Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Still flu week?

So is it still flu week?

Oh yeah, totally. Today I have this terrible headache that feels like a cleaver is being slammed down on my skull when I cough.

Oh, do you, er, cough much?

All the time! Except now they tend to be these feeble little fake coughs because the real ones are so awful I have to work up my pain tolerance for them. So I sort try to trick myself into thinking "That was totally a cough!" And sometimes it works, sort of.

Did you stay home from work then today?

NO! I went for four whole hours before packing it in. Everybody said "You look terrible." which was strangely gratifying. I am finding I prefer it slightly more than the dubious but trying to be optimistic "You look like you're starting to get better." But I like both of them.

You have been profoundly ill for more than nine days now. Why are you so cheerful?

I don't know. I really don't know. Do you wanna see my Halloween outfit?

Sure, what is it.

Here. It's a giant bloody cleaver that goes right through my skull! I got it in Tivoli. Even when I wore it there all the Danes stared at me and laughed.

It's... very nice.

It's just exactly how I feel.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Flu week: Day infinity

Cough, cough, cough, cough, cough.

Oh, hi. 

I didn't hear you come in. So, I guess Flu Week is over because I went to work today. And co-workers said nice things like "You don't look as gray as you did last time I saw you" while they subtly backed away from me and I thought "No, I'm the same gray really".

Oh, work is hard when one is sick!

I coughed.

Also at one point I briefly fell asleep on a shelving cart I was resting on. It was comfy! I wish I was there now. It was the longest period of sustained, uninterrupted sleep I've experienced in over a week.

I left my job seven hours early today. I mean, enough is enough. After all, it's still Flu Week, isn't it? Wait, I can't remember what we decided earlier, 

it is still Flu Week or it isn't still Flu Week?

I'm beginning to suspect I might not be the right person for all these decisions.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Flu week: Fun with coughing

Warning: It's Flu Week. There's always a chance it can get a little, er, graphic ahead.

One might have noticed, in following these reports from Flu Week, that most of the discussion has centered around...


If any of these posts were written in, say, the first three days of Flu Week they might have been more about headaches, deathly illness, teeth chattering chills, or any assortment of truly terrible things. But once THE COUGH entered into it it had a magnetic ability to draw attention to itself. Maybe it was its genial nature, maybe it was the charming way it glints in the evening's glow, or maybe it was the way that every 14 seconds, for six days, day and night, it yelled as loudly as it possibly could.

I guess we'll never know.

But be that as it may we are going to once again discuss THE COUGH.

However, up til now we feel we have been pretty critical of THE COUGH. 

What about the good qualities of THE COUGH?

So I made up a good quality to talk about, because I'm a glass is half full kind of guy even if it's actually empty.

Side note: for those of you who pay no attention to the "banner" line of my blog page (which is to say anyone currently reading this, including, usually, me), I am now racing to my blog to change that banner line from:

This small blog, read by just a few dozen people, is all that prevents the Internet from collapsing in on itself and becoming a black hole of knowledge and wisdom, sucking everything in the world down into its absolute darkness of overwhelming, runaway gravity.


I'm a glass is half full kind of guy even if it's actually empty.

End of Side note.

Anyway, onto the positive thing I have found about THE COUGH:

You can find a lot of cool stuff in a cough like this!

I have now, in just over a week, coughed 51,840 times (I counted. It was something to do). And when one coughs 51,840 times one is going to bring up some stuff, some surprising stuff.

Now I'm not talking just about the vast panapoly of the rainbow of phlegms, I'm talking about, for instance, a 1934 "Wheat" penny, which would have been worth something if it had been in mint condition. It wasn't. It was actually pretty hard to recognize for a penny at first. I also brought up an old "Monopoly" "iron" piece, and a tiny bit of pipe-connecting from a bong last seen in 1983.

I'm just saying THE COUGH was no picnic, but it did have a touch of historical value to it.

Also, during one particularly vicious bout of coughing I came up with what I am 95% certain was a piece of my lung! 


I hope I'm not going to need that one later.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Flu week: The cough

Unlike in yesterday's missive, I will not be ceaselessly interrupting my comments here to cough. Well, I will be, but I won't be narrating it.

But let us take a moment now to reflect on The Cough. What a clever little piece of engineering it really is. One has this whole, essential, air system, with the lungs at the core. And they are really exposed to quite a bit, I mean, they are exposed to pretty much anything in the world. So there's this mucous stuff to protect the system. And if something nasty gets into it, or some virus invades, the mucous goes into overtime and throws itself mercilessly over everything, rendering it mute and neutral. But now one has to bundle this huge amount of cleverly used mucous out of the lungs and trachea and pipes and all that. How is one supposed to get rid of this stuff?

That is what The Cough is a solution to. Get a breathful of air. Compress it in ones lungs, and then blow it out ones throat in an explosion that blasts out the used up mucous into the mouth where it can be properly discarded. 

So the solution to getting stuff out of the lungs? An explosion made of the air that's just sitting there anyway. It's brilliant.

Unfortunately it is pure misery for everyone involved in the process. One could easily use this to prove that the universe is fantastically clever, but cold to the point of sociopathology. But I prefer to picture someone so wildly carried away with a piece of fantastic design that they forgot it was going to be used on real subjects. Although it might all be the same thing. There is no god, really, it's just one great big Mad Scientist.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

It's flu week

It's flu week at clerkmanifesto! C'mon, it'll be fun! Wait, let me cough.

Wait, let me cough again.

Wait, I have to get up, massage my aching head, and moan for a bit.

Right. Where were we?

It's flu w

Wait, I have to cough.

I have to cough again.

Oops, just one more then.

(long passage of wracking, convulsive coughs that goes on for 17 minutes)

Right, now that that's all sorted let's get back to flu week at clerkmanifesto.

Wait, I have to cough.

So flu week. You want to know what's so great about flu week?

I don't know, maybe the juice?

Friday, October 26, 2018

The flu

I have the flu. And let me tell you it is not pretty. I have been in a near constant abject misery for four days, which feels like a lot more than four days probably because there has been so little sleeping during that time, and so much coughing. Somehow coughing stretches out the fabric of time. So, naturally, at some point I broke. I went to the Internet.

My wife and I looked up "How to get better from the flu fast".

I've made this sort of search before but I was desperate. I was hoping for something like "Firmly grasp the leaf of a houseplant and, speaking out loud and clearly, name eight different kinds of berries. Within minutes you will be feeling vastly better."

But what I got was

"Drink fluids. Loads and loads of fluids."

I am still pretty sick, but I am very, very, very well hydrated. And though I continue to feel miserable, sometimes I am too busy going to the bathroom to notice.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The golf ball at end of season

From up in my aerie, watching golf, I have found the people playing interesting enough, but I like the golf balls on their own the best.

It is late in the season, surely the last week or two for golf in Minnesota. The ever industrious grounds crew can no longer keep the leaves off the course, though they try. Pale brown golds pool up in the sand traps, and herds of scatter-brained leaves tumble together down the fairways and then back again.

Not too many golfers come through on a blustery Sunday. It's peaceful. And then a small white ball comes bounding down the greens. I don't even know why I see it among all the bright scudding leaves, the birds and the squirrels. But I do. Dispossessed of its initial impetus the little ball is, to me, on some journey of his own volition. The ball has its own life and purpose. It bounces into something more like a roll, climbs a little hill, then drops into the sand trap where it is lost in a pile of leaves. Will it ever be found again? 

Two more balls come looking for it. One rolls quietly and sweetly down the middle of the fairway, almost to the green. It looks left and right, but sees nothing. Another ball bounds off to the rough grass before the trees. It thinks "Wait, what just happened?" And then the search party is over and everything is quiet.

I look away. It is time for my wife and I to walk and get a coffee. I want to know how the story ends, but I fear that if I keep watching my little dream will be broken. People will enter into it and break the spell. Let the balls then lie there forever. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

And how are you?

I am coughing as I write this, but it's not about being sick. I'm sick, but I really wanted to discuss my fascination with greetings.

Last night I was feverish, coughing, shivering madly, and sweltering. Sometimes my throat was so swollen and there was so much phlegm everywhere that it was hard for me to get enough oxygen. My head was in agony. I might have slept a couple of fitful, miserable hours.

Slightly improved in the morning I stayed home all day in my pajamas and moaned and coughed. My brain feels loose and bruised in my skull.

My wife came home in the late afternoon and said let's go walk and get a coffee. I could not tell if this was a good idea except for how all her ideas turn out to be good ideas. So I got dressed, which was exhausting, and I stumbled up the hill to the coffee shop. 

A barista came out that we mildly know. "How are you?" He asked.

"Good." I said.

Well, maybe I know something that I don't.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Grape retrospective

Traditionally on clerkmanifesto we celebrate my friend's, Grape's, birthday on this day, October 23rd. I best like to celebrate it with a story from our past. But I've been doing this for a long time, so a lot of the key stories have been covered. Let us review:

1. Grape saves my life.

2. Grape almost kills me.

3. We dissect a rattlesnake.

4. We swim with a hundred sharks.

5. We hide in a tent in the John Muir Wilderness while it never stops raining and eat peanut butter, drink whiskey, and read just enough of Rimbaud's Season in Hell so that we can say we did.

6. We eat far too much Peyote, see a spectral apparition (some of us do), and then sit around alone in the suburbs, all our spirituality thwarted.

I still blame the spectral apparition for that.

Fortunately there are a few stories left to work with, but since I have been writing about golf so much these days I have decided I will tell you about the Summer of Mini-Golf.

It might not be a very good story, but it was a very fun Summer. Maybe mostly because it was during a not very happy time in my life.

I was living at my parents' home, kind of paralyzed there with self hatred and despair, lost, when Grape came back for Summer Vacation from College.

"Let's go miniature golfing." He said.

So we did. Constantly. I think there was a nice course near where he was staying. We golfed. Not only are we very competitive, but we tend to think a lot of games can be improved. In our many hours out on the links (Hah!) we were no longer satisfied with 54 or 108 holes of "normal" mini golf. What about timed holes? What about playing a hole pool style? What about designated paths through the holes that gave them pars that would more suitably be set at 15 or 16. We played speed golf, kick golf, hit the other guy's golf ball golf, and closest to the hole golf. I like to think we got pretty good at it.

Of course the trick with stuff like that is that even though it seems absurd, one has to take it seriously. We quite liked to compete. We quite liked to win. We took it very seriously.

I'm just saying I have not much golfed, but out on those mini golf courses, I learned that all that fresh air can be ennobling, and diverting, and spiritual, and fun. Even if mainly we were running around hooting or lying on our bellies or something.

It might have been another year or two before I found my way out of the dead end I thought I'd be in forever, but I think Grape and all that golfing helped.

Which brings me back to item number one in the list of previous memoirs: Grape saves my life, which I think a wide assortment of these old stories tend to be about, even if just a little. Even the one where he almost killed me (and himself). 

I suppose, at its best, that's what friendship does.

So happy birthday Grape. Thanks for life.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Why the library is closed

Because we are closed for our most terrifying, bone-chilling event of the year, an October event of pure horror called, brace yourself, "In Service Day", someone at my library put out a big sign in our entry. It's a four foot tall A-Frame that says:

Library Closed

Then they taped a piece of paper to it with the fine print:

Library will be closed on Monday. 

So it goes something like this:

Library Closed

Library will be closed on Monday.

I was pretty alarmed by this sign. It was a Saturday morning and I thought all the people would come to our library, see the sign from a distance, and just... go away.

But of course I was wrong. I forgot about how library patrons actually are. I forgot their shambling relentlessness. Library patrons are like the walking dead. No, wait, they're like motivated zombies. If there's a way in they will find it, a loose board covering a window, a gate left ever so slightly ajar, an inaccurate library closed sign, it doesn't matter. They're coming in.

Nothing will stop them. They want brains.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

A confusion of weathers

This is Minnesota.

We are in the heart of fall, and it is astounding. The color has caramelized and is just starting to overcook. The winds picked up and gold swirls around our feet like the ghosts of cats. Yesterday I got home from work and my wife and I went for a walk. It was too warm for a jacket, our usually brown river had run clear and sparkling blue, and everything in the world had something to say about Halloween.

This morning looked a bit colder, though surely as pretty, but I was off to work again and would have little to do with it. I was in a car, on a highway. Everything seemed normal enough when, from out of nowhere, a great swirl of white dust descended upon me. I thought maybe a truck coming the other way was carrying a load, perhaps of minerals and feathers? I was unable to process what I was seeing. I waited for the dust cloud to pass, but it didn't. It spread wide. It seemed familiar somehow. It filled the air. It came from the sky.

Even as I suspected it to be snow I couldn't quite believe it.

"It must be something else." I thought.

But it wasn't. It snowed on me the rest of the drive. It snowed heavily as I walked through the library parking lot. I could even see it collect a little on the Autumn leaves. It was October 20. It was snow.

Winter says hi, and that it will be here shortly.

Collect acorns.

Saturday, October 20, 2018


There was a study a long time ago where four-year-olds were given a marshmallow and told they could eat it right away, or, if they waited, with their tempting, uneaten marshmallow, for the marshmallow dispensing researcher to return, they could then have two marshmallows. A second marshmallow would be added to the first.

The study found that some kids could wait, and some kids could very much not wait. And when they revisited those kids 13 years later, when they were all 17, they found that the kids who were able to wait and get two marshmallows, back when they were four, now all had notably higher IQ's than the kids who, back then, couldn't. The kids who ate the one marshmallow, besides turning out dumber, were also more likely to have drug problems and to get in trouble a lot too.

Naturally I wondered what I would have done in the test as a four-year-old. I longed to be the smart child who would have waited and gotten two marshmallows, but that didn't ring true. Did I eat the one marshmallow? that seemed a bit off too.

And then it dawned on me what I would have done, even as a four-year-old.

I would have gotten mad at god.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Everyday time travel

I woke up this morning feeling very cozy, or mostly cozy until I thought "I have to get up!" And then not cozy at all when I thought about how I won't be going to sleep again for two nights, and I'll be in Denmark when I do it. Hurtling through the air I will pierce Friday night over a vast ocean, and I will reduce the very night to a few paltry hours. I will leap forward in time, and, exhausted, stumble through to the future in a strange land where vowels happen in the back of one's throat.

And I will count myself lucky to do it.

After all, what's a little weariness in the face of miracles and wonders? Should we forget miracles? Can we help it?

GOD: It is I, God.

Moses: Oh, hi. Normally I'd be super excited, but I slept terribly last night. I'm just not cut out for all this desert traveling. The sand! The flies!

GOD: Right. So, I have Ten Commandments for you and your special people.

Moses: Ten? Er, great. Do you mind if I lay down for a minute. So tired.

GOD: You can sleep a bit later. Here, take these.

Moses: These?

GOD: No, these.

Moses: Oops. Sorry.

GOD: Here, take this.

Moses: Got it, got it. So, what were these again?

GOD: Commandments. There are ten. They are very important!

Moses: Right, right, got it. Got it. Got it...

GOD: Moses!

Moses: I'm awake! I'm awake! I just don't sleep well in deserts. Can you turn down that bush? It's so bright.

GOD: (Muttering) I don't think this is going to go the way I planned.

Well, neither will my trip. But I'll be flying, in the sky, and racing through time. Just like you. So I'll try to keep my eyes open, and we'll meet in the promised land, or at the next blog post. Whichever comes first.

Thursday, October 18, 2018


I am at my most confused about writing this blog the day before I go on a trip to Europe and have to write a whole passel of blog posts ahead of time, and have now sat here and written four blog posts, one after the other, and am out of ideas.

For five and a half years I have put out a little essay every single day without fail. I'm not paid. I can't be fired. The Internet, if it can be said to be an entity, and it can, doesn't even particularly like me, or it wouldn't, if it could see me way down here. My portfolio is full so that when the gods finally call me into their committee room I can lay a complete set of documentation before them, all so that they can say "And what, exactly, do you expect us to do about this?" At which point I can confidently say that I covered that in numbers 12, 342, 417, 901, 1,011, 1,248, 1,249, 1,534, and 1,939. Despite artist rhetoric to the contrary I have finished learning how to write and need no more practice. I've broken all my persistence records. I've played the fool and I saw the face of God and lived. I've won so many Nobel Prizes I can no longer keep count. I've tasted many cheeses and cracked the gelato code.

 And now I need another of these blog posts for... who?

Aw, you know who. You knew it all along.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The tree

When we moved into where we live now I quickly noticed that a big tree was blocking the purity of one of our best views.

"If only that tree weren't there." I thought. I may even have said it aloud a few dozen times.

Then one day we came home and there was a work crew around and up in the tree. They had chainsaws, and ropes, and they were cutting up this old giant oak.

"Oh my God!" I cried. "I've wished death on this beautiful tree. I'm a tree killer! Please let it not be so."

I raced over to the work crew (half of whom were idle, as it is and ever should be) and I asked, mortified "Is this whole tree coming down?"

"No." One guy reassured me. "We're just clearing away the branches that are too near the wires. The tree will be fine."

Oh. Drat. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Lost opportunity

For what I believe was the first time in my long career at my library, a job was posted in an odd work category perched above mine, but within reach. I was not interested in it, but I was surprised by many people asking me if I was going to pursue it. Invariably I answered in the colorful and overblown way that, much like in this blog, helps keep my popularity from getting out of control.

I told the truth.

Working for the person who would be my manager in that job would be agony. I may occasionally, in response, have mentioned preferring to cut off a finger than work for this person. I didn't specify any particular finger as I didn't want any of my fingers to feel bad, but perhaps because they all thought the finger I meant wasn't them, all my fingers totally understood my position. They, after all, knew this manager too, who is moderately nice in acquaintance, but deeply problematic professionally. Deeply. And my fingers are no fools.

Now we fast forward to where the position has closed, and the interviews are over. It is evening and I am working on the automated check in machine (hey, if it's so automated, why can't it take care of itself?). This manager wanders over to me on the way out the door for the day.

"How come you didn't go for that position?" The manager asks. "It seems like you'd be good at it."

Aw shucks. I take it all back. This manager is not without some excellent judgement! Plus, I love my fingers!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Our multi-cultural workforce

The library system I work in is very keen on hiring a diverse staff, one that reflects the community it serves. There have been initiatives, educational imperatives, grandly touted County Plans, and solemn vows. This has gone on for several years now. We have marginally expanded the multi-cultural diversity of the staff, particularly among the lower paying jobs, but we are down to something like one percent African American employees. If any more black people leave the library system we will have minus percent black people working at our library.

This is very few black people. 

I mean, if you were struggling with the math there. 

Is this a problem?

No. Not at all. That is, if you're willing to give up on the whole American Experiment thing, end human progress, and eventually be beaten to death in your bed by jackbooted thugs.

Which, surprisingly, 40 percent of us here in the country do want now.

But it's only 40 percent, and a majority is a majority, so I am now going to tell us how to fix the problem.

And forgive me for taking a page from the Top Executives playbook.

Pay them more. A lot more.

If one is not getting the job candidates one wants one has to sweeten the pot. It's not rocket science, but if you want a rocket scientist and offer 12$ an hour no one is going to come explain to you why you don't have any rocket scientists to explain it to you. Which is very convenient if you very much want to change things, without having to change anything.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Birds in rain

I went out to walk up the river in the rain, but I made a critical mistake. I forgot my rain hat.

I had my rain jacket, which is pretty long and has a hood. So I thought everything would be okay. I don't know why I thought this. Maybe because a hood works at keeping my head dry. But I forgot the disastrous side effects of a hood. 

The hood should carry a side effects warning like so:

Rain hood for the use of keeping ones head dry in the rain. Side effects may include (but are not limited to) severe tunnel vision with visibility reduced to the patch of sidewalk six inches in front of ones feet. As hood saturates one will become functionally blind. Neck problems also common with long term use. Don't get wet.

What I am saying is that I walked two miles up the river more or less blind. Every rare once in awhile I would pull my hood off and look around. "My god!" I would cry. "The world is beautiful beyond belief. Truly October is a wonder!" Then my head would get wet and I would hide back in my hood.

It was a hateful walk.

I wrote a blog post in my head about it. It was all about being damp, and cold, and late, and molding. It was a list of disappointments I can no longer remember now. And it all led up to how I didn't even see any turkeys.

I was plodding along composing this misery prose to myself when I suddenly noticed that the rain had let up. I peeled off my soaking hood.

There were, to my surprise, turkeys everywhere, all around me. I'd actually wandered into a flock of turkeys while complaining about how they were nowhere to be found. Wet, iridescent, and bronze in the rain. Giant, steaming, and faintly phosphorescent. My heroes, foils, friends, and muses. Turkeys, turkeys, turkeys, turkeys.

And I thought "Well there's that ruined too."

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Our weird request

After all these decades working at a library there are few common behaviors of our patrons that still surprise me. But after so many years, after encountering it probably a thousand times, this one still throws me. It goes something like this:

A patron calls to renew a book. I say "Sure, I just need the barcode number off your library card."

And they are stunned. Breathless. Completely flabbergasted.

They never in a million years imagined this eventuality.

It is a totally unanticipatable event and they have to totally reorient the entire renewal process. They fall silent in a kind of wounded shock. They mutter something like "It's in my upstairs cabinet" or "I think it's out in the glove compartment of the card". They then add "Do you really need it?"

"Yes." I answer brightly. Sometimes I add in all the bits about data privacy and why I need it.

They usually groan, then, in a very put upon voice they say "I'll go get it." Often, after that, they yell at someone "They need the library card!" Like we're crazy. "Will you get it from out the bathroom soap dispenser?"

Then there's a pause.


Well, it's not usually the bathroom soap dispenser, but it's often something surprisingly like it.

Why do they think they don't need a library card to do something on their library record over the phone? They don't tend to think this way about their card in person. Do they think we'll recognize their voice? 

Do they think the conversation is supposed to go like this:

Me: Good evening, this is the library. How may I help you?

Them: I have some books I'd like to renew.

Me: They are now due on November 4th.

Them: That was easy.

Me: I'm glad. We've had a lot of time to get the process just right.

Them: Well, thank you. Bye.

Yes, that is pretty much exactly what they think.

We should probably work on that.

Friday, October 12, 2018


If we were to take clerkmanifesto as a novel, playing out in real time, this would be me ruining the surprise. We are soon off to Copenhagen. But this is not a novel, it is real life. And whither I go, there goeth clerkmanifesto, one way or another.

Why Copenhagen? You wonder.

Well I'd go anywhere with my wife.

But since this is somewhere in particular, you may wonder, why Copenhagen?

Ah. As the greatest of all Danish writers, Hans Christian Andersen, once said, "Travelling expands the mind rarely."

"I don't understand." You might say. I certainly would if I were you.

No problem. I think this should take care of everything:

"Just living is not enough."  Said the butterfly. "one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower."

Is that more Hans Christian Andersen?" You wonder.

Yes. Yes it is.

"It's nice, but I'm still a bit murky on the whole thing."

"To travel is to live." 

Hans Christian Andersen said that. 

He's Danish.

"Like the pastry?" You wonder.

Wait, I'm confused. No, not so much like the pastry.

"Oh, okay." You say. Or maybe it's me who says that. But you're still kind of curious, despite everything, why, in particular, Copenhagen?"



They have an amusement park.

"I see. Why didn't you just say so."

I'm very shy.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Stuck in library elevator

It has long been a dream of mine to be stuck in the library elevator, preferably alone, with a cart of interesting books, and a coffee, after having had a pee. If I may be so blunt.

I think I may be so blunt.

Today at my library someone got stuck in the elevator. So unfair. Today would have been a great day for me to get stuck in the elevator. But what day wouldn't? I was talking with a co-worker who mentioned how the last person who got stuck in our elevator was stuck in the elevator with a bat. I vaguely remember this. Did the bat crawling into the elevator cause it to jam? Did the bat set off an alarm? Why aren't there several dozen blog posts in my vast blog history about this incident?

I wouldn't like to be stuck in the elevator with a bat. Oh sure, you're picturing a cute, Halloween, cartoon bat, but my wife and I had a bat get in our apartment one night long ago and it was very...


And I suppose that's just the way it would go for me, with my luck; I finally get to be stuck at work in the elevator and it's with a bat! Or maybe a large spider, shiver. Or perhaps a terrifying apparition.

I wouldn't like it, but I'd take it. 

Beggars can't be choosers, and, when motivated, I'm pretty good at making friends.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Even Bansky can't win

Aw man. Even Bansky can't win.

In a week full of hideous news and the triumph of evil, Bansky dipped his toe in. Thank you Bansky.

I assume you know the story, but a few of you get all your news from clerkmanifesto, which is actually a good idea that I would recommend to anyone. So you might not have heard about it yet.

The mysterious artist Bansky, creator of deranged theme parks and satirical graffiti, had one of his iconic images go up on auction at Southeby's. It sold for over a million pounds. But years earlier Bansky had hidden a shredder in the structure of the frame just in case the piece ever came up in auction. The moment the gavel sounded an alarm went off in the framed piece and it self-shredded, lowering weirdly out the bottom of the frame with half the canvas sliced into hanging ribbons.

This was good stuff. It spread through the International news and amused the Internet; a dashing and dramatic little critique of capitalism and the art world, and a new iconic moment in the history of art.

And what now of the destroyed painting? 

They say its probably already worth twice as much as what it sold for.

They get you coming, and they get you going...

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Chewing it over

A manager was out working the front desk and came to the back room of the library where I was working on the automated check in machine.

"They want to know where we keep the chewed books."

It's always a little funny when library patrons somehow think we're a much grander institution than we are, like when someone calls me when I'm on the phones at the library and says "Can I speak to your lost and found department?"

I mean, we're a pretty big library, with quite a few workers, but on the phones I'm going to be pretty much the whole deal, though of course there's someone in reference I can transfer to for certain things, especially if the caller is irritating. So yes, I guess I'm the lost and found department, as long as I'm also 200 other departments simultaneously.

And so it is with keeping the chewed books somewhere. We do have a place for them, it's just they are interfiled with the wet books, the stained books, the torn up books, the written in books, the candy or wine coated books, the crushed books, the infested books, the pickled books, the partial books, and the terrible smelling books.

My manager came back from this shelf of mutilated books with a book that had a heavily chewed up corner. It was unmissable, obvious damage of the sort that rendered it unusable, even taking into account our paltry, public library standards. "They're not going to go for it." My manager said sadly. "They're not going to admit responsibility." And, head hanging low, they went out to face the patron.

A little later this manager of mine came back with the book. "They said they didn't do it. What could I do, call them a liar? I guess we're out a book."

"Not necessarily." I said. "We can do it like a big company would."

"How's that?" My manager asked.

"We can keep checking it out until we get to someone who doesn't fight the fine."

Of course we both knew I was just kidding. The book and its value to our collection were gone and we would simply have to eat it. 

Fortunately someone already got a start on it for us.

Monday, October 8, 2018


I was out at the front desk of the library with one of my colleagues. From out of nowhere, while we were doing pretty much nothing, this person complained that we weren't paid enough. I agreed as a matter of course, but actually I hadn't much thought of it. I tend to focus on how badly we are treated, how disrespected, and how stupidly everything is run. Pay?

Then it occurred to me: I have been here for decades. I am paid a lot more than they are!

They totally deserve a raise!

For myself I'd just like a couple of library cats. Oh, and I have this list of 27 people to be fired or demoted.

We all have our dreams.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

How the coffee got all over the counter

I make two or three espressos every day. So I'm pretty good at it. But one still has to pay attention. And one still has to strive to streamline, refine, and improve.

This afternoon I was making my two o'clock latte. I carefully packed in the coffee (Equal Exchange Bird of Paradise, espresso grind). I put the portafilter on the machine. Then I noticed my little workhorse espresso machine was running low on water. A lightbulb went off in my head.

When I make a larger espresso, like I was about to, it can take awhile. Oh, surely less than a minute, but still, I'm a man on the move. What if I poured the water into the machine while actually running the espresso machine. I could doubletask instead of just waiting around for the espresso to finish!

I started the machine, took my cup, filled it with water, flipped open the water reservoir lid, and filled the cup with cold water. Then I poured some water into the reservoir, sloppily. I resolved to do better next cup fill. I filled the cup with water a second time, and then the other shoe dropped:

My espresso was pouring out into nothing.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Flowers for Algernon

There are some novels that stick with me. These are books and stories that seem personal and talismanic, capturing some essence of my own life, speaking over and over to something about my life in different ways through time. Whether or not these are the best books ever written is unclear to me. I am too personally involved. My short list has contained Catcher in the Rye (inability to adjust to a broken world, especially while broken), Pride and Prejudice (deep love teaching humility), Mice and Men (a reflection on my life working with a library automated check in machine), Kafka's short story The Hunger Artist (my own sometimes confusing desire to make art and the equally confusing reactions of others to it), and Flowers for Algernon.

What is it about FlowerS for Algernon?

I think it is the story of everything that happens to us in life, and the story of life itself.

Charlie is a person with an IQ of 68 who understands little of the world around him. But he is enrolled in some sort of experimental procedure which slowly makes him into a genius. Alas, the effect is revealed to be only temporary and Charlie slowly reverts back to his former capabilities.

Everything that opens up to us is a miracle, hitherto unimagined, and we are made magnificent just in the witness of it, in our soaring possibility, but it all begins to slip away from the moment it reaches its height. All our powers meet something greater, and, helplessly, we are driven back where we began, watching it all slip away.

Where we are at any given time in that trajectory is the question, isn't it?

Friday, October 5, 2018

Golf, from far away

Watching so much amateur golf at a distance I often wonder why the players don't get more upset when they mess up their shots, which, allowing for statistical outliers, they do exclusively. I know if I were playing I would be throwing almost constant tantrums, albeit quietly, with occasional bitter remarks and a few bizarre, self-inflicted injuries. 

Then today I saw a man with a ball on the rough. It looked like an easy chip to the green. He was quite close and had to have been at least a little happy with the approach that had left him there. He just had to pop the ball up a little and softly place it on the green. Alas, it did not go to plan. He failed to get under the ball and so sent it on a short line drive tearing on past the hole. I don't even know where the ball ended up as it scudded too far away for me to see. The golfer stood there for a second and then hurled his iron high into the air. I watched it sail above him, peacefully flipping end over end. He watched it too. I realized a little bit before him that the club would be landing on him if he didn't move, but he caught on in time, though he was forced to take an undignified skip to vacate its landing area.

And finally I fully recognized myself; oh, that is what agony looks like from a distance.

Golf is a peaceful game, but like everything else down here, only from the clouds.