Wednesday, February 28, 2018


I haven't seen it for a year or two now, but it recently popped into my mind: Moonstruck, starring Nicolas Cage and Cher. I'm not sure what sparked it in my memory; perhaps writing in defense of the Romantic Comedy against a posturing interview with the dismissive actor Christian Bale, or maybe it was because of a Guardian series endeavoring to name the all time best Academy Award winners in the main categories, or possibly even just the imminent arrival of the Academy Awards themselves, but there it was, in my thoughts, Moonstruck. And I thought "Yes, here is the Romantic Comedy I would make my stand on."

And from there I just got carried away. Why not?

Not that it isn't true that Moonstruck is wall to wall brilliant, and packed with beautiful writing and performances, but I'd like to focus just on Nicolas Cage to get to the heart of it here. I do not say his performance has no rivals in cinematic history, but there are no performances by an actor I would take over this one, and certainly all its storied competitors are vastly more heralded. To make my claim I offer the reminder of this scene, for surely you need only the reminder, and have seen this lovely film many times:

Ronny (Nicolas Cage): Johnny came in here. He ordered bread from me. I said "Oh, okay, some bread" I put my hand in the slicer and my hand got caught cause I wasn't paying attention. The slicer chewed off my hand. And it's funny cause when my fiance' saw that I was maimed she left me for another man.

Loretta (Cher): That's the bad blood between you and Johnny?

Ronny : Yes, that's it.

Loretta: But, that's not Johnny's fault.

Ronny: I don't care! I ain't no freakin' monument to justice! I lost my hand, I lost my bride! Johnny has his hand, Johnny has his bride! You come in here and you want me to put away my heartbreak and forget?

Of course reading this in print is hardly the ideal way to make my point. What I ideally prefer, when making this case, and I have made this case a few times, is to actually perform the scene myself. Not that I'm particularly good at it, just, I love pointing at my hand and yelling:

I lost my hand!

I lost my hand!

That should be enough to convince anyone.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Sweet nuthin'

I set down once again to write my daily screed, a blank space before me. Before the hijinks and visions kick in, some secret, wise part of myself admires the nothing and longs to do as little as possible to it.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Dear Publisher: The Lorax

Dear Publisher:

I was upstairs shelving in the non fiction section of my library, and I was suddenly suffused with exhaustion. All these books! Agitating, cajoling, arguing, imploring, instructing! And all with their agendas, both naked and ambitious, furtive and secret. Usually all of the above.

I know that you may be responsible for several of these books. I mean no disrespect or personal condemnation. And anyway I suspect you have some rueful inkling of what I mean.

Because these books, thousands and millions of books! The babble! The cacophony! The cry of "Me! Me! Me!" I am overcome. Sometimes it is all too much.

And so, you ask, what is my point? Why am I writing to you?

I want you to publish my book of course.

And why, you ask, should you publish me? How am I different from all these millions of pages and millions of cries?

I have no agenda of my own. I speak for the trees.

Sunday, February 25, 2018


I could make the argument that God is just Luck dressed up with a fancy beard. 

But maybe instead:

The world is practically drowning in luck, until, finally, the luck runs our way, and then it's justice.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

How we describe snow

In the night, secretly, while the city slept and not a soul was watching, it snowed. People like the word "blanket", and it's not a bad one, though it's overused and deceptively warm. "Five inches" tends to be too technical a term to grasp properly. "Shovelable" is imprecise, and "bad enough for people to break out their snowblowers" is too idiosyncratic and suburban. I was looking out the window at dawn and the snow clung to every fenceline and every tiny branch of every tree, and it was beautiful. So I thought "a snow that became the top half of everything." And then a great gust of wind came, the world occluded in white for a second, and that was done.

One periodically hears it bandied about, in essays not totally dissimilar from this one, though all of them hopefully slightly worse, how the Eskimos have 50 different words for snow. I don't know. We may not be living above the Arctic Circle here in Minnesota, but we have our fair share of snow. I am guessing that the truth is that the Eskimos have just the same number of words for snow as we do; none.

Friday, February 23, 2018

My curling triumph

My small obsession with Olympic Curling met its mighty triumph this week. I hardly dared to dream...

But first let me set the stage:

Overflowing with Olympic Curling Spirit I put together an elaborate curling pool at my place of employ, the library. There was a big curling box, a two dollar entry fee, a blind pick of one of the teams, could be either in men's or women's, and a careful tracking of results and whose team was whose. I discussed curling with all my co-workers, frequently detailing the rules, and I probably have explained how the progression of the tournament plays out more than a dozen times. Luckily you probably already know as it would be a fair bit of typing here. I commiserated as people's teams floundered and failed to make the semis, and I rejoiced in other participant's sometimes surprising triumphs.

But all along while people were positive and even interested I always felt that I carried that interest. I always felt that it was my curling obsession, and the others went along for the amusing diversion.

Then, one day, with my team the Danish Men already well out of it, the tournaments were edging up to the playoffs (the gold medal games are this weekend). Of course I was aware of the thrilling tie-breaker game between Men's Switzerland and Great Britain (the ninth end of that tie-breaker will surely go down as one of the great moments of this Olympics, or, I should say, its greatest sadly unheralded moment), but Curling was far from my mind as I went to the library back room on some work related mission. I hardly could've imagined what I saw:

There, glory of glories, were my co-workers, all on their own, gathered round the computers, feverishly checking up on the Curling results.

It was easily worth the ten dollars I could have won if the Danish team was better, though, admittedly, they would have had to have been vastly, incredibly better.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Internet closed

We regret to inform you that 

The Internet is Closed for the Day

This is not a political statement against corporate public policy and Net Neutrality. This is not a drill. The Internet is closed.

There are no technical problems. Technically the Internet is working fine. Also, your computer is not broken. Don't worry about that.

The Internet is not a business. It relies upon unsolicited and random, self-posted, new and original content each day to carry on. Unfortunately today there was no new original content, and so we have had to close down.

We're pretty sure this is a fluke, and we expect to be back to normal tomorrow, though of course we can't say for sure. It depends randomly on human content, endeavor, and inspiration. We suggest you check back if you're interested.

In the meantime the Internet is closed.

We're sorry for any inconvenience this has caused. As a temporary alternative, books and nature will probably still work as normal in the meantime.


Thank you for your patience.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Dentists vs. Library

I'm at the Dentist. My teeth are clean and doing pretty well. My wife's appointment followed mine so I sat in the waiting area and read the Olympic Curling news in the St. Paul Paper. I was pouring over it with great interest.

After awhile someone from the reception desk came over. "Uh, excuse me." They said. "Are you here waiting for someone, or are you, uh, waiting to see someone for an appointment?"

"No." I replied. "I just seek out random suburban Dentist offices to hang out at and read their newspapers."

I didn't really say that, though they were mere inches from deserving it...

Although on the other hand maybe they're on to something, and I should try it when I'm working at the library later tonight. "Uh, hi. Are you here to read our books, or use our computers, or study or something?"

"I'm looking through these books I picked out. I might check some of them out."

"Oh, okay, um, fine, good. Carry on. I just wanted to make sure you weren't just here to, uh, just..."

"Oh, no. Nothing like that."

"Good, good. I mean, though, not that you're not allowed to."

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

No hobbies here

This afternoon it's snowing over a layer of old snow. The new white snow reveals the texture of the old greyed snow as it half covers it. No one in my house has gotten dressed yet and it may never happen. I can't think why it should. Outside looks admirable from a safe distance only. Outside is issuing no invitations today. Mostly I've been just reading books here in our little house, for days actually, hardly has mattered what they were.

At some point though I had to come downstairs and write a clerkmanifesto. It's my job. Although, I must admit it doesn't pay anything. And no one ever asked me to do this, even if some people are quite nice about it. But, I mean, I've been doing it for five years, every day. That's a job, right?

One of those books I'm reading, hiding out from winter, is a memoir by Neil Young. It says "Our music is not a job. It's a way of life." 

Fine, that too.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The fever

In my long library career I am occasional seized with a feverish desire to spearhead some kind of all-staff social activity. Years can easily separate these endeavors, but I have a lot of years to work with so my little projects have added up. I have thrown all staff picnics, filmed multiple library movies, run a cooperative snack store, hosted a library game show with prizes, painted portraits of all my co-workers and hung them throughout the library, and lectured to 75 co-workers on video games. I briefly throw my heart into them, they run their course, and before I know it I am surrounded by newer co-workers to the point where barely anyone is even left to remember, for instance, the Halloween I outfitted the entire Circulation desk as Vampires.

It's a little sad.

But then a new idea comes rushing up and I go make my name once again. What name is that? you ask. 


And so this past week I was compelled to put together an Olympic Curling Pool. There's a big box in the break room. It says "Curling is like bowling crossed with chess, on ice." You put your two dollars in the envelope on top. You stick your hand in and draw your random team; one of 20, ten men, ten women. Then you write your name next to the team you drew. I drew Men's Denmark, for instance, and wrote my name there. In decreasing amounts there is a payout for Women's Gold, Men's Gold, Women's Silver, and Men's Silver.

After I made the box I went around to get it fully subscribed. This was easier than I hoped. Dan bought two teams the day I was gone because, well, he's Dan. I sold out the last pick of Japanese Women a few hours before the first round robin match began, the only draw where the person knew exactly what team they were getting. My favorite thing anyone said about any of this was that they wish there was one of these boxes for every Olympic event. Me too, man, me too.

I've tried to keep everyone posted incessantly on how the teams are faring, but I've missed a couple days sick so some of my co-workers might be a little in the dark on how their team is doing. But really, shouldn't they all be reading clerkmanifesto? 

I think so too, I think so too.

So, briefly, the Swedes are looking brilliant on both sides. This could be their year. The Canadian Men are doing just fine, but the Women, considered one of the great shoe-ins of this Olympics, tanked their early games in a spectacular collapse, and it remains to be seen if they've gotten their act back together in time to get to the qualifiers. Women's Japan and S. Korea look surprisingly good. Men's Swiss are doing all right as well. My team, the Danes, are looking pretty unlikely, but I'd be ambivalent about winning having organized the whole thing. At my press time of Sunday afternoon, with five or six rounds played, I'm not sure anyone is completely out of it, well, except for Men's South Korea maybe, but at least they've won one game. It's the Olympics though, so there is much honor in just showing up and taking part. Which I hope is how everyone will feel about the Olympic Curling Pool, since, in the end, most of us are just going to be out two dollars.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Our library clientele

I offer, with no explanation or embellishment, the following transcript, as accurately and faithfully as I can recall it, from a very recent phone conversation I had at the library. Is it, you may wonder, representative? On the one hand I have never had this particular thing happen in my decades of working at my library. On the other hand, both to myself, and to the co-workers I shared it with, there was a general sense that it fairly captured some significant demographic of our library users.

ME: Good afternoon, this is the library. How may I help you?

PATRON: Hello. I would like to renew my books.

ME: Sure. I need the barcode number off of your library card.

PATRON: I, uh, my library card, uh, I don't have that.

ME: Well, I can try and renew your books from your name and some other identification, but I won't be able give you any information about titles if we can't renew them.

PATRON: That's okay. Taylor Lewis.

ME: "Lewis" is the last name? L-E-W-I-S?

PATRON: No, Taylor Lewis. The last name is "Lewis", L-E-W-I-S.

ME: Okay, thanks. And what is your birthdate?

PATRON: Um (long pause, with lots of thinking). I. Hmm. I don't know.

ME: You don't know your birthday?

PATRON: Um. I'm sorry. I'm not so good at communicating. Sorry.

ME: How about: What was the day you were born?

PATRON: April 17, 1985.

ME: Okay, you have three books that will be due now on March ten.

PATRON: Due March ten?

ME: Yes, March ten.

PATRON: Okay. Uh.

ME: Can I help you with anything else?

PATRON: Um, no. I guess not.

ME: Okay. Goodbye.

PATRON: (Long pause, then, just as I'm hanging up they start to say something I don't catch, but it's too late, the phone hits the cradle, and the call ends).

Saturday, February 17, 2018

How we do "naturalist" around here

So there I am on my morning ramble, heading towards the Mississippi, but as yet one block off of it and running parallel. I look up into a big, bare Winter tree. Could be an Oak. I don't know. There is a squirrel there, nothing too odd in that, but the end of his tail is all a pretty and colorful tribal-festive red. But more's the pity, squirrels adorn not, and I soon realize the red is blood. The squirrel's tail is bloody.

Not far away, on a branch in that same allegedly Oak tree, which might be an Ash, or a Maple, sits a enormous hawk, I'm 80 percent sure it's a hawk, and it's one of the largest I've ever seen so up close. The feathers on his left side are badly awry. He's uncomfortably trying to fix them.

If I were a naturalist I would say that the hawk leaped down upon the squirrel but mistimed his plunge just so to catch him on the tail rather than the body. The squirrel, rather justifiably, twisted round and gave the hawk a great clout in the side. Then, altercation over, and with any of the hawk's advantage gone, both went peaceably to their sides of the tree to attend to their wounds.

I suppose this could be true. But I have none of the patience, science, and sobriety for a Natural Historian. 

So as far as I'm concerned the squirrel and the hawk were both injured in a storm, traveled to this tree together, and became fast friends on the road. They knew that this tree was the mythical and famous Wild Animal Hospital Tree, and that all hurt animals who are able come there from far and wide to be healed. Nurse The Robin is tending to a pair of beetles with broken legs. Doctor The Raven mixes potions by the river's edge. And while they wait for them the squirrel and the hawk rest from their journey and talk of all they've seen and hope for. Meanwhile the magic tree, possibly an Elm, but no one really knows, works its soothing balm on their wounds.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Supply department investigates

Supply department query

To All Library Circulation Staff:

Recently someone using the date stamp was so cavalier and messy in the course of their stamping that they stamped all over one of our brand new, white worktables. These numerous stamps have been very difficult, if not impossible, to safely erase from the table, and I am furious.

If anyone has any knowledge as to when this incident took place please let me know immediately.

Thank you,

The Supply Department

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Dark web

"I think there might be something wrong with your library's Internet." A patron lets me know.

"Hmm." I reply. "Seems fine here." I note, gesturing to my own computer. "Are you still logged in?"


"Let's go take a look."

So we walk out together to his computer. He gets the screen up and says "I'm trying to go to 'Very-dangerous-websites-you-should-only-go-to-if-you're-anonymous-and-at-a-library, dot com', but it keeps taking me to 'Clerkmanifesto dot com' instead."

"Really?" I asked, surprised.

He showed me and it was true.

"Well, you know clerkmanifesto dot com is a very, very, deeply dangerous website." I said.

"Um, it doesn't look dangerous." He replied skeptically.

"Deadly." I intoned gravely. "Bill Gates refuses to even say the term 'clerkmanifesto' out loud."

"I read one of the things on it and it didn't seem particularly dangerous." He was still unconvinced.

"One of the posts? On clerkmanifesto? All the way through?" I asked.

He nodded.

So I hugged him.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Tempting fate

We might as well tempt fate. Our loss is written in the stars. No politeness or quiet is going to let us escape notice...

And with that let me tell you about my victories, if I could just find them amongst all this... stuff.

Family? No. Most certainly, absolutely, no. No.

Fame and Worldly Success? They say it's overrated. I wouldn't know from personal experience, nor have I met or talked directly to any of them.

Money? I would say I'm on average a "five"; "eight" in spending, "two" in acquiring.

Work? I love my work! Oh, you mean the kind that anyone pays anything at all for? Absolutely anything. Uh. Um. I am a clerk. I have four managers. Four. I hope that answers the question adequately.

Disposition? Bracing, bitter, with a keenness for being sad and sitting on the couch. See above listings.

Health? I have no deep complaints, yet, but I am sitting here with my fourth cold of the Winter, and my back hurts half the time.

Spirituality? I like the flowers, but am nevertheless mad at god about 90 percent of the time.

But what is today?

Yes, that.

I won everything one can win.

I would trade nothing.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

My career with the manager

Dan was in the managers' office talking to one of the managers. He likes to do this because he likes to talk to people and when he talks to the managers they never ask him what he's actually supposed to be doing, they just... talk to him. But he was talking to the manager who after 14 years is still just learning to tolerate him, and while progress has definitely been made, their conversation was not terribly long, though longer than I might have imagined. As Dan was leaving I walked into the office and said "Whatever Dan said I'd just like to advocate for the opposite!"

"Nothing against Dan." I added. "I just want all sides represented."

Then I left.

A little later this same manager was over by the supply cabinets. So I went over and said "We've got a problem. Someone just parked a non fuel efficient vehicle in a fuel efficient vehicle parking spot!"

The manager laughed because we stopped caring about the fuel efficient vehicle spots at the end of the Carter Administration. Then I added "But it might not be a problem because they were in a van with several people in it, so we can have the next fuel efficient vehicle park in one of the vanpool spots."

To which my manager said, not without a touch of affection "You're in one of your moods tonight."

Well, you gotta work the room.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Lady in black

There was quite a kerfuffle on the river this morning. I was on my daily commuting morning walk. It was bitterly cold. Snow lined the half-frozen river. On the river path up ahead two mismatched women were talking together. A car was pulled up there blocking half of the 2-lane river road. The Police drove up. A policeman got out and talked to the two women. One of the women left to carry on with her jog. The remaining woman and the policeman carried on an animated conversation with much pointing. Two more police cars pulled up. At the time I walked far enough to intersect with the scene I was able to hear the woman direct the policeman through the snow to the edge of the river ravine. I should tell you that this is no cliff, merely a steepish hill down to the wild riverside. The woman said "It was right there that the woman disappeared."

The policeman said something about footprints in the snow and instructed the woman to move her car to somewhere she could park it. The woman drove off. I passed the extra policeman emerging from their squad cars and pulling on jackets and hats. Then I left the scene behind.

But after walking on for about 50 feet, the woman who had gone to park had U-turned back to head for a parking space nearer the scene. She rolled down her window. "Did you see a woman dressed in black head down to the river?" She asked.

"No." I replied. But I said it friendly-like, as I wanted to be helpful.

She drove on.

Another couple hundred feet brought me to the river bridge I needed to cross. Crossing it I had a good view of the scene from up above, but I could see nothing unusual.

What happened? 

Well, I know you read the Internet to find out the answers to these mysteries of life.

So do I, so do I...

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Front desk vignette

The front desk of my library got really popular about an hour ago. Oh, not with the library patrons, rather with the staff. Dan came up for a chat about... something. You really don't want to know what it was, though it's always the sort of thing that's just interesting enough to go with when it's actually happening in the moment, usually. Then a Manager came up to say in her I'm-joking-but-you're-all-a-bunch-of-wastrels sort of way "Now we need three people at the front desk?"

While I bristled a little Dan simply asked the manager a personal question. The manager answered the question at some length and I noted that we now had four people at the desk. After that we learned about some family issues of my manager for a little while. This actually went on for several minutes. Then a couple of patrons needed help. At this point the front desk of my library got less popular, but not with the patrons. They were happy to be helped. And to be honest, I was kind of relieved to do so.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

From the supply department

From the Supply Department

Dear Staff:

It was recently suggested to me that we were running a bit short on liquid paper. After confirming this suggestion I put in a order for 4 or 5 bottles. A couple weeks later I put in a reminder order since the first order hadn't come. Shortly thereafter I received a full case of liquid paper in the delivery. This was like 12 bottles of liquid paper.
We have never had so much liquid paper here in the entire history of our institution, this great public library.
Then, after marveling over the prodigiousness of our liquid paper supply my "reminder" order bore redundant fruit; four more bottles of liquid paper arrived in delivery and were added to our collection.
We have a lot of liquid paper. We have 16 bottles of liquid paper!
Now you are probably wondering how does this effect you. What is your responsibility in relation to all this liquid paper?
I'm glad you've asked. We really need to work through this backlog of liquid paper. I have several ideas for increasing our liquid paper usage.

1.  We currently stock the public office supplies areas with liquid paper. Don't be afraid to recommend our liquid paper to our patrons who only need the slightest hint of encouragement to use up, destroy, and walk away with our stuff. Whenever I walk by the office supplies work table and a patron is engaged in some project that involves using up all our paper clips I always say with a smile "Help yourself to the liquid paper."

2.  Our paper shredder is a joke. It jams incessantly. Might I suggest that if you have a document that needs to be destroyed you might want to simply blot out the information with liquid paper instead.

3.   Our staff bathroom is starting to look a bit stained and grungy. While it might be a bit time consuming to touch it up with liquid paper, please consider that we're paid by the hour here, so what's the difference?

4.   Face painting in kid's room with a winter/snow theme.

5.   Sometimes the way that we are scheduled on the day's work roster can make or break our day. Don't like your desk partner? Too much non fiction shelving? If only there were some way to "fix" that schedule but leave no trace of doing so...


If we all pull together as a team, with real spirit, we can work through this supply. I'm counting on you all!

Thank you for all you do,

The Library Supply Department

Friday, February 9, 2018

Dan's idols

My co-worker Dan has a tendency to idolize some of our co-workers, usually the really industrious ones who like to work and don't fool around too much. After the seventh time he says how great one of these co-workers are I always say "Oh, you so idolize him/her!"

To which he always says "I do not!" Followed by "It's just that..." and then a five minute speech about how incredibly great and perfect the person is.

As far as I can tell he likes the no nonsense, approaches-the-work-with-steady-sincerity type of co-worker. Hard workers. I always bristle a little at this favoritism. He certainly isn't this type of co-worker. He's more the shoot-the-breeze-for-an-hour-then-work-madly-for-fifteen-minutes kind of co-worker. After which you might not be able to find him for a bit since he definitely needs a break after all that. But I'm not the kind of co-worker he idolizes either. I'm more the wander-the-library-doing-peculiar-things-for-hours-and-hours-then-save-the-day-with-some-clerking-so-fancy-you-didn't-think-it-was-humanly-possible kind of co-worker. At least that's how I like to think of it. But apparently Dan doesn't think much of it.

Or so I thought.

I was telling another co-worker about how Dan idolizes certain co-workers and that co-worker said "Like you. Dan idolizes you."

Well, what could I say then? It sort of blew my whole speech wherein I questioned his judgement.

Thursday, February 8, 2018


I rarely think of it anymore, but there was a long ago time in my art school days when I got obsessed with Raku. The ceramics department had some large plaster molds and there was one simple two-piece mold I liked of an old, squared milk jug. I made up a ton of these old milk jugs and then bisque fired them in the school's huge gas kiln. These were just a pretext for my Raku glaze experiments.

In the courtyard of the art department was a ragged little gas kiln with a door one could pull up by a jury-rigged metal side handle. This was the Raku Kiln. I found old ceramic raku glaze recipe books in the College Library and mixed up dozens of different raku glazes to slather over the milk jugs. The only ingredient I remember now from any of them is Tin Oxide. I'm pretty sure Tin Oxide was important. I could fit one of my jugs at a time in this little kiln. It took awhile to get to temperature, but I had to pay attention to it.  There was no thermometer or cone (an object used to measure heat in kilns) so I had to eyeball when it was ready. It was blinding hot when I opened the door to check, and the jug glowed bright orange. I could tell it was ready by the liquid look of the glaze on the clay.

When it was all ripe and fluid I'd pull the jug out with large metal scissors tongs. Quickly I would drop the ever so slightly molten ceramic piece into a metal garbage can filled with newspaper and sawdust. I, or maybe someone assisting would throw more newspaper on top as fast as possible and as it all erupted into giant flames we'd slam the garbage can lid on top, suffocating the fire. This process would importantly suck all the oxygen out of the glaze's environment. 

Then I'd let it cool. It was exciting. And I never knew what I'd get.

The best results were a kind of mad swirl Art Nouveau psychedelic abstract expressionist iridescence. Golds would stir into bronze with hints of sapphire bleeding into pearl and silver. Something mundane like ocher would spill heavily through the surface and be subsumed by copper and brass. Kandinsky would meet Klimt and then sputter into Pollock, but all just in an accidental sort of way.

I loved it.

Here then, answer me this: What's your favorite color? 

Yes that's a question for a 6-year old, unless you happen to have a favorite color, wherein it suddenly becomes a question with an answer. My favorite color is Raku.

What is the color of Raku? 

It is like earth-toned psychedelic. Iridescent planets. It is the color version of smoke.

But until today I had forgotten my favorite color for a long time. And I hadn't thought of Raku for many years. It was minus six degrees F outside in Minnesota, and I was on my walk along the river. I saw two lumbering woodpeckers and nothing else alive. After an hour of brisk movement I was almost starting to warm up. Then I headed into the University Campus. I was walking in a bike lane next to a sidewalk because no bikes were using it and the footing was better there. On the sidewalk next to me were three enormous turkeys. I see these turkeys a lot around town, but this time we were especially close to each other. Their plumage was as if on fire in the cold hard fierce winter sun. One of them ruffled his feathers.


And I remembered.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The response

Recently in my town we had a protracted *sort of* hostage stand-off. The most exciting part seemed to involve some tear gas and a guy throwing a microwave out of a hotel window. But mostly it all just involved a lot of waiting around and eventually a final apprehension in which nobody was hurt.

The strange, slow motion, let's-close-the-city-but-there's-no-danger response to this incident brought to the fore how an incident like this is handled differently based on the identity of the perpetrator. And so to assist you in identifying what might actually be going on in any future hostage stand-off you may encounter in the news I have prepared the following guide:

Your Guide to Poorly Covered Hostage Crises

If the hostage taker is: Black and poor

City/Government responders will be: City police, lots of them, heavily armed

In which: They immediately storm the building

This is covered by: The local TV news

The operation will result in: A dead guy.

And the final result will be: It turned out it wasn't actually a hostage situation, the guy was just confused and likely harmless, there are city protests, and the Grand Jury decides not to indict any police officers.

If the hostage taker is: A group of alt-right fanatics

City/Government responders will be: FBI

In which: A section of the city will be closed down for months while painfully cautious and careful negotiations carry on.

This is covered by: Full National Media saturation coverage even though nothing ever happens.

The operation will result in: Right-wingers being easily apprehended while making a desperate break for snack foods, however one guy accidentally shoots himself in the leg.

And the final result will be: Everyone found guilty and then everyone released a month later on technicalities.

If the hostage taker is: A group of left-wing protesters

City/Government responders will be: Police, CIA, FBI, National Guard.

In which: After a one-day stand-off a raid is triggered by an on edge National Guard member firing on the Police.

This is covered by: Full National Media saturation coverage, most of it inaccurate and only corrected in unpopular books written four years after the fact.

The operation will result in: The apprehension of protesters and one dead responder killed by friendly fire.

And the final result will be: A wide variety of prison sentences, little understanding that none of the protesters were armed, and a general angry sense of the protesters being responsible for the dead National Guardsman shot by a startled FBI agent.

If the hostage taker is: A White-collar fugitive.

City/Government responders will be: Local Police.

In which: There's just sort of a stand-off until the guy gives himself up.

This is covered by: Local media who somehow never manage to provide any solid information until days after the incident is finished and no one cares anymore.

The operation will result in: Who cares.

And the final result will be: I don't know. Probably some kind of trial or something.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Sidewalk hijinks

After three months of freezing rain, light snows, partial thaws, deep freezes, and heavy snows, the sidewalks and walking paths of my city are at about average for this time of year. That is to say they are neither dangerous nor miserable to walk on, but they do require a certain care and attentiveness, with also a smidgen of struggle. There are good long sections of relatively clear footing, occasional banks of snow to climb, areas of greasy slush to plow through (like walking on sand), a bit of powdery fluff to crunch over, and the dreaded ice patches.

Of course ice patches are the worst of it, and when a dusting of snow cleverly obscures one it can be even worse. However these ice slicks are isolated enough that sticking to a clearly safe section of sidewalk is usually no significant hardship. A great case in point comes from my walk this morning. I was walking along the river when, on my mostly clear path, stood an island of pure, slick ice. And right in the middle of that patch of ice was one fresh and bright yellow banana peel. Almost like a joke, but there it was.

I suppose there was only one thing to think as I easily skirted the danger:

"Well now, that's redundant."

Monday, February 5, 2018


As you read this the Super Bowl is over and one of the teams won. Hopefully the good and pure team won, while the team full of evil, bad people lost. But as I write it is Superbowl Sunday! In fact the Superbowl is taking place this very day in my own city! It is terribly exciting! I drove by the Superbowl Stadium just minutes ago on my way to work! I said to myself "In, like, six hours the Superbowl will be played in that very stadium!"

And then at that point I had used up my allotment of exclamation points for the month and had to stop caring.

It was pretty easy to stop caring because Superbowl Stadium Minneapolis looked exactly like it usually does when nothing whatsoever is going on there. Also the roads were emptier than usual. The city is blasted by cold and by the grimy dirt that comes with waves of snows and plows and salt and driving and Winter. The only things even indicating the upcoming Superbowl were a few already exhausted looking banners on freewayside buildings and one lone plane with a small, unreadable banner circling pathetically through the gouts of winter steams.

Also aren't there far more important things than this ridiculous Superbowl that doesn't even include the local team? For instance the Barcelona Football Club had a game today! Now that's Football!! Messi!!!!! Iniesta! Umtiti! Suaaaaarezzzz!!!!

Exclamation points? Oh. No. We don't ration exclamation points for Barcelona.