Memiors of a Nerd

I’ve always had this weird habit of smelling the pages of a library book when I first open it up,  I feel like the essence of what it holds inbetween it’s covers has a great deal to do with where it’s been.  Pine, dust, coffee, leaves, whiskey, irish air?  I cannot help but wonder at the places it may have traveled, who has read it, and what lives it may have touched by it’s thoughts.  Books are more than the words written in them.

For, if say, a particular book has an impact on a particular man, he may then do something about it, say behave differently with another person by it’s ideas, or perhaps even write a book of his own in response.  And then someone else reads the second book, or simply is changed by the man himself, and on and on it goes.  The domino affect of books is entirely endless and I am forever enchanted by holding it in my hands and breathing in it’s musty pages.


This began when I was a youngster, back when libraries were as common as Starbucks, when there was no such thing as the internet or cell phones, and the coolest computer game was Oregon Trails.


The only way to play it was during a trip to the library itself, where it would be found at the one massive computer sitting next to the dewey decimals system card catalog.

If you just asked yourself what the hell dewey decimals system card catalogs are, I suspect you were born after 1990 and may have little to no interest in what I am talking about at the moment.  Consider this fair warning, dear reader, and I am sorry for your loss.

Aside from the stories and thoughts so beautifully laid out in these paper treasures, I would often find myself lost for hours skimming through their pages, wondering at their history in the back aisles of one of my favorite places in the world.  I was lost there, in the best way possible, and I never felt more at home.

If you’ve been unsure as to whether or not I was a full-blown nerd,  wonder now no more.

Back then there were these funny little pockets at the front of each book, stating the names and dates of those who’d read them before me.  It become somewhat of an obsessive hobby of mine going through those names and seeing how far back I could discover a shared lover of the same story and if, perhaps, somewhere we’d met before.


My delight of that place became my escape, and the fascination of tales and the writing of them never ceased to amaze and consume me. I read more books as a child and young adult than I can count, most of which have become like old friends whom I like to go back and visit from time to time.

I even find myself dreaming of that library’s peaceful and seemingly ancient walls when my soul becomes weary of the cold, fast beat of the internet, cell phones and every other hurried glowing thing that seems to have taken over the planet.  Though I may be a fool to think so, there is for me no greater pleasure than sitting underneath a tree somewhere away from the city with a good book in hand that has been loved on and read many times over.





The night the fire alarm tried to kill me

Sunday night I did not sleep.  At all.

I clearly recall looking despondently over at the clock at half past six 0’clock in the bloody morning and wondering if there was a way to smash time itself into a million little pieces, because I simply could not accept that it was nearly time to get up for work and I had not slept a wink.

Not even half a wink.

I think I may  have even shook my little fist at the clock right then and there, swollen half-closed eyes and all.

Alarm clock on nightstand in bedroom

And how, you may ask, did I find myself in such a grim situation?  Well, to begin, I really must warn you that this is not a tale of my best moment. It’s not even a tale of a sort-of-ok-Jen-moment.  This is a tale of one of those moments for which sitcom writers live for but no one actually thinks could happen to a real live person.

I’m here to tell they do, and I am one of them.

It was already fairly late when I finally crawled into bed that night, and the idea of a good night’s sleep was sort of consuming my mind. The eyes were beginning to close on their own, which I had absolutely no objection to other than the fact that I still needed them in order to actually get to my bed. I happen to be blessed with one of the most delicious beds in the universe, and it normally takes me all but 4 seconds to drift into the sort of sleep that can be disturbed by nothing less than a 6.1 earthquake.

I know this, because I’ve slept through a 6.0.

Anyway, that gives you an idea of how easily sleep normally comes for me and how tired I was this particular night. I fall into my pillow, breathe a deep sigh and..


What the..?

I open one eye and look around for what sounds like a fire alarm before I realize you can’t actually see sounds with your eyes.

Oh yes.

I get up and walk into the hall, one hand on the wall and the other upon Bear’s back, trying to fight the klutz in me and not end up on the floor. I turn on the light and squint up at my fire alarm just as the unpleasant sound tears through the house again.


By now it’s clear to me that the sound I’m hearing is a dying fire alarm, alerting someone to replace it’s batteries, lest it torment every living creature within a five-mile radius of its placement. It’a incredibly sharp, loud, and so obnoxious it makes fingernails on chalkboards seem like child’s play. (I guess that is what you want to get people out of bed during a fire)

It’s also clear that the fire alarm above my head is not the one complaining.

Well crap, I’m in deep doo doo.  (only I don’t say ‘crap’ and I don’t say ‘doo doo’)

I cover bear’s ears and apologize to the wall for my french.

As I make my way back to my bed the thing goes off again


This time it sort of makes me jump, and fortunately I’m close enough to my bed to land in it.  I lie there for a second staring at the ceiling, wondering where it’s coming from and why the *bleep* doesn’t someone fix it.


Then I remember that I recently saw the couple upstairs moving out. It must be their’s, which means it’s in a vacant apartment, which means I’m screwed.  I turn gloomily over in bed, realizing there is nothing I can do about it tonight and will have to figure out a way to sleep through it.


At first it’s the beeping itself that keeps me up, jolting me awake just as I begin to drift off.  After about an hour of this my brain begins to anticipate the dreadful sound, and I find myself lying there waiting for it in horror because it’s even worse having that sound tear through one’s head unexpectedly.  I start to feel like this must be some sort of twisted torture and wonder if I’ll ever escape it.

I try everything I can think of. Cover my head with pillows, blast Civalias on my ipod, I even turn on the bedroom TV to drown out the sound. But tis all for naught, I cannot escape the harrowing, ghastly beep. Not for a minute, not even for a second.

I feel like Pheobe on Friends in that episode with the inescapable fire alarm where she ends up smashing it to smithereens.  I certainly would do likewise if I had thing in my hand.



And thus I spend my night, staring at the ceiling waiting for the next horrid screech to sound out. I start to wonder how cold it is on my back porch and if remember where my sleeping bag is.  My dogs lie next to me, as disturbed as I at this point; wide-eyed, confused, and so tired I think they might be delirious. They start randomly barking and whining at nothing every few minutes or so, turning their heads in a most unnatural fashion.  It doesn’t matter now, we’re all pretty much screwed.

And this is when I turn over and see that it is half past six o’clock. In the morning. I feel very strange knowing that I will soon be expected to get up and go to work.


The thought of this makes me laugh out-loud, the sort of laugh borne of madness which only lends itself to rash, irrational behavior. It is at this moment something inside me sort of breaks, and the fear of the dreaded beep is overridden by an enormously powerful need to sleep. I say one last word to the fire alarm, wherever it may be, text my assistant that I will be late coming in, and drift into an hour of beautiful slumber. I wake up to a return text reminding me that I have an appointment in 30 minutes and jump out of bed to get to work.

God bless my assistant.

I do not need to tell you that this particular Monday does not turn out to be my finest. No, not by a long-shot.  I imagine if someone had followed me around with a video camera all day they would have had themselves some hearty entertainment.  By the end of the day I am utterly spent and I, thinking someone must have reported the fire alarm by now in some adjacent room, step back into my apartment.


Words. Lots of  bad words come out of my mouth.

And then, suddenly, I remember something. Something terrifying.  Did I, at one time, have a second fire alarm? A carbon monoxide detector?  I go over to the hallway where the sound has been coming from and turn my gaze towards the hall closet. I begin pulling out storage boxes and emptying their contents on the floor, half-hoping I won’t find what I’m searching for.  It’s at that moment I see it.

And here is the horrible, awful, really bad part. That alarm that kept me up all last night? Yeah, that was mine.

There before me sits the second fire alarm and it’s wretched beeping. About 6 months ago my complex had replaced the carbon monoxide alarm I had been using plugged into the wall with a newer, regulated one.  Thus I had stashed the old one without knowing it had a battery in it.

Wow Jen, wow. For SHAME.

The only person I am brave enough to tell my story to was my assistant Katie.  Her response was, and I quote, “Bahahahahahahahahaha, this absolutely made my night”
Well, at least someone’s night was made, because that’s one I’ll never get back.

The Tale of the Lost Keys: a very long story

I really have no business having keys on my person.  Ever.  Not after Thursday.

There’s a group I meet up with a couple times a week to get our pups out together for socialization and physical/mental well-being. They love it and so do we.  It’s sort of like taking your dog to the dog beach except you know and love all the dogs and the people they own.

the three

We had done some laps around the park where I generally keep Goob and Lo at a heel to practice good focus and training, after which I usually release them to run free for a while in a grassy ravine below with the rest of the pups.

the park

zorro and mac

Patty, an incredibly sweet member of the group, had just given Goob a nice Dean & Tyler body harness, which I had cleverly clipped my car keys to during our walk.


And by cleverly I mean idiotically.

Before releasing the dogs this cold and fateful night, I went to un-clip my keys from Goober’s harness where I had so ‘cleverly’ attached them, figuring they would be safer in my hands than on the back of The Goob while he ran free.

Ha ha.  A dire fallacy, to be sure.  The fact that I didn’t even realize half of my keys were not even there at this point decidedly bears this out.

About twenty seconds later I look down at my hand and observe therein only two keys: One that opens my front door, and the other that opens the the gate to my pool. Not exactly what I need to get home.

Hmm. Where is my car key?  At this point I sort of chuckle to myself, thinking they have just slipped out of my hand somehow, and oh-what-a-klutz-am-I, ha ha.

Yeah, real funny Jen, what a klutz are you.  You have no idea.

Soon enough the whole group begins looking about too, thinking that at any moment we will see them glimmering in the grass.  It is quite dark at this point, mind you, so anyone who has a flashlight in their trunk has fished it out, and we all begin to look a little like pirates searching for buried treasure.

About an hour, yes an hour later we start to feel rather discouraged and are no longer just looking in the area where I  thought I had dropped my keys.   No, we are looking along a 2 mile path around the park.  The cheerful whistling and humming has all but ceased, except for Chris who I imagine whistles while he sleeps. Our feet and hands are thoroughly frozen by now, as are our dogs, who are now looking up at us like we’ve gone out of our minds.

I tell them we haven’t, but I don’t really believe that.

Shortly thereafter I tell everyone to go home and that we’re going to plan B. Plan B consists of me picking up the spare key I think I have sitting at my office in a desk drawer.   One of the guys kindly offers to drive me to go fetch it, and we get to see what it’s like driving with a 160lbs Great Dane and a 100lbs King Dobie crammed into the cab of a truck.

Needless to say we all thaw out very quickly.

Because I have nothing on my person identifying me as human in any way shape or form since all my stuff is still locked inside my car, I have to call the safety department to have an officer let me in to my office.  I explain the whole ordeal and offer him and myself a chocolate from my assistant’s desk and skip back to the truck, spare key in hand.

We get back to my poor little car sitting by it’s lonesome self along the dark street in front of the park, and the key unlocks the door.  I do a little happy dance right there in the street and the dogs roll their eyes at me.  I tell Jim I don’t care if they are laughing at me and thank him profusely for his generous assistance.  I go to start my car and the engine quickly rolls over and dies.

Uh oh.

I try again and see a little red light start to blink on the dashboard. Apparently my car has now gone into anti-theft mode and is telling me someone is stealing it.  I try to explain the situation to my car, but she doesn’t seem to hear me and soon we are back to square one, except this time I’m sitting in my car wondering what to do and Goober is sprawled out in the backseat playing watch dog.   My friend Jim happens to know something about cars and starts tinkering with the engine to try to reset it. My car thinks it’s too smart for that and shuts down entirely.

Well crap

I soon have AAA on the phone and I see that Jim has gone out looking for those bloody keys again with his flashlight along the path.  A few strangers walk by with their dogs and join in the search because they say it makes the night interesting and Jim keeps promising everyone that whoever finds the key ‘gets a date with Jen’.  I want to protest but can’t think any longer because I’m frozen from head to toe and dreaming of hot pancakes.

Goober tries to eat the AAA guy when he comes to tow my car, and I have to explain to the nice man that my dog isn’t really a tow-guy- killer while he stands in front of me, teeth bared, ferociously guarding me with all his might.


This seems to provide adequate motivation for the man to quickly hook up my car and tow it back to my house within 4 minutes flat without a glance at my membership card.

After dropping them off, Jim and his dog give me their truck for the night and tell me to borrow it through Friday, just because that is how they are.    I drive home and make some Trader Joe’s buttermilk pancakes, thank God for good people, and crash.

buttermilk_pancakes_1-300x225 pancakemix

(This is, by the way, the best pancake mix in the world)

Later I find out that Jim has driven his motorcycle back through the park in the dead of night, posting signs everywhere in case someone finds them.  He runs into some kids smoking something and nearly scares the eebie jeebies out of them. Not every day you see a motorcycle driving down the sidewalk of a park at 1am.

The next morning I get up as early as my body will let me and drive back to the park to look for the keys while the sun is out.  I look for what feels like forever, along with Russell, a kind man who lives on the corner near the park and has also joined in the search, rake in hand.   Hours later he goes to eat lunch and I leave to go to a doctor’s appointment I cannot get out of.

After my appointment I leave the hospital building and walk out into the parking lot to go find the truck.  Little do I know that during my visit the nurse has actually taken me from one side of the hospital to the other, but both opposing parking lots are identical.

UAB Hospital at night

Yeah, you see where this is going, don’t you.

Don’t laugh, it’s not funny.

In my defense, my mind and eyesight are, at this point, almost entirely compromised and I am beginning to see keys everywhere.

And soooooo, I start looking for the truck that isn’t mine in the wrong parking lot for about half an hour before I really think I’ve gone out of my mind.  Not only have my keys disappeared but now I’ve lost my friend’s truck.  Right before I decide I’ve stepped into The Twilight Zone I figure out what has happened and am relieved to discover not everything I touch disappears.

Saturday morning I get a call from a stranger who read one of Jim’s signs. She has found my keys along the same path a dozen of us have looked over a hundred times. How that happened I’ll never know, but I think I am going to be adhering my keys to my body for the rest of my life.