Tuesday, March 26, 1996

New and Old Alliances, Green Roast Beef and No Popcorn

As the world turned, the moral of the never ending story, the effect of all this on those of you with Albert Einstein hair, as reported in the seven part series of New York Times articles on the downsizing of America was that without balance and equilibrium one not only never knew where one stood, but also never knew where one should stand. One could even go as far as saying without balance, one might not be able to stand at all. It's rare to find or replace the one who can be moved to tears, who feels the undercurrent of significance by a visit to a Southern Plantation. And loyalty? The only one to be loyal to was yourself. To expect, to assume others will appreciate something you might have accomplished yesterday, or even something you may be capable of doing tomorrow, or heaven forbid, something you are doing today, takes a blind leap of faith, the close your eyes and hope for the best, variety.

On the same day that the foundation that you had been trying to build for the last few years began to show some definite cracks, you had the luck to strike up a new friendship, someone with her heart in the right place. A long distance runner, a realist that could help return you to where you ought to have been all along. She reminded you just how much you had been missing at the same time she was shining a different light and perspective on where you had been and where you might be going. You enjoyed your conversation, limited as you made it, because it was the old fashioned kind, not focused on where your conversation had been for too long. Miracle Whip vs. Mayonnaise. Balance.

As irony would have it, later that night you would see someone from the past, and the still open, but not recognized as such, wounds were soothed as you actually had a decent enough conversation with her, decent enough to remember why you found her in the first place. You put the hard feelings aside, if only temporarily and looked at her like you used to look at her. Cars and dogs. The words didn't come easy as they never did, and they never did last. The meek shall inherit something, somewhere down that long and winding road. For some time you hadn't seen the sun peek out from behind the clouds, now on the same day you got to see both the sun and the moon. The balance had shifted, the foundation was false and the feelings remained. And it all seemed sort of dangerous.

They never suspected and you never could share. You decided to keep your head down, do your best, try your hardest, and celebrate any small triumphs along the way. Were you doing well or were you pretending? You can't be inspired only by policies and procedures and the rigid structure of so called security. You just as soon realized a lot of it was out of your control, out of your grasp as your own faith so often depends on someone else. You hope you have a choice, you believe in choices, the direction of things to come. You have always left yourself with at least two choices and as you look back you are often amazed that choices aren't momentary, they often linger longer than they are supposed to. But you aren't sure what those choices are and you may not even have any choices or may be looking at the wrong series of choices and the past catches up to you just as the future seems within your sight. Present? It's a gift. Anatomy of the story? Keep your head, check your heart and keep your feet moving at all times.

The day you had been waiting for, looking forward to for so long, is finally but a week away. Now uncertainty comes to the forefront of the mix, the balance, and you really aren't sure how it all is going to land. Certainly an end to one chapter and hopefully a beginning to a new one.

Monday, March 18, 1996

For Max the Japanese American Gray Haired Kitty on St. Patrick's Day

Everything I learned about teamwork, conformity, competition, creativity, harmony, love, inspiration, and jealousy I learned in junior high band. And as the kids of the Ramsey Junior High School band showed last Thursday night in their spring concert, the lessons are still being learned.

Under the direction of Maestro Bruce Maeda, the kids of Ramsey put on a performance full of the emotions, skills, squeaks and squawks of the best of junior high bands, orchestras and choirs. With the musical notes swirling in the air, I couldn't help but remember back to my own days as the first chair trumpet of Parkview Junior High.

Being the youngest member of a musical family, by the time I studied under the sleepy eye tutelage of Mr. James Kelley, it was just expected that I would be a talented musician. While lacking the technique of my brother or the discipline of any of my sisters, my talents depended more on my ability to stand apart from the rest. One of the first reviews came from Mrs. Sally Olson who commented to her son (later to be my best friend) Steve, that the band sounded good but all anyone could hear was the little oriental kid on trumpet.

The best part of junior high band was the camaraderie and the shared times. The worst part was having to try to sound like all the others around you and before you. Though I later learned to better blend my sounds with the rest of my bandmates, I never quite mastered the styles or the behaviors that were expected of me. I was good enough to stay out of trouble but rebellious enough to keep the band from being better than it was. I remained one of the more recognized leaders of the band, along with our wonderful first chair clarinetist, the fabulous Susan Weiss. One of the major reasons to be involved in music was to have an outlet for expression for all the emotions roaming inside. For me, Sue was the compass, the inspiration behind and for whom my musical attempts were meant to reach. Many days of junior high and senior high were made much easier listening to the dulcet tones of Ms. Weiss, and making eye contact and realizing no matter how much angst existed inside, one should never take themselves, or their teenage life too seriously.

Playing in a band was much like playing for an athletic team. Early in the process, we sounded rough, trying to find the right notes, the right balance, the right way to interpret our sounds together. Through practice and repetition and the molding of Mr. Kelley's vision, we somehow turned the notes on the paper in front of us into something uniquely our own. Individually Mr. Kelley had to allow us a little freedom (I forever frustrated him with my posture and unorthodox style) while still melding the sounds of the many into something coherent. One person could screw up all the rest.

Later on my attitude suffered so much that Robbie Hanson and I spent most of our junior year of high school improvising our parts and adding a dissonant sound to the rest of the band. I never found the right combination between being myself and being part of the group. Now I understand that contradiction, then it was just one mass of confusion. How can you be what you think you should be when it doesn't mix with the rest of the group? The one time it worked, the one memorable moment of productive triumph was during one of our final concerts in our performance of The Russian Sailors Dance when Mr. Kelley cut us off four measures earlier than he was supposed to, or from what we had practiced and were used to. Some of the band stopped, some did not and the mixture of sound and silence left a horrified look on everyone's face including the usually calm and serene Susan Weiss. Nobody knew what to do. Should we skip four measures ahead, regroup and hope we all ended up together? Or should we stop and end the piece right then and there? I took a look at Ms. Weiss and could swear she smiled and nodded as I jumped in and started playing. Sue joined in and the rest followed and somehow we all survived the chaos and the mess and maybe no one in the audience ever noticed it wasn't the way it was supposed to be.

Monday, March 11, 1996

Elvis Shot it Out

She stayed just long enough to get covered with cat hair. And after she went, I turned on the TV and thought about what are my five favorite pictures coming from that 27" screen.....

5) The McLaughlin Group- Critics say it's a show about five blowhards screaming at each other. The host is downright goofy. Yet if you were to choose one show to watch for your political/current events information, this might not be a bad choice. The weakness of American journalism is the silly creed of trying to be "objective." On this show you get a variety of opinions and agendas thrown out (yes- often with raised voices) and you learn to pick and choose what you want to believe. The show lost a lot when Pat Buchanan chose a bigger arena to spout his views, because the current representative of the "right," Freddie "the Beadle" Barnes is just a weenie, and doesn't have Pat's articulate wackiness.

4) Savannah- It appears that the airwaves are about to be inundated with Aaron Spelling shows, and unfortunately only one can star his daughter Tori... What separates this show from Melrose Place and Beverly Hills 90210, is the location which lends a historical ambiance to the material and not the slick gloss of Southern California. The three Southern Belles and their intertwining innocence, evil and backstabbing have already made for some delicious plots. Yes ladies and gentleman, it is no longer merely Sunday, it's now SAVANNAH SUNDAY!

3) One West Waikiki- Cheryl Ladd was always my favorite Angel, and she even has a couple of LPs in our record bins. But once a minor league Farah Fawcett, always a minor league Farah Fawcett. This is a show that didn't last in CBS's prime time lineup and got banished to late night where nobody knows anything of it. Basically it's Quincy (produced by the same producer, Glen Larson) with the annoying posturing of Jack Klugman replaced by Ms. Ladd's spunky battle with middle age, while still solving all those mysterious deaths highlighted by the beauty of our 50th state. Proof of inspiration? This show is often what's playing in the background during the writing of this column. 'Nuf said.

2) The Late Show with David Letterman- Dave is now third in the late night viewing wars. The show hasn't come up with a great bit in a long long time (the Quiz Machine had potential but went nowhere fast- proving that Dave ain't a prop guy. Witness the "giant doorknob" of years back). And while the show no longer makes fun of its medium, the host, when he is on, is still the funniest man on television. The imitators have caught up and Dave has responded by getting louder and less patient. But damn it, the man has shaped so much of our current TV landscape, and night after night the show still is the most entertainment one can get from one's entertainment buck. Let Dave be Dave and people will come back.

1) Murder One- The show's premise obviously was inspired by someone's insight that America was at the very least intrigued by the day by day events of the OJ Simpson trial. The beauty of the premise is that it allows the show to do what no other one hour dramatic series has ever done- examine a single subject with depth and wisdom. What has been a pleasant surprise is that the show isn't so much about the murder case, it's the best entertainment examination of the eternal battle between good versus evil since the first Star Wars movie. On one side you have Ted Hoffman's wonderful vignettes explaining his world weary moralism. On the other side you have Richard Cross, the purest embodiment of evil ever portrayed on prime time television. The examination of the process of our justice system plays against this philosophical battle between good and evil and gives the show its wonderfully quirky spiritual undertone. It will be interesting to see if ABC allows this show to find its audience and to continue to grow into its potentially great self. Few are watching and it's not exactly a show a casual viewer can tap into without a little effort. (By the way, for those of you scoring at home, Neal Avedon will be found not guilty.)

Monday, March 4, 1996

Night of the Fishies

Last Tuesday I had dinner at Macalester College with three graduating seniors. I was participating in an alumni/student affair where the students (that would be them) could meet and eat with an alumni in their field of interest (that would be me). I offered them typical "David" advice, incomprehensible, irrational and totally unusable. Their questions ranged from "What do you do?" to "Do you stay in touch with your classmates from Mac?" I was a bit rattled being back on campus. The place was the same only the names and faces were different. Less colored hair and more body piercing. A lesson I've often learned is don't try to mix periods from your life. It don't work. With some unfinished business still occupying brain space, it was rather like opening a tomb. None of which was of any interest to any of the students (or you). All in all an odd experience. When I got home I listened to Bob Dylan's Day of the Locusts, a song about Bob's experience in accepting an honorary degree from Princeton University. So it was in that spirit that the following poured out of me as I sat down to write about my evening:

Walking down that path of eternal forgiveness. A long long journey, a trip after I fell. Give in, give up, get up and go on. The echoing sound of a ringing bell. Grace the fishy swam, off in the distance. Grace the fishy swam, off in the sea. Grace the fishy swam, in his polluted fish bowl. Grace the fishy swam, and he was swimming for me.

I walked past the music department, and heard a note of sadness. I walked past the geography department, history too. Passed the past of once forgotten places. The scent of a jean jacket that I once knew. Grace the fishy swam, off in the distance. Grace the fishy swam, off in the sea. Grace the fishy swam, in his polluted fish bowl. Grace the fishy swam, and he was swimming for me.

I watched for the traffic before I crossed Grand Avenue. The cold metal doors of Kagin opened wide. The lights of the campus, were beginning to wake up. The shadows of time stood right by my side. Grace the fishy swam, off in the distance. Grace the fishy swam, off in the sea. Grace the fishy swam, in her polluted fish bowl. Grace the fishy swam, and she was swimming for me.

I thought someone said they saw a sellout. I was at my alma mater, where I returned my degree. In a familiar place with all those strange faces. I didn't know what they could want from me. Grace the fishy swam, off in the distance. Grace the fishy swam, off in the sea. Grace the fishy swam, in his polluted fish bowl. Grace the fishy swam, and he was swimming for me.

Words of advice was what was expected. A drip of wisdom that never left my mind. The clinking of sounds, echoed and haunted. Separated from one who has been so kind. Grace the fishy swam, off in the distance. Grace the fishy swam, off in the sea. Grace the fishy swam, in her polluted fish bowl. Grace the fishy swam, and she was swimming for me.

Walking down that path of eternal forgiveness. A long long journey, a trip after I fell. Give in, give up, get up and go on. The echoing sound of a ringing bell. Grace the fishy swam, off in the distance. Grace the fishy swam, off in the sea. Grace the fishy swam, in his polluted fish bowl. Grace the fishy swam, and he was swimming for me.

Swimming for me. Yeah swimming for me...