Sunday, July 31, 2016

Got the look


I have never been one to concern myself greatly with my appearance. In the long strand of my life I have adopted a few different personal styles. Some have been dramatic, like my Italian skatepunk phase or my millionaire hobo chic phase. I like a little drama. But as to my appearance, like many things in my life, I have not been energetic or industrious, and I have been mostly happy to let things settle to a fallback quasi style that I'll call "pleasantly tousled". As long as I could keep my standard up to that minimal look of "pleasantly tousled" I could turn my mind and spirit to other pursuits.

But as to our appearance I believe we all have a secret, platonic ideal for ourselves. I believe somewhere inside of us we hold at any given time a vision of the ideal look we are aiming for. Some of us may work much harder than others at reaching our ideal, but deep down that ideal is in our consciousness. And because we live in such an image conscious culture, it is very easy to find an actual human model for our ideal, almost invariably someone famous. It is common to hold in our heads not just a barely expressible ideal vision of ourselves, but also some, mostly unacknowledged even to ourselves, famous person who encapsulates that ideal.

For instance, it only occurs to me now that until I was in my early forties, for me, that person was Charlie Chaplin. Like many things I write here this comes as a surprise to me. Until this moment I had no idea that Chaplin, through all those years, was my style ideal, even if It makes perfect sense to me now. 

However, I was aware that as I inched towards middle age I found a new aspirational style. And unlike with Charlie Chaplin, I was more or less aware that I was going, long term, for the look expressed best by one famous person.

So it is with some satisfaction that I report to you that this morning at my library I was out in the front lobby, and a long time regular of the library, an only mildly crazy man, said to me in his distinctive accent "Ah! You look like Professor Einstein."

It is a great pleasure to stumble into accomplishment.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Aphorism all by itself

My deep seated aversion to Twitter has been fully activated lately. This is because day after day I am thinking of aphorisms. Aphorisms! Isn't that just an old fashioned word for "Tweet"?

Of course I also have an aversion to the Internet and to those little phones that so many people like to creepily caress with their thumbs. 

So I cope.

And how I cope with writing aphorisms is I group them together in a more robust package, or I build a whole essay around the aphorism so that you don't even know that it was all for the aphorism, or I write a two blog standard's weight worth of introductory comments. 

When I think of all these aphorisms I am tempted to plop them down all alone as wee short blog posts, especially these days when I am just barely keeping up with my rigorous publishing schedule. But it feels like that would be tweeting. Did I say tweeting? I meant to say cheating. So I have instead employed one of my three methods for presenting aphorisms.

Would you like to guess which method I am using today?

No, alas, I only have one aphorism on me at the moment.

No, if you pour back over my previous comments you will find nothing of quotable value and you will find that the forthcoming aphorism is actually incredibly unrelated to these comments.

Yes! You've got it. You must have used your word scale. This, this is exactly two blog standard's weight worth of introductory comments!

And now for the completely unrelated in every way (I am seriously not kidding) aphorism. Like all my recent aphorisms it is inspired by our political season, but like any good aphorism it attempts to travel on from there.

I hope you find it was worth the wait:

When you fire into a crowd you will kill someone you would not dream of hurting.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Four aphorisms, three new

I am trying to limit my consumption of politics in this terrible season. Oh all this heat and madness and beauty! 

A week or two ago, mostly considering Trump, I wrote an aphorism:

If you invite a cannibal into your house, expect to be eaten.

And maybe the aphorism is my own answer. In aphorism I can remain myself and true and still share something. So at the end of the Republican and Democratic Conventions, and at the end of all I have read, I have three new aphorisms for you. 

Put their meanings where you will:

 If you tear down the temple in rage and frustration, you may get hit by the roof.

The longer you are the lesser of some evil, the closer you grow to it.

It can always get worse, but the more one dwells on that, the more certainly it will.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Are you my mother

A dear and old friend recently referred in a comment here to an eagle friend of mine as a spirit guide. And I thought "No, aren't the turkeys my spirit guide? Isn't the eagle more just like a personal friend?"

And then I was forced to reflect.

As I reflected what flashed through my mind were all the woodland city creatures I have met on my walks in the past few days. I thought of the wee finches who kicked up like a little tornado from a nearby fence and swirled happily about my head as I walked along. I thought of the stained glass yellow butterfly who danced about at my near side for the length of a block as I made my way. I thought of the grizzled and disdainful battlefield of an old street cat who sauntered up to me only to throw himself on his back, all kittenish at my feet. I thought of squirrels pretending to race me, bunnies hopping up and down in front of me like they wanted to show me something, and two enormous hawks who traveled so close to me I thought they were going to alight upon my shoulders.

And I thought of an old, classic picture book by P. D. Eastman, Are You My Mother

Are You My Mother is one of those books I grew up with in my house as a child and so read hundreds of times. I never really loved the book though. The ending, neat as it was, depressed me. I think this says a lot about my childhood and about my mother because the ending is this(spoiler alert!): After a lost little bird asks a dog, a kitten, a cow, a car, a boat, a hen, a plane, and a "snort" if they're his mother, he is finally reunited with his real mother and they are happy.

And so it is, somewhere inside me, as I meet all these half wild critters who briefly frolic with me like I have stumbled into fairyland, I am asking again and again, each one of them, "Are you my spirit guide?"

"Are you my spirit guide?"

And here we must part ways with our classic picture book by P. D. Eastman. Because here, in my magical, picturebook Minneapolis, the answer is ever...


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

They must be Vegans!

I don't get out much. And when I do it is not with Republicans. At the library I work at I assume that pretty much everyone is somewhere politically to the left of any Republican, both because we are a socialist institution, and because I like to think well of people, if I can. So when I overheard someone at the public copier say, in what was surely a response to something involving Black Lives Matter, "I think all lives matter" I felt like I was suddenly connected with all of America.

It was exciting.

So instead of resisting, I decided to go with the flow. And when a patron came up to me at the front desk and asked "Can you recommend a good book? I like science fiction." I said

"I think all the genres are really good."

"Oh." The patron said, taken aback. "So, can you recommend a good book?"

"Any of them." I said enthusiastically. "All of our books are wonderful!"

"Er, yes, well." The patron said. "Good. But I really liked The Martian. I found it so entertaining and informative. Anything like that?"

"The Martian?" I said. "I loved it. Certainly we have books like that. Of course."

"Great. Which ones? Are they in?"

"Yes! They're all in. All of our books are like The Martian. Just go upstairs and grab any book. You'll love it!" 

I'm not sure my suggestion worked that well. Still, I think it is always worth it to try and expand the way I see the world.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Dear Sun:

I just finished a late morning walk and bike ride across the city. I think you saw me. There was nothing in the way of your seeing me. And you kind of kept staring. Which is okay, I mean, I know you can be like that.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you that I can understand why many cultures have made a god of you. You truly are mighty. You are the life giver. And though I know how it must irk you to have to team up with Water to get anything really going lifewise, it's still impressive stuff being the giver of life, even if you're only 50 percent the giver of life. I mean, if I were 50 percent responsible for something huge I would be simply proud of it. For instance, what if I were the source of 50 percent of all the joy in the Universe? That is a lot! I would be so happy and satisfied. I wouldn't complain about how Fred, over at the St. Paul Administrative Offices, was responsible for the other 50 percent of the joy in the Universe. I wouldn't try to evaporate Fred out of existence. I wouldn't try to burn Fred off of the face of the planet.

I guess what I'm trying to say is you've seemed a little angry lately. But even though I have done everything I can to cower away from you, that doesn't mean I'm not a huge fan of yours. When you set, that's incredible, and I told you about the rainbow I saw before, didn't I? And making trees grow, I mean, how wonderful is that?

So love who you are, Sun. This is your time to shine. There isn't a cloud in the sky. It's Summer. Don't be mad. Just enjoy, and maybe chill a little. Everything is going to be okay.

Your friend,


Monday, July 25, 2016


Today, while I was working on the automatic check in machine at my library, one of my youngish colleagues came into the backroom from where she was working out at the front desk. She was exultant. She was astonished.

"A woman just gave us pies and pastries!" She cried out. "She just gave them to us! There's a cream pie, and cookies. They're from Perkins. She works there and they had these extra and she brought them in for us. Free!"

That's very nice.

And it is a kind and generous thought of this Perkins employee.

And it's sweet she considered us.

New, substitute co-worker, I am glad you are excited.

But I have to say, just here, my collegue, my young Padawan: People donate books to us as well. And, as with pie, some few of these books are astonishments and treasures beyond belief. But many started with scarcely any value and have only had that modicum of worth slowly leeched away in the disdain of time

So I'd hurry and eat your pie, for one day you may know the difference.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The pods

Because I grew up in shopping malls I have some idea of how to entertain myself in Department stores even when I have nothing to buy. With free time on my hands in a Target the other day I made my way over to the aisle with espresso machines. I just like to be near them. I find espresso machines comforting.

But like in an old fifties horror movie all the real espresso machines had been replaced in the night by pod machines. Aliens, floating in space, made their way to earth, and then, in the night replaced the real, messy, soulful, personal espresso machines with empty, glassy eyed, alien pod machines. These are machines where one buys pre-packaged espresso in environmentally evil and likely toxic and brain melting pods and uses them instead of ground coffee from a bag. This closed, pod system forces people to buy more pod coffee, which works its way throughout the nation until the alien takeover is complete. Apparently this saves people seven or eight seconds in their morning coffee preparation, or something.

Or let me put it another way, because when I'm really wound up about something wildly meaningless I need to invoke multitudes of analogies. These espresso makers are like if you decided it would be a good idea to open a bank account, and it looks like there are plenty of banks around, but when you go into any of them it turns out they all offer great interest rates and services but operate using their own, proprietary currency.

"My bank is fantastic! Do you take TCF Script? No? Oh, no problem. I'll just go shop at the TCF store."

And this is why soon I will be fleeing with my wife to Rome, where the invasion has been beaten back with large, powerful, Ferrari like espresso machines. For a mere dollar I can hang out near one of those noble, reassuring machines and fully enjoy the last, bittersweet time before the human race is conquered and destroyed forever.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Flag math

It was only a week ago that I put forward the revolutionary idea that things have been going bad enough in the world that it was time for us to put the flag permanently at half mast. I proposed that we should just raise it up for awhile when something good happens. I thought it might be more cheering and optimistic that way.

So I placed my idea out onto the Internet and waited for a response, but it is possible no one has been on the Internet for weeks. I heard nothing. The all devouring Internet mindlessly ate another of my ideas.

When I was a child in the seventies I often went to the beach. Once I was at a beach and was instructed by someone to hold a large shell to my ear.

"Do you hear that?" The person said. I listened and heard an even, slightly mesmerizing roar. "That" they said "Is the sound of the Internet."

So forget my idea that the flag be placed, in these perilous times, always at half mast. It is ancient history. And it was not just the ever guzzling and erasing Internet that displaced it. Events overtook my idea as well. I don't even know what the flag was at half mast for when I first wrote my starts-at-half-mast idea, but almost immediately a former Governor of Minnesota died and flags were ordered to be hung at half mast. How do you fly a half mast flag at half mast? Then, before anyone could figure that one out the President ordered flags to be flown at half mast for some shot police officers somewhere. Half mast at half mast at half mast.

If my idea concerning always at half mast was a wash, how can we at least give meaning to lowering the flag to half mast when the triggers overwhelm our ammunition?

Fortunately I have a simple solution. If a tragic event occurs and one's flag is at half mast, we must now lower it to quarter mast. If another event transpires requiring a flag lowering during that time one simply lowers the flag to eighth mast.

We have instituted this method at our public library already, and it is going well. With various shootings, the Republican National Convention, something involving mosquitoes, and Clinton's Vice Presidential pick we are now flying our flag at 64th mast.

On the plus side, the more tragedies we face, the more minor the adjustment, so long as one doesn't mind a little detail work with rulers.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Heat advisory

While my Winter blog posts are full of accounts of astonishing cold snaps, deep snow, and a city fallen under the brittle silence of the far north as it turns from the sun, I have a tendency to let Summer weather slide. Partly I do not feel that hot weather is our signature weather up here, and so does not warrant much special comment. Unlike the cold, I have encountered heat everywhere I've been. And it has only become the more inescapable as we have begun the great human experiment of choking to death on our own gasses. But the deep arctic chills of the Upper Midwest are more and more unique to us, a point of pride. Furthermore I enjoy and am interested in frigid weather, whereas I despise the heat, and, because I keep myself on a strictly limited diet of bitterness here, I try not to throw that precious allowance away on weather. Whenever I can I try to exult over weather instead. Such a thing is a feasible, interesting exercise with extreme cold, but a disaster with Summer.

But a smashing heat wave is bearing down on us with such force I am compelled in terror to respond. The blasted air has just begun to cook. Humidity boils the prairie grasses and the fetid remains of thunderstorms. Mosquitoes hatch and burst into flames. The black streets sizzle and ooze and all the normally placid northern people grow strange and dangerous. Death on the streets, flags at half mast, a city losing itself.

The Heat Advisory has begun. Or is it a Heat Warning? A Heat Alarm? A Heat Hysteria? In an unprecedented move my library will be staying open til midnight over the next two days so that people without air conditioning can come here and be bad tempered and try not to die. Good luck to them. Though I have long advocated for a 24 hour library I can't pitch in on this one. I have to go home at my usual nine o'clock time.

I have to ice my blog.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


I don't know if it is my own, personal struggles with inner demons, my psychology. I don't know if it's some comment on things in my work life. And I don't know if it has something to do with the Republican National Convention and the ever presence of Donald Trump.

Maybe somehow it's all of them, but this morning this thought started ringing out, as if of its own accord, in my head:

If you invite a cannibal into your house, expect to be eaten.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Easy recommendation

A volunteer I am very friendly with asked me for a book recommendation. We were in the back room of the library with at least a minimum amount of time to attack the problem thoroughly, so I enthusiastically committed. I would find him a book to read or give up library work forever!

I asked a few questions about his reading tastes. In addition to what I knew about him I found that he liked books he could learn from. My favorite book this year so far has been Walkable City, a fascinating tour of urban planning and design. It's about what makes cities livable and appealing, the horrible ways we've messed it up, and the clever things cities have been and are starting to do. He loved it. It sounded great!

We didn't have it.

We only have one copy, and because I've been so fanatically recommending it it's checked out!

Fine. How about that charming book about the guy who decided to try and live off of wild harvested food, It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It? Charming, funny, illuminating, and with the magical good fortune any kind of bookumentary needs: momentous, life changing events coming along as he's writing the book. They even come along because he's writing the book.



Okay. No problem. How about H is for Hawk. I read it early this year, beautifully written, very int... OH! He's already sold on it. He heard something about this one. He wants this H is for Hawk. It sounds great!

It is checked out with a small waiting list. 

I refuse to speak ill of the librarians, except, well, this is their fault!

No problem. My volunteering friend leaks more information. He likes Young Adult fiction. Ha. Why didn't you say so. Wee Free Men. Charming! Clever! Great-Hearted! Wise! He doesn't usually like fantasy, but this sounds appealing.

We don't have a copy at this library.

Oh, glorious teen librarian, star in our librarian firmament, oh, alas, hang your head in shame today, no Wee Free Men? Well, no problem, you can't win them all. I'm sure he's working on resolving this issue.

Anyway, onto the next one. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I don't even ask if my volunteering friend is interested now. I just look it up in the catalog to see that we have no copies checked in.


The volunteer says "Maybe I should just go ask in the teen room. They're good with recommendations."

Even now this statement hurts me in ways it is difficult to communicate. I pretend he hasn't said anything, which he surely wouldn't have had he been thinking clearly.

As I inquire about mysteries and begin to suggest Rex Stout he says he wants a sweet book. Some difficult, mortal things have recently transpired in his life, and he needs something on the gentle side.

A gentle book of sweetness.

What's with the trickle of information? But, okay.


Danny Champion of the World. By Roald Dahl. Easy.

It's in the kids' room. The juvenile fiction and our kids' room come through! It's actually there!

Is there a mistake?

Is a chapter missing? No.


So then, is my volunteer friend happy with my choice?

I don't know. He graciously took my book, but I might've seen him heading off for the teen desk.

I should have tried harder.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


I love to answer questions. I like to answer with short answers (the bathroom is right there). I like to answer with medium answers (you go up the stairs, left until you can go no further, left again along the meeting rooms, and the bathroom will be on your right). And I like to answer with long answers (redacted due to bandwidth issues). This makes me very well suited to library work.

But not every question has a firm answer. Besides subjective answers to questions like "What should I read next?", there are open ended questions like "How does a library card work?" that can be answered in a brief sentence or can be answered until we have to shut down the library for the night. I like those kinds of questions too.

What I do when I get an open ended question is I start talking and keep at it until I feel the enquirer is edging away from the desk. Then I stop, usually, if I can manage it. Then as they flee I hope I've told them enough.

I'm pretty sure my nearly 1300 posts here have all been an answer to one original question. 

I might even have asked it.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Ten common shelving errors

Below I have listed the ten most common errors made in shelving.

"But hey!" You cry out. "I don't shelve books. I just come here for instructions on how to live my life."

Don't worry. Everything you ever read here is an allegory for something vastly larger and more important.

The Ten Most Common Shelving Errors

1. Shelving books by placing a stack of them face up on an open area of shelving.

Comments: Books are to be placed in order, on end, with the spine facing out.

"But that's so slow!" You exclaim, gesticulating wildly.

And this brings me to a crucial point:

Shelving is not a sprint. It is an ultra marathon. The key is not speed, but the ability to endure pain.

Whoa! I know there were supposed to be ten, but I think I should quit today while I'm ahead.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Library morning

The morning sun rises over my county library and I report to work. Each of the wee books must be woken from their slumber. I stroll through the fiction section, removing each of the books' little "sleeping" blankets that keep the books warm and secure through the night.

"Wake up" I whisper gently to the books. The little blue blankets pile up on my cart. I make two piles, those that are still clean and those that have book drool on them. Most of the mystery fiction books drool in their sleep. It's not as bad as it sounds. It's cute.

The books creak and shift in place as they slowly come awake. If you open one up now many of the words will be missing or out of order, but by our opening time all the books should be alert and readable. And so to that end, after all the blankets are collected, I roll around a cart with a bunch of little cappuccinos on it.

"Cafe? Cafe?" I say.

"Gratzie." The books murmur in their throaty way. All the books here know I'm going to Italy soon and humor me.

The romance novels are slowest to come awake. "Arghhh! Just let me sleep in a little more." They cry when I come by urging them awake. Sometimes I do let them doze away the morning. They are rarely checked out before noon, and even if they are, most of their readers are adaptable and willing to fill in their own words as necessary.

Only when all the tiny coffee cups are collected do we turn the lights all the way up. The books grow still and ready.

We open our doors.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Amateur hour

I am a professional library worker. I have decades of experience. I am plying my trade at a library.

A patron has taken a book off the shelf to read and then reshelved it. No, nice try, but it doesn't go there. "As" does not function like "A" or "The". It counts alphabetically at the start of the title. But thank you for trying.

A patron inquires as to whether we have a notary in. No, we do not. I am sorry. A nearby patron suggests they head to the bank. I understand the impulse to be helpful, but these banks are all closed right now. Here are the valid notary options presently possible.

A considerate patron approaches me at the front desk. They inform me that the first self check out kiosk's printer is out of paper. I grab a paper roll and head over. There is half a roll of paper in there. I check the second kiosk. It is not out of paper, but it is jammed. I fix the printer.

But enough is enough.

I sincerely appreciate these good intentions, I do. But this clerking work is mindbogglingly complex. Not just anyone can do it properly. I do not walk into other peoples' businesses and start performing brain surgery or start assembling sprockets or dabble in managing the cleaning staff or try and forecast the weather.

This library is a serious place. Please, leave it to us professionals!

Oh, you work here?

That explains a lot.

Carry on.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Some jazz

I like jazz. I love jazz.

Here is just one thing I love about jazz:

We have a jazz public radio station here. Sometimes I listen to it when I am driving in my car. It is an extremely good station when music is playing. When people are talking it is a mixed bag. The way some announcers struggle to read news copy or to make simple announcements suggests to me that maybe it is a college station. But then another time that I tune in and I hear talking it might be a smooth talking guy who seems to know everything ever about jazz, past or present, and is happy to tell me all kinds of interesting things about it. So I never know. But the music is always, always great.

I love jazz, but I am not well versed in it. I mainly just know the famous parts, and some of the semi-famous parts. I'm always ready for something new and wonderful, some titan of jazz I've never heard of, or some dazzling group that somehow slipped me by. Luckily, on this radio station, I hear artists like that all the time.

I turn on the station. "Oh my god!" I cry. "This is fantastic! Who is it? It must be some great legend of Jazz." So I eagerly await the announcer who will tell me who is playing.

Perhaps it is some gorgeous vibes player, or the peaceful but deep piano music I am always looking for, like Keith Jarrett, but without the grunting. Or maybe it is some group where with each new solo I am crying out "Yes, this one! This!"

So the announcer comes on and says something like "And that was The Jimmy Mystics from their CD, Solitudes, recorded live in St. Paul.

And I'm like "Wow! I've never ever heard of them. How can I never have heard of this famous band that recorded a seminal masterpiece right here in my backyard?" If I can safely write the information down I do, but usually I just have to memorize it. So driving along I keep saying to myself "Jimmy Mystics, Jimmy Mystics, Solitudes." I get to my job and park, muttering the name of the band to myself. I avoid people as I race to a computer to look them up before I forget their CD title.

Nothing. No youtube. No CDs for sale. I dig deep. I find a couple of sideways, abandoned references to them. They're some band from eight years ago or something. Local. That CD was undoubtedly self produced as it exists for sale precisely nowhere. And that's about it. End of the line.

So this is a thing I love about Jazz. That this, THIS, as brilliant and magical as it was, as utterly masterful as the musicians were, can fly that far under the radar. I love this. 

Although I am aware that perhaps all those astonishingly accomplished and wildly unknown musicians are all a bit less enchanted by this delightful aspect than I am.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Me and my eagle

I always thought I would be famous for my writing, which you might enjoy sometime. I'll look around and see if I can find any for you.

But I did not become famous for my writing. There is a quote on a plaque that I pass often at the University I walk through several times a week, and I have meant to tell you what it says. It says:

We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours.

-Dag Hammarskjold

If this essay turns out particularly good I am going to print it out and frame it.

That sounds like a joke, but I assure you that that is exactly what Mr. Hammarskjold means. Ask him.

And so, mercurially, I did not become famous for my writing. But I became famous anyway. 

I became famous for my bald eagle.

There he was today, flying over my left shoulder, struggling to keep down with my slower pace. One eye on the river and one on me, he doesn't often like us to be more than 25 feet apart. People in the cars driving by grin and point out of their windows. The bicyclists coming against me on the path cease their peddling and look up, mouths open, and then look over at me, wondering what it is about me. A school child at the tennis courts up above the river road runs to the fence and cries out "There goes the boy with his eagle!"

Yes, that's me. I have an eagle.

The eagle flies ahead for a moment, free on the wind. 

"Where is your eagle going?" Some nearby admirers ask.

"He likes to fly ahead, sometimes, to scout the way. He'll be back."

But he won't be. I will meet him ahead. The eagle knows where I'm going, and so do I.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Optimist pessimist

I looked out the window of my library and noted that the American Flag was at half mast. I fleetingly wondered why, but that was almost a reflex. There were at least three good reasons for it at that moment and a couple of vaguely stale, leftover reasons as well. Life is dark in our United States and rare would be the time these days that I could look out the window, see the flag at half mast, and not figure out a perfectly good reason for it. In truth our flag is at half mast a whole lot of the time.

So I have a new plan.

We will now keep our flag at half mast at the library all the time, but if something really good happens, we'll raise it all the way up.

And if, in some fabulous, unimaginable future, we all grow exhausted from having to haul the flag to the top of the pole all the time, then I will only be too happy to return to our older and graver tradition.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016



You might think that with all my close observations of squirrels and rainbows and eagles and turkeys that I am some kind of naturalist. But though I regard any serious naturalist with great respect and maybe even a touch of awe, I not only have no claim to being one, but I am relieved not to be one.

In all of art and politics, religion and philosophy, in all things of man and god I am a mighty scientist, a seeker, a seer. I study, observe, theorize, and test. Look at me here. On all subjects, day after day, I am plumbing the secret depths of our hearts and tracing the bizarre machinations of our world. I stand here in testament to Dr Seuss's beautiful quote "Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple." So it is to me. This is my orchard. And the answers are ripe fruit, fecund in the sun. When it is time to write you there are ever a thousand beautiful answers to choose from, to sink my teeth into. Why not? It is all so simple. It is only the difficulty of the question I must take into account when I sit down to compose.

But nature alone defies this. A turkey sits on a wall. A cat watches me from a window sill. In careful rapture I follow in detail the flight of a butterfly. Out my bathroom window two sparrows cram grasses and plant fuzz into a joining of wires and my house. Besotted at my close view of the little birds I watch them day after day from the blind of glass. No nest, no eggs are produced by these birds, just a giant mass, a clot of packed vegetation. Out on my lawn I see a rabbit and wonder over it, charting its paths. In a lawn chair I examine the movement of clouds for an hour.

And I have absolutely no idea what's going on.

I'm not sure I really care, but I like to pretend I care.

Here's one for you Dr Seuss: Sometimes there are no questions and no answers. 

But you probably already knew that one too.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Two amusements

Not wanting to skimp on anyone's entertainment I have two amusements for you today. Both made me laugh out loud, but I have learned that when it comes humor, taste can be so changeable and individual that we barely find the same things funny as our own selves.

So I'm doubling my chances here. In a year and a half when I stumble across this once again perhaps I will find one of these funny. As for whether you will I have learned much on the futility of guessing.

In the first incident I was faced with a fly. Though I have in the past made friends with flies, that has only been in exceptional cases. My usual relation to flies is to endure, to hopelessly and ridiculously try to kill them in impossible, self injuring, ways, or to hunt the wee creatures with meticulous effectiveness. This fly was in my kitchen and was loud, fast, and large, and I went for the third option. I got out my trusty fly swatter. But as I did this the fly shrewdly disappeared. So I set my fly swatter carefully down at arms length and cleaned dishes. No sooner had I started than the fly flew into the kitchen and landed on the fly swatter. It made me laugh, thinking "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."

The second is maybe straight out funnier, but I really had nothing to do with it. I was biking with my wife through our neighborhood and I saw a sign high on a telephone pole that said "Luke 5:34". Underneath that sign was another sign tacked up. It said "Fred 6-ish". 

Oh, hell, no matter who I become I don't think I'll ever find that not funny.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The evolution of Charlie Brown

Once upon a time here I had a tradition where the Sunday blog post functioned as casual day on clerkmanifesto. On Sundays I would write casual posts/essays. You may not know this from the perspective of being a reader, but as the writer, I, at this point, only write terribly formal blog posts, blog posts that are carefully crafted, rich in theme, and for the ages. Do you know what it's like to write 1,250 meticulous essays for the ages and have the ages not even glance once in my direction?

Yes, that's right, you do know almost exactly what that's like. Most people do know, one way or another. Some of us just go on about it more than others.

I would actually enjoy every day being casual day around here, but man, I see that football just sitting there and I start to think "I'm gonna kick this one a mile!" 

And then I do. Which just makes me have to walk farther to get the football.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Who am I

I am just me.

But even I have to acknowledge the differences. 

There is the me that walks the world, flesh and blood, and talking talking talking. And there is the me that writes here. The same but different. I thought we should try to be clear for future reference.

In praise, I am the same.

In analysis, likewise, though perhaps I am clearer here, and more ready to stop when it is time to stop.

In vanity I am here more so.

And in bitterness?

In life I look for the biggest club I can find. A bludgeon so large I can rarely even lift it. Here I look for one tiny screw to undo, and so to make the whole thing fall apart on its own.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Gold that ends in rainbow

Feeling the blues, ragged, beset by too many things to do, I had no ambitions for last night, Thursday. Thursday is a common day for escapades for my wife and I in these twin cities. But it was enough, worn down as we were already, that we had to drop our car off at our mechanic, two or three miles away, and find our way home. And so that was the whole of the plan for the evening; deliver our car and find our way home. There were storms rolling through, construction everywhere, and we were running late, racing the darkness.

So we drove our car over and parked at our excellent mechanic's place. I shoved an envelope with our key through a slot in the garage wall as per arrangement. Then we came back over the half closed bridge, over the Interstate and down into the St. Paul neighborhoods.

And there was a rainbow.

Oh sneer all you want at stories that end in puppies and flowers and sunshine. In tales that conclude with ponies and rainbows. I saw a graph the other day that showed the emotional trajectory of all stories, collectively and individually, and it turns out that even the happy ones, like Pride and Prejudice, don't end in rainbows, but rather in a subtle downbeat. No one is going to read blog post number 1,239 and say "Yes! Yes! This one! The one that ends in a rainbow" because how is that supposed to blow your mind, or speak the secret unvoiced murmurs of your heart? That sort of thing is all too complicated for rainbows.

But it was fabulous, the stream of bewildering light. On one side of all the colors, opposite the yellow, was a violet that disappeared when one looked right at it, but when one looked away it came screaming back until it was the most brilliant color in the whole dazzling array. 

And then the rainbow grew brighter.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The fleeting nature of success

A couple of times every week my boss draws a cartoon on the big, dry erase A-frame we see just as we come through the employee entrance of the library. I like these drawings. Sometimes they're caricatures. Sometimes they're reworked old New Yorker cartoons. And sometimes they're all of my boss's own design. I like to break out my old art school training with him on quiet nights and give long, only a bit tongue in cheek in their grandiosity, glowing critiques of the cartoons I fancy.

But no matter how good they are they can't stay forever. And after one or two or three or four days he has to erase them and start thinking about the next one.

The one up on the board right now is quite possibly my favorite ever. It's a large, charming portrait of Vito Corleone (amusingly holding a famous cartoon cat my boss likes to include in drawings). The Godfather is saying: "Someday, and that day may never come, I may ask a favor of you. Until then accept this waive as a gift of your library."

Outside of the delightful art, which, alas, you can't see, (but know that my boss is a far better cartoonist than he thinks he is) it captures some tiny elegance about library circulation work, the small powers of our favors, and of course blows that quality up into those ridiculous Mafioso proportions. It even speaks to our old school nature here, one that we still cling to and manage to maintain, our independent anarchic calculating humanism, more Vito Corleone than Michael Corleone.

It's just a great cartoon. And in a day or two it will be erased.

Isn't that just how it is?

Yesterday I almost wrote a great blog post. Oh, as I'm writing this one, several days ahead of time, I'm still working at that one. Maybe it'll get great, but I doubt it. Yesterday's will likely have ended up as just being 'very good'. But looking at my boss's soon to be erased magnum opus it's hard to get too sad about that. Always here in this world we're on to the next thing. You spend the whole summer trying to capture lightning in a bottle. Then, finally, with great luck, inspiration, and skill, you do. And then, seemingly as fast as that lightning itself, the fizzing bottle finds itself sitting on a shelf in your basement.

Five years later someone's down in your basement.

"What's this?" They ask.

"Lightning. In a bottle." You say with a twinkling of old pride.

"Wow." They exclaim, awestruck.

They look at it for a moment, and then they look away. "What else do you got?"