Saturday, March 27, 2004

Report: Day 24 

I arrived at work for barter day with a ziploc baggie full of useful items from around my home that I believed would be suitable for bartering. Included in my initial haul were a box of matches, six (6) plastic swordfish, a small figure of a man in a blue suit, a box of ginger Altoids, two (2) teabags (Twinnings Prince of Wales), a small brass padlock with two (2) keys, two (2) moist towellets and a memo stand shaped like a fountain pen.

I bartered the matches right off the bat for a box of raisins which I bartered for a pack of Trident and we all know how much I love gum.

I bartered one plastic swordfish and one teabag for a clock and a battery to power that clock. Then I traded the clock and the battery for a box of Girl Scout Cookies. The Girl Scout Cookies went for a pad of post-its This Color

I tried to explain the barter system to The One True Love of My Life, who was very eager to participate. I don't think she quite grasped it though. Despite my objections I wound up trading her one of the plastic swordfish for two quarters in the most difficult haggling session of the day. Really it was more like buying than bartering, but we just were not connecting. I kept the two quarters in the barter bag for the balance of the day, explaining that the quarters were a matched set, were to be appreciated for their artistry and not their monetary value, and must be bartered together, but I had no takers. One was a Washington quarter, the other a New York quarter. People were much more interested in the less conventional stuff.

I traded one plastic swordfish and the figure of a man in a suit for a very cool ESPN key chain which is shaped like a locking clasp from mountain climbing gear. The key chain went for a CD-rom containing shareware that I can use to make my own greeting cards with clip art and whatnot.

I bartered the box of Ginger Altoids for a stress star which is a little squishy piece of foam shaped like a star that can be squeezed to relieve stress. The stress star went for a pack of mini Oreos which went for a great big peppermint.

I bartered the memo stand for a Hi-C Juice Box (tangerine flavor), which I then traded for a very nice pair of scissors.

So at the end of the day I wasn't too picky about the deals I made, but I wound up with some really great stuff. And as Benrick says I've developed a useful skill in the event civilization should suddenly revert to the Stone Age, so it was a totally productive day.

Today I must come to grips with the things I will never do before I die.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Report: Day 23 

Yesterday I was to make a no obligation appointment with a plastic surgeon and see what he recommends. This proved more difficult than I imagined. None of the surgeons I contacted could fit me on the same day, so I decided to approach the day's activity from a different perspective.

"Doctor Slasher's office."

"Hello, is this Doctor Slasher's office?"

"Yes, this is Doctor Slasher's office."

"Doctor Slasher the plastic surgeon?"

"Yes. The plastic surgeon."

"Good, because I need some work done."

"I see. What type of procedure were you interested in speaking to the doctor about?"

"I want to talk to him about becoming a midget."



"Hello, I'm still here. Did you say you want to 'become a midget?'"


"Well, I don't know if Doctor Slasher can help you with that. I think you need to contact an orthopod."

"Look, it's just that I'm just sick and tired of being so tall, you know? There has to be something the doctor can do for me. Something to at least give me the impression of midgetry. How about a forehead implant."


"You know. A forehead implant. I need to make my head look disproportionately large in comparison to my body. You know, to achieve an aire of midgetism."

"I don't really think we can help you."

"Look, how about finger shortening. I want my digits shortened so that it looks like I was born with one of those cute little adorable midget paws."

"Thanks for calling. Good luck."

Then she hung up the phone. Benrick has reduced me to prank calls. But when one is seeking to change one's life "radical style" one cannot question the process. Right?

Today is barter day.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Report: Day 22 

"Can you help me with a quick question about the CFR?" CFR stands for the Code of Federal Regulation and contains lots of useful information about federal agencies and the scope of their power.

"Absolutely I can," I replied, " but first I have a question for you. What are you doing in ten years?"

"Oh," said the flummoxed student. "Well, my background before starting law school was in television news. I'm hoping to do a little time with the Attorney General's office and get some real practical litigation experience and then return to TV news somewhere down the line working the courtroom beat. So I guess in ten years I'd like to be back behind the scenes on the news."

"No, no. March 25, 2014. Got plans?"

He looked at me blankly while he processed. "Um, no," he stammered. "No plans. Not yet."

"Great!" I said. "Let's make some."

On today's page Benrick has provided a coupon to be filled out and signed by the parties agreeing to meet in ten years' time. I am still reluctant to cut my book, so I copied the page a few times and had a stack of the coupons at the ready. I produced one and began reading it to the still bewildered law student on the other side of the desk. "We, the undersigned, may only know each other casually, but we hereby agree to meet up in exactly ten years' time at--" Here there is a blank on the coupon. "What do you think? Lunch? After work drinks? Dinner?"

"I think a drink after work would probably be best. Are you serious?"

"I'm completely serious. Ok, so I'll just put '5 p.m.' in the blank. Well, let's also put 'aprox.' so we give ourselves a little wiggle room. Ok, so 'exactly ten years' time at 5 p.m. aprox. on the twenty-fifth of March 2014' as we have already agreed. Ok, but where will we meet? 123 Washington Street here in Newark? Back at this very location?"

My law student was starting to groove on this now. "No. We should meet somewhere more fun. Have you ever been to Chumley's?"

"You mean the speakeasy?"


"Great idea! Ok. So '5 p.m. aprox. on the 3/25/14 at Chumleys. In case we have changed beyond recognition, we agree to wear the following identifying features:' Ok, I propose propeller beanies."

"Alright," he said, "but where?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Where will we be wearing the beanies?"

"Oh, I see. You're asking if we should attach the propeller beanies to our elbows or something."


"How about if I just put in posession in parens like this. This way we'll have flexibility in regard to the beanies."


"Ok. So 'we agree to wear the following identifying features: propeller beanies (in posession). In case we have nothing to say to each other, here is a list of current hot topics to reminisce about:' Ok, we have eight spaces on this form. I think the first should be Janet Jackson's boob."

"Oh, sure. That's a hot topic. The Passion of the Chirst is big right now."

I nodded. "Huge. Israel and Palestine are in the news again."

"Well," he commented, "that will always be a hot topic. Ten years from now they will still be in the news."

"True enough. Still the assassination is pretty big, so let's go with it."

"Ok. How about no pizza in the library. I got busted for pizza just yesterday."

I was clearly dealing with a student. "Ok. No pizza in the New Jersey Reference room. Who's your favorite professor?"

"Prof. Thomas," he quickly responded.

"Great. And your favorite football team?"

"The Steelers."

"Perfect. What else can we reminisce about. How about The Apprentice? It just started and it's huge."

"God, I hate that show," he said.

"Great. We can reminisce about how horrid it was. And how about the utter lack of art in this building. Tons of white wall space and nothing to adorn them."

"I've often thought about how plain the walls are. That's perfect."

"Ok. Now then, all we have left is to sign this form. Right there. I'm Brian by the way."

"Brock. Nice to meet you." We shook hands.

"Great, Brock, so I'll just get you a copy of this for your records and if I don't see you before, I'll see you on March 25, 2014. Now about the CFR..."

Today is plastic fantastic day.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Report: Day 21 

Yesterday I was Gabonese for a day

My Benrick assignment was to choose a country and feel patriotic about it. I chose Gabon which is a small nation on the West Coast of Africa rich in oil and uranium. Throughout the day I took it upon myself to educate reference patrons about the glory of Gabon. And because there is no reason to keep patriotism all to myself I pasted a Gabonese flag on the reference desk, and made a small one for my lapel, and totally Gaboned out all day!

Here are some things I found out about Gabon which make me proud.

Gabon's most famous resident was Albert Schweitzer who argued for the banishment of nuclear weapons and won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in 1952. Schweitzer used his $33,000 from the Nobel Prize to found Gabon's own leper colony, which is serving lepers and those who love lepers even today. I'm real proud of that.

Gabon's unemployment rate is at a staggering 21%, but that's down from 23% just ten years ago, so the downward trend makes me proud. There is a burgeoning cement industry in Gabon so I imagine things are getting a little easier.

Gabon has beautiful virgin rain forests over most of its area, but it also has a great deal of coast line which totally rocks when you want to hang ten and that swells my chest a little.

The official language is French; they have a bicameral legislature, which is always a good thing; and 18,000 internet connections over their sole internet service provider so if any of you native Gabonese are reading this drop me a line. I'd love to hear from you.

I tried to contact Ambassador Jules Marius Ogouebandja in the Gabonese Chancery in Washington, (202) 797-1000, to find out what made him proudest and most patriotic about Gabon, but the ambassador was home in Gabon. He's not returned yet from a trip home to celebrate a national holiday commemorating the establishment of the Gabonese Democratic Party on March 12. If only patriotism day had come just a bit earlier I could have lit a Black Cat for Gabon!

One thing I'm sad about is that there is a 20 point difference between male literacy rates and female literacy rates in Gabon. That's just not right. Also there is a very high (9%) rate of HIV/AIDS infection and that makes me sad. But not too sad to be totally patriotic about Gabon!

Gabon! Gabon! Gabon! Gabon! Gabon! Gabon! Gabon! Gabon! Gabon! Gabon! Gabon! Gabon!


Today I'm supposed to convince a stranger to enter into a pact with me requiring us to meet up again in ten years time.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Report: Day 20 

I worked on this for quite some time. Here is my contribution to the world's longest poem.

And somewhere in the distance a midget named Peaches wept

Today is patriotism day.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Report: Day 19 

Today I was called into action for my government. Benrick was very specific about the nature of the mission. At precisely 1 p.m. I was to go out onto the corner and wave at the gray car, which would stop, pick me up and whisk me away to the rendezvous where I would get further instructions. Then I was to rip the page out of the book and eat it.

So I did just as Benrick instructed. At exactly 1 p.m. I went out onto my corner and I waved at every gray car I saw. None of them stopped, though many waved back as if they recognized me but couldn't quite place me. I think the confusion comes from the failure of Benrick to specify which corner I was to stand on. I was on the North West corner, but it could just as easily have been any of the others.

So I waved at every gray car for like a half hour and then I went inside to eat the book. Only, again, I don't want to damage my book so I made a photocopy to eat, which I shredded and thought I would garnish a salad with, but I was still a little hung over from killing the wine the day before so I got a little queasy about Fear Factoring the page. Later that evening, however, I steeped the shreds in a cup of tea and sent the soggy paper bits down the garbage disposal as I watched a team of Super-Spys rescue Dixon's daughter on Alias.

Today is poetry day. I'm to contribute a line of poetry to this.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Report: Day 18 

I felt a little uncomfortable about killing something just to kill it. Benrick suggested an ant or a gnat, but it's still cold enough that there aren't many insects around. Plus I have the kitties and they vivisect anything that comes within range. So all day I sort of hunted around for suitable prey. At dinner it finally hit me.

So I killed a bottle of red zinfandel and this morning i have a headache. But it was totally worth it.

Today I must pretend to be a secret agent.

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