Monday, June 24, 1996

Smoked Fish and Oreo Cookies

So Cap'n Dave, you just about finished six years of service with the State of Minnesota, you are a little bit worn out, a little bit tired, but you have met good people and had some pretty darn good times along the way. Where are you going to next? "I'M GOING TO STILLWATER!"

No kids, I haven't been sent away for five to ten in that fancy dancy high security prison, but rather I've made a slight career change and have accepted a position in the Elections Division of Washington County. It was a difficult change to make, giving up much security and the good reputation of a few accomplishments to start anew someplace else. But at age thirty one and still rather rudderless in my career waters, I decided the challenge of a new atmosphere, the potential of this particular job at this particular time in my life was too good an opportunity to pass by. I was wooed by the offer, and flattered by a counter offer from my bosses at the State. The ego inflated just a tad, but sometimes a little fella like myself needs that.

Over time this change might have some influence in these pages. Quite frankly, for the past year and a half, I haven't had much time to work on this publication other than typing, formatting your articles and writing this page of high quality tripe every week. Of course we can do things better, but I'm lucky to have a spare thought any more. Since the drive to Stillwater will be a tad lengthier than I'm used to, I'll have at least that period to and from work to think about some things (LOOK OUT!). Also, a change of scenery does tend to do wonders for anyone who has fallen into a bit of a rut. My life has become nothing if not routine of late.

One of the deciding factors in my decision was a question I was asked at the initial interview for the position. They asked me what my career goals were for the next five years and how this job would help me meet those goals. I thought about it for a bit and replied, "I can't tell you what my goals are for five years because I have enough trouble deciding what I'm going to do next week. I do hope this job helps me begin to see what some of those goals might be." It was an honest answer to a difficult question. How many of us do think that far ahead and have a clear picture of where we will be, or want to be in five years? I was impressed they asked me that question because it was clear they were looking for a motivated and ambitious employee rather than someone merely looking for another job.

I had an enlightening talk this week with the fabulous sleekone, who despite having a difficult winter following a difficult relationship and difficult work problems, said she felt good because for the first time in her life she feels independent and free. An admirable discovery, and now she's on her merry way. It wasn't lost on everybody that I'm making this change so close to the Fourth of July. Say what you want about some of my life's choices but you'd be hard pressed to find a time when at least a feeling of independence was not a part of my life . One of the factors in my changing jobs was the difficulty in leaving all the benefits of state employment. Walking away from 500 hours of accrued sick time, or 182 hours of vacation time every year was not an easy thing to do. But I figured the longer I worked for the state, the harder walking away would become and I didn't exactly want to be a lifer. At the same time, when I think of my history with Cheapo, a company I've had the honor of working for on and off for the past nine years, a feeling of accomplishment and pride exists. If you find a place that is worth working for, it isn't a bad idea to stick around because that isn't something to take for granted. It is nice to have some stability, some continuation in your life. It's nice sometimes going from Point A to Point B rather than from Point A to Point A all the time.

So where will I be five years from now? When I asked the County Auditor (one of the people I interviewed with) what opportunities there were for promotion, he gave me a lengthy explanation of where he saw the county government headed and concluded his answer by saying that he would probably be retiring in a few years and that I could even run for his position. He said I might have a good chance of winning if only I could convince the fine people of Washington County I was a Scandinavian.

Monday, June 17, 1996

Post 1989

How do you choose between every day steadiness and the bright lights of a bronzed tan? Melancholic deep beauty (with a cute little beer belly button) versus joyful, plucky determination, run into a wall aplomb, with those ever irresistible smiling eyes? Both have their differing appeals. So forgive me if there isn't room in my mind to distinguish Murphy the Dog from Buford the dog. With some definite choices to make this week, reflection on where I've been, what I've accomplished and where I want to be are simmering dangerously close to the surface.

What is more important, the security of three years of service and certainty versus a new opportunity to prove myself in a new challenging situation? The ups and downs from the past three years will most certainly color any decision. But to have the option and to see how others really feel has been enlightening. It was clear then, and with a certain amount of "I told you so-ness" I can say that she never knew what she wanted and the choice she was making wasn't going to get her to what she did know she wanted. But she now has the experience, the history and that knowledge is an advantage over another who might have to someday herself go down that same bumpy road of decisions.

She still takes my breath away, every time I see her. There is a connection in each conversation, in each actual experience and there is still so much to get to know. The potential intrigues. But the other melts my heart too. The defenses are down and I know the foundation for something special may lie down that path.

Funny how people looking from the outside in can often give you a different perspective. My chief competitor/comrade recently told me that although she now has her Masters degree, that she envies me because I have a garden and a softball team. This was the first time she ever admitted that there are elements of my life that exceed her own (misguided as this particular envy seems to be). I look at her life and the freedom and knowledge and all that makes her the special one she is, and my admiration still continues to grow.

Those feelings stirred inside are colored with loyalty and the desire to build on the foundation that is already there. But loyalty has to run both ways. They have let me down before, why should I trust in them now? Sometimes it would help to feel some connection, some straight line bridge between people and events. In other words sometimes it feels better to go from point A to point B rather than from point A to another point A. Perhaps that isn't realistic however. The fresh courting of another, the thrill that comes from the first flush of a new opportunity perhaps is what is needed to revitalize the old batteries. To sit down with her on a day to day basis, and really try to get to know one and other, that element of being new has certainly been lacking recently. Didn't I get off track somewhere? Isn't this the opportunity to go back and not start anew, but start from where I should have been? To deny all that was there has been a theme constant in the past three years if not the prior four. She has shown an understanding, an appreciation of that.

But that is not to say I've accomplished all I wanted to at the place I've been. The opportunity of a another option gives a different perspective on where you've been. To renew what was the first attraction to begin with is in itself a rejuvenation of the senses. What is to say if I go with the new that once I arrive I will find what it is I'm looking for? There is uncertainty there too. But it was never my intention to stay where I am the rest of my life and the longer I stay the harder it becomes to walk away.

She has in her own way expressed her regrets for what went down before. To pick up where I left off and to do it right this time appeals. But the regret isn't there with the other. To look forward to what may be and to take what I have learned elsewhere and apply it in a fresh situation intrigues. I am intrigued. They say history often repeats itself and the decisions to be made may not even influence where I eventually will end up. In the end it isn't even just a matter of what they may do for me it is also what I can do for them. The tides of a turning point. Catching my breath while chasing the wind.

Monday, June 10, 1996

Nani Go Iri Masu Ka

Hope is one of them four letter words with so many different meanings for so many different people. It is one of them words that can be held against you and twisted into something that you never meant. It can be used for you to provide a light where no light was previously seen. Who was it that said false hope is better than no hope at all? Perhaps it was TV actress Hope Lange.

Within each of us is the kind of hope that things, no matter how set they seem can over time somehow still change. As you grow older and more set in your own ways, often this kind of hope is a self hope that no matter how set in stone things appear to be that you can still change things or that the possibility exists that you yourself still can change.

I have a friend who used to get angry with me because she said I said things I didn't mean. I tried to explain it wasn't so much a matter of saying things just to be saying them but rather that at the moment the words were spoken I did mean them, but at a later moment the words no longer represented where I was at. I'm right up there with our President in being able to take all the sides of an issue. "I seen a shooting star tonight slip away. Tomorrow's going to be another day. Guess it's too late to say the things to you that you needed to hear me say. Seen a shooting star tonight, slip away."

If there was one thing I was known for in college it was my opposition to the game of soccer. It wasn't so much that I disliked the game for I would be the first to admit I didn't understand it. Rather it was I didn't see the point. Baseball is sport. Soccer, heck who wants to watch a bunch of people kicking a spotted ball around midfield only to see it bounce off an opponent's rear for a 1-0 final. My rule of thumb was if you liked soccer you had to be a Communist. That was the only viable explanation. Granted the only complete game I ever saw was in my senior year of high school when the mighty Kellogg Chargers boys' team went to the state finals only to lose 1-0 (of course) in the driving rain. I enjoyed watching foosball more than that experience. My only other exposure to soccer was when I was a wee lad and I used to play with my bathtub toys (little multicolored pencil erasers molded in the shape of W.C. Fields provided by the fine folks of Frito Lay) a modification of a game of soccer played in my soapy bath water with a little superball.

To this day I have a friend from college who follows soccer as religiously as I follow baseball and he chides me as much as I chide him on the significance of the two games. When America fell under the spell of World Cup Soccer (har har) he was most insufferable. Thus it would shock him (and many others I'm sure) to know that for the past few days I have been happily watching highlight tapes of the Macalester women's soccer team from the past four years. And you want to know what? I've really enjoyed them.

When I was at Macalester we weren't exactly known for our athletic prowess. So when I plucked in the first tape of highlights and watched those feisty Fightin' Scots battle their way through a dramatic season (starting six first year players) on their way to a MIAC championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament, it made my lil' heart swell with pride. It has amazed me while hanging around the current MIAC player of the year, that a defender could be bestowed such an honor. No longer. Two words come to mind while watching the tapes of her tackling and marking opponents, "fearless" and "geez" as in geez I would never do that for a million bucks. Ouch.

What I have learned is soccer is a sport that requires excellent teamwork. A talented defender is as important as a quality midfielder as well as an effective striker. That's not even to mention the need for an athletic goalkeeper. Like any good team sport, it is fun to watch talented players play their own roles to a successful goal. Watching a corner kick develop with everyone knowing what they have to do, jockeying for position, it's kind of fun. While the game might still be a tad slow for us MTV attention spanned wienies, there is still hope for us all if even I can admit the errors of past ways...

Monday, June 3, 1996

Wakari Masen

The newest piece of equipment here at the newsletter offices is a 1923 Crown upright piano. If this week's issue seems to have less of a flow to it than usual, blame the many piano breaks we have taken. I may be no Alfred Brendel, Thelonious Monk, or Benmont Tench, but my lone hidden talent is the ability to play just about any Paul McCartney song. Man I tell you, there is nothing that can relieve tension and stress better than coming home from a long day at the office and banging on the piano playing what at least I consider to be music, until my heart is content (which these days, it surprisingly sometimes is). Special thanks to those who made it all possible...

Well the kids are just about done with school, graduation is over, Memorial Day weekend and Grand Old Days have come and gone, the hockey season only has another month to run, and the Twins are pretty much out of the pennant race, so that must mean summer is nearly here. Mom and dad have told me that someone is trying to develop a jalapeno pepper that is not hot. What's the point? It's just like ABC bringing back Murder One without Teddy and without the follow one case throughout the year premise.

Here is a special summer newsletter tip for all of you: Be sure and check yourself for ticks on a regular basis. You just can't be too careful. And here is another tip: It isn't exactly a secret these days that I'm not exactly seeing eye to eye with my bosses at the state. It is becoming increasingly clear that as a state employee I make a fine Cheapo newsletter editor, and as a Cheapo newsletter editor, I make a fine bureaucrat. Thus I have reverted to the philosophy that has made my private life the success that it now is. Several years ago, I was struggling a bit and listening to everyone who had an answer to all that was ailing me. Believe me, everyone had an opinion as to what was wrong with me. I finally decided what I needed to do was to stop listening so much to others and start listening to myself again. If David was going to screw up his life, he should at least do it as David. I've now decided to apply that principle to my work situation. Instead of trying to adapt myself to what I think my bosses want from me, I'm just going to do my job in my own inimitable fashion, and if I screw up, at least I go out knowing that I did it as David, not some imitation. One man's unconventional creativity is another man's flakiness. After years of supressing my own natural tendencies, it will at the very least be a liberating experience.

This is not to say I recommend to all of you that you stop listening to your boss and start doing things in strange unfamiliar ways. This is to say that I think most of you are lucky enough to have a job where you are allowed to be yourself anyway. Perhaps that has something to do with the type of person that is attracted to music retail to begin with. Our business tends to attract more creative, artistic, independent types and the companies that succeed are the companies that effectively use those talents to their advantage.

Being the cap'n of the hottest softball team in the state, I am trying to apply that lesson to the advantage of my team. Recently I recruited the MIAC soccer player of the year to be a member of Joan's Jets. She told me one of the reasons she got into soccer in the first place was that she didn't have very good hand/eye coordination. But I could see she was a damn fine athlete, and in our softball league that puts you ahead of the pack. She finally played her first game last week (literally the first game of her life) and she did swimingly well. I pitched a few to her before the game and she was able to hit just about every pitch. Her speed on the basepaths led to a couple of runs, and when the opposing pitcher chided her hitting ability, she responded by cracking a legitimate hit. I was so proud of her. My job is to find the best way to use her talents to overcome her inexperience in this foreign game. Thus I told her if all else fails she should either kick or head the ball to its proper destination.