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?"

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