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.