and now a random photo:
Yes, it’s supposed to look like this here.
I had a thought while walking through the river bluffs:
You know how Life is a Fountain is full of old clerkmanifesto essays? Those are always the best ones I can find. But I was feeling a little sad for all the random ones. So today on scrap we are going to post a random clerkmanifesto essay. I’m going to pick a random date from the clerkmanifesto era. Then I will go retrieve whatever essay is there, and I will post it below, scrap:
How about, well, today’s date, 7/27, but in 2017.
Here we go:
It had a title. It was called
A man calls me at the library. It takes him awhile to form a sentence. “Can you renew my books?” He asks. “That I have out?” He adds. “Over the phone?” He adds again. “From the library?” He slowly concludes.
A long transaction for some relatively simple issues follows. And the whole time we are on the phone I am wondering if I should put his card on our “Persons with disabilities” status, or if he’s just really stoned.
And that’s the thing in working with the great and diverse public I encounter daily; I frequently find myself trying to fuss out dichotomies, trying to come to grips with the status of the person before me. Are they newly arrived from Somalia, or do they have a speech impediment? Are they living out of their car, or did they spend the morning hobby gardening in front of their swanky house? Are they sociopathic liars, or victims of a splash of freakish bad luck?
Sometimes it matters whether I know, sometimes it’s idle curiosity. Are they hard of hearing, or just distracted? Did they lose a bet, or do they really believe what their T-shirt says? Are they dangerously angry, or do they just have a cantankerous personality? Have they never been to a library, or are they merely in need of constant reassurance? Do they know me from somewhere, or are they just wildly committed to being friendly? Are they a well-adjusted precocious child, or is something really wrong here? Is this for scholastic purposes, or are they slowly losing their mind?
I’d like to know. I could use the guidance. I make my best guess. And I only know one thing for sure. They’re not, none of them, normal.
That is the one guiding thing I have learned working with the public; No one is.
Like so many pages in the rambling old mansion that is Life is a Fountain (there’s a fountain out front, it occasionally spurts water, sometimes flames) “Scrap” is one where I think:
Well all of Life is a Fountain is Scrap!
It’s all Library and Love and Stolen and Nature too.
But we have pages for each of them anyway, because while everything is general in the greatness of the Universe, everything is utterly bespoke and deserves a perfect home of its own.
Just like you.
As denoted by the “Scrap” button you clicked, by the “Scrap” title above, and by the “Scrap” in the URL, you are on the “Scrap” page. But despite how thoroughly you all are clear on the name of this page, you might wonder what it’s about. Does anyone have any guess as to what the “Scrap” page is all about?
Yes. You there, in the back?
No, I guess I don’t have to keep putting “Scrap” in quotation marks if it bothers you. I can just call it Scrap. But do you have any idea what it might mean?
Okay, then, anyone else?
Yes, off to the right here. You have a guess?
Yes, good thinking, but we do not have a way to collect aluminum cans here.
Well that’s a fine idea, but this page already has a purpose. Can anyone g…
Okay, sure, we can consider putting in a recycling page. That’s a very nice idea.
Absolutely, I agree. Saving the planet is very very important. Now does anyone have another guess as to what Scrap is all about?
You there, in the cap?
And that’s exactly right! Well done. Did everyone hear what they said?
Basically they said that Scrap is a place for left over bits and random junk that doesn’t fit so well anywhere else on Life is a Fountain.
Yes, I guess it does mean the quality might vary here, but, you know, if I may add, also, with a bit of persistence, one might unearth some real treasures among the scrap!
Thank you, yes, exactly like this introduction! I’m so glad you liked it!
Dear Literary Agent,
As a literary agent you have been waiting your whole career for me to write you. You did not think it would happen, and yet here it is.
No, you don’t know me.
No, you have never heard of me.
Perhaps it would be expedient for you at this point to pause in your reading of this letter to consult the enclosed examples of my work. I’ll wait here…
I know, right? It’s like turning over a rock and finding William Shakespeare, only not writing plays and not dead and using a contemporary vernacular. It’s like finding someone is writing the Tao Te Ching before your eyes, only nothing at all like Tao Te Ching in any way, and far better.
At this point one question is undoubtedly foremost in your mind: “Why are you not terribly famous?”
I feel the answer to that should be very clear from this letter. I am terrible at marketing. Why, look at how badly I am marketing to you right now!
That’s where you, a literary agent, come in.
As you know a great literary agent can sell two things: Great works that no one in their right mind wants to read until they’ve been properly marketed to (think, for instance, Finnegans Wake), and worthless formulaic writing that no one in their right mind wants to read until they’ve carefully been marketed to, like unto pushers hooking innocents like it’s an addictive drug (think, for instance, the work of Lee Child).
This is why literary agents, marketers, and publishers are so essential. You alone create the link between writer and reader. You alone create all fundamental interest in any new works of literature anywhere.
It is a terrible burden!
I am here to help you.
Once, when you were younger, you perhaps had exalted dreams for the work of a Literary Agent. But alas how the mundanity of it all challenged those dreams! The addictive drug writers, such as James Patterson, were many, and the money from their representation was some succor, but it was not ennobling. It did not touch on your mighty, secret dreams. The James Joyces of the world were very few, and doubt rose in you and you hid away your dreams. You dampened your mighty, essential skills because your heart did not sing with the full pride it was entitled to.
I am as great a writer as James Joyce. I rival William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. Oh, sure, not in my use of language, or storytelling, or sublety of expression, or power of poetry. But what is that? I am a visionary, the word of God, the sword of justice. I am just the sort of person who needs a mighty Literary Agent.
You can be that person.
I am not popular. I will always criticize the wrong things. I am not on the side of man and I do not get along with the gods who spur me on and shower me with gifts I spurn and resent. In two years of hard work writing and blogging I have attracted roughly 30 regular readers. This number would dwindle every day, but is too small to do so, so has to dwindle on a monthly basis. It draws near to the point where it must dwindle on a yearly basis.
I am a terrible challenge that no sane Literary Agent would embrace. But calculations of sanity must sometimes be set aside to prevent the soul from withering.
Your destiny has come. Let us ride out to a glorious defeat!
Inflate your take home percentage if you must, I am no businessman, but say yes. There is a mighty work to be done.
Linus and Frida Kahlo:
doris the alien
Almost a year ago one of my commuting walking routes was closed down. It was the prettier, longer one, that swept low down on the river, wound up through some curious, curling back ways of the University, and slipped over the river on a pedestrian only bridge. I liked that route.
It was apparently the victim of a mudslide. And I was happy to believe the mudslide explanation all the way into the middle part of last summer. But there comes a point where all those trucks, all those many, many people toiling away on some hidden part of a long closed road, must produce some results. And as the road persistently remained closed I began to grow impatient, suspicious even. When Spring made its first tentative ventures out of Winter, and I longed for my moseying route once again, I wrote the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
They wrote back to me!
The delays in the reopening of the West River Road have nothing to do with the crash landing of alien spacecraft. They are entirely due to the mudslide caused by the heavy rains of last spring and the engineering challenges of stabilizing the eroded bluff.
Whoa. Wait. Who said anything about aliens? Who said anything about crashed spaceships?
Something was very fishy.
I started to pay even more attention. Why do they need all those tents? Why is the unaffected walking path so thoroughly shut down when there must be a safe way through? Why does the whole operation, viewed across the river, look more like an archeological dig than a construction site?
I asked my friend Doris.
My friend Doris is an alien!
Really. She is! If the pale, whitish green skin doesn’t tell the tale, there is the fact that her face consists entirely of a giant eyeball.
“Do you know anything about a crashed spaceship down by the river?” I asked.
She looked really embarrassed. I think. Sometimes it is hard to read just that one big eyeball. You have to kind of look at her mouths/hands too. But I’m pretty sure she was embarrassed. “It wasn’t exactly a crash.” She said. “It was more like we accidentally dropped a load of experimental avocados.”
“Experimental avocados?” I inquired.
“Very experimental.” She replied significantly.
“So if I were to illegally start using that route again would I be in danger?”
Doris mused. “You might temporarily turn into an avocado tree.”
“How long would I be an avocado tree?”
“Less than a week.”
“But Doris!” I exclaimed “I thought you liked people. I thought you were a pacifist utopian vegetarian alien, on a mission of peace and education. Why would you mess with something that would turn everyone into an avocado tree for a week?”
“I am all that.” Doris replied. “And I know it’s terrible. But it is less than a week, and, and, well…” She trembled. Her eye got a strange, slightly feverish glow in it.
“Yes” I prodded.
“Well,” She burst out “Just think of all the guacamole!”
a coyote somewhere
I was walking through the snowy woods by my local creek. This creek runs down over a fall and to the Mississippi River. I was walking away from the river towards my home. The woods were quiet. The creek was quiet. The snow was quiet. Around the bend in front of me came a coyote I know.
This story is called:
Why I Will Never Be a Great Nature Photographer
I met this coyote before on a neighborhood street a couple months ago. I was so absorbed in photographing a squirrel at that time that he almost walked right by me without my even noticing. I took pictures of him walking away. He was in the neighborhood hunting turkeys. He hadn’t been successful. He was heading tiredly home.
This time in our meeting we became aware of each other at the same moment. “Oh, you.” The coyote said, but not out loud and not meanly. I tried to remain cool, as like one might do when seeing a celebrity one greatly admires. I took a few pictures.
I think if I were a proper wildlife photographer I would have just kept on photographing, doing anything I could for the best shot. If I were that person you maybe wouldn’t be reading all these words. You would instead be looking at thrilling picture after thrilling picture, going “Ooooooh! That’s amazing. Look at his eyes!”
But for me, decidedly an amateur photographer, after a few hurried pictures of the astonishing wild coyote, I felt a little rude.
We were in a little canyon on a narrow trail. I was headed upstream. The coyote was headed downstream. It would not be respectful to pass too close to each other. How does the coyote get to where I am and I to where the coyote is?
We stood there looking at each other for a moment, being extremely polite in our heads.
“After you sir.”
“No, after you.”
“Yes, but how?”
It was a lot of fun to be working out a small puzzle with a coyote.
I stepped off the trail and climbed up into the snowy woods a little, giving the coyote the trail, if he would like it.
He did not like the idea of being so close between the stream and me. So with great alacrity he climbed all the way up the side of the hill and passed me along its crest. I watched him go. I even took a few ungainly pictures of him doing it. They were not particularly great.
The best pictures I did not take. I turned them down for a chat and for good manners.
It is hard to regret it too much, even if I do regret it some.
Bob Dylan and I were sampling orange cognacs. Well, drinking them.
“I like this Grand Garonne stuff better than the Cointreau Noir.” Bob ventured.
I consulted some guide we’d printed out. “You’re not supposed to.” I said.
He gave me a look. The looks with that guy! I sipped and considered for myself. “I might even like it better than the Grand Marnier.” I said.
He sipped it again and shrugged. Who cared really, it was good, smelled like oranges, seeped into your tongue, and intoxicated.
“I saw your book the other day.” I said. I work at a library. I see a lot of books.
“Tarantula?” He asked, deadpan, referring to some poetry book he wrote like 60 years ago.
“I don’t like spiders.” I replied, refusing to be put off. “Chronicles, as if you don’t know. You know, there’s no “About the author” in it.”
“If they don’t know who you are then what the hell are they reading the book for?” I proposed.
“The book is the “About the author””? I suggested.
“I had nothing to do with it.” Bob said, possibly lying, but who knows.
We tried another orange cognac in a grand, flat bottle, Grand Imperial maybe? Everything’s very grand when it comes to orange cognacs. We both went back to the Grand Garonne, took a sip, and put on quizzical faces.
“I’m pretty much your best friend, aren’t I?” I asked.
“No.” He said.
I shrugged. Me shrugging too, we’re so alike. “Then who is?”
He was glaring at me, but he wasn’t saying anything.
“Aha!” I cried.