Monday, November 29, 1993

Mr. M Goes to Washington

So anyway, I headed toward our nation's Capitol, determined to change perceptions and opinions. I somewhat succeeded. We got NAFTA and the Brady Bill through, but failed on statehood for the DC area. (Is it legal to have two states named Washngton?)

POLITICAL FUN FACT (Source- Washington Guidebook by John and Katharine Walker, 1963) #1: "What to Wear-Ladies should leave at home shorts, toreador pants, slacks, halters, and all lounging or beach wear. Such dress is inappropriate for sightseeing and is a mark of disrespect for our national monuments."

C'mon now, if you will, and let me take you on a trip, not just any trip, but my trip. Bouncing between skepticism and cynicism, turbulence and nervousness, my plane landed at Washington National, late in the morning.

I stepped into the airport and was greeted by a strange woman. What a town! I thought, they provide personal greeters for those traveling by themselves (or in my case, alone). But wait ... The woman merely wanted my money in order to help save the lives of tortured Iranian babies. I told her I wouldn't give her money, but if she wanted to send me information, I would look it over and consider donating to the cause. "By the time you get it in the mail, two babies will be killed," she informed me. So Dave began his vacation by killing two babies. Swell, just swell.

POLITICAL FUN FACT #2: "Tipping-Tip from 10%-15% of your total bill at meals; checking your coat and hat calls for a tip of $.lo-$.25. If you tip your cab driver, $.lo for a $.50 ride is adequate. You NEVER tip government employees. Your spoken thanks will suffice."

I took the Metro to the Sheraton where I was told it would be four hours before my room would be ready. So, I hung around the lobby with a bunch of career academics, pompous, stuffy and eyeing me like I was the misplaced newsletter editor that I was.

But soon things were to pick up. I met my friend for dinner (average American pseudo-Mexican food). Good conversation, her presence mucho enjoyed after having been mucho missed.. "Sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble."

My sister and her friend arrived in town a short while later and the vacation had officially begun. Over the next few days we went to: The Washington Zoo (saw a Panda Bear, Ying Ying or Sing Sing or Ding Ding), the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial (under rehabilitation), the grave of JFK, Bobby and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (witnessed the changing of the guard), and the Vietnam Memorials (with the newly arrived female nurse tribute).

POLITICAL FUN FACT #3: "Don't be nervous about taking the elevator or standing at the top. Although the Washington Monument may be the tallest stone and masonry structure in the world, it is very stable. In a 30-mile wind it sways only one-eighth of an inch. In the last 30 years it has settled a mere 2 inches.

At the Vietnam Memorial, my sister and I were approached by an elderly lady with a runny nose. "What nationality are you?" she asked.

"American," my sister replied. The woman looked disappointed. I think she was looking for someone Vietnamese.

She proceeded with her questions anyway. "Can you explain why our soldiers went there and lulled those poor people?"

We tried to point out that perhaps her blame was placed upon the wrong people. Perhaps she wanted to question her government rather than those who did what they were told, serving their country. How do you explain, interpret a war? Was it my job because I looked like a victim of something?

POLITICAL FUN FACT #4: "What is Past is Prologue" But that was a down right pleasant confrontation compared to the one I had on my way to dinner one evening. I was approached by a man who wanted me to donate to help him cure the AIDS epidemic. I continued walking and he told me not to ignore him, which was one of the problems of "his" country. I apologized but refused to give the man money. Call me a selfish unfeeling tightwad. He walked away with the remark, "That's why so many of us black people want to lull you Asian Americans." Oh yeah? Well I killed two Iranian babies just days before fella ...

The best part of the trip besides friends and family was the food. It was a FFF feast (in a feminist setting). We sampled Italian, Thai, Lebanese, Indian, Mexican, and Roy Rogers. All these were within walking distance from our hotel in a neat little area called Adams Morgan. Next trip: Ethiopian, Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Baskin Robbins.

POLITICAL FUN FACT #5: "...serves an estimated 50,000,000 meals a year to visitors in addition to filling the dining out needs of a metropolis of two million."

The plane ride back was bumpy and long as Captain Billy was forced to keep us in a holding pattern. Behind me sat two Macalester people who for some reason felt the urge to discuss plane disasters they had heard about. What did I bring back to the Twin Cities with me besides a bevy of good memories, a great time with my sister and a deeper appreciation for a dear friend? Plenty of souvenirs for the kids. Also a sense of what makes this country great. A shot of redemption. Where else can you go and spend a night in a strange area playing a game of cable trivia with other lifeless hotel patrons? (And win on top of that!) Where else can you go to see a man urinating in front of you as you try to down your Ben and Jerry's ice cream or see a woman with plenty of space on either side, decide to sit on a bush? But seriously what I did bring back was a mission. What this area needs is a Metro system, a mass transit operation like they have out there. Easily confused, often times lost, people like myself could even follow the color schemes and clearly drawn out maps. "They're made for people who don't speak any English," my friend said. And still I was able to figure it out.

A person could consider living in the area. My friend even said it would be "good for me" to move out there. For once I don't disagree. A transplanted Midwesterner? Talk to Brandon and Brenda Walsh.

Thursday, November 18, 1993

November Rain

Your car is slowly breaking down. Time has that effect on things. But good news!
It ain't your C-V joints, it's merely your back tires causing your car to wobble. You borrow your parents car, get your's tuned up, return your parent's car. You park it in their garage, but forget to set the brake. A short time later, your dad checks to see if you've closed the garage door and he notices the car isn't in the garage. He looks further to see if you've parked it in the driveway, but it isn't there either. He looks farther and sees the car resting uncomfortably in the neighbor's frontlawn across the street. Rolling out of control?

Your VCR is still in the shop waiting for a mysterious part to arrive from Japan. You brought it in last July, and it's been so long you can't even remember what the problem was.

Your TV is on the blink. You turn it on and all you get is one line across the screen about a millimeter wide, with the intensity of a star going nova. For awhile you could fix it by pounding it ala' Fonzie and his jukebox. But remember the Happy Day's episode where Fonzie lost his touch and the jukebox wouldn't start up? That's exactly what's happened to you, you're losing it.

The computer that you've been waiting for patiently for about two months, still hasn't arrived. They either can't get the proper parts or the parts they get don't work. Reality sets in, and something you were excited about, and looking forward to, is another painful reminder that things often don't work out in the end.

Your quest for a different career is frustrating and as you were warned has turned into another full time occupation of your thoughts and time. So instead of working seven days, 56 hours a week, you are reminded of the Simpson's episode where Homer works 23 hours a day to pay for Lisa's horse. The latest news? You didn't get the job but they were impressed enough to ask you back to interview for another position. But it comes with strings pre-attached so you wonder if you should even bother.

The news incidents from the past week concerning a local coop hit a little too close to home. You used to live near and shop at the quirky little store, and your image of that time, that area has developed into a fuzzy little romantic period which has now been awoken with the loud crash of gunshots. World gone wrong.

Finally, you are awoken by the cough and difficult breathing of a cat hacking up a hairball right there in your cozy little bed. The purrfect conclusion.

But today's a brand new day! You spent last night making a tape of all your favorite songs and that cheered you up a little, plus you got your ticket to DC, to see an old friend, and meet up with your sister and above all get away even if its to the murder capital of the world and even if you haven't seen this friend for a couple of years and you're a bit nervous, at least you're not scared or yella and your friend even sounds excited that you are coming to visit! Life goes on and the blank pages of another newsletter need to be filled...

Monday, November 15, 1993

Cleaning Out My Desk

I don't want to sound pompous in my name dropping because my thumbs are peeling like the next person's. Gross. But... how many can say Secretary of State Joan Anderson Growe sang to them on their birthday?

In an impressive going away bash, even the most cold hearted cynic would have to be moved by being rewarded for three years of hard and difficult work. 102,517 calls!!! One question: Where the hell was Arne? But seriously, they threw me one heck of a shindig. Now the impersonation of Ikiru continues.. .

The lesson learned is the importance of making the employee feel like they have made a difference. The motivation, the satisfaction makes some of it worthwhile. A good organization wants to make its employees feel like their work is appreciated. This doesn't always require an elaborate effort. Just a small thank you is often appreciated.

With the turning of another calendar year, one is forced to ponder the significance of growing just a wee bit older. Why are birthdays such an ordeal for some people?

I looked in the mirror and another gray hair appeared (my third) a difficult reminder of what is to come. As various body parts (hair, gums) recede, one has to marvel at the effects of time. A birthday for whatever reason is a time to reflect on your state of affairs (so to speak) ... Just you watch, this next year will be the best ever. At which age did you realize you were getting old? The newsletter wants to know.

I too, me also, was impressed by DIN and MUSE. Dittos to Al's comments. Excellent job! Imagine a professional publication coming out of our company? What a concept!

This week's newsletter is a very special one that you'll want to bring home and savor. It's our big ACTIVITIES issue. For those who feel their writing has the punch of plumber's handkerchief, who feel their command of metaphors is as useful as a pork chop in a synagogue, we have provided a writing assignment. And for those of you who enjoyed our last crossword puzzle (see issue number 4) we have another! Enjoy.

As for next week's newsletter, it too promises to be extra special. That is because the editor, is taking a leave, a much needed respite from his day to day activities. For those interested he is going out East, where he will get together with his sister and a former feisty friend (who is chewing gum for the eyes if you know what I mean) and enjoy the comforts and dangers of the nation's capitol. Anyway for our regular contributors (you two know who you are) if you don't see your efforts in next week's issue-don't take offense. There will be plenty more pages to fill in the future. Bon Soir!!!

"The adventures we seek, the footprints we follow, may not be together but they will always be shared."

Monday, November 8, 1993

Frankly Speaking

Yes that was a writer from St. Paul dancing in the middle of a circle of eight married women last Friday night. But he only did it with a great deal of self consciousness and embarrassment. Yes, he was out of his element, but so were all the other solitary figures in that location that night. A memorable occasion, a once in a lifetime event. Sacred vows, on broken cows. The DJ played all of the favorites, "Mony Monyl' , "Twist and Shout", "Cream", "Achy Breaky Heart". We could have danced all night and for a while there, I thought we might. Songs for Swingin Lovers. ..

So.1 went back home and put on the new CD and the man took me to the place where the embers glow on reflective waters like a fluorescent kitchen light on a diamond, strapped into its secure wedding band.

Those of us looking to the Chairman of the Board for a little guidance and direction have to be a little confused by his new release, Duets.

Billed as the "Event of the Century", Duets is Frank Sinatra’s first new studio record in nine years. Sinatra, now 78, still has remarkable abilities in interpreting a song and making it his own. Yet the project is a bit disappointing in its wide variety of quality and lack of a clear cohesive whole.

Sinatra has already proven his independence, charisma and style throughout his career; he doesn't need to share the spotlight with lesser weathered, and ineffective artists. Unlike most, Sinatra has always called his own shots, followed his own map, thus one wonders what we can take from a recording (much of it literally phoned in) that relies so much on the talents of others.

There are restraints all of us place upon ourselves to conform to the mores of society. It is indeed a sad day when even Francis Albert succumbs to this.

Even that other great Italian artist once sang, "Life is a mystery, all of us must stand alone…” In the end that is what we all face and some would argue the sooner we own up to that, the more satisfying our life will be. September of Our Years...

Yet that criticism might be a tad harsh. Sinatra has done it all (and done it his way) so if he wants to enjoy a song with a bevy of friends, he for one, has earned it.

A few weeks back in this very publication (a little less faded) we wrote about the challenge of making a career/job change. Getting a new job, is a difficult thing to subject oneself to, but it is equally hard making the change once the opportunities are presented.

With a routine comes familiarity. With familiarity comes complacence. With complacence comes security. With security comes comfort. With comfort comes a paralysis. And from there Frank sings to only the lonely.

I for one have no idea what any of this means, as I turn to leave yet another behind. Alls I know is Frank is back, I'm gone and somewhere we'll all meet again in the middle.

Monday, November 1, 1993

Point Counterpoint

EDITOR'S NOTE: Here is a brand spanking new feature we hope to run periodically. It's called Point/Counterpoint Debate Discussion over Liner Notes. Here is the premise: a major star writes their own liner notes to their new CD and we take the time to respond. Yes, we realize there is vast potential for major league geekdom, but that hasn't stopped us before...

Okay, Bob the jig's up. For over 30 years now, you've played the role of the outsider, the cynic commentator on our society. Doesn't matter the phase you were in, folk, rock, country, gypsy, gospel, crack pot, and now blues, you've always been able to point out what is wrong, but isn't it a much more difficult task to point out what is right, or offer alternatives? Easier to tear down than build up?

Although your latest tirade is the best thing you've written since, oh say, "Series of Dreams", and the best liner notes I've seen in quite a while, it still is bile from a hateful, contemptful mind. Are you putting us on? Lighten up pal.

You look out across the land and see corruption and poverty of values, a society crumbling. I look and see the joys of Cheez- Whiz. uummm, cheez-whiz.

You look to the youth and see a lack of belief in anything other than themselves. You want religion back in the schools.

I see the kids of Beverly Hills 90210 doing pretty well for themselves.

You see phoniness, privileged people posing. I see the benefits of a good aerobics dance session.

Truth is shadowy, "strange things are happening like never before," you say. I say there is free downtown parking on the major holidays. The opportunities know no boundaries.

Misunderstandings, violence, judgmental people trying to fit all into pre-conditioned notions? Well how about the soothing purr of a drooling kitty? How do you answer that?

The dust and pollution of city dwelling and vast areas of land being stripped of their essence? How about the blooming lilacs in June? And the tasty treat of a refreshing Lemon Sunkist?

You see Bob, you can continue to try and play the part of the old, wise bluesman but the role that suits you better is one of a lil' clown on Halloween night. Life can be enjoyed if you only let yourself. To spout off alarmist metaphors is to lose sight of all that is right about this country.

PS-The new CD is good, damn good.


Hey all you Star Trek fans? Have any of you caught the repeats of Hill Street Blues (Channel 23, llPM M-F)? So far we've seen Jonathan Frakes (William Riker) as a drug dealer and Brent Spiner (Data) as a sexual deviant. One of the intriguing parts of Hill Street was they kept the city anonymous throughout the series. Well, now we know it was the City on the Edge of Forever. Har har, snicker snicker... Nothing like a good trekkie joke.

The Jig is Up

Dazed and confused? Perhaps you didn't inhale so you can't stop thinking about tomorrow, as it were.

Perhaps you are one of the many who find there's too much month left at the end of the money. And your problem isn't the way you ration your resources, it's that you don't get enough scoops to begin with. You do like your parents told you and you save for a rainy day only you're living in your own private Seattle and every day is a rainy one...

But the longer you delay saving the bigger impact it will have on how much you have when you are 65. Do you believe in social security? hah! There are economic principles like the "Rule of 72" (where you take the interest rate you are getting and multiply it by 72 to tell you how long it will take your savings to double). The effect of compound interest is amazing. The impact of postponing your savings for five years is stunning.

Options? Let's brainstorm shall we? You could stick your money in a bank where you'll get 2-3% interest. This is "safe" in that your money is insured and there is minimal risk of losing it all, but it's not much of an investment.

You might purchase a "whole life" insurance policy which includes a "forced savings" plan-but it has been shown to me those types of programs are wrought with consumer fraud.

You could do like some and become educated in the fine sport and thrills of equestrian wagering. Problem is even the best fail (as proven in prior issues of the newsletter) and to become knowledgeable enough takes a lot of time and studying. If you are willing to put that much effort into your investment, you might as well go for something a bit more secure.

You could go to one of our state's many fine casinos where you'll find many of our state's fine senior citizens, many of whom probably wish they were your age and had the opportunity to invest there money somewhere wise other than the land of screaming reptiles.

In the same line of thinking you could go to Vegas (sniff) and bet on sporting events: If even a Macalester alum like myself who hasn't seen more than 20 plays all season long can pick at a 70% accuracy rate, it can't be all that difficult. Problem is I've picked a lot of favorites and if I were actually betting, the odds and spreads probably would not have paid for my plane ride back home.

There are of course, many other options, like government bonds, the stock market, starting your own business, buying your own business, raising show bunnies, buying fine art, cars and all the other collectibles.

What I, your personal investment planner would suggest would be to look at a good solid mutual fund which would give you 10- 12 (an easily attainable figure) percent return on your investment. You may not become a millionaire, but with a little common sense you'll be better off. Which leads us to our final cliché of the day: let's yet your money working for you, rather than you just working for your money.