Monday, December 30, 1996

1996 Top Ten

10. Lyle Lovett's Road to Ensenada: Wit humor and charm can go a long way- even get Julia Roberts to fall in and out of love with you. Four great songs, That's Right You're Not from Texas, Long Tall Texan, I Can't Love You Anymore, and my personal theme song, Don't Touch My Hat. "If it's her you want, I don't care about that. You can have my girl but don't touch my hat."

9. Joan Jett's Love Is All Around: Mary comes to the big town, all on her own now. She conquers that town with her pluck and charm ("Kid you have spunk... I hate SPUNK.") The energy in Jett's performance of Mary's theme makes this the song of the year. A cry of defiance, of independence and of self reliance all from a 1970's TV theme song.

8. Bob Dylan and Patti Smith Dark Eyes: An exquisite duet from December 15, 1995 in Philadelphia from two of music's most intriguing artists. Their voices intertwine and dance around the enigmatic words, "...oh time is short and the days are sweet, and passion rules the arrow that flies. A million faces at my feet and all I see are dark eyes..." Not exactly a polished performance but anyone wanting polish from either of these two is missing the point.

7. Mike, Kim and Alex: Our favorite family and they're merely a cartoon. Mike Doonesbury, whose wife recently left him to pursue her career in performance art, starts dating a young coworker. The person in control of it all however is his young daughter Alex. The best Doonesbury bit in years.

6. Frances McDormand in Fargo: A lot of people I talked to didn't like this movie. They didn't see the point and certainly we in Minnesota aren't the rubes portrayed. Well there have been many times over the years during the coldest moments of the winter, slip sliding around and having to deal with terminal cheerfulness and its sometimes cousin, ignorance, where I just wanna scream, seriously questioning my own sanity for living in this state. Frances McDormand was absolutely hilarious as the sheriff. Beneath the "you betchas" and "oh shures" was a patient, competent if not brilliant Minnesota public servant. Good enough for me.

5. Murder One: The end last year was a disappointment as a bit player was found to be the guilty party. Then they really sold out by firing the show's soul, Daniel Benzali, and revamping it not to be just about one case but three or four. Still the show has its wonderful pacing, writing and a good new lead in Anthony Lapaglia. Sometimes it is so good it makes you realize how bad most of the rest of network television is.

4. Barry Manilow's Live By Request: Looking back to my so called life back in junior high everything seems like a big blur. And the blurriest moment of all was during gym class and the swimming unit. To pass we were required to swim nine laps. Not exactly being the buoyant type I absolutely dreaded the thought of jumping into a pool of freezing water, not being able to see two feet in front of my face and trying to get from one end of the pool to the other nine freaking times. The only stroke I had any confidence in was the backstroke so it took me all period to finish my laps as the others darted around me as if I was swimming in jello. The only comfort through this nightmare? In the background Barry Manilow belted out Can't Smile Without You. Now I know it ain't exactly cool to be a Barry Manilow fan, but somehow that song saved me from drowning in more ways than one. Barry had a recent A & E special where callers could phone in requests and he would play them. It was like being in a bar with a he's so bad he's good performer. The caller would request a song and Barry would say to each and every one, "That one's so special to me... it's one of my favorites..." I can't think of a better job than being a lounge piano player and playing Barry Manilow songs all night. Another career change?

3. Kirby Puckett's retirement press conference: I got home after a stressful drive, turned on the TV, saw Kirby sitting behind a table with a bunch of microphones and an eye patch. It was classic Kirby and it made me cry. "I don't want all you kids who prayed for me to think that this means God doesn't answer prayers..." A bitter sweet good-bye, a big loss of cheerful exuberance for baseball.

2. Paul Westerberg's Eventually: They say this guy used to be in a band that was pretty good. Well I don't know about that, but this CD showed the guy has a career in front of him. Love Untold is a classic. "Does anyone recall the saddest love of all, is one that lets you fall... nothing to hold." Can someone please tell me if his old band created music this good?

1. Suzanne Vega's Nine Objects of Desire: I never used to like Vega's music, too studied, sounding more like an English major than a song writer. Her last CD (1992's 99.9F) changed all that however. As strong a song cycle as there is, that CD still gets plenty of time in my music rotation. Nine Objects of Desire isn't quite as consistent but it shows a pleasant continuing growth of an artist who has much to say in such a different way. It's one of the few concept CD's that works completely, examining the many different sides of love. The second song kicks in with the great opening line, "The sign said head shots..." and goes on to create a mood and atmosphere seldom strived for in popular music. "It's strange how a shadow can fall across the wall, and make the difference in what you see."

Monday, December 23, 1996

Newspaper of the Twin Cities

If there is something that we must be in the business (and when I say the business I mean the industry), it is consistent and reliable. Each and every one of our customers comes into our stores with some type of expectation. If we don't meet those expectations, and in some cases exceed those expectations, that particular customer may go to another store to buy their music.

Sometimes those expectations are unrealistic. Other times the expectations are what we should automatically provide: good selection, good layout of product, excellent service, competitive prices and a clean friendly atmosphere. That's not to say providing those things is a take for granted, easy task. It is to say that if we fail to provide those things we won't be very successful. The same holds true with all kinds of businesses. When we are dealing with somebody for the first time we do have some sort of preconceived basic expectations. When we are dealing with the same person or company for a second or third time, those expectations begin to rise.

I have a bet with my sister that by the year 2000, newspapers as we know them will no longer exist. With rising paper and production costs and declining readership, I am predicting by the turn of the century to get a newspaper you will have to go on-line or get your news through some other form of technology. At the last apartment complex I lived in there were twelve apartments and only three of us got one of the two daily newspapers. My apartment complex prior to that consisted of about thirty different units and there were five or six of us who got newspapers.

Coming from a journalism background and having read a newspaper for just about as long as I can remember, my prediction sort of saddens me. I enjoy waking up early to get my two newspapers, pour myself a cup of coffee and catch up with the prior day's events. When I visit another city one of the first things I check out is their newspaper to see how it compares with others I have read.

We are blessed to live in an area that does have two major metropolitan dailies. While the quality of each has slipped a bit over the past couple of years (too much USA Today television style summary reporting with more flash then substance), there still is no better way to get your daily news then to pick up either the Pioneer Press or the Star Tribune (although Channel 2's NewsNight is fast catching up).

These days I have less time to read both newspapers before I leave for work. I usually page through the Trib and then just glance through the Pioneer Press for anything that looks interesting. I've thought about stopping service on one of the two but herein lies the dilemma. At this point I think because of its resources, the Star Tribune puts out a superior product. They obviously have a bigger staff and it seems often that the Pioneer Press is just a training base for the Knight-Ridder empire, sending its quality writers to other newspapers in the chain when they complete their apprenticeship in St. Paul. However, the delivery service I get from both newspapers is like night and day.

My St. Paul paper is always there for me when I awake at 6:00 a.m. It is put in the cylinder next to my door so I never have to search for it. My Minneapolis paper is almost never delivered on time. Over the summer I almost developed a safari like approach to trying to find where my carrier delivered the paper that day. Because it is important to me to read my newspaper before I leave for work, when I cancel one of the two papers it will probably have to be the Tribune despite their superior product. It ain't any good to me if it ain't there to read.

Now I 'm just guessing at how they came up with the word "news" but it probably was back in the days when word of an event would spread from town to town. Since these events were relatively recent, perhaps it was then they were dubbed news. Therefore once I hear about some event, and read or get into some discussion or other form of analysis on that event, it is no longer news, it's olds. I may get angry at something I read in the newspapers (i.e. the Pioneer Press' lame endorsement reasoning of supporting Rudy Boschwitz in the senate race) but being angry enough to think about something is better than being angry because the material isn't even there to read in the first place. People are always saying if we privatize more of our governmental services those services will automatically improve. Well, getting a good newspaper delivery person proves otherwise. My mail arrives on time. It gets delivered to my mailbox where I expect it. Is it expecting too much of the same for me to demand the same from my news carrier?

Monday, December 16, 1996

Shelter from the Storm

Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire is a movie that is sort of an anti-Seinfeld. Instead of being about nothing, it is sort of about everything. What starts off as a movie about a slick sports agent who suddenly develops a moral conscience, turns into a love story and covers a half dozen other topics along the way. In other words, it is the perfect movie for viewing on a cold gray Saturday afternoon on only your second trip to the Mega Mall with a friend who has just broken up with her longtime boyfriend.

The movie stars Tom Cruise, and it really could star no other actor. The part seems written with Cruise in mind, sort of an update from the character he played in his '80's defining role in Risky Business. Maguire may not be the quickest at catching on to what is going on around him and more importantly inside of him, but eventually the depth within overwhelms the shallowness that his exterior portrays.

The movie also has strong performances from Cuba Gooding Jr., as Cruise's only client, Rene Zellweger as Cruise's business partner and wife, and also Bonnie Hunt as Zellweger's "disapproving" sister. It is in these performances that the strength of the movie's writing really comes through. It is apparent that each of the three has their own "sad stories" as the Zellweger character describes it, but each has come to a self defined realization of who they want to be and who they currently are. Their relationships with Cruise allow us to follow the path that takes Maguire from a selfish and greedy yuppie, to a lost and searching still sometimes manipulator, who ends up discovering and reflecting upon his own weakness until he is complete.

The movie begins with him staying up one night after a confrontation with the son of one of his clients, and writing a new mission statement for his firm that calls for them going less for the money and more for what they all apparently got into sports to begin with, namely fun and love of the game. He is of course fired for his radical idea and new morals, and the only ones to stick by him are Zellweger and Gooding (who is constantly entertaining as the pampered star wide receiver).

In Risky Business Cruise played a high school student who learned the pitfalls of pursuing the Capitalism trap of making money without the corresponding reward that comes with a honest work ethic. In Jerry Maguire he learns much the same lesson only he is able to show others around him the need to put as much passion into their work as they do their own private lives. In return he learns the polar opposite, the reward that comes from developing intimacy with others, to get beyond the glossy lifestyle that comes with major league sports.

At times it feels as if the movie is trying to say too much; cover too much ground without getting beyond the surface. But as Cruise assails the cynicism of the world around him he gets engaged in a simpler world, through his relationship with Gooding, Zellweger, and Zellweger's young son (played by Jonathan Lipnicki). The movie unfolds like one of those white paper snowflakes we all made as children, where you cut out little patterns but it is not until you open it that you actually can see what you have created.

If Risky Business defined the '80's as an age of greed with the make money by any means mentality, Jerry Maguire paints a more optimistic portrait of the 1990's. This decade isn't so much about 12 step support groups that allow everyone to claim themselves as victims, it's more about taking responsibility for personally fixing what is wrong in one's life. There is a balance to be struck between the personal and professional. The message is about striving less for winning at all costs and more for finding that something or someone which will make you complete.

Monday, December 9, 1996

Dear Friend

Dear Friend, what's the time? Is this really the borderline? Does it really mean so much to you? Are you afraid, or is it true?

During those stressful moments during the day when chaos is buzzing all around, I'll often take a quiet moment to look at a picture that my friend gave to me that she took during her family's visit down to the Florida Keys a few years back. The photograph is of a magnificent sunset over the ocean, a perfect picture from a perfect eye.

It always comforts me to look at the picture because it calms me as I can almost hear the ocean waves, and it reminds me of far away places and all that is out there away from cubicles, beeping phones, pagers, computers and staff meetings. It also calms me because I am seeing things through my friend's eyes, the way she sees, her unique way of looking at things, and like she often does when I am around her or talking to her, it reminds me of what our relationship is about, a shared sense of what is truly important.

That the picture means so much to me is rather ironic. I'm not exactly what you would call a picture type guy (or picturesque type guy for that matter). I won't get into my theory here about photographs creating false memories for people. Whenever I hear that a picture is worth a hundred words, I always say I'll take the words. A couple weeks back the Stillwater Gazette ran an article I wrote about the election. Along side my article they ran a photo of me. Mixed emotions? My backwards journey into the world of journalism juxtaposed with the memory of having spent the past few years plotting on how I could destroy all photographic evidence of my existence so all that remained behind were the words...

Still it wasn't too surprising to me that the people who read my article commented more on the picture than the story. Others talked about how my experiences either did or did not match their own and wondered why I didn't mention them personally in the article.. People only can read things or understand things on their own terms. In many ways that is the most difficult thing about writing; the process requires solitude and it is a task to get the words to express or convey something inside that you're not even clear what it is. Good writing straddles the line between thought and emotion. Fall on one side and you get into sentimentality. Fall on the other and you get sterile analysis. If you are a good enough writer the reader will look past your ignorance and your insecurities and appreciate your insight or the images and emotions the words convey. To share that with another means to hope they understand on some level what you have written and often being disappointed because they may have had the same experience but never the same emotion.

Tell someone else your troubles or triumphs and they will inevitably tell you of an experience that is supposed to be similar or in relationship to whatever it is you have told them. A good writer is like a good friend. Good writing requires good listening- listening not only to how people talk, but to what they share with you. None of us individually have experienced what collectively we all have experienced. But it is not an equal tradeoff. To write is to write about what you know. When you write you have to filter it through your own experiences and knowledge. In return you know that most people probably won't respond to the ideas or emotions but you only can hope you can get through to someone out there even if that someone is thousands of miles away.

You learn to get around this by understanding that getting the writing out is often more important than the piece itself. My writing does not define me, it defines a part of me. Thus whenever someone asks me if it is hard to share my writing with others I try to explain that no, because what I write isn't me it is something separate from me and letting others see it is often times the very point.

I've seen people cry because of my writing and I've seen people chuckle at something I wrote. I've written myself into trouble and written myself out of trouble. When I read some of the stuff I've written for this publication, the pieces I like are not the ones that are necessarily well written or even informative; rather it's the few that convey honestly somehow something that was there when I wrote it. That's always a difficult accomplishment. It is frustrating to be unable to express something you want or need to express. Words can fail you at the worst moments. So this week even if the words aren't there, our thoughts truly are with a friend who is facing a difficult time. A good heart survives.

Dear Friend, throw the wine. I'm in love with a friend of mine. Really truly, young and newly wed. Are you a fool, or is it true?

Monday, December 2, 1996

What the World Would be Like With No Raisins

Buckle down the hatches brother, winter is here. Though the sun will still rise once a day and set once a night, it's the dawn before the early mourning, the dusk signals a nightly wail.

Back where I came from Thanksgiving was the HOLIDAY of the year. Oh you could have your Labor Days, and you could have your Arbor Days, but we would go all out on Thanksgiving and PARTAY! Oh, the fun we would have as Ma, Pa, and all my brothers and sisters would gather in the warm glow of the oven's light and wait until the Great Turkey would pay us our annual visit. The importance of this holiday was that it was one of the few days of the year where the whining stopped, and people actually took the time not to look at all that's wrong in this world but instead be thankful for all that is right. It is after all, as the cliché goes, easier to tear something down than build something up.

Yes if you sit down and think about it, each and every one of us truly does have much to be thankful for, and taking a few minutes before we stuff our faces full of food isn't that much to ask. Me personally am thankful for the foundation that was present before this year came to be and all that has gone by in the past 365 days that has brought so much more. Traveling all the way from the girl whose mother used to send her albino white raisins, to the girl who feeds her goldfish, Murray and Dionne, with a straw. Here's a partial list: I'm thankful for two jobs that provide challenges, growth and opportunities. I'm thankful for a family that has seen me through some tough times and have shared in many memorable moments. I'm thankful for a kitty who sometimes urps up his dinner but never hides his delight in another meal and even looks at me sometimes as something other than the warmest pillow in the house. I'm thankful for my friends who tolerate my eccentricities and flakiness and take my good moods with my bad. I'm thankful for the next cup of coffee in the morning.

So now we turn the corner towards the BIG holidays, the ones that have become days of commercialism mixed with melancholy and wistful once a year good cheer. Turbo Man? Christmastime and New Years tend to bring me down a bit. Is it the stressful hustle and bustle of trying to find gifts and all that comes with the celebration of the season or is it the constant reminder of the passing of time of the time when Christmas Day was the most exciting day of the year and New Years meant something other than reflecting on another year that has somehow escaped our grasp? To think of where we are now as compared to just a short time ago and to think that we are so different than then and that a few years from now we will be even more different than now... makes you want to go out and mash a few potatoes.

When I was in school, my mother would gently wake my brother and I, and push us into getting ready for another school day. She would get our breakfasts together as we got ready for the day ahead. Breakfasts consisted of a glass of orange juice, a glass of milk, and either Pop Tarts, cinnamon toast, or raisin toast. These days as my alarm clock buzzes and I drag myself from underneath the covers, into the cold house with Max snuggled besides me irritated that I'm interrupting his sleep, and as I hear the coffee brewing and as I put the toast into the toaster and bring in the morning papers and try to wake myself, and the last thing I want to do is go out there again and face it all, I remind myself of the potential of the new day, and well, you never know. It takes time to cultivate a raisin. Turn around and you might just find yourself in the right spot at the right time. Who can say what tomorrow will bring? Last November who would have thought I would have renewed diplomatic relations with a woman with a new name? Or spend a memorable evening driving south with a star and running into the only other person we knew at the Hardees in St. Peter? When you've been there before, often times you will get there again if you give yourself the chance. If you are outside the W.C. you are an American, if you are inside, European. Jingle all the way.

Hey cadre of padres, it's no time to spend shadow boxing during a solar eclipse when a picture becomes more like a memory than a memento. Even olives have their pimentos. And thank the good Lord that we do have raisins.

Monday, November 25, 1996

The Pretender

Your name is Jarod and when you were a child you were deemed a genius and trained by a quasi-governmental agency known as the "Corporation." They've taken your remarkable mental abilities to train you to perform whatever tasks needed to obtain their own ends to their own political agenda. After a while you have begun to question your assistance to this organization and determine you need to spend the rest of your life rectifying the wrongs you have helped perpetuate. Problem is the Corporation has taken away your life, the life you knew before, your parents- and all that gives others their identity. So part of your search is the search for who you really are.

Your training and your remarkable mental skills give you the ability to become whatever you need to become to place yourself into the middle of any situation that helps you achieve your own goal: to right the many wrongs in this world. If the situation requires you to be a doctor, a policeman, a Vegas blackjack dealer, a scientist trained to handle highly infectious viruses, a jet pilot, you have the ability to use your skills to succeed. You are the pretender- the eternal misfit, who can pretend to fit into any situation yet never belong; perpetually peripheral, on the outside looking in.

Your name is Lyle Lovett and you are a fairly well known, and fairly well respected entertainer. You are best known for your music, a mixture of country, blues, swing and jazz. You are also known for your failed marriage to Julia Roberts, as well as your own acting career (with a notable performance in Robert Altman's excellent The Player). You performed a solid concert last Sunday night at Northrop Auditorium. Billed as Lyle Lovett with a Large Band (no, it's not a band of pumped up steroid filled ex-football players, but rather a band with numerous musicians), you showcase a wall of sound complete with gospel backing singers on some numbers, and local musician hero, Leo Kottke on a couple of others. Your songs are full of wit and humor, but often come across as a bit too clever, tender without revealing all that much about the man who wrote them. "I don't love you any less, but now I can't love you anymore..."

Because your songs are so eclectic, it is hard to categorize you and thus you probably will never get the notice and acclaim that you probably should in an industry full of predictability and blandness, where every song starts to sound like the one before, and every singer indistinguishable from whoever was hot two or three years ago.

You are the editor of a small, weekly newsletter. During the past week you fulfill a life long dream of sorts, by getting an article published in several local newspapers (one even being a daily). This sudden success is surprising, in that you didn't see it coming. The article that was published wasn't exactly one of your best, not even one you feel all that proud of; it was written quickly to fill up space, one of the many you have written recently that you threw together in an hour and away forever.

Thus you have mixed feelings. Part of you sees this latest triumph as another in a growing line of signs that suggest you might be doing all right for yourself. And any of which would have seemed highly improbable just a few years back. Another part begins to see something off track, that if someone somewhere thought that article was good, there were many others already written, and a few still left to write, and maybe what you once thought might be, still might be ahead somewhere. You are a bit disappointed that the people who saw the article tend to comment more on your picture rather than the words, and are disappointed you didn't mention "them in the article." But that was to be expected. You've seen that before. After all these years you still don't know, or at the very least still don't understand how your writing does and does not effect people.

There may be a connection between these three separate stories, as much as there ever is a connection between anything. All three of you are actors, playing roles of what is expected of you while at the same time somehow playing off of what is expected of you. Some somewhere out there might even suggest an overall theme many of us share, a commentary on today's society where there are many who are pretenders, searching for their roles, trying to understand past wrongs, hiding at times behind their own words, and constantly searching for that elusive comfort of the place others call home. Oh and one more thread ties together the three of you: you alls gots goofy hair.

Monday, November 18, 1996

The 14th Time Around

My favorite series of stories when I was a child were a group of books called "The Spaceship Under the Apple Tree." The books were about a boy who while sitting in an apple orchard witnesses a spaceship crash and befriends the little alien chap who emerges from the ship.

The premise of the stories was the alien, Marty's, attempts at trying to get back home while trying to fit in with the strange routines of the young earth boy (because Marty was so small in stature, earthlings assumed that he was a boy although he was in reality an elderly alien- something any young Japanese American kid growing up in the suburbs could relate to). This of course was "ET" before "ET" came out. There was a sadness to Marty's plight, being unable to get back home because he lacked a certain space element (XYZCHROMIUM) to repair his ship, and a certain poignancy in his attempts to fit into a life of a young earth boy. He inevitably would go so far then get frustrated and pull out some space gadget like the time he tried playing baseball only to pull out some space shoes to greatly add to his foot speed.

The stories appealed because they were about being lost among friends, about trying to fit in while keeping an eye affixed on the horizon, forever looking for a place to call home. Marty was critical and skeptical about earth customs and proud of his own homeland yet the stories always contained a message about the benefits of our human existence. Marty would inevitably reveal that his own home had problems of its own and that our world was a pretty good world to live in. The grass is always greener even in outer space.

"I'm standing in the rain in line to see a movie starring Gregory Peck. You know it's not even the one I had in mind. He's got a new one out now, I don't know what it's about but I'll see him in anything so I'll stand in line." This was the fourteenth time I've seen Bob Dylan in concert. On our way down to Mankato last Sunday evening, my companion asked me why I admired Dylan so much. Not really having an appropriate answer, I mumbled something about him having it right about women and liking the way he has consistently during his career questioned why we are here.

The self proclaimed and later denied "Never Ending Tour" has now reached its ninth year. The traveling troubadour is still trying to connect with an audience. "Me I'm still on the road, heading for another joint. We always did feel the same we just saw it from a different point of view, tangled up in blue." The shows are starting to show some wear and tear. The core of the backing band, J.J. Jackson, Tony Garnier, and Bucky Baxter has been with Dylan for the past five years. This fall's shows feature a new drummer, David Kemper who replaced Winston Watson. The band is increasingly more slick, more professional, and more predictable, the very things you would expect from other performers but qualities Dylan has shied away from throughout his career. The striving for chaos, varied setlists and constantly changing arrangements are things of the past as the shows are beginning to become more and more repetitive.

The Mankato show opened with the now somewhat regular "Down in the Flood" which remains a strong first song. The taut bluesy rock and growling Dylan vocal lack some of the drive and punch that was present when Dylan began playing this song as the opener a little over a year and a half ago, but it still remains superb night after night with the superlative lyrics, "Sugar for sugar, salt for salt, when you go down in the flood it's going to be your fault..;" Bob looked downright dapper in a white straw cowboy hat and matching cowboy shirt.

The second song, a country lilt version of "Lay Lady Lay" was Dylan and the band just going through the motions. When the standard third song, "All Along the Watchtower" and the next song, "Just Like a Woman" lacked any sign of energy, I was a bit worried it was going to be an entirely forgettable show.

Maybe it was a feeling that Bob wasn't really into the evening, or more likely I wasn't quite into the evening yet, my mind began to wander. As I thought about the past few weeks, the joy at looking forward to another Dylan concern accompanied by a friend who had never seen the man but was curious to see him; about the drive down past her grandparents' home in LeSueur, and our tasty roast beef sandwich dinner at the Hardees in St. Peter (WARNING: if you are ever in Mankato, they don't have an Arby's!); I pondered her question to me about my enthusiasm toward Dylan. A brief moment of clarity came into view, how so many of his songs are about being the perpetual outsider- like Marty the alien- looking for some kind of home- about traveling, seeking and searching for some kind of inner and outer peace. Making sense out of nonsense. Unforgettable lyrics from an unforgettable voice.

"You're going to lose your best friend now. You're going to have to find yourself another best friend somehow." "There are many there among us who feel that life is but a joke. But you and I have been through that and this is not our fate. Let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late." "Ain't it clear that I just don't fit. Yes I believe it's time for us to quit." "One of these days and it won't be long, going down to the valley to sing my song. Gonna sing it loud, sing it strong, let the echo decide if I was right or wrong." "Every time you leave and go off someplace, things fall to pieces, in my face." "How does it feel to be without a home? With no direction home? Like a complete unknown?"

The next two song performances provided a solid answer to my friend's question. The countryish "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" was beautiful, with Dylan occupying all the lyrics from the great opening line, "When you're lost in the rain in Juarez and it's Easter time too. And gravity fails and negativity don't pull you through..." all the way through to the witty Dylanesque conclusion, "I started off on burgundy but soon hit the harder stuff. Everybody said they'd stand behind me when the game got rough. But the joke was on me, there was nobody even there to call my bluff. I'm going back to New York City, I do believe I've had enough..." Like he had just pulled the words down out of the air and was singing them personally to all six thousand that were in the room, it was a spine tingling moment.

The acoustic "Tangled Up in Blue" was equally as impressive. I've heard this song live many times over the years and it remains one of the few Dylan songs that I feel he hasn't improved upon from the recorded version. But the current arrangement, stripped down acoustic with a soft and sad reading was truly moving. I among many was hanging on every familiar word. Bob's guitar solos tend to rely heavily on two note riffs, but when he is into the performance, as he was during this night's playing of "Tangled" the solo was effective and added an important piece in understanding the whole.

The other highlights from the rest of the evening were a weary and penetrating "One Too Many Mornings," an inspired, wistful "I'll Remember You," a rollicking "Like a Rolling Stone" and a bitter "It Ain't Me Babe." And the moment Bob allowed J.J. to take a guitar solo in "Highway 61" and J.J. gave a searing performance that would have made Robbie Robertson proud. Just when you think you may have seen one too many shows in one too many towns, with one too many familiar readings of a song, Dylan twists a vocal, adds a guitar lick, plays around with a line in a way that makes you feel something new about the song and think something different about your own life. Not only is there no other performer with quite that ability, no other performer can come close in choosing his repertoire from such a vast catalog of brilliant original songs.

And there was another lesson learned this evening. I greatly appreciated my friend's company at the concert. Many of the prior thirteen concerts had been attended alone but as I have learned its often better to share in the moment. You only have to be as alone as you think you are. Rejuvenation through redemption. On the long drive home we got a little lost but sharing in the entire experience together was one of those rare moments in life where the journey becomes as meaningful as the search. It meant a lot to me that she enjoyed the evening.

I was a bit perplexed however at the behavior of other audience members. It felt like everybody knew each other and we were two strangers in a strange land. Why would you pay to see a concert and spend the entire evening gabbing inattentively with friends? Or how 'bout them two lovebirds that sat in front of us, who kept the beat by playfully tapping each other on their rears? Or the guy behind us who kept screeching his loudest "WOOOO!!!" throughout the songs. Or the guy who kept shouting, "DYLAN!" as if to identify the performer for anyone who was unsure. What was the deal with those people?

Thus the main difference of the shows these days isn't with the musicians themselves but with the people listening. One might explain the other. This Sunday night show featured enough of the "greatest hits" in an accessible manner to keep happy the FM trained, cigarette lighter flicking, people more interested in touching the man than being touched by the man. At the end of the show several audience members ran up on stage and hugged a bemused Bob. During the final encore number, "Rainy Day Woman 12 & 35" the stage was full of satisfied dancing customers. But the show also contained enough moments of inspired genius to keep the newly initiated and even the hardened among us coming back for more.

Monday, October 28, 1996

This Perfect World

"Far from where people dwell he cuts a shaft, in places forgotten by the foot of man; far from men he dangles and sways. The earth, from which food comes, is transformed below as by fire; sapphires come from its rocks, and its dust contains nuggets of gold. No bird of prey knows that hidden path, no falcon's eye has seen it. Proud beasts do not set foot on it, and no lion prowls there. Man's hand assaults the flinty rock and lays bare the roots of the mountains. He tunnels through the rock; his eyes see all its treasures. He searches the sources of the rivers and brings hidden things to light. But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell?"

There is one time a year when you get a guaranteed second chance, when you are allowed to turn back your clock and fix any mistakes you may have made during the past twenty four hours. This is an opportunity that many do not take advantage of. One day a year we get twenty five hours in a day and there are those who spend that extra hour watching another episode of Baywatch.

Despite the invention of Franklin Planners and computerized schedulers it is still amazing how much time we waste and let slip away. We may never figure out time. Seems like the older you get the faster time slips on by. I hate to continue to dwell on it, or in it, but it is becoming more and more clear to me that time is such a relative thing. Days that drag on speed up when as the old cliché goes, "you're having fun" or approaching yet another pressing deadline. There are days when things move in slow motion and it feels like you'll never make it through. Other days you could stay up all night and not get enough done.

One of the things I have come to most appreciate about my upbringing was my mother's decision to sign me up for piano lessons. There were times of doubt as I struggled through learning a chromatic scale or while butchering another Clementi or Bartok piece, and I'm sure I more than frustrated my piano teacher with all the time I devoted to learning the Beatles' catalog. Over the years however being able to pound out a song on the piano has been one of the best stress relievers in my repertoire. Whether it was through the lost lonely first few frustrating days of my freshman year of college or after one of those madcap Christmas rush days at Cheapo, going to my parent's house and playing some piano always got my mind back into a more peaceful state.

I always figured the day I could afford my own piano would be the day I could consider myself a success. Never seemed like a realistic goal and I never thought it would happen. To have my own piano meant being able to afford a place that could hold it. So last spring when I got my house and along with it a piano, there was the belief that after more than a few moments of struggling, I was on my way to at least some small amount of success. Unfortunately, as my time at the office piles up faster than the leaves in my yard, I really haven't had much time to enjoy my piano. It sits as a big keyholder in my living room. That old balance between professional and personal is as out of whack as my still to be turned back inner alarm clock. There is always some sort of compromise you need to accept to get to another step on that big ol' ladder of life.

Thus after a fifty hour work week the little fellow decided to take a breather this week. He decided to take a day off. That day off became but an hour off yet on an untypical Friday night he joined a group of friends for a pale Sam Adams at a local pub. Then afterwards he met up with another friend looking for a friend who showed him her new apartment after waltzing on down to the nearby Dairy Queen to enjoy a Heath Bar Blizzard. They settled in on her comfy used couch and watched Grease II one of her favorite movies, a movie made in the eighties taking place in the sixties when life was about a song and a dance, a girl named Stephanie and a mysterious man, the "cool rider," on a motorcycle.

It was all strangely familiar, reminiscent of things gone by, of another time, of the days of our lives of another familiar face. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of what is and should be important in our lives, of how valuable a quiet little friendship can be. He enjoyed the evening, her company, the setting, her enthusiasm in singing along with the entertainment, and yes even the time. What a fine Friday. It just goes to show that when afforded the rare opportunity of a second chance, sometimes you can get things right.

Monday, October 21, 1996

Buck Up Buckaroo

If you people know but one thing about me, it is that I am a man who loves his potatoes. Mashed, fried, steamed, boiled, broiled, foiled, doesn't matter how you fix them, I'll eat them.

It may not be fashionable to admit it but it is easy to admire a potato. You can beat it, smash it, peel it and cut it up but it always remains consistent. It is one of the few food items that can stand alone as the main meal, or play a supplemental and supporting role in a meal. It's the type of food that you don't rave about while you're eating it yet later on as you lie awake at night you realize how much it means to eat a good potato.

Yes, we all could learn a valuable lesson from our friend Mr. Potato. Few foods are as versatile, and even fewer people can do as many things as you can do to a potato. In the age of increasing specialization in the work force it is refreshing to sit back and enjoy the fruits of a finely cooked potato.

Thus it is my advice to the kids just out of school that they don't limit themselves to one area of their chosen vocation whether it be in the law (torts, contracts, tax, property, etc.), medicine (podiatry, nose ears and throat, pediatrics...), or musical genres. It is best when beginning, to expose oneself to as many different areas as one can and get good in as many different things as one can rather than perfecting one area in neglect of the others.

As careers increasingly become things of the past, as more and more of us switch jobs more and more often it is imperative to be adaptable, flexible and versatile. The changing nature of the workplace and of our colleagues in the work force may or may not be something unique to the times we are in, but certainly the tides of change are firmly established and woven into the fabric of our culture.

Just like Madonna's process of selecting a father for her baby, it is good to give yourself as many options, as many choices as you possibly can. America is after all a pro-choice country. You see it every day in your store. People like to be able to choose between buying the latest Iris Dement or the latest Shawn Colvin. The first Wallflowers disc or the second. They like the choice of new or used, vinyl or CD. Every day life is full of many choices. Cats or dogs. Republican or Democrat. KFC or Boston Chicken. Cable or satellite. MCI or AT and T. Public or private schools. Difford or Tilbrook. Heineken or Pabst Blue Ribbon. National managed health care or private scattered clinics. Expresso or cappuccino.

Independent thinkers like to be challenged rather than limited. Corporate capitalism thrives on competition. Diversity, a politically charged word that scares some and empowers others is perhaps the keyword to watch for as we cross the self proclaimed bridge into the 21st Century. Ohairi nasai. Much as we all like to have choices it is that which is different that bothers a lot of people.

Much attention will be given to that cross into a new millennium. All the visible and not so visible pundits will try to attach their pre-determined meanings to the new century. But a potato is still a potato no matter how you fix it and slice it up. This is to say that no matter what they tell you the year 2000 will probably feel much like the year 1999. Yet that doesn't necessarily mean we are headed in the right direction.

As the suburbs spread out towards the ever shrinking wilderness we may see more and more cougars walking around in our downtowns heeding no attention to the traffic lights or crosswalks. A deer in the headlights? We watch as the stock market hits new record highs as more and more corporations downsize it is about the choice of deciding whether or not this is what we want to be. Yes indeed it is wonderful to live in a land that offers diversity. Yet to take our freedom to choose lightly means losing some of that freedom. All it would take is another potato famine and there would be no more french fries. Idaho may not have a lot of electoral votes yet it is meaningful nonetheless. And it is still important that we at the very least take the time to acknowledge the bespectacled beauty of that which we don't recognize until it is far too late. A deceptive curve, an expected fast ball.

Monday, October 14, 1996

Fall of 1996

Itza bout time. Itwaz never bout anything else. As you rake and clean the mess, you will in time, see that. Days pass by in a whirl. Seasons color the morning drive. Patience thinning. Sun shines in your eyes. Blinded by the light of effortless originality sought. The original seer sought. Youngsters reaching into the playing field determine the outcome. A fifteen percent tax cut. Cross the board. Sleepless, shrinkless nights. Repetitive motion stress, stretched tendons dangle. Soft tissues wipe away the bloodshot eyes. Ultraviolet light wipes the memory off the chip. Paved path that leads right past her doorstep and right out of sight. Shelled pistachios, carbonated beverage. Unapproved baking soda toothpaste gets your teeth extra ultra white. Root canal. Grimaced smile of one left behind. Dripping candlewax spreads it scent across the white smeared porcelain top. An old postcard from down under. A note slipped in your doorbox. A cracked lip, an itchy stomach. Registered voters with no birthdays. A dial tone alternating with a busy signal. Unordinarily ordinary. Forwarded voice mail from another day.

A rash rush to conclusion. A new suit to play dress up. Pretend part of changing times. Cork. The Great Gatsby. Old Sport. Plenty of bills to justify the over the top work hours. Bags of recycled papers to track the news of all the days of all the weeks gone by. Dinner stored in plastic Tupperware containers cooked with microwaves, emptied into the whirling sound of the disposal underneath the suds. Scarf weather. Dusty spider webs beneath the hardwood floors. Limp. Scarred knees of another sort. Oil embargoed, sand war. Ripples of a glance of another sort. Moving to another place another voice to let another's existence (or lack thereof) forget. Fashionably forgotten songs on a shrink-wrapped tape. The cover of a slept on couch where the pillows slide back to expose the underlying folded up mattress of some other couple. Spell check Ecclesiastes. An apple a day to keep the variety away. Prison food. New international version. The new internal vision. A broken promise, a cross country trip an unfinished crossword puzzle with all its clues. Multimedia speaker system of an unknown long song. A bacteria virus. A disease. A pill. My pharmacist Bill's bill. A damnit doll, a smokeless friend. Fired up furnace burning. Kingdom come, peace and quiet, thumping bass of a rapped out car. SuperAmerica on every corner. A cloverleaf interchange, a rocking pickup truck that rolls back into me. Awaiting the light to change from red to green. Conspiracy theories of grassy knolls and FBI files. Aristotle. Nietzsche.

On the road. Again. Once more. Spit in the face of the wind. The podium fall. Explaining the ballot layout to a judge. A youngster's enthusiastic wiggle. A fifteen inch monitor. You get what you deserve. A phone call on Friday to a missing person. Eight hours of video tape. An optimist, inspiring another, what more can you do for someone? San Diego Zoo. Sittin on the Davenport in upper Greenwich Village, our nation's Capitol in U.S. News And World Report's biggest bargains of Universities, the University of North Carolina. An Arizona resort. An abandoned goldmine shaft. Ying Yang. Merging into oncoming traffic. Unplug the voting booth. Meeked out. I need you need we all need ICE CREAM! The voice of authority seeks the perfect display dictionary. Take the place of you. A struggle. One day at a time. Next time you'll know much better. Forced air heating. Circumstances dictate the action of reaction of interaction of the events of a folded card game. Dropping rocks into the board's divets. Feeding goldfish with a straw. Mare bear. Better days were had. Had by all. Guardian of a nephew. Recess. An angry clarinetist, a frustrated trumpet blower. Divest. Invest with lower interest rates. Escrow accounts. CDs of a different account. Scarecrow tactics that count. Bobbin the head. Blinking through the debate. Eyebrows. A hard drive failure. Crashing the levee. A soccer style football tackle. Painting the bat for another season in the not too far off distance. It's about time that lingers on. Bouts of time.

Monday, October 7, 1996

This Side of Paradise

If you can bet on but one sure thing during an election year it is that just about everyone will complain about the number of negative political advertisements that flood the airwaves. The telling sign however is that we live in a land where many will listen to these ads and base their votes on what they hear. "By golly he's right, I ain't gonna vote for that other guy..." We tend to limit ourselves and settle for that which is in front of us. The people who complain about having to vote for the lesser of two evils are the same people who accept campaigns in which the candidates go out of their way to prove they aren't as bad as the other, not that they have anything different to offer.

Another sign of the times is how little we can know about our neighbors, but know enough not to discuss religion or politics with them. Yet this is the time of the year when many don't have a second thought about displaying a sign in their yard in support of a political candidate. "Well if Edna and Harry are gonna vote for candidate X, I think I will too."

How effective are political signs? Do people get to a voting booth on election day, notice a name that they had seen on a sign and cast their vote merely on that small bit of name recognition? Probably. It is good to be living around people who share similar points of view, which can be demonstrated while driving into a neighborhood where a row of homes have the same candidate's sign posted in their yards. It may also tell you which parts of town you want to avoid.

Political participation is at an all time low and it seems many who do still participate do it only out of a sense of civic duty rather than any passion or conviction for a particular candidate or issue. We have raised a whole generation of voters who think the best anyone can do is be against high taxes, be tough on crime, and be the one who is going to ferret all of government's excesses. If all we need to do to fix what ails our country is to lower taxes, higher more cops, and make sure that everybody works hard and earns their own money, then I guess our country isn't too bad off after all. The relationship between the government and the disenfranchised, between our country and the rest of the world, the growing lack of job security, the growing distance between classes and races, hell who can be bothered with any of that?

When all of our campaigns are framed in terms of who is more patriotic, labels- who is a liberal and who is a conservative (what is the difference?), who is against crime and for a strong defense, who is more fiscally responsible, is it any wonder that people can vote their conscience based on a slogan, a sign, an advertisement? A Declaration of Independence, a Constitution, a Bill of Rights, the abolition of slavery, the Civil Rights movement- we are taught to respect history but to end up where we are is to ask the question "is this all there is?" Democracy strives for parity which leads to mediocrity. We are happy enough to find a detergent that gets our whites just a little bit whiter and if it doesn't, we can always switch back to our old brand. This year, our senator is new and improved...

People are fed up with the status quo yet the fear of change leads to another round of who has the better name, who has the better face, slogan, more positive picture of America. It would be nice if the rest of our lives were as simple. Despite the emotion it arouses, politics isn't seen as something that effects every day life. More and more everything is derivative of that which came before. While stopping to seek greatness we haven't learned to lower expectations. Always looking for the next big thing and hanging those expectations on whoever claims to have "new ideas," inevitably we are disappointed and disillusioned. Good night my love and may the Lord have mercy on us all.

Monday, September 30, 1996

Feelin Minnesotan

For whatever reason people who know me just know that I have an strong interest in my homeland. The land of the rising sun, the Emperor, geisha houses, yes indeed Minnesota has been very good to me.

I doubt it is merely a coincidence that my all-time favorite baseball player is Kent Hrbek, my all-time favorite basketball player is Kevin McHale, my all-time favorite Nobel Prize Nominated Literature Writer is Bob Dylan, my all-time favorite novelist/short story writer is F. Scott Fitzgerald, my all-time favorite Vice President is Walter Mondale and one of my most favorite Hollywood gal pals is Winona Ryder. All these people hail from the land of 10,000 lakes, land of the loons, of course, and it is with a certain kinship and local pride that I admire their work.

I never thought that I'd be one to spend my entire life in one place but more and more it is looking as though that will be the case. As out of place as I sometimes feel, deep inside I am a Minnesotan, and becoming more and more of one each and every day.

This past week was a good example of how Minnesotan I am becoming. One of the most defining moments back in my formative years, was when they moved our baseball team from a perfectly acceptable ballpark in Bloomington, to a plastic bubble downtown. Despite being easier to get to, I was one of many who protested the turn to indoor baseball. It's not even the same game, and though the Twins have enjoyed their greatest years indoors, there somehow will always be something tainted about their two world championships because they were accomplished by taking advantages of the nuances of domeball rather than the traditional bounces of baseball.

Thursday was the final night of my softball season. I was surprised and a little disappointed when they didn't call the games off despite it raining for most of the day. The last thing I wanted to do was have to play in the cold and drizzle. I didn't think it was a good sign that when I arrived there were a bunch of ducks wandering around the outfield. Sure enough the field was a swamp, and we sloshed and slipped our way to two victories to cap a good season. In my youth the weather conditions would have been enjoyed, part of the game, but now days I'm a dome guy and was the loudest whiner that we shouldn't have been playing at all. I now crave climate control, picture perfect conditions. Outdoors, shmoutdoors.

Later that night I was enjoying a catching up conversation with my friend who now resides in San Diego. "They have year round softball leagues here!" I continue to admire and envy her ability to move from place to place with no looking back. She has lived in many different parts of the country, adapted to each and every one. Some day soon she WILL be running things. She was telling me she can't imagine ever coming back to Minnesota. She said she was thinking about that Halloween snowstorm of a few years back, when we were slipping and sliding our way to work- and she can't for the life of her understand why she lived here in the first place. Damn fine question.

But some of us don't have as big a reach. Some are quite content to continue to face the familiar, and some even can make new what has been there for a long long time. Different strokes for different folks. If you haven't been there before, you can't be there again. And there is something about the folks around here that makes living here worthwhile. Just as I was losing all faith in humanity, last week my stolen checkbook showed up in my mail. None of the checks were missing and it was quite the surprise that someone took the time to return it to me. You think the same would happen in Los Angeles or New York? Minnesota nice can work both ways. Sure it can be annoying but when you look at the alternative well...

"It's all about diffusion as I cry for her veil, I don't need anybody now beside me to tell. And it's all affirmation I receive, but it's not. She's alone, pardon, beauty, but she don't like the spot and she calls... Yes, she's gone like the rainbow that was shining yesterday. But now she's home beside me, and I'd like her here to stay. She's a lone forsaken beauty, and it's 'don't trust anyone.' And I wish I was beside her, but I'm not there, I'm gone."

Monday, September 23, 1996

Back to Me

As silly as it seems

There are certain souls

Who know better

Who are loyal to a letter

Tho’ we never met

We were akin

To next of kin

The clitter clatter

Of paw nails on wood

The often empty stares

Only we were aware

And the windows

Where you once stood

I can relate

That peaceful state

A glance around a corner

A yelp to warn all near

You left too soon

You really did

I don’t know

How much longer

I can last

My insides seem

To being going fast

But for all the joy

I know you gave

All the love you craved

The sudden changes

That mystified you

You were a good girl

With moves that

Ended up a blur

Did all

Expected of you

The bass hand plays

A melody far too plain

But I let out a cry

Of the passing days

Gone by

Far too fast

And in the past

Goodbye Ab’ser dear

We’ll always hold you near

Monday, September 16, 1996

Between the One and the Nine

As far as I can see, there are two kinds of people. There are those who drive without their lights on during the dusk because they figure their lights can't help them see any better anyway. Then there are those who realize they should have their lights on because it will help other drivers see them better. Without trying to generalize too much, the first group obviously is more concerned with only trying to figure out their place in the grand scheme of things while the latter group is more concerned with how others perceive them.

One common element of both groups is the desire to use the term "tour de force" at least one time during their lives. That is why I have been very fortunate to have heard Patti Rothberg's new CD, Between the One and the Nine, a true tour de force song cycle of emotions. In the middle of a plethora of young female singer/songwriters, Rothberg is an original voice worth listening to while still singing about all the all too familiar themes.

While listening to Rothberg's CD it is difficult to determine which group of drivers she might fall into, though one suspects she might be the type to drive with her lights on all the time. The first four songs suggest the CD is really going to be special, really going to be great. Unfortunately the CD hits a slight lag with the Latin tinged, near muzak, Looking for a Girl, but kicks back in with only an occasional clinker the rest of the way.

The second song, Inside, is the one that will probably attract the most attention, with its catchy refrain and clever lyrics. "Think I'll write a letter home, tellin' everybody that I'm happy alone. And maybe if I play the role I can roll myself into a big black hole" rings so true one can hear the ache in Rothberg's voice. She supposedly was discovered while singing in a New York City subway station (hence the title of the CD). Her attractive and appealing soprano voice with its slight cackle, is the type one understands and relates to. It's hard however to tell whether the singer truly believes the refrain of the song, "I can roll myself on down the line, tellin' everybody that I'm just fine. My troubled mind I can't confide, though we are all the same inside." or if she is singing the words merely to comfort herself. Is she being naive or ironic? I for one, never really understood the concept of irony even after having it explained to me.

Rothberg surely will draw comparisons with everybody's favorite bitter love child, Alanis Morissette especially with songs that deal with such hurt like Treat Me Like Dirt. But rather than just reminisce and obsess with abusive feelings and the retribution she is going to get on the one who scorned her, Rothberg balances the hurt feelings with some redeemable songs like This One's Mine which claims back the power of her own independence while still lashing out at the other. "You can beg and you can plead and get down upon your knees. I could say that you were a dirty dog but that's an insult to the fleas."

The CD sounds great, neither overly produced or bombastic like many others that are made these days. While polished there still is the appeal, the freshness that these were the songs she wrote and sang to the weary riders of the New York City subway system. There is a vulnerability to Rothberg's songs that more than make up for any of the feel sorry for myself tendencies that fill many of her lyrics. She is the type that intrigues while showing you her sorrow, somehow conveying there is much more there than meets the ears. One wants to hear, learn more while at the same time realizing that there have been many who have taken us all down the same road before only to get us to where we are today. There are advantages to driving with those lights off, keeping people in the dark, just like there are advantages to driving with them on, hoping the right person will eventually see.

Monday, September 9, 1996

A Really Difficult Mission


Good morning Mr. Maeda. At least every two years for the past two hundred and twenty years, citizens all over the country get together on a pre-defined date to elect their officials to govern the land. To maintain a fair and impartial system, several rules, laws, and procedures have been developed and redeveloped over that time to help ensure that our elected officials are chosen in a precise way. Your mission should you decide to accept, it to make sure that every vote that counts gets counted in Minnesota's fastest growing county. The weight of the election falls squarely on your ever sagging shoulders after merely two months of training. Any screw up will result in unwanted publicity or possible lawsuits. As always should any of your IMF force get caught or killed, the secretary (Ms. Growe) will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self destruct in five seconds. We suggest you do not do the same. Good look Dave.

My brother has a theory that I had it a bit easier than he did growing up. Spoiled? Who me? Ask him and he will, as sure as the sun melts ice cream, describe how my mother used to allow me in my preschool days to stay up late to watch Sea Hunt and Mission Impossible while he had to go to bed to be well rested for school. This is a supposed example of how I was given privileges none of my other siblings received.

My only answer to that (I can't exactly deny it) is to compare where we both are at now. He is a successful junior high band teacher (a real life Mr. Holland as it were), while I'm now all excited about the prospect of another season of Savannah episodes.

Not to say that I am so easily amused or entertained these days- far from it -which makes it seem odd and special that I have to report how much I enjoyed the motion picture version of Mission Impossible. This was the most entertained I had been at a movie in a long time. Plop Sandra Bullock in the middle of it, and it would have far surpassed that all time great entertaining movie Speed as a rolling good time. As it stands, even little Tommy Cruise performs above the call of duty and the movie looks and feels wonderful.

Mission Impossible was a show that defined cool years before the Fonz. With its pseudo sophistication, gadgets, complicated plots, and cerebral stories, the show sometimes came across as a bit sterile but that was somewhat the point. Espionage is tricky business after all. Despite its rather right wing politics, the show generated much sympathy for its characters, essentially a group of rogue spies who spread American capitalism into smaller countries all in the name of national interest. But how could you not like Barney, Willy, Cinnamon and Rollin? From the unsurpassed opening theme (both music and visuals) to its format of getting Mr. Phelps his assignments in hidden places via explosive tapes, the show was all style but came across as having substance too. As a kid I didn't much understand the stories but I loved the notion of putting on masks, tricking people and occasionally getting into a sticky situation which one would pull oneself out of at the last possible moment.

The movie is able to maintain the spirit behind the TV show while translating the whole thing into something worth watching on the big screen. There is a moment in the movie where Cruise's life depends on a single drop of sweat. The tension is thrilling. The story doesn't always track and make a whole lot of sense but it is more than made up for by things like exploding gum. We don't exactly get to know or care about any of the characters but because of the sheer momentum of the movie, we don't really need to. Mission Impossible is as tricky as the masks the characters hide behind. Things never are as they appear, and things aren't as improbable as they often seem.

Monday, September 2, 1996

Murphy, The Dog Daze of Summer

I'm sure a lot of you are just now rolling in from the Alanis Morissette concert, or the State Fair, a sure sign that summer (if not civilization itself) is approaching an end. What's next? With days getting shorter, and darkness falling upon us sooner, the fall. (They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn.) Heck the blustery cold will soon be upon us once again.

I'm also sure most of you did like I did, taped both national conventions and are now in the process of reviewing and digesting all the monumental moments from both. It just might be that Mr. Dole comes to regret his comment about being a bridge to better times, the past. Call it a hunch, but I have the feeling the Democrats will stress that they are the party to lead us into the 21st century. Makes no difference that you can no more build a bridge to the future than you can try to recapture the past. When all is said and done, you are here.

Remember ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, to vote in the September 10th Primary. Here are some election tips: in the Primary Election you cannot crossover and vote between parties. You must pick your poison and swallow it. There are no write in choices allowed either. Your choices are limited to what is already on the ballot. If you are not currently registered to vote, Minnesota allows you to register at the polls. You need a valid Minnesota driver's license or identification card, or a receipt for either one of those documents. You may also bring in a registered voter from the same precinct to vouch for you. Mark your ballots carefully according to the instructions given. Let's all have a safe and uneventful election night!


Even less substance than usual? This of course has been our traditional end of the summer clearance column. It has been for the most part an uneventful week. I did have my checkbook stolen from my car. Yes, you may call me a bit foolish for leaving my door unlocked with my briefcase in plain sight. Might have well left a sign on the door indicating free checking for the taking. But damn it, I don't deserve the headache that is sure to follow. So if any of you kind folks spot a hulking Greek woman writing checks under my name, be sure to say hello.

I took it as a positive sign that I actually was upset and angry at the robbery. It is one of the few things in the past couple of years that got me riled up and impassioned. You go out one night and this is what happens. My checkbook and I have been through an awful lot together. It was present for many of my more expensive purchases. But despite the inconvenience I had to remind myself it could have been far worse. Think of all the people out there with insufficient funds to even have a checking account. Think of all those who have had things of much greater value swiped. Heck they didn't take anything else from my car and didn't damage any of my personal property to get the checkbook. No one was hurt. I am blessed.


I'd like to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt so long and good luck to Mike Nordgaard. Your contributions over the years to this company have been tremendous and invaluable. You have been a great colleague and a wonderful friend. I'll never forget way back in the old days when you first started at Cheapo West and the first time I worked with you. With your goofy grin I wondered to myself, "who is this guy?" But you soon won my respect with your gruff but lovable ways and your fairly impeccable taste in music. Now whenever I listen to the Beach Boys' Love You or Fleetwood Mac's Tusk I'll smile. Mike, did I ever tell you, you're my hero? That you are the wind beneath my wings? When I think about all the good things about Cheapo, you were always on the list.

Good luck in Portland and congratulations on your upcoming wedding! Keep in touch.

Monday, August 26, 1996

99 Red Balloons

People come up to me all the time and say, "So David, how are you doing?" An anecdote from this past week serves as the ideal explanation to that question.

This week's issue of TV Guide is a commemorative issue celebrating the thirtieth year of Star Trek. As a collector's item, the magazine has issued four different cover photos featuring the four different captains of the four different Star Trek series. As my luck would have it, I got the Captain Kirk version of the magazine.

This says all that needs to be said about 1996 version of David. I'm a thirty one year old male who lives with his cat and is a faithful reader/subscriber of TV Guide. I like the "Cheers and Jeers" section. I am a Trekkie at heart. Just a short time ago I would have been disappointed to have received the William Shatner cover, but now I'm very glad I got the swashbuckling, macho, shoot first ask questions later, melodramatic Kirk over any of those other weenies.

This is not to say that my life lacks some interesting moments. Last weekend my best friend, my other best friend, Moms and Pops Mader, Mother Meek and many others came together on one softball field to witness a credible ending to another softball season for Joan's Jets. For the first time ever, our team won a tournament game, capping my first season (and most probably last) as Cap'n Dave. I hit my first home run of the season, we survived some really bad umpiring (isn't that the American way?), we all had some fun, and no one was hurt (well not too seriously anyway). To have many of the more significant players of my life in one spot at one time was a rare treat, one that almost seemed surrealistic in nature. It was one of those weekends you know you'll look back upon and relish. Phalen fields, the place where the past meets the future, where a crease in time saves nine. One of the most beautiful aspects of the game of softball is its timeless quality. There is no clock on the softball field, you play until the last out is made.

As always the softball season provided many lessons. My own game has always depended on my ability to place where I hit the ball and utilize my speed which is better than most players out there. I may have lost a step or so over the years, but my running ability is still the key part of my game. Unfortunately what this means is that my softball career will be over sooner than most people. In a game dominated by many who have ever growing beer bellies, those who can hit the softball a long, long way, who grunt before, during and after an at bat, youth is secondary to just being able to stand upright. Therefore, when my legs give out, I am finished.

Currently, I am back at my high school playing weight after expanding over the past few years to something nearly Clintonesque (you are not the only one M.N.). What has changed however are those rather important things like depth perception (nearing zero) and throwing ability (I have had to adopt the Mike Cubbage philosophy to playing third base. Cubbage was the Twins' third baseman during the mid-seventies. He had a quick release to make up for his inability to throw anything but a lob to first base). My arm definitely needs some work. On a key grounder to me at third, I made a throw that bounced about three feet in front of me on a throw meant to be a force out at second base.

Some would say running the bases and galloping around the galaxy are activities better left to the youth. But youth starts and ends in your heart. You are only as old as you feel. What you can no longer do physically can often times be compensated by the wisdom gained over the years. And just when it seems it is all over, along comes the next generation. Yes in 1996 Cap'n Dave might indeed be becoming more and more of a dork, but at least he is getting ever more comfortable in that role, and actually growing quite comfortably into the fit.

Monday, August 19, 1996

Cranberry Sauce

I think every man, woman, and child enjoys a good bowl of soup. And nothing adds to the pleasure of a bowl of soup better than a fistful of crackers. Soup is good, soup is popular and in the hands of the right chef, a bowl of soup can be an exquisite masterpiece.

The Cranberries gave a performance last Sunday night that was remindful of a good bowl of soup (supported by a solid opening set from Cracker). The group has received a certain amount of critical and popular acclaim, and now with three solid CDs out, they are staking their claim towards that ever so elusive goal of longevity.

At their best the Cranberries create the type of music that Paul McCartney might be creating if he was still into creating very good Beatlesque music. The melodies are lyrical and the lyrics are consistently inspiring. The difference being when McCartney sings the most annoying line ever written in rock music ("Wo wo wo, my love does it good") one wants to scream, "think up something other than the woes, Paul." When Delores O'Riordan does her rather remarkable vocal gymnastics in songs like Dreams and Hollywood, one can't help but be inspired by the ethereal flexibility and the remarkable ability to express heartfelt emotions through the sheer sound of one human's voice.

O'Riordan was a treat to watch. She has a funky way of moving, pacing the stage, alternating between an awkward walk (she was wearing a knee brace) and dancing up a storm. One of the local paper's reviews criticized her performance as being too showy, as she artfully played the audience (most of whom sang along to many of the songs). Of course being a performer and putting on a SHOW does not necessarily mean that the quality of the art has to suffer. Many of the songs came off much better live than they do recorded. Ode to My Family a song that used to get on my nerves a bit was genuinely moving. And Joe which O'Riordan described as a song she wrote remembering what it was like sitting on her grandfather's lap as a little girl, was heart stopping. An early highlight was the second song, Free to Decide, which I knew was being greatly enjoyed by my ticket purchaser (she told me it's her song). My favorite moment from the show was a lilting light version of Patsy Cline's Crazy sung with such feeling that it wasn't hard to imagine a young girl in Ireland listening to that far away voice that matched her own.

The group tends to misstep when they try to make big statements. Thus songs like I Shot John Lennon and Zombie (which O'Riordan introduced by saying that her country, Ireland, has suffered so long at the hands of terrorists, and now America is headed down the same path, and we must stop the madness) tend to show a lack of insight or depth. Writing a song from the perspective of Lennon's killer is a promising premise for a good song, but if you are going to take on such a topic you better at least give it a little more purpose than "what a sad and sorry sickening sight."

O'Riordan is already being constantly compared to Sinead O'Connor because both are female vocalists from Ireland with versatile voices. The pitfalls the Cranberries occasionally fall into is to take themselves too seriously (just like that other Irish group, U2). What separates them from other groups is their ability to write some terrific melodies and express universally felt emotions on a personal level.

Sitting there watching the show I couldn't help but think back to one of my early days at Cheapo when my favorite ex-Cheapo employee asked me, if I could be anyone one in the world who would I be? Off the top of my head I said Smokey Robinson because he seemed like such a happy gentleman. It took many years to change my mind, but I now have a new candidate. As I watched guitarist Noel Hogan spinning his head, totally immersed in the mood of the moment and the music, I thought, that's the guy I wanna be. To be able to create something, whether it is words, sounds, pictures, movements, that can get a crowd full of people sharing the same thoughts and feelings and having the time of their lives at the same time, why hey, that's no small feat. Nothing to sneeze at.

Monday, August 12, 1996

Farmer Dave

"They used to grow food in Kansas. Now they want to grow it on the moon and eat it raw. I can see the day coming when even a home garden is gonna be against the law."
-Bob Dylan

One of the arguments I used to talk myself into buying a house last spring was the picture of myself on a hot summer's day, peacefully sitting in my garden and producing a healthy crop. I could see myself in my mind's eye, winding down after a hard day at the office, tilling the soil, carefully weeding, conscientiously watering and enjoying the fruits (or vegetables) of my own hard labor.

When my friend heard this she burst out laughing. She just couldn't picture it.

In retrospect I would be the first to admit that some of the thinking that went into my house buying decision making was me being my typical sort of flaky, sort of think things through and hope for the best, things will somehow turn out self. But deciding to have a garden doesn't fall into that category. Sure it has been a burden on certain long days when I'll come home and the last thing I want to do is sit outside fighting the bugs, battling the onslaught of my newest mortal enemy, Creeping Charlie (he's everywhere, keeps popping up and sticks around forever). But there is something soothing about being in the world of my garden, the subculture, that is most certainly therapeutic.

Plus you can't beat the end result.

The last few weeks I have greatly enjoyed a bushel of fresh vegetables. First it was the peas and beans. This past weekend I got some jumbo cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. Not that I'm biased or anything, but they are the best damn tasting vegetables I've ever had! Man, are those boys tasty! And I ain't no veggie virgin either. I have reached the stage in my Yuppiedum where a big old salad sounds much more appealing to me than a hunk of T-bone steak.

I've even learned some things in the process. When I started planting last spring I was skeptical that anything would grow so I went with the theory the more stuff I planted the more of a chance that I would end up with something. So I just sort of scattered as many seeds as I could the best I could. To my surprise nearly everything grew. I've had more peas this summer than the rest of my life combined. Lesson #1: have faith that things will grow. Plant things conservatively and you won't end up with a jungle.

Upon further reflection, I must have been sipping on the old whiskey when I planted things last spring. The rows aren't exactly straight, they are more like smiley faces. Thus the cucumbers are intertwining with the tomatoes and it is hard to tell where exactly the peas end. Lesson #2: be meticulous in planting things in rows, giving yourself room to maneuver in the garden.

The hardest part however has been the mixture I have with the perennials growing next to my vegetables. Since I wasn't exactly sure what perennials to expect, I had an even harder time than I normally would in determining what was a weed and what was a plant. After all in the overall grand scheme of things is there really a difference? Isn't my little garden just a microcosm of the bigger world where some of us are weeds just trying to survive against our more established and recognized and respected peers? Lesson #3: gardening is great for getting philosophical.

And with the newsletter growing in new, bigger and better directions every week, I would be amiss in reporting that the very first newsletter I edited was for the Minnesota Horticultural Society. I applied for the job solely on my journalism background and that I had access to a computer. I knew even less about that subject than I do the subjects covered in these pages, but looking back the seeds of what has sprung here were most certainly planted way back then. With the right fertilizer most anything will grow.

Monday, August 5, 1996

Killing Time

In today's society nothing is more valuable than time. Our technological advances like fax machines, P.C.'s, V.C.R.'s, beepers, cell phones are designed to help cut down on the amount of time it takes to do a common task. Personal planners and calendars are as important as food, water and shelter for many people these days. Anything that takes longer than deemed necessary, like having to stand in line, being put on hold, and mail that doesn't arrive overnight not only inconveniences people, but genuinely pisses them off.

With all this emphasis on convenience, it is almost a crime to waste someone else's time. People are willing to pay a little bit more for a product or a service if it will save them a little time. Any short cut, anything that is seen as a time saving measure is treasured more than gold. Therefore enduring two hours of a complete waste of time is difficult to justify. You can't turn back the clock, you can't get back lost time. Not too many of us have time to spare, time to kill.

There will come a time when time comes to an end. And just a little bit before then, Hollywood will stop making movies because there will be no more stories to be told (plus all TV shows will have already been made into motion pictures). Judging from the movie, A Time to Kill, we may be closer to that time than any of us wants to believe. We've already seen this movie before, only better in other movies such as To Kill a Mockingbird, and Mississippi Burning.

A Time to Kill
is a story about time. It was John Grisham's first novel and it probably took a long time for him to write. There are a lot of words. It took a long time for the book to become a movie. It wants to tell a story with a message. Our justice system does not work and is corrupt. Everyone from the judge to the jury, from the lawyers to the witnesses are cynically out of control. Just when is a murder justified?

Should have been, would have been, could have been, wanna be. A Time To Kill is all that and more. With a cast of Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Sandra Bullock and Matthew McConaughey this movie should have been decent. And it would have been had the story not been yet another brainless courtroom formula picture with a blurred message. The movie wants to say something but contradicts itself at every turn.

It argues that the Samuel L. Jackson is ultimately just in taking the law into his own hands because the crime committed against his daughter is atrocious enough that the system can't possibly work and justice will not be served. What it fails to demonstrate however is why Jackson is any more justified in his actions than the clueless Klansmen are in theirs. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

Of course some of us don't go to movies to be educated, enlightened over even entertained. Some of us go because of the appeal of the star. As long as your favorite star is up there on the screen, you will watch just about anything. Thus it must be said that Sandra Bullock once again is a delight the few times she is on the screen. Her role as a talented young law student is an attempt to return to the art of serious acting in serious filmmaking attempts. Unfortunately, even her instant likeability can't rescue the dreck of A Time To Kill. Her finest role remains in 1993's Wrestling Ernest Hemingway and she obviously is trying to get away from that which made her ultra-popular if not lightweight in While You Were Sleeping and The Net. By the time her character is essentially disposed of in A Time to Kill in one of the movie's many brutal scenes, one is sitting uncomfortably in one's seat waiting for the inevitable conclusion, the big court room speech, to take place.

It is time however for Sandra to find a film that can both utilize her charismatic talents along with deliver a message worth paying attention to. This one isn't it.

Monday, July 29, 1996

Alphabet Street

One thing I've noticed on my drive to Stillwater every morning is that there are an awful lot of people out there, and they all seem to be going the opposite direction that I am. This probably is not a good sign- do they know something I don't?

My best friend gave me some career advice a job change ago that has helped me deal with some of the stress of my newest job. She told me, "You have to fake it 'til you make it." Her point was that if I showed the people around me that I was confident I knew what I was doing, eventually their confidence in me would increase and I would be on my way. This is an invaluable lesson to hold on to when working in the area of politics. Successful politicians learned long ago that it isn't so much what you are saying, it is how you say it.

All this comes to mind because it is becoming more and more a daunting challenge to write this column every week. I had a business lunch with a colleague this week who asked me if it was tough to share my writing with others, that for her that would be a frightening experience. I tried to explain that at this point, sharing is really not a problem because the feelings expressed in my writing these days are more or less just a tiny portion of my personality.

Although I have reached a stage in my life where more and more people are coming to me for my opinion or advice, as it is surely clear to most of you by now, I don't know nothing that none of you already don't know. It has been my routine over the past five years to save this page until the very end of the newsletter's production, and by then the relief that another week's issue is nearly done often knocks down the defenses long enough for me to be able to fill up one last page. I try to think of a topic throughout the preceding week, but often it comes down to whatever is on my mind at the moment.

I feel lucky when I can string together a bunch of words that make some type of coherent sense. In other words, it doesn't matter so much what those words convey, it's that they are able to convey anything at all. The goal of the newsletter after all has always been to provide information to you all in an entertaining way. Thus if we can somehow manage to walk the fine line between providing useful information to you in a way that makes you read it with a smile, we have done our job. Just like one long infomercial.

This wasn't always the case of course. Back in the days when I was falling in love with the craft of writing, when the dreams were to become the next big thing in journalism, every single word, every single article was meticulously thought out. If a word didn't immediately flow out of my mind, I would thumb through the dictionary or thesaurus hoping to discover the right sound to convey what I wanted to impress my readers with. But just like most things in life, as one grows older, one doesn't have the time for such passionate idealism. Get it down on paper and hope that the type sticks to the paper is about all one can ask for. This is not to say that the words don't mean anything anymore. An occasional odd combination will appear that amazes me that it was somewhere inside of me and found its way into the cold print that appears before your eyes to digest. I may have stopped searching for the truth and the desire to become the next F. Scott Fitzgerald, but writing something worthwhile is still the most satisfying experience I can think of. There are a limited amount of words out there and a limited number of combinations you can use those words. The successful communicators are not the ones who use words to make sense, they are the ones who make the words sound good together. So the story this week is: Anita believes canaries develop enlarged feathers going high inside jagged, knotted, local meadows. Nomadic ornery people quit regarding simple theories unless verified with x-rayed, young zeal.

Monday, July 22, 1996

Kitty in the Mirror

Max the Cat loves to scamper from window to window in the house and watch for any cats who wander into his yard. Whenever he spots one he prances from window to window, his tail starts flapping and he lets out a sound that is more like a gargle than a growl. So during a lull in his day, sometimes I will bring him into the bathroom and show him the kitty in the mirror. This is an attempt to teach him to love his fellow feline, that the cute kitty in the mirror is as lovable and harmless as those wildcats lurking outside his windows. However for whatever reason he refuses to look at the kitty in the mirror. He look all around, at the lights, at me, at the floor, at the soap supply, but he will not look at his own handsome reflection.

I suppose somewhere in this tale there is a moral about looking at one's self before casting negative thoughts on the rest of the world. I think Michael Jackson even wrote a song about that once. "I'm starting with the man in the mirror. I'm asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer. If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change."

As a kid I shared Max's view of the world. I remember I would scowl at my neighbor friends who dared to come into our yard and play on our swing set and jungle jim without first seeking permission. Was it my own insecurity, my own selfishness that was the root of the dispute or was it their actual trespassing that was the problem? How dare they have fun without me. It's always harder to accept the responsibility to correct your own ways rather than blame everyone else for the things that don't go right in your day.

One of the learning experiences of the past couple of weeks from starting at a new job has been watching how different offices work and do not work. This has come both from my experiences at my own new "home" office along with the training I have received at other off-site locations. In the past I have been accused of being something of a cynic. Yet as I travel around and meet people who have become settled in their jobs I have more and more become a person who may be a bit cranky, but I do keep an open mind, and the belief that things can work with a little enthusiasm and positive thinking. I don't have much interest in office gossip and personality clashes when they interfere with the work that needs to get done. We each have our ways of working and trying to get things set up so that we can succeed. Sometimes these routines and beliefs can conflict with others in the organization. At some point it is useful to be able to acknowledge your own reflection, your own faults and weaknesses and work on the things within that you can change rather than try to change those around you- always a tenuous task.

Being the "new" person is a stressful situation especially if you are not starting at the bottom rungs of the organization. People can be leery of you simply because they think you are going to change the ways they have gotten used to doing things. Some people do walk into a job and with little input from the people who have done the work, change things to be setup the way they want things setup. This may be the very reason they were hired, but often it can be a big mistake- alienating the other employees, causing mistrust and inefficiency where none existed before.

People adapt to change on their own terms. Some can't let go of the way things once were. Some people want change at all costs. For the most part accepting change and adapting is what makes us learn. It is what helps us grow. Even Max will someday have to learn there are an awful lot of other kitties out there and despite his protests, he has to coexist with his competition no matter how frustrating that may be.

Monday, July 15, 1996

New Kids on the Block

ONCE upon a short while ago, there was a little boy lost who knew a girl formerly known as meek who was now free to decide. Murphy meet Max. Max meet Murphy.

The awesome swinging bunt.

Every morning the little boy lost would walk a great distance to spend his day amongst chaos and confusion. He never quite figured out how he ever got from there to here, but he wasn't going to question it any more. He wasn't sure of his purpose but over time he realized most of the people around him were not sure of theirs either. He remained relatively calm throughout, but he was certainly glad every time he saw the girl formerly known as meek who was now free to decide. Meanwhile the little girl who had one leg that was longer than the other, had a short term vision impairment that no pair of glasses could ever repair. She just needed a little direction.

Chasing down the fly ball swirling in the wind.

One day Max showed Murphy his house. She was properly impressed. Together they went out for a burger and a malt. The conversation was short and sweet, the names changed but the faces remained the same. Murphy ate not one but two burgers. Who knew what she was capable of? She knew that there was no such thing as destiny. Max now understood the complexity of the importance of having a little dignity. He spilt his milkshake. "That's too bad," he said. No use crying over a spilt milkshake.

Filing the proper documents in properly tabbed folders.

Murphy wanted to see Max play. She didn't like him just sitting and watching instead of participating. She knew he could turn on an inside pitch and drive it further than his size would indicate. Upon his arrival in his first game he had four hits and never looked back. Max appreciated her sweetness. She inspired him. He in return wanted Murphy to realize and believe in her own special skills. He appreciated her enthusiasm and the way she always had a kind word to say. Another leaping catch over the wall. Did she understand the joy she could bring? There was a mutual understanding that had not yet been spoken, of things past and present and once broken. "Where do you come from?" Max asked Murphy. He eagerly awaited her answer.

Just another hard luck story.

He once thought her voice didn't match her physical presence. He now was pleasantly surprised to see the connection. She saw in him a sense of organization of having himself together. "What is your story?" she asked him.

A sparkling defensive play.

He was sheepish to admit that in the beginning it was probably her name that pulled him to her. Little kids came in from miles away just to watch her play and scream her name. It was all fairy-tale like and he was a sucker for simplicity if nothing else. Now she wanted to change her name. Anata no o-namae wa? She wasn't quite willing to put herself in a new situation but she knew she needed a change of some kind. Changing hairstyles wasn't enough. He remained intrigued.

A passport to another time.

The fall season was fast approaching. Max wondered if he would still see Murphy. Their time together was scheduled apart. They both had places to be even if neither one of them quite knew where those places lay. Murphy didn't know if Max would still stop by. She didn't know quite how to read him. Their relationship had grown slowly over time, having been carefully nurtured if not sometimes forgotten. They had now shared the music of their lives, and it was an important step, one that gave their friendship a deeper understanding. A shared vision. It was one of the oldest clichés in the book but they both came to realize that one never quite knew what one had until it was gone.

The puck stops here.