Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Happy Diwali

Thank you all for being here tonight. I think we have a nice program planned this evening. My name is David Maeda and it’s been a great privilege to serve as a board member of the Council of Asian Pacific Minnesotans for the past three years and particularly to be the chair of the board in 2017.

We are here tonight to honor and hear from a great group of leaders in our community. I’m absolutely in awe of their contributions and accomplishments.

We are also here commemorating two significant anniversaries. The first is the 50th anniversary of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. We are blessed to have here tonight one of the great leaders of our state, Commissioner Kevin Lindsey, who you’ll hear from later. 

We are also recognizing  the 75th anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt signing an executive order that led to the incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese Americans, including my father’s family,  at the beginning of World War II. Our keynote speaker tonight, the honorable Judge Jamie Cork will share her thoughts and insights and lessons to be learned about this historic event.

The theme of tonight’s dinner is “Toward a more perfect union.” I ask all of you to think what that means to you. All of us in this room want this country, and the state of Minnesota, to be the place where we feel at home. We all have our own personal stories that define how close we are to feeling this sense of union.

I wanted to take a few moments to share a personal story and say a few words about my father, Donald Maeda, who passed away in January at the age of 92. The loss of my dad has weighed heavy on me this year.
When I was growing up, dad often talked about life in the internment camp as being like a summer camp. As a teenage boy it was about wasting time with a group of friends. But the thing that stuck with him that made him realize the gravity of the situation was he had just bought his first car. Dad had a lifelong love of cars and driving cars. He was forced to give up his first car because he obviously couldn’t bring it with him to the internment camp. He gave his car to a friend who graciously visited him at camp, but would park dad’s car on the other side of the barbed wire fence. Dad said it made him sad seeing his car, his gateway to freedom within reach but out of his grasp.

Throughout his life dad had a lot of questions about the world around him. In the end the questions became more and more philosophical. They were questions about the promises of our country both delivered and broken, questions about the concepts of freedom and if the place you find yourself in at any given time can truly be called a home.

What is home? Whether you have survived a refugee experience or you are an immigrant or you were born here in the United States, what do you consider your true home? Is it based on geography? Your birthplace? The place you dream of at night? The place where you feel accepted and loved?

This is a question I’ve asked myself ever since my one and only trip to Japan nearly 20 years ago. There was day mid-week when I found myself in the middle of a downtown Tokyo subway station during rush hour with waves and waves of people coming and going and trying to catch the train that would take them home. I’ve never seen so many people in one place at one time. And then I noticed a strange feeling. It was a foreign feeling of calm and peace. If this same scene had played out in a subway station in New York or Chicago or Washington DC I would have freaked out being one who doesn’t do well in large groups of people. Why was I feeling this strange sense of calm? I realized for one of the few times in my life I fit in. I looked like the people around me.  I blended into the mass of humanity. Back home in Minnesota this had seldom been the case. In grade school, junior and senior high, I was one of the few racial minorities. In my workplaces the same is true. I hadn’t realized subconsciously how much this has always played on my mind. Walking into a room of people and feeling like you immediately stick out because you look different presents a conceptual wall against the feeling of inclusion. I’m sure that’s something many in this room know something about.

In the end, our home is where we allow ourselves to feel comfortable. The place where we can be our authentic selves. Hopefully we all will find this place.

To finish dad’s story, in 1988 Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. The law provided reparations to Japanese American citizens who were interned. My dad got a check for $20,000 and an apology letter from President Ronald Reagan. My dad wasn’t much for irony, and I’m not sure how much convincing he had to do with my mom, but he decided to spend his check on a brand new Honda. And I’m sure all the while his mind flashed back to his very first car parked outside the barbed wire fence.

I’ll leave you with words from the 2016 Nobel Prize Literature winner, Minnesota born Bob Dylan. Mr. Bob once wrote:

“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.”

In other words we shouldn’t wait until we lose our freedom before we appreciate it and understand its significance.

Today is the third day of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Light. It is a day to celebrate new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. So I wish you all a very happy Diwali and hope you all enjoy our program tonight. Thank you.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


My 92 year old father passed away a few weeks ago. I share this with you on this a celebratory day not because my dad was a well-known or great man. No, he'd likely would have admitted he was in many ways, quite ordinary. He would have readily told you his proudest achievement was raising our family. Yet the life he lived was extraordinary.

Eleven days from today will mark the 75th anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt signing an executive order ordering the incarceration of Japanese Americans living on the west coast after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. My dad, his sister and brother, all American citizens, and my grandparents were among over 100,000 Japanese Americans who lost their property, homes and freedom pretty much overnight. Years later the United States Congress and President Ronald Reagan issued an historic, formal apology and monetary reparation acknowledging this wrongful government action, one of the darkest in our country’s history.

I'm not sure I would have been as humble and strong enough to accept any or all of this fate like my dad and so many in our Japanese American community did without rage or a loss of faith. But instead of giving up on their country, my great community doubled down on the belief that the American dream was the one that would ultimately make their life and more importantly, the lives of their children, better.

A few weeks before dad died I had a dream. It was the type of dream that when I awoke, I couldn’t get back to sleep as I tried to figure out its meaning. In my dream one of my sisters told me I had to go back and get something from our childhood house, the house dad moved out when we moved him into a senior living facility four years ago. In my dream I didn’t want to argue with my sister yet I was uncomfortable walking into a house that a stranger now owned. When I entered the house it was empty. I walked upstairs to my childhood bedroom and the lime green shag carpeting and orange walls were still there. The only thing in the room was a video tape machine, my Betamax, along with a Minnesota Twins video tape up on top.

That's when I woke up.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about that dream. Ultimately what I think it meant was trying to come to terms with the achingly sad feeling of losing the last bridge to my childhood and beyond that, losing my real home. I can no longer go back into the house I grew up in and have so many fond family memories of. My sanctuary and security blanket. That was a very difficult realization to come to grips with.

I almost feel sheepish telling this story after, as a CAPM board member, hearing the personal hardships and difficulties many in our refugee communities had in coming to America. Many lost their homes in a much more real, difficult, often times violent and life shattering way. Many can never ever return to their home country without risking their lives. Even the way my dad lost his home in Seattle all those years ago is much more heartbreaking than my metaphorical middle class loss of home.

But what I've come to understand as I mourn and try to figure out what the loss of my dad means to me, is that home isn't merely a place, it's a tangible feeling with a lot of associated memories that make up who we now are. No matter where we are in our lives,what we’ve encountered, our ups, our downs, our triumphs and losses, what we really are always longing for or clinging to is something as basic as a place to call home, a place of our own, where we feel secure, safe, and sound. It’s really a basic human need right up there with air, water, and food.

Today we are standing in a glorious and historic building that is often referred to as the “people’s home.” The people who come into this building work so hard in trying to make this state feel like home for those they represent. Understanding what goes on in this building and how you can play a critical role in the process can be so important as you find the tools to achieve your own American Dream.

It’s been my great privilege during my time as a board member of CAPM, to hear from and learn from so many life stories told from different members that make up our great Minnesota Asian Pacific Islander community... as we gather in this awesome place of power, the beautifully restored Capitol...I'm humbled and inspired to play any role I can in helping improve our communities. And I thank you all for sharing in this journey.

Monday, February 6, 2017


Hit by a truck when you were a little boy
They said it was touch and go
You proved strong enough not to go
Not for another 86 years
Along the way you learned life
Presents you
with the occasional seven ten split
And you just have to give it your best shot
They took away your family's home
Said it was for your own safety
Judge Judy would have ruled that was Baka thinking
You saw your first car
Parked outside the barbed wire fence
Years later you bought a brand new car
With the apology check the government gave
You didn't like swear words
But I swear that's my all time favorite comeback
Sweet tooth crown artist who loved to drive
Proud father, grandfather, great grandfather
Never shot a man in Reno just to watch him die
Never made a Maya Moore-like three pointer
You didn't need to, to prove yourself
You just needed to live the life you did
Because you made that seven ten split
more often than most can ever hope to do

On my way to visit Dad on what turned out to be the final night of his life, a strange warning light appeared on my Mini Cooper's dash. It was a red warning symbol that looked like the hydraulic lift mechanics put cars on. When it turned off I noticed the brake warning light remained lit. I still haven't yet figured out the right metaphor, or what the symbolism of my car's warning light meant as I visited Dad during his last night on Earth. And having not had the opportunity to bring my Mini in for service, I still don't know what the warning is all about.

He drove his car. It didn't have to go very far. To him his car was all about freedom. Free to go here. Free to go there. Free to go just about anywhere. Dad and Mom loved the rides they took. Mom loved the destination. For Dad, it was just as much about the process of the journey.

I wasn't doing so well the year or so after I graduated from Macalester College with my history major and journalism minor, with my desire to become the world's next great inspirational writer. I told the world's greatest muse, who I recently met as we were now sitting in a little cubby hole our employer, a record store owner had built for children of customers to watch cartoons but where we were now taking our lunch together, (how's that for a well constructed sentence?) that I felt haunted by my recent sad overwhelming memories.  "We'll just have to make new ones," she said in her often matter of fact, but spot on Virginia Slims calming style.

Weeks later we decided we would hit the road with no particular destination in mind. She drew a map on a bar napkin to her mom's house in Kingman, Arizona, but how we would get there would be all about adventure and creating new memories to forget the old ones. When we hit the road in my robin egg blue Honda Accord that my parents bought for me, I think Mom and Dad wondered if they'd ever see me again. Not one for teary goodbyes, Dad offered his last bit of wise advice: "Don't ride the clutch."

I ended up writing an unpublished novel about that cross country trip. In a way the trip was the one that made me understand my Dad the most, and perhaps the feeling was reciprocal. I've never particularly cared for driving a car. It was always one of Dad's favorite things to do. Driving with my muse was inspiring. Dad drove a whole lot farther than I ever did with the great love of his life. 


 I was holding my Mom's hand the night she died 17 years ago. She gasped her last breath and all of us in the room kind of held ours. Dad broke the silence by asking the nurse, "Is she gone?" The nurse said yes. I, to my surprise because I had so much time to prepare for the moment, began sobbing. Dad looked over at me and said, "We will get through this, David." And I knew we probably would. What I didn't know was how much the "we" would mean.


We ate dinner most evenings together after Mom died. This lasted a number of years. During those years I think what we discovered was we really didn't have that much in common. Dad's proudest accomplishment was, despite not being a good student, helping raise five kids with college degrees (four with advanced college degrees, me being the dunce with just a Bachelor's Degree). He said he was proud, and Mom was too, that all of us turned out to be good people, successful in our chosen fields.

I don't think Dad ever understood why I never wanted a family of my own (unless you consider felines, three total, 10 and a half good legs between them, family). It wasn't I didn't ever want a family of my own, it was more that my life has always been about following my muse wherever it led me. To his credit Dad didn't consider me a failure for failing to follow in his footsteps toward what he felt was his greatest accomplishment.


Dad worked hard and a lot of long hours to provide for us. After dinner, when he was still working at Edco Dental Lab in downtown St. Paul, we used to call him at work to tell him all about our days because he wasn't going to be home before we all went to bed. We used to fight about who got the privilege of dialing his work number 224-5423. I don't remember what I talked to Dad about during those phone calls but being a busy working man now, I don't know how he had the patience to participate in that nightly routine. And that in a nutshell is how we were always so different.

There were some days (it must have been weekends), when Mom let us know Dad was on his way home from work and my brother Bruce and I would get all excited about seeing him that we went about hiding in the foyer closet, or the laundry room, all prepared to jump out at Dad and scare him. And boy did we seem to do so ever so effectively. Each and every time. When Mom notified us that Dad was starting a medication for a heart condition, I quite specifically remember Bruce and I asking if we should stop scaring him by jumping out from our hiding places. We didn't want to send him into cardiac arrest after all. It took many years afterward that I found out that Dad heard Bruce and I giggling from our hiding places and always just acted scared because he appreciated what we were doing in appreciating his return home.

And that was why he was the greatest Dad we could ever have.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Together Through Life

Yesterday, the world got to hear 10 new Bob Dylan songs. In my book, the world is a profoundly better place any time that happens.

What to make of Dylan's new CD, Together Through Life? It's very bluesy and with Los Lobos' David Hidalgo on accordion, there's a Tex Mex feeling to most of the songs. My favorite song upon initial listening is the jaunty "Jolene" that sounds nothing like Dolly Parton's song of the same name. Bob had to know Dolly's song exists doesn't he? And if he did, why the choice to name his heroine Jolene too? My favorite lyric? "The door is closed forever more/If indeed there ever was a door..."

Friday, January 25, 2008

R.I.P. the CD 1982-2007


Once praised for its clear, crisp audio quality but panned for its susceptibility to scratches and smudges, the compact disc passed away in 2007 after a quick but painful illness. It was 25 years old.

The final cause of death has not been determined, but friends and fans blamed digital-download sites such as iTunes and illegal file-sharing among rich kids. In addition, doctors pointed to the big record companies and mega-selling artists who put out CDs in recent years that featured only a few good songs and lots of filler.

Simon Cowell, who is also a suspect in a mass plot to ruin pop music, is being questioned by police.

The CD was preceded in death by its siblings, the cassette and 8-track tape. Its older cousin, the vinyl record, has been hanging on for two decades, with life support from nerdy audiophiles.

Conceived in 1979 by engineers at Sony and Philips, the CD first went on the market in 1982. The inaugural album was Abba's "The Visitors," which led to Jerry Falwell's accusation that it was a gay technology.

The CD survived, though, and went on to account for about 200 billion album sales worldwide.

Its success led to a record-industry heyday in the 1990s, when such substantive and high-quality artists as Garth Brooks, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, the Backstreet Boys and Ace of Base sold CDs like umbrellas during monsoon season.

"The compact disc was such a great friend," mourned Brooks, the country singer who sold about 80 million albums in the CD era, many of them at Wal-Mart. "You could pop a CD into the stereo on your pickup truck or Lear jet and let it just keep spinning and spinning."

Since 2004, CD sales have declined by one-third while digital album sales have quintupled. Last year's 19 percent slide from 2006 led doctors to finally sign off on its death notice.

"I sure am going to miss the CD," said Paul McCartney, whose Beatles are one of the last groups to refuse to sell their albums on iTunes. "On the bright side, new technology means that Beatles lovers now can buy our albums for the third or fourth time."

Memorial services have not been finalized, but Elton John has committed to singing at the funeral. In lieu of flowers, please send $17.99 to the record-store owner of your choice.

5 reasons to mourn the CD

1. No, really, they do sound better. Most MP3s feature data that's compressed for quicker downloads.

2. Remember looking at album artwork? Granted, you often needed bifocals to read the lyrics and liner notes on CDs, but at least it was something.

3. You can't throw MP3s out the window like frisbees. What are you going to do now for dramatic effect when your wife/girlfriend plays her Madonna, J. Lo or Gwen Stefani MP3s to the point of insanity?

4. Computer/electronics companies, not record companies, will soon run the music business. Compact discs were overpriced, sure, but at least they profited corporations that actually discovered and developed new artists (who then got taken for everything they were worth).

5. The CD's 74-minute max was enough. With MP3s taking over, we could face 150-minute hip-hop albums -- featuring 28 annoying skits, two good songs and four different remixes of those songs.

5 reasons to cheer its death

1. No more mad dashes to the player when the disc starts skipping. A CD skip was 20 times more annoying than a vinyl album skip. It sounded like you were back-masking a Slayer album for a hidden satanic message -- even if the CD was by the Carpenters.

2. No more cellophane wrap. Those genius scientists figured out how to cram 10,000 songs onto an iPod small enough to hold in your butt crack, but could never invent a plastic wrap on CDs that didn't take minutes to get off, dangerously heighten your blood pressure and occasionally require stitches when you resorted to scissors.

3. Those old silvery discs are great for arts and crafts projects. You can string them up as mobiles or cool doorway curtains, or even construct lawn ornaments out of them.

4. It's good for the Earth. No toxic plastic or downed trees are used in the making of digital downloads.

5. Gen-X-ers have to own up to being old. Remember how you rolled your eyes when an "old" guy said, "Man, if it ain't on vinyl, it ain't on!" You're that guy now.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

CD Sales Plummet, Leaving Retailers Spinning

By JON BREAM, Star Tribune

Like Britney Spears' reputation, CD sales declined dramatically in 2007 -- 19 percent, to be exact.

That news hits especially hard in the Twin Cities, a national hub for record distribution for a half-century. It is home to two of the industry's biggest players -- Best Buy and Target, which together account for 3 of every 10 discs sold in the United States -- but even smaller stores are singing the post-holiday CD blues.

To fight back, Best Buy and longtime local independents such as the Electric Fetus and Cheapo Discs are diversifying, adding everything from coffee shops and digital downloads to -- gasp! -- vinyl albums.

Although Best Buy did not suffer as sharp a downturn in CD sales, "We're not happy about the decline," said Jennifer Schaidler, vice president of music. "But we're going to go where the customers go."

That means Best Buy is now custom-tailoring its CD selection for each store.

"In Chicago, we have Polish and Arabic music," Schaidler said. "Latin music is a big initiative. The shopper is not going away. We also will be expanding our digital [download] initiative," a partnership with

You don't need to know your way around an iPod to understand that digital downloads (legal or otherwise) are becoming the preferred medium for recorded music. Since 2004, digital song sales have more than quintupled while CD sales are down by one-third.

Although Best Buy is devoting more store space and advertising dollars to other products, it still carries a similar number of CDs -- at least 10,000 per store, according to Billboard -- and aggressively courts superstars for Best Buy-only discs, such as live DVDs by the Rolling Stones and Mariah Carey, or a Tom Petty documentary by Peter Bogdanovich.

Target takes a similar approach with tailored inventory and exclusives, including recent Christmas discs by young stars Taylor Swift, KT Tunstall and Elliott Yamin.

"We recognize that overall sales will likely continue to decline as digital options become more widespread, but remain committed to the business and to doing everything we can to encourage our guests to buy physical CDs," said Target spokesperson Amy von Walter. Its stores typically carry one-tenth as many CDs as a Best Buy.

Both Target and Best Buy "have done as well as expected, given the music environment," said Patricia Edwards, a retail analyst with Wentworth Hauser and Violich in Seattle. She thinks Best Buy's strategy to localize its inventory reflects a growing trend that "consumers want more and more customization."

Indie stores diversify

The decline of the CD has been tougher for stores that, unlike Target or Best Buy, focus primarily on music. Three local indie chains -- each in business since the hippie era -- are transforming themselves to make up for lost revenue.

The Electric Fetus, the granddaddy of them all, figures if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. It's adding digital downloads to its mail-order website.

Down in the Valley has expanded its non-CD merchandise (T-shirts, collectibles) by 30 percent.

Cheapo Discs is adding coffee shops to some stores. Buzz, a 1,000-square-foot coffee joint with a separate door, will take up about 9 percent of the St. Paul Cheapo and 5 percent of the Uptown Minneapolis location.

"I wish I had a crystal ball," said Cheapo owner Al Brown, who founded the three-store chain in 1972, and co-owns similar stores in six other states and Toronto. "I've got some ideas no one else is doing, [but] my ideas would have been great five years ago." His stores have always revolved around recordings -- the Uptown store has more than 100,000 -- but for the first time he will attend a national gift show this year to shop for other products.

Music store morphs into gifts

At Down in the Valley, "I'm trying to get my store known as a gift store, not a record store," said Steve Hyland, owner of the four-store chain, which has shopping-mall locations in Golden Valley, Wayzata, Maple Grove and Crystal. "Gift is what I'm going to survive on."

That might be a Led Zeppelin T-shirt, a ceramic Marilyn Monroe cookie jar or a Rocky key chain that screams "Yo, Adrienne!" CDs occupy less than half of the floor space now.

"Every month my business goes down, down, down," said Hyland, who opened his first shop in 1972. He estimates his CD sales dropped 18 percent from 2006 to 2007 and, to his surprise, DVD sales declined 10 percent.

Nationally, digital-download sales were up 45 percent in 2007. Those numbers are tough for even a diehard like Electric Fetus owner Keith Covart to ignore.

"We're working on a downloading site," said Covart, who has stores in south Minneapolis, St. Cloud and Duluth. "My heart is not in it. They still haven't beat the CD for [audio] quality."

But with his 2007 CD sales down about 18 percent in both retail and wholesale -- the Fetus also distributes CDs to about 200 indie and gift stores around the country -- Covart realizes "you've got to carry music in several formats: digital, vinyl, CD, new and used. Sales of vinyl is 10 times more than [the previous] year. High schoolers and college students are looking at vinyl more than CDs."

The Fetus, like the big-box stores, also tries to lure customers with exclusive titles -- 200 of them, such as "Ben Harper Live at the Twist and Shout," via the Coalition of Independent Music Stores.

Although Cheapo shuttered a 6-year-old store in Moorhead in November because of slow sales, none of the local indie merchants are talking about closing shop. Hyland would like to hand over his stores to his children even though he knows the future is "not good. In a few years -- maybe 10 years -- I don't think they'll have a CD or DVD product that you put in your hands."

That's because the under-25 crowd -- the iPod generation -- is hooked on downloading, not owning discs.

"My kid's got 1,000 songs in his MP3 [player]," Hyland said, "and he didn't buy any of them from me."

Jon Bream • 612-673-1719

Monday, August 7, 2006

A Dream Come True

We started all this on June 23, 1992 or 722 weeks ago (not that I'm counting). Gas was 25 cents a gallon; you could get a good cup of coffee for a nickel; and you could stand in a public line without hearing the annoying chatter of somebody on a cell phone. Al asked me if I was interested in starting up and editing a weekly newsletter for the company. He wanted a 10 page newsletter to include store information, technology and competition related news, and other tidbits that employees might find useful.

This seemed a daunting challenge but a great opportunity. Al knew that I had a journalism degree and was feeling a tad frustrated that I hadn't up to that point been able to get into the only field that I wanted to get into not counting Major League Baseball. One of the things I've long admired about Al is his ability to put people into situations to take advantage of their talents and thus giving them a better chance to succeed. That's not something that those in leadership positions often do.

My mindset at the time wasn't exactly brimming with confidence and sun. I think the best way I can convey where I was at during this time occurred during the Halloween blizzard of 1991. I was working weekends at the 80 N Snelling store and living in a small efficiency on Goodrich a few blocks off of Grand Ave. in St. Paul. The day after the storm I had a 12-8 shift and I somehow managed to plow my Honda Civic through the poorly plowed streets. The snow had continued to fall all day.

By the time my shift was over my car was buried beneath the snow. I knew snow emergencies had been called and knew that I'd never find a spot close to my efficiency. So I decided to walk home. Now this would have been quite the pleasant two or three mile walk on a spring day but since few of the sidewalks were plowed and traffic was at a standstill the easiest thing to do was to walk on the streets. I was wearing my boots but my boots were not meant to handle walking though thigh high snow drifts. By the time I got to Grand and Lexington my feet were blistering. And it was too late to turn around since it was just as far back to the store as it was to my efficiency. So I trudged on.

When I eventually made it back to my efficiency and the unhappy because it was well past his dinner time, Max the Cat, my feet were torn up and burning. I was out of breath, and my fingers and toes felt beyond cold but not quite frost bit. I also realized I faced the daunting challenge of back tracking the next morning to get my car out of the Cheapo lot. I realized I had done a stupid if not dangerous thing and I felt like if I hadn't hit rock bottom I must be pretty darn close. I also realized I couldn't keep keeping on like I was. I needed to change something, accomplish something to get myself on track. And so the following June when Al offered me the newsletter job, I was if nothing else, determined to give it my best.

Al sent me to a newsletter seminar somewhere in Minneapolis- my failing memory (722 weeks!) doesn't quite remember the exact location. I remember a small group of people (around a dozen) had signed up for the seminar and the instructor went around the room and asked why we were there. Most people said they were assigned a task of doing a newsletter for their organization and either were struggling with the startup of the publication or were struggling with keeping the publication going either because of lack of contributions or just the overwhelming task of putting out a worthwhile read.

The instructor also had us share how often we were publishing and how many pages our newsletters were supposed to be. Without exception everyone in the seminar said they were doing a monthly or a quarterly newsletter and the length of most were either one or two pages. That's when I chirped in, "I'm doing a weekly 10 page newsletter." I think I heard an audible gasp or two.

When I reported back to Al, I suggested we cut back to eight pages and he agreed. And that's what we've done ever since without missing a single week (that would be 722 for those of you scoring at home).

I was quite nervous when the first edition came out. All I could think about was what happened with the ABC TV newsmagazine 20/20 whose first show was so awful that the network immediately fired the co-hosts, Harold Hayes and Robert Hughes and replaced them with veteran broadcaster Hugh Downs. I hoped Al would give me a longer rope than that.

My goal was to create an effective publication that was fun to read, in hopes this would encourage people to contribute articles. I also set a goal of printing at least 50 percent original material and not having to rely mostly on non-Cheapo generated articles. I figured I would write every now and then, as needed, since one of the major issues I was grappling with at the time was trying to figure out the role of writing in my life and how what I wrote affected my friends and family.

It wasn't very long though when I saw that I was going to have to write a lot more than I originally had hoped. Soon I settled into taking the last page of the newsletter to write a weekly column. Through the first few years though, this notion of not wanting to write unless I had to was at the front of my mind. I never began compiling the newsletter thinking that I was going to write a column. Instead I started each Saturday evening compiling all the articles for the week and then after I was done editing stuff and laying out the pages I would realize that I was going to have to write a column to approach the 50 percent quota I had set.

Since I hadn't thought about writing until that point I never really thought about what I was going to write about. For that I relied on what I had learned in my writing classes- write about what you know. Over the years I have come to know less and less so this strategy has led to many rambling columns about essentially nothing (not that any of you must have noticed...). I really have tried to keep my whining to a minimum and there have been times over the years where something I have written has cracked me up (not that I needed further cracking).

Write what you know. It's always meant a lot to me when a reader has told me how much they liked a particular column. It means just as much when someone tells me they like when I wrote about specific things I truly love like Bob Dylan's music, Max the Cat, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sandra Bullock. (OK no one has actually told me they like my Sandra pieces but didn't you all feel the love?)

Producing a newsletter for 14+ years has probably been the hardest thing I've done in my professional life. There hasn't been a Saturday all that time where I haven't had this gripping fear of "how the heck am I going to get the newsletter done?" Thus it's also my proudest professional accomplishment that we never missed a week. I realized early on that it wasn't going to be possible given the resources and time to produce a great publication. What I decided to do instead was to be consistent and reliable. Some would call that predictable and boring. I would only counter that as I move on in life I've learned it's nice to have some things in life that you can count on being there week after week. Nothing wrong with dependability.

It hasn't exactly been a secret that one of the major inspirations keeping this publication going over the years has been Dylan's "Never Ending Tour" where Bob has essentially played close to 200 shows every year since 1988. I've always loved how Bob seemed to have come to the conclusion all those years ago that the only way to get past his past was to hit the road and perform and just keep creating something in the moment every night. As Bob continues the tour he has expanded his canvass to a new venue- his delightful XM satellite radio show, "Theme Time Radio Hour." Wow. What I have learned is that to be a writer means nothing more than being willing to write something. It isn't about angst, glamour, fame or understanding. It's just as simple as putting words to paper. That's all it takes.

When Al told me of the end of my tenure as the editor I was of course a bit sad. But truthfully part of me felt some relief as well. I essentially haven't had a weekend off in fifteen or sixteen years. Writing a column week after week has probably changed not only the way I write, but the way I think since my natural way of processing feelings and thoughts used to be to ruminate over them. Now I just get them down and out and move on.

I have so many fond memories due to the newsletter and my Cheapo employment. The first couple years of publication were produced pre-PC on a typewriter with a memory. I'd retype the submitted stories on a Sunday morning in St. Paul as I'd munch on a McDonald's breakfast burrito. I'd copy it all off next to our shrink wrap machine. Then along came the Internet that eliminated the need to re-type interesting media articles and allow me the ability to search news services throughout the world for stories I thought might be interesting to all of us. I remember all those Saturday/laundry nights busy typing away as Mr. Max was in another room, in his favorite window and he'd come on by on occasion just to check up on me and let me know what he was up to. I'll go to my grave cherishing those memories.

Since my original fear was about Hayes and Hughes it also doesn't escape me that I'm leaving this job within a year of Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, and Peter Jennings ending their long tenures as the most visible journalists in the country. Not that I'm exactly in their league or even in the same sport but like them I know I've been lucky to have a job for so long that I loved doing, that also made me a better person. I'm proud of my long association with Cheapo, and proud all our company has meant to this community. This job has literally taken me around the world (to Japan) and back and I know because of that I'm much better prepared for whatever it is that comes next.