Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Requested books

For years at my library I have shelved books as a part of my duties, but only recently have I begun pulling requested books. So I go upstairs with an empty cart for once, instead of a full one, find books on the shelf, from a list of items that people want, load them on my cart, and bring them downstairs to get distributed to these people.

And the revelation is that these books can be especially appealing.

These books are much better than the books I shelve! These books are wanted.

The books I shelve are no longer wanted.

These specifically wanted books have a certain something. They're interesting, particular, bespoke, and full of the unique story of the person's requesting them.

Curiously they are also different in one way from the books I shelve:

Unlike the books I shelve, I can't have them.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019


The other day I looked out at the golf course and saw a young man caddying for another young man of the same general age.

I suppose if it was the movies the young guy golfing with the caddy who was his own age would have signified that he was an insufferable son of privilege, cold to the feelings of others, who never had to work a day in his life and considered servitude his divine birthright. Meanwhile the caddy himself would be a real person, just making a buck, if he could, almost certainly for some worthy pull-himself-up-by-the-bootstraps purpose. They'd probably have gone to the same high school together and resented each other the whole time there. By the end of the movie the tables will turn and the virtuous young caddy will triumph over the young trumpian.

And it's not a bad take on the whole thing, although perhaps unreasonably optimistic in today's America, what with tables turning and everything. 

And I do try to take an optimistic view.

Here are all the options the young man had to get his clubs around the course, but did not avail himself of:

1. In a bag over his shoulder, enjoying the fitness and strength of his youth.

2. Wheeled about in a nice 3-wheelie bag that offers extreme ease and maneuverability.

3. On the back of a little two-seated electric cart that's probably super fun to drive about on the hilly course. 

And here are all the good reasons to go around with a caddy:

1. Because he's a professional golfer.

So, in the spirit of looking on the positive side, I guess that explains it.

I saw a professional golfer today.

They sure are getting young though. 

And really bad at golf.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Work is strange

Oh man, work is strange.

But what isn't. Life is strange. It is possible that "strange" is a meaningless, or redundant descriptive, like "very". Anything that's sad is very sad. Everything that's tasty is very tasty. Everything that is purple is very purple.

And everything is strange.

Like work.

No, I don't have a story for you. I just went upstairs to shelve here at my job at the library. There are better jobs than this and there are worse jobs than this. And I'm not sure I really approve of the whole idea of "work", but I haven't found the world to be particularly interested in this. Strange. Very strange.

So here's the story:

I was shelving some books and I was feeling tired. So I went to the windows at the end of the row of the cookbooks. I looked out the window and there were trees, just sitting there. And even though I was on the high second floor of my building, 30 feet from the ground, there were still trees, pine trees, tall enough to just be sitting there, outside, in the Summer. So I looked at them.

And then I wasn't tired anymore.

Sunday, July 28, 2019


Driving to work is rarely the brightest part of my day. It might even never be the brightest part of my day. Going to work is like jumping off a cliff into the deep pool of water formed below by a waterfall. I am filled with fear and trepidation and dread. I regret how I got into this position. I hesitate endlessly on the ledge. That's how I feel when I'm driving to work. Then I dive in and I am exhilarated! That's the part where I actually arrive at work, except I'm not exactly exhilarated; I'm more like ready for it and okay. So it's not a perfect analogy.

But the point, the point is I'm never at my most optimistic and my sunshiny best driving along the freeways of Minnesota, all alone, on my bleary way to another day of work.

And so it was this morning.

The sky was grey. All the angry little cars crowded and hurried along the 75 lanes of asphalt. I turned on the radio, and...



Oh, such jazz. Antonio Carlos Jobim, from an album called Stone Flower in 1970. And a drummer, oh the drummer, playing this textured, shifting layered bits, across what feels like the edges of everything, pulling out of one to make us realize another was playing underneath all along. Oh the chill, the fascination, the groove, what a song! The sun came out. I am sliding, I am diving, cliffs are for flying. Life's going to be all right. The water is cool and fine. Brazil.

And we all fall forever. And falling...

we dance.


Saturday, July 27, 2019

Working for a small audience

I need a volunteer.


My favorite magicians are Penn and Teller. I've read their books, seen a great cross section of their many shows, and I've even done weak versions of some of their easier, but still terribly clever, tricks. But I never thought I'd come up with a professional quality, truly mystifying magic trick of my own. 

I am going to blow your mind, right here, in the most unlikely of venues known to magic: a blog. Yes. I am going to perform a magic trick, and you are going to be bedazzled and flabbergasted. I'm that confident.  I've practiced. I've tested it. And I was lucky to come up with such a dynamic trick that suits my narrow range of magical skills.

This trick comes from the field of magic known as Mentalism. I will be appearing to read your mind!

I want you to pick a number.

No, not three (Ha, how did I know that?)! I want you to pick a very complex, many digited number of any size, but try and make it good. Take your time. Go ahead and write it down if it's too long to remember.

Got it?

Now concentrate on it.





Excellent. I've got it.

Your number is 52,363!

No, no, not your number. That's the volunteer's number. Naturally I could only do this trick for one of you out there. 

One of you who is amazed.

Er, you might want to mention it in the comments though. Otherwise I might look a bit silly to everyone else.

Friday, July 26, 2019

The mensch

One of my co-workers here at the library is a real mensch. He is really the only person that I ever follow on the big check in machine who will take care of things ahead of time for me. He'll go out of his way to lessen the workload for people coming after him.

"He's such a mensch!" I'll say.

The first time I realized this person was a mensch I went to my nearest co-worker and said excitedly "So and so is such a mensch!" And then they looked at me funny cause I used a Jewish word and they're anti-Semitic.

Well, I'm not sure they're actually anti-Semitic, but they could be. It's on the rise you know.

So this mensch is a good guy, and he's very nice, I mean he's a mensch, but oddly he seems to enrage the occasional library patron. There are, every once in awhile, library patrons who seem to unreasoningly despise him. I have never seen him give any cause for this. He's pretty nice and even-tempered in any situation. But I have seen people, not many, and of no particular type either, who really really don't like him. I've seen notes he's left behind on patron records that say things like "Told patron book was on hold and so not renewable. Patron called me a 'fucking asshole' and hung up".

Which is odd, because he's such a mensch.

And I'm going to stick with that one, about him being a mensch, though maybe with a little asterisk after the mensch part, just until I can figure it all out.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Dear Library Journal

Dear Library Journal:

You suck.

I say this as a friend though. 

I mean no enmity. I don't want you to feel bad even if you might anyway. I just thought you should know. That you suck.

I also say this as a person who has worked in a library for a quarter of a century and written more about libraries for fewer people than possibly anyone currently alive. I say this as a person profoundly and personally interested in libraries. I say this as a voracious reader and student of and lover of libraries.

And what is it that I say?


I never read your magazine. It is too boring. It is too institutional, painstakingly inoffensive, and professionally obsessed. It is without life, joy, passion, or spirit. Its vision is small and without real ambition.

But I'm not criticizing you.

I'm sure you're doing a great job... somehow. Probably by trying. Yeah, I think you are probably trying. And I only want to help.

My idea is that I could write a "back page" column for Library Journal and kind of bring a little edge

We can call it "Library Unchained".

Did I tell you about the time you featured the absolute worst and most reviled manager in my entire library system as a special mover and shaker? 

I just thought I should mention it. In passing. While I'm gently letting you know you have a problem.

You see, the only way to solve a problem is to admit that you have one first. And then to hire the person who told you about it. 

And then to fire him a few months later when you realize he wasn't kidding, and when you understand that the whole, bitter, let's-make-the-world-better process is way too difficult and unrewarding to continue believing in and you have a serious business to run around here anyway!

Which, fair point.

I look forward to our brief few months together,

F. Calypso

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

My changeable library

Every day I notice something new about the library I work at. So many new things happen all the time! It's exciting, isn't it? Like for instance today I noticed my library is a piece of shit.

I mean that affectionately.

Well, sort of affectionately. Almost affectionately.

There's a sign on one of the loading bins of our big million dollar materials handling machine, taped crudely on, that says "This loader is working", like, things are so messed up here that we have to let everyone know if something actually works. "Don't worry though," it implies, "It's probably temporary." Out at the front desk there was another big sign that said "If you're reading this sign the public printer is broken". My level of trust in our smooth operating is low enough that yesterday I felt I'd better go check anyway. Yes, the printer was still broken. I'm sorry I doubted the sign. Today the sign was gone, but the printer was still broken.

The head of the entire library system was preparing imminently for a presentation in the meeting room tonight, but the projector wasn't picking up the signal from the laptop in there. I went to help. After I checked on the obvious problems I realized that I remembered this same issue from three months ago. I just couldn't remember the solution. As we were fiddling with it I said "Just as an aside, I think this is a good time for a complete redo of the Automation Services Department." She didn't seem amused. But then, it wasn't a joke. Then I found the problem: The VGA was plugged into an adapter converter to hdmi that was plugged into the computer. "Why not just plug the VGA directly into the VGA of the computer?" I wondered.

"Good idea." She said.

We plugged the VGA in directly, and the image came up through the projector!

But the image shook constantly, in a very unwatchably irritating way. 

Oh yeah, I remembered that was part of the problem from three months ago too. I also suddenly remembered the solution:

There wasn't one.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

King of the library: The 13th decree


In my magnum opus, or rather in one of the legendary 18 magnum opera contained in this sprawling blog, I have been building a dream library, the library as I think it should be, a library system of which I am King! Decree by decree I have been slowly building this ideal of a library. I am moving along without urgency because, well, it's all just a dream, all just a wild, hopeless, fanciful dream...

But dreams aren't for defeat and despair, they're for inspiration! So I have two new decrees as King of the library. One decree will likely be unpopular among my co-workers and one will be popular, thus I am presenting them paired for balance. I am also splitting them over the course of two days because, well, there are a lot of calendar days out there to fill with blog posts every year.

Yesterday we presented the 11th decree in which we cleaned our own bathrooms (and buildings). Having put our own house (library) in order, and accumulated a bit of extra savings, we are ready to launch our most ambitious project yet!

The 12th decree: We shall establish a new branch library... in Tuscany!!!!!

Well, it doesn't have to be Tuscany per se. It could be in Paris, or Rome, or sure, Florence, which is in Tuscany. In fact let's just call it Florence. We'll establish it in Florence. Me and my wife will go check out the lay of the land for us in a few months.

And why not have one of our library branches in a popular tourist destination and a treasured historical city? Such a library can be a destination location while simultaneously being a nice representation of our culture, different than chain fast food restaurants, selfie snapping tourists, and embassies stocked with corrupt political donors. Most of all it can be a useful resource. We can buy some modest and slightly run down palazzo, work up a few rooms to house the library staff. Stock it with an exhaustive and interesting collection of local travel and history materials and an eclectic array of vacation reading, have some decent seating, Internet, helpful staff, and, most valuable of all, excellent bathrooms.


Who will be welcome?

Everyone! It's a library!

Can anyone get a library card?

Sure, Italians, Chinese, Minnesotans, whatever. Some kind of ID would be good though.

Who will staff it?

Just our regular staff, transplanted for three month stints, with a free small apartment connected to the complex. You might want to put your name in right now as the line might get long.

This suggests a kind of hegemonic spread of libraries. Are you hoping libraries will take over the world?


And so it is decreed, this day, etc. etc.,

The King

Monday, July 22, 2019

King of the library: The 12th decree

In my magnum opus, or rather in one of the legendary 12 magnum opera contained in this sprawling blog, I have been building a dream library, the library as I think it should be, a library system of which I am King! Decree by decree I have been slowly building this ideal of a library. I am moving along without urgency because, well, it's all just a dream, all just a hopeless, wild, fanciful dream...

But dreams aren't for defeat and despair, they're for inspiration! So I have two new decrees as King of the library. One decree will likely be unpopular among my co-workers and one will be popular, thus I am presenting them paired for balance. I am also splitting them over the course of two days because, well, there are a lot of calendar days out there to fill with blog posts every year.

We will start today with the more dirt-under-the-fingernails decree, the 12th decree. The dirt-under-the-fingernails thing will only become less appealing when you learn what this decree actually is. But please keep in mind that this decree, while still essential, is designed to give gravity and justification to the wonders and heavy expenses that await us in decree 13.

The 11th decree is: 

We can clean our own damn bathrooms!

Inspired by a criminally incompetent County and Library system that actually outsources janitorial services, something I despise so deeply I can't discuss it civilly, I have decided to go as far as possible in the opposite direction: 

The regular library staff can clean the building themselves! 

But it's not all bad news workers, so read on with the provisos below:

1.  Assigned on a weekly rota, for that week janitorially assigned workers will only work on building maintenance and cleaning and are exempted (and actually excluded) from all other duties.

2. For a modest percentage cut in pay employees may opt out of cleaning duties. That money will be pooled to be shared among cleaners.

3. All cleaning scheduled time is paid double, plus the proportional share of opt out money.

4. Workers work their normal hours when on janitorial duty, except they clean and stuff, and get paid more.

I guess that's about it. So, why all this you ask? What's the point? 

The point is that we can clean our own damn bathrooms, that's the point. And even with the doubled wages it'll probably still cost less. Which is good, because I am spending all that tomorrow on decree 12. 

And so it is decreed this day by order of...

The King (who will also clean).

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Capitalism in Europe and beyond

My two big Internet studying hobbies lately are the inherent tragedy of Capitalism and places to eat things in Florence. The first is clarifying and extremely critical of an inhumane system, and the second is very... capitalist. Nevertheless there is an odd way that a very capitalist trip to Europe still offers some small breaks from Capitalism.

It is currently 93 degrees out and so humid that the heat index currently reads 110 degrees! If I were in the unfortunate position of spending some time outside, like those intrepid golfers out my window, and I had the opportunity to pop into a clubhouse cooled down to 85 degrees, I no doubt would find it a relief, even as I knew it wasn't particularly comfortable for the long run in that regard. That's a bit of what Capitalism is relatively like in Europe. Yes there are still massive corrupt companies, beggars in the streets, desperate trades of time and labor for people merely to stay afloat. There's graft, crime, exploitation and corruption all as the standard driving force for how the culture runs. But on the other hand people there tend to have healthcare, a bit of parental leave, vacations, an occasional protective regulation or two, and usually, and this is probably the crux of the pleasure of it for me, when they charge a price for something, that's the actual price! It doesn't add on a large, unspoken tip one is supposed to leave and an array of inscrutable taxes, like for instance a base one, maybe a little city one, and a special one for alcohol. It's all inclusive rather than a come on. It's surprising what that little bit of honest approach does for how I think about being in those cities. It's just that tiny surcease of competition and angling for money in every single thing that provides the 85 degree relief.

Of course, the real ideal is more like 74 degrees, the temperature of this blog, which makes no money at all, is done in the service of goodness and giving, and is as pure and and refreshing as the driven snow.

And that's my blog for the day! Thanks for coming! Support me on Patreon! Click subscribe below! Check out my kickstarter page. It's support from people like you that keeps this blog going!

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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Sepis, Subway, and Jimmy John's

I loathe chain sandwich shops. Or because there are mainly two I come across it might be easier to say that I loathe Subway and Jimmy John's. Some of that comes from a history of them being the provided food at the annual staff day at my job, which even now, thinking of it, and despite having missed said day for five years running, fills me with an alarming, unreasoning rage. I mean, do I think the management that provides this food should be summarily ridiculed and dismissed for malfeasance? Do I think my co-workers are compliant sheep with horrible taste for putting up with it? Do I think it is emblematic of everything wrong in the World and our culture?

Unfortunately, yes. And sometimes, embarrassingly, I actually express these feelings.

It's a little out of proportion.

I mean, I can see that to be true even as I consider these shops to be poisonous blots on our landscape and literal crimes against humanity!

Oops, I did it again.

So, fine, I don't like that the county and library system I work for is cheap, lazy, and hostile to its workers as expressed by the use of these establishments. I don't like the shoddy, manipulative, stultifying quality of their food, their labor exploitation, and their sickening abuse of animals in the interest of unseemly profit. And I don't like the ugly way one can walk the streets of Paris and come upon one of these pustules mysteriously operating, in public, with seeming impunity. Oh how the French have fallen! But it does all kind of beg the question: Why them? Why, so particularly do I hate them? There are almost endless hideous chains out there peddling their ruinous brand. In the food world alone why don't I experience this level of hate for Taco Bell, Starbucks, Domino's, Wendy's, or Caribou Coffee (well, I kind of do for Caribou Coffee)?

I didn't have an answer. Until a couple days ago, when I thought of Sepi's.

Sepi's was the almost mythical sub sandwich place of my childhood. Located in Westwood, in L.A., it was far enough away from where we lived to be a small, occasional treat in the litany of our fast food eating. Since it is probably 40 years since I had a Sepi's sub everything about them has a rosy haze around it; their plenitude, delightful wrapping, perfectly pitched baguette, rich and vinegary saturation, thick layers of tasty meats and lettuce and slightly cured onion. I do not believe it is actually as good as I remember, and the fact that it has remained irreproducible only confirms that understanding.

But even if there is no matching a mythical sandwich, it nevertheless remains true that an actually good sub sandwich, let alone the dream one, is not something I can find in the modern landscape of American cities. Does it not exist? No, somewhere probably there are a few around, even if I haven't come across them. But they are not readily available. There is excellent Mexican food around and about, I am a five minute walk from fantastic coffee and they are not the only purveyor in town even if they are still the best. Independent, interesting pizza is plentiful enough. Clever, conscious and delicious hamburgers are positively ubiquitous these days. But subs? These chains of Subway and Jimmy John's appear to have fully broken the spirit of the consumer base. They have shattered the standard so badly that the genre of sub sandwich is no longer a viable part of the every day food landscape.

Yes I dislike Burger King and Papa Murphy's and will say annoyingly hostile things about them to co-workers who just want something cheap to eat, but their damage, though insidious, is still limited. It is still qualified. It has only sucked half the oxygen out of the equation. The duopoly sub shop hegemony is more complete, and so more horrible for it. It has, effectively, murdered the sub shop.

Although, I mean, I guess I could still make a pretty good one at home.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Update according to charter

According to my blog charter I am required to submit, on blog, an annual status report of my blog.

"But what about the funny story about kitties you were going to tell us instead!" You cry.

I know. I feel terrible. But if I don't submit my annual status report my blog is downgraded from a "blog" to a "Paste like material for patching cracks in the Internet".

Although what the difference between the two is is beyond me! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Anyway, you might want to just skip your regular blog reading for today as the following is simply a filled out standardized Form 780e.

Form 780e

Report on blog status according to charter.

Name of blog:

The Clerk Manifesto

Age of blog:

6.3 years

Last form 780e filled out:

Well, see, I haven't done one yet, but I have an explan

Readers/Subscriber/Followers in millions:

Um, eleven one millionths?

Blog debits:

I guess I owe a lot to Daniel Pinkwater and the Marx B

Blog assets:

I don't know, I'm kind of funny sometimes?

Annual profit:

I learned a little bit about myself?

Total profit:

We're all better people for this..... er, paste like materie

Main subject matter:

Me! Me me me. But seriously, also things that happen t

Total annual blog posts:


Number of posts exceeding 500,000 pageviews:

Zero. I think maybe I have the wrong form?

Number of posts exceeding 5,000,000 pageviews:

Is there like a Form 780b? I should probably have a For

In three words or less please sum up your blog's content:

Wait, is there

Would you like to apply to upgrade from "Blog" to "Webpage"?

I don't really see what's the point.

Thank you for filling out Form 780e.

Submit Form 780e.

Please correct improperly formatted and incorrect answers in red text and resubmit.


Thursday, July 18, 2019

Positional awareness

If there is some skill or ability I enjoy most in watching sports it is probably positional awareness. I love positional awareness. In soccer it is that nearly magical ability to know where everybody is and where everybody will be in a second or two. It's the ability to know all of that even while one is super busy with other things, like maneuvering for position with another player, or kicking a ball, or both, all at the same time. The two athletes I've most enjoyed watching in my life were transcendent in this ability: Lionel Messi and Magic Johnson. Messi doesn't just thread the ball in a pass like it's going through the eye of a needle, he sends it through two moving needles to float into the perfect trajectory of a player hidden across the field who then, with open space in front of the goal, well, it wasn't a great Spring for his team so we'll just leave the story off there. Magic, in a very different game, would look completely away from the play and, functionally blind and operating purely from positional awareness, feed the ball into his onrushing teammate who would score, because basketball is different than soccer, and it's easier to score.

Curiously, positional awareness comes into play heavily in my job as well. I don't care that much about hard work, which is only relevant to me with surprising rareness and can be a bit of a scam anyway. I value accuracy and competency very much, but it can be a little hard to track it in all these many people I work with at the library. But the positional awareness of my colleagues makes a difference to me every day I work and it is the main thing I judge my co-workers on and value them for.

What is it?

It's knowing how many empty bins are left and whether we're likely to need them. It's knowing how competent the co-worker next to you at the front desk is and what the third person in line at the desk is probably there for. It's knowing where a book might be and what the whining squeak means on the automated machine behind you. It's knowing when you can walk away for 15 minutes and effect no one instead of leaving someone helplessly to do your job, who, after all, might be me, or you, or it might be no one at all. There is a momentum to the work of any institution, and positional awareness in it is all about keeping that immensely useful momentum going forward while essentially, at the same time, keeping everyone out from under its dangerous wheels.

But really, in the end, having a skill in positional awareness, whether in sports or in some occasionally grinding job, allows a fundamental, important, and valuable thing: When something comes one's way, one will be able to gracefully handle it according to it's value and importance, all while best complementing everything around it. Which is not a bad plan for life.



Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Whoa, that Vivaldi guy is the shit, a classical music review

This is a music review for some music by Vivaldi, who, apparently, was the shit.

I mean that in a good way.

I don't know what the songs were, but, I mean, fuck! Seriously. I heard this shit live on the radio and I was like, what? the? fuck?

It was thrilling. I was going crazy. There were all these, like insane violins that were super old and all these dudes were going nuts on them, like, super fast and all at the same time so that it was rocking. I mean it was screaming. My heart was racing. I had all these goddamn feelings fucking bursting through my chest! I thought I was going to die it was so fucking amazing!

Then it got quiet for a minute like I was being hunted in the woods, and then it took off like it wanted to tell me things I didn't know you could even fucking feel.

How can something this old still be so fucking new and wicked? I didn't know whether to tear my hair out or weep or what.

7 out of 10

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Trespassers W

My favorite sign that I come upon in my work commute is located on the fringes of the University of Minnesota. I am either walking or biking along and see a well made plaque posted to the corner of a large building. It reads:

Please trespass silently.

It's at once clever and faintly creepy, but most of all it seems like a kind of giving up. As if to say, "Fuck it, y'all are gonna be tramping through our yard anyway, the least you can do is keep your goddamn voices down a bit when it's two in the morning. And if you're going to be throwing a brick through a window have the decency to wrap it in an old t-shirt or something to muffle the crash. Some of us have to get up for work in the morning you know!"

Monday, July 15, 2019

Fireworks again

In a recent post called "Fireworks" I mentioned my wife and I watching a movie for the tenth time in our apartment aerie over the city as fireworks burst behind the screen. This could have been taken by a reader as a disparagement of watching the same movie over and over. This would not be the fault of the reader. Sometimes I leave the meaning of these things I write very... open. The downside of that is a lot of things can walk in through such a flung wide door. And sometimes they can fit, even if, as in this case, I don't want them to.

So I would like to take this opportunity to throw out this disparagement of repeated viewings. It is unwelcome. I believe art is at its most enjoyable and powerful when we are already acquainted with it. It is only by repeated exposure to myths and stories that their deeper meanings are revealed and can inform one's life. Also I find the tension of the evaluation and coming to terms with (slightly) new ideas, stories, images, and events to have a desultory effect on engagement.

I love engagement. I believe the real power of art, and even of entertainment, lies in its depths, in our deeper relationship to it, and even in its familiarity. On a simple level I can say things like Caravaggio's The Calling of St. Matthew, or The Godfather, or Moonstruck, or Ocean's Twelve, or Hat Full of Sky, or Blue are favorite works of art of mine. But each time I interact with any of them is different, and on another level it would be far more accurate to say the third time I read Hat Full of Sky is one of my favorite books ever, or the eleventh time I watched French Kiss is one of my favorite movies. The fifth time I walked into that Church of the French in Rome and saw The Calling of Saint Matthew hanging in the gloom is the moment where it was the greatest painting I ever saw.

There is very little that I have seen or read or heard just once that has full power in my soul.

All good things have depths.

We learn and grow by doing the same things over, being changed by them and changing them a little on our own.

Like with blog posts. 

Though you might need to read this six or seven more times for it all to come sufficiently clear to you.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

I'm in the movies!

One doesn't expect in the normal course of one's life to spontaneously recreate an iconic moment from a famous movie. I don't see myself scrabbling in the dirt for root vegetables in front my tattered mansion crying out "As god as my witness I'll never be hungry again!"

I don't even have a mansion.

And I don't expect to ever excuse myself to go to the bathroom in an Italian restaurant in order to retrieve a hidden gun to come back with to shoot a Police Captain. Even if there are probably a few of them who totally have it coming.

Also I'm fairly indifferent when it comes to cannoli.

I fervently hope I am never stabbed to death in a shower by a lunatic but wish I didn't mention it because now I'll be vaguely worried about it when I do shower tomorrow morning. I am exceedingly unlikely to drown out Nazis by singing the French National Anthem with a bunch of other people at a nightclub, especially given how I don't know any of the words of the French National Anthem, though I guess I could vaguely hum it. And as fun as it might be I guess I won't really be hanging out with a lost, beneficent space alien, helping them call home.

But the other day at the library our check in machine was having a lot of problems. I left the front desk to help. After multiple reboots and temporary fixes things went completely south. It clearly had something to do with the return path from the front entryway. I opened the locked door behind the Friends of the Library bookstore to get access to where returns come through an automated flap, run up a long ramp, and proceed along a conveyor system hugging the ceiling. At the top of this ramp was a clot of hundreds of materials, massed into an almost biological host, rammed up above and contained only by the ceiling itself. 

I climbed onto the conveyor belt. I ascended halfway and got on my knees, and then, as the space between me and the ceiling shrank, crawled on my belly to get at this fantastical lump. As I slithered along the belts and pathways of this huge industrial machinery in service to its problems it suddenly struck me:

I'm in Modern Times.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Publisher reap what you sow

Dear Publisher:

A while back I wrote you asking you to consider my manuscript for publication. You weren't interested. That's fine, I mean, it's extremely painful, sure, but I only let that bitter disappointment strengthen my resolve. I turned right around and sent you another proposal.

You weren't interested.

I don't know why. My writing is terrific. It's funny, and wise, and elegiac, and extremely unpopular. So I was mystified.

But I wasn't defeated! I sent you a manuscript again. Then I sent another hoping that my new edits, in which I got rid of the words "a lot", would make my work a lot more appealing to you. It might have, but not appealing enough for you to publish it.

I didn't say die.

Winners never quit.

I persevered.

I tried new angles. I took new approaches. I reformatted. I experimented with fonts, paper stock, ink color, veiled threats, small gifts, and decorated envelopes.

But after 37 submissions to you (and counting!) I still haven't met with success.

Oh well, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take. Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. Fortune favors the bold. It's always darkest before the dawn. Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

I learned that from all the books you do publish.

I refuse to believe you're a liar.

Yours truly, 

at least until the stamps run out,

F. Calypso

Friday, July 12, 2019

The garden I till

It's tiger lily season! The tiger lilies are blooming all across The Twin Cities. I love the beautiful, bright tiger lilies. They're like if cats were mixed with sunsets and sprinkled across the thickest part of Summer. When we had a yard we had tiger lilies growing in it. Now I just walk around and visit them and guess what?

It's just as good!

It turns out one doesn't have to own a tiger lily to enjoy a tiger lily.

What if it turns out you don't have to own things to enjoy them?

No one would bother to own anything. No one would steal anything. No one would bother to buy anything. No one would sell anything. The whole world would be a...


Thursday, July 11, 2019

Marine museum better late than never

Among the unexpected treasures of the Upper Midwest is the Minnesota Marine Art Museum of Winona. Winona is a little Mississippi River town that's roughly a three hour drive south of the Twin Cities. The population of Winona is around 27,000. I guess someone there created a gigantic hardware supply business that made a fortune and so they collected "Great art inspired by water" and built a very beautiful museum out on the Winona riverbanks to house it.

Now maybe you're thinking "That's nice. How quaint." I might think that too. But when I say "unexpected treasure" I mean it. One of the interesting paintings this museum has is "Washington crossing the Delaware". The artist, Leutze, painted two copies of the original back in the mid 1800's. The original was destroyed in WWII. One copy is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One was in the West Wing of the White House until 2015, but now it's hanging in the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.

"Okay" Maybe you're thinking. "That's just a weird one-off hung up among the more regional bric-a-brac." I might think that too. So here is a very partial list of artists who have paintings in this Museum:

Van Gogh


Or, "Oh." You might say. I know I totally did.

Now with all this praise you might think that I have actually been to this intriguing sounding museum.

I haven't! It's hours away!

There's this elderly library patron I talk to though who is super into this museum. He is almost obsessively into this museum. I have been helping him and his wife at the front desk of my library for at least a decade. Every single time I see him, for years and years, he says "So, have you and your wife been to the Marine Museum yet?"

I always have to say no and make lots of excuses like "It's hours away!"

Then he gets all disappointed and tells me how I really should go.

And I say "Mmm hmm." 

It's like a ritual.

But now I am going to the Minnesota Marine Art Museum with my fabulous wife on an exciting overnight trip. I am super excited!

And I am really keen to tell this (sort of) nice old man about my upcoming trip.

Unfortunately I haven't seen him around for awhile and think he might have died of old age.

Hmm, that kind of turned out to be a bit more of a bummer than I meant it to be.

He's probably fine. And even if he's not I think we should look on the bright side:

I'm pretty sure my wife and I must be fulfilling his final wish.