Eden M. Kennedy

you've come to the right place

Eden M. Kennedy is the co-author (with Alice Bradley) of the book Let's Panic About Babies! (St. Martin's Press, 2011).

A former college-radio DJ, Mrs. Kennedy has driven cross-country six times in a 1973 Volkswagen Bug and enjoys standing on her head.

Currently she works at a public library and is finishing writing her first novel.

Filtering by Tag: Employment

Close to Home

I had an unexpected reaction to the shooting that happened a week ago out at UCSB. I spent all last weekend reading all the articles and opinions and tweets that ran past me, and none of it was good news, but the thing that finally got me was when I went to work Tuesday morning and heard that one of our patrons claimed that the shooter had been hanging around the library the last few weeks. "Didn't you recognize his car? It was out in the lot all the time." That was some chilling news. And of course, it was possible to imagine a black BMW parked just about anywhere if you wanted, this is Santa Barbara, black BMWs are as common as frisbees. I don't ever remember seeing the guy's face, but sometimes people sit out in the lot in their cars before we're open and after we're closed, just to use the wifi. It's possible one of them was him.

So I don't know if the patron who claimed the shooter had been that close to us was making up this story just to claim his own piece of the drama, or if he really saw the shooter, or what. I do know that anyone can come to the public library and most of our patrons are interesting and kind and grateful for what we provide. Underneath that, I've learned that some of them are terminally ill, and some of them are mentally ill, and some are homeless and some are the most polite racists I've ever met, and I do my best to treat them all the same.

Of course, this shooter who felt bullied and ignored, me being nice to him wouldn't have helped. A woman my age would have been invisible to him. But so help me God, this is what I ended up clinging to in the wake of all this: Be nice to everyone. Listen. Be present. Say something funny whenever possible. Help them if you can, and if you can't, refer them to someone who can. Of course, that's my job, but I'm taking it more seriously than ever right now.

It's not a philosophy that will bring any of those kids back to life, and I don't know if it will prevent any more from dying, but at least it helps me feel like I've done my best by whoever shows up in front of me. And I refuse to live in fear of any of these gun-obsessed assholes.

END OF SERMON

On a brighter note, one of my friends from college died this month, and there's nothing like one of your peers taking off for points unknown to make you wonder if you're secretly growing a tumor or two of your own. I was commiserating with another friend who was in the same class, and we began to marvel at how many people from our relatively small circle at college are dead. Like, out of a loose coalition of 12-15 people, six are dead. Five of them went before the age of 40. One in his 20s, thanks to AIDS in the 80s before all the good drugs showed up. So, take care of yourselves, everybody! The darkness is closing in!

O.K., NOW THE SERMON IS REALLY OVER

The other weird thing is when a library patron dies. I mean, we work with a lot of old people. You get to know everyone, over time, and what they like to read, or what they're willing to try when they can't find anything they like to read. And then the day comes when you ask your coworker, Have you seen Mrs. X lately? And you check her record and see that she hasn't checked out anything in the last seven months and your heart sinks a little. People have strokes and become homebound, or one of their children comes in and hands us their card and asks us to delete their account. I used to marvel at a sprightly 99-year-old who used to come in every few days. He stopped coming in at some point, maybe I was on vacation or I just didn't really notice, it's not like I have a checklist although maybe I should. And then last week, seemingly overnight, another one of our regulars stopped being the guy who always brought us jars of homemade jelly at Christmas and turned into a thank-you note from his wife telling us how much he loved the library.

I'LL STOP, I'M SORRY. FORGIVE ME?

May is fucking beautiful in Santa Barbara, these jacaranda trees bloom with purple flowers all over town and it's heavenly. Unless you park under one and your car gets covered in smelly, sticky, godawful blossoms that ruin your paint. But apart from that: so beautiful! Here's a picture! Cheer up! Would you look at that!

jacaranda

One-item lists

After I made my big declaration about how Facebook is stealing our souls, I then spent the next two days posting things and chatting on Facebook like nothing had happened. I believe I can find a balance between this and that, but at the same time I'm concerned with the self-sabotaging psychology that kicks in, for example, when as soon as I decide to stop eating sugar, I make a big pan of brownies. I don't even tell myself not to spend money anymore or this will happen:

[via dh]

If that isn't the best video I've seen all summer I'll eat my grandmother's vintage cat's eye glasses. After watching it about six times Saturday night Jackson was all, "Are there any thrift stores around here?" Oh, my son. The golden days of thrifting in Santa Barbara are behind us now, but there still exists a magical town ruled by bikers and street people called . . . Ventura. So Sunday we drove down to the Goodwill in Ventura and bought Jackson a pair of red plaid pajama pants, a green and white striped hooded sweatshirt from the women's rack, a couple of white t-shirts, and we rescued a Build-a-Bear rabbit with floppy ears for .99 that doesn't appear to have lice, fleas, or bed bugs. I bought a pair of ballooning, high-waisted purple wool lady pants that are going to look pretty awesome somehow once I wrap my mind around what to wear on top. If I could find a cropped brown rabbit's fur jacket . . . I wouldn't buy it, but you hear what I'm saying.

Another crush, with free association:

1. Alan Arkin: because of how sexy he is when he's disgusted

Phrase from a comment on an old post that has stayed with me for years:

1. "Away-game pooping situation."

So along with opening back up to the Internet, I'm also trying to be more approachable in real life. I guess I'm an introvert, but I like being around people who are more open than me because they help me connect to that part of myself that doesn't see closeness as a threat. (I once had someone who knows about these things tell me that two lives ago I died by being drowned; as in, someone either held me down or pulled me down or I don't know what, but he was all, "Do you have trouble when people get too close? Because that would explain it." Holy shit, how do I get over that?)

Certainly the thing about working with the public is that every new patron is an opportunity to practice small, non-life-threatening connections. Most people seem to want that, which means at the start of every shift I unpack all of my extrasensory satellite dishes to figure out how best to make that happen. Some people, however, want a larger amount of connection, more connection than I am capable of (or paid to) provide as a public servant. Emotional vampires, in my experience, come off as super-extra friendly at first. Their requests start off normal, but somewhere along the line they try to lure you into the enchanted forest of weirdly-specific things most people don't normally ask others to do for them. "Will you text this 16-line e.e. cummings poem to my friend in Las Vegas?" happened recently, as well as "Will you read the descriptions of forty different children's books to me, both over the phone and in person the next day?" and  "Will you build a web site for me in Wordpress?"

And I think, what is up with you? What is it? Just tell me. Is it that you get off on me touching your stuff? You're lonely and want me to keep you company? You disagree with the concept of outsourced tech support so you'd rather take advantage of my limited skills?

There's a great part of "Words of Advice" by William S. Burroughs that applies:

"If, after having been exposed to someone's presence, you feel as if you've lost a quart of plasma, avoid that presence. You need it like you need pernicious anemia. We don't like to hear the word "vampire" around here; we're trying to improve our public image. Building a kindly, avuncular, benevolent image; "interdependence" is the keyword — "enlightened interdependence." Life in all its rich variety, take a little, leave a little. However, by the inexorable logistics of the vampiric process they always take more than they leave — and why, indeed, should they take any?"

I went into yoga the morning after a particularly lengthy exchange with one of these people and halfway through my practice I was all, "This is crazy, I'm too tired to do any more." And then after sitting there for a minute I realized that my body was strong enough to continue, the problem was that some other, ineffable part of me just didn't have the strength to go on. Once I had that realization, the exhaustion lifted and I kept going, but man. Feeling like you lost a quart of plasma. That's a real thing.

Don't put your finger up your butt to help yourself poop or you'll never be able to stop.

Henry Alford's wonderful essay about his brief stint as a runway model:

"It occurred to me that my lifelong slouchy posture is, in a complicated and wrong way, connected to my hatred of bragging. Somehow in my mind I've learned to equate slouching with modesty."

He then improves his runway walk by imagining he's a former Lufthansa flight attendant who likes vegan baked goods, vintage motorcycles, and Sofia Coppola when she wears aqua in airports. Henry Alford is now my spirit animal.

I love being part of the problem

I've lived in California for more than 20 years now and yesterday I was finally able to admit to myself: I don't ever want to get out of my car. I was at work yesterday and instead of taking an hour for lunch I arranged to take two 30-minute breaks, one at 12:30 to have lunch, and one at 3:15 to pick up Jackson from school. I didn't bring a lunch so I decided to go over to the sandwich shop because they're close, they're cheap, and they're fast as hell. They're cheap and fast because they don't bother with vegetables. You get meat, bread, cheese, something to make it all stick together, and that's it. The first time I went in there and asked for lettuce and tomato on my sandwich, the girl at the counter pointed at the menu taped to the side of the meat counter and said, "No." She didn't say, I'm so sorry for the inconvenience but we only make sandwiches out of things that don't bruise when you drop them. She just pointed to a list of meats, breads, and cheeses and said, "No." NEXT.

The actual point of this story, however, is the fact that the sandwich shop is about 350 feet away from where I work, and I drove to get my lunch. I got in my car, pulled out of the library driveway, turned onto the main road, took my foot off the gas and coasted 40 feet, turned into the sandwich shop driveway, and parked in a spot that had a wonderful view of the bench I would normally sit on while eating my lunch, and you know what? Fuck that bench. Yesterday it was windy and cold and that bench is made out of cement. Did I want to shove my napkin under my leg to keep it from blowing away? No, I did not. Nor did I want a bug to fall into my coke, grizzled pedestrians to veer inappropriately close, or my skirt to blow up and expose my pink thigh-highs to the people staring at me from the warmth of their cars while they ate their sandwiches and wondered what the hell was my problem.

Instead, I bought my Fritos, my Diet Pepsi, and my turkey-on-wheat-with-mayo and then brought it all back to my nice, warm aging-Volvo privacy bubble. I put my soda in my cup holder, balanced the Eastside Branch Library's copy of Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns) on the steering wheel, and didn't talk to, look at, or think about any of the strangers on the other side of my tinted windows for 25 glorious minutes. I was so delighted and relieved to finally be vulnerable enough with myself to admit that this was the most relaxing lunch I'd had in years that I don't think revelation is too strong a word to describe my feelings. For so long I'd felt guilty about cutting myself off from the energy of nature or whatever it is hippies say to convince you to get out of your car, take off your shoes, and let the wind blow ecstatically through your hair. Hippies of the world: I love shoes and I don't have that much hair, and the energy of nature is unpredictable. As a matter of fact, it smells like jasmine mixed with B.O.

So, sorry all you city planners who spend your lives sweating over designs for usable, friendly, safe public spaces! Tomorrow I might take my car to the beach parking lot for lunch, and then maybe we'll hit a drive-in this weekend. We can double date with my husband's truck.

The view from the bench, which I could see just as well through my windshield, frankly.

Let's call this Photo Friday

It's Friday! And I spent all day at work getting conflicted every time someone asked How are you? I still don't have the hang of it. I tried taking Scott's advice and just saying Hello in response, but that kept feeling like I was walking off a dock. Like there was supposed to be a boat underneath me but suddenly I was up to my neck cold, fishy water. Then I went so far as to ignore one man who asked me how I was while I was shelving, and then it seem like he recovered by pretending he'd been talking to the New Nonfiction shelf. It was uncomfortable, and I had to make up for it by being extra nice to him at check-out. Finally, at the end of the day, a patron I knew to be consistently super nice came up to the desk and without even thinking about it I blurted out How are you! and she said, I'm fine! How are you!, and she said that even though she had $100,000,000 in library fines, but she made me remember that How are you? makes sense when you really want to know how someone is, or just to hear them talk about themselves for a minute. Some people are just exciting to be around, though I guess if the library has you on the brink of bankruptcy, you might be a little excitable.

The view from the snack bar at Golf 'n' Stuff Ventura, California, December 31, 2011