Duties of a Children’s Librarian from A-Z

Librarianship is not all about reading books and shushing people. At least not anymore. As I have discovered over the course of several decades of library work, the patrons we serve expect a lot from us, some expectations more reasonable than others.

For those of you of the non-library persuasion, I present to you for your amusement (and bemusement) some of the official and unofficial duties that I and my co-workers have performed in the name of good customer service.
Naturally, I’m listing these duties in alphabetical order because 1) I work in the youth services department where the alphabet is sort of important, and 2) if I put the list in Dewey Decimal order, your heads might explode.

Advocates: We are the defenders of the library world. With the rise of technology, many non-library users assume that the brick-and-mortar libraries of the past are now obsolete. Some feel that libraries are a waste of tax money. I can only speak for my own place of employment, of course, but I can guarantee that we’re anything but obsolete. The uses of the library have changed over the years, but our usefulness has not.

Baby-sitters: A number of patrons with young children tend to view the library as a free day care center, ignoring the fact that we are a public building where anyone, and I mean anyone, can come in. The children are dropped off in the children’s department while the parents find other things to do (although technically this is against the rules, but hey, rules are for other people, right?). Meanwhile, the librarians on the floor divide their time between doing their actual work and herding kids. Surprisingly, tax-payers seem disinclined to pay librarians extra for this service.

Collection concierge: In library lingo, this duty is known as “readers advisory.” When a patron comes in looking for a good book, librarians who are well-read in a number of genres have a near-magical ability to find that right book, rendering the patron well-pleased. This ability has led people to think that librarians know everything. Well…keep believing that ; )

Disciplinarians: Sometimes, we just gotta lay down the law, often resulting in a patron being asked to leave the library. Sometimes rule-breakers invoke the First Amendment to justify their behavior, but I’m sorry, where in the Constitution does it grant someone the right to be obnoxious to other patrons and staff members?

Entertainers: We bring in many performers to amuse our patrons, but on non-performance days, the librarians become the entertainers through hosting story times, setting up video game consoles in our meeting room, distributing stickers, bookmarks and coloring sheets with reckless abandon, swearing at malfunctioning computers, juggling flaming chainsaws, you know, the usual.

First aid responders: Thanks to some library in-service training, most, if not all of the staff are qualified to perform CPR or to use the defibrillator on patrons (or on each other). For the most part, though, the most we do on a given day is to hand out band-aids and ice packs.

Game piece distributors: We have board games in our children’s department. As a way to keep the game pieces from getting lost (or eaten), we keep said pieces behind our desk and distribute them in an orderly manner. Other than directions to the bathrooms, this is our most frequent request (I’m kidding…mostly).

Homework helpers: We do what we can to help children with their homework assignments, although we do draw the line at actually doing the assignments ourselves. Personally, I draw the line at anything pertaining to math work (unless the student doesn’t care that I’ve given them the wrong answer). One time, I had a boy ask me to type up his book report for him because he figured that I was the faster typer than he was.

IT: We do have an IT guy at the library, but as he needs to go home and sleep at some point, we library employees are still expected to know how to fix some of the more common problems that plague our computers (like when a three-year-old hacks a top secret government website and launches missiles at Canada. If I had a nickel for every time THAT happened…). Fortunately, most of the repairs merely involve turning the computer off…then on again.

Janitors: We also have a maintenance department. Still, we’ve all had the pleasure at one time or another of having to clean up various items like dust, mud, spilled liquids, food wrappers, poop, pee stains, blood, dead bodies, etc. All in a day’s work, I guess.

Kowtowers: We serve at the pleasure of the patrons and do so willingly and cheerfully. Even if we are not thanked for our help. Even if we are treated disrespectfully. Even if we are used as personal servants. We bend over backwards for our patrons. But once our shift is over, all bets are off…

Lego guardians: twice a month, we host a Lego Builders Club in which kids work very hard on some pretty amazing creations. Their work is then put on display on the main floor of the library. Unfortunately, the projects are easily accessible to anyone, adult or child, who neglects to read the display signs saying that they’re not to play with them.

Mind-readers: “I’m looking for a book that I read years ago. The cover was green and it was about a guy…or maybe girl who did something. There was a dog in the story too…or a cat, I can’t remember. Do you have it?” I exaggerate this request…a little. I suppose this goes back to the fact that librarians seem to know everything. We do, of course, but we’re not mind-readers for goodness sake!

Notary publics: Yes, we have librarians who are notary publics. No, none of them are working today.

Office supply dispensers: If a patron doesn’t have it, we at the youth services desk probably do. Paper, pencils and pens, glue, scissors, tape, staplers, rulers, paper clips, markers, crayons, colored pencils, Post-it notes, highlighters. Kids, we have everything except the answers to next week’s quiz (for those you need to go to adult reference).

Psychologists: I find it amazing how sometimes complete strangers are willing to divulge personal issues to their librarian. I suppose it’s because we’re trained to be good listeners. I am reminded of a time when a mother came in looking for a book that dealt with the death of a pet that she could read to her young children. I found a picture book that was titled “A Dog Like Jack.” The mother burst into tears when I gave her the book. She told me that, in fact, it was their dog that had died…and his name was Jack. This job can break your heart at times…

Quixotic questers for quiet: Yes, I still do shush people (and no, I’m not wearing my hair in a bun), but the concept of a quiet library (at least for my place of employment) has gone the way of the dodo…and card catalogs. In general, we tend to be pretty busy (and we are a one-floor library where sound bounces all over the place), but it also seems like patrons are less comfortable with silence. Perhaps it’s just me but…wait, hold that thought. I have to get up and shush someone now…

Resume editors: Once and awhile, we have a person who comes in to work on their resume and asks us to proofread it. I’m okay with correcting grammatical errors, but if they want expert advice on building the perfect resume…er, not my department, What’s more, if they ever got a look at my resume, they’d run screaming (quietly) from the library.

Security: During the school year, we have security guards who come in to patrol the library on weekday afternoons (If you’re surprised that a library requires a security guard, then you haven’t been cooped up in a one-floor building with 40-50 hyperactive and hormonal middle schoolers for several hours). Unfortunately, not all of the guards we get are proactive in enforcing discipline as we would like. When this happens, the librarians drop whatever they’re doing and take up guard duty. We call this event “Teen Patrol” (and we’re trying to come up with a theme song to sing while we stalk the aisles).

Telephone operators: When a child needs to call home for a ride, an adult wants to do an over-the-phone job interview, or a patron with a dead cell phone desires to shoot the breeze with a buddy (or prank call 911 for kicks), we provide our desk phones. We also provide comprehensive instructions for those who no longer know how to use a push-button phone (a surprising number of people as it turns out). For more on this, I refer you to a previous posting: https://dexysmidnightramblings.com/life-at-the-library/desk-phone-dilemma/. We also have a payphone at the library (insert cynical laughter here).

U.N. ambassadors: Speaking for my library, we serve a very diverse community. There are some days where I sit at the reference desk and not hear a word of English spoken for long stretches of time. I find it to be a wonderful cultural learning experience; Spanish, Hindi, Polish, Vietnamese, Klingon, you name it, it’s spoken here. However, this does make for difficult (and sometime embarrassing) reference interviews at times. There are probably a fair-sized number of recent immigrants who think I’m a complete idiot because I have to keep asking them to repeat themselves multiple times.

Video game gurus: Several afternoons a week, our library sets up a couple of video game consoles in our meeting room for our rambunctious middle school crowd. Two lucky staff members are then assigned to stay in the room to resolve disputes and to generally keep the kids from hitting each other with the Wii remotes and insulting each other’s mother. Surprisingly, knowledge of video games are not actually required for the staff members (otherwise, they’d never let me step foot into the room).

Wordsmiths: At the youth services desk, we have two boxes of sight words, each color-coded by grade levels. A child picks out a word and tells us what it says. A correct answer earns the child a sticker. For pre-readers, we have cards with letters and colors. This has been a hit with parents and children. Wanting to capitalize on the success of this enterprise, I made up my own box of sight words for those who wanted an extra challenge. Unfortunately, the words I picked were a little too challenging (or so people have told me). But hey, if I can get at least one child to learn to use words like “obstreperous,” “winsome,” or “bifurcation,” I would be a happy person.

Xylophagous: Eating, boring into, or destroying wood, as certain mollusks or the larvae of certain insects. I bet you didn’t know that. Did I mention that librarians know everything?

YouTube police: It’s amazing what those crazy kids will find on YouTube these day, despite content blocking. Staff members frequently remind our internet users that what they’re watching can be seen by everybody, including that little toddler who is staring mesmerized at your screen.

Zombie monitors: By “zombie,” I am referring to the glassy-eyed patrons who stagger into the library and spend every spare moment they can on the internet. They don’t need too much looking after, but one has to be proficient in interpreting the grunts and moans that occasionally come from the internet stations.


League of Unknown Presidents, Part Five

(There is a knock at the door)

Hayes: Now who is it?

Harrison: Come in.

(The door opens to reveal 23rd President Benjamin Harrison)

Benjamin Harrison: (To William Henry Harrison) Is this a bad time?

W.H. Harrison: (Sighing) Ben, it’s always a bad time here.

Pierce: What is he doing here?

Tyler: (Looking at his notes) Actually, this is next up on our agenda.

Pierce: What is?

W.H. Harrison: (With a hint of pride) The initiation of my grandson into the group.

Pierce: Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Since when are we accepting family members?

W.H. Harrison: Since Ben is the 23rd President. Besides, we never get to do anything together.

Pierce: Then take him fishing. He’s not joining.

Fillmore: What are you getting so worked up about?

Pierce: It’s nepotism, that’s what it is!

Hayes: I don’t see a problem with letting him in. He’s got a nice beard. Besides, we’re in the market for a new treasurer anyway.

Fillmore: I…hey, wait a minute…

Hayes: (To B. Harrison) Tell me, Mr. President, would you trust President Harding with any sum of money?

B. Harrison: What? That’s crazy!

Hayes: You’re hired!

Fillmore: (Standing) Now just a minute!

W.H. Harrison: (Shouting over Fillmore to Pierce) If this were a government position, I’d agree with you! But this is just a club! I have no special treatment to give him!

Pierce: Well then, maybe I should just invite my grandkids to join too. Oh wait, I don’t have grandkids…

W.H. Harrison: And how is that my fault?

B. Harrison: I think I’ll go check out the Cool Facial Hair Society. (Leaves the room)

Fillmore: (Pointing at Hayes) Look, I’m the League treasurer…

Hayes: (Sarcastically) And you’re doing a splendid job! By the way, how much money don’t we have right now?

Fillmore: It wasn’t my fault!

Hayes: I swear, you’re worse than Congress!

Fillmore: Take that back!

W.H. Harrison: (To Tyler) I have a feeling that this meeting is about to come to an end.

Tyler: Just about…

(Fillmore picks up his chair in preparation to throw it)

Tyler: …Aaaaand now we’re done.

W.H. Harrison: (Slamming down his gavel) Meeting adjourned!

Tyler: Duck!

(Harrison and Tyler drop down as Fillmore’s chair goes flying)

League of Unknown Presidents, Part Four

Harrison: (Turning to Tyler) What’s next on the agenda?

Tyler: (Looking down at his papers) The League Treasurer President Fillmore’s report on the progress of our fundraising campaign.

Fillmore: (Clearing his throat nervously) Ah, yes, the fundraising. Well…it hasn’t quite been as, um, fruitful as I had hoped…so far.

Harrison: What happened to the President’s Day bake sale two weeks ago? Didn’t we get anything from that?

Fillmore: We did at first…

Harrison: At first?

Fillmore: We were doing pretty well actually. But I had been drinking a lot of coffee that day, and well…I needed to use the little president’s room. So I found another President to cover the table for me.

Harrison: Which President?

Fillmore: (Sighing) Warren G. Harding.

(Everyone around the table collectively groans.)

Harrison: You should have known better! You can’t trust that man around money.

Fillmore: Look, I knew he was a bit shady, but I didn’t think he’d walk off with the entire till!

Hayes: He took all of the money?

Fillmore: All he left was a note saying that he had an emergency poker game to attend.

(Another round of groaning by everyone.)

Harrison: Did you make any more money from the rest of the baked goods?

Fillmore: (Hanging his head) They were all gone too.

Harrison: What?! Why would Harding…?

Fillmore: I don’t think Harding was responsible for that.

Harrison: Then who was?

Fillmore: Well, when I returned to the table…President Taft was standing nearby with a satisfied smile on his face…

Harrison: (Shaking his head and muttering to himself) I don’t believe this…

Fillmore: (Indignant) It’s getting to where you can’t even trust a President!

Harrison: So…does anyone have any new ideas on how to raise money?

Pierce: (with a smirk) Raise taxes?

Fillmore: (with a sneer) Oh, that’s hilarious…

Harrison: Will you two stop?

League of Unknown Presidents, Part Three

Pierce: Hey, I have a question. Why is Harrison always in charge of these meetings?

Harrison: Because I was the first President to die in office. It’s sort of an honorary thing.

Pierce: But you were only President for, what, a month? You guys make fun of my presidency, but what did he actually do?

Hayes: Well…he did have a catchy campaign song. (Singing) “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too. Yes, Tippecanoe and Tyler, too…”

Everyone (except Pierce): “And with them we’ll beat little Van, Van. Van is a used up man. And with them we’ll beat little Vaaaaaaaan!”

Fillmore: (Sighing) That’ll be stuck in my head for a week.

Hayes: Has anyone seen President Van Buren lately? He used to come to these meetings all the time.

Harrison: He had told me that he was feeling a bit over-committed. After all, he’s pretty active in the Forgotten Vice-Presidents group and the One-Term Wonders Club. I think he’s also planning to start a group for presidents who speak Dutch. But as he is the only one qualified, I can’t see how that can go anywhere.

Pierce: So you like Harrison’s campaign song. Fine. No one can top my campaign slogan though.

Hayes: “We Polked you in ’44. We shall Pierce you in ’52…” Okay, I’ll give you that one.

Fillmore: Yeah, it’s pretty clever.

Pierce: Thank you! Now can I leave this group?

Everyone (except Pierce): NO!

Harrison: (Rubbing his temples) Can we please continue with this meeting before my head explodes?

Fillmore: That’s what Lincoln said. Hey-oh!

(Fillmore and Hayes laugh and exchange fist bumps.)

Hayes: Well played, Mr. President.

Fillmore: Thank you, Mr. President.

Harrison: (Mumbling) What did I do to deserve this?

League of Unknown Presidents, Part Two

Hayes: (To Pierce) I don’t know what you’re complaining about anyway. Personally, I’d rather be here than be in the League of Forgotten Vice-Presidents. I hear that’s a sorry group…

Fillmore: Hey! I’m in that League!

Hayes: (Gesturing to Fillmore) See what I mean?

Fillmore: I wouldn’t talk, Rutherfraud B. Hayes!

Hayes: (Jumps to his feet, pointing at Fillmore) My election was legitimate!

Fillmore: There were 4,287,670 Americans in 1876 who could beg to differ. Not to mention Samuel Tilden…

Hayes: I won the electoral vote!

Fillmore: (Also getting to his feet) Through voter fraud. And then an electoral commission was created to investigate. Eight Republicans, seven Democrats– yeah, guess who they gave the presidency to.

Hayes: Lies! I’m a model citizen. I don’t even drink!

Pierce: (Clearly enjoying the commotion) How do you live?

Tyler: (Raising his hand) Can I say something?

Fillmore and Hayes: No!

Tyler: (Quickly puts his hand down) Right.

Harrison: (Banging his gavel) Order gentlemen, order! This squabbling is pointless!

(Knock is heard at the door)

Harrison: (Shouting) WHO IS IT?!

(21st President Chester Arthur pops his head into the room)

Chester Arthur: Hey, could you gentlemen keep it down a little? We’re meeting in the next room.

Harrison: What meeting is that?

Arthur: (Fluffing his whiskers) The Presidents with Cool Facial Hair Society. President Lincoln is about to give a speech about beard grooming. Should be exciting.

Hayes: (Pulling on his beard) Hey, why wasn’t I invited?

Arthur: Beats me, Rutherfraud. Ciao! (Exits)

Hayes: (Angrily) Hey!

Harrison: Can we proceed now?

(General murmur of assent)

Harrison: Thank you. President Tyler, as League secretary, could you read the minutes of last week’s meeting?

Tyler: (Shuffling through some papers) Minutes…minutes…Ah yes, here we are. (Reading from paper) The meeting was called to order by President Harrison at 7:01 p.m. At 7:05, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Harrison then called roll. At 7:07, President Pierce made a motion that he be allowed to leave the League due to his popularity and good looks. No one seconded the motion. At 7:10, Harrison read the list of accomplishments of the Pierce administration. Five seconds later, the list was concluded…

(Fillmore and Hayes snicker.)

Harrison: (Sighing) Please continue, President Tyler.

Tyler: Ah, yes. (Finding his place on the page) At 7:12 p.m., President Fillmore made a remark concerning Pierce’s mother. At this point, Harrison excused himself to go to the bathroom and did not return to the meeting. A heated discussion ensued thereafter in which many…unprintable words were exchanged. During the…discussion, Pierce referred to President Hayes as “Rutherfraud.” At this point, Hayes entered the discussion by punching Pierce on the nose. The discussion and the meeting were concluded at 7:26 p.m. when Fillmore threw a chair through one of the windows.

Fillmore: Humph. I see they still haven’t repaired that window yet…

Hayes: (To Tyler) Where were you when all of this was going on?

Tyler: Under the table taking notes.

Harrison: Your dedication to your office is commendable.

Tyler: Uh, thanks.

League of Unknown Presidents, Part One

(A typical meeting hall setting. A group of lesser known U.S. Presidents sit around a table, talking among themselves. 9th President William Henry Harrison rises from his seat and bangs a gavel.)

William Henry Harrison: All right gentlemen. I now call tonight’s meeting of the League of Unknown Presidents to order. Let’s begin by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

(All rise, except for one man, put their hands over their hearts, face the American flag that is standing in corner of the room, and recite the Pledge.)

Harrison: (Retaking his seat and looking at the man who remained seated) Excuse me, sir. May I ask why you didn’t stand up for the Pledge?

John Macdonald: Oh, was I supposed to do that as well?

Millard Fillmore: Of course! All presidents should honor their country and flag.

Harrison: If you pardon me for asking, have you been to one of these meetings before?

Macdonald: Erm, no.

Harrison: What is your name, sir?

Macdonald: Uhh…John Macdonald.

Harrison: (Flipping through paperwork) Hmm…I don’t see your name on the lists of Presidents, known or unknown.

Macdonald: Yes, aboot that…

Fillmore: Aboot?

Macdonald: “About!” I said “about!”

Fillmore: (Standing up and pointing at Macdonald) No, you didn’t! I heard you! You said “aboot!” You’re a Canadian!

Harrison: Sir…are you, in fact, Canadian?

Macdonald: (Throwing up his hands) All right, yes! I’m Sir John A. Macdonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada.

Harrison: What are you doing here?

Macdonald: Well, the Canadian Prime Ministers don’t meet like this, eh?

Harrison: Please leave.

Macdonald: (Standing) Right. Sorry. (Leaves)

Harrison: All right, now that’s settled, we’ll take roll. (Looks down at a piece of paper) 9th President William Henry Harrison…I’m here, obviously. 13th President Millard Fillmore…

Fillmore: (Raises a hand) Here.

Harrison: 10th President John Tyler…

John Tyler: Present.

Harrison: 19th President Rutherford B. Hayes…

Rutherford B. Hayes: I’m here.

Harrison: 14th President Franklin Pierce…

Franklin Pierce: I protest!

(Everyone grumbles)

Fillmore: (Sighs) Not again…

Pierce: I shouldn’t be here!

Tyler: You’re an unknown President.

Pierce: Not true…I am known as the handsomest President ever!

Tyler: Who told you that?

Hayes: His mother, probably.

(Everyone but Pierce laughs)

Pierce: I also played a crucial role in the history of this county!

Harrison: (Pulling out another sheet of paper) Well, let’s just check your credentials again, shall we? (Reading to himself and mumbling for a few moments before looking up) Well, Mr. Pierce, I think your track record is best summed up by what Harry S Truman had to say, and I quote: (reading from paper) “He’s got the best picture in the White House…”

Pierce: (Smugly) Ha!

Harrison: (Still reading) “…but being President involves a little bit more than just winning a beauty contest, and he was another one that was a complete fizzle…

Fillmore: Ha!

Harrison: (Still reading) “…Pierce didn’t know what was going on, and even if he had, he wouldn’t of known what to do about it.”

(Everyone except Pierce laughs)

Pierce: (Pouting) Oh, what does Truman know? He’s from (sketching air quotes) “Mizzoura.”

Harrison: (Continuing to look at the paper) Now Theodore Roosevelt has this to say about you…

Pierce: (Throwing up his hands) All right! All right! You made your point…(under his breath)…for the time being.

Private Dexheimer: Civil Warrior…Sort Of

Mock me if you will, but for several summers during my undergraduate years, I was a Civil War reenactor, proudly serving with the 64th Illinois Infantry. I spent a number of weekends dressing up as a soldier, camping out, having mock gun fights to the delight of audiences, and generally geeking out on all things historical. Some of the greatest (and not-so greatest) moments of my life occurred in the camps and on the “battlefields.”

I recall one particular battle where I briefly (and unexpectedly) found myself the darling of some very vigilant spectators. On a warm Saturday afternoon in a large field somewhere on the outskirts of the Chicagoland suburban sprawl, I, and my comrades in arms, lined up with a number of other Union regiments; at the opposite end of the field stood the ranks of the motely Confederate army. As it happened on that fateful day, I was placed at the very end of our battle line (what we armchair historical experts call “the flank”). Despite my perilous position, I had no fear of the Rebels getting around me because I was strong, courageous…and thoroughly protected by the roped-off audience members crowding a few feet away from me. Normally, I never paid attention to the spectators. Even as close as I was to them, once the battle began, I was in the zone.

At about the midway point of the “battle,” with men falling all about me, I pointed my loaded musket toward the general direction of the Confederate line and fired. Usually, during smaller events, reenactors are only provided with a very basic battle plan. We knew who would win and major troop movements. Everything else, such as if and when you are shot, is more or less spontaneous. In one of those unplanned moments, a Rebel standing directly across the field from me, reacted to my random shot and dropped dead, almost as if we had coordinated it. The crowd (possibly believing that we had) roared with delight.

“Woooo! Do you see that?” someone shouted. “He killed that Rebel!”

And the audience cheered…me.

Needless to say, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. I then decided to up the ante. After letting a few minutes go by, I dramatically reeled from a shot and fell dead. As I had hoped, the crowd reacted with commiserating dismay.

“Awww, no!”

“They killed him!”

“Man, I thought he was going to make it.”

I lay, face-down on the ground, hiding my smile and soaking up the adulation. As the audience murmured about my sad fate, the battle continued, drifting up the field. I listened intently for the end of the fight, after which would come “the resurrection,” when all the wounded and slain soldiers would rise up to the applause of the audience. With fewer and fewer men left fighting, the sounds of gunfire grew more and more sporadic as the action continued to move away from me. Finally, the popping of the muskets stopped altogether…or so I thought.

I popped my head up to look around.

The battle wasn’t over.

“Hey!” several members of the crowd shouted and pointed in my direction. “He’s not dead!”


The audience reception to my sudden restoration was rather lukewarm. I tried to make the best of it, pretended I was grievously wounded to play upon their sympathy, but the damage had been done. I had given them something to cheer for, pulled at their heartstrings with a beautifully tragic ending…and then killed the magic by my impetuosity.

Such are the fortunes of war.

Where Does the Time Go?

Soooooo…it’s the first week of July, and I suddenly realized that I have made ZERO posts so far this year. I blame it on grad school. Since January, I have been taking classes for my library science degree (yes, you need to have your Masters to be a librarian). All of my writing since then has been academic rather than creative. I assure you the papers I write are thrilling page-turners (and they usually leave me in tears), but I’ll spare you-the non-library employees-the details.

DMR is Two Years Old!

My, how time flies!

This year has been one of extremes for yours truly. Funerals, road trips, 80-hour work weeks, World Series glory, grad school hoop-jumping, Christmas plays…and even a little bit of Santa impersonation!

Shh! Don’t tell your kids!

2016 has been one of the best (and worst) years of my life. However, I won’t belabor you, the reader, with an exhaustive recap.

Unfortunately, I have not been as productive on the creative writing front as I would have liked. Hopefully inspiration will strike in abundance in the coming new year. Until then, keep on ramblin’.

Why I Am a Cubs Fan: Updated for 2016


I was a naïve ten-year-old when the Chicago Cubs first broke my heart.

It was the summer of 1989 and the “Boys of Zimmer” were my heroes: Sandberg, Dawson, Grace, Dunston, Maddux, Sutcliffe. To this day, I can still rattle off most, if not the entire roster of that year.


(Okay, maybe Google helped refresh my memory)

I still vividly remember coming home that September night in time to catch the last few outs of the Cubs’ division-clinching game against the Montreal Expos. My dad, not the most rabid of baseball fans, stood beside me during that moment of exultation and together we celebrated in front of the television. It is a father-son moment that I hold dear.

The Cubs were to play the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series. I was feeling very confident. Five games later, I was a ruined child. The final out of Game 5 still haunts me. My favorite player, the ever-dependable Ryne Sandberg, hitting a routine ground ball to second base, the ball being tossed into the waiting glove of Giants first baseman Will Clark, his celebratory double fist pump as Sandberg resignedly trotted by.

I was in tears.

Like I said, I was naïve. I didn’t know my history then. 1984, 1969, 1945, 1908—these dates meant nothing to me. In 1989, I was blissfully unaware of billy goats, black cats, and botched ground balls. As far as I was concerned, the Cubs simply sprang into being that year.

My mom was across the street at a neighbor’s house. Bawling my eyes out, I ran over to find her. As she attempted to comfort me, I swore that I would never cheer for the Cubs again. My summertime heroes were now fallen idols in my eyes.

Me, circa 1992.

Fast forward 26 years.

I’m still a die-hard Cubs fan; older, wiser and warier, but a fan even now. It’s October again. The Cubs, full of young promise and hope, tantalized their fans with a great season and an exciting start to their post-season march to glory. Back to the Future II predicted, tongue-in-cheek, a World Series sweep.



Yet, entering once more into the NLCS, the Cubs ran into a buzz saw with a Mets logo emblazoned upon it.

In four games, it was all over.



Wait till next year.

I didn’t cry this time; I couldn’t. I’ve been hurt too many times, my heart scarred with the memories of 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007, and 2008. I must confess, I’m a card-carrying pessimist. I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s a sad way to live, really.



I sometimes wonder if the Cubs had a hand in shaping my outlook on life, or maybe I was drawn to the team because of my pre-existing pessimism. I can’t imagine what will happen if the Cubs finally win the World Series. Perhaps my head will explode. I’m willing to risk it though.

So, you might be asking, you’ve now spent over 500 words whining about your favorite sports team, why are you even a Cubs fan in the first place? Why don’t you root for the (insert flavor-of-the-month team here)? In fact, just forget baseball altogether and follow a cool, trendy sport like bowling, or golf, or curling (it’s amazing what you can with a broom and a rock with a handle).

Why am I a Chicago Cubs fan?

I get asked that a lot. Well, why is a person a fan of anything? Proximity to the team plays a part. I grew up and still live in the Chicago suburbs. If I had moved to a different part of the country at an early enough age, I’d probably be cheering for another team. At this point in my life, it’s too late to switch loyalties. The Cubs infection has had so many years to graft itself into my very nature that no matter where I go now, I’ll always be a North Side crank.

Growing up, my mother always told me that her dad was a Cubs fan. It always pleased me to know that I had this connection with my grandfather who had passed away when I was too young to appreciate him. Years later, my uncle told me a different story; that Grandpa, sick of the team’s losing ways, had abandoned the Cubs to cheer for the White Sox. This bothered me initially because I held (and still hold) firmly to the belief that you can’t be both a Cubs and a Sox fan. To me, there’s something sacrilegious about supporting both teams at once or suddenly switching sides. It’s like cheering for both sides in a civil war. Anyway, the thought of my grandfather’s alleged switch troubled me until I realized that my uncle was from St. Louis, rendering his baseball opinions highly questionable (my humblest apologies to family and friends who happen to be Cardinal fans). Ah well, it doesn’t matter. The point is that the memory of my grandfather played an important role in my choice of teams.

12-27-2009 11;47;53 PM

Loyalty is important to me. I’d like to think of myself as a loyal person—to my family, my friends, my house plant, and yes, to my favorite ball club. Not knowing what I was getting into back in 1989, I hitched a ride on the Cubs bandwagon. For better or worse, I have managed to stay on. I may have forfeited my opportunity to cheer for a winner, but the lessons I have learned as a long-suffering fan have proven valuable in the long run. I’m a loyal pessimist, and maybe that’s not such a sad way to live after all.

Go Cubs!

~One Year Later~

November 3, 2016

The fat lady has sung, pigs are flying and hell is a block of ice-

The Chicago Cubs are World Series champions!



Dexy Goes West, Part Twelve: The Best Part About St. Louis

Sunday, August 28, 2016


Tim and I began our Sunday with brunch at a trendy little café called MoKaBe’s Coffeehouse. We opted for the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet where the food was good, plentiful and provided enough strips of bacon to wallpaper the room (Mmmm…bacon wallpaper…). Despite the crowds, my brother and I managed to snag a table by the front window. Judging by our fellow customers, MoKaBe’s was most decidedly hipster. Judging by the décor, there was also a touch of militant liberalism about the place. Being the straight-laced conservative that I was, I half-expected one of the bearded, plaid-wearing staff members to pick me out of the crowd and hiss “We don’t serve your kind here.” Tim and I managed to fly under the radar though, and we left with pleasantly full stomachs.


We next went to the nearby August Gate Church to attend the 11 a.m. service, where my brother had attended a couple of times. August Gate was a relatively new church community, meeting in a small building that had apparently once housed a church of another denomination. It was a nice and welcoming place. It was also very warm as there seemed to be no air conditioning. Before the service even started, the sweat was coming down my face in rivulets. As my co-workers could testify, I had an acute sensitivity to heat (which meant any temperature above 70 degrees) and a severe dislike of sweating in dress clothing. I spent much of the worship portion of the service with my eyes closed, not in prayer or in genuflection, but simply to keep the streaming, stinging sweat out of my eyes. The church was led by Pastor Noah, a young man with a cleanly-shaved head and a flowing beard that would have made the original Noah jealous. Worship was led by Pastor Josh who possessed an equally impressive beard. It turned out to be a special service as the congregation was about to launch a sister church into northern St. Louis. The soon-to-be pastor of that church gave the message.


After church, Tim and I went downtown and walked around. We strolled through Citygarden, home of some very…interesting art installations. We passed by the courthouse and the beautiful Old Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, all the while Tim provided me with interesting architectural tidbits about the city. Having earned a degree in engineering and being employed by a construction company, Tim was becoming something of an expert in the St. Louis cityscape.


We wandered down toward the Gateway Arch, observing the construction going on in the park around it. I had hoped to go up to the top of the Arch, but it was inaccessible that day. I had gone up once before many years ago, back when I was terrified of heights. Between the dizzying view and the herky-jerky elevator that brought me to that view, it was not the most enjoyable of visits for me. Since then, my acrophobia has faded and I figured that my second visit would go much better. Alas, it was not to be, at least not today.


We moved on to a plaza which framed the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. In the midst of the plaza, we saw a rather strange sight. At first, we (and others around us) thought we were looking at a statue of a man dressed in white snowsuit (complete with white gloves and baseball cap). Standing in the blistering heat with sunglasses obscuring his eyes, he stood motionless under a large black and white umbrella and holding a large Christian flag. Upon closer inspection, we discovered that the statue was an actual person! What was this all about? Later internet searching revealed that the man, named Brad, was, according to him, instructed by God to stand before the Arch for several hours every Sunday afternoon, offering prayer and a compelling life story that brought him to that place. Not sure at the time whether we could speak to him (or if he would speak to us), Tim and I passed by and moved on to the recently restored Lewis and Clark statue. lewis-and-clark-statue-002
We were fairly certain that these were in fact statues (I kicked Captain Clark’s shin just to make sure).

We passed under the historic Eads Bridge next, then headed back to where we parked the car.

With time pressing, we took a quick drive through beautiful Forest Park, passing by the art museum along the way. This would be a place that I would have to revisit at another time. But now it was time to go home.

Overall, I was amazed and impressed by all the construction that was going on in the city. There was a sense of revitalization that I had never encountered here in former visits. I also enjoyed touring the city with Tim, who was clearly enthralled by his new home. Still, being a long-time resident of Chicagoland, I clung to my old prejudices about the city. Despite the pleasant visit, the best part about a trip to St. Louis, I mused as I crossed into Illinois, was leaving it.

The final leg of my trip was rather anticlimactic as I traveled north along I-55. I cast many a bored glance out the window at the uninspiring Illinois scenery around me and wished for mountains. I arrived home around 9:30 that night, travel-worn, and to be perfectly honest, rather glad to be back.

After two weeks, 13 states and 4,700 miles, my odyssey had finally come to an end…or had it?


Epilogue: Sunday, September 25, 2016

A month has gone by since my return, but thanks to my persistence in recording, editing and blogging my journey, I have been continually reliving, reviewing and analyzing my journey of self-discovery. Had my road trip accomplished anything? Had I managed to “find myself”?

Yes and no.

Naturally, a two-week vacation is not going to solve all of life’s problems. However, the trip did serve as a catalyst in giving my life a much-needed reset. I had the ability to process my grief, frustration and spiritual weariness while reveling in the wonders of this country, and in the wonders of rekindled friendships. Now I was finally ready to move on, to take on new challenges, and yes, to even face an adventure or two (provided that I remember where my car is parked).


Dexy Goes West, Part Eleven: Getting My Kicks on Route, Um, I-40/Meet Bee in St. Louis

Friday, August 26, 2016

In the morning, I had figured that from Heber, I had about 23 hours more driving ahead of me with three days to go. Of course, this daunting schedule didn’t stop me from sleeping in and I didn’t start out until about 11:00. Having no place in particular that I wanted to visit, my Friday was mainly devoted to driving. It wasn’t very long before I had picked up I-40, exited Arizona and started in on New Mexico.

Before leaving California, I had debated on whether I should attempt to follow the old Route 66 path from start (Los Angeles) to finish (Chicago). route66-01However, with time starting to run out on my trip, I felt that I wouldn’t be able to do a Route 66 tour justice. I needed time for exploration. Sadly, it would have to remain a goal for another journey. Still, driving east on I-40 through parts of Arizona and New Mexico did put me on the “Mother Road” for a time.


Established in 1926, Route 66 was one of the country’s main thoroughfares to the west, crossing through parts of Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. It gained a great deal of usage during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, as many Midwestern farmers and assorted “Okies” sought a new life in California.


In the post-World War II era, as 66 became a popular vacation route, small towns connected by the highway found profitability in the thousands of tourists that flocked through every year. Mom-and-Pop shops sprang up, fast food got its start, souvenirs and motels were in abundance. In short, it was consumer America in miniature. People got their kicks on Route 66. It was the epitome of road tripping.

The establishment of the Interstate Highway System in 1956 marked the beginning of the end for Route 66 as, over the following years, sections of the road (not to mention many small towns) were bypassed or subsumed by the newer, stream-lined interstates. In 1985, Route 66 was officially decommissioned as a highway. Sadly, it is no longer possible to drive continuously from Chicago to Los Angeles on the existing Route 66 roads, although there are enough stretches around to make a nostalgic trip out of it.

Sometimes, progress is not all it’s cracked up to be.

As the day rolled on, I watched the world go by from my windows: Manuelito…Defiance…Mentmore…Gallup…

It was late afternoon when I made a stop in Albuquerque. After scarfing down dinner, I decided that I would attempt to pay a surprise visit to a former co-worker of mine who had recently found employment at a library in town…at least, I thought it was in town. Thinking that Albuquerque would only have one library, I dropped in at what turned out to be the main branch of an extended network of libraries throughout Bernalillo County. As I didn’t know specifically which one of the libraries my one-time co-worker was at, I chalked up my visit as a failure and headed out. However, let this journal bear witness that I did try…

Moriarty…Santa Rosa…Cuervo…Tucumcari…San Jon…

It was dark when I crossed into Texas panhandle and the Central Time Zone. By midnight, I was in Amarillo and ready to call it a night. I found a cheap hotel just off the highway and was registered by a warty-looking man with a Texas twang who wanted to discuss the rainstorm that had recently passed through the city. As I hadn’t encountered any rain that day (and being rather road-weary), my participation in the conversation was minimal.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Much like the day before, there was much driving to be had. I was still about 15 and half hours from home and hoping to make it to St. Louis by the end of the day. I left Amarillo around 10 am and continued to follow I-40 through Texas and up into central Oklahoma, stopping occasionally for food and gas. Around Tulsa, I picked up I-44 and by mid-afternoon I had crossed into Missouri (State motto: “Where Missouri Loves Company”).

Although born and bred in Illinois (a dubious distinction to some people), Missouri had always felt like home to me. Having gone to college in Hannibal and being part of a traveling drama team during that time, I had seen a great deal of the state. Having a number of Missouri friends and family members (a dubious distinction to other people) ensured my repeated visits to the “Show-Me State” in the years following graduation. In recent days, my younger brother Tim had himself graduated from college and established himself in St. Louis.

I was 12 when Tim was born. In his infancy, I had nicknamed him (with brilliant originality) “Baby.” I’m not sure why I chose to call him that other than the fact that he was, at one time, a baby. The name stuck, however. But Tim started growing up, and as “Baby” no longer seemed suitable, his nickname was morphed into “Bee Bee.” Over time, that too was changed to just “Bee,” which I still call him to this day, much to the mystification of uncomprehending friends and family members. (Incidentally, my middle brother Jon was given the nickname “Mole,” but that’s another story.)

Thanks to construction, traffic, and paying a visit to the slowest fast food place I had ever encountered, it was after 10 pm when I reached the DeBaliviere Place neighborhood of St. Louis, where I would be spending the night at Tim’s apartment.

I recalled one of the many reasons why I could never live in St. Louis when I pulled up at the apartment building and stepped out of my air-conditioned car into the miasma of a late August night. Where Phoenix had been all heat, St. Louis proved to be all humidity. I texted my brother of my arrival but it turned out that he was not at home—but soon would be, he assured me. As there were no spots that I could legally park on the street, I went to a nearby gas station to wait. Tim soon found me and I followed him back to his building which had a gated parking lot.

Tim lived in a spacious and nicely furnished two-bedroom apartment that he shared with a roommate. After a quick introduction to said roommate, who was entertaining his own guests, I set up camp in Tim’s bedroom and made an early night of it.