Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Everyday Pandemic at the library







I am working at the front entry desk of the library:


"Are you here to pickup a hold?"

"Yep." He points to a book in his hand. "Can I return this?"

I gesture to the return door. "The World is your oyster."

He returns the book and says a bit sadly "I don't know about that."

"I may have overstated it." I concede.




Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Picturing Fall


Yesterday I wrote an essay about Fall. If you haven't read it you might want to, not because it provides absolutely vital background to this post, but just because it was so good! So so so good! It was like Wordsworth or something with it being so wonderful and so beautifully written. I mean, if it's okay for me to say that myself.

Oh, right, I keep forgetting, it isn't okay for me to say that myself!


To summarize yesterday's essay I said:

Autumn is short.

Actually that was all I said. I don't know what all that Wordsworth hoo-hah was about.

And because Fall is so terribly short, I have been finding that when I go out photographing I feel an urgent need to photograph Fall. Quick, before it's gone!

But I don't really know how to do it. It's so unbelievably pretty everywhere.

I have sometimes found that the prettier everything is, the harder it is to photograph. Maybe it's because a photograph isn't just what's in the photograph, but it is also what has been left out of the photograph. And so many beautiful things have been left out of the photographs.

So here are my pictures of tiny pieces of The Fall.

I'm working on it.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Autumn falls

Autumn is short.

Technically it runs for three months, but that's just the cookie cutter, seasonal math of the layman. We acolytes count it far more carefully that that.

Fall screams into view in the middle of September. A novice might even get excited about how it gets going ahead of its official starting time. 

Hearts will be broken here. 

Fall ends somewhere in the first half of November. The end can be harder to chart. A good snow will usually kill it. The end is when it stops looking spooky and just looks... dead. No, that's wrong. That's the Autumn in me speaking. Not dead; peaceful, in repose.

At best this is two months of The Fall, but we know that we rarely get the best of anything. Look around you. After that accounting one has to eliminate all the warm days that betray Autumn. I won't stand for counting anything with temperatures reaching into the seventies and above. That's Indian Summer. Late Fall takes it's tithe too. Not for being too cold exactly, but there are days there with all the twisted trees now stripped of their color that will steal the tiny flame of your heart.

Seven weeks then, minus ten days for warm, six for despair. 

But there's more. 

There is the speed at which Fall travels. From the quadrillions of leaves in a flourishing wonderland of green, to a slow motion burning of the World, down to an empty and dead sleep is a fantastical distance. It is equivalent to the space between stars. And as we know from Einstein, the speed of such terrible travel warps time. So yes, we can count carefully on our fingers the five weeks of Autumn, but as we stand in Summer, and then later as we stand in winter, only two weeks will have passed for us.

Two weeks!

I told you hearts would break.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Not writing





 I am out at the front desk of the library and though just four hours ago this spot was pure chaos, it is now unbelievably quiet. I yawn loudly. I spin in my chair back and forth like a little kid. Fifty years on from it and there sure is a lot of little kid left in me.

One patron comes into the library, and I direct them on their way. A minute later they leave with their three books and we are down to zero patrons.

I think:

"It would be nice to write a blog post now."

So I consider what to write for a long time, twirling and yawning and listening to the hum of the building. I can't think of anything to say, and all this nothingness is suddenly too lovely to touch. So I decide I won't write anything right now.

And I take up my pen.

And I do.




Saturday, September 26, 2020

I like messiahs that don't get crucified

I am all but certain that I have never persuaded a single Republican in my life. But I think the problem might be with my vernacular, rather than with the elegance of my arguments. I don't speak with a Republican vernacular. I don't talk like Republicans talk. And if I'm going to sound alien to a Republican how can they ever hear the discernment lurking cleverly in the heart of my arguments?

So I am trying to learn to speak with a Republican vernacular.

It goes something like this (We join not too far into the conversation):

"Yeah, but how are you going to pay for all that? I don't want my taxes going sky high just to give away a bunch of money to free-loaders."

"Wait. You're a Republican?" I ask.

"What?" They scoff. "Did I burst your liberal bubble?"

"No." I reply. "It's just that like ten minutes ago you said you weren't a Republican anymore."

"What? I did not. What are you talking about?"

I look at them oddly. "I gave a beautiful speech." I say. "It was persuasive. A lot of people are talking about it. They're saying it's one of the best speeches of all time."

They look at me like I'm crazy.

"No. Seriously." I say. "I talk about this stuff all the time, make arguments and stuff, and people say "Wow, you really know your stuff!" You probably think I hate Trump and everything, but you know he wrote me?"

"Get out of here." 

"Yep. Trump wrote me. I have the letter. I can show you. You can ask anyone. Lots of people are talking about it. He said "I don't agree with most of what you say." He said. But then he said "But you're amazing at talking about stuff." "Amaaazingg" he said! Then he said "Who knows, maybe you're almost as good as me." I laugh. "I'm really good at convincing people of stuff. I hear it a lot" I add.

"Your so full of it." They say.

"I'm full of it?" I shrug. Who can account for such nonsense. "You're the one who said I convinced you and now you're not so sure you're a Republican anymore, and that you're probably voting for Biden, and now you're just pretending it never happened, and I'm full of it?"

"I've had enough. This is nonsense." They say, turning to walk away.

"That's what they said about Jesus. "Jesus's nonsense" they said." I remark. "Who, and I don't know, but I've heard this a lot, who I have a lot in common with. It's eerie. Smart people, priests and Reeevrends, smart people, like you wouldn't believe, say they've never seen anyone so much like Jesus as me. It just comes naturally to me I guess. People say it. All my grandparents were Jewish just like Jesus. Amazing. People get amazed. What can I say."

Of course they're gone at this point, and I'm just mumbling it all to myself, but I've given them something to think about. Amazing stuff. Stuff to think about like they've never seen anywhere before.


Friday, September 25, 2020

Votes for cats





It seems more than a little unfair that we as a people are cutting a swath through the population of animals in the world. But the thing that really gets me in our wanton manslaughter (or outright murders) of billions of animals and even species every year, is that these animals have absolutely no political representation.

I propose that we give the vote to cats!

Don't give the vote to dogs! They'll just vote for whoever they're told to vote for. Give the vote to cats. No one can tell a cat who to vote for! A cat will vote...

A cat will vote for...

A cat will...

Aw, who am I kidding?

No one on Earth could ever induce a cat to vote.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Going down like dominos





In the ongoing excitement and chaos of early voting at the library one of the elderly patrons went down, and they went down hard.

I think maybe people are out of practice for being in public and managing themselves in crowds. By all accounts this person was agreeably vertical, waiting to vote, and then, poof, she was horizontal.

There was a lot of blood. Tons of blood. Gallons of blood. So much blood that Vampires a thousand miles away sleepily sat up in their coffins and said "Wuzzat?"

Sharks' noses twitched curiously in the far away oceans.

"I'm fine." Burbled the woman through the gouts of blood pouring from her. "I'm fine!"

And she was. She just hit her nose, which then spurted several pints of blood onto our floors.

But enough about all the blood already!

We cleaned it all up, and where it was wet from the cleaning an A-framed "Caution" sign was placed.

Almost immediately a weary patron leaned on the caution sign for respite and then crashed to the ground as it gave out under them. There was no blood. The patron seemed fine.

"Aarrgh!" The patron cried. "Call an ambulance!"

So we did, and the ambulance came and wheeled the patron away.

At that point I was expecting a whole grimly madcap day of patrons collapsing to our tiled and concrete floors in a copious series of bloody and technicolor disasters, but it didn't happen. Which I suppose is just as well really.

Later in the day I may have seen a couple sharks mooning about curiously outside, but I can't be certain. Sometimes my imagination runs away with me.






Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Not as scary as it might seem


I was angling in on some old purple flowers growing on the edge of our alley. A bee was sitting there quietly, and it's been awhile since I've taken any pictures of a bee. I leaned in.

And then, through the shrubs, I saw him. Just a few feet away.

Looking quietly up at me. I could almost hear him thinking:

Maybe if I just don't move.

I thought the same thing.

And I took his picture.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

100 Greatest albums: For Emma, Forever Ago

I am chipping away at a series here called "The Hundred Greatest Albums of All Time" with each of the albums covered being individually the single greatest album of all time, irrespective of the fact that there are 99 other ones.

(And probably more).

The greatest album of all time is For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver. 

But I'm sorry to have to tell you that today's selection is a bit of a bait and switch.

Allow me to explain.

Periodically I and my brain become completely obsessed with a song. All I really want to do is listen to that song. I play the song for other people. Sometimes I have even written about the song here; for instance once I covered my obsession with The Grateful Dead's Black Peter. But it has happened to me countless times with, just off the top of my head:

Cortez the Killer by Neil Young

Wing by Patti Smith

Delia as done by Bob Dylan

River by Joni Mitchell

Ruby My Dear (mysteriously a version by) Bud Powell

Ball and Biscuit by The White Stripes

If I listed them all, we could be here all day.

I guess the point is that it happens a lot.

It is happening right now.

And the song is 

Auatc (Ate up all their cake) by Bon Iver 

Oh I love this song.

I'm listening to it now.

And now I'm listening to it again.

I can't write very well when I'm listening to music to let's just wait for a second. 

And listen.

This song doesn't have an album yet. I guess it's supposedly coming eventually? Fortunately 13 years ago Bon Iver made the greatest album of all time, For Emma, Forever Ago. At some point it was bound to get its official clerkmanifesto 100 greatest album of all time blog post, so why not now, when we can deftly sneak in A.U.A.T.C.?

Which we have done.

When For Emma came out it seemed like there was a mythology with it. Honestly I don't know how much was purely in my imagination, how much was swirling, possibly nonsensical rumor, or if any of it was remotely real. 

It went something like this:

Bon Iver was some guy who holed up in a cabin deep in the Wisconsin woods. He had a ton of strange recording equipment in his tiny rustic wooden cabin. He layered tracks heavily and overdubbed wildly with a magician's touch, tempered by isolation and wilderness, and produced, from out of nowhere, the greatest album of the day.

I wasn't too invested in that interpretation. I just love the album. All that.. stuff... doesn't matter. But it was there.

Nevertheless, as is my custom, I went out to get you a YouTube link to one of the songs from the album. I chose, almost randomly, Flume. It's a beautiful example/introduction, though I suppose anything I chose would have worked perfectly. But then I saw something about Bon Iver playing Flume in a "Pocket Party" in Paris. So I watched it.


To see it all done so simply only deepened my astonishment.

I listened to Flume four times in preparing these brief notes and links, stunned, riveted and amazed each time. It's gorgeous, powerful music.

Then I had to do some dishes. So I went to the sink and found myself singing:

Well, you're up all night

And your head's down low

If you can see your own kite

Shed a little light on it...

Monday, September 21, 2020

Left right left


In our increasingly complicated library entrance gauntlet, we are now regularly directing people to either side of a stanchion and to a couple of different library entrances.

Go left to the library.

Go right to vote.

Alas that looked at in the political vernacular of the time, this pretty much says it all:

Voting now we adjudicate whether to be mild, bureaucratic conservatives, or to be Gilead.

In the library we are all Socialists.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Perfect candidate




The election has begun at my library where we are an early voting site. So far the lines have been prodigious, and the first day saw waits that were never less than an hour and were often a fair bit more.

People are kind of keyed up about this voting thing.

As I write it's a Saturday and there is no early voting, which is strictly Monday to Friday. Regardless people still keep coming in to try and vote today. After giving them the bad news I tell them that they can inform me who they'd like to vote for and I can pass it along to the election judges on Monday. When they take me up on it I always like to suggest myself for the Presidency. "I'm non partisan, I have a lot of super fun ideas, and I am very, very, very, very ethical!"

To my surprise they do consider it for a moment, but they always choose someone else.

No worries. I put my name down anyway.





Saturday, September 19, 2020

Outside help


I bet you're wondering why there is no blog post today.

Oh this ol' thing?

I guess it's a blog post. I suppose it depends on your definition of what, exactly, a blog post is.

Yes, "A post, on a blog" is actually a really good definition. 

Do you mind if I use that?

No, I know I just did. I mean, I would have removed it if you said no.

So thank you!

How would I have removed that?

Time travel.

Actually I'm pretty good at time travel. Say something you'd like me not to use.

Oh, that's complicated.

No, I can do it. I'll just start it at:

"I bet you're wondering why there is no blog post today."

No, I know it's not as good as before.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Fan letter

Dear Clerkmanifesto:


I read a lot of stuff on the Internet. Some of it is pretty good. But I recently came across one of your posts called "Fan Letter" and, well, I was gobsmacked.

It was really really good. It was so so so incredibly good! I think it was the best thing I've ever read!

It was a whole lot better than anything else on the Internet!


You should get a Pulitzer for it!

No, seriously.

I may even read your blog again some day, if I remember to, which I probably won't.

Yours truly,

A fan

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Reader questions


A reader writes in to clerkmanifesto to ask:

Hmm. Wait. No one appears to have written in to ask anything. 

Ah well, I can answer anyway:

Dear Reader:

First of all: Thank you for your kind words about my blog! I am touched. I know I seem amazingly self-contained and unaffected by success and by what anyone thinks of me, but...

Hmm, apparently I misplaced my second part of that sentence. Never mind. Let's carry on!

You ask a lot of interesting questions about my blog. I will try to answer them.

1. I am in no way obsessed with ferrets. 

2. I have never met a ferret.

3. What's with all the questions about ferrets?

4. I'm not the one asking all the questions about ferrets!

5. Well, these are the questions you would have asked if you actually wrote in thank you very much!

6. No, I don't think I just show pictures when I lose control of a blog post!

7. I am so glad you have taken an interest in my photography. Here are four random pictures I have recently taken.

8. No, oddly they're not of ferrets.

9. Yes, I agree it's a bit of a missed opportunity.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Mr. Toad's wild ride

Among the most mediocre (but as a fan, ever thrillingly delightful) rides of Disneyland there sits Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. It is a very short, dark ride, meaning an indoor environmental ride wherein one's party sits in a conveyance (a simulated roadster in this case) and is taken along a track on a little adventure. The Mr. Toad ride was based off characters from a kid's book called The Wind in the Willows which, it turns out, is about reckless driving and auto theft. Disney made half an animated movie about it three quarters of a century or so ago. Any further nuances are relatively moot as the premise of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is that you are in a car being recklessly driven through a variety of English Environments: The countryside, a manor, London, Hell, all of it full of ridiculous hazards like road construction, exploding factories, frantically gesturing police, and evil judges. Your car's headlong, dangerous, and crazy driving is ever bailed out by a fool's luck and sudden, last minute, skin-of-your-teeth turns.

I did not intend originally to provide so thorough an explanation of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Most of you probably know the gist of it all already. I merely came here to talk about my library once again.

Right now my library reminds me a lot of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

Because of all the special limitations of the pandemic, and with all the very specialized, highly limited, and minutely scheduled things herein offered, my library has become a warren of stanchions, cart walls, "Do Not Enter!" signs, giant red arrows, closed areas, gated sections, and long, narrow access pathways.

All of it seems assembled with the same chaotic and ill fitting, makeshift and wild design that marks Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. And the library patrons that wander into this frantic, complicated, overly stimulating environment seem to me exactly like the cars jolting madly through Mr. Toad's. These people push on a door that reads "Warning: No Entry!" only to wheel off to another door, plunge through, and find themselves walking against the tide of an army of red arrows.

They surge away from that just as they are set to head the wrong direction down an endlessly stanchioned path to nowhere. They dodge through the proper entrance only to make an ill-advised turn to the computer appointments area where they find some County functionary looking admonishingly at them and saying "Can I help you" in a tone that implies it is not help, rather a stern correction they offer. Of course like the Disney ride nothing ever goes seriously wrong, except for in Mr Toad one ends up in Hell, and in the library there is a possibility the experience will lead to a terrible bout of Coronavirus and maybe an impending, tragic, and brutal death. 

 But, of course, you go for the ride, you take your chances.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020



As I am not shy about telling you, I have written a blog post every day for seven and a half years now. But it was only with the emergence of a Pandemic this Spring that I started to include photography in clerkmanifesto. Most of the time the pictures and the way I talk about them is in keeping with the things I I have always written about anyway, but sometimes it's really just... photography.

And so when I feel as if there has been an awful lot of photography in the blog I say to myself:

Maybe it's time to write more again.

And then I go out for a walk.

And this happens:

Monday, September 14, 2020

Dear Great Pumpkin

Dear Great Pumpkin:

I hope that I am not writing you too soon, but it is September, and the leaves have started to turn, and it has been unusually chilly and Fall-like lately. See below:

You're probably thinking: "Oh crap. I'd better start gathering toys. And I have to hurry and pick this year's pumpkin patch!"

But don't worry. It's mostly just the earliest bits of Fall. There's plenty of time left. Mostly I was just hoping to reach you before you settled upon the most sincere Pumpkin Patch to visit for Halloween this year.

Because I have found a uniquely sincere Pumpkin Patch.

I don't mean to suggest that you in your wisdom would not know the most sincere Pumpkin Patch. But this one is very little.

So you might miss it.

Here is a picture:

See how easy it is to miss? Here are some closer pictures:

See the pumpkin? It's genuine! It's a real pumpkin patch! No airs, nothing fancy. It's in an alley!

It's a sincere pumpkin patch.

It has a little bit of an upper portion too, which I think makes it a full pumpkin patch rather than just a pumpkin plant.

Once Charlie Brown asked Linus "Maybe this pumpkin patch isn't big enough?" And Linus wisely answered "Size has nothing to do with it! It's sincerity that counts!"

Another great thing is that this pumpkin patch is in St. Paul, Minnesota. St. Paul is where it all began for you! So I thought it might be nice for you to return home to your original pumpkin patch this Halloween. This particular pumpkin patch might be as close as you could get all these years later to your original pumpkin patch.

I don't need a lot of toys at this pumpkin patch- a few nice ones mostly for form's sake. I'd just be really honored and thrilled to finally see you rising out of a pumpkin patch on Halloween Night. 
I've spent a lot of long nights in pumpkin patches over the long years without much success to tell you the truth.

Did I tell you I got a "Great Pumpkin" T-shirt this year? I wear it all the time.

I'm sorry it says "pumkin". I didn't notice that when I ordered it. I mean no disrespect. 

No matter what pumpkin patch you decide to visit this year though I will always be your devoted fan,


(and I believe in you despite what everyone says about you not existing!)


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Romantic comedy preview


(Over shots of busy hospital wards, quarantined, empty city streets, and people on ventilators) 

The Pandemic was a terrible time for almost everyone. 

(Shot of a man with a horrible, almost disfigured mouth and jaw, looking sadly into a mirror) 

But for George... 

(Shot now of a woman with a cleft lip and wildly jutting teeth, also looking sadly into a mirror) 

And for Emily, it was 

(Shot of the two of them, splitscreen, in front of their mirrors, putting on their face masks) 

a dream come true. 

(In their masks George and Emily look great and very "normal").

(Cut to a shot of a comically socially distanced party) 

But when George and Emily meet the partners of their dreams, 

("Sparks" fly as George and Emily lay eyes on each other in their masks)

how long can they hide behind:

"The Masks"

(Cut to scene of George and Emily, still in masks, sitting romantically together with untouched glasses of red wine, before a Christmas decorated fireplace).

Emily: (Nervously) Should we take off our masks?

George: (Longingly) Yes. NO!

Emily: Right! No! Because...

George: Because...

Emily: (Desperately) Because it would be wrong!

George: (Eager) It would be wrong to the safety of our grandparents!

Emily: (Wistfully) I love my grandparents.

George: I love my grandparents!

(They kiss while wearing masks)

This Holiday Season:

(Splitscreen of George and Emily again, in their mirrors, without masks, trying to make their faces look more normal)

When a Pandemic hides the truth,

(Ambiguous shot of them looking at each other without masks)

Maybe dreams can still come true!

(Back to splitscreen where they put on their masks)

"The Masks"

Streaming exclusively starting Thanksgiving Day.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Dear library user

Dear Library User:

As you know, this time of the Covid-19 Pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to the providing of County Services. Essential County Services such as Ferret Registration, Tax Payment Adjudication, and Hazardous Waste Disposal have become more difficult for people to access in the current climate. That is why we have decided to take over the libraries. They're conveniently located, people like them, and those library people wouldn't say boo to a cat, so we can do pretty much whatever we want there.

Nevertheless we realize that people still want to use the library as a library. Don't let us stand in your way. We want nothing more than that you continue to enjoy your library, which is a County Service, provided by your County, with the approval of the County Manager and the County Board of Directors, and which now also offers many other valuable County Services.

However if you are going to continue enjoying your library, in addition to the current Pandemic cautions, please note and abide by the following library changes:

1. You will need to check in with the County Navigator at The County Navigator Desk to enter the library.

2. In addition to a library card you will need a Ferret Registration Card to enter the library. You do not need to own a ferret! This is for processing purposes only.

3. Note: You need to make an advance appointment if you want to see someone at The Ferret Registration Desk and apply for a Ferret Registration Card.

4. While in the library County Social Workers may drop by to inform you of services that you don't qualify for.

5. You must show two forms of picture ID at the Security Desk to leave the library because, during the Pandemic, the County is piloting a new program using the library as a Low Security Detention Facility. This won't affect library services in any way, but we advise using caution when interacting with library patrons wearing orange jumpsuits.

Thank you so much for your consideration in these difficult times. We hope you will keep in mind our County Motto:

"There is no need for you to thank us for all our amazing services. We're the County. It's just what we do."

-The County Manager


-The County Board of Directors