Monday, June 27, 1994

Luck Be a Lady Tonight

Years of formation, washed upon the shores of Australia, picked for its near perfect palm sized comfort; who knows how long this rock lay. Displaced but passed with affection from one to another, it found its way to St. Paul, Minnesota. Broken knees to broken hearts, yet somehow, this heart of stone, mended but never fully recovered. Rock solid heart of mine.

Yes, I indeed lost my good luck charm. So what happens next? Earthquakes in Minnesota? Silly superstitions, but it was a rock, something to hold on to, and now it is out there, either with someone else, or by itself and the meaning, the significance has been lost. SNIFF. This was no four leaf clover, no rabbit's foot, no beer bottle cap, no St. Christopher's medal. This was my rock, far from perfect, picked on a distant shore, with me in mind; and it has been carried on my person since. Now I got to go it alone. Losing another part of the heart. Bring out the old, ring in the new, the cleaning lady leaves you behind, with so much further to go. It isn't exactly the way I want it to be, but as time goes by you learn you can't always get what you want. Anxious about the impending unraveling that surely must follow? A wee bit.

It's not that I actually believe in such nonsense, but why tempt fate? The next test? The young lass that my heart has begun to pitter patter for, the sports babe that even my marginal softball skills have tried hard to impress- well I called her up last week. Seemed a bit like high school, (is she sweet on you?) but the nerves held on as we spoke and as my hand reached for the rock as it has so many times in the past. She had missed the game and I pulled my groin. So who would have thought we would end up talking about the condition of my groin on our first call? Not exactly what I had in mind. Even for me that seemed slightly embarrassing. But this could be the start of a beautiful friendship; she lent a sympathetic ear, and listened to the crisis du jour. Just another hard rock story.


BARBIE UPDATE: Dad returned to Target to check the progress of his venture into activism. Sure enough, as promised the sales price of the white Barbie doll was brought down five dollars to match its black counterpart. All dolls are created equal... But seriously, it was good to see my father get worked up over something that I think I would have just shook my head over. He told Target that the issue wasn't paying five dollars more for the same doll just because of its skin color; the issue was the message, the one that drifts through so much of our culture, that is ever so subtly forced upon us. Ebony and Ivory may live together in perfect harmony on your piano, but geez Pedro, the black keys are fewer in number, and smaller in size. If we don't fight the underlying messages on the simple things, i.e. toys, then we might as well not even bother with the larger, more overwhelming issues.


LANDFILL AFTERNOON: One of my least favorite regular customers came in Saturday. I don't know what it is about this fellow, but he just rubs me the wrong way (don't touch me), and every time I see him come in the door, my upper lip automatically curls. Now having had only brief conversations earlier in the day with Al and Denise, it occurred to me I had not spoken for most of the day, and having the newsletter ahead in the evening, I figured I wouldn't really have much contact with people all day long. Well, this customer approached me and started asking a whole mess of questions. At first I was irritated, he was asking me if we had certain titles, which as anyone who has been in Landfill knows, is like looking for a lost lucky rock. I tried to be as polite and helpful as I could, but quite frankly I was being kind of short (my natural stature). But something strange happened. As we got talking about music, I started enjoying the contact, the conversation. I saw this person in a different light, and as he walked out with his usual $2.00 purchase, I genuinely looked forward to his next visit.

Monday, June 20, 1994

Turning Two Tammy

What is it about Lake Michigan that makes one want to give it up and walk away? Let's see, there was Michael Jordan, now Ryne Sandberg and before that, there was someone else but I don't even remember her name. All I remember was how she smelled. And that was well. Nice proboscis.

Yes sports fans, I am among you. Growing up in Minnesota we all saw some lean times. I suffered through three of the four Viking's Super Bowl losses; watched the Twins serve as a talent farm for other teams while getting by with people like Bombo, Lombo, Pete Filson and Fast Freddie Toliver; watched the North Stars lose in the Cup finals; watched the Saints fold, the Buckskins crumble and even felt a little sad when the Kicks, both versions, didn't quite make it.

So when the Timberwolves were sold down the river, I was among the few who felt betrayed. For four years, my heart rose and sank with that team. (which may help to explain why I am as goofy as I am). Loyalty, why is it such an elusive thing to find these days? In a last minute attempt to rescue the team, they kept saying we'd put on a good presentation, show them Minnesota's best, and we'd get the next team. Who needed the Wolves, perhaps the poorest run sports franchise of all time?

But for those of us who secretly root for and relate to losers, deep down, the Timberwolves held a spot in our psyche. Our team sucked, but it was our team. Christian Laettner, JR Rider, even Chuck Person, this team was fractured, representing the best example how when you don't work together, when the goals are not the same, you can't possibly succeed. You get through the hard times for a reason believing the suffering, the losing would be worth it in the end, when they finally turned it around.

My fondest sports memories of all come from the early 80's when I had access to a car, plenty of empty seats at the dome, and the place was quiet enough where a fellow could get some studying done. The '82 Twins lost 102 games but it was a fun team to watch. They were young, talented, and learning how to play while pretending like they knew what they were doing. I could relate. Relating, that's why we like sports, isn't it?

So what's the comparison between that team and our recently rescued bucketball heroes? Calvin Griffith constantly struggled to get by as cheaply as he could. And in '81 he decided to get rid of marginal stars and bring up potential; he took the flak for cutting corners but in reality the players he gave away weren't going to win anything. Eventually amid rumors he was going to sell the team to a Florida group, Calvin helped keep the team in Minnesota by selling it to Carl Pohlad. The success that followed showed that taking risks sometimes works a hell of a lot better than settling for the status quo and giving into the philosophy that the middle of the pack is better than building from the bottom up.

The Wolves have never made up their mind what course they wanted to follow and thus have drifted into a position where they have to rebuild before they even began to build in the first place. Musselman won too many games and didn't play the young players enough so he was fired. The club decided they needed a center to become a contender so they wasted two picks on Spencer and Longley. They decided they were only a player or two away so they traded for Person and Williams. No game plan, changing directions in midstream out of panic; this club is a mess as even the attempt to sell it proved. You can walk away from your problems, your responsibilities, but in the end it will catch up to you. It all smells. Just like Lake Michigan.


We celebrated my niece's eleventh birthday yesterday. Dad had an experience shopping that fits right into these pages.

Seems he was buying one of the many variety of Barbie Dolls out there. He brought it up to the register believing it was $19.95 as the nearby sign indicated. It was instead rung up at $24.95. He questioned the cashier who called back for a price check. What was discovered was that the black Barbie was on sale while the white Barbie was five dollars more. Same doll, same accessories, different color, different price. Dad questioned the wisdom of this. What does this tell young black girls? That they aren't worth as much as their white counterparts? He was given a number to the home office which he called and was assured the situation was a mistake. Dad said he would check back. Stay tuned.

Under the Gun

EDITOR'S NOTE: We intended to celebrate our second anniversary in a low key fashion. We meant simply to thank all those who have contributed over the past two years for all the hard work. It is truly deeply appreciated. Thank you. We didn't mean for there to be a theme, but having watched in complete fascination and horror the events of the O.J. Simpson tragedy, a theme suddenly developed.

Over the past two years one of the underlying issues or concepts of this publication has been to examine the blurring of the lines between public and private; reality and fiction; the media and art; news and entertainment; the effects of an overwhelming consuming consumer culture that devours anything remotely resembling critical thinking or the ability to think for yourself. This wasn't by accident, it was sort of what I tried to study in college.

My sister flew home from LA Friday evening. I went over to my parents' house for dinner and what I thought would be a quiet night of flipping between the Twins and the NBA championship. Just as the Twins were losing their grip, CBS interrupted with a special report showing a white Bronco driving down an eerily empty LA freeway followed by a convoy of police. It was a disturbing mixture of reality with the deadening effects of popular culture. It was like The Fugitive playing out on national television, only this was real in some way. You couldn't take your eyes off it yet deep down was the dread that the worst was about to play out, and the already sad situation was only going to get worse.

Sports heroes (and rock and roll stars), are myths created by the culture, held up to a hypocritical standard. They are supposed to be pure and beyond human frailties, role models that sometimes fall almost by a majority wish, and when they do, analysis and eulogies are written underlying and dissecting the meaning behind it all. The events of this particular tragedy had some familiar themes. O.J. blamed the media for creating a piranha like environment, where his image was treated unfairly by the same folks who created it. And evidence of the incredible disruptive ignorance of the media was displayed as the chase itself was underway.

Among the pearls: Dan Rather mistakenly identified a tire as O.J. in the back of the Bronco; Hugh Downs made the observation that O.J. was a relatively nonviolent football player and thus it was ironic and hard to believe that he should be guilty of such a violent crime (to which I turned to my family and remarked that O.J. was simply playing the part of the ultimate running back, running away from the opposition- sure enough Rather made the same analogy an hour later). The media stumbled upon itself to portray the sadness of the tragedy taking place while at the same time trying to beat the competition to the exclusive story. This culture cares even as it gobbles you up.

Believe it or not, this whole thing didn't happen to give people fodder to talk about. We build opinions on our celebrities based solely on media images and then act shocked when they don't live up to those manufactured images, and are amused by the mistakes, the gossip that judges them with so much scrutiny. That witty former elder statesman, now dead, Richard Nixon in his last book wrote that the media should play the part of a doctor not a proctologist.

It was positively spellbinding TV. But it seemed just like that: TV, like something that was so familiar, like some bad cop show. It was bizarre and at the same time, achingly sad. Who were the real victims? (the answer my friend is on page three). "Real" lives were at stake, and like the Roman gladiator fights, we were all their to witness the spectacle. For those of us who dove into the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan debacle with glee, the Simpson story makes that one look like a marginal screwball comedy. Already the vultures dive in: the natural solution of course has gotta be the death penalty.

So, if anything can be said for the past couple of years, it's that the number of numbing news stories continues to snowball. This place seems to be bursting at the seams. All we can promise is we'll continue to do our best to wade through it in our own ornery way.

Monday, June 13, 1994

The Girl Next Door

No one loves their pistachios more than I, but darn it, good customer service is too often the exception to the rules these days. I mention this because on my way back to the office the other day, through the skyway, I passed a health food store that had a special on my favorite nuts. I only meant to buy one bag, figuring my ever hardening arteries needed a break, but the salesperson was so pleasant, I ended up doubling my purchase.

This wasn't the first time this happened at that store either. The exact same thing happened to me around Christmas time with a different salesperson. A pleasant greeting, a smile, a thank you, and a guy can't stop buying and being impulsive. Human nature craves being treated well just as much as the tummy craves pistachios.

Same thing goes for popcorn too. My favorite family store, the Popcorn Factory, is just a minor jaunt away from my cubicle, so despite their use of Connola (sp?) Oil, I have to supply my daily fix and am never sorry (not yet anyway- CALLING Dr. Kervorkian) that I did. Whether it is the mother, one of the daughters, or the big guy himself (call him the Popcorn Foreman), they always make me feel like I should come by just because they are happy to see me. It's gotten to the point where I can go in and they know what my order is without me muttering, mumbling, a word. Predictable? Perhaps. The Usual? I can't say that very often. And that is a darn good feeling which it wouldn't have always been. You have to allow yourself the ability to enjoy things because what is the point to do otherwise?

You wanna know something? I've learned with my advancing age, it is all in the attitude. As Lou wrote on one of his later albums, "I want the principles of a timeless muse. I want to eradicate my negative views, and get rid of those people who are always on the down." Having been one who has taken to sulking for much of my youth, I can say it is a difficult lesson to succumb to and accept. But it works. Being around people who don't seem to enjoy what they are doing, can be a drag. You know what they say about muscles, smiling and frowning. And after all it wasn't named Grand Old Days by accident.

For one who has preached against the labeling of people, too often I fell into the trap of seeing people in categories. This person is a customer, this person is an acquaintance. This person is my cleaning lady, this person is my soul mate, my favorite mother of two. But people are people. Ebony and Ivory. We all just want to be acknowledged, treated fairly, and be liked. Appearances can be deceiving; you can love and cherish a friend.

People love to gossip, people love to pull you down to their level. And it is easy to let them, hard to maintain your true beliefs. To treat all the people you come across with a good customer service attitude is one funky challenge. That said, what did I do, when one of my all time favorites, Ramblin Rose, came to me feeling a little down? I treated her just the way she has always treated me: with affection and the right touch. She is a person with quiet optimism, so when she is reflective and introspective, it only serves to deepen our understanding of one and other. She has lifted my heart, my spirits so many times, with just a phone call, the sound of her voice, the smile in her eyes, that during this time when the burden of being too busy is wearing her weary, I let her know that she didn't have to say anything; her presence was all that is required. Crossing the line? Maybe, but it was a Special Night, as it always is.

She has after all, bless her soul, taught me much, or at least reinforced inner beliefs. Looking at it through Disney eyes, eternally blue skies; not too long ago, if someone were to ask me which of the seven dwarfs I most identified with, I would have immediately replied either Sleepy or Grumpy. Now days I would emphatically respond SNEEZY! I used to feel like a sneeze that wouldn't happen, now, the inner walls aren't as thick. You may call it a sell out, I call it maturing. Day to day sharing, building trust, makes the world go round.

Cultivating friendships through a customer service attitude is a ying yang type thing because you can work it the other way too- treating your customers the way you would treat a friend. It's an important lesson we all know but too often forget. And once it becomes ingrained on your brain, it is almost as enjoyable as a bowl of pistachios.



Monday, June 6, 1994

With a Love as Big as a Starship- Ode to My Car

One last Star Trek memory, if I may be so bold: On the original series there was an episode, I think it was the "spore" one, where the crew all fell under the influence of an illegal plant substance that made everyone feel euphoric and removed friction from life.; where Kirk stood alone on the bridge of the Enterprise and we learned that his intimate love was not for a woman, but that his woman was his ship.

I always used to get a chuckle from that because it seemed to explain to me a lot of Kirk's neuroses. Well, what I learned this week was never to discount anything- someday what you used to laugh at and make fun of, is no longer funny, and begins to make a hell of a lot of sense.

This past week I traded in the car I've had for the past six years for a brand spanking new, used, but unbelievably shiny and impressive car. As I was cleaning out the now obsolete vehicle, a tear came to my eye. The old girl and I had been through a lot together; traveled to a lot of places; saw a lot of special moments with a lot of special people by our side (or inside as the case may be)- everyone from SJL through NJK and everyone in between: my favorite mother of two; SuperMom; Alex; Peppermint Patti; Max; Spunky...

The car was the last link between all the places I've been to and all the people I've traveled with in the last few years. Now it feels like an end of an era, if six years can claim to be considered an era. As I walked away for the last time, I felt like a trader, abandoning the old girl for a new flashy model. It was the last remnants of a difficult but never forgotten period of my life.

Hopefully the new car will get me half as far as this last one. I'm sure we'll have our memories to share. After all, I did learn to like the new Enterprise just as much as the old one after I got used to it. When this car's wheels spin under me for the final time, I hope enough ground will have passed where my heart will feel wistful once again.

Meek as a Mouse

Who better than I to give advice to a soon to be married couple? After all, I have the experience, having been married six times and currently working on two others. When it comes to marrying, I ain't exactly meek. You can't be. Actually some of my best friends are married. And my other is a cat. But I'm a people person and the commitment of marriage is the ultimate people experience.

Let's see, let us start with the basics shall we? Maybe it's just me, but I think it best when you can marry someone named Shirley. I'm not sure why that is, I've just found it to be one of life's few truths. Truth, that's a good start for any couple. And believe me, you can learn all you need to know by a person's name. You give your heart to a woman with a man's name, and that's when the wacky fun begins.

My most romantic? That's easy, it had to be on my Trip with Stephanie I, in Vegas, we had the room, there were plenty of chapels, and we both had an affection for Elvis. Frisky feelings that are forever felt. The alternative is to do the opposite, go the way of the old country, where marriages are often arranged, even better than the best employment service.

The big question of course, is how you decide that the person you are with is the one you want to always be with. Just when you think you know a person, you find out about that sixth toe. The mystery of the future has kept more than one heart beating. Take if you will, my infatuation with Tonya Harding, which has simmered a bit. Despite the cooling off of feeling, (the bad girl has been tamed and put in her place) who knows what is around the corner? Rough and tumble, ready to rumble. Healthy knees, another key to any good marriage.

You won't find a person's wedding date on any resume. After all the cake is eaten, after all the booze is consumed, after all the gifts are opened and the thank you notes, written, the quiet solitude ("My God what have we done?!), inevitably sets in. For some people that's good. They are the one's who care, share, nurture and grow. For others, it's like continually dancing in a figure of eight, don't know if they're coming or going, early or late. Round and round that little ring they go.

And it is cute the way couples can become more and more like each other. Dad doing laundry? Get out! Mom driving with Dad down to Branson, the country capital of the world? Who would have believed it? A friend sometimes moans to me a bit about her hubby, yet she does it with affection, and deep down you know, without him she'd be lost, somehow incomplete. And that, I guess, is what it really is all about.

Actually, one of my fondest experiences in life was at my brother's wedding. It was a cold December day, a huge gathering and somehow with all the hustle and bustle, a nice little ceremony broke out. And at the reception, I brought down the house with my "Top Five" list which included the gem, "It is the only time you'll hear the words, 'best man', and my name used in the same sentence." After which my brother patted me on the back, and I knew the day had gone the way he hoped.

June of course, is ideal for marriage, what with it being the month that has Flag Day. It is the perfect time to recite the vows of teamwork, a partnership, a common goal, hope of deliverance. Love is such a wonderful concept, I can think of worse fates. No matter how cynical one can grow with the passing years, to see two people succeed at one of life's hardest but most rewarding endeavors, is always inspirational. To see two people that managed to find each other, is something to behold. So, to all of you couples in love, I salute you. Hugs and kisses from Tonya and I. We sincerely send you our best.