I Reflect Upon a Lonely Old Man at my Library

My library is full of lonely old men.

Why, just a couple of days ago an old man needed help finding some books on hold for him. I found them and we checked them out.

He said “Since my wife died I read a lot of these.”


So I cut the lonely old men a ton of slack.

Oh, who am I kidding. I am a professional slack cutter. My job is to try and find ways to cut slack. God help me when I can’t be cutting slack.

I see this guy up in his chair at the west facing windows all the time now since the pandemic, well, receded. I guess that it’s receded. I nod gravely at the old man. He nods gravely back at me.

I think

“Lonely old man”

Then one day I looked at him and I realized:

That’s Picasso!

As if it makes any difference.


Hey, I don’t think I’ve sent you here. I mean there’s writing and pictures, but mostly music to listen to. So if you want more today check out the Life is a Fountain music page, at the clickable line below:
Life is a Fountain Music Festival!

To be honest, of all the photo mash-ups I’ve been doing this is among the most simple. And some of the ones I have been doing have been extremely simple. I’m not hugely patient and I’m on the go! I’ve got to get that picture of Linus into the picture of the children’s room quick!

Nevertheless I love this simple mash-up, and find I want to just put this totally mild salsa (from the lovely recent classic “Dragons Love Tacos”) into painting after painting after painting.

And maybe I will.







Here’s a bonus picture for you.

I don’t think of Linus as being the most likely kid to have the meltdown/freakout in the library, but this kind of thing below is not an uncommon sight, and Linus does seem to be missing that blanket he usually brings with. Perhaps I’ll just check our lost and found:





As soon as I figure out how to send email newsletters from here at Life is a Fountain, and settle into a way of doing that regularly, Clerkmanifesto is likely to become just a sleepy backwater of my vast Internet Empire. 

But learning how to send Newsletters from Life is a Fountain, refining its content, and packing it to the gills with baubles and snacks, is all having to wait in line, and for scraps of attention, behind my current obsession, image combining. This is where I take fictional characters and put them into my real life. These are very time consuming to do and can even occasionally overwhelm me. So sometimes I have to ask myself what makes them so compelling.

I think I have an answer. 

They simply don’t work out that well about 80 percent of the time. Also I can’t really tell whether they do work out until they’re done. So there’s the gambler thing going on in it- the idea that this next one is really, this time going to finally, finally be fantastic. And as any gambler can tell you, once or twice a day it actually does come through. It is fantastic! There’s something about getting Linus into the library I work at, sitting on a chair in just the right way, that is so utterly satisfying to me. It somehow makes the world feel more like my world.





Also, new materials and ideas are everywhere! I work at a library! This afternoon I was shelving and came across a kind of picture book of The Fire Next Time. Immediately I had to do a mash-up with James Baldwin! I took some pictures of a couple of the more likely pictures of James Baldwin. I carefully masked out just James Baldwin. Then I started trying to match him with the increasingly large numbers (but never enough!) of pictures I now have of all our desks, seating areas, and counters at the library. It matched up okay, but I needed to do another layer to put in a computer wire that the masked cut out of Baldwin had blocked. But when it was all together, the black and white source picture of James Baldwin was a bit of an off match. So I applied a whole bunch of filters to try and bring it together, and…

It was okay. Not a great one.




Oh well.

But maybe the next one will be amazing!








Bonus picture because you’re reading this in the right place and deserve something special.


How about…








The rhetoric is that we are in an age of ever increasing technological improvement. And there is a fair case to be made for it. The great majority of the processes of the library I work at have only been improved by the digital age and by technical and mechanical developments. Requesting items, managing check outs, processing returns have all been made wildly better. Even our materials are better from technology; higher quality, more ubiquitous pictures in books, easier to get and watch movies, items one can check out from the library without even going to the library.

Sometimes I sure wouldn’t like to go to the library too!

But despite this tidal wave of advancement, not everything has improved. And for a case in point I present our intercom system.

When I started it was beautiful. There was, at the circulation desk, sitting on the counter, a big, sturdy microphone. It had a base it sat on so you could lean down and talk into it if you wanted, but mostly one would pick it up to use it. There was a large button on it, like a giant space bar at the bottom. When it was depressed the mike was on. That was it. It was clean, analog, easy to use, and sounded quite good. We liked to call people back to the desk with it to tell them they had returned their VHS without a video cassette inside. It saved a ton of work to catch them while they were still in the library. We didn’t call people back for not rewinding their videocassettes. We had bigger fish to fry.

Eventually, as we updated our library and remodeled it, our intercom got woven into our phone system. Hit #150, wait a second or two, then talk. It was okay. We started doing our closing announcements through this system and that’s the biggest part of what we used it for. Sometimes it would activate by accident and we could hear faintly the interactions at the Reference desk for awhile until someone alerted them. It also went through periods where it produced a low, steady, mysterious static when not in use. That was pretty annoying.

Finally, recently, we downgraded all the way to our new phones. One now dials a connecting number as before. After this the phone weirdly rings until it connects, like the intercom system is hooked in through a switchboard operator who waits for our calls, but is busy, and so takes a while to pick up and connect us. When it does connect it makes a truly gigantic and horrible blast of feedback noise, both in the users’ ear and throughout the whole of the library. It is a massive SCREECH that rivets everyone’s attention. At that point one is free to deliver one’s message, usually involving an apology for the noise.

The other night it fell to me to do the closing announcements, something I do as experimentally as possible in faint hopes I won’t be asked again. It’s okay, but I already have too many creative outlets as it is. There are, by tradition five closing announcements; at 20 minutes before, 15, 10, three, and to say that we are closed.

For the first announcement I apologized for the horrible SCREEEECCHH!, and I informed the public that we are all helpless before it. But having used that approach up, at the second announcement I went with something more like “That gorgeous chime you just heard is the gentle herald of the fact that in 15 minutes the library closes”. It was variations of that then as we worked our way towards closing: “You probably didn’t hear that faint, dulcet tone of our intercom system, but…”. When I finally got to the “Library is Closed” announcement I really didn’t even need to make it. Everyone was already gone.

Actually, maybe our new intercom system works better than I thought.