Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Back to work


Nope, no pretty posts about old trees and steaming deer and the labor of a thousand men fading back into the ancient shores of the Mississippi. 

I am back at work. After five lovely days off, I am back at work.

I answer the phone.

"I am trying to send an email." A person on the phone begins without preamble. "And the computer keeps telling me that it can't be sent. I know I am putting in the address and it won't let me! I need to send this email!"

Taken aback, I gently try to get a grip on the situation. "So you need some help with your computer?"

"No I don't need help with my computer!" She snaps. I've exhausted her patience. "Can I talk with someone else?"

I transfer her on upstairs without argument. 

I guess my people skills grew rusty in my absence.

Monday, November 29, 2021



Are these towns for real?

In the oldest, fallow heart of Saint Minneapolis lay these tiny tinker toy towns like Mendota and Lilydale, each with an almost lonely road, a train track to nowhere, a lost settlement, and populations of 37 people, all somewhere hidden there in the floodplains under the high river bluffs.

We went to Lilydale today, a town without a town, or houses for that matter, and we walked along with the eagles, hawks and gulls who were all interested in the unnaturally still water of the sleeping river, and in the strange air currents that swirl down off the unusually soaring river banks there, veritable mountains by any local standard.

There were some big, old trees to see too, some covered in elaborate fists of burls like climbing great tortoises.

We experimented with walking up one path heading to Pickerel Lake even though it said "Path Closed". We gave it up at a frozen stream and, heading back to our main path, saw the most American sort of thing: three young men coming up the closed nature path, each guiding their own wee radio controlled car.

They were taking their little cars for a walk!

From our abandoned 19th Century Saint Minneapolis in ancient Lilydale, we looked across to the mostly left behind 20th Century Saint Minneapolis, there the city's great cathedral on a hill, a looming, extinct grain mill right across the water from us, with its mighty old dock to unload shipments straight off the river, and then just up from there, a massive landmark of a brewery for a beer that hasn't been for more than 30 years now. 

We also saw some ducks.

Sunday, November 28, 2021



If you go down to the start of American Minnesota, which is both a terrible tragedy, and almost the beautiful world we live in, you will find the first stone house. And then train tracks which I haven't seen used yet by any train, and then woods all along the river for a long way.

To the left the mountain bikers ride, and people walk there too, because it is the way to go. But to the right, for a little while, is one of the lesser traveled paths of the river triangle that is the start of Saint Minneapolis. This is a very good quality on a beautiful late Fall Saturday after Thanksgiving.

But either way

These are my favorite woods.

Walking there with my lovely wife, happy as I can get, I thought of a poem.

To know the woods is to love them.

It goes:

To know the woods is to love them.

And then the rest of the poem writes itself.

I wondered why I like these woods the best, even if it's all very close up there at the top of the Saint Minneapolis Woods Ranking Board. 

Why do I like these woods the best?

They are unkempt. They are dilapidated and unused. They are falling apart forever and impervious to it. The roots of the trees are all exposed in the sand, like they're walking at a pace too slow for us sprinters through time to see. All the trees are falling down too, because they grew too big, or because they're sleeping in, or because they can and so why wouldn't they.

I would fall down like that.

You would too.

Actually, I don't know why all the trees are falling down, or why I like these woods best, or why we would fall down like that, but it looks right. It looks completely accidentally perfect. It looks like if you really just let everything be, it will all come out right in the end. As long as trees are involved.

Get the trees involved.

 Everything is falling down and growing up, all at once.

To know the woods is to love them.

For some reason I pictured someone saying all the shortcomings of these woods and saying "I like them, but I don't love them."

And then I imagined saying "Then you don't know them."

But I would never, ever say that. 

Mostly because no one would say they don't love these woods. 

Because to know the woods is to love them.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Pike Island

Pike Island is full of deer right now. The great stags will stare at you for a while, cautious, their curving antlers looking like pure magic, hard and smooth and lit by a low golden sun. Then they will go leaping off, their great bodies scarred and ruffled by a wild life, and also powerful and graceful. There are so many deer, and it's an island, so you will come close, and walk between them, and understand how big life makes them.

Life makes everything bigger.

The small herd of does are big too, and watchful, but for some reason, and in a way you will never have seen before, they don't run off. They step towards you ostentatiously, carefully, emphatically. They lift their hooves and stamp the ground.

And you will think:

"Maybe we'll just keep walking." 

Friday, November 26, 2021

Thanksgiving Day


Well, another Thanksgiving Day has come and gone. And because clerkmanifesto is an A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu like detailing of my life you are naturally curious, if the exhaustion hasn't gotten to you yet, as to what was the the nature of my Thanksgiving?

What happened to me on Thanksgiving?

What was the meaning of Thanksgiving?

What was my understanding of the world itself as it stood this Thanksgiving?

I can best express it all for you in this picture:

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Another day


It's about ten at night and I just realized, hey, wait a second, I haven't done my blog post yet!

After I can't even remember how many consecutive thousands of them that I've written (and photographed)  I don't really sweat it like I might have once upon a time. Maybe I don't try quite as hard as I once did. There are still really good ones I can come up with every strange once in a while, and a fair share of not so good ones too, I suppose, and all that vast harvest in between.  I've come to understand there's only so much I can do about those ratios, so no point straining myself. 

I've got nothing against reaching for the stars, but you gotta wait for those rare, surprising times they come close, or it's just a lot of Yoga.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Still no Christmas pictures


Yesterday I may have said a few things about a colleague I called "Dan" in order to protect Dan's identity. I implied that he took 10 to 15 cigarette breaks every day. I implied this subtly by saying "Dan takes 10 to 15 cigarette breaks every day." In reading it over I realized it is accurate, but perhaps fails to fully capture Dan's charm.

So I include today this picture of Dan. The Christmas aspects of the picture are incidental and I would not include an actual Christmas picture until after Thanksgiving.

So, to repeat, this is a picture of Dan, to demonstrate his charms, and not, except by accident, a Christmas picture.

A Christmas picture would look more like the following example, and so you will not be seeing any pictures like this until after Thanksgiving.

I'm glad we could clear all this up. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

My desk partner


I'm out here on the front desk with a colleague who likes to take 12 to 15 cigarette breaks a day. But don't worry, these breaks only go on for 20 to 30 minutes each and we like him, so it's okay, sort of. For the expediency of this account we'll just call this co-worker "Dan", because, well, maybe that's his name.

I said I was out here at the front desk with Dan, but of course he was on a cigarette break so a colleague of ours came out as his proxy.

"I'm Dan for the next 15 minutes." She said, respectfully pretending it would only be 15 minutes.

"If you're going to be Dan," I commented "You're probably due for a cigarette break."

And then a vision came to me. As she left for a cigarette break a new proxy for Dan would come out, and so on, and so on, and so on, until every last library worker was out in the parking lot, smoking cigarettes and looking for owls in the trees back there.

We don't get many owls back there, but the journey is more important than the destination.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Street scene


Here is one of my collages where I piled on all sorts of different images. Adding one single image to another in just the right way might work a lot better, but I find it kind of nice to endlessly edit one picture while we're peaceably watching an old romantic comedy.

This one was done during the movie "Housesitter" and though the image bears no relation to the film whatsoever, I can recommend the movie if you like Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn. It was quite charming, plus I've only seen it nine or ten times.

Sunday, November 21, 2021



Just a few more "elfland in the forest" pictures. I'm feeling like I'd like to find a way to cram more things into these pictures, but I haven't quite worked that out yet. So here's what I have so far:

Saturday, November 20, 2021

So I said... part 47


A co-worker was telling me about a patron interaction.

They said that a man came into the library and up to the front desk. This patron wasn't wearing a mask, which is required in our library, so my co-worker told him he had to wear one to be in our library due to county health policies. This co-worker gestured over to a box of disposable masks we have on the front desk as a helpful solution to the problem.

The man picked up one of the masks and said "How am I supposed to even wear this? I don't have an ear!" Then he showed my co-worker that he was indeed missing one ear."

So I said:

"You should have asked him if he had any paintings you could buy."

Friday, November 19, 2021

There is no end to what I can review!


A review of this blogpost:

I was looking forward to this blog post as it seemed to be riding an interesting new wave of reviews of relatively mundane things; my Covid test, my dentist appointment. But when it came time to read this blog post for the review I found it a little too self referential for my tastes. Also I had to write it, which created certain structural problems.

 I know that this author (me) has done some interesting work in the past in this "mirrors of mirrors" genre, but I never find it as satisfying as when he speaks from the heart, or even when he's simply "amusing".

The idea of it is a little thought-provoking though, so I'll give it that. 

Five out of ten.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Dental Work: The Review


I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that because this is a review of dental work it will probably be pretty funny.


Although there could be a few amusing bits. 

Why don't we see?

In the course of my family's semi annual teeth cleaning where they tell me what great teeth I have and how I'm doing such a good job taking care of them even though all I did is floss twice in the course of six months, me and my dental care team found that there was some "leakage" in the one filling I have had in the last 35 years.


I was feeling some dull, vague pain on occasion and this was the cause.

The Dentist, a fairly upbeat sort of person, said "No problem. We'll just pop in a new filling. It'll take 15 minutes.

I thought it might happen then, but no, we had to book it for two weeks hence. During the booking there was some uncertainty as to whether it was 15 minutes or 50 minutes. This is a natural confusion as they sound similar without quite having the fun of being homonyms, but instead just requiring a lot of clear enunciation and people saying "What?" a lot.

And so I spent two weeks worrying about the whole thing.

Worry, worry, worry, worry. I tended to focus a lot on the part where they insert a needle into my gum.

Finally the day came!

After the obligatory "chatting" portion of the visit, they started sticking things in my mouth. I appreciated that the needle part didn't come with any warning. It was simply very early on something painful was happening at the base of my gum. The sting of it persisted a bit and I was pretty sure there had been a needle stuck in there. Then things started feeling numb. Then I didn't feel anything at all, except, eventually, a bit tired from having my mouth open so much.

They did a ton of stuff on my tooth and stuck a ton of things in my mouth. But it all seemed very calm and brisk and competent.

Then it was over, which I liked quite a bit.

Which brings us to our review score. One would think that weeks of rising dread and the great relief I feel now would balance perfectly on the fulcrum of the 90 seconds of pain I felt. 

But I have found that dread, and relief, just like pain, and comfort, are whole worlds, entire unto themselves.

Seven out of ten.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Not yet


I can't help but note that we have become very holiday focused around here at clerkmanifesto. My Halloween pictures, for instance, went on for days! So when it comes to Christmas, the most culturally pronounced of all American holidays, I figured I should show a little restraint. 

We shall set the rule that Christmastime, The Holidays, and Winter itself, in any guise, do not in any way begin until after Thanksgiving. 

So when this guy came into the library this afternoon to collect his many, many requested books, in a sleigh no less, I kept my cool.

I did not ask for an autograph.

I did not start humming Vince Guaraldi songs.

I resisted cheer.

I simply said "I'm sorry. We don't allow pets in the building. Is that a service animal?"

"Ho ho ho." He replied.

"So that's a yes?" I asked.

I feel that I handled the whole thing pretty well. Although when he did finally leave, with all his books loaded into large velvet bags on his sleigh, I couldn't resist running to the upstairs windows to watch him go.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

A bit of free time


Here I am at the front desk of a large, metropolitan/suburban library.

It's all right. I am helping people, but with enough time to reflect upon the job at hand.

In the early days of this job I did what none of the patrons could do for themselves. It was tedious. And we were understaffed.

Slowly automation came and improved everything. At this point a patron can do very close to everything they could possibly need to at the library by themselves.

So now the major part of my job at the desk is helping people do things that they could do for themselves, but, for a vast, mostly sad variety of reasons, aren't able to; I render remedial computer assistance.

Is this bad?


In the end helping people do something no one can do versus helping people do something everyone else can do feels weirdly similar.

And, most importantly, there's much less of the latter.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Pooh corner


We went out walking.

Less than a few miles from here lies one of those places that makes me love Saint Minneapolis and expresses my favorite quality of all real Cities; their layers. I love the way cities can hold history hidden in plain sight, be built around a wilderness that somehow hasn't disappeared, and be developed with an unevenness that leaves pieces of centuries in the shadow of skyscrapers.

We weren't in the shadow of skyscrapers today (although I can turn and with an almost squealing delight, see them from where I am now), but like I said we were not at all far from here. But because two fabled rivers lie in the way, it takes an oddly intricate array of roads, freeways, bridges, on ramps, off ramps, and lonely roads to get there. I've been close by in the past, but never quite there

And where is there?

Just some woods, along the Minnesota River, more unused than everywhere around it, with a decent, but a little bit muddy, path. A place somehow near but far away from everything. In the first snow of the year. At the edge of a State Park in between four or five cities and three counties. Along a stretch of wild river that, while wild and rambling, is merely the front yard of the oldest stone house in all of Minnesota, built by its first Governor.

A place that looked like you could live there in a children's book full of talking animals.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

In which I instruct Bob Dylan on Bob Dylan


During a brief lull in our sparkling conversation, over some highly herbaceous cocktails, I mentioned to Bob Dylan that someone had donated a copy of The Rough Guide to Bob Dylan to our library.

"What's that?" Bob asked with tepid interest.

"Well, Rough Guides are a series of travel books, like Fodors or Frommers, but with the idea of being a bit more downscale and rough and ready."

"Travel books?" Bob asked.

"Yes." I replied. "Apparently you are like unto your own country now."

"Tell me about it." Bob groaned.

So I did.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Tested for covid, the review

I was tested for Covid-19 this morning.

But look who I'm telling about being tested for Covid! You've been tested for Covid like a thousand times already.

But for me it was a first.

My wife and I went to a random parking lot basement. The sort of place where all proper apocalyptic events take place, amid a vast acreage of dark concrete. People in Hazmat suits directed us along through islands of light and into brief areas of medical activity. 

It was actually quite quick and pleasant. 

Ultimately they swirled a long Q-tip around in the very back of both of my nostrils. It didn't feel good, but it wasn't horrible. Let us say a step less painful than a vigorous teeth cleaning (which I had just last week!), and a good deal shorter.

I'd give the whole experience a nine out of ten.

Though I may revise that if I test positive.


Friday, November 12, 2021

My famous library continued


While I just returned from from a long wander in which I mainly photographed trees (envisioning an unlikely to be amazing series of simple, single trees growing in my library), and while I, at the end of that journey, encountered the local turkey quartet (I doubt I got any particularly good pictures. I was very close to them, but I can't begin to convey to you just how much their heads move. Which, we should be sure to remember, is entirely their prerogative), what I am actually here to show you is my  latest pictures from the "Guess who visited the Library?" Series. 

I am still putting these pictures around in the library, in the locations where they took place, but oddly all the ones in the immediate radius of the reference desk have disappeared. 

Perhaps someone got offended at the "Oscar the Grouch as Reference Librarian"?

Squeamish warning:

A cartoon octopus appears in the last picture today. It's probably my favorite of today's pictures, and I quite like octopuses, but some of the best people in the World don't much like octopuses, with their suckers and arms and everything.

Octopus coming...

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Not an eagle


I went out for my photography walk and there was the friend of the family eagle on a branch over the Mississippi. He was pretty far away. But I decided I would brave the perilous cliffs of the River to get some close ups for you. I spent 20 minutes carefully planning my approach and triangulating to his location. I slipped over the river gorge fencing, bashed through some foliage and spotted the eagle... just as he leapt into the air and flew away.

So I sadly climbed up to the river road wall and took some pictures of the graffiti while I was there.

This is what it looked like:

It's a funny graffiti wall there. It's on the top of the bluff. In many places one can only get a few feet back from the wall. In the best of places one can get hardly more than ten feet. Then it all drops off dramatically to the river. It's extremely hard to get any kind of perspective on the graffiti. Even from a far distance scrub and trees obscure the view, though it does get better around this time of year as the leaves fall. For a picture like this I stood on the edge of the abyss:

Of course it was easier to get close up like the ones below. There weren't a lot of pieces I loved, but I did love this one, where the letters felt like they were made of bone. 

I believe the full piece reads "APOSE".

I took a couple more pictures of parts of the wall that interested me, then made my way along the river bluffs, on my usual path.

As ever, I came to my creek, and I took more pictures of a kind that I have no illusions will shock you, but that still interest me greatly.

Here is just one of them before I, like the eagle, leave you for the day:

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Chopin and Jarrett


I found one of my flash drives with Keith Jarrett concerts on it. One might think that I, a man with varying musical tastes, might have an assortment of different musics represented on whatever flash drives I might have, but no. It's all Keith Jarrett. Apparently whenever the impulse hits me to put music on a flash drive I invariably think of Keith Jarrett. And more specifically it is his Vienna and Paris Concerts that are on each of the storage devices. These are two of his concerts in which he gets up on stage, alone with a piano, and plays  improvisationally for an hour and a half or so. It is a lot of effort for him to do this and he tends to grunt, writhe, buzz, and tunelessly squeak as he creates his dazzling, slightly damaged (by the grunting and squeaking) music.

I have been listening to the Vienna Concert in my car commuting to my job at the library. It's beautiful, intense music, and it requires a lot of concentration. I love it and can't help thinking how extraordinary it might have been to be at that Vienna concert, listening to genius captured in a bottle, and then wandering out into the city of Vienna. I imagine Vienna to be an amazing enough city to rise to the challenge of such a moment.

Something about Keith Jarrett's piano tends to make me think of Chopin. Maybe there's some commonality in the way they make me feel, the way they draw me into the physical piano, its transforming sound, the way they sieve me through the sound, and send me out into some other dream of night. Sleighs in Winter, dark woods, art nouveau cafes, winding alleyways sparkling with stars.

There was a dichotomy that Van Gogh and Gaugin supposedly argued about, and debated over, involving the virtues of painting from the imagination (Gaugin) versus painting from shimmering life (Van Gogh). They even tried one each in the other's style.  And this runs through my mind as I wonder at what is more astonishing to me: Chopin setting down and actually imagining and writing the Nocturnes, or Keith Jarrett walking up on stage and writing those concerts on the air.

Both of them seem just beyond the realm of the possible.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Library scavenger hunt continues


My project of putting my pictures out in the library continues. A couple of them have strangely disappeared, but with new additions today there are probably about 25 or so scattered throughout the library. Sometimes people notice them, but mostly they don't.

I had a question here about them yesterday so here is a picture of what one of them looks like in situ:

Most of the pictures are out in public areas, but I did make a new one today for one of the staff bathrooms. 

The fact that these pictures are mostly going unmarked makes me want to stuff the library full of them, but I might employ a bit of restraint. I'd rather not go too quickly from no one noticing to where they create too much comment. 

It may be awhile before I manage to put this one out, or it may be tomorrow.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Mischief revived


You may have noticed I have been making fewer photos with famous fictional characters hanging out in my library lately. Nevertheless, while sorting through my photos the other day, I decided to print out a few dozen of the better of these whimsical pictures, and put them up somewhere as close as possible to the scene they portray.

So today I did just that. Starting with about twenty pictures, at about snapshot size, I posted them around the library. There's a picture of a bewildered Charlie Brown standing near one of our green book cubes right where the original shot was taken, Dan riding a moose down the staircase is on the bannister, and Mr. Putter reaching for a high up book is on the end cap of the row he is browsing in. Most are taped up with removable double stick tape, but some are in little free standing acrylic frames, like the one with Morticia knitting in the magazine area that sits on top of one of our magazine display cubes.

To me they're so noticeable it makes me feel I'm overdoing it, but I'm not sure anyone has actually noticed any of them yet. I do like them though, which inspired me to put together a few more pictures of areas where I might like to post new pictures.

So in case you don't get round to my library here are a some new ones I've been working on. There may be a few more in the days to come: