Monday, May 31, 1993

Proven More Effective Than Prozac

One of the saddest shows I’ve ever seen was a special Johnny Carson did in the late 70’s. The show was about Johnny returning home to his high school reunion in Nebraska.

The point of the show seemed to be that yes, Johnny could go home again. There were clips of the places and people from Johnny’s youth, as all the town folk told their favorite memories of their favorite son. What it ended up showing was an isolated and private man, uncomfortable e yet yearning for the companionship of friends he no longer had any connection with.

This is the year of my tenth high school reunion. I’ve been contacted (told to call an "800" number for more information-just how important was my class?) yet I have no interest in attending. The last contact I had with a member of my class was, oh I’d say, about 9.9 years ago. Sometimes it’s best to move on and keep on moving.

I wasn’t exactly in the popular elite of my high school. The highlights of my years there were getting a hallway of people singing the chorus of "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" and an auditorium of people singing along to my rendition of "Let it Be." Thus I was stuck with the label of a Beatle fanatic, and while others got the awards for "Most Likely to Succeed" and "Cutest Smile" I won an honorary award as the "5th Beatle."

I approached Paul McCartney’s concert last Sunday with a great deal of skepticism. If anyone is guilty of trying to recapture and re-live some of the past it has been Paul. These last two world tours have been burdened with a heavy reliance on nostalgia.

I wasn’t planning on going after it was announced Paul was coming to the Dome. I figured I would hang out downtown and see how much tickets were being scalped for before I made my decision to attend. But I changed my mind. The man responsible for providing a vast amount of the music to the soundtrack of my life was coming, and I had to see him.

I’m not really a dork, I just play one for the newsletter. But immediately I saw actual singes I might enjoy myself that evening. Sitting in the ozone zone with a bunch of strangers from Green Bay ("…the last great concert I saw was REO Speedwagon"), I listened to the music playing on the sound system before the show. Up bubbled a quirky live version of "Monkberry Moon Delight" from the LP Ram, which was Paul doing his best Captain Beefheart imitation. The moment froze me; no one seemed to notice the odd but oh so pleasant background sound

What happened next is hard to describe. Far be it for me to exaggerate the evening, but I had what I can only describe as a religious experience. The cynicism melted and for a moment, Paul and his band did what great art can do’ they stopped time. By the end of the night, the critic found himself "nah nah nahing" with 50,000 others to the refrain of "Hey Jude."

But it was a long and winding road getting to that point. The show opened with a version of "Drive My Car" complete with the "beep, beep, ‘n’ beep beep yeahs" flashed on the huge video screen above the stage. Fun stuff.

But the moment that turned the old heart over was the fourth song, "Another Day." Paul’s first post Beatle single. It was an unexpected blast from the past and though others seemed to be just waiting for the next Beatle song, this was it for me. I realized/felt I was sitting there watching an old friend sing an old favorite tune.

It just goes o show if you stick around long enough, good stuff will eventually happen. Back in 1989, when Paul began to tour again, I had the chance to see him in either Ames or Chicago, but I wasn’t in any shape to make the journey. Thus I thought my last chance to see my favorite fab four frontman forever had flittered away. Given the second chance, I had almost turned away; but now Paul was performing a song he and Linda wrote 23 years ago, and I was enjoying?! Myself.

The weakness of these tours has been the lack of any type of on-going creativity. The shows are tightly structured, the same songs are played night after night. There is a scene in Paul Simon’s movie, One Trick Pony where Simon is talking about the ultimate rock show, sarcastically calling it a "spectacle." McCartney’s show truly is that from the fireworks in "Live and Let Die," to the platform with his piano that hovers above the crowd, the rolling sheets of manuscript during "Paperback Writer," to the slide shows, particularly the one during "C’mon People" where there is a series of Linda’s work from the 60’s ending with a photo of John. That seemed a bit contrived and undeserved.

The message seemed to be a bit "Orson Wellian" as well as Orwellian. Paul is using technology to enhance his old work but at the same time has gone to great lengths to recapture the original sound as closely as he can.

Like Welles or Elvis before him, Paul’s best work might have been achieved when he was in his early 20’s. He seems to be more and more resigned to that. I don’t mean that to sound sinister. While John always strived to be an Artist with the capital "A", Paul has seemed more content with being an entertainer above all else. If this means he is on his way to becoming the next or new Sinatra, I for one can enjoy that.

Paul’s musical purpose seems to be to put on a show for his fans. He still has the desire to please. Where the message used to be in the music, now it lies in performing because his work has meant so much to so many over the years and Paul is well aware and proud of that.

I was talking to our Emmett from St. Paul a few weeks back. He had seen Paul’s performance on "Saturday Night Live" a few weeks back. Emmett wondered how anyone could not admire the enthusiasm and fun Paul still seems to be having. It was equally refreshing and inspirational to see first hand that the person who was having the best time of all last Sunday was none other than Paul himself.

Monday, May 24, 1993

Notes and Stuff

I am officially announcing my retirement from newsletter writing. I will continue to tour, and work on other related projects, but my studio days are behind me. However, I have several hundred unreleased stories, which will run periodically.

Max had a checkup last week. He’s a healthy little guy. Dropped a pound over the year although he maintains his Kirby Puckett pouch. I was told I should brush his teeth. Our first few attempts have been an adventure; toothpaste everywhere, but tartar still on his teeth. Still, he enjoys the flossing.

The question Jason posed a few weeks back about the feet on the cover of Paul McCartney’s "Off the Ground" was answered by Paul’s latest video. In order: Blair, Linda, Paul, Wix, Hamisch and Robbie.

Have a feeling of duress from living your life in a vacuum? Your hard work has not been awarded? One analysis of the situation would lead to the conclusion what you need to do is submit an article to the newsletter where you can have your perfectly find (good?) English professionally butchered. We specialize in dangling participles and ending sentences with prepositions.

Next week: an on site report form the Metrodome and the McCartney experience. Happy Victoria Day, bye bye.

From Sue to Debbie More of a Reaction Than a Review

The Ramsey Junior High Band gave a solid performance May 20, 1993 in the Ramsey Junior High School Auditorium on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. It was a "pops" concert, with a theme of "Music From Around the World."

The evening opened with solo performances from several of the students. Then there was an inspired performance from the orchestra followed by an all-female Dixieland band. This particular ensemble showed a great deal of promise, and may be the ideal group to fill one of the few voids in the music industry today.

The theme of the evening tied together music from many different countries and cultures. The only weakness was in a few of the selections such as "Highlights from Miss Saigon" which represented (?) Vietnam, and "Selections from Aladdin" which seemed to be the best choice(?) for the Arab regions. But this was junior high and those lapses were more than made up for by inspired romping performances of "United Nations’ March" and "Russian Sailor’s Dance."

Youthful idealism carried thought the evening. The scripts, decorations and tributes to the director, Maestro Bruce Maeda, were all created by the students. Just when does cynicism set in? When does one become jaded to the spirit of such a festival?

Junior high band, ah, I remember those days as if they were yesterday… I played trumpet, but as that loveable mop top said, "I quit the trumpet because I learned you couldn’t sing too…" I don’t remember much about junior high but band was the highlight. Counting 21 measures of rest, the raves, "You buys sounded great except that little oriental trumpet player was all we could hear;" playing second rate second trumpet parts, reinforcing off beats with the french horn section, improvising with Robbie Hanson (if only I had listened to more Miles than Louis), and watching my muse catalyst, Sue, play her licorice stick. Man, the music she made kept me going. Suburban music, not all of us were lucky enough to grow up within Minneapolis or Seattle scenes or on the streets of New York or Los Angeles. Not all of us were poor struggling artists. Body Mind Soul.

But if it comes from within-ain’t it worth something? Debbie Gibson’s latest effort is an example of this youthful enthusiasm. "Body Mind Soul" is an attempt to show a glimpse of something, probably maturation (maybe something more, something other than that), and on that level it succeeds. The progression from a teen with smiles on her knees, to the torch ballad performance of "Lost in Your Eyes" on Arsenio Hall, to the current product which is Debbie turning to Deborah via a decent Madonna imitation, shows a growth to something special. It’s meant to make you dance and I found I couldn’t stop my foot from a-tappin, let alone my calfs from a-shakin. She takes you onto the dance floor to wherever you go afterwards. Debbie does her own songs, "Though I’m all good news in my Sunday shoes, I’m gonna wear you out on Saturday night, so know your fact from your fable, look before you label, cause I cook a different meal on someone else’s table, " ain’t Rimbaud but it isn’t meant to be.

You only fall in love for the first time once if ever and thank God young Debbie and junior high bands are around to remind us of that.

Monday, May 17, 1993


As summer approaches, there is so much to do and so little time to get it done. Ah life is so enriching and full…

This week is a big one for TV watchers. There is the much-hyped mini-series "Wild Palms," which should be worth a peek. Several shows air their "Finales" this week. Among them are "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Cheers". It’s graduation time for the kids in California; what does the future hold in store? I can’t wait to see.

My personal favorite episode of "Cheers" was way back in the opening season when Coach’s daughter brought in her fiancĂ©e’, Roy, for her father to meet. He was a slug and even the usually confused Coach could see that. It was a heartwarming episode. ("Your mother got more beautiful every day she liver…") My all time favorite scene was the first season’s finale, when Sam and Diane finally got together. "Do you know what it’s like to be attracted to someone that makes you sick?"

I haven’t really watched the show for the past five years, but its departure leaves a hole, which will be hard to fill. Its predecessor, "Taxi" was a much better than the successor show, "Wings".

HOUSEHOLD HINT: An empty vacuum cleaner bag improves the vacuum cleaner’s ability to suck.

For a mere one thousand dollars a person can attend Paul McCartney’s sound check at the Dome. The money is going to Paul’s Liverpool School of Music. Why Paul can’t use his own vast resources for funding might be a question you would ask at the soundcheck (part of the price includes the pleasure of meeting Paul). Unfortunately, we don’t quite have enough in the newsletter budget to send the editor to cover this major story.

A couple of weeks ago, Mark shared a story about a man who went around and painted money, which he used in lieu of real currency. Yesterday at Landfill a man who is a lawyer, told me if I could find a copy of Bonnie Tyler’s "It’s a Heartache" he would give me one free consultation. Are my legal troubles that obvious? And would you trust a lawyer who listens to Bonnie Tyler?

A recurring nightmare I used to have as a child was finding a dinosaur egg in our backyard and ensuing events led to the creatures coming back to take over the Earth. Now this summer, two movies are playing on these very fears, "Carnosaur" and Steven Spielberg’s "Jurassic Park". It just goes to show me my life is too much like the plot of "Benny and Joon". I’ll be hiding indoors if you need me.

A Few Reviews

Every week for the past couple of years, I would tune into a special half an hour of television. It was like a miracle, like someone had taken a video camera and captured my life on tape. It was like looking into a mirror and at times I wept. It was a cathartic cry from the soul. Now those skunks at CBS have cancelled "Major Dad". They have robbed me of that special thirty minutes every week. What am I to do?

Some movie directors will go to extraordinary lengths to slam a medium they consider inferior. That is the lesson anyone who endured Oliver stone’s Wild Palms learned last week.

The seven-hour stylistic mini-series made for entertaining TV although Stone has the subtlety of a car alarm. The scenes of the virtual reality created by the "inter-active" TV were creative and stimulating. Visually Stone far-surpassed David Lynch’s Twin Peaks which Wild Palms obviously aspired to do.

The message was delivered early on when the tattooed boy muttered, "No one watches movies anymore." The evilness (conspiracy?) of TV was exposed: sometime in the future TV and reality will clash in the form of a pseudo religion which will engulf us all. What we hold to be true won’t necessarily be; and what we want to be true can happen with a mixture of chemicals and an all-encompassing television station.

This was not great TV. The story was muddled and confused. Yet it was better than watching another episode of Murder She Wrote. It was a bit depressing and hard to follow but so is life (or is that life on TV?)

I for one, enjoyed the final installment of "Cheers." Once you got past all the hype, and that dreadful "pregame show" with Bob Costas, the actual finale was fun. Unlike "M*A*S*H," Cheers went out with proper touch. It was nice seeing Diane as neurotic as ever; Sam’s lecture to the gang about their "real" home; Cliff’s theory on footwear; and Sam finally discovering where his true love is.

The Weight of the World

Without trying just to appear as "Dylanically correct," I’m not sure I understood the article that appeared in these pages last week (what else is new?)

Said article compared the works of Milli Vanilli and Bob Dylan. Without trying to critique the writer’s point, it was a rather easy shot to take. You want to make a comparison? How about Betty Carter vs. Tiffany? Just who has sold more jeans? Barry Manilow vs. the Cure – just who has made more young girls cry?

Maybe I missed the point however; if the satire was of Bill James and all the "Scientific" analysis of baseball that man created, it was a brilliant piece of work.

We need not devote more time to Minnesota’s finest, suffice it to say my check was in the mail the moment I heard of his impending appearance at the State Fair. Our state fair is a great state fair.

Thanks to all who commented on my article last week about Max the Cat. There’s plenty more of where that came from. I know the newsletter may not be the appropriate forum for Max’s antics but then again didn’t Henry Gross once write about his dog Shannon? How about the Beatles’ ode to Paul’s dog Martha? Just carrying on a rock and roll tradition? And I for one would love to hear about anyone’s pet snake…

I’ve tried to be sensitive about gender issues. Being a minority in this country, I can understand to a degree the toll of oppression over the years. That said, an event which happened left me feeling more of a weenie than usual. I was talking to the copy repair person at my other job. The man was upset because the copy machine, which he seemed to view as his child, had been damaged by misuse.

"When the warning light comes on, it’s time to stop," he said to me. "It’s like in your car when you oil light comes on you don’t keep driving."

I said something in sympathy, indicating I understood his point.

"You and I understand this," the man said. "But some of the ladies her…" If a certain feisty, former state employee had been around, this might have turned into a postal situation, those might have been the man’s last words. But dweebie Dave let it pass without so much as a rebuttal. So I write this confession with the promise I’ll do better next time.

The great Cheapo excursion to the Southwest was a success. Looking at our recently returned colleagues’ photographs of the adventure – it looks like it was a great trip. Having an airline ticket I have to use by next March, I wonder if any of you have suggestions as to where I can go (boy am I leaving myself open there). My inclination is to go East but the deep South might be nice. My sister wants me to visit her in L.A., but that’s been done before. My visit to Seattle was nice but there was just too much damn coffee available. Where do I go?

Monday, May 10, 1993

Case of Change

Those of us looking for a career change can cross two more options off our lists: #1 seeded women’s tennis player, and postal worker. Now obviously isn’t a good time to complain to your mail carrier about your service even if you have been getting an increasing amount of mail that doesn’t belong to you.

How does one go from being a "disgruntled" employee to a psychotic killer? The latest incidents of violence point to the need for reform in all levels of government. The atmosphere that exists between the public and private sectors is combative and non-productive.

Mistrust and cynicism goes far beyond elected officials- down to anyone who is employed by a governmental agency.

"When you take away a person’s motivation to improve, chances are they won’t even try."

These are stressful, no win jobs where there is a woeful lack of any substantial job satisfaction.

There are two sides to the reform needed. The first would be to cut back services. People complain about having to pay too many taxes, cut through too much red tape and yet complain when the government doesn’t have the resources to hold their hands through every day problems. By cutting back services and reducing regulations, people will either begin to see the need for certain roles of the government or the wasteful spending in areas of government will be streamlined.

Another possible solution should be to create more incentive for public servants. When you take away a person’s motivation to improve, chances are they won’t even try.

Right now I am expected to answer an average of 35 calls per hour, it is how I am evaluated. That I do close to 43 calls per hour gets me nothing other than an "exceeds expectations" on my performance review. There is no reason for me to do extra work other than I’ve been taught to do the best job I can.

Promotions are generally based on seniority. Self-motivation usually isn’t enough to attract the best possible workers. So while it is true that the average government employee is paid at a better rate than their private sector counterpart, the opportunities to move on to higher positions are too often blocked. The chances for frustration and "burn out" are much too high.

Thus the work environment in many areas of government is not a pleasant one. When you add the stress of an increasingly hostile public, it’s no wonder some people snap. Some people feel because you are a faceless part of a maligned institution, they are free to act rude, and take out their frustrations on you whether you are trying to help them with their problem or not. Confrontations occur on a much too frequent basis. It creates a situation where you either take it out on your customers, your co-workers, yourself or you go home and kick the cat.

Yet it has been my experience working for the state that the majority of employees are hard working and decent people. It is the system that needs to change.

The Mother in Me

He prowls the night, sometimes waking me up in the wee hours of the morning; he is constantly hungry, every time I step into the kitchen he sits expectantly waiting for a treat; his schizophrenic nature sometimes causes him to dart from room to room chasing imaginary mice; he drools when he purrs; I have yet to teach him a new routine, he is forever stuck in his old ways; yet I haven’t made a better investment with either my money or my time than I did when I got Max the Cat.

They say pets and their owners often take on the same characteristics and you won’t find a better matched pair than me and Max. Aloof? – sometimes. Easy to get along with? – most of the time. Independent? – to a degree. Lonely? – occasionally. We share the dream, the souls of a traveler, a roamer. Staring out the window, wanderlust in the heart, a trapped feeling? – Max’s day often consists of watching the world from a window that is his corner, his view of things. I’m sure he sleeps a lot when I’m not there, but there is no better feeling after a hard day of work than to be greeted at my door with his bellowing meow.

We sometimes get in each other’s way; sometimes I feel I’m too strict with the little guy (No begging for food!) but having burned many a bridge with former roommates, this time I have found a working arrangement.

We don’t get out as much as we’d like to. Declawed, he only can roam when attached to a leash, but even his cat-sized ego isn’t wounded by having his freedom so limited. When we go out he prances along proudly, rolling around on the cement, sampling different varieties of grass none too picky in his palate.

Suave and debonair, he has won the hearts of two female felines over the past two years; Peabody and Abby. His charms are hard to resist.

Max has also developed a fine ear for music. Of course living with me he has to put up with a lot of Dylan, McCartney and Sinatra (he only seems to mind Frank because I tend to sing along with the Chairman-a torture that I hope is never reported to the humane society) but Max’s favorite music seems to be jazz. His tail wags gently to the dulcet tones of Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster. He seems to favor Coltrane and Mon, but isn’t too sure of, or gets a little too worked up whenever we listen to Cecil Taylor or David Murray.

Classical music doesn’t do much for him, and like me he seems to prefer later Dylan to the "folky" stuff. My friend Alex once reminded me he is "only a cat". But man, he is one cool cat.

Faux Pas? My apartment manager is pregnant and not having noticed her condition until I payed my rent this month I says "Are you with child?" Was this an appropriate remark?

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there, perhaps we can all dedicate this one to Melodye’s horse who is expecting soon… A special one indeed.

Bob’s Quote of the Week: "Can you cook and sew, make flowers grow?"

Monday, May 3, 1993

Defining News

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word "newsletter" as "a report, usu. Giving news or information of interest to a special group."

I mention this not because it has any relevance to the following, but because I’ve always wanted to begin an article with a definition. Besides, you people out there without a doubt are "special group".

The meaning of the dream I shared last week became crystal clear this week. I gave an interview to the St. Paul reporter on Monday (see page eight).

I wasn’t exactly misquoted, but what I said was taken out of context. I did say I wasn’t thrilled about seeing McCartney because of the Dome. I did mention Dylan and the Dead. But as most people would tell you, you could be standing next to Bob in an acoustically perfect room and still have trouble deciphering what he was singing. My complaint was more in the line of baseball being forced indoors and still harboring a grudge against that place.

Beyond that, what was printed isn’t even true now. The day following the interview, I went out and purchased a ticket to the show. So if anyone asks, it’s my evil twin Skippy sitting 450 feet away in a plastic, blue seat, munching on bad nachos…

Elsewhere in this issue there are two alternatives offered as to how to invest your new, hard-earned cash. Al suggests a practical, wise investment, while Scott’s suggestions might be a bit more risky.

My suggestions are less in the form of an investment, more in terms of actual ways to spend the cash. These of course will not make you richer, but maybe they will make you a better happier person.

Last winter I was suffering through illness after illness. From one who usually is a healthy little guy, I decided something needed to be done. So I bought a humidifier. After suffering from cold after cold, and dry, irritable skin, my purchase brought immediate help.

Disregarding preceding tidbits, how about Twins’ season tickets? This season promises to be interesting, a lot of runs will be scored at the Dome this year, some of them by the Twins. After a disheartening start, the decision was made to get rid of two pitchers who had no business being in the major leagues: Brett Merriman and Larry Casian. Unfortunately, we’ve replaced them with George Tsamis (Eight plus E.R.A. at Portland) and Richard Garces (Seven plus E.R.A. at Portland). If you sit in the outfield this year, there is a good chance you’ll be exposed to a lot of flying balls.