Saturday, May 2, 2020

March 27, 2017: Ten Questions with Bob Dylan




Ten Questions with Bob Dylan, from March 27, 2017:




Recently Bob Dylan posted a new interview on his website. This is rare enough that the St. Paul daily paper, The Pioneer Press, put news of it on its front page. Minnesota, after decades of stand-offishness, has finally accepted Dylan as its proud own, like F. Scott Fitzgerald or Charles Schultz, two other artistic legends who fled Minnesota for other places. "Bob Dylan Posts Rare Interview on his Website" was the title of the article, or something like that. Even I consider that questionable as front page news, but a new Bob Dylan interview is indeed rare. And don't think I didn't let Bob know it.


"You know, it's one thing when you aren't doing any interviews." I said to Bob over cocktails. "But it's kind of cold that you won't do an interview on my blog when you're happy to do one on your own, already sufficiently popular, website!"


"Oh man." Bob complained.


"The guilt and shame hurts?"


"No, what do they put in this drink? It's making me so weird." Bob said.


"Too much green chartreuse, I think." I replied. "Super pretty though with the absinthe and dry ice."


"Absinthe!" Dylan exclaimed startled. "Are you sure it's not driving me mad?"


"No, no, bunch of myths about absinthe."


"Go ahead. Do yourself an interview. Ten questions." Bob said, magnanimously.

  
"Wait, let me get out my post-it notes."




                                   Ten Questions with Bob Dylan



Me: What are your favorite blog posts on clerkmanifesto?


Bob: Uh, I like the ones mostly about library policy and procedures, I guess.


Me: Really, what about the ones with you in it?


Bob: The only ones I don't like are the ones with me in it.


Me: But they're really good. They're funny. Plus no one believes they're real anyway.


Bob: Why wouldn't someone believe they're real?


Me: For someone as crusty and knowing as yourself you can suddenly get so disarmingly innocent.


Bob: Bah!


Me: How many questions have we used up so far?


Bob: I think with that one you're at, like, 8 or 9.


Me: Let me check my notes. It's three! It's only three. And you're at one. So it's three to one.


Bob: Okay, my turn. What's your favorite liqueur?


Me: St. Germaine.


Bob: Bartenders ketchup.


Me: I like ketchup. Ketchup is amazing.


Bob: You go.


Me: What do you think of Messi, the greatest soccer player of all time?


Bob: I think you get these fixations. And then you think everyone should have them.


Me: No. He's really that good. Besides, what about you?


Bob: What about me what?


Me: Three more discs coming out of you singing songs from the Great American Songbook, or whatever.


Bob: These are classics. Some of the greatest songs ever written!


Me: They're fine, but around the time I was born, which is a long time ago already, you had single-handedly begun the process of ripping open the soft belly of the Great American Songbook, gutting it, and reinventing what a person can do with a song.


Bob: Really, I did that?


Me: They gave you a Nobel Prize for it.


Bob: Oh yeah, that. (In a smaller voice) I was too busy to go get it. (Bob starts giggling).



I gently teased the remains of his cocktail away from him as he giggled some more. Then I drank it myself. Then I started giggling a bit too. It took a while for us to resume.



Bob: I think that was ten questions. Five each?


Me: Close enough.














Sunday, January 26, 2020

July 6, 2016: Country Folk Blues

Country Folk Blues





My wife saw him first. He emerged from the Metro Mobility Bus, struggling slightly with his guitar. 
Metro Mobility is the door-to-door bus that helps the infirm or disabled get around these twin cities. It was good news to see him, this old man, walking slowly, but ably enough. It meant that The Open Mike Night at the Riverview Cafe would be a good one.

Fairly speaking, Open Mike Night at the Riverview Cafe is always pretty good. And despite the old man's auspicious arrival, this Open Mike was one of the least interesting I have seen in awhile. Always suffering from an old white man syndrome, Thursday's Open Mike was at its worst in this regard. I don't have anything against old white men, especially as I'm working my way to aging into one, but we were wall to wall with them here. We might have been two hours into the show without an exception to the demographic, and for the whole of the night "fiftyish" would have qualified any singer as a mere babe in the woods.


That might not have been so bad if it weren't for a problem of musical sameness rearing its head too. Start to finish was crowded up shoulder to shoulder with songs of deep Americana: Country Folk Blues. Dirge music, rust belt Union Songs, sad tales of broken down cars, lost dogs, and love gone wrong. This was dusty stuff, and though a notable proportion of the songs were written by the performers themselves, there was nothing in them to show they weren't all songs from the 1930's. I'm not saying this music doesn't interest me, but a little emotional variation, an occasionally different genre or tempo, can exert a powerfully refreshing quality on the listener's ability to absorb, to feel, and to see.


Poignantly, things started steadily improving only as the crowd thinned down, better music to a smaller crowd. We were a little looser with wine and beer, more forgiving, and clearly bettered by a dwindling count of audience members who were anxious about their own upcoming performance. By the time the old man came on I doubt there were more than a dozen of us out watching on the cafe floorThe old man hooked his guitar up just like everyone else did. The night's host set the sound for him, and the old man sat down and played. It was every bit Americana; Old folk blues just like we'd been hearing most of the night. But here it was suddenly revealed. Split open. This was how it was supposed to be done. The lyrics were all heartbreak, but so was his voice, beautiful, cracked, burnt hard in an old fire, but clear. No dirge these songs, because on the refrain that voice of pain and age and sorrow turned. It soared up piercing and giant and sharp. The feeling filled up all the pain so high that for a brief second it floated into heaven, up to that place where something catches in you and your heart leaves the room. For one weird, soaring moment it leaves the world and it leaves all of time.


Then it comes back, drifting down. The old voice again. The old man, no polish or fame. No following. Everyone taking it for granted. This is how art usually is.


Nothing to see here. 

He finishes up. We applaud. He unplugs his guitar and shuffles off. Just another one of the night's performers. Maybe in another world, a world more just, roadies are packing up his guitar for him. The limo waits for him backstage at Carnegie Hall or at the old Ryman Auditorium. Maybe in another world he
 got everything he deserved, and so did you, which, at the very least, is a little more than you have now.








Saturday, December 21, 2019

April 8, 2016: Unstuck in Time

Unstuck in time from April 8, 2016





I have a special fondness for time travel stories. They're such wonderful vehicles for talking about fate, free will, and the nature of stories themselves, after all, stories are made out of time itself, and yet they are completely free to travel unfettered around in it as well. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut has a fine understanding of this. So fine, I suppose, that it is actually where I learned this.

In Slaughterhouse Five, the main character, Billy Pilgrim, is unstuck in time, and moves through different episodes of his life in a non linear manner. I have been thinking about this a lot lately as this is what seems to be happening to me these days at the library. I have worked here for more than two decades. One moment I am downstairs watching the O.J. verdict in a break room that no longer exists and the next I am showing people how to use our programmable paper books which don't yet exist as I write this. For a few minutes I am buried in an endless crush of book returns that I could never hope to get caught up on, and then I am watching our big check in machine toil away for me, taking care of the job handily, as I sip a cappuccino.

Then I am at the front desk with some co-worker. There have been hundreds of them. I turn to this person and ask how long they've worked at the library.

"Almost six months now." They answer. "Why do you ask?"

"I just wanted to know where I am in time." 

 I remember when they'd worked here for eight years.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

July 28, 2018, Enobling Library Work

Enobling Library Work


July 28, 2018



Just this once, in one of these library stories, let's start with the punchline:

"I don't know how anything gets done around here!"


Now that that's taken care of we can get down to our real message.

I was shelving in Non Fiction, which on the hour was supposed to switch to me shelving in Fiction. But I'd been reading and writing in the stacks so much that it was 20 after the hour by the time I had an empty cart to bring down for a new Fiction one. In the pre elevator room one of my colleagues was standing with a full cart of books, talking on their cell phone, having a particularly intense discussion with one of their children. I dashed into the elevator and pressed the down button several hundred times until the door finally closed.

Downstairs the automated check in machine was entirely abandoned. I suspected what this meant and confirmed it with our posted schedule; one of my managers was assigned to the machine. Only the managers would treat that responsibility so cavalierly and leave so much work for the people to come. This manager was off in their office while the machine either idled or cranked off towards some disaster. I went around straightening bins with the real motive of causing them to fill up so that the machine display would light up with lots of alarming red boxes.

The person on phones was doing nothing and staring vacantly into space in a vaguely alarming way, but, hey, I've been there. Another co-worker, I'm not sure where she was assigned, probably Non Fiction, was watching some inscrutable, corporate looking video with sound so low I doubt she could properly hear.

One other person was also shelving in Fiction with me, meaning I'd want to try to carefully choose a cart that kept us from shelving in the same place. But since I'd seen on the schedule who that person was I knew there was no way in hell he was upstairs shelving. He was either smoking in the parking lot or off on some secret mission of his own, and I could take whatever cart I wanted.

Upstairs in the elevator anteroom my co-worker was still there on the phone, just wrapping up the discussion. I rolled my cart out into the public area, behind where two librarians were aimlessly surfing the Internet, looking very bored, and I wheeled into the quiet respite of Fiction. I shelved for about ten minutes and then wrote most of this.

Maybe I really belong here after all.











Wednesday, September 25, 2019

November something, 2016

As you know, every two or three days I like to pay consultants thousands of dollars to gauge how my readers are feeling about clerkmanifesto. We at clerkmanifesto are strongly reader driven. I listen carefully to what these surveys have to say only to find I am constitutionally unable to do any of the things the surveys recommend. But I never stop trying, and no sooner do I fail than I commission another survey. Is this too many surveys? We have commissioned a survey to find out!

But in the meantime we would deeply appreciate it if you would fill out the following customer satisfaction survey. And to show that we don't expect you to labor in our baking hot survey fields for nothing, we will be giving each of you who fills out this survey 100 clerkmanifesto points, redeemable immediately in the clerkmanifesto store for, well, old blog posts that no one can find because the Internet mostly just hides things. Maybe we can get some T-shirts or something in the store eventually (you know, like "The cream rises to the top and dead things float"), but they'll probably cost a ton of points.



Customer Satisfaction Survey

(Please punch all the way through on your answers or your choice may be voided even if your intent was obvious)



1. How do you feel about this new "points for items in the clerkmanifesto store" thing?



( )  You can't fool me, I know you're kidding! Kidder!

( )  I already got a late 2013 blog post for 50 points! How can I earn more points?

( )  I don't understand how I'm supposed to fill out this customer satisfaction survey. It doesn't let me enter anything. Am I supposed to print it out and mail it to you or something?



2. What kind of posts would you like to see more of here on clerkmanifesto?


( )  Anything where I can get more points!

( ) Anything is fine. All of your blog posts are equally nice.

( )  Excuse me. I am looking for the Google website? Do I go right or left from here?



3. What stops you from demanding that everyone you know read clerkmanifesto?


( )  I mean, I like clerkmanifesto. Really I do. I just don't think other people, anywhere, would, you know, get it.

( )  Hey! Some credit here! I recommend it all the time! Or, I mean, I did, until it got all pressury and self promotey! 

( )  I'm planning on doing this soon but want to build stronger relationships with everyone I know first so I have more leverage.



4. What improvements would you like to see in the clerkmanifesto customer satisfaction surveys?



( ) I would like to see more options of multiple choice answers during the clerkmanifesto customer satisfaction survey questions.



5. What's your favorite clerkmanifesto post of all time?


( )  Oh, you know, that funny one? About that thing at the library. You remember. Oh my stomach hurt from rofling! So funny! What was it about again?

( )  I'm here by accident and I don't understand anything that's going on. I'm so confused right now.

( )  I really feel that clerkmanifesto is a work in progress. Though I have read all 1,400 of your posts I haven't exactly liked any yet. I read it based more on its potential.



6. Why have you stopped reading clerkmanifesto?



( ) Um. I'm right here. Hello?

( ) I was briefly "Off-planet", if you know what I mean? But I'm touched you noticed I was gone and devoted an entire question to me!

( )  I don't know, when you don't talk about Grape much my attention starts to wander.

( )  I hate to have to say it, but I guess it's because it sometimes feels like you're starting to repeat yourself here.

( )  I hate to have to say it, but I guess it's because it sometimes feels like you're starting to repeat yourself here.

( ) I don't know. I really like it, usually, but then there's a joke like the "repeating" one, above, and I feel like I just need a little break. So tired. So very tired.

( )  Um, because the day's post is over?

















Thursday, August 22, 2019

August 13, 2013


Fly and Me
8-13-13



The lake house my wife and I are at is perfect. This may not be the nicest thing to tell you. It lacks grit and reality for any reader and changes even the least boastful of all writers (which I already severely lack any claim to) into a bit of a braggart. But I cannot tell you this tale without starting here. It is perfect here. And perfection, personal and eternal though it may be, also somehow only exists in bookends, in the niggling bits of imperfection that obsessively sketch its borders. This is about a small imperfection looming large and the restoration of harmony.

We are much in and out here, onto the balcony, testing the air, down to our great lake, in and out through sturdy wood doors made, like our walls here, mostly of glass. Outside there are sometimes many bugs, and I have perhaps enough mosquito bites to satisfy those readers bored with my claims of perfection. Sometimes we are chased inside or just choose to come inside and someone slips in with us. A moth is not so great a problem, and I have caught one in a glass and taken it out. A mosquito or two is a misery, but it is not hard to get lucky with a stray swat, and, if not, ten minutes of concerted hunting will always do the trick. A fly though, a fast, uncanny, smart fly can be a small torture of surprising persistence and near unsolvability. Last night such a fly slipped into our house.

This fly was a genius and a miracle of speed, a master of irritation. It began its visits at dawn, buzzing loudly about our heads, landing on our skin, circling, racing, always patternless and endlessly interested in our company. For reasons of its own it would disappear until the exact point where my spirit would start to calm, and then it would return. All through the morning hours I'd engage in long, futile hunting expeditions with a rolled up magazine. I'd wait for it, through long tracking operations, to land some place whackable, and I'd whack. There'd usually be a slight injury to my hand, a loud noise, and a curious sense of missed opportunity, curious because one wonders what opportunity I was missing when I was not getting within the realm of distant hope of even coming near this fly.

I wanted to kill this fly very much.

I was not going to kill this fly.

The morning advanced and the fly only grew faster and louder and smarter.

I so wanted to kill this fly.

I won't draw this all out with all the long tales of all the ridiculous things whacked and flung with all the comedy of something so utterly without effect. But it was all there. Know that it was there.

I was in the kitchen. The fly landed on the counter. My thousandth chance. I swept my hand across the counter, an odd attempt even more futile than most, and the strangest thing happened. I caught the fly. I caught the fly!

I took the fly outside. I threw it out of my hand onto the wide wooden plank of the balcony railing. The fly, unphased, looked up at the sun and clouds and felt the wind.

"It's nice to be outside." It seemed to say.

I breathed in the perfect air that smells of pines and almost of the sea. I was calm for the first time in five hours.

"Yes it is." I seemed to say. "Yes it is."






Saturday, June 15, 2019

August 13, 2013


August 13, 2013 

Fly and Me




The lake house my wife and I are at is perfect. This may not be the nicest thing to tell you. It lacks grit and reality for any reader and changes even the least boastful of all writers (which I already severely lack any claim to) into a bit of a braggart. But I cannot tell you this tale without starting here. It is perfect here. And perfection, personal and eternal though it may be, also somehow only exists in bookends, in the niggling bits of imperfection that obsessively sketch its borders. This is about a small imperfection looming large and the restoration of harmony.

We are much in and out here, onto the balcony, testing the air, down to our great lake, in and out through sturdy wood doors made, like our walls here, mostly of glass. Outside there are sometimes many bugs, and I have perhaps enough mosquito bites to satisfy those readers bored with my claims of perfection. Sometimes we are chased inside or just choose to come inside and someone slips in with us. A moth is not so great a problem, and I have caught one in a glass and taken it out. A mosquito or two is a misery, but it is not hard to get lucky with a stray swat, and, if not, ten minutes of concerted hunting will always do the trick. A fly though, a fast, uncanny, smart fly can be a small torture of surprising persistence and near unsolvability. Last night such a fly slipped into our house.

This fly was a genius and a miracle of speed, a master of irritation. It began its visits at dawn, buzzing loudly about our heads, landing on our skin, circling, racing, always patternless and endlessly interested in our company. For reasons of its own it would disappear until the exact point where my spirit would start to calm, and then it would return. All through the morning hours I'd engage in long, futile hunting expeditions with a rolled up magazine. I'd wait for it, through long tracking operations, to land some place whackable, and I'd whack. There'd usually be a slight injury to my hand, a loud noise, and a curious sense of missed opportunity, curious because one wonders what opportunity I was missing when I was not getting within the realm of distant hope of even coming near this fly.

I wanted to kill this fly very much.

I was not going to kill this fly.

The morning advanced and the fly only grew faster and louder and smarter.

I so wanted to kill this fly.

I won't draw this all out with all the long tales of all the ridiculous things whacked and flung with all the comedy of something so utterly without effect. But it was all there. Know that it was there.

I was in the kitchen. The fly landed on the counter. My thousandth chance. I swept my hand across the counter, an odd attempt even more futile than most, and the strangest thing happened. I caught the fly. I caught the fly!

I took the fly outside. I threw it out of my hand onto the wide wooden plank of the balcony railing. The fly, unphased, looked up at the sun and clouds and felt the wind.

"It's nice to be outside." It seemed to say.

I breathed in the perfect air that smells of pines and almost of the sea. I was calm for the first time in five hours.

"Yes it is." I seemed to say. "Yes it is."