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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: June 27-July 7, 2004

Friday, July 2, 2004:

I was idly whistling the Mr. Show theme song earlier, and my mom said, "That sounds like it should be a song that a rapist is whistling as he breaks into a house." She paused with a thoughtful look on her face and then added, "And then as he's walking away, he starts whistling it again as he moves on to his next person." I think it's funny when my mom's mind unexpectedly goes to really dark places like that.

Today was my last day at B&N, and it was very nice. Everyone signed a cute card for me- including Leslie, who is apparently so polite that she signed a going-away card for me even though we've never properly met- and they all chipped in and bought me an assortment of little household necessities for my new place. I've got a laundry basket, some ketchup, Kleenex brand tissues, some nice glassware, corn chowder, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, and a couple dozen other nifty items that I probably wouldn't have remembered to purchase on my own.

Also, when I wasn't looking, Jon apparently dropped in one of the Huggy Buggy foam toy cars that we'd kept on top of the receiving room stereo for the past couple years. The cars were recalled shortly after we'd initially received them; the B&N top brass ordered us to destroy them because they all gave off a sickening chemical smell. (The cars.) We thought the toys were funny, so we kept two of them, and it was cool that Jon gave me one as a memento of my tenure as Assistant Receiving Monkey. It no longer stinks. Jon and I had lots of fun back there, getting each other further infuriated about the state of the world, quoting South Park and Oz at one another, me repeatedly trying to impart to him the scientific fact that I could make a better album than In Utero by farting into a microphone for an hour... I'll miss hanging out with him every day.

Really, I'm really going to miss a lot of the people at my store. By unscientific measure, I'd say that of the ten people I'm closest to in the world outside my family, I met six or seven of them because we worked at the bookstore together. As much as I hated certain aspects of the job- namely, the corporateness of it all- and as much as I'm looking forward to my gig at Mathematical Reviews, I can't imagine that I'll ever work with a better group of people than I worked with at B&N. I don't think there's any other environment in the world of retail that would offer such an interesting cross-section of overeducated, witty, kind, fun people of all ages (if not races, oddly), where everyone supports each other and the store functions as a surrogate family in a lot of ways. Sappy as it sounds to say that (and I don't mean it in the marketing sense of "Let the Barnes & Noble Family Take Care of All Your Book and Coffee Needs!"), it's true. Aimee, Erica, Janet, Jess, Jon, Lorenzo, Rita, and Tim are all like siblings or really cool cousins to me; Anne, Sandy, and Bridgette are like amusingly catty aunts who are close enough to my age for me to relate to; Annie, Sharon, and Linda are like my emergency backup moms... and everyone has always been so supportive of my harebrained schemes, not to mention a source of friendship and encouragement during that two-year period when I'd not only hit rock-bottom, but there was a stream of molten lava spewing up through a crack in the rocks, into my anal cavity. If I had to work in retail for five years, I was supernaturally lucky to have had the privilege of doing so with such a wonderful group of people.

Mostly.

Probably could've done without Andy bitching about how retarded people shouldn't be allowed in the store or, indeed, out in public at all, and how he'd prefer it if they were all chained up in the attic somewhere.

But apart from him and selected others, it was truly a great bunch.

Cinnamon-scented Saran Wrap? Worst idea ever. (This wasn't included in my goody bag; I'm just saying.)

CURRENT MUSIC: Hero and Villain by Mr. Encrypto.
CURRENT MOOD:
Skin-hungry.
FUNNIEST THING I SAW BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD TODAY:
A shiny new putter.
TIME:
8:07 PM.

Doot? | |

Tuesday, June 29, 2004:

We all have to start rooting for the Green Bay Packers. Or at least we have to root for them to beat the Washington Redskins in the game they'll play this Halloween. According to this article (which T-Bone, a die-hard Packers fan since his birth, told me about), the outcome of the final Redskins game before the presidential election has indicated the winner of the election every time since 1932. If the Redskins won that game, the incumbent party's candidate has won the election. If the Redskins lost or tied, the challenging party's nominee has won.

So it looks like Wisconsin is going to be momentarily useful!

And also, we need to take up a collection for the purpose of bribing the Redskins to throw the game or, failing that, to hire Jeff Gillooly. Not that I don't have faith in the abilities of Brett Favre and... whoever else is on the Packers at this point (Chmura? Those dreadlock guys?), but I think we need a little insurance, if you know what I mean.

Oh, and in case you haven't heard, the rules regulating the voting process have been changed for this election to avoid a snafu like we had last time. If you intend to vote for Kerry, you will be voting on Tuesday, November 2. If you intend to vote for Bush, you will be voting on Wednesday, November 3. (If you intend to vote for Nader or any other fringe candidate, do nothing. Your votes will be counted telepathically.) Please make a note of it and pass this information along to all the Republicans you know.

CURRENT MUSIC: Stolen Beauty by Lori Carson.
CURRENT MOOD:
Frustrated and confused that there are still people who support Bush. The president or the band.
DOES POTATO CHIP GREASE STAIN?
Gosh, I hope not.
TIME:
3:20 PM.

Doot? | |

Monday, June 28, 2004:

This is the text of a short story that I recently attempted but then abandoned. As horribly as it reads, please believe me when I tell you that the place it was headed is even dumber. Want to know why I don't write fiction? Here:

This particular store offered a more generous employee break room than any of the other places I'd worked. The building had been clumsily converted into an electronics superstore from a failed sporting goods outlet, and some burned-out company architect had left an unconscionable amount of unallocated space between the public restrooms and the managers' offices, so lucky us: we got a break room spacious enough to accommodate the multiple and inevitable mandatory staff meetings on the ever-growing problem of employee theft, as well as impromptu tournaments of Break Room Curling on our lunch hours.

Most days, given the staggered nature of our breaks, it was common to wander back to find only two or three people in the room at any given time, each occupying his own corner of the room, silently reading, checking voicemail messages, or munching on a sandwich from the Subway next door while staring despondently at the laminated copy of the state's minimum wage law that was tacked on the portion of the wall that was hidden every time someone opened the door.

I was scrunched up on the sofa that Sarah had donated to the store when she and her husband had purchased a new living room set last June. The cushions still smelled a little like Sarah, which wasn't unpleasant (she was hot and therefore her scent brought a nice association to mind) and, in fact, lent the couch a somewhat homey quality that made it easier to fall asleep on. Usually, that is. I'd been lying there for… I listlessly checked my watch… forty-three minutes and felt no closer to sleep than I had when I flopped down on it immediately after clocking out at the end of my shift.

My sister had borrowed my car to get to her afternoon classes following her collision the previous day with an "uninsured redneck fucktard" whose barely street-legal old Mustang (complete with sun-bleached bumper stickers reading "Buchanan '96" and "MY PRESIDENT IS CHARLTON HESTON") had totaled her Accord. She'd dropped me off that morning, and Roman, who worked in the "hardlines" department (wires and connector cords and crap), had agreed to give me a lift home after his shift, which ended three hours after mine. I'd ridden in Roman's car once before, when we rode directly from work to a party at a coworker's house, and although I was hardly giddy about the notion of spending more time as a passenger among his constantly rustling piles of science magazines, empty tennis ball cans, candy wrappers, and maddeningly unlabeled cassettes, he was the only person at the store who lived anywhere close to me. Nice enough guy, but one of those people who just assumes you to be his close friend if you voluntarily spend time with him even once, and I was afraid that asking him for a ride would come at the expense of relinquishing my phone number or at least my e-mail address at the end of the trip. (Luckily, I was good at including ambiguous scribbles in my contact information that could be interpreted with equal plausibility as a zero, six, eight, or nine.)

So I lay motionless on the couch, back turned to the rest of the break room, waiting to go home; I was determined to at least cultivate the impression of sleep if none was forthcoming. Every so often, I could hear someone enter and walk past me to fetch a new roll of register tape from the supply cabinet. (Our store blew through register tape like a urologist blows through mop heads; even if a customer purchased only a pack of batteries or a phone card, he'd be handed a three-foot-long receipt detailing, in four-point type, every arcane provision of our return policy.) I was in no mood to chat with anyone or even force the benign smile that would be necessary if I made eye contact with a coworker. I just wanted to pass the time napping. With any luck, the smell of the couch would prompt my unconscious to allow me a nice softcore dream about Sarah.

CURRENT MUSIC: Beta-testing a mix I made for Amanda. Currently, it's on "To Remake the Young Flyer" by Guided by Voices.
CURRENT MOOD:
Self-flagellating.
CURRENT SNACK: Hot buttered Kix.
TIME:
11:48 PM.

Doot? | |

Sunday, June 27, 2004:

I found myself an apartment yesterday, and I'll be moving in starting next Saturday. I'm very pleased that I was able to find an affordable one-bedroom place in a nice area, and the complex itself seems very well maintained and classy. Because I am a classy man!

[pause to eat bag of Chee·tos and then suck crumbs out of faded Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirt while tossing empty bag into nearby spittoon that is overflowing with tobacco juice and urine]

In addition to being spacious and cable-ready (Speedvision, here I come!), my new place is on the first floor of a three-level building, and my floor is sunk into the ground a bit, which gives it a cozy, semi-subterranean feel that appeals to my hermitic instincts. There are still a couple windows, but it's nothing that a little aluminum foil won't cover.

So if any of you is ever in Ann Arbor, feel free to look me up. I'll be one of the fifty or sixty Chris Williamses in the phone book. And bear in mind that my birthday is a week from tomorrow, so now would be a good time to order several of those Dromme CD cabinets from IKEA that you'd been meaning to buy for me.

Finally saw The Manchurian Candidate the other night. It was very smart (especially Frankenheimer's trippy direction during the nightmare sequences), but what was Janet Leigh doing in there? Did her character play a more important role in the novel? As is, her appearance in the movie seems as random as Mike Yanagita in Fargo, only not in a funny way.

CURRENT MUSIC: Neon Golden by The Notwist.
CURRENT MOOD:
Excited.
CURRENT JEANS SIZE:
Waist 29, length 32.
TIME:
1:01 PM.

Doot? | |

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