Monday, April 29, 1996

Crashing Mr. Shriver's New Movie or How a Star was Born

Our story this week begins in 1982 towards the end of my junior year of high school in American Life class. We drew names to do a speech/presentation on a famous American from the 1920's. I drew golfer Bobby Jones and my estranged friend (whose father's name actually was Bobby Jones) much to her dismay drew Babe Ruth. She immediately voiced her displeasure, "Who is Babe Ruth?" she asked. When I told her he was the most famous and arguably the greatest baseball player who ever lived, she looked disinterested and unimpressed.

I on the other hand was fairly pleased with my luck of the draw. Bobby Jones was the father of the Masters, and giving an entertaining speech was secondary to the wonderful thought that I would finally get to appear in public with my knickers on. I quickly got all my research done, and got my speech written. My estranged friend asked me for help and basically I ended up writing her speech for her, somewhat envious that the figure of her speech (so to speak) was a person who was easily presentable, who you couldn't help but get a high grade talking about.
Flash forward to November 1987, as Minnesota was abuzz over the homecoming of our World Champion Minnesota Twins who finally managed to lift the burden off years of professional sports ineptitude. Being a die hard Twins' fan for many years this was a bittersweet moment for me. I was in the middle of my long drawn out "blue" period/funk and not even the excitement of the ultimate success of my favorite team made me feel much better. Add on to that the crowding of the hordes of now "lifetime" Twins fans who discovered the team way back in September of 1987 and it all seemed a bit frustrating. As I stood along the packed streets of downtown St. Paul trying to get a decent spot to see the parade, I noticed the person at the front of the throng was none other than the high school actress who read my speech on Babe Ruth to great success a few years earlier. Yes indeed there she was, the big baseball fan, frantically waving her little homer hanky. That may have been the moment my lifelong skepticism soured into cynicism. Didn't matter though, not the jostling and pushing of the too many people, not the hypocrisy, not the chill. The thrill of the moment, the dream come true, filled me with a warmth that I felt as a little kid with all those summers of frustration and wonder listening to all those far away Twins games.

Last week a new friend revealed to me that she was going to be discovered, that it was meant to be that she was going to be in Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie being filmed in downtown St. Paul. As a kid, she used to hang pictures of Arnold in her room, and had remained an admirer over the years. We planned and plotted the best way to actually getting to see Arnold, and better yet to become an extra in the movie. We scoped out the area the movie was going to be shot, and she boldly asked one of the people working on the set, and later a police officer when and where the movie was going to be filmed.

So we gathered among a crowd of people trying to see Arnold. We scouted the best area and made our way past the blockades and security over to the front of the Museum of Art. We stood with a bunch of people all wrapped up in winter clothes (the movie takes place during the Christmas season) and my friend spotted someone she knew. He happened to have an extra winter coat so she borrowed that, and I tried to look as puffy as I could in my little windbreaker. We stood behind a lamppost and whenever someone would ask if we were extras we nodded our heads.

The crew of the film barked out orders to all us extras, telling us to stand where we had been before lunch. We stood there as Arnold drove up puffing on a cigar and looking just like he does in the movies (though a bit shorter than I had pictured). My friend's enthusiasm, and pure excitement got me excited. I just had to smile as she exuded joy over being so close to her favorite star. Just like a kid. Like learning to breath again, or inhaling the freshest air you ever breathed.

But we had a job to do. As the director yelled "rolling" and then "EXTRAS!" we all began to move forward, a part of a make believe parade as Arnold ran by us and away from TV's Robert Conrad who was playing a cop. We did this single take several times. Each time my friend and I tried our best to sneak our way a little bit behind where we started, in the line of the camera shot. When they get back to looking at and editing the film they probably will shout out "Where did these two come from?" But I believe on this day a star was born. Thrilling, positively wacky, spontaneous and perfect. Not even the cold weather nor the sudden rain could ruin the charge, the infectious life of her experience now forever captured on celluloid. I looked at my friend and her smile was even bigger than Arnold's infamous charismatic grin. And for an all too brief and rare moment so was mine.

Monday, April 22, 1996

Looking for Arnold While Trying to Clean Out My Desk

It's through this world you ramble, it's through this world you roam, and you have to learn to take the bad with the good and keep a watchful eye out for both.

Regular readers of the newsletter might have noticed I was a bit steamed last week, a wee bit disgruntled, and downright pissed off. It was a long week at the office. It only seems like when things go wrong, they all go wrong at once.

So it was a bit nice to discover that Max the Cat did me a huge favor. After closing on my house, my funds were a bit down and it didn't help matters any that I forgot to notify the state's finance department of my move and thus they sent my last paycheck to my old address. With a car payment and other bills due, it was looking a bit bleak financially. Luckily, last week I got my damage deposit back for my apartment and it was much larger than I expected. Seems I had forgotten the cat deposit I had made all those years ago. So all the bitchin and moanin I did over the years about the cost of cat food, shots, miscellaneous toys, catnip and supplies, forget all that. Max saved me this past week big time. Thanks little buddy... That was the good news.

The bad news? I put in a day and a half extra work just to keep my head afloat. By the end of the week I was so tired I barely had enough energy to sweep my lawn (a homeowner's duty I never envisioned).

The good news? I was the benefactor of some fine customer service this week. I ate at Bruegger's Bagels downtown and was served with a smile by a pleasant woman who joked about herself as she struggled to put my turkey bagel into a bag. It made me realize that I am so accustomed to indifferent or bad service that I now almost expect it. Just a smile, a nod of acknowledgment can really make a difference.

Bad news? Mr. Puckett's still blurry vision, diagnosed as Glaucoma. Mr. Carew's daughter losing her battle to cancer. Two of my baseball heroes going through tough times.

Good news? I began getting ready for the upcoming softball season by whipping a Nerf ball against the living room wall. The arm is slowly coming around and it looks like my curve ball is still there.

Bad news? ABC deciding to postpone this week's episode of the Muppet's Tonight with guest host Sandra Bullock. Seems they were going to do a spoof of Speed (mad muppet bomber) but the episode was scheduled to air on Friday, the one year anniversary of the Oklahoma bombing. Another Friday night shot.

Good news? I got an unexpected phone call that same Friday night from my friend who just called to tell me she had noticed I seemed a bit down during the week and just wanted to chat. Sigh. Made me feel like I wasn't so mired in the primordial muck and that there are those out there just as sweet as the next wine tasting.

Bad news? The Man is out on the road again but he isn't coming anywhere close to Minnesota. So far the setlists are very similar to last year's with the exception of the wonderful inclusion of This Wheel's On Fire from the Basement Tapes. Soundcheck included Seven Days and Watered Down Love yet to be played during the concerts.

Good news? I swapped a rice krispie bar for a brownie and both of us enjoyed the deal...

Friday, April 12, 1996

It's Not a House, It's a Home

Well the new newsletter offices are pretty well setup and looking nifty and spiffy. We apologize for the makeshift lower quality of the past two issues of this publication. Things are finally settling down and we can get back to the business of producing the high quality, non sucking newsletter all of you have become accustomed to.

First of all let me describe the new place for you if I may. Unlike the old place where we pretty much ate, slept and worked in the same area, this spatial palace has separate rooms for most of life's activities. The main office has immaculate wood floors and for the first time in years we actually have our turntable set up. Having accumulated a large amount of vinyl from the days when I worked in one of the stores, this means a sudden blossoming of the choice of music we have to choose from. (Currently we are enjoying George Jones' Homecoming in Heaven). Man this is choice! Music sure is neat. On the back wall of the office hangs a print of Magrite's La Clairvoyance which one could say is the painted version of what these pages strive to be every week.

The living room also has shiny new sanded wood floors, with a nice view of the fairly steady traffic on Hamline Avenue. The home entertainment center (TV, VCRs) is setup up in the corner meaning that watching television while producing the newsletter is no longer an option. (Next big budget purchase: a laptop.) Max the Cat has been a bit lost with all the change but I'm sure he'd give the new place a big thumbs up if he had thumbs.

The other room worth mentioning is the bedroom which also has wood floors, but they are of the old variety (not having enough in the budget to get that room done). This room has nothing to do with the newsletter other than the nights that aren't spent tossing and turning are spent dreaming our little dreams which then become fodder for these pages.

We had quite the adventure getting our fancy newsletter equipment back on-line however. The problem was diagnosed as a bad video card so I had that replaced. I was very happy the problem wasn't with my hard drive which probably would have meant some major expenditures. So happy was I that on my way to pick up the repaired computer I promptly and quite solidly hit a pothole and blew out my tire and jarred all the fillings in my mouth. Wah. I brought my computer back home after getting my tired fixed only to discover that I couldn't get into Windows. Tires, windows, I could feel the doors of my own little sanity slamming shut. But being a firm believer in Tom Kelly's philosophy of doing the best that you can with what you are given, I went into the Windows setup menu and fiddled with the video options. Nothing worked, so I dragged the machine back to the shop and they found a virus which was causing the current problems. Back at home everything seems to be working OK computerwise except my modem (always has to be something)- so for all of you who contribute via e-mail, please be advised that you must get your contributions to me during regular business hours.

Well enough about my scrawny little problems. I guess if there is a moral to the story it's that life is an odd combination of deceptively smooth roads full of dangerous potholes, and the windows you take for granted someday may be surprisingly shut on you at the most inopportune times. There is always another obstacle, another nagging problem to try to find a stop gap, band aid sized solution for, and no matter what you do you will always be just across the borderline. So don't let your morale falter, just keep fighting the viruses and irritants that come your way, and enjoy the fruits of your labors. Oh yes, and the most important lesson of all? Cats don't have thumbs.