. I’ll construct my library from the cast-off fragments of civilization.

The smell of a book

Now you know the science behind it.

I will happily make this smell my cologne of choice for the rest of my life.  I will devote my life, much as I can, to the preservation of the printed page. “A man will give his life to the turning over of a collection of books.” Gene Wolfe wrote that in Shadow of the Torturer, a novel I need to finish at some point in the future. I would love to be a person like that. Wolfe, in the same scene, wrote that “Of the trail of ink, there is no end.” I’m sure that it may seem to some that books are reaching there end, but it is not this day. Nor will it be tomorrow. I’m going to dedicate as much of my time as I can to ensuring the survival of the book.

Opus, you may be a comic strip penguin, but at least your priorities are right.

I’ll keep my “obsolete pile of pressed tree pulp,” thank you.

If you were guaranteed an honest response to one question, whom would you question, and what would you ask them?

This is probably the most thought-provoking hypothetical question ever. Maybe it’s my love of philosophy, but I can’t help understanding the quest for truth. I’ve always had a curious, analytical mind, and so pursuing knowledge for knowledge’s sake is right up there with reading Tolkien on my list of favorite things. I can think of a few possible people that I’d like to pose questions to, especially with a guaranteed honest answer. However, I don’t think that I could ever limit myself to one such question, even if I could narrow things down to a single person. There’s far too much wonder in my mind. Most of that started in the building you see below.

Heginbotham Library, Holyoke, CO

My Hometown Library

This is home. Or rather, this was my childhood home away from home. This is a picture of the exterior of the library in my hometown. Now granted, I had two other libraries to access back then, the library in my elementary school, and the library in my jr. high/high school. This one will always hold a special place in my heart. Despite the potential controversy surrounding the man who once lived in this building, he provided the town of Holyoke with a massive trust fund that has been utilized to build/maintain a great number of facilities. Our hospital, high school, movie theatre, and more would not exist if it weren’t for him. The point is that this library, and my many explorations of the building and its grounds, provided me with part of my intense love for books. I still make an effort to return to this library at least twice a year.


“Thank God for a functioning ice maker, he thought dully, as the summer’s oppressive heat settled over him. Scotch on the rocks. That will do nicely. Never mind that it’s midnight. It’s too damn hot in here to not have a drink. The fan in his bedroom had apparently ceased to function some time ago, but he dared not leave his door open, lest he awaken the rest of his sleeping family. Tonight, he said to himself and to no one in particular, is a night to write. He pulled his laptop from his traveling bag, placed it upon the couch that now served as a bed on his infrequent visits, and opened it, allowing its glow to illuminate the room around him as it resumed its duties. I don’t do enough writing anymore. Not for someone who claims to be a writer. Yeah, you write. When? Where? Anywhere I can, but not frequently enough. No sense being dishonest. I’m lazy. I spend too much time watching TV or on the internet, never accomplishing anything. Tonight, that’s going to change. Tonight, I write.”

I put this together in the last few moments of consciousness before sleep on Monday night, back in my old room at my parents’ house. It was a good trip home, albeit less productive than I would have liked. There is an adorable little orange cat who awaits me again, and despite my dad’s denials, he actually does care about her. She’ll be sticking around, unlike her siblings, who have gone to live with family friends.

Upon my return, I found this waiting for me, courtesy of V. Warning: it’s a little bit graphic. Disclaimer: Warning is only placed here to dissuade the faint of heart (and my parents, God forbid they’ve found this blog). On a related note, I give you this. This is what writers used to be. By comparison, Chuck Wendig feels we’ve become too tame. It’s time to ramp it up, turn it to eleven. I’m all for this. I think it’s better to be published before going completely off the deep end, though. I’ll be starting slow. Any readers with booze to donate, I ask that you do it now. Preferably served in the skull of some useless “novelist” like Stephanie Meyer. Yes. That will do nicely. Now go, before I overturn a table. I need time to prepare my July entry for you all.

I beg your pardon while I rant for a moment.


As many of my readers are aware, I was hired to work at Borders Books and Music in September of last year. This was my first real-world job, being as it was the first post I was hired to following my college graduation. Naturally, I was thrilled when I was accepted. What kind of writer would I be if I weren’t thrilled to be hired at a bookstore? Life was good. When I was hired, however, there was one thing that bothered me. In September, Borders introduced a program called Borders Rewards Plus. For twenty dollars, a customer would get a year’s worth of additional 10% discounts. As an employee, I was given this upgrade automatically. It was great. I got great perks as an employee, and I got to work around books all the time. I loved it. Hell, the customers loved me. I helped them find books. I helped them place online orders. I wrapped their books for them. I recommended authors and titles that they might not have read. I wrote dozens of staff picks. I brought order to the manga section. I was tech support and cleaning crew and sales staff all in one. They called me “the pirate guy” because of my boots. It was a good gig.

So, back to the Plus card thing. Initially, getting customers to buy the upgrade was incredibly easy. After the Christmas season, however, things slowed down dramatically. Our ability to sell the Plus upgrades dropped drastically, but we were still expected to make a large number of upgrade sales each day that we were on the clock. Our managers maintained that it was for the good of the company, and continued to monitor our progress and remind us every thirty minutes or so as to how many upgrades we’d sold and how many more we needed to make our daily goal. At first, I truly believed in this program, but then a couple of events changed my view. In February, our company announced that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Management again told us that Plus upgrades would save the day, and that our performance had kept our store from closing in the initial shutdown of stores. Not long after this, however, it was discovered that our general manager and assistant manager were gaining bonuses for each Plus upgrade that we sold. Nothing was coming back to the associates, or even our other supervisors.

Suffice to say, I was frustrated with my company. I was not alone. I gave up on sales of Plus upgrades, because I decided that it was not worth lying to my customers just to keep my job at a failing retailer. As part of this, I began scanning my own Borders Rewards card for customers while I was working at the cash register. This got a dozen or so customers a 10% discount, and it earned a few points towards my own account. Our managers found out about this, and were less than pleased that I had been giving “undeserved discounts” to customers. I, unfortunately, failed to inform my managers that I was less than pleased that they were earning equally undeserved bonuses. As of Monday of last week, I was placed on a two-day suspension for my actions. I was asked to sign a formal statement saying that I had been giving these “undeserved discounts” and that I had benefitted from them in accumulation of points on my card, for a total of $67.58 owed in restitution. I was also told that I would be under investigation for the duration of my suspension, and that our Loss Prevention people would be determining my fate.

On Wednesday of last week, I returned to Borders to speak to my managers. I was informed that I was being terminated, signed my paperwork, and was given my final paycheck. I laughed it off, honestly, despite the crushing need for money right now, because I was finally out. I’d been debating for weeks about whether or not to quit, and now my decision has been made for me. Now I have time to visit friends and family, and look for something full time. I don’t regret doing what I did. I really don’t. I had my customers’ best interests at heart the entire time. Why should I regret doing what was best for them? There was never any reason for me to lie to them, and now I won’t have to. Plus, if anybody asks me why I “stole from Borders,” I can quote the legendary Captain Jack himself, and say “Pirate.”

Anyway, on the day they had me go in to sign my paperwork, I spotted a letter from Mike Edwards, the C.E.O. of Borders Group, Inc. It was letting us, excuse me, them, know that the one potential bidder lined up had withdrawn their bid to buy Borders. Now, less than a week later, the official announcement of liquidation has come down the line. This time, however, I’m not caught up in it, though I’ve not yet told everyone about my early release. It really doesn’t matter that much to me now. This is one pirate guy who found his lifeboat, even if I had to be kicked into it. I’m not going down with the ship. I wish the best of luck to my friends and coworkers who are remaining with the company through the liquidation process, and I hope that they find better things in their futures.

TL;DR: I’m down to one part-time job, now that Borders is closing, but I’m not going to be stuck in that place while they strip everything from the shelves. I don’t think I could bear to watch her go…

There was another world in my garden when I was a child, one that could only be accessed through secret doors and passageways, across and under grapevines, up and down ropes, and around and through the trees. I had no real name for it, but my sister called it “Lafneria.” She was the one who took the trouble to breathe real life into the place. She built log benches there, places to rest among the hidden flowers, sheltered under elm tree branches. She was always the artist, and I was jealous of her skill, but oh so grateful when she let me enter this world of hers. We would eat rhubarb, and drink the water straight from the garden hose, listening to the hum of the mosquitoes that flew overhead. We would camp outside, a blanket-and-pillow-filled innertube from a tractor tire serving as a bed for each of us. There, we would lie awake beneath the stars and the cool glow of the Milky Way, waiting for one of our cats to find us, seeking our warmth. It was a world that we created together, each in our own way. I know my other sisters helped too, but my memory of their parts isn’t as strong as that word… Lafneria. I wish I knew how she came up with that. It made the whole place seem more magical, and more distant, even though it was still just a small spot in the garden in the back yard of my childhood home.