Sunday, April 30, 2017
I come today to report on books. No, these are not recommendations, but merely three random encounters I had while shelving in our non-fiction area. While these are all me making wild snap judgements, I present these judgements without judgement. If you think that's all too cushy for me then you're welcome to go ahead and judge me yourself. Good luck with that.
The first book I came upon was called When Children and Teens Pray. And what I thought of was "When children and teens pray something is extremely fishy."
The second book was called Confessions of a Reluctant Ghost Hunter. At that one I thought "There is no way that there is any ghost hunter in the world who came by it against their inclinations, reluctantly. There is no one out there saying to someone "Why would you, with your special and natural skills at spotting spectral phenomenon, throw that all away to become a Dentist!""
The third book was a Ripley's Believe it or Not. I had no thoughts on it so I opened it to a random page. There was a story about a person on a long car trip who hit a coyote but kept driving, assuming he had killed it. After 500 miles of cross country travel he realized there was a coyote trapped in the front grill-work of his car. There was even a photo in the book of this coyote, still trapped in the grill after 500 miles of high speed travel. He looked very tired and very sunburned. When they pried him out though, he just ran away.
I am still thinking about that one.
Saturday, April 29, 2017
Dear William Shawn or whoever The New Yorker editor is these days:
Please publish one or two of my enclosed essays. No, seriously, I am begging you; Please publish one of my enclosed essays. You are my last hope in the world.
I have done everything I can think of to try and get the wide world to take an interest in my writing. Admittedly I have not been able to think of much. So far what I have done to get the world to take an interest in my writing has been to:
A. Try to trick them into it.
B. Be a better writer than anyone else, and,
C. Try to trick them into it by being a better writer than anyone else.
None of these worked. I am down to my last idea. And I'm afraid it involves you.
I know what they say: No one likes to be needed, or something like that, but I am nevertheless hoping you'll suck it up, stand tall, and take the path of nobility. After all, as it says on your masthead: "Get access to our magazine app for tablets and smartphones at the App Store, Amazon.com, or Google Play. (Access varies by location and device.)."
As is common with people like me who hate authority and think people in charge are the problem, I also overrate and glamorize their power and influence. So I'm saying there are some psychological issues going on here. But, as we're forced to do almost relentlessly in public life, let's pretend that there aren't.
I have decided my delicious, witty, and freakishly insightful writing can only achieve its deserved level of notoriety when it is championed by an august institution. Only when a vaunted, impartial member of the establishment, like you and The New Yorker, cries out "Here, this is the stuff!" will people look at my work in the proper light of reverence. Once they look at my work in the light of that profound recommendation and respect its shining virtues will rise out of it before their very eyes, like fruit flies emerging from a disturbed compost bin on a warm summer day. There might be a better analogy than that, but this is just a letter and not my final work, and so not indicative of the full reach of my talents.
But this does bring us to an excellent point. If my work requires a wild enthusiasm from a major literary cultural figure and institution to be properly seen, how can a major literary figure and institution, such as yourself, see it enough to be wildly enthusiastic about it?
There is no way. That is why I am asking, imploring you to ignore your every impulse and reaction to my work and publish it with your exalted brand and most profound seal of approval regardless. I am asking you to do it on faith, and perhaps as a test of your power and influence. But if you trust in me I firmly believe that over the years you will forget your vague distaste for my work and will come to see its deep genius. At that point your heart will swell and you will be thankful for the day you devoted yourself to my literary triumph.
Other than this I am out of options.
I thank you for your time and consideration,
Friday, April 28, 2017
I killed a rabbit.
I was driving home in my murdermobile when I came onto Highway 280. Note that it was a highway. I was traveling at about 50 mph when a rabbit leaped in front of my car. I don't know why. He was just beginning a relatively long journey across four lanes of roaring traffic when I hit him. One can surmise he wanted badly to die. But I might be looking for a way out from under all the... blood on my hands.
Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.
Did I have time to put on brakes? I guess I could have slammed them, and if I did it quickly enough then the braking would have commenced meaninglessly just after my smearing of the small animal beneath my car. Could I have swerved? Only if I wanted to hit him better. The actual thought I had in the half second after the rabbit appeared in front of my car and the point of my bringing quick and ragged death to him was "Just don't panic, make sure the wheels don't hit him, and if he lies low..." I think I was on the lie low part when I felt the undercarriage of the car grab him by the ears, or back, or head, hideously hurl him to the ground, and bounce him bloodily between the car and the highway before leaving his pulped and ruined corpse behind me.
It's amazing how much one can feel from the seat of a car. Though I suppose it's nothing like what one can feel from the underside of a car.
I don't actually know how guilty to feel. Something turns in my stomach as I write. But do you want to know what's in my stomach as I write? Some ground up cow. How did that get there?
Grape, in my small but clear headed audience, raises his hand.
"Do you remember...?"
Oh, of course I remember Grape. That was always part of this story. You see, I was an accessory to a rabbit murder once before, many decades ago. Grape and I were driving home from a backpacking trip. Grape was driving. The sun was setting in the long California desert. A jackrabbit rushed the road. Grape did what he could, but, "kerpluckt", the wheel smushed the poor wee hopper. A stunned silence fell on we tired nature lovers. Grape was devastated. I felt probably exactly the same way as I do now at my own inadvertent rabbit murder, 30 years and the lifetimes of billions of rabbits later. We did not say much for awhile. That he could not avoid this accident was but little succor when we mused on it. We stopped for gas.
We went into the gas station. A devastated Grape said to the station clerk "I feel terrible. I just ran over a rabbit."
"Aw, man." The clerk replied "There's so many rabbits around here we go out shooting them for fun."
Well, I'll have you know there are quite a few rabbits around here in the spring too. Not that I was running that one over for fun.
I've eaten rabbit a couple times. Both of them were at very fancy restaurants. At no point was I wracked with guilt. It didn't occur to me to feel guilt. Though, considering it now, why not. Go ahead and feel a little guilt, all the storied chefs and rabbit ranchers and rabbit butchers in the world cannot strain out the fact that those rabbits deaths go on my account. Yes, somewhere there is a great heavenly (or hellish) list of all the animals we killed or caused to die. Oh what a list. And to make one feel worse about it when one looks at the list the list doesn't say, like, "Mosquitoes: 18,265" No indeed. Each one is personally listed, with a name, like "Lucretia, Mosquito, 2 days old. She just had kids. She was happy."
How do they know she was happy? They know everything.
Speaking of driving deaths. Once I was driving home with my friend Matthew, across the Dakotas. We were beset by plagues on our way home. First were locusts. We had to use windshield wipers. They coated the front of the car. But that was nothing. The rains came, and then the frogs. Ah god, the frogs. For some reason they poured out onto the highway in countless thousands. "Thumpity, thumpitithumpitithump tump tump tum, pup pup pup." To drive was to kill them in the hundreds, maybe more. We pulled over. Look at all the frogs! Look at all the dead frogs we ran over. Should we just sit here forever by the side of the road? No. We drove on. If we drove slow we killed them slower for a long time. If we drove fast we killed them all at once, for miles and miles of murder. Hundreds of frogs. Thousands of frogs. All with names and written with blood on our souls.
So what is a mere rabbit to all those frogs?
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Over the last couple years here at my library we have unceremoniously hosted a biannual art show for the local school district. They've got these big black grid things that they put up all over the library, and they are filled with art. It's lots of fun stuff from class after class of grade schoolers. Naturally I wander all over the library and complain derisively about how all this art they put up is, like, at a fourth grade level.
When I told Marcus, the teen librarian this, he laughed and then riposted that that's pretty good for second graders!
Good one Marcus.
I walked back to my corner when it hit me: I long ago aged out of that ability to do something at a higher level. I'm not 16 and reading at a college level. I'm just reading. I can't do it beyond what's expected of me. In fact, at this point my only option is to go down, like, I can either play harmonica, which I can't, really, or I can play it, poorly, at a seventh grade level, which, if I practice for a bit, I can.
This is dispiriting. I think skill should go up forever. There should always be an achievement level beyond us that we can overachieve to. What if as a 52 and a half year old (today is my half birthday) I didn't just write, but I could be so good at writing that I write at the level of a ninety year old? What if, with perhaps another 20 years of aging and practice in the craft, I could write like a hundred and eighty year old.
Whoa, that's like Mark Twain level!
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
We have a large, popular meeting room downstairs at my library. It's a spacious room with many possible permutations of chairs and tables. Sometimes we in the circulation department are asked to set it up in a certain way for some group or event, all chairs like in an auditorium, or classroom style for instance. I would like to go on record here officially by saying I don't approve of this. I'm more of a "take care of your own stuff" person, set up your own room, and only if it's too much do you then ask for help. But there's not much I can do about that except to tirelessly give exhaustive anarchist speeches elaborating on my views and my vision for a better world. So I generally steer clear of the meeting room set up. It's not hard to steer clear of the meeting room set up once people are aware of the danger of my 45 minute theoretical discourses on the matter.
Still, last week we had a group meet in this program room of ours, and I suddenly found myself keen on setting up for it. At 6 o'clock on a Wednesday evening there was going to be a meeting of "The Minimalist Group." Sadly I wasn't around when they came and didn't get to see them. Nevertheless, in preparation, I locked all our furniture in the closets.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
In my endless pursuit of understanding I have come to see how it might be hard, in some ways, to be my work manager. I just must seem so... relaxed. And there are so many points in any day where I don't merely appear to not be working, but I look like I'm enjoying myself as well. And even when technically I must be working it can be hard to ever see it happening with the naked eye.
I think I would have a hard time with this as a manager which is why I have endeavored never to become a manager. One makes their bed...
I am a manual transmission worker. And even then it might be best if I had merely the four gears, or five. That would be so much simpler for any manager to handle. My manual transmission has 119 gears, with three clutches. You think I don't understand the trials of others in relation to this? Of course I do! It is absurdly complex! Even I don't understand the half of it.
Which is why I have been writing this user manual. Four years, 1,500 entries, and we're only beginning to make headway on the introduction. I'm a universe.
Just like you, or anyone else. Don't you forget it.
Monday, April 24, 2017
One of the most oddly visceral ways I face a new presidency while working at a library is when a new president is sanctified in the children's section. Every American President is going to have a slew of carefully neutral, meticulously calm books written about him for kids. When this happened with the Alfred E. Neuman Presidency of George W. Bush it was irritating and vaguely false feeling. When it happened with Obama it was heartwarming, but also a little sad. I have been dreading the first appalling Trump books. Are they even necessary? What lunatic grade school teacher would want to wade into the quagmire of assigning Presidential biography reports to kids while we're all so busy dealing with the collapse of human civilization?
Surprisingly though the first kids' Trump book has just come in. Fortunately it's not that wretched, milquetoast biography I've been expecting. It is, instead, of all things, a potty training book!
Young Roy is learning to use the potty. And after successfully taking his very first poop "by himself" he observes it with pride. But as he prepares to show his parents he notices that his poop's shape looks like the new President of the United States!
It's actually pretty good, addressing as it does the insecurities and fears of toddlers taking this challenging, sometimes scary, developmental step.
It's called There's a Trump in my Dump.
Sunday, April 23, 2017
Lately we have been discussing the many questions I receive about my blog. As you know I race to anticipate all your questions and answer them before you even ask them. But with millions of daily readers I can't anticipate every question, and I sometimes find it's helpful to devote a day's blog session just to answering reader questions. We did this yesterday, and though you'd have to consult yesterday's post to count all the questions I fielded, I felt it was exhaustive and covered a lot of ground. However, to my surprise, I was asked even more questions about my blog today at work. How do some of these people even know about my blog?! Anyway, I include an account of them here in the hopes that it will cover the rest of the issues you, as a curious reader, might be interested in.
Reader "Mike" asks:
Can you point me in the direction of the bathroom?
I too wonder sometimes about my motivation for writing. I feel sometimes like it's a purely personal act, one that lets me commune with myself and center, almost in a spiritual way, but I also sometimes feel like there is a particular perspective that's missing from the world and I cannot rest until I see it out there, beyond myself.
Reader "Linnea" asks:
Can you check and see what I have on hold?
Thanks for the question "Linnea"! I suppose the ones I like best change over time. I get most excited about the satirical, funny ones, like with Bob Dylan. But when I go looking at old posts I'm surprised by what resonates with me. It's often complex ones that might have seemed like strange throwaways when I wrote them- maybe because they seem so new to me at that point.
Reader "Lance" asks:
Have you seen Liz around anywhere? Did she come through here?
Wow. That's quite a compliment! Thanks. I suppose I mostly don't really think of how it will affect people. Something like this is really more of a pleasant surprise. I know I joke a lot about being famous and the impact of my essays and how great they are, but in writing them the process is more pure, more like they're my own problem to solve, involving for their own sake. But sure, sometimes when I'm really onto something there might be a little part of me that thinks "This is special. Maybe someone will read this and think "Have you seen Liz around anywhere?"" But I try not to let stuff like that swell my head.
Thanks so much. This was fun!
Saturday, April 22, 2017
People who follow this blog often have questions about it, but they don't like to ask them because the answers can get quite lengthy and invariably involve a great many parables involving the Barcelona Futbol Club. These used to be sunny anecdotes, but have grown steadily darker this year.
So in the interest of creating a safe space for blog questions I will be answering reader questions right here on the blog itself, where everyone can learn from them and yet remain safely anonymous and free to leave at any time.
Today's first of probably several dozen questions is:
What do you do when you have no ideas for a blog post and yet you are up against your strict, daily deadline?
Great, great, great question! My answer is:
I do "Reader Question Time"!
Friday, April 21, 2017
Writing a wildly popular blog such as this one I am frequently fielding questions about it. Just last July a onetime blog reader of mine peppered me with a question. "Do you still write your blog?" He asked. I'm afraid I snapped a little under the strain.
"Can't we just be regular people here for a bit?" I replied. "Does it always have to be about my blog all the time?" I know to a non blog writing lay person such as yourself that might sound alarmingly peevish, but please understand, that was already the second question concerning my blog that year. I could hardly breathe for all the inquisition. Hopefully I handled the first one, in the early Spring, better, when I was at least a bit more fresh. I believe that question was "Huh, I didn't know you wrote a blog. So do you still paint?" I don't remember what I answered, though I'm pretty sure it took an hour or two.
At work co-workers and library patrons often greet me with "How are you doing?" and I try to remain humble about people's interest in me, but I am well aware it is an honor. Am I letting them down if I just say "fine" like normal people do? I suppose I am, letting them down that is, so I usually pull out a recent blog post and read that to them, then I hand them an autograph. They always say "What's this?" Jokers. They all make the same joke because they aren't a semi-professional comedian like myself.
I don't want you to think I'm complaining. Really I'm not. It's all such an honor. Mostly I'm just trying to let you know that if you see me and ask "Is this where I get a library card?" or "Did you do anything interesting this weekend?" or "Do you have any copies of The Avengers in?" and my answer seems unrelated to my blog, it's not because I am unaware of your appreciation and love of this blog. I am. I really am. But the world must go on as well.
Thursday, April 20, 2017
My trip to the dentist was a success.
The hygienist scraped and made conversation and poked around and prodded and said, well, there is this issue and there is that issue, but there is nothing worse than when I was there last time.
There comes a point in every person's life where the absence of deterioration is a triumph.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
If you could be any animal what would it be?
I used to get that question, like, all the time. When I was nine. And though it makes me slightly queasy, monitoring all that form shifting and, suddenly, in my mind, turning into strange, otherly beings, it was a question exponentially richer than the sort of question a person got at age six: What's your favorite color?
What's your favorite color? is a trick question and cannot be answered correctly. But what animal would you like to be? is full of possibility.
Or, it was.
I am 52. If I were a tiger I would be dead. If I were a dolphin I would be dead. Pelican, owl, moose, goose. Dead, dead, dead, dead. I would probably be dead as an elephant, so let's not risk it. Likewise so as a whale. I might briefly be okay as an alligator or a pearl mussel, but I am not keen on being either. And besides, even those are a bit borderline for, well, not being dead.
Which leaves us with tortoise.
Tortoise it is.
Ah, at least there is a right answer.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
As you know I've been writing a blog on your platform for a few years now. The blog is called clerkmanifesto. Your platform is called "Google Blogger". I am the last one using it. I am actually the last traditional blogger on the Internet, so I can understand why you might have forgotten about your old blogger platform, what with all your new things, like self-driving cars and spy glasses and providing 43 varieties of free cereal in your exalted secret corporate employee enclaves. I'm not complaining. I was just wondering if you could help me out.
Let me explain.
Lately I have been writing Publishers asking them to publish a book of my essays. These are all essays taken from my blog. They're really good! At least, I thought they were. So in these letters to publishers I kind of talked these essays up, because, well, I was pretty sure they were amazing, so maybe it wasn't really talking them up at all. I used the word "genius" a lot, and I tried to prepare them for the reading experience of a lifetime, one that would shatter their vision of the world and suffuse the sky with more stars than they ever dreamed possible. You know, that kind of thing.
Then, exciting, scintillating letter to the publisher written, it was time to attach my essays and send them off to get my publishing contract. I went looking through my blog for some of my best ones, thinking it would be the work of a few pleasant and diverting minutes all while basking in my litany of triumphs. I read a few, thinking the especially good ones were coming up any second, but then they just... didn't. Reading late into the night and on to the early morning I went through all 1,524 of my blog posts and yet somehow all the super geniusy ones were missing. I was totally confused. I looked through my old collection of post it note drafts for clues, but came up blank there too. I mean, maybe I put them in some kind of weird, extra special folder by accident, but I simply cannot find them. I then wondered if maybe this was something on your end? Can you look around and see if maybe you have them printed out and sitting in a carton somewhere? Or maybe they're in your Google Blogger file cabinet. It should be pretty easy to find. The blog is called "clerkmanifesto" and, as I said, I'm almost certain it's the only blog left, so I doubt there's a lot of files there. Maybe you could have an Intern take a quick look in the Blogger office. I'd really appreciate it.
Thanks again, in advance, for your help in this matter,
Monday, April 17, 2017
I saw a bird along the Mississippi River today. I did not think it was a bird. I thought it was a clump of leaves, torn from a tree in a gusting breeze and plummeting down to the river. But while I was watching these leaves fall it occurred to me that we do not have any 300 foot tall trees around here to fall from. These leaves were far higher than any tree, or anything at all, and were slicing down like they were racing to the river. These leaves were not leaves. They were a bald eagle, with its wings tucked into two arrows, cutting the wind to slam towards the Mississippi.
I have seen surely a thousand bald eagles out here by my river over the decades, but I have never before seen one in a hurry. What I saw as falling I realized was hurtling. As a live thing it was terribly fast, sheering its profile, pulling gravity, heading into the brown/black water.
But it didn't go into the river. It gently pulled out of the dive like doing so was an afterthought, and it drifted lazily into the air upstream. I will never know exactly what that bird was up to, but at least I understood:
Traveling as fast as one can does not mean one is in a hurry.
Sunday, April 16, 2017
Dear Monday Morning Co-workers:
I'm sorry I was late again this Monday morning. I was almost on time. I would have been on time, but I was behind drivers who weren't dangerously aggressive enough.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
This morning, while driving to work at my library, I was behind a man driving a nondescript car that, though serviceable, had seen some better days. The rear of the car had a bumper sticker on it that I well recognized. At some point the umbrella organization for all our greater metro area libraries printed up a few million bold, green lettered bumper stickers that read: "MAKE YOUR NEXT STOP THE LIBRARY". This was the sticker on the car in front of me, only someone had desperately tried to remove it. It was clawed at and peeled up in tiny bits. Perhaps the sticker had been on long enough for the paper to fuse into the plastic of the bumper, but the car owner had nevertheless ripped at it like an animal tearing at his own foot in a trap. Almost half of the bumper sticker was peeled up, one feverish fingernail bit at a time. Whoever it was really wanted that bumper sticker gone, but after what looked to be six hours of trying they had given up and half the bumper sticker remained to tell the story.
As I looked upon the hopelessly desiccated bumper sticker on the car in front of me I thought: "I wonder who last helped him at my library."
Friday, April 14, 2017
Dear Rolling Stone Publisher, Mr. Wenner:
First of all let me say that I am a great admirer of your magazine, so much so that sometimes I read some of the articles in it. I am especially keen on that political writer, Tabibi or something. Tell him I said "Hey." He'll be very excited about my compliment but probably won't believe you. It's okay with me if you show him this letter to convince him.
But I didn't just write to chat, much as I find it relaxing to shoot the breeze with you here.
No, I have a proposal, about Bob Dylan.
Yes, I know you are keen on Bob over there at Rolling Stone. But I am also fully aware that Bob Dylan is well covered territory. Perhaps he is over covered territory, like those ancient paths in England that have worn down over time and from so much walking that they now lay ten feet below the surface of the countryside. One can't see much from down in those ancient paths. They're almost like tunnels. It is then fortunate that I have a new perspective here. One might even say I have the holy grail of new perspectives on Bob Dylan. I am Bob Dylan's personal friend.
I know! This is the in that everyone has been waiting for since about 1965!
I have drinks with Bob on Thursdays, pretty regular. I write brief accounts of our get-togethers, which usually take place at local craft distillery cocktail bars, and, catching Dylan in these unguarded moments, I come closer to the truth of this enigmatic genius than anyone has since the 70's.
"Wait!" You may be crying out. "Isn't that sleazy and opportunistic of you to be writing accounts of your personal relationship."
Oh, no. He's sort of okay with it. And for the part where he isn't, well, he totally deserves it. I think with your long experience of him you can probably understand that.
"Hey!" You may cry out again, probably after you read my enclosed accounts "I don't believe you actually know Bob Dylan and you're making this all up! What if he sues us or never does another interview with us again?"
Ah, yes, well, these interactions all may or may not have happened. But even if they didn't happen they should have, and don't you think what should have happened is just as important as what happened? Bob would understand this, which is why he won't sue you. He'd just get irritated, super irritated. But I think we can both agree that an irritated Bob Dylan is far more likely to stop singing old Frank Sinatra songs and Christmas Carols and take a couple more stabs at some late stage genius. We don't know if he's got it in him, but we owe it to him to trick him into trying.
I look forward to working with you,
Thursday, April 13, 2017
I know that everyday that you receive a manuscript query from an unknown author is an adventure of discovery, and you are keen to tear right into the pages below. But hold your horses! At least, just for a minute or two. You may well enjoy my collection of attached essays as is, but if you'll allow me the unusual opportunity to explain how to read these essays your experience will be vastly richer. Indeed, read properly, you will find these essays revelatory, magnificent, and all that you have sought for in your medium length publishing career. So bear with me.
How do you feel about wine? Many studies have shown that if people, even experts, are told, in a blind tasting, that a particular bottle of wine is expensive they will rate it higher, far higher, than a comparable wine that they are told is not expensive. And if they are told a wine is cheap they will rate that even lower.
No one wants to be a fool, which is why all these tests are a little cruel. But let us accept the psychology: A lovely, fancy, expensive, Chateau Margaux, served sloppily in plastic cups at a neighborhood art opening of no great distinction is not likely to elicit epiphanetic ecstacies from even the most studied palates, whereas a $9 shiraz served with all pomp and hushed tones by a sommelier whispering tales of terroir and black cherry and smokey rose petals likely will.
But let us, you and I, not throw all our objectivity out the window. Let us reserve some respect for the scrupulous craft of wine making at its highest level. Let us say a gorgeous, meticulously nurtured wine, tasted in convivial mise en scene and with serious respect can, given its fair chance, raise the roof of the soul because of what it is. And a mass produced wine, though capable of bringing joy, can't reach the stars no matter how high and mighty the wine glass.
Which brings me back to my enclosed essays. These are essays that have been thrown to the world of the Internet like dross wine. Essays scattered ridiculously to the wind to find their way. Essays crammed in corked bottles to bob in the ocean forever. Essays plunked unceremoniously on your desk like all manner of unsolicited bulk rate prose. Whether they are the finest of their kind, or merely workmanlike, what chance will they have, and how will we know?
You may be thinking then that I am going to suggest that the way to read my work, to their best effect, is with careful respect, as if something fine and good has been delivered to you, and that with a little care they will bloom in your mind. You may even find that a bit cheeky, and believe that you are better than any wine taster, able to evaluate purely, in any situation. You may think "Let his work scrap it out like any other work. If it is good, I will know."
But no. That is all wrong. I am not asking for paltry half measures anyway. I do not request a quiet, ahead of time respect to let my pieces flourish. If that were all I were asking I would simply trust your judgement.
I am asking you, suggesting, that to get the best experience from reading my pieces, you must decide now, with a razor sharp and impermeable will, that I am a genius and that you will never see the likes of my work again. You must decide that you are in the presence of a once in a lifetime mastery operating at the outer edges of your comprehension.
Then, from there, go look upon my essays. If you see nothing, look deeper. Scour them for their velvety tannins and endless finishes. Hear the voice of God in them, notes of chocolate, and the breath of tall grass in rain. Faced with their obsession with trifles, their preposterous vanity, and their discursive rambling, pick out the thread of holy music lying in wait for true souls and pure seekers. Believe in your heart in their beyond-all-measure worth until the universe's answers are suddenly lying at your feet, shuddering, still live and smoking with the lightning bolt of truth. And if you read them over and over again, certain of their immortal soul, but are unable to divine any magic, do not give in to your doubt. Look deeper, again and again, until, bleary eyed, full of skepticism and hungry for illumination, it all falls into place and you realize this, yes, this absurd fool's work, unacclaimed, almost abandoned by the world, is endowed with an endless brilliance that cuts a swath through the measly face of modern literature as we know it, and finally, in the darkest times, rips the clouds away to reveal, against all the odds, that the night is full of more stars that any of us ever dreamed was possible.
And then at that point, with regret, politely decline to publish them, because, seriously, even I can see how that's hardly likely to attract many readers or sell many books.
Thank you for your time.
With all due respect and appreciation,
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
This is a complicated story.
But I try never to let that stop me from trying to reduce it all down to a handful of paragraphs. If I don't get it now I'll get it down the line when I least expect it, writing about turkeys or in a letter to an editor somewhere.
Here is how I feel about my boss:
10% Total, heartfelt pity
5% White hot, borderline murderous, hatred
20% Deeply rooted camaraderie
10% Simple sadness
20% Rueful affection
10% Withering contempt
10% Careful tolerance
10% Nothing, just... nothing.
5% Agreeable bemusement
Today, before the library opened, I was assigned to project time, a time to work on those projects I am responsible for, like supplies. So I was on a computer working on some supply things. My boss said to me "Can you take these newspapers upstairs?"
My boss rarely delegates anything, and the job he was proposing was barely different than asking me to move a stapler from one desk to another desk, albeit a stapler that actually needed to be moved from one desk to another, a desk he would be walking by in three minutes anyway.
Here are some more percentages because these percentages are so sad and satisfying. This time the percentages are about how likely it is that the below reason is true:
2% He is overwhelmed, and it would genuinely help him if I did this minuscule newspaper task
8% He thinks I'm over at that computer writing unflattering things about him, and at all costs he must distract me.
40% There's just no way I can be up to anything good over at that computer, and though he doesn't really mind, he feels it's his responsibility to try and modify my behavior.
40% There's just no way I can be up to anything good over at that computer and it's driving him literally insane and he's got to do something about it, but it should be something that doesn't make him seem as insane as he feels.
!0% It's time to remind me that he's my manager.
Here's what I find humiliating about it: Without any real explanation for such a seemingly absurd request, my normal response would be "No." or possibly "Fuck you." That's what it would be to a co-worker. But because of position, situation, and politics I feel forced into saying "Sure." Only now does it occur to me I could have asked "Why?", though I understand I am still in no proper position to evaluate the advisability of that question.
And so I go put the newspapers away after I finish up at my computer. Curiously, this affords me the opportunity to read the newspapers.
And lo and behold all the newspapers are undergoing the same version of the humiliation I am experiencing. The monster baby President has just rained down some millions of dollars worth of fancy missiles on some airport in Syria. All the newspapers know, they absolutely know, that the whole thing is completely full of shit. Well, except for two percent. There is a measly two percent chance that the whole thing is not completely full of shit. And because of that paltry two percent, and because of Presidents, politics, power, and a fear over the delicacy of their position, the newspapers feel forced, cornered, into treating it like it's all normal, and reasonable, and how things are supposed to be.
In the usual course of events I would feel such a rage at the press. I would be angry at their abdication, lack of resourcefulness, and their cowardice. I would be full of contempt and grief.
But not today.
Today I just feel sympathy.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
We have plenty of computers at my library. If you don't have a library card we'll give you a temporary Internet pass. It has a barcode on it and a pin number. So there's a long number under the barcode. Then, handwritten, the card says "Pin" followed by a four digit number.
A woman was having problems logging onto our computers with her own library card so I gave her one of these passes. I said "Just go to any computer with clouds on the screen and log in using the barcode and the pin. Bring this card back when you're done."
Off she went, but not for long.
"It didn't work." She said. And as I was running through my mind a quick diagnosis of what might have happened she added "I tried it on two computers and I tried it in both lower case and upper case."
"What were you putting in upper and lower case?" I asked.
"P-I-N." She replied.
I explained the problem. "It's the number below." I pointed it out.
As the light dawned she turned a bit red. She felt a little foolish and told me so.
I didn't tell her not to. In this case I felt it was a reasonable response, and not feeling foolish would likely be more concerning.
Monday, April 10, 2017
From the supply department:
To be posted at all our Library's public office supply areas (near the copiers):
We at the library have found it gratifying that after years of serving you, providing information, books, CDs, and DVDs, in an unending and ever updating stream, we have finally discovered what you really love: Paper Clips.
I wish you had mentioned your love of paper clips 20 years ago. Believe it or not we here at the library find it gratifying to provide you with what you need. If only you had dropped us a note in the suggestion box we could have bought fewer Nicholas Sparks books and more tubs of paper clips. We staff members could have kept great fistfulls of paper clips on our persons at all times and, in the midst of tense overdue fine negotiations, whipped out a few paper clips.
"Would you care for a few complimentary paper clips?" We could ask, and then watch your faces suffuse with joy, all your acrimony towards the library utterly forgotten.
And perhaps therein lies the key. There are no return dates for paper clips. There are no late charges for paper clips. One doesn't have to pay for a lost paper clip, one can just take another paper clip, no questions asked.
So now we know. Finally we have tapped into your secret heart. Expect fewer Lee Child books around here and more paper clips. As of today we will prioritize paper clips.
So take a paper clip. Take as many as you want. You clearly already know how to do so. Take the whole box. We'll just bring out a new one. Use them to hold paper together, fasten them into jewelry, employ them to make crude repairs on your shoes, or start a mini business reselling them on Ebay. It's up to you! We only want to see you happy.
Go easy on our rubber bands though. They don't exactly grow on trees.
With regard and affection,
The Library (Supplies Department)
Sunday, April 9, 2017
I know what to do when my managers mistreat and disrespect me, for I am crafty, psychologically astute, and wield secret understandings of how my library works.
I know what to do when my co-workers wrong me, for I am vengeful and clever and have cultivated dangerous allies and unholy skills all across the library system.
I know what to do when the library patrons are unkind, unreasonable or hostile to me, for I am a master of our laws, invested with their powers, which, as is always the case with enforcers of law, contains the means to control, manipulate and punish while maintaining impunity and the veneer of righteousness and dispassion.
But when the fates conspire against me? What do I do then?
My knees and back were aching today, not gravely, or seriously, but struggling in the regular course of middle age. And I went upstairs to shelve in Non Fiction. Defying all logic and laws of probability every single book I had to shelve was on the bottom shelf. The bottom shelf! Crouching awkwardly I had to wedge heavy, oversized tomes into cramped, difficult to see and get at places. Then I had to stand up, search, find the spot on a new bottom shelf, and do it again.
Who do I blame for this? Who will pay the price for my pain. To whom can I address my careful and cultivated revenge here? Someone must be made to suffer as I have suffered!
The patrons don't deserve it. God knows it's hard enough out there in the world, and a library is but little enough succor as it is.
My co-workers surely suffer enough already. Don't I know it! So they're out too.
Right then, managers it is.
Saturday, April 8, 2017
Perhaps my aversion to twitter is attributable to my verbosity, my desire to ramble, my love of elbow room. On the other hand I have spent the last four years writing every single day in this mercilessly short form. So my explanation is left hanging.
My distaste for twitter easily predates this first twitter Presidency, though I cannot resist an aside here to say that if there were ever an out sized argument to convince any right thinking person to burn twitter to the ground, metaphorically, it is surely Donald Trump and the idea that, if you have that little to say, why not take it one tiny step further and say nothing at all.
Perhaps then my aversion to twitter comes down to my job, which easily predates twitter. A curious, intransigent, and appalling feature of the software we use at my library is that all notes on patron records are severely character limited. I think we have about 50 characters to describe any issue or history, no matter how complex. That previous sentence alone exceeds 50 characters! To fit it I would have to write it:
We hv abt 50 crctrs 2 dscr a iss, no mtr hw cmplx.
Admittedly that version is an improvement possibly on my original, but the editing required for any larger concept is a nightmare. It is ez enf 2 wrt a note syng the ptrn's lost crd is in our lst crd file, bt the isss to disc r nt alwys so smpl. 2 thrds of my wrk rel note wrtng life has bn spnt jst editng 2 fit! And even worse our commnt editr mks it lk like thrs plnty mor rm whn the dmn thng cuts u off!
On the other hand, at this point, abbreviation comes pretty natural to me. Maybe I should take up twitter and its unholy challenge. I could go with the approach I suggested earlier in this post. I'll go twitter one better and keep my every utterance, without exception, down to zero characters or less.
I think you'll find them unusually wise.