Monday, October 31, 2016

All you have to do is show up

I have not been on this long walk, my long walk to the University along the River, for months. Roads and paths were shut down. The bridge was closed and disassembled. And it was summer too, so I rode a bike for most of my journeys anyway.

But then there I was on my old route, walking. It was hard for my body to accustom itself to it. I eased through the creaks of age and lost endurance. I was careful, but I was happy to see the world. And, to my surprise, the world was happy to see me. 

Wee forest animals danced around me like I was a special Disney character. Old ladies smiled greeting with real delight at me as they drove by. Mailmen waved. All the joggers said "Hey" like they meant it. The new bridge lit up as I walked across it. And everyone just looked so delighted to see me.

Except the turkeys. There were four turkeys, and they, seriously and one hundred percent, did not give a shit.

But oh how I loved them anyway.

Sunday, October 30, 2016


An emotionless voice reaches me over the phone where I'm working at my library.

"I'm calling in order to process a renewal and require your automated renewal system." The voice says.

"Do you want to renew a book?" I ask.

"I'm seeking the renewal system and request to be connected or informed of its location if you could on behalf of a necessary book processing issue."

"Well," I say, trying to form up a way to be helpful "I can renew your book here if you'll give me your library card number. You can do it yourself online. And we have a system where you can do it by punching a lot of numbers into the phone. Which of these would you like?"

"I'd like access to your renewal system for the purpose of an extension process I have been requested to enact. If you would give me the required access information."

"775-0275." I give them our outdated and cumbersome phone renewal system number, and I bluntly hang up.

I strive in all ways at my job to be non discriminatory. I allow no preference as regards race or country of origin or sexual orientation or disability. I endeavor to treat confused people with patience, angry people with kindness, loquacious people with swift efficiency, and broken people with a hint of love. Whether a patron speaks Spanish or Somali or Hmong I try to do what I can to understand them and help them according to their wishes.

All that being said there is one exception: if a person speaks Corporate I consider all my responsibilities to them to be revoked, and I am free to do whatever is most convenient to myself.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Public Libraries Online: Donations and Lottery winners

I have been writing for Public Libraries online. It's all a little iffy at the point I write this. But this would have been published on their website. And since you weren't likely to see it there I, now that I am allowed to, publish it here for you to see.

If you closely follow library stories across the world you may have come across this heartwarming one:

A  small rural public school's largely abandoned library in Las Plumas County, California, was so outdated that it was unusable. A local writer, Margaret Garcia, had a dream of reopening this library, so she put out a call on her blog for people to send a book. Her blog post went viral and people sent in forty seven million books!

I may not have that exact number correct. Indeed all of my facts here are like unto a crayon rendering of the actual story. But the main point is there were a lot of books donated. So many books that they're reopening the library and don't want anymore books, just gift cards, money, and shelving.

If you haven't before heard this story you have heard one like it. It is a cat in the tree story. It is a poor person wins the lottery story. It is hard to fault the story because it seems to restore faith in destiny, in generosity, and in the kindness of strangers. It says despite the problems out there with proper school library funding this good will can solve problems and make things better. And above all it says that people really care about books and libraries.

I am here to rain on your parade. 

Full disclosure: I like raining on your parade, especially if it's a stupid parade for rescued cats who are going back up that tree to be rescued again. And can I just ask here, if firemen are always rescuing cats in trees, wouldn't it stand to reason that occasionally, even just once I would have seen a dead cat in a tree. Have you ever seen a dead cat in a tree?

Which is to say The Reinstated Las Plumas County School Library is almost certainly going back up that tree. The lottery winning poor person is going to squander all the money they won because they have no idea how to manage money, and because everyone they know is poor and didn't win the lottery. And the chance that they will win the lottery again is as unlikely as you winning the lottery for the first time (sorry). It is as unlikely as Margaret Garcia's blog post going viral again in ten years when all these forty seven million books are once more outdated. But there will not be a news story about that. It's not heartwarming.  

It is my guess that miraculously well-heeded calls for books will be far less heeded across the nation when the books are done and the call is for money, gift cards, and shelving. It is a cozy notion that libraries are simply books and by each of us donating a few books we can make a library. It is a less cozy notion that a library is good shelving, a viable cataloging system, a pleasant, safe space to be in with decent furniture and good light. And perhaps it is the least cozy notion of all that a library too is probably a person getting paid $56,880 dollars a year to deal with it all.

I work in a large library in a big city and rarely does a day go by where I am not dealing with book donations. Like the generous donations to the Las Plumas Library they may be intended to save us too. I think we regularly get more donations than they even received in the bonanza at that school in Plumas County. Sadly ours mostly consist of yellowed Ham and Pineapple Cookbooks from the fifties and the early works of Danielle Steele in vintage book club editions that have been fully seasoned by a couple decades of storage in a basement. There's not much we can do with this stuff other than trying to trick people into buying them or furtively recycling them when that fails. All our donations together provide a rare few items we add to the collection and a small stream of miscellaneous income. If you took all the vast thousands of donated books we receive in a year you would not have a library. You would have a rummage sale. Which we do, twice a year.

 But we do have a pretty good tax base here in my city. And a just steady enough commitment to libraries. This allows us to have a greasy but up to date collection of books and movies. It means we have shelving. We have great windows full of light and proper recessed lighting inside as well. And we have librarians, many of them, some good and some not so much. We have clerks and student workers and volunteers and board members, computer people and computers, and open doors. We are a library. I am confident we will be around in five years. I am not so sure about the one in Plumas County. We in no real way rely upon the kindness of strangers. No library should have to, and very few that ever do will thrive, let alone survive.

Friday, October 28, 2016

You trust us...

A less experienced colleague of mine comes from the front desk of the library to consult with me in the back room. "There's no way to give a receipt to someone for returning books, is there?" He asks.

Actually there is! People don't ask for them often, which is why only old timers like myself are keepers of this ancient technique. It doesn't work well, but we can do it. However, because in every case I have encountered, it is a wildly obnoxious request, and one that if even five percent of our patrons made would grind our circulation to a crawl, I always seek to make it as miserable as possible for the patron making the request. I am not cold or mean. Patrons are prepared for that. I am friendly. I gather together as many staff as possible at the computer. We discuss and instruct how the check in receipt is generated. We experiment with futile attempts to find a better check in receipt option. We must make sure to clearly demonstrate that this is a special occasion, a freak occurrence to be used as a wonderful teaching tool for the obscure processes of circulation. No time or effort is spared. We strategize over new ideas, how to communicate the process throughout the system, and what really is the best procedure.

But of course we're delighted to do it for the patron. It's just, naturally, with something so bizarre and particular, going to take a long, long, long time.

So after an extended trial we get this patron the check in receipt that really doesn't show much anyway. I am free to return to my backed up work on the automated check in machine.

My colleague comes back a little later. The same patron doesn't have card or I.D. and wants to do some small thing on their record. Can we?

No no no! Of course not! Never!

You don't trust us, how can we trust you?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pine nuts

Lately I have been buying small bags of pine nuts, precious pine nuts, over at my local co-op. Global warming, several years ago, began wreaking havoc on the pine trees whose nuts are large enough to harvest. If I recall correctly the Pinon Pine in particular was hit hard by rising temperatures. And so, accordingly, pine nut prices soared. I stopped buying pine nuts. I'm thrifty.

But inch by inch their $30 a pound price tag became more normal to me. And inch by inch those little nuts looked more appealing to me. Finally I bought some. "Hello." My mouth said. "These are my favorite nuts." And then my mouth added "EVER!"

Here are two stories from our vast array of cultural fictions that have made an enormous impression upon me over the years. They run through my mind. They are a portion of my personal mythology. In one young Charlie is a lover of chocolate. But his family is so desperately poor that chocolate is far too grand a luxury for them. Nevertheless, for this incredibly sweet and decent kid, on his birthday, they manage to get him a single bar of Wonka Chocolate. Oh how he treasures it, nibbling it and making it last as long as possible. To have a chocolate bar! To get to taste chocolate, even if only a tiny bit, every day for a month!

The other story has our hero invading the home of an impossibly rich person in the grim future it sometimes seems we are heading to. He opens the refrigerator. There is a small jar of strawberry preserves. He takes a spoonful of these strawberry preserves made with honest to god strawberries. Has he ever had strawberries before? Is it the memory of a vast, unbelievable childhood luxury? One little spoonful. Could anything ever be more exquisite or precious?

And so I buy pine nuts, my favorite of all nuts. Thirty dollars a pound, ten cents for each tiny nut. Scallops go for $25 a pound, as does good quality tuna, who would ever have guessed that one? A third of my shopping list goes to wild luxuries, figs, maple syrup, and ever they inch away from my means. Ever I chase them down.

Perhaps some of them will slip away forever. One day maybe I will never be able to afford a cashew or a piece of wild smoked salmon. And alas for our natures, my nature, that the second before they disappear forever, they are at their best, the elephant, the polar bear, pine nuts, life itself, the most glorious thing in all the universe, and then gone.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Bob Dylan Breaks Nobel Prize Silence

We interrupt our regularly scheduled services here on the Internet to report that Bob Dylan has broken his mysterious silence that followed the announcement that he had won the 2016 Nobel Prize for literature. Unfortunately his statement has created more confusion than it has dispelled.

"I am aware of the decision awarding me the Nobel Prize for literature." Mr Dylan's statement read. "I have decided to pass along my prize to a blogger named Feldenstein Calypso. His work writing the voluminous "Clerk Manifesto" is fully deserving of this prize and I feel it is the right thing to do to award it to him."

It remains unclear whether Mr. Dylan can, according to the rules of the Nobel committee, bequeath his prize to someone else.

It is also unclear whether Feldenstein Calypso's work is of a standard meriting a Nobel Prize. His work on the Internet is, apparently, so obscure the press have not yet been able to track it down.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

PL Online: The Secret Dream of Librarians

I have been writing for Public Libraries online. It's all a little iffy at the point I write this. But this was published on their website. And since you weren't likely to see it there I, now that I am allowed to, publish it here for you to see. Actually this version is the pre edit version, and I like it better because I am allowed to ramble more. On the down side it's context is more confusing here, so keep in mind that Public Libraries Online is keen on some very boring "professional development" kinds of articles.

I recently came across an article in The New York Times about libraries. Having a keen interest in libraries and much experience with working in one I decided to read the article. As is the modern custom, this article had a clickbait headline. And though I am keen to feel superior to the cheesy desperation of clickbait headlines, the article you're reading now, this one, probably has a clickbait headline too. As any librarian can tell you, these days no one will read of their own free will. They must be tricked into it. I haven't decided what my clickbait headline will be yet, maybe something like "E Product Management" or "ALA's New Guidelines for Web Services", something that will leave you breathless in anticipation. I mean, only if someone isn't using those headlines on this site already. 

Someone is probably using those headlines on this site already, but you can hardly expect me to link to them and risk losing you few readers who have been tricked into reading this much of my article as it is.

The clickbait headline the New York Times used was Why Libraries Are Everywhere in the Czech Republic.

A normal person wouldn't find that to be a clickbait headline and would simply say to themselves "Probably because of some law passed in the early 1900's soon after Czechoslovakia emerged as an independent country." And then they would move right along in the Internet to see if anyone has come up with a new potato chip flavor lately.

But we in the library community are not normal people.

You, especially, seem pretty odd to me.

I mean that in a good way.

And when we in the library community read "Why Libraries Are Everywhere in the Czech Republic" our hearts start racing. Our eyes bulge alarmingly from our sockets. We begin trembling. We are excited! 

And the reason we are so excited is because we hold in our hearts a secret dream, a vision that we dare not name. We know it's mad. We don't speak of it even among ourselves, sometimes not even to ourselves. 

Actually this would make a really good clickbait title for this article: What the Secret Dream is that all Library Workers Share but Will Never Admit.
I'm going to tell you right now.

Any second now. I'm building anticipation.

This is it: 

We secretly believe that the whole world should be a library.

We secretly believe that we should be able to borrow everything for free. Just so long as we bring it back. 

It should mostly be books though.

Books, clothes, cars, books, power tools, furniture, telephones, books, glassware, pens, cleaning supplies, Caravaggio paintings, houses, and books. If store after store in my city were, every single one of them, libraries loaning all these things, along with books, if every house on my block were a library house that I could check out for three weeks, I'm not sure I'd really need to own anything. There is your strange paradise, maybe even a secret restatement of reality itself: 

The world is really a library. Everything is free. But everything is borrowed.

Here is how clickbait really works. It leads you into imagining something wild and wonderful. It may not even be conscious, but it sets your heart aiming for the stars. And then when you click, and that clickbait article is fleshed out, you are left with the corpse of your mighty dream. It sits deflated in your hands and you feel so embarrassed that you ever hoped for so much that you go ahead and read the article like it was all perfectly reasonable all along and never broke your heart at all.

Libraries aren't everywhere in The Czech Republic. 

In 1919 they had a law in Czechoslovakia saying that every community, no matter how small, had to have a library.

Well, that's not so bad, I guess. I can live with that.

Oh, except they got rid of that law 15 years ago and lost 11 percent of their libraries since then.

Here is a fun fact for you: The New York Times could have written equally accurate articles with either of the following two headlines:

Why Libraries Are Everywhere in the Czech Republic


Why over 600 libraries have closed in the Czech Republic

At this point you are probably wondering "What does he have against this innocent article in The New York Times about Czech libraries?

It's a long list, so I've decided to go with just this one thing. Sure it's petty, but you should see how petty the rest of my list is. 

At some point in the not very long New York Times article we come to the following paragraph:

 “Czechs developed a strong reading habit, and even today, those who visit libraries buy more books — 11 a year, on average — than others,” said Vit Richter, director of the Librarianship Institute of the Czech National Library.
I don't know about these budget slashing Czechs, but at my library we've got tons of books. One doesn't buy them. We loan them out for free. That's sort of the point. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

The return

Only in love do things retain their bitter gravity and yet become perfect.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Rome day 36

A 37 day imaginary travelogue of a trip to Rome (with a few scattered other places such as New York). This is written to match the journey I am actually taking, and so each post is concurrent with the more or less actual day my wife and I are experiencing in Rome.

What day number are we on?: 36 and last!

Level of writer's drunkenness (in real life, scale of 1-10): two point four

What am I eating (in real life again)?: nope

Map or picture?:

 Image result for minnehaha falls late fall

Any other notes/Status: I've been writing in sequence, but suddenly decided to skip to this last one of our trip to get it and all its sadness quickly out of the way. 

But I must take time to add in here about the strange timing of this final piece of our epic trip. Today, the last day of our vacation, coincides with the only official Blog holiday we regularly observe here on clerkmanifesto. Yes, you guessed it, but you possibly only guessed it if you are Grape. Because today is Grape's birthday!

So as is the protocol of this special day we all now sing the happy birthday song to Grape!

Well, no, because you are all alone now you can just sort of hum it if you want.

Yes, sure, you can merely think about humming it. I'm sure Grape will appreciate anything you can do.  

Today's Entry:

My wife and I have a rule, borne of experience. We are not allowed to bemoan the end of a trip, or count down sadly to the end of a trip, until the very end of that vacation.

Well here we are.

The only thing we have going for us is that we are exhausted and we do love our wee little house that we have returned to in Minnesota.

But our hearts are all stripped out. We took buses and planes and trains today. We can't begin to take care of all we need to take care of right now in an instantly normal life. Astonishingly a regular workday is tomorrow for both of us after 5 weeks away.

We are intact, and we are whole, and that is good, but also we will now have to rebuild ourselves. Because even though life is beautiful, for 35 days happiness was just a little bit easier to come by. After all, for five weeks happiness just sat there, barely moving. How often does that happen? And coming back, stepping into normal life again, it is hard not to think "If only happiness didn't skitter around so much!"

You have to catch it, but it's no good caught. So you have to catch it again.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Rome day 35

A 37 day imaginary travelogue of a trip to Rome (with a few scattered other places such as New York). This is written to match the journey I am actually taking, and so each post is concurrent with the more or less actual day my wife and I are experiencing in Rome.

What day number are we on?: 35

Level of writer's drunkenness (in real life, scale of 1-10): one

What am I eating (in real life again)?: For me it's just an hour or two, but it's you I feel bad for, because you have been reading about my deferred, upcoming brunch for days! You must be so hungry! But yes, eggs and sausage after I finish this post.

Map or picture?:

Image result for jazz in new york

Any other notes/Status: So, tomorrow you read "Day 36", but I already wrote it. This is actually, officially, my last post to write in preparation for this trip that you are nearly finished reading about. We leave a week from today. You will have seen, and will continue to see regular day after day posts here of the freshest variety, but I, like a hibernating squirrel, an engorged bear, will be on blog vacation hiatus, living off of my stored blog fat as it happens/happened. This, that you're reading now, is stored blog fat being burned for energy.  That's why it's all kind of smoky.

I hope you don't mind.

Today's Entry:

We don't talk about the trip ending. We talk about jazz. On the last night of our trip, this in New York City, we go to a Jazz club, Birdland. We drink and listen to music and hang on to staying right here. Jazz is good for staying right here. The piano player is great and strange. I like that it's strange. We follow the music. We stay out too late, later than we have on this whole trip. We hang on.

But we don't need to look forward to anything right now. We have been given everything.


Friday, October 21, 2016

Rome day 34

A 37 day imaginary travelogue of a trip to Rome (with a few scattered other places such as New York). This is written to match the journey I am actually taking, and so each post is concurrent with the more or less actual day my wife and I are experiencing in Rome.

What day number are we on?: 34

Level of writer's drunkenness (in real life, scale of 1-10): one

What am I eating (in real life again)?: brunch has been deferred. I have this nice glass of water.

Map or picture?: Oh, only in my dreams...

A rendering of the artwork "America" by Maurizio Cattelan showing a gold toilet on a blue background

Any other notes/Status: did you know that my back still hurts? I just thought you might be wondering.

Today's Entry:

We're in New York.

So we go to Rome on a once in a blue moon, big time 25th anniversary trip for a month. And that's done, and maybe you're wondering, hey, what's up with New York?

It's complicated. There were these 600 dollar tickets from New York to Milan. So we started shuffling things around. Plus my wife wanted to see a show at the Guggenheim of Agnes Martin works. And there was something appealing about having a sort of soft landing in the USA. Rome ends, but the trip isn't quite over. And it isn't! Look at us in this toddling town. We could be heartbroken that it's all over, but it isn't. First we have a farewell weekend in New York.

Did I mention it's a toddling town? Well it is, it's very toddling.

So our main mission here is to go to the Guggenheim a lot. We are even members at the Guggenheim. If we had plane tickets to Bilbao, in Spain, we could go to the Guggenheim there for free! Instead we are going to the one in New York, but still for free, you know, not counting becoming members.

And I like these Alice Martin paintings, sure. They're not natively my sort of thing, reminding me of old accounting ledgers from the fifties. But there is a real presence there, somehow. And they're compelling. There are also some other really good paintings in here. And this Frank Lloyd Wright building is all amazing.

But mostly I was interested in the gold toilet. They're installing a solid gold toilet in the Guggenheim, or they were supposed to, but technical problems abounded and it was delayed. Hmph! This sort of thing would never happen at the Venice Guggenheim Museum!

Well fine, I don't have to go to the bathroom anyway.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Rome day 33

A 37 day imaginary travelogue of a trip to Rome (with a few scattered other places such as New York). This is written to match the journey I am actually taking, and so each post is concurrent with the more or less actual day my wife and I are experiencing in Rome.

What day number are we on?: 33

Level of writer's drunkenness (in real life, scale of 1-10): one

What am I eating (in real life again)?: It's almost time for brunch! We have eggs and sausages once a week. Today is that day! Let me just wrap up this post, day 33, and then I'll be back to finish up this project in the afternoon. Of course for you everything is just, tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. I hope you don't mind.

Map or picture?:
Image result for painting of new york okeefe

Any other notes/Status: Watch out, this will be a short one. But I feel it will be in the proper spirit and isn't just because I want to eat.

Today's Entry:

We left Rome today. By trick of fleeing the sun we arrive in New York on the same day. But this hardly seems sufficient and you must be kept abreast of developments. Here is what we really did:

A taxi took us to the Rome airport.
We flew to Milan!
From Milan we flew to New York.
We took two buses and a train into the city, the upper east side.
We ate burgers.
We got our apartment from our apartment renter.
We went to sleep.

And that is where I am writing you from. My dreams. We left Rome. Today I have nothing more to say.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Rome day 32

A 37 day imaginary travelogue of a trip to Rome (with a few scattered other places such as New York). This is written to match the journey I am actually taking, and so each post is concurrent with the more or less actual day my wife and I are experiencing in Rome.

What day number are we on?: 32

Level of writer's drunkenness (in real life, scale of 1-10): one

What am I eating (in real life again)?: one

Map or picture?: one

or, the gelateria:

Any other notes/Status: one, oops, sorry, I don't know why I keep typing "one". I'm okay now.

Today's Entry:

As far as I can recall, when, a year or so ago I first talked here about this trip to Rome, I talked about gelato. The gelato journey I then went on here was a long one. It went from the bewilderment of the raved about gelato shops of Rome, to an attempt to find them all, to an attempt to seek out the single best one, to an understanding of the unreliability of all accounts regarding gelato as it makes people pleasantly unhinged. I can't say I completely abandoned my interest in gelato, but I mostly did. I have gone out for gelato less than ten times here. In pursuit of trying to eat in a way that would help me feel well here, the elimination (sort of) of gelato was the biggest bang for the buck way to keep me on an even keel and maintain some semblance of an anti inflammatory diet I try to keep up. Sugar is the best and easiest thing to cut to almost nothing.

But all that said, as we started with gelato so shall we end here with gelato. This is our last full day in Rome. And rather than cry, or reflect, or sum up, I say let's go grab a gelato. So I do, over at Gelateria del Teatro, a place that many people feel is the best gelato in Rome. And it is, in a 15-way tie for first.

Gelateria del Teatro is ridiculously close to our apartment, not one of those places just out the door, but one that's a straight shot down a single street, which is not so common around here. I asked for what they thought was their best flavor and got Peach/lavender and White chocolate/cherry.

How was it?

It was the best gelato ever! I'm only human.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Rome day 31

A 37 day imaginary travelogue of a trip to Rome (with a few scattered other places such as New York). This is written to match the journey I am actually taking, and so each post is concurrent with the more or less actual day my wife and I are experiencing in Rome.

What day number are we on?: 31

Level of writer's drunkenness (in real life, scale of 1-10): one, it is morning now.

What am I eating (in real life again)?: had my cold press coffee breakfast

Map or picture?: Early days of the cat sanctuary

Any other notes/Status: In real life (this me writing in italics), we are now exactly one week away from our departure on our 36 day trip. I'm hoping a last push of writing will finish off all my blog preparations today and I will have 47 new blog posts scheduled to go. At that point I will go back to working on my elaborate self designed guide book, which is still not finished.

Today's Entry:

One can time travel anywhere, and most of us do. Not real time travel in the Science Fiction novel sense, but as close as we get. But some places are better for time travel than others. I've always liked wilderness for it, especially wilderness with a lot of stone; the mountains, the Grand Canyon. Something about reflecting on how that rock has just been sitting there. It was sitting there when I was a child, and it was sitting there a thousand years ago, and it was sitting there exactly, almost, as it is beyond a distance of time I am capable of really imagining. It's a reflection that hurtles me towards god, unmoors the present moment, unsticks me in time.

Rome is another brilliant place for traveling in time, maybe even better. It has the advantages of the above, but all of it on a human scale. It is full of its own built in reference points. For instance here, near the cat sanctuary at the Largo Argentina, is the spot where Julius Caesar was assassinated. Right here! Bloody hell. And don't think he didn't have it coming Mr. Dictator for life. So how, faced with this, can one not go skidding across the years? Or this one; they say this restaurant opened 350 years ago. I consider that I have an amazing amount of former co-workers at the library I've worked at for 22 years. Imagine having worked for 350 years at a restaurant: "And there was that Giuseppe guy who was obsessed with how clean the plates were. Strange guy, just worked here for a couple years in the late 1700's, you know, when all that stuff was going on in France. Do you remember him? Oh, right, you didn't start working here until the mid 1800's. Hey, Paolo, do you remember Giuseppe and the plates?" 

"Hell yeah, I remember Giuseppe! He had that hopeless crush on Margerita."


"You didn't know that. Totally, huge."

"Well I had no idea! Fascinating!"

Maybe time travel isn't the exact right name for it. Maybe it's imagination.



Monday, October 17, 2016

Rome day 30

A 37 day imaginary travelogue of a trip to Rome (with a few scattered other places such as New York). This is written to match the journey I am actually taking, and so each post is concurrent with the more or less actual day my wife and I are experiencing in Rome.

What day number are we on?: 30

Level of writer's drunkenness (in real life, scale of 1-10): two. Some late night before bed wine, a fruity shiraz, cheap, without any great grace, but friendly enough.

What am I eating (in real life again)?: Had some carrots and hummus. This has turned out to be an odd line item since I don't really eat down in my basement studio, so at best I tell you what I recently ate.

Map or picture?: It looks like this and it doesn't look like this.

Any other notes/Status: My favorite soccer team was wildly upset today and I'm feeling a bit sad about it. But I perk up when I think that by day 30 of this trip I will barely be able to recall it.

Today's Entry:

I have never been sure about Borromini's forced perspective gallery at the Palazzo Spada. Among all the brilliant and elegant works of renowned architecture Borromini created, this silly columned gallery, where a trick of perspective makes a hallway look large and long, with a full sized statue at the end, when really its all short and stunted, always seemed too much of nonsense for me to get excited about. It's all just a trick like they had in the haunted shack at Knotts Berry Farm when I was a kid, a place where water ran uphill, and a person got bigger or smaller depending on what side of a room they were on. So I never really considered going to Palazzo Spada.

Then, 30 days into this trip it occurred to me:

1. I liked the haunted shack at Knotts Berry Farm!

2. Borromini, bad tempered and cranky and suicidal does not have a charming reputation. And yet, he made things holy, he made things effortlessly lovely, and he made things whimsical. Whimsical! I do not think the full story has been adequately reported on this guy. I mean, he made a trick hallway! How could I not honor Borromini and his whimsical trick hallway?

3. I have been going on some about Rome as an amusement park. And here it is practically explicit.

So we popped over for a look.

It was fun. The Palazzo was beautiful too, full of elegant touches, playfulness, and elegant little gardens. It was easy to travel back in time there 400 years. And I learned for sure that on a good day, at least, Borromini would have been a delight. 



Sunday, October 16, 2016

Rome day 29

A 37 day imaginary travelogue of a trip to Rome (with a few scattered other places such as New York). This is written to match the journey I am actually taking, and so each post is concurrent with the more or less actual day my wife and I are experiencing in Rome.

What day number are we on?: 29

Level of writer's drunkenness (in real life, scale of 1-10): one. I am going to cautiously attend an art opening this afternoon with my wife (for those of you keeping score, I can just manage this, working in the library would not have been a good idea though). There I will have some wine, maybe even two glasses, and then maybe another when we get home. So if you hang tight I may be able to move the needle on this one.

What am I eating (in real life again)?: Will eat soon, probably some salmon salad mentioned in an earlier post.

Map or picture?: Sant'Ivo, a little close up of the tower I was able to take only because I'm good at climbing!

Any other notes/Status: This long fantasy account of my upcoming trip is messing with me just a little, and sometimes when planning I find myself thinking "Do I really want to go to this museum (or church, or restaurant, or whatever)? After all, I just went." referring only to an imaginary visit I covered in one of these posts.

Today's Entry:

It is a Sunday, and more is open in Rome than one would think. Indeed there are places that are apparently only open on Sunday. Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, for instance. Yes, it is a church. Little and by Borromini, it is revered by those who know just enough about Baroque architecture. I read a book about baroque architecture, so I qualify. It is anomalous in the baroque in that it's very white inside, and enormously peaceful. I have on this trip cast a few affectionate slights at just how really spiritual these Roman churches are, but there really are only a couple of them that give one a hushed feeling. Sant Ivo is one. It is the only church of all we have been to where we both felt compelled to sit in the pews, just being there.

Of course, outside Sant'Ivo is just as good, but all different. There it is great fun, and the most charming of all of Rome's many little spires.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Rome day 28

A 37 day imaginary travelogue of a trip to Rome (with a few scattered other places such as New York). This is written to match the journey I am actually taking, and so each post is concurrent with the more or less actual day my wife and I are experiencing in Rome.

What day number are we on?: 28

Level of writer's drunkenness (in real life, scale of 1-10): one

What am I eating (in real life again)?: well, I had a few bites of salmon salad (arugula, salmon, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, shaved garlic and turmeric and ginger, onion, and walnuts). I am roasting some cauliflower with Parmesan and walnuts for a garden potluck tonight. I didn't grow the cauliflower.

Map or picture?: Cats at the Largo Argentina Cat Sanctuary

Any other notes/Status: I feel the "what I am eating" section gives a picture.

Today's Entry:

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

Oh, okay, let's pay a little attention to the man behind the curtain, even though we have been scrupulously not. And the man behind the curtain is: 

This trip, no matter how unusually, wonderfully long it has been, is going to end. We have five days left here in Rome. Are there things I have meant to do here that I have not done? Is there something I will bitterly regret if I don't do it? Were there gifts, trinkets, baubles I hoped to purchase? Did I want to send postcards, go for a swanky meal, try a certain pizza place, drink a 30 euro glass of lemoncello? Now is the time. 

I wanted to see the Caravaggio in the Vatican Museum. I wanted to go the Palazzo Valentini and see the 3D, multimedia Roman Ruins the Palazzo is built over. I wanted to go to that dairy store way West of the central city. I wanted to go to the Palazzo Spada and see the false perspective garden that Borromini made. I wanted to go to the Colosseum finally. I wanted to try pizza over at Pizza Florida.

But instead we go visit the cats at the cat sanctuary one more time. I give them ten euros and say hi to Giussepe, a slender white cat I have taken to. In the evening we walk around shopping without a lot of conviction, but plenty of pleasure, in shops we have mostly been to already. We go get wine at a place called Cul de Sac and drink chianti slowly and for a long time. 

But no matter how slow we go, the day still passes.