Thursday, March 31, 2016

By the twisting of fate

Two incidents of pure prescience have been visited upon this blog in the past few months. Or, to put it another way, magic has come in through the side door, as it does. In the first incident I outlined the secret curse of my library system, a problem manager at a library branch location that was calving off employees like a dying glacier in the sweltering arctic of the global warming era. No sooner had I articulated this deep, ten year long problem of my library system than the offending manager suddenly fled her job under mysterious circumstances and lifted the curse in a single move.

Then, oddly, I wrote a letter to a Bald Eagle, asking it to not fly above me when it accompanied me on walks, but rather to fly beside or in front of me, so as not to strain my neck, for to gaze upon a nearby Bald Eagle was irresistible to me. I'll admit to the silliness of the post. I am aware that it may be hard for you to fully credit the strangeness of my walk on the river the day after I wrote it. But I swear to you that I have never in my life been so close to a flying Eagle, despite the great many I have seen here in Minnesota. One hovered and glided sometimes as close as five feet from my shoulder, and, even when it drifted farther away, it always stayed scrupulously at my side. It never positioned itself, in thirty minutes of my walking, at an angle the least bit difficult for me to see.

So wishes are suddenly being answered here. Strange wishes, wishes I did not know were wishes, joking wishes, but they are all answered nonetheless.

And it makes me wonder, what shall I wish for? I have the ear of the gods here. What dreams would I like to see made real? I have a magic space right in this nest of words. What seed shall I plant? What spell do I invoke?

But no, that is not the nature of magic. There is nothing that works like that.

The gods are not wise so much as mercurial. Sometimes you can get what you work for, but that's just science. By the laws of magic, and by the holy and unholy world alike, you can never get what you wish for. Wishes can only come out better or worse, above or below, east or west of how they were cast.

And so here, where over and over the future is predicted, and what is written magically comes to pass, the future will again and again be conjured up.

But not by me.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The ambitious new quote

I have for a long time endeavored to come up with a quotation, a Bartlett's level quotation, that meets the standard of my now classic:

"It's not the sneeze that's such a problem, it's what to do with it after."

I have come up with this:

"I am filled with energy for all difficult and virtuous projects, so long as they begin tomorrow."

It was a great idea to come up with a new quote. I have no idea why it took me so long to get around to it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

An observation

I'd rather not indulge my occasionally voracious appetite for scathing critiques of a (smallish) proportion of my co-workers. So perhaps we can just present this as a moment of observation, a footnote in my day of library clerking, an explanation for how some things, that seem so mystifying in their aftermath, happen.

You will need a small amount of preparation. At my library we send things in transit mostly by using boxes. One puts stuff in the right box (hopefully), and when it's full one places a lid on it and stacks another box on top (again, hopefully, though, as we're about to see, not always). 

One of my co-workers walked over to these transit boxes with an extra thick talking book, made from a real tome of a novel, the kind of talking book with thirty discs in it. Because this co-worker is, um, not inspiring at her job, I looked on to see what would happen, much in the way you might see a person drinking from a flask, talking on the phone and fiddling with their car radio all as they drive their car and find yourself compelled to see the end result of it.

So she came to the box with her talking book. She saw that the box had room for perhaps two more modest sized hardcover books, but not for her talking book. In a strange, birdlike confusion she regarded the situation for a long time, frozen almost. Then, finally, she crouched down and began rearranging the contents of the box for several minutes. But apparently no amount of rearranging could change the fact that there was not enough room for her talking book without it extending an inch or two above the surface of the box. And so that's how she left it. 

She seemed slightly baffled by the limits of her ultimate result, but I read too a look on her face that said that she had done the best she could possibly do.
What did I do?

After she left I pulled one hardcover book from under the talking book and, with it, started a new box. But, admittedly, I did it mostly to fan the delicious flames of my righteousness, which are sometimes all I have to keep me warm when the backroom of the library gets, as it sometimes does, cold and lonely.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Crow: herald of spring

As you probably know, the crow is the state bird of Minnesota, and one look at these delightful birds will easily answer the question: Why is the crow known at the herald of spring?

When the great philosophers weigh in on which is the cutest bird, there is never much dissension. Oh sure, a few of the philosophers might bring up the Japanese long-tailed tit to try and keep it interesting, but what bird could ever be cuter than the crow? With its not too twee, but ever endearing caw caw caw call, the wee crow will make even the most grizzled Nietzschean's heart melt. Look at the crow, darling tailored and all feathered up dashingly in its raven colored suit! Look at the funny little curve of the crow's beak! There are twenty crows! They are attacking a hawk! Now they are eating some dead thing! What kind of dead rotting flesh is that, dear crow? I bet it's yummy. Now the twenty crows are attacking the hawk again! Is bad old hawk after their babies? Good for you crows! Where are your babies? I want to see your babies.

I have never seen a crow baby. Can you imagine?

If a crow is that cute, what must their toddlers be like? I bet they're as cute as kittens. Oh my god. I think I would just fall over squealing if I ever saw a bird as cute at that!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Dear Bald Eagle

Dear Bald Eagle:

I don't know if you receive letters, seeing as you're a bird (no offense), but because pictures of you are so prominently featured at my local post office I thought a letter was a good enough bet as a way to reach you. I certainly don't have any better solutions. Yelling at you 300 feet over my head is neither seemly nor likely to be heard, and I certainly don't have an email address for you. Guessing your address as seems far more likely to reach a shaved headed patriot than a noble scavenging bird of prey such as yourself.

But you are probably wondering why I'm writing you. I'll get right to it.

First of all, I was so honored and delighted you decided to accompany me on my walk this morning. I can't tell you how thrilling it was to look up and see you soaring in the sky above me. And that you stayed with me for two whole miles along the river was incredibly friendly, so you should know all that off the top. Plus, and I really hope you won't think I'm just buttering you up, I do think you're very majestic. Yes, majestic, that's you, and so it was very awe inspiring to see you overhead, really amazing. You're one impressive bird (I hope you don't mind me calling you a bird). But the fact that you're so majestic is kind of the problem.

You might not know this, but you're so majestic that I kind of have an unwritten rule that if you're around it's a special occasion. And my job on this special occasion is to look up at and be inspired by your birdish majesty (no offense, I don't know how you feel about being a bird). And I am glad to do this looking. It's very inspiring and ennobles my spirit. Unfortunately it hurts my neck, especially after, like, half an hour of it.

So the reason I'm writing you, respectfully, is to ask that when you come for a walk with me, you don't fly directly over my head, rather, ideally, you stay out in front of me, to the left or the right. Or you could just generally stay to the side of me. You can also be directly in front of me or even behind. Just, overhead is, and this is my thing, not a criticism of you in any way, it's difficult. If you could change your position I would be deeply appreciative and would be even more ennobled by you, and would enjoy our little walks even more than I already do, and I would defend you against the other birds who I think are just being a little jealous.

Anyway, thank you for your time and attention to this matter. See you on the river!

Your friend,

F. Calypso

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Two ways of doing a job

I don't know why this fictional scenario came into my mind this morning, nor do I know why I decided I should immediately recount it to you here. But I try to trust that if I make the vessel here then it will fill with light all by itself, at which point I can cry out "Shazam!" and take all the credit for everything.

A person goes to a Doctor and says "I got more than nine hours sleep last night and I'm still incredibly tired!"

The Doctor says "Hmm." And begins a very thorough examination. The Doctor asks the person many questions, like "Do you often have insomnia?", "Do you snore?", "What do you eat before you sleep?" and so on. The doctor conducts several inconclusive tests and then, ultimately, recommends that the person go to see a sleep specialist. The Doctor gives the patient the name of the best sleep specialist in town and finishes the appointment.

Another person goes to a Doctor and says "I got more than nine hours sleep last night and I'm still incredibly tired!"

And the Doctor asks "How much sleep did you get the night before?"

The person replies "Four hours."

The Doctor says "Sleep shortage is cumulative. Get another good nights sleep and you'll feel much better." 

The moral of the story?

Sometimes you have to put the light into the vessel yourself.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The trail home

I adore analogies and use them all the time. What is language, after all, but a kind of tapestry of analogy. So too are all stories analogies, in their way, just not usually particularly direct analogies. Analogies, I believe, don't lock down the understanding of things. They open them out and allow for wider and deeper ways of looking. But I accept that perhaps I use analogies too much of the time. For instance there is one particular analogy I love to use at the front desk of my library...

When patrons at my library are concerned about getting a replacement library card, and they fear that important information or requests on their library account will somehow get lost in the exchange, I use the house key analogy.

Here it is:

Your library card is like a key. Your library account is like a house. So when we change your library card (and your library card number) we are merely changing the key to your house, but your house and everything in it remains exactly the same.

I give this analogy with great gusto, and usually with quite a few more words than in the above, and I endorse it all with number of enthusiastic hand gestures. And while to me it is the clearest and most perfect analogy, I always seem to catch a glint of confused alarm in the eye of the person I am giving the analogy too. When I'm done talking and gesturing to the person it always looks as if they're about to ask a question, and then they think better of it. Then they sort of drift away.

Maybe I'm too enthusiastic about the analogy. Maybe analogies are terrible ways to communicate things. But I still believe.

Here is an analogy for clerkmanifesto:

Writing every day a short essay for clerkmanifesto is like laying a trail of breadcrumbs away from myself. And when I am done they show me the way home.

I think this is why birds show up here so much.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Gift to patrons

Dear Computer Patron:

We at the library have noticed that you really love our computers. You are on them all the time, everyday. I've never talked to you here at the library because you just quietly use our computers. And that's okay. In fact, I'm not really sure what you look like. I just see your back mostly, and the solitaire game you play all day on our computers. There's a few of you out there like this. I'm not spying. I try and avert my eyes from your screens, but the screens are all glowy and colorful, and, well, I have a questing, curious sort of personality. I guess I don't try to avert my eyes too much. So I hope you don't mind that I see you playing solitaire on your computer.

I'm not judging.

In fact, we at the library are delighted to have you here. You're always welcome, and we have plenty of computers for you to play solitaire on. You can stay there all day and up until nine at night, at which point the computers shut off.

But then you have to leave.

And that's where I worry about you a little. Where will you go? What will you do?

This is why we at the library have gotten together to get you a little something to help you out. I'm not saying you need help. We're not judging you. We don't expect you to change your behavior. We're not asking anything of you. This we give you freely to do with as you wish. If it helps you out it helps you out. If not, we merely meant well.

What is it?

Here you go. It's a deck of cards.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Quotes for the ages

I am an aficionado of the short quotation. I have in this space covered the master, Mark Twain, who, even though he didn't say all the things he said, is still so far ahead of everyone else with what he did say that it hardly matters. I have even dabbled in writing the quotation myself, achieving a peak of success in 2015 with:

"It's not the sneeze that's such a problem, it's what to do with it after."

So I'm just saying I'm highly attuned to the tradition of the quote. This weekend I saw one of the most brilliant movies, well, ever, The Big Short. It used a few quotes, and the quality of these quotes reflected the quality of the movie. One was by Mark Twain (naturally) and read:

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

And then, disarmingly, it gave us this marvelous quote:

"Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry."

And then for attribution it cited the above to "Overheard at a Washington, D.C. bar." Which just goes to show that you don't have to be Mark Twain to pierce the heavens.

During a rather enjoyable weekend of clothes shopping with my wife I myself overheard a quote. Two women were talking, one of them far more than the other, and she said:

"There could be a great book of things I say, but I'm too scattered to write it myself. I would need someone to follow me around and write down what I say."

I have decided, for today, to be that person.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The code

Among all our codes at the library I work at, among what we do say and what we don't say, one of our strongest strictures is that we don't talk about not working. Of course, this isn't just my workplace. All over America talk about not working while working is dangerous stuff, far more dangerous than discussing politics, probably because it's a kind of politics within itself. Officially everyone is working all the time. Everyone is supposed to be working, again, all the time. But one way or another most people only work about half the time, except for the people who work all the time, most of whom do far less work than the people who work only half the time, unless they're wildly underpaid and have few options, which is a different discussion.

I know, it's complicated. You can read that paragraph again if you want, and I'll wait here.

It's complicated because lies are complicated. Ideology is dangerous stuff. We don't work all the time in our jobs, but it reflects badly upon us to say it about ourselves directly. And since we don't like to lie we try to believe the lie so we can think we are telling the truth.

I'm not keen on any of this. So if I trust you, I will make a joke about not working. I will occasionally be frank about goofing off. I will be disarmingly direct about doing nothing for a bit. I do not court trouble at my job, but I believe part of my job is to let in a little fresh air.

So there I am joking about my seven coffee breaks, or how each book needs to be read before one can shelve it, or about how I embrace the times of slowness at my library as an opportunity for lots of delicious staring into space. And, if you work where I work, or are under similar strictures and taboos, you might find that appealingly irreverent, slightly refreshing, or possibly, if we're both lucky, a tad amusing. And you might want a piece of that delicious candor.

I just want you to understand that does not mean joking or referring to my not working. It means talking about your not working. And that's the main thing I came here today to explain.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Daylight savings

Dear President Obama:

I did not know who to bring this issue to, and normally I would not have bothered you, being as you're the President of the whole United States, but I figured that at this stage of your presidency you don't actually have much to do and might appreciate one last problem you can sink your teeth into. If this isn't your sort of thing perhaps you would be kind enough to pass it along to Joe Biden, who may even have less to do than you now, if that's possible.

So, right, you want to know what this is concerning. Fair enough. But before I start I wanted to say that this is not something I have complained about before. I have heard others speak against it, but I personally have had no problems. I just think maybe something has gone wrong with it this year, something very wrong. And I wanted to let someone official know.

Yes, I suppose you've guessed. I'm talking about daylight savings time.
I'll try to be coherent about this issue, but it's difficult because I am so exhausted.

I had to get up to have an early coffee with my wife at seven in the morning the other day, which was a pleasure, except it was confusingly dark outside. My state of bewilderment dogged me for 12 hours until I looked out the windows of the library I work at and it was dark again! 

What are we saving this daylight for? We need it now!

Of course all of this is complicated by how overcast it has been here lately. But I don't suppose you could do anything about that. Though if you can, please do, as it sure couldn't hurt. Frankly, as it currently stands, every two hours I have to either have another macchiato or just lie down on the floor and sleep for 20 minutes. If you could have a word with the time people, or maybe get together some temporal physicists I'm sure you all could get this adjusted properly because it is currently a mess!

Anyway, I trust you'll get this all worked out and taken care of. At the least it's a way better bet than you getting your Supreme Court Justice appointment through. Those people in Congress are, like, frighteningly insane. You should mention that in your next speech.

Good luck with your retirement, and thanks for your attention to this matter.


F. Calypso

Sunday, March 20, 2016



I know exactly what you're thinking. You're thinking "Who?"

Donald Trump.

"Nope, still nothing." You think, and I can't blame you. Before today I would have had the same reaction.

And yet Donald Trump is currently leading the race to be nominated as the Republican Presidential candidate.

Someone no one has ever heard of or knows anything about could actually be nominated to be President. No media coverage, no cultural examination or discussion, indeed no one knows seems to have any information whatsoever about him. Is he married? Liberal? Conservative? I'd like to give you a bare bit of information about the man, but I'm coming up completely blank. I did a google search for him and found an English Professor at Saint Louis University with a similar name as the top choice in my search returns. I had to go to the second page of results to find the Presidential Candidate. It turns out he's like a real estate agent or something. Beyond that all I could really find is that he is a candidate, and there are a few articles about primaries he has won.

Why the silence? Is he not colorful enough? Is there something unpleasant about him? Does he have no policies I might be interested in? I mean, he's running for President! You'd think he would be of some interest to the media and to the American Public.

And yet there he is leading the Republican Presidential race.

And so I beg the American Media: Please give this Daniel Trump guy some coverage! I truly feel that if the American public can have a chance to actually look at the candidates, they will always make the responsible choice.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


I like to think of myself as egalitarian, as a person who sees things as they are. Out at the front desk of my library I endeavor to take all comers without presupposition. And because I'm not racist or sexist or ageist or homophobic I have long been content with my open minded attitude as each patron approaches me out on that main desk of the library.

So it was a rude wake up call today to realize that that was all a sham. It suddenly, horribly occurred to me: I am prejudiced!

I am not prejudiced in regards to color or as regards to any of those illusions of race. I will not mistreat you if you are Korean nor will I do so should you have some disability. I have nothing against small children or old men or devout Muslims. And yet, here I am, prejudiced nonetheless! For today it dawned on me that when most people approach me at the front desk this is the thought goes through my mind:

"Oh no. They look crazy. This is going to be challenging!"

Though some of my co-workers would beg to disagree with me, I am wrong about this nearly all the time. In fact almost all of those people whose craziness I quail before turn out to be perfectly nice people who I enjoy talking to and helping. You'd think all these vast corrections, all this disabusing me of my notions, this twenty years of being wrong dozens of times a day, would make some inroads.

But no, there it still is, despite everything: 

"Oh no. This person is surely mad. This could be a tough one."

How terrible!

On the other hand, maybe I'm right, and I just happen to like crazy people.

Friday, March 18, 2016


Dear Staff:

The free food table used to mean something around here, and though the food on it frequently disgusted and horrified me, I still took a kind of reassurance from it. It said that even if I forgot to bring food to work I would not starve, or, even worse, be forced to drive off during my precious lunch hour to procure food from one of the miserable restaurants and fast food joints around here. Instead I would be able to help myself to some of those sugar encrusted bacon saltines that someone brought in after either a culinary disaster or under a confused understanding of "generosity".

Well, who knows, maybe it was generous after all. And though mostly my main goal with the free food table was to resist eating anything that was on it due to my commitment to living past the age of sixty, it was still somehow good to know that that disgusting, profoundly unhealthful food was there. At least we made that gesture towards hearth and community, pathetic and misguided though it may have been. Unlike now. Have you seen what's been on the free food table lately? 


Coupons! Five cents a gallon off on gas at the station that charges seven cents a gallon more than anywhere else. An "introductory" offer for a wine by mail club. A certificate for a 35 dollar haircut. A 35 dollar haircut? I have a wastebasket and a pair of scissors, why would I pay for a haircut? And these really aren't even coupons. They're advertisements pretending to be coupons. Why would you put those on the free food table? Do you hate your co-workers that much? Surely in the past few days you must have made something like a Spam and Tabasco hotdish that didn't go over with your family like you hoped it might. Bring it in for god's sake, not these ridiculous coupons! You don't think people would eat such a dish, but we will! And even if we didn't it would give us all something to talk about besides who drives us crazy around here or our all too common complaining about wretched American politics. We already agree on all these things. What else is there to say?

So let's put out the vegan cucumber brownies and be a proper workplace once more. Trust me. I've been here for decades, and I can guarantee you that no matter how harmonious it seems between us all right now, we're always about two bare inches from completely hating each other. Workplace cultures are fragile, so you've got to attend to the little things, like the free food table. It all goes south so much faster than you can imagine.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Squirrel neighborhood

I live in a neighborhood of squirrels. It is the squirrels' neighborhood, and I and all my human neighbors are mere aliens, landed in our houses like spaceships, separate from the world as if the very outside air is hostile to us. I think I live in a neighborhood of humans, but that's an act of simple human prejudice. I look around and see house after house, I see cars, I see roads and sidewalks and all creations of people, and of course I think it's a neighborhood of humans. But I don't actually see many people. I see squirrels.

There in the trees and the grass, on the roads and the roofs and the high wires and fences. There is a squirrel sleeping on a branch and one coming out from under a shed. Any objective count will tell you it is the home of squirrels. The squirrels, who are far better at being objective than people, would also tell you that it is the home of squirrels, if they could talk, which maybe they can and maybe they can't. A census taker too would tell you it is the home of squirrels, but only if they deigned to count squirrels, which is really the key here.

Through the windows of houses I can see a few sad dogs looking longingly on. A cat or two wanders a porch. Rarely I pass a neighbor by, or see one sliding past me in the glassed in bubble of a car. Perhaps flesh to flesh contact with Squirrel Neighborhood would pollute that delicate driver. The squirrels wind under the wheels of the speeding car, only rarely making a tragic mistake. We won't count the squirrels that made a tragic mistake. Birds come in waves. Sometimes there is a storm of crows, sometimes a bucketful of thrushes on a single tree, but go ahead and add up all the numbers, count up all the creatures. We will count that guy we can just barely see through a window, making pancakes in his little kitchen. We will count this stoned looking raccoon, perched over a storm drain in the middle of the day, worrying us. We will count the bunny meditating in the grass ignoring the wind. We will count me and that cat and that old man and the weird thing he has at the end of his leash. We will count everyone. 

It is a lot of counting. 

And every time it's the squirrels that come out on top. The squirrels predominate no matter how we add it up, no matter how we stack or divide. They win even when we figure that we might have counted the same squirrel three or four times, which is easy to do. This is the world of the squirrel.

And so it's a good thing they don't seem to mind us. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Librarian scribe

We at this library have nothing against the conveniences of modern technology. It is easy enough for us to provide printers for the public to use, and the public uses them a lot. Our cost is not in the equipment, in all those printers, which are a reasonable enough fraction of our budget. No, our real cost is in staffing enough people to handle all the constant system breakdowns of that cheap technology. Finding a good quality computer person, who understands the vast and complicated array of automation problems that an average large sized library is constantly under siege by, is a nearly impossible, very expensive task. Good tech people, simply put, are hard to find, and, if they're any good, one generally has to pay them far more than one has to pay an average librarian who, anyway, are scattered through our city like leaves in an Autumn wind.

And that is why at my library we are providing all the important cutting edge (minus five years) computer and printing services one has come to expect from libraries, but for back up we are digging deep into our ancient tools and providing old school solutions for the times when all our amazing technologies are suddenly not working, when they're mysteriously broken and offline.

Allow me then to introduce you to our librarian scribes. Our team of Librarian Scribes is available during all the hours we are open. Should our printers go down, as they do most days, simply hit the "Scribe" button on your computer and one of our librarian scribes, with their kit of quill pens and vellum, should be at your computer within five minutes. They will hand copy onto thick cotton paper stock whatever computer page you want printed, all at our standard cost of twenty cents a page. They can copy in three colors: onyx, viridian, and sepia. If your page includes illustrations, the cost for these illuminated manuscripts will be seventy cents per page. We can currently offer Courier, Times, and Verdana fonts, but cannot guarantee that each of these fonts will be available at all times, depending on the calligraphy skills of the Scribe on staff. Please contact our Scribe Department for which fonts are available at specific times.

This is the first big push out of our "Old library tools to fix new technology" program. We also hope to soon add the ability to look up information in books for those times when the Internet is not working. Look for further announcements in this space.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

To be ready

Dear Reader,

Thank you for the compliment you left in my comments section. Unfortunately we receive so many compliments every day here at clerkmanifesto that I am unable to respond to them personally. This is why you are receiving an automated response rather than the personal, heartfelt thanks you so richly deserve.

Fortunately our work with Apple, Google, and The Department of State has allowed us to create a sophisticated response algorithm that can actually "read" your comment and respond to it according to our own directions and parameters. Capable of placing the context of over 14 million words and phrases I can set this auto responder to reflect my own deep gratitude, a gratitude that I would theoretically, but very likely, feel, had I been able to take the time to read your incredibly generous and thoughtful words in actuality. I can also in this way express my deep regret that I did not have time to read your compliment, though I hope you will be heartened to know that your words of praise are being statistically tabulated, and so I am in that sense "reading" your comments when I examine our month's end compliments and suggestions data readouts, as I do on the third of each successive month.

Anyway, I thank you again for your truly warm and generous words regarding my essay on

no data found

I particularly enjoyed your reflections on

no data found,

and very much hope that I can count you as a


It was a privilege to hear from you, and I hope you will not hesitate to comment in the future.

Yours truly,

F. Calypso

Monday, March 14, 2016

Vision quest

I write a blog with ice water in its veins. A stone cold series of wry essays, all world weary, wizened, and illuminated by the trickster gods. Sweetness is the dash of exotic spice for us here. When you read clerkmanifesto you follow in the wake of the blade of the subtle knife. "How can I get through here?" You ask. The way I have cut through is fierce and swift and the pace is quick, even if much of the time I don't move much at all. See, you thought I moved there? No, what happened is you thought I was about to move so you moved. I am exactly where I started.

So it may surprise you to find that I, wry, of the tribe coyote, member of the crow family, am an absolute innocent.

I have close personal relationships with stuffed animals. I am happy to watch the same sweet romantic comedies dozens and dozens of times. And, perhaps most astonishing of all, when I walk the river valley, I talk to the animals. Like a child, naive, in anthropomorphic proclamations.

And I don't mean all that shaman stuff. I don't mean spirit turkeys and ancient naturism. This isn't vision quests. I am not a mighty hunter. No, this is the hundred acre wood and love of the cute. When I walk the river I walk a magical storybook for small children, and unbidden, in my mind, I say:

"Well hello to you today Mr. Bald Eagle. What is that stick you have?"

Or to the geese:

"It is ever so warm ladies, isn't it? You may run out of North today!"


"Mr. kitty! Hi. It's me! I don't know where I'm going either, but I pretend to, just like you."

Those among you out there who are sophisticates, and have seen a few things, you who know darkness and can see the works under the thin cheap glamour of our society, you may say "I knew it all along." I know just how you feel. I am you too. 

But I am friends with the wee bunnies as well, and the ducks, and Sir Woodpecker, and my cousin raccoons, and I have found, in long association of childlike, anthropomorphizing familiarity, that not a one of them has ever taken any real offense. They all have a secret love for nonsense, just like you.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A blog post about Clarence

It was a busy night out at the front desk of the library where I work. But as the evening wore on things slowed down enough for me to poke at my prospective blog posts a little. My front desk partner, who has read a small handful of my posts along the way, but has evinced nothing more than an occasional, very mild, interest, noticed my screen. "Are you writing a blog post about me?" He somewhat characteristically asked.

"You'll just have to see." I replied. "You'll have to read all my blog posts and decide if any are about you." I wasn't serious. I'm no more inducing him to read my blog than he is really suspecting that I'm writing about him. I like when people read my blog. I'm delighted to have you here right now for instance. But some curse on me has passed, and my fury that I would write a daily work under the direction of the gods and yet remain obscure has become something I more or less shrug my shoulders at. Just so long as you and I know that's what I'm doing.

And Clarence knew I was just kidding as well. He knew I really have no reason to talk about him in my blog. Though he has not read much of this, he has read enough to know I am not likely to ever be discussing him here in clerkmanifesto. After all, what would I say?

Saturday, March 12, 2016


I emerged onto the sidewalks of my city to once again find record warmth pouring out over the late Winter landscape. Seventy degrees today. I saw my neighbor walking his dog and he said "Beautiful day, isn't it?"

"Yes." I replied, mostly because I couldn't think of anything else to say. I wasn't actually sure about how beautiful it was. I hadn't yet adapted to the shock of the outdoors.

"Except for how weird it is." He added.

Yes, that, for sure.

When I stepped out onto the long neighborhood avenue looking North I thought "I can see so far!"

I have no idea why I thought this. Visibility was no different than it had been for most of the Winter. The snow was melted but for some strange, stray patches of old piled ice. The world looked peeled. I'm not sure it was such a beautiful day after all. Yes. It looked like someone had stripped the very skin of the world and now it was laid bare. Maybe that's why I felt like I could see so far.

The trees were freaking out, but the birds were singing.

Ah, the hell with it. If the birds are singing, everything's going to be okay.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Dear Neighbor: your cat

Dear Neighbor,

I have been noticing your "Missing Cat" posters that you put up along the river. Let me say right from the start that I have no firm news as to the whereabouts of your cat. But I'll admit I have a bad feeling about it, and I don't think any good news concerning your cat will be coming your way. If your signs and your cat were back off the river, in among the neighborhood houses, you might still have a chance, but I never see cats roaming around by the river. I'm pretty sure that's because the river foxes eat all the cats that foolishly wander that way. The river foxes are pretty well gorged on cats, but, alas, they are never too gorged to not make room for just one more juicy cat, like yours. I mean, it's not like these foxes can chow down on chickens. There aren't any chickens around here, and no fox in the world could take on one of those five foot tall river turkeys that hang out up and down our section of the Mississippi. So outside of a sluggish squirrel or two, I'm afraid your cat is it.


I did want to talk to you about your signs though. Your signs, which look to be common black and white copies on common black and white copy paper, are, no surprise, already falling apart. The poor resolution photo is of such an inferior reproduction that it could be any of a dozen cats that I might see on my daily walks. What I am really saying is that I don't think your missing cat signs really denote seriousness on your part. Looking at your two-hour old, falling apart, poorly made Xeroxes I get merely the pretense that you care about your cat, but I don't, in any way, feel that you care about your cat. If, by some freakish chance, your cat had not been eaten by foxes, or perhaps by a stray coyote, or even an ambitious raccoon, and I found your cat, I'm not so sure I'd even give it back to you. I might keep your cat, where it would be loved and cared for, and not wantonly lost and fed to wild animals. If I did find your cat, not that I'd likely know it was yours from your low quality black and white reproduction of a picture of it, I might choose to care for it myself. And if, tragically, I somehow managed to lose your cat, I would put up quality, proper signs, on coated, maybe even laminated, card stock, with good pictures in color, and possibly even a reward, rather than a handful of cheap xeroxes designed to fill in the few pathetic hours between the moment when your cat disappeared and the moment so shortly thereafter where you can forget your cat forever.

Anyway, good luck finding your cat. I'll keep an eye out nevertheless. And I hope you find this message to be of some assistance in your search.

Your neighbor,

F. Calypso

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Construction equipment

When I was a very little boy I was immensely fond of construction equipment. The garbage men with their great turnover trucks were an epic weekly event to me, or was it bi-weekly? I feel garbage pick up came more often in the old days. But all things with mighty treads and scoops and joints and plows were a primal satisfaction to me.

When I was six or seven that love faded away and I haven't much thought of it since.

On my morning walks I usually cross the Mississippi River on a four lane road bridge. It might be two lanes instead of four. I can't remember because they have been doing construction on this bridge for so long I've forgotten how it's supposed to go. While I have painstakingly developed a part of me that can say "They must be doing a good job at something very important I do not understand, and it explains all this endless bridge work." there is still another part of me that looks at a bridge that has been half-closed for years, swarmed on by workers and machinery, and yet seems not a whit different from when they started, and is simply irritated. The worst part of the construction is not so much all the closed lanes and rerouting on top of it, but the fact that all passage on the wonderful National Park paths underneath it have been closed and unusable for years now. While I appreciate their caution- after all, two or three bridges upstream from this one the Highway 35 Bridge famously collapsed into the river far below, killing thirteen- I really think if they wanted to they could have left some kind of walking paths open below. After all, these are safely on the shore, usually out of the way from where they are working.

But no, they are closed. So over the bridge I go, day after day. Irritated, but holding it together.

Until, from out of nowhere, some primal child in me stirred. Something sleeping in me for 45 years awoke! And, whoa, look at all this stuff! The bridge is besieged by fabulous machinery, great landworks operations are underway. I walk high over the bridge and giant cranes tower above me, all sitting on platforms floating in the river. Darling, industrious tug boats putt about on the Mississippi ready to move the platforms around, or hold them safely in place. One barge carries some strange bird of a treaded vehicle, with an agile neck surely 20 feet long, dipping deep into the river to scoop up muddy riverbed on some mysterious mission. Perhaps it's to build one of the jettys that extend into the river where more cranes and equipment work from. And the workers are everywhere too on their glamorous jobs, usually yelling work strategy or sports news or literary theory to each other across the railings of the bridge, one standing on the sidewalk where I pass them, the other in a bucket held by some 60 foot tall crane, but sometimes simply strapped to a makeshift wooden structure tacked to the side of the bridge and hanging high and exposed over the water below. And besides all the things working off of floating platforms below there are specialized contraptions plying their trade from the top of the bridge too. One side of the bridge is always closed to all traffic so that large pieces of machinery can crouch over the sidewalk while their ungainly, multi-elbowed arms can bend out over the side of the bridge and do unseen things down below.

It's really quite a gaudy display of strange and oversized, weighty, and powerful implements, and though even the five year old in me wouldn't mind knowing what all they are actually doing, we are nevertheless mightily impressed.

But all good things must one day come to an end. And so when this bridge project ends in 2021 I am prepared. I will go back to looking at the birds and the trees and the quiet river. So soon! I hope I'm ready.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Walking willy nilly

Because of global warming it was in the sixties in Minneapolis today.

Now I understand that I am playing loose with the meaning of global warming. A day in the sixties, no matter where or when, is weather. Climate, the key element of global warming, is a far more broad thing than the incidentals of a single day's weather. But, seeing as everyone else is, I think I should feel free to play fast and loose with global warming and with climate change . My fast and loose with it is merely an innocent play on terms, whereas the current culture's fast and loose regarding all things Climate Change is a death sentence for you and everyone you know.

But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy ourselves on such a pleasant Spring-like morning.

It wasn't yet in the sixties, but it was already up in the fifties and my hoodie sweatshirt was superfluous. I was walking along on my four mile trek to work when I came upon a wet patch on the sidewalk, one with maybe a quarter inch of water at its center. Immediately my body tensed up. I slowed. Cautiously, and with perfect balance, I placed my foot steady and flat in the thin puddle, ready for any signs of a wild, icy slipperiness. And then it belatedly came to me: I don't have to worry about ice on the sidewalk! It's 54 degrees out!

Oh what a merry walk I had! 

Too bad we're all going to die from it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A word

Sometimes one opens up clerkmanifesto only to be faced with a terrifyingly long blog post. "Seven paragraphs!" One cries out, "This could take me minutes to read."

"I hope it's not about soccer." One adds parenthetically.

But sometimes clerkmanifesto is terribly short. For instance today it is merely about a new word. I wrote one this morning by accident in the kitchen, while making the morning espressos.

Exaccident. That's the new word: exaccident.

It doesn't look great written,  but I think you will find it rolls trippingly off the tongue, exaccident. It means to do precisely what one meant not to do. You will find it is merely "exact" bleeding right into "accident".

As in "Damn, I exaccidently made a seven paragraph long blog post!"

Well, at least it's not about soccer.

Monday, March 7, 2016


Unlike politics, smoke doesn't come out of my ears when I start talking about soccer. Nevertheless it is one of the subjects wherein I try to moderate my passion as I discuss it, except maybe with the teen librarian Marcus, who is in such a fever before any Barcelona soccer game (and it is always before a Barcelona game) that whatever I say is likely a blur to him anyway. Being, as I am, on a mission from the gods here, I feel a responsibility to illuminate things if I can, as opposed to merely giving voice to my obsessions.

But I have found if one looks at a subject fervently enough it is capable of bleeding out of it's borders. It mixes with other elements and creates complex structures. It begins to inform other aspects of life. And so it is with soccer. The other day I was able to tell you how I clerk at the library by making a comparison with how the great Messi plays soccer. And then this morning, as I mulled over how to tell you about a certain facet of front desk support at the library, the example of a slightly less famous Barcelona soccer player came into my mind as a perfect example.

Sergio Busquets is a defensive midfielder for the Barcelona team. He does not score goals. And though he is very well regarded in his field he is not a player who attracts wild international enthusiasms. He is not about dazzling tricks, beautiful shots, and astonishing dribbles. Rather he is the one dispensing the ball off to the people inclined to do those things. He is the person who mysteriously seems to know everything that is going on in the game, down to its finest nuance, and he sometimes even seems to somehow know what will happen next. With a subtle, largely unnoticed pass here or there, he guides the action forward, develops the lines of attack, and adjusts the very flow of the game.

He will not show up in most of the highlight films of the game, but if you pay careful attention to the game itself you will see that he was quietly at the back, setting those highlights up.

And so to the front desk of my library.

You are keen to check out a copy of that charming movie The Intern. You inquire about this movie with one of the people sitting there at that front desk. Let us call this person Louis. I will now tell you in advance that Louis is going to end up turning the library upside down for you to find this movie. And why not. What are we there for? Louis will enlist help and travel to every corner of our library. Louis will die before he gives up on finding you the DVD. Louis is totally your guy.

But Louis, just for today, is not our hero. 

I'll be playing that part while wearing my Sergio Busquets jersey that it would be nice to have.

So Louis then is in the back room tearing through recent bins of returned materials looking for that DVD you wanted. One of our co-workers has joined the hunt with Louis back there. Exception bins are checked, unordered carts are minutely examined, theories are proposed, and vast piles of items are emptied onto tables. The longer they look the more they want to find that DVD for you. It is a long and exhaustive search.

And while it is happening I am taking care of everything at the front desk. The security gates go off, someone needs a card, the copier is out of paper, a self check out station has stopped working, a patron wants to know if we have their hat in the lost and found. What color is their hat? It is like black or blue or brown, made out of a kind of material. It could be one of these 43 hats.

While Louis and his team are conducting DNA sampling in pursuit of your DVD there is a break in the front desk action. I check to make sure you are okay waiting. You really want this DVD and have the whole afternoon free. I commend your good taste.

Then, as I am providing directions to another patron, Louis and the manager who has joined the good fight with Louis, comes by the front desk following another lead.

"Did you check around the table where Andrea was working?" I ask quietly. "I think she was emptying a bin."

A few minutes later Louis emerges with the glorious DVD.  Everyone rejoices. You thank everyone in sight, other than me, because I am busy with a long line now and didn't really have much to do with it anyway. I just covered all of Louis's work for 20 minutes as well as my own, reassured you, and gave the small tip that unlocked the location of the much sought item. 

So that's playing it Sergio Busquets style. You don't have to know what happened. Louis knows. That's good enough.