Thursday, December 5, 2019

Goat






Goat.

IAA, that is, it's an acronym. If you don't follow any sports you may, by the grace of god and your beautiful innocence, have managed to evade it. You haven't missed much. It means Greatest Of All Time. It's very popular in the chatter surrounding a lot of sports these days. But it's dangerously hyperbolic. 

And kind of silly.

I mean, you don't hear me going on about Caravaggio by constantly calling him "the goat" and putting little goat emojis next to his name every time I mention him. How can one possibly judge a talent against all of time and all of history? One can't. There are always too many variables; limitations of the era, personal tastes, cultural context. That's why when I get really excited while talking about Caravaggio and his painting I keep it more dignified and personal. I merely say: He's objectively the best painter ever, which is a

Wait. We're getting sidetracked.

I wanted to talk about Lionel Messi. Very recently he won his sixth Ballon d'Or. This means "Golden Ball". It's an award for the best soccer player of the year. No one has ever won six of these before. So it has thrown a great deal of fuel on the already burning fire about how Messi is the greatest of all time.

He is very good. Quite good really.

And I do have a bit of a soft spot for him, watching him, as I do, in every single game he ever plays in for years now.

But is he better than Pele? Is he better than Maradona? Or even Ronaldo? Ronaldo? And Ronaldinho? Or the man he nipped to the Ballon d'Or post this year: Virgil Van Dijk? 

I mean, it's just sports. It's not like people have collected any statistics about them. It's not like anyone of note has expressed an opinion on it. 

It's not like we have any footage of these people in action.

So I guess we'll never know.







Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The shelving dilemna









Dear Library Staff:



As you know the upstairs shelving, all our adult fiction and non fiction, has grown tight.  One can hardly fit a new book in up there without twisting a shoulder in the effort. There are a number of reasons for this problem.

1. People just don't check out books like they used to, what with all their really cool, um, portable phones they have instead.

2. We keep chipping away at our available shelving space in order to sneak in makerspace areas, free dental service areas, circus acrobat classes, and lounge areas for all our extremely tired library patrons. And they sure are exhausted!

3. We keep buying new books, and the more we buy the more they make to sell us, which we simply cannot resist!

4. The book market is flooded, it's a buyer's market, and it's no longer worth people's effort to steal anything from our collection anymore.



We have employed multiple solutions to the problem of our disappearing available shelving.

1. Kill lists, where we print off the name of all the books that haven't been checked out in a year and relocate them to a couch factory.

2. Machine book processing, which not only saves staff time, but causes the occasional book to get eaten.

3. Extended check out periods. Did you know that officially starting on January 1, the new check out period for most items will be extended to seven years? Some of these books really do take a while to get through.


Nevertheless our methods to free up shelving, as you can easily see upstairs right now, have not been effective enough. That is why, starting next week, we are raising the stakes. Under the presumption that anything still on our shelves is definitionally unwanted, we will be weeding everything on the shelf at our library. So if there's anything you'd rather not see weeded from our collection I suggest you check it out this week and store it in your own house.

Do please bring it back though by the end of 2027.



Thank you,




The Library Manangement





Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Inspiration







After a week in which a cold, holidays, and inclement weather conspired to keep my wife and I largely, and contentedly, indoors, Monday came. They say all good things must come to an end. They say a lot of stuff. Some of it is even right.

So after days of peacefully watching rain, freezing rain, hail, slushy snow, and snow fall out our windows a new day dawned bright blue and sunlight exploded off the downtown buildings. The sidewalks twinkled at me. Smashed cars littered the sides of the road. And I was off to walk to work.

Here is the beautiful thing about walking to work: It's inspirational! My mind is fecund in the fresh air. The birds stimulate me. The River stirs me. I am a font of blog posts. For a solid hour I walk along thinking of fabulous new ideas all to bring here and write down for the world to see!

Except today, for a solid hour, during my walk I thought only one thing:

"Don't fall. Don't fall. Don't fall. Don't fall. Don't fall. Don't fall."




Oh well, it was still good for one blog post. 



Monday, December 2, 2019

Museum review: The Bargello








Name of Museum:


Bargello

or

Museo Nazionale del Bargello if you like



Tagline:

If they kept The David by Michelangelo here The David would be more improved by it than the Bargello.

or, similarly

Oh shit, Bernini actually is better than Michelangelo!

or even:

The best sculpture museum.

No, that's all, just... the... best... sculpture... museum, you know, on Earth.


Overall rating (not a strict average of the below) out of 100:

100, but I'm being pretty nitpicky to score it so low. Sorry. I'm working on being less critical.


Hours:


Okay, these are a bit weird, and though I'm usually pretty organized about things like museum times, we for some reason decided to assume this would have fairly normal museum hours and approached it casually. So even though I had their hours in my pocket, we had to go here three times before it was open because we never bothered to consult them. Still, the Bargello's extraordinarily central location made this hit and miss approach the sort of thing we were content to indulge.

Also I'm pretty sure they love to change and have special hours regularly so take the below with a grain of salt. There can be better or worse hours at the drop of a hat. It's also cute how when they are closed they look kind of like they've never been opened and will never open again. They look positively boarded up!

Closed Monday.
Tu-Th: 8:15 to 1:50
F: 8:15 to 5:20 (Wooo! Live it up Bargello!)
Sat.: 8:15 to 1:50
Sun.: 8:15 to 1:20 (you can't possibly expect them to keep those late night party hours on Sunday like they do on Saturday!)


Quality of building architecture:

Oddly... perfect. Some of that is simply a tribute to it being 750 years old, which is the kind of thing that improves nearly any building. Basically (from the outside) it's like a single great castle tower, plopped down charmingly in the middle of town.


Quality of interior design and display:

Oh. Am I supposed to score this? Er, many stars! Twenty? More than everywhere else? I'm not sure I've ever enjoyed a museum layout/interior more. Compact yet deceptively large, it's built around a courtyard and it's not like anywhere I've ever been, except maybe it's a little like a ruined castle? Except it's not ruined and it's full of wonders. I kept thinking: well, that must be it for the museum, when suddenly there was a whole other warren of rooms, another floor, or a hallway full of bronze animals, including a turkey. A turkey!


General location in the World:

Where, as the fable goes, Europe woke up from the dark ages: Florence. In The Bargello go ahead and believe this as you will. It's easy enough to do.


More specific location in city:

800 feet from the best gelateria in town, Dei Neri, as the crow flies. But giving you directions between the two would take hours. Just look for the crenelated tower with a crenelated tower. No, not that one. That one.


Cost and entrance fees:

8 euros. This is probably the most unreasonably cheap thing in Florence. The sort of thing that causes the director of The Met in New York to wake up in the middle of the night with a feeling of burning shame.


Ease of access:

I think by this I mean more "How hard is it to get here?" The answer is sort of: get to Florence and you're done. So, pretty easy.


Best work:

Despite actually working as a portrait painter, and loving portraiture in painting, I've never entirely taken to it in sculpture. The sculptural bust has generally been of passing interest to me, but perhaps the best sculptors have some responsibility for that feeling. When the giants of the field wanted to make their mark they've tended towards grand figures, magnificent, affecting tableaus, and dynamic, twisting compositions. There are plenty of those in the Bargello, some of them astonishing.

But I heard they had a Bernini here. So we dutifully checked it out because, you know, Bernini.

It's a portrait bust, of Costanza Bonarelli.

Yes, it's the best work here, and maybe the most magical turn of sculpture I've ever seen.


Signature collection:

I guess the sculpture? I probably should have mentioned this somewhere earlier?


Revolving collections and shows:

It actually seems like they might do stuff like this in some rooms, but it's pure gravy.


Ambiance:

Quiet, cool, castley, mellow, firm, and curiously uncrowded.


Staff:

Er, unobtrusive? Works for me.


Cafes:

Nope. Oh well. Oddly I feel tolerant of this since the space seems so fully and well used.


Gift shop:

Yes, at the entrance. It's about average as far as museum gift shops go, which is a shame really because they could sell some... stuff. If only it weren't all the same... stuff.

















Sunday, December 1, 2019

Gelato withdrawl









I was thinking I'd pretty much covered every aspect of me and my wife's ten days in Florence. I mean, I remember coming home and writing furiously about it, in a fever, covering every last aspect of the storied city. Every event of importance was tabulated, referenced, evoked, measured, and indulged. And when the dust settled I turned to my bread and butter blog post subjects: like how the pen supply is holding up at the library I work at, or how that time walking along the river I saw a bird.

But even though I was pretty sure I covered everything in Florence, I had this sudden thought today:

"Wait." I thought (this was the sudden thinking part). "Did I write about the Bargello?"

"I'm pretty sure you wrote about everything." I replied to myself.

"That was my impression too, and yet I can't remember saying anything about The Bargello. What did I say about The Bargello?"

I became suddenly thoughtful at this. "I can't remember either." I said quietly.

So we decided we'd just... check.

After all, there were two of us.

Although strangely we only seemed able to do one thing at a time.

Still. 

It turns out we hadn't written about The Bargello.

In fact, it turns out that all I wrote about Florence, since our return, was gelato. Nothing else. 

I wrote 297 blogposts, over the course of 19 days, strictly about the gelato of Florence. That's it! No cafes, no museums, no shops, no ruminations about tourism, population density, cappuccino, wealth, or the surrounding hills. I didn't talk about Spritzes, smoothies, Saints, Savonarola, or street markets, good or bad. No. It was all gelato, 297 times over.  In almost three weeks after our return from Florence I wrote a post about gelato for, on average, every single one of my waking hours.

So I guess I still have a few things to talk about regarding Florence in the days ahead. Stay tuned! Bargello review incoming! And, like, for instance, did I mention the coffee gelato at Dei Neri?

Oh. I did?

Wow.

That's a lot of times.













Saturday, November 30, 2019

For the birds










A crow goes to the airport because sometimes, don't you know, it's too much to fly all the way by yourself. He has a ticket. He goes through security. I mean, he's behaving properly even for a crow at an airport. He has, though, brought with him a squished, dead rabbit he found on the side of the road on the way to the airport for maybe a little snack later.

Boarding begins on the flight. The crow gets to the attendant and shows his ticket. But the agent only has eyes for the oozing dead rabbit. "You can't bring that thing onto the plane!" The agent cries.

The crow is confused. "What do you mean," He says. "I thought everyone was entitled to one item of carrion."






Friday, November 29, 2019

Floor comedy









I've had a cold. It's okay. No need to fuss, I mean, beyond a little fussing. Surely a little fussing is okay. Also, it's a vacation weekend. So what I'm saying is there's a lot of lazing about sniffling and sneezing and blowing my nose. More industrious things like keeping up with my blogposts at the highest possible level, or keeping the house clean, feel the strain.

So imagine my relief when, while blowing my nose, my lovely wife got out a broom to give our floor a quick once over. Not only was there stuff all over our floor, but every single time anyone around here takes out the old broom and dustpan to clean our floor I invariably seem to come up with a blog post idea.

Although to be honest I think that might be a bit of a sweeping generalization.




Thursday, November 28, 2019

200 Reviews of Rome: The Barberini









One of the curious misadventures of this blog is that I might tell the same story twice, or thrice, or even 50 times. I don't know. I have decided not to fuss with it, feeling that each time I tell the same story it says something new. Let the Doctoral candidates sort it all out in their dissertations a thousand years hence. 

Or, more realistically, let the sweet vast tides of the Universe wash it all away. I have plenty of self-regard here, but incalculable constellations of more beautiful articulations than this have been broken back down into meaningless atoms. But let's keep a chin up. Everything that has ever been beautiful is written down somewhere. And who on earth has time to go through all that?

Which is to say that I am pretty sure I have already written a review of The Barberini in Rome. I know there is this review of the second best painting in The Barberini. And I have also tracked down in my archives this review of the cafe in The Barberini. But as to whether there is a 

Oh.

Ooops.

I found it.

For the original, this.

I didn't mean to find it. But I do have an addendum:

Should you go?

The Barberini is now officially the most forgotten great museum in Rome. While we were there my wife and I wanted to go to it yet again. We looked it up in an up to date guide book in our room, written by Rick Steeves, and we couldn't even find mention of the place. I am pretty sure it is disappearing before our eyes. We went there and it took us hours to track it down even though it's ten minutes from The Spanish Steps. It's slowly being taken over entirely by cats. It was nearly empty. They keep closing more and more of it.

The Barberini is being washed away.

Don't go.

Isn't it enough already all the beautiful things you do know and that will soon be gone? 







Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Tacos in a jar, a recipe!







In the library breakroom there is much notice for our upcoming holiday potluck. And on the table where one is to sign up and indicate the dish one is bringing, someone thoughtfully placed a copy of Emeril's Potluck, presumably to spark ideas for what to bring. I promptly opened it up... 

and was horrified! 

This was for reasons I feel I can best express by providing my own recipe below.





This recipe is for my super popular, and very handy, and perfect for potlucks, Clerkmanifesto's Tacos in a Jar. Festive, portable, tasty, and charmingly packed, Clerkmanifesto's Tacos in a Jar will enliven any party or picnic!


Clerkmanifesto's Tacos in a Jar



Ingredients:


3 cans Clerkmanifesto brand tomato paste
2 pounds ground beef
2 onions
2 packets of Clerkmanifesto Tacos in a Jar! Seasoning Packet available online or at your local grocery
2 cans Clerkmanifesto Style Special Italian Pitted Black Olives (generic substitute is okay if you don't care whether anyone likes the food you cook)
4 ears shucked F1 Hybrid Feldenstein Variety Corn on the Cob
1 lb. extra sharp white cheddar, as aged as you can afford.
24 corn tortillas cut into inch sized pieces


12 Clerkmanifesto's Tacos in a Jar Taco Jars!


Assembly:


Carmelize the onions, set aside in a Clerkmanifesto Fiesta Bowl.

Salt and brown meat, drain, stir in tomato paste, and Clerkmanifesto's Tacos in a Jar Seasoning, set on low heat.

After awhile add onions, Clerkmanifesto Style olives, and shucked Feldenstein Hybrid Corn (non gmo).

In an oversized Tacos in a Jar, a Recipe!, the Blogpost Skillet, cook the tortilla pieces in salt, lime juice, and olive oil until they are crispy as many places as you can get them. Add the meat mixture and cheese. Stir.

Using a Clerkmanifesto Taco Scoop, fill your 12 Clerkmanifesto's Tacos in a Jar Taco Jars!




You're ready to go!

Don't forget to mention where you got the recipe every few seconds while people try to avoid you at the potluck.

And remember: Don't eat any of that other potluck food, that stuff is not wholesome. It may be full of Emeril products!














Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Standin' on the corner






One of what is probably a hundred different recurring tropes on clerkmanifesto is the perfidy of traffic signals. Wouldn't you think that a blog that periodically addresses the perfidy of traffic signals would be considerably more popular?

I know, me too! 

While I have discussed the evils of traffic lights at intersections for cars, particularly as related to busy intersections that experience long periods of time with no vehicles passing through them, the main focus of my barely contained rage has historically had to do with pedestrian crossings. I am occasionally so outraged at the sheer lack of effect one gets from pushing a crosswalk button that I've had to do the most extreme thing humanely possible regarding it: Write a short, sarcastic essay.

Well all this happened to me again today in my journey up the river on my way to work. I was getting really worked up as the crosswalk robot voice kept telling me to wait no matter how many hundreds of times I pushed the button. But then I had an epiphany:

Pedestrians are so low down in the traffic design order that the default scenario at any cross signal is that pedestrians get no turn at all. The button is merely there to tell the traffic signal that a pedestrian would actually like a turn, eventually, in the least urgent way, if it's not too much trouble. Just because I want it to mean something else, just because we should live in a world better than that, where people walking are treated like gods by the city planners, doesn't mean we do live in that world.

Which is why I like to pick up a nearby rock or brick and whack the crosswalk button repeatedly. I've got all the time in the world.










Monday, November 25, 2019

Library supplies






Dear Library Staff:


As you know I am the supply procurer for our library. If you don't know this I am frankly alarmed at how little you pay attention to the important details of your workplace. It is not too late for you to be a better employee! And to start with you could memorize the following fact:

I am the supply procurer for our library. That is, I order our supplies.

Now that that's out of the way allow me to provide some useful information about not only what I can and will do, but also about what you can do to make the process run a lot better!

Ordering supplies for a large, busy library such as our own is not an easy task. I am dealing with upwards of 40 different people, many of whom need things, although, honestly, four or five of them seem to need very particular things a little too often and most of everyone else just gets upset when exactly what they want isn't readily available without asking. There are often specific rules for what I can order and who I can order it from. Sometimes I have to get dedicated lines of funding or permission for particular purchases. Sometimes I have to justify purchases. And a lot of the time I am mysteriously allowed to order all kinds of weird crap, no questions asked.

Another thing you should know is that I don't and can't actually order directly from anywhere! I have no money. I have no access to a credit card or a line of credit. I can't go to the local Target and just get something we desperately need. I have to order everything through another orderer and then rely on that person ordering what I ordered. I liken this to hand stitching an elaborate and complicated quilt while wearing heavy rubber gloves. Did you know that you can still easily stab yourself through heavy rubber gloves? You can! That's what makes the system so difficult and absurd. Why, you might ask, don't I stitch the quilt while wearing more protective thick leather gloves? I would, but that's not the analogy.

Which, if you're half the co-worker I think you are, will lead you to ask: What can I do to help you as the supply orderer for our library?

Thank you for asking!

Two simple things:

1. If we are out of something, like pens, or paper, or kleenex, or newspaper ties, or green dots, or scissors, paper, or staples, or library guides, cards, or sharpie fine point clickables, or dry erase markers, 2-inch tape, or whatever, please stop asking me about it! Don't you think I've ordered it by now? I have! I don't need everyone to be all like "Are there any more blue slips?" twenty times a day. No, there aren't any. I ordered them ages ago. I can't control when they come in. I'm not hiding them! Stop asking me! Just leave me alone. I'm doing the best I can!

and

2.  If we are out of something let me know. As a large and extremely busy library we have hundreds, yes hundreds of different items of supplies. I can't just magically know when we're out of one of them! I need staff to let me know when they need something and when we're out of something. And who knows, I might even have some spares shoved in a back up box somewhere. You'll never know if you don't ask, and I might never know either.


Thank you so much for your attention to this matter. I know it's a lot to take in, especially if you've been walking around our library, working in a fog, and every single aspect of this letter is completely new to you. Although if that's the case, you've probably already forgotten or misunderstood everything I've said in this message already.

To everyone else though, thank you again, and I hope I have ordered what you need, and if I haven't, I hope it's not my fault,



F. Calypso

Library Supplies












Sunday, November 24, 2019

200 Reviews of Rome: Bar del Fico










⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


5 Stars!





Bar del Fico, where have you been all our lives!


Okay, well, not all our lives. We've only been to Rome five times over the many years, and I'm not sure Bar del Fico would have been quite what we were looking for the first couple of times we were there. But located as it is in the general heart of our (and most travelers) stomping grounds, just outside of Piazza Navona in the twisty warren of streets a skootch towards the Tiber, it seems both sad and happy that we missed it over our last few trips. Sad because it would have rescued a few wandering nights of not quite being able to settle on where to go, but happy for the obvious reason of finding it and the slightly less obvious reason of giving the sense that in every way Rome has its endless layers, willing to reveal more things to one the longer one pours over those same streets.

Bar del Fico is the perfect sort of evening, drink and a snack, shabby chic (it even says so on the google map!), find a seat in Rome and soak it all in kind of place. We got a nice couple seats in the loungey bar area and had (probably) a Negroni and wine, but I might be wrong because I vaguely remember mint in my drink. We got nuts with it all, as is proper. We ordered some nice cheese and I had a fried pizza aperitif thing that I liked an awful lot. The price was reasonable. Everyone was nice to us. And that's about it, except for the context, which follows:

In thinking I would dash off a review of Bar del Fico, almost a month after going there just one time, I figured I should do some basic research, so I looked up Bar del Fico and got an eyeful of the reviews. It was chaos, just like Rome! To start with Bar del Fico is, as is common in Rome, kind of three or four things at once, consisting of several different rooms. It seems to be a cafe, something converting to a lounge, a cocktail bar, and also partly a more straight up restaurant. The pictures all look like they're from seven different places (though there are a couple of cocktails with fresh mint which supports the theory I had one of those). The reviews also encompass this diversity with people enraptured over the friendliness and wonderful food to the point where they moved into a local hotel and went to Bar del Fico twice a day, all the way to a minority who are still wounded by the staff's cruelty and the possibility they were cheated. I am not here to dispute any of these sorts of takes on the place. Rome can be like this. We have but our singular experience. There is no place with so many stars that you don't take your chances. 

We took ours at Bar del Fico.

It worked out.







Saturday, November 23, 2019

Stephen Jay Gould is dead








A man came up to the front desk of my library to collect an interlibrary loan, that is, a book that we borrowed from another library system on his behalf. In the process of checking it out to him I gave it a look. It was an interesting illustrated volume by the science writer Stephen Jay Gould. There were lots of fossil pictures inside.

"This looks pretty interesting." I said. "And I don't say that lightly." Though admittedly it's not like I say it rarely either.

He leafed through it a trifle tiredly. "It's my last, no, my second to last Stephen Jay Gould book." He said. "Then I'll have read them all."

I said something neutral before he continued. 

"Thankfully he's dead." He added. "So there won't be anymore."




No matter how dark the cloud I guess there's always some kind of silver lining.














Friday, November 22, 2019

Unusual tastes







This is a funny time of year here in Minnesota. It is not embraced by many. Grey nearly all the time, sometimes the temperatures drop into the bottom of the teens and snow falls from the sky. Ice forms on the roads. Bitter winds blow. And the rakish fops say:

"How do you like this? It's still a month before Winter even starts. Ha!"

But you wonder: How can this be Fall?


It can't possibly be Fall.

And then the cold relents. It gets so misty out that one can't even see down into the Mississippi River Gorge. The scattered inch or two of snow and ice vanishes into a great dampness everywhere, and one realizes it really is still Autumn, in it's peculiar, late way. There genuinely is a steady progression from Summer to Winter, secreted between the blizzards, and this is what it looks like. Strange fruits hang from out of bare and dead-leafed trees, rotting. Gouts of ravaged, soaked leaves are piled up in the underbrush turning to slime, the wild places tucked into the city are a tattered tableau as the very world around us breaks down.

And then there's the smell. 

Above all it's the smell.

It's not everywhere, but it's not hard to find. I don't know how to describe it. I suppose it is made of all the ragged matter, all the leaves and branches and cold fruits long past their expiration, rotting, battered by the brutal, altering freezes and thaws, the incessant wetness, all being packed together and forgotten. It is a smell that rises out of the riverway valley, out of the gutters, the collapsed flowerbeds, and the treed borderlands lining the bike and walking paths of my city. It is a rotten smell, of death and decay. It is the smell of things turning, of funk, and of mold. I don't think the smell has any name to know it by. I can't quite conjure this smell to mind, it is strangely unimaginable. But it is full of adjectives and description: putrid, rotted, festering, corrupt, spoiled, decomposing. It is a heady smell, oddly fresh in its rancid way, wine gone too far, dark mushrooms, the secrets of the earth. Death.

I quite like it, and seek its heart, like an appealing pain of which I want to see how much I can take; An exquisite and repulsive morbidity, and yet, the last living breath of a doomed thing before real death, and Winter.





 







Thursday, November 21, 2019

Impeachment fun







I am really enjoying these impeachment hearings. I thought maybe I'd find them dry, or unambitious, or far too limited, and I suppose they are, but that doesn't mean they aren't compelling. I rarely get to see or hear more than a half hour or an hour of them before I have to leave for work, or arrive at work, or go back to work, but every time that I do have to leave them it's a wrench. I am forced to tear myself away. I am hanging on every word and every moment.

The Impeachment hearings are like watching The Harlem Globetrotters. Team Democrat, in this case, is like the Harlem Globetrotters. Team Trump is like The Washington Generals. There's the Democrats being all clever like, making fabulous points, running circles around the plodding, villainous Republicans. Then the Republicans make some argument at great length. It seems absurd, irritating, disingenuous, and illogical, but before one has even worked out all that's wrong with this ridiculous Republican point, some articulate Democrat comes along and slam dunks on all its irrational, unsound, and flawed reasoning. 

I'm just saying it's good sport. With one side that is vastly better at it, and on the side of good, showing off their skill and virtuosity, throwing down the hoops in a lopsided tour de force. It's not competitive, but it does turn out to be a fun display.

The only part that gets me a little down is that when it's over for the day and all the referees come on to say:

"Let's just call that one a tie."














Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Late






When meeting people I am generally anxious and on time, maybe even a little early. It is more familiar to me to be waiting a bit, nervously, for a short time, or sometimes even for a little longer.

But today I made the mistake of trying to make a minor adjustment on our new espresso machine's grinder, which was not quite as minor as I imagined. And so I was ten minutes late in meeting a friend.

There he was, sitting patiently. And as I arrived he sprang up, ready to go. The party began with me.

Suddenly, I could see the appeal.







Tuesday, November 19, 2019

All the talented birds







I was walking along the Mississippi River and I came upon a raptor, a great bird. His head was all white, but the white did not end at the shoulder, rather it bled into tan and then into something almost cappuccino colored as it flowed down his body.

"You're not an eagle." I said to him in mild surprise.

"I get that all the time." He replied, and then he flew out over the river.

He was unusually good at it.





Monday, November 18, 2019

On library time







Black holes are well known for their strange effect on time. If one has heard about gravitational time dilation once, one has heard about it a thousand times. But having had a quarter century of my life swallowed up into the irresistible maw of a public library I am aware that it is not only black holes that have a unique effect on time.

In short, time acts with extreme peculiarity in and around libraries. And it doesn't take a deeply invested library professional like myself to see it. You yourself have undoubtedly at some point checked out a book at a library only to find out a couple of days later that the book is now fourteen days late.

"How is this possible?" You wonder.

"I must have made a mistake." You rationalize.

You didn't make a mistake.

Oh, you will never catch time in the act of mischief at a library. Time always has an alibi. But alibis are not the same thing as innocence.

I'm just saying that here at my library I'm skipping around in its curious time like it's Slaughterhouse Five. And I am not alone.

Today at the front desk a regular came up to me and greeted me with real warmth.

"Hey, it's great to see you. I haven't been here for ages! Do I still have a card in this system?"

I was slightly worried his mind was slipping. "I'm pretty sure it's only been a few weeks since I last saw you."

"No, I don't think I've been here since the new building." That would put it at maybe ten years since his last visit.

Ten years, three weeks? We regarded each other curiously for a moment. Then we moved on and caught up on things. What was to argue? We were both right.






Sunday, November 17, 2019

Italy, a conversation






"Italy." My co-worker says. "You've been to Italy, haven't you?"

"Yes. I was there just two weeks ago." I reply, tactfully not mentioning the small gift of a wrapped chocolate from Italy that I had recently given this person.

"Is it nice?"

"It is very beautiful." I replied. Then, growing thoughtful I added "Though I suppose it all depends on where you are."

"Oh, and where is it beautiful?"

"In Italy!"













Saturday, November 16, 2019

Who wins Florence







As much traveled visitors to Rome, the great Baroque city if ever there was one, my wife and I received many hints there of the Renaissance. They seemed increasingly appealing the more we looked. So we thought we'd go to Florence. We thought we'd see a little bit of the footsteps that led to the flourishing of Rome, the best city we've ever seen.

There is a lot of great art in Florence. After all, 600 years ago Europe woke up there; The Renaissance, don't ya know, with all the burning energy of a thousand year sleep. With so much amazing art to see I wondered who, above all, would blow through my soul. So we made the rounds.

Filippo Lippi, of whom we had seen precisely one intensely captivating painting in Rome, all angels, grace, and gold, was every bit as good as the promise of what we had seen in The Doria Pamphilj. Botticelli was like a refinement of that grace, and his paintings, well known to us, and to most people on the planet, were a whole other world of loveliness, one that was never apparent exactly in the reproductions, which were all I'd ever seen of him before. The Da Vincis were fascinating, but no real match for what hangs in the Louvre. Raphael seems to oscillate in a tiny fraction of an inch between sheer genius and mundanity, mostly wonderful, nothing better than what is in the Barberini in Rome, but plenty remarkable. Giambologna was ridiculously good, with statues more baroque than I dared hope or imagine, every one a thrill to see. Donatello was fascinating. Pontormo's Deposition was a painting I've always longed to look at in person. It is a mad and ridiculous painting, an absolute joy that sums up everything anyone might ever need to know about Mannerism in a single work of art, all graceful and nearly purposeless poses, lurid, wonderful Sistine Chapel colors, and skill almost just for the sake of skill. There is our bizarre bridge from the Renaissance to the Baroque.

And of course there's Michelangelo, towering over it all. Influencing everything with his touch and magnificence. 

And yet...

The amazing David is exquisite and almost unbelievably monumental in a way that nevertheless feels a little emotionally flat to me after the excruciatingly moving Pieta. Maybe if they put it outside where it belongs? All the masterpieces of the Medici Chapel are better, but renovations there, and obscuring scaffolding, may have hampered my enjoyment along with his weird version of breasts and a sense that he didn't quite finish his plan for it all the way he wanted to. His early work kind of... sucks, up to Bacchus, which is more proof of talent than an epiphany.

Which, maybe I should have known all along, left us with three Caravaggios, of all things. 

The Sacrifice of Isaac, a story I've always found a touch ridiculous, made me tear up. The Medusa, a demonstration of gloss and perfection like I've never seen before, and sleeping cupid, a painting I'd only barely looked forward to, which is a picture of love sleeping by an artist at the height of his magical powers in full, shuddering expressive force.

Sleeping Cupid. No pretty child. Apparently Caravaggio used a dead child as a model. Yellow light. Flesh. Love lies sleeping. A picture is worth an entire language.

I suppose there are best current artists.

And there are artists of their generation.

And there is the greatest artist of their age.

And then there is the most brilliant artist of an entire era.

And then there's Caravaggio.









Friday, November 15, 2019

The gelato diet








A bit less than a year ago I restructured the way I eat. This was for a variety of household and health reasons, and to make a little more room for my hobbies of cocktails and coffee. One thing about the restructuring meant that I eat less. Sometimes it seems like a lot less. I don't use sweeteners. I don't eat or drink after seven. I have very particular meals and mealtimes, and not that many of them. And I can't complain. All of this has largely done the job. I still have my middle age issues, but I feel pretty much healthier and less inclined towards physical breakdowns, back injuries, colds, and some other miscellaneous ailments, than I had before. Plus I look dashing in my vests.

But when I went to Italy I decided, for my two weeks there, to set all that carefully to the side. As my wife and I tramped all over Florence and Rome I ate and drank whatever, and whenever. I had as much coffee as I could manage. I drank regularly- a bottle of wine, Fernet Branca at night, cocktails on piazzas, afternoon Spritzes like it was a religion. I consumed great quantities of cheeses, finding our first great cheese plate at Pitti e Gola where I had three glasses of sparkling wine and one of something called Orange Wine. I ate plates of raw meat. I had pastry every morning stuffed with creams and chocolate. I bought porcini mushrooms and swordfish and fried them in olive oil. I ate all the potato chips they brought me with my Spritz.

And I had gelato.

I had gelato every day. I had gelato in the morning. I had gelato in the evening. I had gelato in the afternoon. I would get gelato, eat it, and go back to order more gelato. I ate gelato walking along. And I ate gelato sitting down. I ate planned gelato and I ate spur of the moment gelato. I had whipped cream on my gelato and I had gelato plain in a cup. Sometime I had espresso over my gelato. I ate a lot of gelato.

Outside of one unpleasant night early in the trip which I blame on an injudicious nightcap of Fernet Branca and possibly a questionable panini, my health was excellent in Italy. I felt good. A few weird home ailments ceased to bother me in Italy. I came home well and whole and I might have even lost a pound or two while I was there, or so it was suggested to me.

Now surely one could say that our near constant walking in Italy wiped away all the other sins. Or that for all I ate it turned out we were too busy for me to actually eat all that much. One could argue that the joy of Italy helped me out, the lack of stress, the complete cessation of anything remotely comparable to a sedentary lifestyle.

And those would be good arguments. Very sensible.

But wrong.



It was the gelato.









Thursday, November 14, 2019

Home to the birds








The biking season should perhaps have officially ended last week. But I went out and biked to the University anyway. The wind cut through my wool mittens like a circular saw going through a piece of cheese.

"Hey," I said to the cold. "You do know that you don't need a circular saw to cut cheese, you can even just break off a piece of cheese?"

"Yes," Replied the cold "That's what we're planning on doing when your fingers sufficiently... stiffen."

So when it was 14 degrees out this morning I understood that I like my fingers. I'm using them right now to tell you all about how much I like them! I put away all biking things and prepared my feet for walking.

The down side of walking is it takes longer.

The upside of walking is it takes longer. 

While walking one sees everything. Cardinals, bald eagles, blue jays, geese, turkeys. Well, maybe one doesn't see everything, but one definitely sees birds. Riding a bike it is not very safe to be gazing over one's head, watching an eagle circle in the clear and bitter morning light. Walking it's almost safe to look all one might want. I mean, it's probably safe enough.

Furthermore, biking, this, that happened today, has never happened before:

Coming to the point where I leave the river and head into the University, I was writing my usual dark blog posts in my head. For no reason that I understand I looked up and saw three huge turkeys perched high in a tree. They were enormous, four foot tall, 50 pound turkeys. The biggest one was at the very top of the tree, like an absurd Christmas ornament.

Of course, I've never seen that not on a bike either.