Monday, December 29, 1997

Masssugu Ni (1997 Top Ten)

When I first thought about compiling my ten favorite memories from 1997 I was going to list the ten great Bob Dylan moments from 1997 from his top ten awards to his top ten live performances, from my ten favorite songs on Time Out of Mind to my ten favorite vocal phrasings or ten favorite lyrics or ten favorite lines solely from the 16 minute finale, Highlands. But that would've been just too dippy and predictable and 1997 was anything but predictable. So here goes one guy's other favorite moments from the past year. Hale bopp to you all!

10) Long before Ellen DeGeneres, k.d. lang made being a lesbian prime time fashionable. Her rangy emotional vocals complimented her somewhat quirky selection of songs and made each of her CDs worth a listen. lang's Drag, is a thematic masterpiece, full of authentic torch ballads involving the pleasure and pain of cigarettes and addiction as a metaphor for something more substantial, sung so heartbreakingly that you can see the smoke rings flow out of the CD player. The best whiskey drinkin' CD since George Jones' finest, or Frank Sinatra's Sings Only for the Lonely.

9) My sister sent me some Trader Joe Chicken Treats for Mr. Maximoto. Every Sunday morning I would ramble on over to the Coffee Grounds across the street and treat myself to a double latte. When I got back home I would give Max his chicken treat while I enjoyed my coffee. But the chicken treats ran out and now Max watches me, his little face in the window, walk over to get my coffee and when I get back he's all excited only to face disappointment when I have nothing for him. That my friends, is life in a nutshell.

8) At least one person said John Hiatt's performance at the Basilica Block Party was the best concert she's ever been at. Who's to argue? When he closed the show with a rolling Buffalo River Home and the dancers by the stage swayed in the early summer breeze, it captured an image that will forever remain inside and haunt just a bit.

7) A man and his big invisible bunny friend. R.I.P. Jimmy Stewart.

6) Maybe it's that lonesome organ sound that first caught my ear. Maybe it was a friend's recommendation. Maybe it was the lyrics which sum up the sixties and early seventies better than any song I can think of. Whatever it was Smash Mouth's Walkin on the Sun got my head a boppin'.

5) Baseball continues to be my one undying love. It was a pretty bleak season for the local club(?) and yet as is the nature of the game there was still something highly significant to get excited about: Brad Radke enjoying one of the greatest pitching seasons in Twins' history. Frankie V's Cy Young season may be more impressive, and Jack Morris' 7th game victory more dramatic, but Radke's run of twelve straight wins and domination with impeccable composure made what otherwise was a dismal season worthwhile. Maybe it even inspired my softball team, Joan's Jetts, to have our most successful season ever (despite the absence of a key player)- a 2nd place finish in the state tournament.

4) It was a very special evening with a very special friend. To share Bob Dylan's Midway Stadium appearance and to hear the man give another intriguing performance and to walk in the rain afterwards and actually feel comfortable going to the State Fair beforehand, makes me realize how lucky I am to have been touched and to know such a soul. And I appreciate Bob too.

3) I know many people who are genuinely annoyed by Paul McCartney's perpetual charm. I don't care what they say, I find his eternal optimism admirable. Young Boy, the best track on his outstanding CD, Flaming Pie, is a minor masterpiece. "Find love, a source of inspiration. Find love, instead of confrontation. Find love and love will come looking for you." May there be many more silly love songs.

2) I recently asked a former colleague of mine and somewhat casual Dylan fan if he purchased the new CD yet. He said he did but he didn't make it all the way through because it seemed too depressing. One of the observations made in a review I read said that there really aren't eleven different songs on Time Out of Mind rather it is one long masterful song. Indeed the theme and tone throughout, of an outcast alone in the world walking streets confused and disconnected to all around him, is built upon with such heartbreaking intensity in each passing line on the CD. Being of fragile mind it wasn't exactly what I needed to hear but the sheer artistry, inspiration, honesty and conviction of this effort was heartfelt and inspiring and genuinely made me feel better than I could ever put into words.

1) I used to have a saying when I was a kid, "If you haven't been there before you'll never be there again." So this year marked the year I was finally able to visit a foreign land where I somehow felt more comfortable than I often do in this foreign land. And now I just wanna go back. The trip to Japan reminded me that there are always worlds out there full of opportunities and new experiences. Hard to top that.

Monday, December 22, 1997

Boxing Day

Winkle Tinkle dribble hare, ow I wander whole ewe hour. Sum TING! worf a miss. Tis' worf the ah biss. Heat dwarf owl tee peaces orf thee puddle awn thee floor. Neber wood hee bee abel two seize thee empire pix chore.

Hiss hard wash a beet in. Mammaries form hick path hunted hymn bike a bare. Thee some off biz de press hon starfled hymn whiff iz pow her aunt iz family air itty. Hee fell cripp auld. Hee fell tah likely have know placard too turd.

Ick wort ooly hey furbhship acker all. Moor hill spleen than hill heart wof token. If jail brot hymn black tool a pace he rot hede neber reform. Dish ee knob hat?

Whee dill hee left hurt igloo hiss harp? OW dis sheep workle herb weigh inn? Ick waffle lick in thou moofies. Sulkin in the dart, life too pees id a pee poff. Part ignores in crib. Nowl head cobler even caulk her. Ant wool warsh ee anyhoo? Jump a jung spinky sock hurt plaber. Add mint iz lee or dan fly won tho. Eye'l gribel ewe slack.

Thee spade chee filked ind hif hard worf diff i scald two dee scribe. Hey fone card heal, hey fone chard their. Amy tan daze orf knight. Diss confederated. Justice look dat. Hand ow warsh hee too repaint herb? Sea hee hard offer fiends. Paw lend ee ob author fiends.

Um forbidding sprint dill solving info a narfly prayurp. A whole crated tat cohnt bee philled. Sheba shawld meek hurt utter ware far peeps cake! Butt hair cumms a tyme hen ewe juff hab tool waddle a weigh und movie awn. Ann dare combs a thyme hen ewe juss hack toad real eyes sum won u rub if bladder off whiff aud u. Sew u pretense toob ee oitay. ovay.

Tharz know graper leftse tobee leaned awful tyes. Lie fha juttle ib sub tieds. Tee super yu cad except thit, tub butter off ube har. Dew eew ack chully thinque shee iz siftin ow round tinkling a bloat annie ov ish? Donut bee fluish.

Lee enduh resalt, the fin all con she quance ihn thar enduhh, iz ewe rally wound ar iff y'all oven feeble thar safe way a gun. Knot abowel hur, orf anie wun elves, butt abowel lie fuh in jen ral. Tis iffn't mirrorly hey badd hare daze. Dee prezed? Hark tube ievun moo vah? Hell ben hear bemoan. Ether a turnip abound the whirl coed knot queer eyor meyend. Soh ihn confusion ewe hab eeh cuhm tee moist a frade mann id ne hole wife workle. Yor nerfbus sistine ick shop. Sleekless knife falb abber seekless knight. U r so tire dad thou u knot lonely cab thin ka, u cab ether feal. Sulk in a bound likely loft horror beast feend. Aye miff hurt mye fiend, butter aye wont two four ghettor tube. Aunt tid can knot hippie iff yu dough nott four gib hurt feast.

Monday, December 15, 1997

Just Like Grandma's Cookies

How does it feel to be on your own? With no direction home? Like a complete unknown? Like a rolling stone without a phone?

Hi, my name is Puff Davey and you may remember me from such films as Jingle All The Way. If I do say so myself, I was quite effective in that parade scene as a member of the crowd. I'm here to tell you about the movie Al recently loaned to me called The President's Analyst (highly recommended) which painted a picture of a futuristic society where the true evil empire is revealed to be the Phone Company. Last week I got a little dose of that. My phone line was quite staticky for quite some time. I put up with it for a long time because it's not like I spend a whole lot of time talking on the phone. Actually the problem often came in handy in disconnecting myself from phone solicitors. The situation however got progressively worse to the point where all I could hear was a mixture of broken words and static, a crackling white noise abyss, making every call sound like it was coming from downtown Brazil.

I was a bit worried that at some point I would become involved in some deeply philosophical discussion and just as the other caller was about to relay important information, THE ANSWER I've been seeking, the noise would become too much and drown out all other sound. "So the way to find happiness in life is to @#$%^&*&^^%$!!!

I finally gave in and called the phone company. Their system is automated so you never have to talk with anyone, just punch in a bunch of numbers as they give you options as to what your problems might be (as if I didn't already have enough options for that). They sent out a repair person who most definitely and definitively corrected the noise problem. When I got home Tuesday I picked up the phone and it was completely dead. I guess they showed me: "Don't like your phone service? Well how do you like no service at all?" I must admit, however, when I called back the next morning I did talk to a very polite and professional service person and when I got home Thursday night, the problem had been resolved although it's back to the crackling line. In the communication business, noise is much better than silence so you can go ahead and tell her she can still call me if she's got the time.

Actually being cutoff from the rest of society gave me more time to focus on this week's project: establishing some holiday traditions in my house. This will be the second Christmas in the house and I figure the least I can do is to make this time of year somewhat fun by creating some annual rituals. Christmas is after all a time laden with sentimental traditions. For me the holidays have come to be more of a chore than enjoyable with the exception of the one thing I find myself looking forward to seeing. For the past few years I have greatly enjoyed the efforts of some anonymous family whose house I drive by on the way to my parents. This house is most admirably and not at all garishly decorated, with carefully placed lights and ornaments impressively highlighting the yard, the centerpiece being an illuminated Santa Claus standing on top of a basketball hoop. I've come to look forward with great anticipation to driving by this house and seeing this lit up Santa standing so authoritatively. I know it's Christmas time when I see this comforting sight. It always makes me smile.

I'm a bit creatively tapped these days and I don't think I can possibly come up with anything as festive as the slam dunkin' Santa, so my best idea is taping some chicken bones atop Mr. Max's head giving him the look of a rather ferocious little reindeer. Max is nothing if not the holiday spirit incarnate. Also I figure that if I dip all my clothes in Pine-Sol, I can carry the holiday smell with me wherever I go. Diet is important during the holidays and just because my cholesterol level registers a tad high and I had to give up those sixteen egg omelets for breakfast, there's no reason I can't enjoy a healthy dose of eggless eggnog. After all there is plenty of nog to go around. How about decorations? My tree might be a tad small and very plastic but that snowman in my living room made entirely out of mashed potatoes turned out amazingly lifelike. And it's surprising how festive it can feel to light a room with a flashing solitary green light bulb. Makes everything look a little like spinach. I may be no genius but that red and green dye I added to Max's litter box creates holiday wonders! I also decided instead of sending everyone a generic card, and since I have regained use of my phone again, I would call everyone up and sing my favorite carols at the top of my lungs.

Gosh I don't know how many of these traditions will be carried on from year to year, but Christmas '97 already is shaping up to be an extry special one!

Monday, December 8, 1997

Meek Again

My name is Dave and I'm funky, when it comes to love you know I'm spunky. My name is Dave and I'm punky, when I reveal my heart you know that it is clunky. My name is Dave and I'm chunky, when it comes to holiday spirit you know I'm a junkie... I may have a bad case of Girl Power having just watched a special on the Spice Girls. Zigazag. So I was on the phone the other night talking to a friend who was watching the Garfield Christmas Special. I told her I didn't like Garfield and upon self analysis and reflection I figured out that was based on a deep seeded fear that I'm on the fast track to becoming Jon Arbuckle. I'm just a slobbering dog away. She didn't disagree.

Our conversation was difficult and I didn't even get around to telling her that if there's been a more confusing twelve month period in the history of the world, I for one would like to know when it was. I would not have believed you if you would have told me one year ago that I would one night be sitting in Chaamps in downtown Minneapolis with one eye peeled on the Vikings/Packer's game and the other keeping a look out for our least most favorite Target analyst and that relationship would ever get to the stage where I both desperately wanted to see and desperately hoped she would not be there. The person whose group I was "with" told her friends to watch what they said to me for I might write about it. It was probably a fair warning. You got to write about what you know and when what you know is just beyond your grasp you sometimes just write anyway.

And who would have thunk that days later I would be wandering the Minneapolis skyways prior to a couple of business meetings searching the crowd for the same missing face and not knowing what I'd do if I ran across her actual presence which by its absence still plays a role in my life. I don't need no permit to tell me that some plans permanently fizzle but one still must proceed. She works in a tall building near the one I was required to be at. I didn't jump, resisting the temptation of the long fall, tempting as it was to think about. I guess in my mind I already have made the jump several times from harmony to disappointment, from sorrow to ambivalence, from self preservation to self pity, from a broken spirit to a mind popping experience in Japan, from absolute chaos to the best thing I've ever written that I cannot share. Events sure don't seem to connect much these days.

And I would have given you my house and a big bear hug if you would have bet me a year ago that one chilly December evening I would be sitting at a table across from Mother Meek, who would be giving me her life story along with some wise advice and that her daughter would be next to me, sore neck and all, smiling and seemingly touched by my company. If nothing else the past year has shown me that confusion is at least never boring.

I have always been of the view that few of life's relationships leave you weaker for the time together. I truly believe most of the time you are better for the experience, the sharing of knowledge, feeling and memory that comes with any relationship. I can only think of two exceptions to this rule. There was a person who came along awhile back that truly made me feel things and see life in an altogether different way while at the same time making me feel comfortable with the familiar and brand new at the same time. It was quite the gift she offered to me and left me regretting. The loss sent me reeling and in ways I have never felt the same way since.

Now for the second time I'm feeling a bit worn from the wear, weaker for the sharing. A co-worker told me I've been walking around looking as if I had just lost my best friend. She was close but completely wrong at the same time. I'm more than the fancy ties I often wear. She followed up by echoing what I've heard many times before, that I'm difficult to read. What I lost has been teetering on the edge for quite a while now. It's damn confusing when you lose your muse. What is most confusing isn't the daily events that contradict and often don't seem to either add up or mean very much. What is befuddling is not having the tools to sort it out and make it make sense for myself. The feeling of being disconnected comes from being unable to distinguish between a thought and a feeling and wondering if it really matters to know.

Regular readers of this column may have noticed common themes running present here for the past few months. I apologize for that has by no means been deliberate. Seems like every time I start off writing the circle becomes complete and I end up right back where I hoped avoiding to begin with. Though I wouldn't have believed it I guess I got used to having another's voice there when I needed it. Her's was helpful by walking with the wounded muse, to share the day's events with and who's own life's stories changed from amusing to admirable inside of me. Her insight didn't always make it make sense but it made it mean something. Sometimes you just have to let someone into your heart and sometimes someone already is there. The last event from this past week: a person without any noticeable agenda told me she passed my Japan article around her office and it was enjoyed so much she had to make multiple copies for her co-workers. Maybe the muse isn't as far away as it feels. And maybe returning to it will be enough.

Monday, December 1, 1997

Eternal Love

"Buffy's thrown by the new slayer in Giles' life, but finds her essential when the assassins hit close to home. Meanwhile, Cordy and Xander face the wormman- and something worse- as the gang races to save Angel from Spike's deadly plan to heal Drusilla."
-TV Guide's Program Description of Last Monday's Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode...

I've probably seen more TV than anyone I know with the possible exception of Al, and former Cheapo employee John Baynes, and Jennie Haire, the 1996 MIAC Soccer Player of the Year. Unfortunately the more TV I watch, the pickier I get in the quality of programs I can sit through. So for me it was rather sad to watch the final Beavis and Butthead episode, having come to admire them as the ultimate culture critics.

Still it might surprise some that the only show on now that I absolutely cannot miss is the WB's Buffy The Vampire Slayer which plays at 8 p.m. on Monday nights. I'm a relative newcomer to the show- I only started watching this season, the show's second. I originally tuned in expecting to be amused by its campiness and was pleasantly surprised to see a witty, hip, well written and insightful show about the pain of being a outcast in high school and in society.

The first episode I saw was about a vengeful girl who became invisible because her teachers and classmates ignored her until she literally faded away. It was a timely episode what with stories in the news about school districts that are going to all female science and math classes hoping to solve how young women often get ignored and are seldom encouraged to succeed in coed high school courses. I immediately saw that this highly entertaining show had more to say than met the eye.

The plight of the show's heroine, Buffy, is rather tragic in itself. According to the show every generation has to have its "chosen one" the one who will protect us from the dreadful invasion of vampires. Unlike her predecessors, Buffy isn't your typical vampire slayer. A pseudo-Valley Girl, all Buffy longs to be is like the average California teenager. Instead she has to endure grueling slayer training by her mentor, Giles, the school's librarian who doesn't much care whether or not she has a social life or not. To make matters much worse she is hopelessly in love with Angel, a good vampire who helps her out when she is in danger. Theirs is the ultimate in impossible love stories for a slayer cannot ever be with a vampire and vice versa.

The heart and soul of the show is Buffy's friendship with two other misfits, Willow and Xander. The trio has to endure the chiding of the school's popular elite led by the vapid Cordelia who underneath her shallow material existence has her own redeemable qualities. None of the group of teenagers quite knows what their place is in the school's pecking order and like your typical teenager each is unfortunately in love or infatuated with the wrong person all the while oblivious and ignoring the person who truly admires and cherishes them.

Even the vampires, evil as they inherently are, are despairingly likable. Led by Spike, a Billy Idol wannabe, and his sickly heart's desire, Drusilla, they scheme to rid themselves of the threat of the slayer yet at the same time almost respect the way that only she can rob them of their eternal nature. But the show isn't so much about the supernatural and gory special effects. Rather it is about the all too human plight of a group of individuals desperately longing to fit in with the others all the while trying to hang on to that which gives them their individuality. It isn't quite like anything else that has ever been on TV yet in its own unassuming way probably captures the essence of being a teenager better than anything these eyes have ever seen before. Being the perpetual teenager, that is indeed quite the achievement.

Monday, November 24, 1997

Pigeon Psychology

"We banged the drum slowly and played the fife lowly, you know the song in my heart. In the turning of twilight, in the shadows of moonlight, you can show me a new place to start."

This week we got the answer to the question, "At what age does one become a mean old man?" It's 33. I was eating dinner at La Corvina with a couple of friends. The only other patrons in the restaurant were a man and his two children. One of the two children, a boy around four or five finished his meal and asked his father if he could play with son of the owner of the restaurant. The two boys proceeded to first play a game of Simon Says and then a game of tag where they tore all around the small restaurant. This was annoying in itself but when they began to screech at the top of their lungs, I finally had had enough. "Boys, can you please keep it down?" I gently asked. With a damper placed upon their frivolity, the boys gave me the old skunk eye the rest of the evening.


Actually the incident played out under the influence of a story I had heard a few days earlier in my Seven Habits of Effective People training course. The instructor told a story of a man who after a long day at work wearily climbed upon an empty New York subway car. At the next stop a mother and her four young sons hopped upon the car. The boys were unruly from the start, running up and down the subway, shouting and jumping upon the seats. The man looked at the woman who just sat staring at the floor in front of her. He was incredulous at her inattention to the undisciplined boys. When one of the boys bumped into him, his blood began to boil and he walked over to the woman. "Excuse me ma'am, but could you please keep your sons under control?" She looked up at him and for the first time he noticed tears in her eyes. "I'm sorry," she said. "We were just at the hospital and their father passed away and they are having a hard time knowing how to handle that." The moral of the story was how we often let our emotions dictate how we will respond to a situation while only knowing the tip of what the other person's feelings are based upon.


Which brings to mind another revelation from the past week. A week ago Friday I attended a training session learning how to better facilitate meetings. After the session the consultant who facilitated the training, a woman who knew me from other sessions, asked my boss if there was something going on in my life. Apparently she sensed a detachment, a distraction on my part in the way I participated in the training. Her guess was it had to do with some relationship issues in my life. When my boss told me this, I wondered if the inscrutable label that had been placed on me many times in the past few years has been inaccurate. Was I really wearing my emotions on my sleeve? Or was I hiding what was going on inside way too effectively? I left the training session feeling that my own participation was better than usual especially compared to many of the recent meetings I attended when I'd be the first to admit my enthusiasm and attention had been a bit lacking. So I was a bit surprised that someone else felt otherwise. As I have done in the past I have focused my energy on my work in order to keep my mind off other areas of my life. I shared this story with my friend and asked her how she felt I had been acting the past few weeks. She told me she thought I was in much better spirits than a couple of months ago and she thought I had definitely been moving forward. She told me she admired the way I was able to put things behind me. Of course the accurate picture of where I am at, either between the person who didn't know me so well and the person who knows me better than anyone probably falls somewhere in the middle. Strangers always see you differently than your closest of friends.

Next I attended a happy hour with some former co-workers from my days at the Department of Trade and Economic Development. I learned that my legacy there, the database I named DYLAN (data you're looking at now) is not being utilized much anymore. And all the procedures I put in place, all the things I was greatly rewarded for fixing a messed up contract processing system, have been reworked where things are back to the way they were before I did any of my work. How quickly they forget.

The week as disjointed as it all seemed actually began to reveal some common patterns that in the end actually made sense in their nonsense. There were many lessons to be learned and perhaps even a few sunk in. A person isn't thoughtful just because he thinks a lot. The need to explain is at least as deep as the need for an explanation. Just when your faith in fate wavers along comes someone who gives you one of the biggest compliments of your life, that she enjoys talking to you because when she does she always learns something. Just when you begin to wonder what you have left and how much you want to share along comes someone who you hope there's more to share. And just when you don't want to have to think, you have to think more than ever.

Monday, November 17, 1997

Covering and Cowering to Covey


10) Be proactive
9) Dopey
8) (tie) Begin with the end in mind/Sleepy
7) First things first
6) Sleazy
5) (tie) Bashful/Think win-win
4) Winkie
3) Seek first to understand
2) (tie) Synergy/Doc/Sharpen the Saw
1) Spunky

I got home from yet another all day training course, Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, to find my furnace turned down so low it had not run all day long. I looked at the control's thermometer and noticed it read somewhere below fifty six degrees. Max was a-hollering. He was one frigid, unhappy kitty. As I shed my work clothes he followed me into the bedroom all the while expressing his discomfort and unhappiness. He has a cat tree by his favorite window that he jumps upon to look out and make sure every thing is in place in his world. This time with eyes peering back upon me he wavered in his decision of where he wanted to be and just as his body was about to make the two foot leap upward his mind told him he needed to continue to scold me. Thus he clumsily missed his landing and his body slammed against the base of the cat tree.

One of the exercises we learned in class was to identify our most desired goal, why that goal was so important to us, the obstacles preventing us from reaching that goal, and to write a personal mission statement on how we were going to reach that goal. As Max so aptly if not so agilely demonstrated, it's important to keep your mind focused on your goals and destination because once you make the leap, or are in midstream, to turn back can lead to undesirable results.

According to Stephen Covey, the guru behind the theories presented in Seven Habits for Highly Effective People, being an effective person means understanding that we can control our attitudes and actions to shape our lives. Proactive thinking means using our values and principles rather than letting our perceptions about our circumstances dictate how to make our decisions. Covey's seven habits follow the path from our natural dependent state at birth, to independence as we struggle to shape our own identities, to interdependence where working with others and on the quality of relationships in our lives leads to the ultimate effectiveness.

Another essential element behind Covey's theories is that the only thing we can control in our relationships with others is "the deposits we give and the withdrawals we take." Covey likens our emotional state to a bank account; ultimately what should be striven for is a balance between what we put in and take out and what we give. Deposits build trust between people. Covey says that in every encounter we have with another we either "lift them up" or "break them down." To recognize the value of those important in your life is one step, to be able to communicate those feelings to the other is the bridge hardest for most people to cross.

My own life is a good model or anti- model for whether or not you believe in what Covey has to say. The theories presented did not distinguish between professional and personal, public with private. According to Covey his principles are universal, and the things that make one effective in a work environment are no different than those in the home. I have spent the past few years drawing a distinct line between those areas, coming to believe what fulfills me at work is entirely different, if not even remotely related to what I do at home. Ultimately what I sensed separated me from the rest in the class was every person I talked to told me their goals were based upon seeking a balance between work and family. My struggles or what makes me ineffective as Covey might define it, has more to do with the example of Max's clumsy indecision, trying to decide whether it is a leap or lack of faith that causes the muse to feel so confused these days.

While I certainly see value in trying to clarify and define goals to figure out strategies to reach those goals, I had a hard time understanding one of Covey's underlying principles- that so much of our own effectiveness is based upon our relationship with others. Breaking things down that way sets people up for perpetual disappointment and is too easy a formula to get trapped into. People can only relate within their own terms and since all of our terms are different we can never really understand another. We are ultimately alone and it is up to the individual to figure out the best way to determine for our own peace of mind how successful and effective we have been. Covey is right in that it is our interaction with the people and the world around us that defines so much of who we are, but it is breaking away from that mindset that will ultimately decide our final effectiveness.

Cold Omaha

News this week of the imminent expansion of Cheapo to parts south, east, and close to home is certainly exciting. It speaks well of the company and its employees that such ventures are being launched. This week was also the week where we as a state took one step closer to losing major league baseball. Hey Al, could I talk you into subsidizing a new newsletter office/house in some town that has a baseball team?

For those of you who watched the House debate a bill that proposed paying for a new stadium solely through "user fees" saw a lesson in just why our legislative process has become as ineffective as it has. The bill would have been funded by the taxes collected on the ballplayers, and additional ticket, concession and souvenir taxes. The legislature has had over a year to examine the stadium issue and this bill was the best they could come up with. The bill's supporters argued that such fees would mean the people using the stadium would in essence pay for it. Never mind that some of these same people were the ones complaining about how much it now costs to attend a baseball game. If it cost too much for a family of four who last year could get in to selected games for $25 (which included four tickets, four hot dogs and drinks, and free parking) how much would such user fees add on?

Opponents of the stadium instead of coming out and saying they were against the state trying to play a role in saving major league baseball in Minnesota, had to cloud their stands with emotional rhetoric that was as hollow as their hypocrisy. Never mind that the state does subsidize many private industries including ethanol, tobacco and private companies like Northwest and Fingerhut. Representative Tuma from Northfield gave a speech that had to be heard to be believed saying a vote for the stadium meant extracting general money funds that would end up kicking his Grandma Looney out of her nursing home and on to the streets.

One study showed that to build a $400 million stadium would cost each current taxpayer around $5 a year for the next five years. Still there were opponents of the stadium willing to spend hundreds of dollars to manufacture anti-stadium hankies and other demonstration devices. And since people seem so unwilling to lose their five bucks a year in order to pay for a stadium that would enhance either downtown area, once the Twins leave we can expect there will be no more hungry children in the state, or senior citizens who have to worry about how they are going to make it until their next social security check arrives.

The anti-stadium faction was able to frame the debate from the beginning as some sort of take from the poor to give to the rich scheme. The pro- baseball faction was never able to communicate the rich history and legacy the game has brought to our community and the benefit that a baseball park could add (see Baltimore and Cleveland for examples of how well such a project works). Oh well, life without baseball is just another adjustment to be made. It ultimately means we all will have more time to spend with the Grandma Looneys of the world.

Monday, November 10, 1997

Dewa Mata

"I don't need to understand, I just need to know..."
-Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I'm in a very different place than one year ago and even further away from where I was a mere two months ago. Before my trip to Japan my sister gave me some advice. She told me to bring along plenty of Kleenex because many of the public restrooms didn't provide paper towels or toilet paper and many restaurants didn't have napkins. This proved to be accurate information. What she didn't mention, or didn't run across during her visits to the country was that every time a new business opens or has a sale, they have young women on the streets handing out packets of tissues with the names of the stores and products on the packaging to entice visitors into their establishments. So I ended up coming home with even more tissues than when I left. There has to be a lesson somewhere in that experience something about anticipating and preparing but in reality all it means is that I have an abundance of tissues. Life's lessons are only as hard or as simple as you wanna make it. Thankfully these are the types of things you can discuss with friends over a whiskey water (or two).

It was more of a grand social experiment than a happy hour to gather people from all periods and walks of my life together to see how they would mix. I was surprised but pleased that most everyone invited showed up. Only one person was actually missing and only one person was actually missing the missing. What was strange was the people assembled all knew me from different periods and different versions of my life and the person they sat with was in part both more whole than they knew and actually less himself than they had ever seen. Favorite moment? I asked the newcomer her sign. She told me it was a "stop." When I got home I had a revelation about how I never imagined I would reach the age the same number as revolutions a LP spins in a minute. In the grand scheme of things thirty three years ain't a very long time. It doesn't even qualify as a drop in the bucket. But try living that long and there are some moments it has felt like an eternity. I think it was about this age in life when my brother began to have some physical problems- with his back, with his shoulder and with his foot. I've been nothing if not lucky, my knees occasionally ache a bit but my ailments have been more the internal kind.

What is thirty three? When I was a kid one of the things I just assumed was that as I got older life would get easier. I thought the more experience and knowledge I gathered the more things would make sense. Actually the exact opposite is true. I'm more confused than I've ever been and I understand less than I know. Some of life's events make you age rapidly others pass by so quickly you have to wonder if they actually happened. You would think as you get older that at the very least the demons you've always struggled with would become more identifiable and thus avoidable. I have seen it is much easier not to learn from past mistakes than it is to actually make the necessary changes to avoid having to go through the same things twice.

They say the first thing you lose is your hair. It's open to interpretation whether or not that happened to me this past year. I do think that somewhere along the line I either went through a second puberty where my voice changed again or worse I may have lost my voice altogether. Growing up my day would not be complete until I got home and was able to write about it. It was my way of figuring out some kind of meaning to the day's confusing events. I stopped doing that ten years ago and just resumed two or three years ago. But now it is more an exercise in discipline rather than getting any tangible reward for my daily effort. It took a trip half way around the world to discover the reason for that. We were told that when the Japanese use English to name their businesses, it isn't so much the meaning of the words as it is the sound. Thus we saw names like OD Box for a sporting goods store and Nude for a beverage. I've gotten back to my roots in my writing because it isn't so much what the words convey anymore it is how they sound that I care about.

Life does fly by and I've been around just long enough to reach the point where little actually seems new, rather everything I come across feels recycled or filtered through past experience. And the dreams I have are less and less based on what might come to be but rather just a juxtaposition, a colored twist or bend of the already existing elements of my life shaped in a way that gets me thinking about things in a different way. The first mystery of my life was before I learned to read I could pick out any requested song from my collection of Burl Ives' and other kiddie 45s. I played those things constantly and I knew them by their touch and being so familiar that the slabs of black vinyl seemed like intimate friends. If I had to grade my life on the Cheapo vinyl scale of fine, good, fair, and green tag, I fear that my condition would be closer to the fifty cent assessment than $3.60. Grooves a bit worn, just a little too scratched but not actually moldy. Yet some of those hisses and pops add color to the next listen and though each play takes a little more away the enjoyment can often be worth the price.

Monday, October 27, 1997

Leaves Me Alone

Many years before that great chronicler of our times, Alanis Morissette sang her saturating observational ode, Ironic, my soulmate and I had a little running joke that she didn't know when something was ironic. It wasn't so much she didn't understand the meaning of the word (I'm quite sure she knew how to use a dictionary), she just didn't understand the concept. Thus my assignment was to point out whenever I saw or heard something that I considered ironic.

Of course as was often the case when it came to affairs with my soulmate it turned out in the end I knew much less than she did. And if it all just didn't elude me I 'd figure out how that in itself was ironic. Last week after I put the finishing touches on yet another solid issue of the newsletter I came home, looked at my front lawn and decided some work was necessary. Now I'm not the type of guy who fits into most situations nor is it usually that important to me that I do. Growing up in Minnesota suburbia, just my mere ethnicity immediately separated me from my peers. As regular readers of this publication can testify (and someday may be called upon to do) I'm not exactly like most people. Still when it comes to home care I want to fade into the background not especially wanting my house to stick out. So when I looked at my front lawn and saw I had more leaves lying around than everyone else combined, I figured much as I loathe the chore it was time to do some raking. This despite looking up and seeing my own tree had yet to lose any of its leaves. (or is that leave any of its losses?) Was this some form of symbolic irony? Why did mine hang on too long and how did mine become the burial ground for everyone's excess baggage?

After an unusually rough and tumble softball season, and a lot of difficult shots to the gut, I have felt more than a little beat up recently. Sometimes it's more a matter of self preservation rather than self defense learning to accept the unacceptable. But nothing prepared me for the grueling task of raking leaves. I tried to take it easy, but I was quite winded by the time half my yard looked respectable. Thirteen sack full of leaves later, I scampered back inside feeling sore in places I didn't know existed anymore.

Yet when I looked out my window and saw how neat my yard looked, there was a real sense of accomplishment. The next morning I awoke equal parts stiff and proud. I had a meeting down in Mankato, and I quite looked forward to seeing the many autumn colors on my trip down, now feeling a bit secure in my battle against the fallen leaves. The drive down was disappointing- not much color other than a rather drab greenish yellow. The shades in my mind were left shadows of hues unfulfilled. I was only a bit distracted thinking about my last trip to that city which was about a year ago and seems like forever and so close at the same time. So much has gone down since yet the memories remain within as clear as breathing in the crisp fall air. I learned many things on that trip not the least being just when two people needed a roast beef sandwich, there was no Arby's in sight. We got so lost coming back that night that it became a bonding adventure. Just when you've think you've seen every color before, one comes along to haunt like never before.

This time around the return home was damn near ironic, I think. I felt lost but in an entirely different way. I drove back to my house and I noticed my tree had decided it was indeed autumn. It cut it all loose immediately rather than gradually as all the leaves fell in just one day. My once cleaned yard had many more leaves than before I raked. The barren branches were like words without sounds; any sense of grace was blown away leaving me feel adrift like a tumbling leaf. Sometimes if a fellow takes too much for granted thinking he is actually taking a step forward, nature is very good at reminding permanence is as fleeting as any longing for continuity. I guess I learned it is not the work or the leaves I'm allergic to it's the process of leaving and how little and how much is always ultimately left behind.

Monday, October 20, 1997

President's Analyst

I called to ask if Steve was there knowing he wasn't just to see if Jason was home and why his apartment had been dark for so long. That's how much I cared and was willing to do. Steve wasn't there. There was no Steve there. But Jason was there and had been and I apologized and hung up. I'm not much of an actor. I knew more about him than he would ever forget about me. And in the end we figured maybe he was just too damn lazy to go out and get another light bulb. So she still cared even if she didn't want to or couldn't show it.

Now I come away with another lesson learned. Sometimes you just get your signals crossed. Misunderstandings lead to crossed lines and disconnected phones. *67 to mask a call. *69 to see who called last. It's only seventy five cents after all. That's as much as the welcome home balloon which is deflating as it descends. A leftover memory from Japan was walking wherever and seeing and hearing so many people with cellular phones, carrying on conversations on their way to destinations with God knows who or where. A whole cellular digital packet data network walking down the crowded sidewalks. This may not be a trend we want to emulate. With the growing prevalence of people who are attached with beepers and cell phones on call at every moment, how long will it be before for convenience sake, we all are equipped with micro communication chips implanted in our brains so we can be easily reached or easily connected with anyone at any time?

The groundwork for the scenario has already been paved. We can't be out of touch for very long.- miniature models of phones that allow you to be connected to someone far away while what's in front of you is a mere distraction. Why not dial someone up in your mind? Let someone else interpret what's going on inside. No one wants to feel alone. The competition among phone companies is becoming rather severe. I once was in the habit of switching long distance carriers every month with a new incentive thrown at me. The last deal gone down. With all the emphasis on the intrusion of government and the evil influence of foreign governments, perhaps we ought to be a little more frightened of the wide reaching power of entities like phone companies.

Not that being able to feel any type of connection in your brain would necessarily be a bad thing. Some people walk down the halls feeling awfully hollow and wonder what can possibly be going on in someone else's mind. Either a particular someone or just anyone. While it's great to feel connected with another, to feel like you don't have to say everything for them to understand, it is equally as deflating to think you have a connection with someone only to find out it's fake. Sometimes you are left to feel like there is so much more to say but all you can be is mute or dumb or at the very least dumbfounded. It's just as difficult to be around someone who feels like they've connected to you when they haven't gotten close. Maybe that little communications chip could help lessen the misunderstandings of being human.

It could even replace the process of analysis which is to talk to a trained professional on a couch to reinforce logically what is already emotionally there. Part of your therapy might be having you talk to an empty chair to say the things you meant to say to a real person in your life but either can't because of a fear or because it's merely too late. Try talking to a chair with a cell phone. And if you're the President's analyst the secrets you hear must be confidential and valuable and wanted by your worst enemies. Just like the woman who read all those books about how to have good relationships yet refused to deal with people.

Did you also ever notice there are way too many people selling toothpaste these days or at the very least one too many? With all the different brands and all the different kinds promising everything from tartar free, to whiter teeth to fresher breath one wishes someone would just come up with a one stop toothpaste. If you have enough courage you can walk down the aisles of one of these big marts and see a whole aisle devoted to tooth care products. Are we biting any better? Most toothpaste people are more concerned with their own smiles rather than the health of your teeth. Just like the other day when there was a Pez jammed in my dispenser and I propelled it out with such force that it became a dangerous projectile nailing me in the glasses. I could have been blinded. By a Pez.

Last call. Ding that bell dang it. If she wasn't a poet she certainly was the closest thing to a rapper that ever ran through my life. Stylin. She stopped linear time for a little detour from the past back to the past. And I still feel the same as always except when I think about her I get sad. It came to be absolutely meaningless but we did have some fun didn't we?

Analyzing the Fourth Greatest Song

"I have no answer for you little lamb, I can help you out, but I cannot help you in."

The opening line to Little Lamb Dragonfly the fulcrum fifth song on Paul McCartney's emotional 1973 masterpiece, Red Rose Speedway, is as intriguing as it is ambiguous. It sets the moody stage (or is that the stagy mood?) for a song as philosophical as it is charming. The singer is offering support while admitting it is easier to show someone the way to the door than it is expressing an intimate feeling. Immediately the song is equal part comfort and sadness. It's about the connection of a relationship realized too late just as it is about to end. It's the offer of friendship while admitting the friendship is already over.

"Sometimes you think that life is hard, but this is only one of them. My heart is breaking for you little lamb, I can help you out, but we may never meet again."

Like McCartney's ultimate and most moving masterpiece, Hey Jude, the singer in Little Lamb Dragonfly seems to be seeking self comfort through the benefit of trying to comfort another. By empathizing with the heartache of another, the singer comes to terms with his own loss. The bridge of the song reveals however that the loss the singer feels is from the soul he is trying to console.

"Dragonfly fly by my window. You and I still have a way to go. Don't know why you hang around my door, I don't live here anymore. Since you've gone I never know, I go on, I miss you so."

Here the singer admits confusion. He has said he finds it easier to help someone out rather than reveal himself. Now that the person he misses is outside his door (taking up his offer to leave) he doesn't know how to let them back in so he tells them to keep on moving. The nature of the relationship is as confusing as the splintering of communication and the singer's own confessed inner shortcomings. The singer wants the other to help him figure things out yet at the same time it is the other that has created the feelings of loss and sorrow in the first place. There is the feeling that the friendship has more to offer yet at the same time it might be better to separate and get on with life.

"Dragonfly don't keep me waiting. When we try we'll have a way to go. Dragonfly, you've been away too long. How did two rights make a wrong? In my heart I feel the pain, keeps coming back again."

We now get a glimpse of how the separation became a fracture. The singer has done wrong but feels the time and distance has only caused things to get worse. Despite the difficulty he finally does show the other what it all means- the feelings in his heart.

"Dragonfly fly by my window, you and I can find a way to see. Dragonfly, the years ahead will show, how little we really know. Since you've gone it's never right, they go on, the lonely nights. Come on home and make it right. My heart is aching for you little lamb, I can help you out, but I can't help you in."

The window which seemed like a barrier of separation before now is used as a metaphor of transparency to what is inside. The singer seeks hope in his heartache. He realizes that time will open up even more revelations both in the relationship and within himself. He also realizes to complete his transformation he needs the other to still be a part of his life. And through the self revelation, the healing process has begun. The heartache isn't growing (breaking) but rather it has been replaced by the longing to continue (aching). His friend the lamb (silent and passive) offers hope and inspiration through its transformation into a dragonfly (a symbol of flight and freedom). Though the loss may be permanent, the singer has grown and gained insight in the process.

Monday, October 13, 1997

Home Improvement

Not much passes for entertainment these days for Mr. Max and myself. We are not easily amused. Try hard as we might, we haven't even been able to enjoy the new fall TV season with the possible exception of our new favorite show, Buffy the Teenage Vampire Slayer. Sad to say one of the many things I dearly miss about a certain individual is getting to hear all about her gastronomic experiences. So late last week Max and I watched in some bewilderment if not actual bemusement when I flushed the toilet and water starting gushing out of a crack between the tank and the bowl. Despite the plumbing implications, it was our very own version of Yellowstone's Old Faithful.

It was one of those moments as a homeowner where I really wished I had a landlord to call to come fix the problem. It got rather old flushing the toilet and spending the next ten minutes mopping up the floor. At first it was a mere inconvenience among many then it became rapidly annoying to the point I was trying to figure out how long I could possibly go without using the toilet (timing such things as to when I would be at work) or at the very least how long I could go without flushing the damn thing. Unfortunately one of my few good personality traits is I am a stickler when it comes to terms of personal hygiene. Fortunately I have a helpful and knowledgeable brother-in-law who bailed me out of the situation so to speak.

I learned a lot of things in two areas this week: I learned more about brassieres than I ever knew before (we're not going to go there), and I learned about the great advances of technology in the toilet area. As my brother-in-law and I went to Knox to shop for a new toilet I learned that there is such a wide variety to choose from. Who knew that prices ranged from forty bucks to over two hundred? Far as I could see one toilet was like the other so I have no idea what accounted for the price differential. I didn't exactly want to ask a salesperson either; I was quite happy slapping down forty dollars and forever living in curiosity as to what a two hundred dollar toilet might be capable of that my new purchase couldn't do.

I did learn that the most noticeable improvement in toilet technology is the development of water saving tanks. All the new versions use half the water as my old cadillac porcelain monstrosity. My old faithful had a big tank that was self modified with a huge brick to displace some of the water and save me a few needed pennies. My new purchase has a much smaller tank and is done with its duties in half the time as my old one. This small advance is already greatly appreciated. No more waiting in the mornings for the water to stop running so I can finally step into my shower without being scalded.

The other improvement told to me by my brother-in-law is the addition of two rubber stoppers that level the tank on the bowl as opposed to the old conventional one in the middle. Due to this advancement one can now tighten the tank on to the bowl with much more certainty- when it comes to toilets one surely wants to make sure everything is level. Yet there still are improvements needed. Like any area where technology has rapidly improved certain aspects, there are sure to be new problems created and advancements in the toilet industry are no exception. My brother-in-law told me that with the new designs that cleverly use the build up of suction and gravity to save water and the laws of physics to dispose of the bowl's contents, the old plumber snakes don't work as well anymore. The snakes aren't designed properly to clear obstructions between the tank and the bowl. One can only hope we aren't too far away from the day where toilet technology is all but perfected.

This whole experience reminded me of last spring when my front cement stairs disintegrated after a harsh winter. After shelling out major bucks for repairs I made sure I got my money's worth by enjoying the new steps as often as I could by sitting out front sipping my coffee and reading the newspaper. Now the most recent addition to my home improvement efforts has been installed with a bit of pride. I was so excited I was tempted to, and was all but ready to call my friend and have her come over to try it out. Yes indeed it feels good to know some things in life can actually be fixed.

Monday, October 6, 1997

Nothing to Lose

I don't know whether it is ultimately encouraging or discouraging to hear that a fifty six year old can still become so heart broken. Perhaps it is a good thing that the human spirit, even one that has been battered by traveling on so many bitter roads is still capable of feeling things so deeply. Time Out of Mind, Bob Dylan's first new set of songs since 1990's Under The Red Sky is the work of a sad, despondent artist and it is a sincere, rewarding and deeply moving effort.

I could hardly wait to hear this new CD, with all the positive reviews and reports of it being a quality effort. I was trying to wait until after work on Tuesday to buy it but as I lie half asleep on my couch Monday night and midnight was just a few clock ticks away, I decided I couldn't wait any longer so I hopped on down to our friendly neighborhood store that stays open late for new releases. Time Out of Mind isn't exactly the type of CD one with a fragile mind wants to listen to in the wee small hours of the morning when the defenses are weakened. All the songs are dark and brooding showing a soul drifting and lost, disintegrating in a society that bewilders and befuddles him and who questions how much longer he can go on in a time of his life where the world just bruises as it confuses. Dylan's past few releases from Oh Mercy to World Gone Wrong have focused on the corruption of spiritual values in the polluted culture we live in. Time Out of Mind is a more personal journey about a mind ravaged by the irreconcilable differences between a man, a woman long gone, and a world where time and distance painfully have come to mean the same thing.

This remarkable music is the kind that once you listen to it you will never hear, see, or feel things in quite the same way. Phrases stick with you in a powerfully emotional and insightful way and bounce around inside running into an occasional memory or two. "They tell me everything is going to be all right but I don't know what all right even means... Everything looks so far away..." His usual word play for the most part is missing, but would seem out of place in the settings and moods of the songs. Sometimes the most effective way to express is the simplest way.

Dylan's weary vocals match the melancholy of the bluesy melodies and instrumentation. One wonders what was more painful, the heart trouble he endured last spring or the genesis of these songs. And again he demonstrates that being a great singer doesn't mean having a great voice; a great singer gets to the heart and soul of the song and makes the listener share in what the writer is trying to say. The first four songs are spooky and similar in tone showing a man who has got a bad case of the blues but it's the fifth song, Tryin' to Get to Heaven where the heartbreak becomes larger than the singer, connecting this CD with his past work while at the same time showing the price of the road he's wandered down. He conveys the deepest despair any of us can feel is to feel like we can no longer connect to anything or anyone around us. "When you think you have lost everything, you find out you can always lose a little more. I'm just going down the road feeling bad tryin' to get to heaven before they close the door." This is in stark contrast to the cocky rebel who used to revel in his alienation from the mainstream, who sneeringly sang, "When you ain't got nothing you got nothing to lose..." The voice of that same singer who seemed to know something the rest of us didn't, now seems so lost and confused. Yet he keeps heading down that road because it's the one thing he knows how to do.

Other highlights include Not Dark Yet where he sings, "It's not dark yet but it's getting there. My sense of humanity has gone down the drain. Behind every beautiful thing there's been some kind of pain..." Also Make You Feel My Love which sounded like a really bad Billy Joel song in Joel's version with cliche and hackneyed lyrics, but in the setting among the darkness of Time Out of Mind, shows the uplifting heartfelt beauty that keeps Dylan coming back for more. The song has the simplest and "happiest" lyrics on the CD yet is in a way the most moving and painful because of its inherent wistfulness. The final song, Highlands, is a sixteen minute delight that sums up the tone from the rest of the CD but adds touches of wit and humor with its dry, mundane look at every day occurrences. "I'm crossing the street to get away from a mangy dog, talkin' to myself in a monologue. I think what I need might be a full length leather coat. Somebody just asked me if I registered to vote..." (A message of great personal meaning for elections officials.) It is the final lament from a lost soul who mid-song stumbles into a restaurant for a memorable encounter with a waitress. The song is elegiac and hypnotizing and you just want it to go on and on. I have listened to it repeatedly and my smile grows wider and wider after each listen.

The masterful writing and singing that defines the doom and darkness isn't what makes this CD such a great piece of work; rather it's the authenticity and the beauty of the heartache expressed and listening to the voice of an artist whose best work is so constantly rewarding and breathtaking. It's involving and inspiring to hear such a personal statement that expresses your own feelings better than you yourself can.

Monday, September 29, 1997

INFP Revisited

For the second time in my life I took a personality test. For the second straight time, I failed. I have no personality or at least my personality barely registers. Tee hee. Just joshing you all. I am nothing if not Mr. Personality.

Once again I took the Briggs-Myers test and the results were the same: I am an I (introvert rather than extrovert), N (intuitive rather than sensing), F (feeling rather than thinking), P (perceptive rather than judging). What was a bit scary this time around was that my scores in each area were more clearly defined meaning I am becoming even more David than ever before. And believe me that's the last thing this world needs and exactly what I have been working hard to avoid.

In a way it was discouraging to get the same results as four years back. The events that have gone down in that period most certainly have changed me and colored my personality and one almost wants to cling to the belief that at the very least the personality isn't one of those things that is etched in stone and predetermined. One thing that struck me while reading the material of what being an INFP means was the statement that as someone who is more intuitive than sensing I often let my inspirations lead me, good or bad, for better or for worse. If there is one epitaph that would be appropriate to put on my tombstone that might be it. The bigger mistakes I have made in my life have often been caused by feeling a certain sense of inspiration and believing deeply that is the path I should follow. That many of those paths ended where they did in logical retrospect shouldn't come as any surprise yet each dead end takes a little more out of you. Do Itashi-Mashete.

To have its employees take the Briggs- Myers is sort of a 90's thing to do for organizations who have bought into the importance of the concepts of Quality, mission and vision statements, valuing employees and seeing the importance of the value of the employees' ideas to improve the day to day business. A happy employee is a productive employee; an unhappy employee is counterproductive to the goals of the many. To know your personality type is to know how that might effect the manner in which you interact with your boss and co-workers and their personality types. The last time I took the test I was so stunned at how closely my defined personality type matched the written description that I went out and deliberately sought tasks that went against what I was supposed to do best. Call it strengthening your weaknesses and weakening the vanity of your strengths.

While it's not exactly the most comforting thought in the world to think that your personality can be so scientifically analyzed and put into neat little boxes it is helpful to understand better how your own thought processes work (or don't work) and how you go about assimilating information as well as how those you must work with do the same. The Briggs-Myers even goes so far as to suggest the type of work those in your personality type usually seek or excel in (I think Mom's told her she would be an outstanding truck driver). For an INFP the occupational field types were defined as "arts and communications."

To put absolute credence in the validity of these tests would be a tad foolish of course. An organization is only as good as its individual parts. The individual parts are only as good as their ability to adapt to their organization's challenges. In other words in the best mental institutions the analytical standardized tests are only as effective in judging a patient's state of mind and potential to be cured as the group ceramics class. Or so I would hope. In the workplace this translates into the high chance of failure between two co-workers if they base their interaction on test driven definitions of how they should interface with each other. I may not know much about people but I do know enough to know to get along with another is to try to understand what makes them unique not what links them with other similar personality types.

So to better understand the bias' of the mind that puts together this publication every week let it be said that as an INFP I may not say much and I have a tendency to isolate myself. I don't always make logical, structured decisions because I value spontaneity and creativity above all else. What I am seeking in life isn't so much a Cancer or an Aries, but rather anyone who can shift boxes when the need be. And damn if that isn't getting harder and harder to do as the years go by.

Monday, September 22, 1997

Turning Japanese

I miss your opinions, stories and laughter. I miss your insight, sadness and disasters. I miss your triumphs, accomplishments and determination...
-for J.H.

First Impressions of Japan: I didn't feel as if I could say much. When I did speak people looked at me with a stunned, confused look in their eyes. When they spoke the meaning of their conversations baffled me. Everything was rather odd and a mystery. In other words, it was just like home.

Life in the Big City: It is odd to go to sleep one morning only to wake up later the same day to find yourself in a completely different world. The twelve hour flight was a bit wearying. I reminded myself the next time Max the Cat whines and moans as I load him up in the car I will remember what it is like to be trapped inside a metal tube with no way to control your destination. What made the flight somewhat bearable was listening to the Northwest Airlines entertainment channels through my headsets. Nine hours of a one hour Beach Boys' special played over and over. By the time we were over the Sea of Japan I swore if I heard Help Me Rhonda one more time I was going to jump out of the plane. But damn if those Pet Sounds songs didn't hold up even after the ninetieth listen. I discovered too late (the last hour of the flight) that on another channel played a Styx reunion special. The listening experiences erased any doubt which culture had warped and shaped my mind.

Can you hear when my voice is a whisper? When you look away is it more clear? Your words never hurt me but your silence does.

Before I left I had tried to sharpen the focus of the picture of what it would all be like in my mind's eye. That picture was shaped by the portraits that used to hang in my grandparents' house in St. Paul- paintings of Mt. Fuji, photographs of their trips to Japan. After arriving in Osaka and taking a train from the airport into town, those pictures were about as close as the one's recently returned from Mars. A quick glance of Osaka reveals a city that looks in part like any big American city; tall buildings slightly aged, with apartments and houses scattered about. In a way it sort of reminded me of Philadelphia- the age of the architecture and the layout of the city as viewed from an above ground train. But unlike Philadelphia the city didn't seem worn out but was rather well kept. Osaka definitely had its own rhythm, the narrow streets where cars zipped through past hordes of pedestrians and bicyclists. Yet somehow there was a comforting order to the chaos.

You taught me to buy shoes and to learn to walk again. You made me feel like I was back on track and helped me through the most confusing concrete lots.

At night the electric signs flashed into your eyes as life buzzed around you. There was no honking of horns from impatient drivers or ornery looks from passing strangers. The retail, hotel, and restaurant help was extremely polite, bowing as you entered their establishments. Even the immigration inspector was respectful and gracious and made you feel welcome, "Maeda-san..." The Kentucky Fried Chicken sign suggested not all was foreign and that we hadn't landed on Mars after all (although I'm sure when the Mars' landscape is developed a KFC will do quite well there as well).

Cultural Tips for the Uninformed: Japan is not a good place to go for a guy who does not own a good pair of socks. I'm the type of fellow who rarely gets rid of stockings, even if the elasticity is worn and torn and the holes outnumber the remaining material. I believe worn out socks are one of the prices you must pay for living in an imperfect society. But in Japan where one often removes one's shoes as you enter homes or restaurants, wearing worn out socks can be a bit embarrassing. Also the squatting at meals was a bit hard on the knees. But the food was exquisite and I've never eaten as much in my entire life. One thing you want to do is eat quickly. The Japanese don't dawdle when it comes to food. And they eat large quantities (I felt I was on some sort of sumo wrestler's diet). We had sushi (rice and fish wrapped inside seaweed), udon (Japanese noodles), tempura (fried vegetables and seafood), and sashimi (raw fish). We ate at a restaurant where there was a charcoal grill built in the table and you cooked your marinated beef on the grill.

God as my friend are you surprised it means so much? Do you ever wonder why we are all born crying and why we leave in so much confusion?

Wacky Tobacky: Want to quit smoking without the difficult side effects? Go to the Tokyo Wendy's, step into second floor area and take a deep breath. Within minutes you'll have enough nicotine in your system to last you for nine lives. These people can seriously smoke. And they also enjoy an adult beverage whenever possible. They probably drink more beer than your average Packer fan. I thought about trying to recreate the Paul McCartney 1980 Japan experience trying to sneak into the country past customs with some sort of hemp bi-product, but thought better of it. No use testing the immigration official's sense of humor. The first sign we saw as we got off the plane was one telling anyone who felt "abnormal" to go to the quarantine area. It was my first mental test. I always feel a bit abnormal but did the Japanese officials need to know that?

Possible link between height impairment and with smoking? One nice feeling was for the first time in my life I didn't feel noticeably short. Not that I was tall among the Japanese people but I was about average size until we got to Tokyo where all of a sudden the people (especially the women) seemed a bit taller than other Japanese. One look at their footwear suggests why that is- huge platform shoes.

Mary O'Del: We were told for the Japanese the name of a business or product isn't important as far as the meaning of the words. Rather it's the sound that the Japanese take into account. Thus we saw some oddities like a drink called Procari Sweat. Nothing quite quenches a thirst like a jug of sweat. And we also saw a shopping bag with the name Marginal Glamour. One wouldn't want excellent glamour when spending hard earned cash, mediocre glamour is OK.

Bow Down To Toyota: A Shinto temple we saw had a shrine where drivers drove up to an area where their cars were blessed for good luck and low accident claims by shaking a broom looking object in their direction. Unfortunately we witnessed a ten car fender bender while leaving the temple (not really).

Communication: Words flowed but little was understood. Still it was amazing how much can be communicated by a smile or a meeting of eyes. For those who do not speak there still is hope that there are others who still will be able to understand.

Common Meeting Experience: Like many business meetings I have participated in, the meetings we attended were a bit perplexing. Language differences made communication difficult. I committed a faux pas by forgetting to bring along my business cards which are used during introductions as a polite way to help people put names to faces. One of the meetings we attended was held in at a conference table in the company's showroom. The table was eye shaped and a bright light illuminated things yet it wasn't harsh on the eyes. It felt like sitting at one of those TV political roundtable discussions. With my camera case strapped around my neck like a tricorder it also felt a bit like I was a member of a Star Trek landing party meeting with some planet's dignitaries.

An Uncommon Bond: I watched several baseball games on my hotel TV at night. It almost made me feel a hint of homesickness. Differences? What's the deal with the trumpets that constantly blare throughout the game playing a fight song during the action? What is the deal with the plastic clap devices (and if you've ever used a plastic clap device you know just how painful that can be) that are given to the crowd to bang and make noise? And why do the ball girl's wear protective batting helmets?

A Moving Experience: I felt the earth move in Tokyo. Fortunately it was just an earthquake. And no one even panicked which is a good thing with the volume of the population. One thing the country has is lots of people. Many of them Japanese. So many people where anyone who might go in with an inflated value of their own self importance can be quickly humbled. Being in the middle of the Tokyo subway system during a busy time, as streams of people swarm around you from every direction you quickly can see how one individual's life is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. At the same time the opportunity to visit foreign worlds and see the possibilities that exist is eye opening and awe inspiring.

Get Back: On the trip home one of the in flight movies was While You Were Sleeping. Seeing Sandra Bullock's smile brought things back to the familiar. Looking out the window I noticed the flight to Japan was mostly in the light, the flight to the United States was mostly in the dark. Enough said.

I only wish you the best and know I intend to do better. I'll always cherish the time we did have. So I look to the east, stunned as I stare, the sense of loss too intense to bear. Prayers stuck in my throat along with my good-bye.

Silent J

From Tokyo to Osaka in just one day, listening for the silent J.

It's the same old story all over again. Complete of course without the happily ever after end. The woman left the stage and the boy went far away. A trip to another land, to the back of his mind where he couldn't let go even though the bottomless pit reached far into his soul. The doors snapped shut before he could say good-bye as he watched the train take her away. Like saving for a rainy day when you watch your savings float far away. Somehow feeling whole again until that train left him feeling a hole again. Left him to try to connect with the reeling muse to gain some comfort and peace to feel inspired again. But the words rattled inside as he tried his best to speak. A trickle within he couldn't figure out as it starts like a meek leak mistaking feelings for thoughts. Wanting to write to set it right. Then it all comes pouring out much too late. Internal breakdown at the Fukaibashi station that was more emotional than mechanical.

This is the place where I've come to stay, listening for the silent J.

Weeping girl under Osaka city. Empty soul with endless pity. He wanted to reach out to her but he didn't dare. To get too emotional was to show he cared. Revival of the spirit, rising sun in his soul. Scars that don't heal, and won't go away. The boy lost his shadow like a saturated sponge that soaked in too much and let go too slow. Shut him down paralyzed. Maps couldn't help him find what he were looking for as the rain came down with a cleansing purpose. Dysfunctional Haiku with a fractured syllable mess. Nude Marginal Glamour from the toothpaste lady, the only moviegoer who doesn't like popcorn. A terminal temporary nature to all of life's situations. And he didn't want to leave behind what seemed like it only just begun.

The music inside jingles all the way, listening for the silent J.

In his hotel bed he was startled to find that she still clearly crossed his mind. He knew when he came home, she wouldn't be there this time. Narrow roads that turned a knot inside his mind. They twisted and bent until they snapped his spine and left him with no feeling. Soul searching cars blessed by Shinto. Accidents that do sometimes happen. A pen out of ink with more words to write. A trip to his roots restored some sight. Cluttered mind and uncomfortable silence. They talked to him as if he could understand. As if he knew more than he did just like in his own land. Unable to communicate in any language. First impressions last, last impressions lasting like the first. Does he bow down or shake, what does he do when he suddenly awakes? Visions that crawl by when the defenses are down.

You have to press rewind if you want to play, listening for the silent J.

So many doors until he lost track, each one takes him back and a little bit more out of him through the cracks. Old and new intertwined, like soccer fields and baseball diamonds that somehow connect. Left to wonder what would come next. The tortoise and the hare racing through life, one steady and sure the other spins its wheels to nowhere. As it all persists he starts to see patterns. As the patterns appear it all just persists. A non stop inner monologue distracts and disturbs and won't leave him alone. Pencil to pen, dollars to yen, what can he do to stop this from happening again? Happiness within that he didn't recognize until it's too far gone. He couldn't come home to the way it was on the floor. Even the homeless he saw on the streets did not ask for more. The further he moves forward the farther he has to fall.

Your insides shake like the earthquake of Kobe, listening for the silent J.

Elasticity elapsed as he finds he is the same old person no matter how far or where he goes. He still wore her shoes to get him around. He wore them all around town The more he says the deeper the hole. Poetry in motion like noodles slurped from a bowl. Soft spoken and broken as his voice turns into a whisper. Industrial concrete stacks that blow steam rather than smoke, clouded up all the words they once spoke. Steel glass mountains too steep to climb. It takes an earthquake to put you on the map and get you noticed sometime. The rice fields growing in the warehouse district with a saddened and stressed foreign boy in a foreign land who looks to the horizon for answers but it is what's left within that leaves him confused and dazed.

It doesn't matter what you have to say, listening for the silent J.

He said a prayer to her, 'where the sun sets in the sky is where memories remain between you and I.' But he was shutting down more than he could shut out. Leopard skin lady approached with obscenely high heeled shoes. A lonesome photo opportunity. The burden too heavy to carry inside. The words mean nothing when your voice can't be heard. Your voice means nothing when the words can't be understood. It takes a ticket to express that train that rumbles by. And all he can recall is what he should have said before it all disappeared. You have to be limber to eat the food, you have to be nimble not to let it linger. From a crawl to the bullet train, part of him was there before he arrived, part of him he left behind once upon a time.

This is the price you have to pay as she aggressively looks away, while you're left stranded listening for the silent J.

Monday, September 15, 1997

Arigato Gozai Masu

Just flew in from Japan and boy are my arms tired... We had a most outstanding and inspiring time. We saw a beautiful country and met some impressive Japanese people. But more on all that next week. Thanks for asking me along, Al. I didn't want to come back although it is nice to be home and to see my little buddy Mr. Maximoto again.

Also thanks to Mary for doing such a great job with last week's issue of the newsletter. You did a terrific job and this publication has never looked better.

Going Going Gone
by Bob Dylan

I've just reached a place
where the willow don't bend.
There's not much more to be said
It's the top of the end.
I'm going, I'm going, I'm gone.
I'm closin' the book
on the pages and the text.
And I don't really care
what happens next.

I'm going, I'm going, I'm gone.

I been hangin' on threads,
I been playin' it straight,
Now I've just got to cut loose
before it gets late.

So I'm going, I'm going, I'm gone.

Grandma said, 'Boy, go and follow your heart and you'll be fine at the end of the line.
All that's gold isn't meant to shine.
Don't you and your one true love ever part.'
I been walkin' the road,
I been livin' on the edge,
Now, I've just got to go
before I get to the ledge.

I'm going, I'm just going, I'm gone.

I too share in the sadness of the news that we are losing Mark Lethert. Memories from ten years back are a bit tangled within the ever thickening fog and cobwebs of my mind but nonetheless I do remember the shifts we worked together and how I always enjoyed working with Mark and learning from him. I, of course was not always this calm, polished professional I now appear to be and back in those days my moods were a bit turbulent. Working with Mark was always fun and he taught me a lot about dealing with human nature. It was remarkable how after working with Mark I would leave the store in a better mood than when I arrived. He was fun to work with, had impeccable taste in music and a joy to watch deal with customers.

Mark represents the best of Cheapo, professionalism with a sense of humor, vast knowledge, a keen creative mind and the desire to always do the best job possible. And on top of all the outstanding work he has done for this company he is one heck of a fine fellow too. His knowledge of music, film and literature always impressed and was greatly appreciated by me. His wicked sense of humor, wisdom and calm disposition was inspiring.

For the last few years my contact with Mark has been as a customer at the St. Paul stores and it was always great to walk into the store and see him working and sharing a laugh and watching him work with so much skill. It's great being on the other side of the counter and being the recipient of such a skilled customer service representative. Finally, Mark's contributions to the newsletter have been wonderful and I always looked forward to reading his submissions. He made my job easier and the newsletter better. Thank you Mark.

Best of luck to you, I know you'll do well with all your new ventures and adventures. Cheapo has lost a great person. Please keep in touch. Sayo-nara and thanks for the friendship.

Monday, September 1, 1997

Love Sick

Late one night last spring my new friend called me to tell me she had just seen on a promo for the ten o'clock news that Bob Dylan had been hospitalized with a potentially fatal ailment. She already knew me well enough to know the news would have a major impact on me. So I watched the news and learned little. I went to bed that night thinking how sad it would be if the world never knew another Bob Dylan song or heard another Bob Dylan performance. The only comfort was I also lie there thankful that I had found a friend who seemed to understand and cared enough to take the time to break the news to me with a reassuring voice. I then put on Shot of Love and marveled at how the power of music can make even the most confusing and unbearable moments in life seem somehow meaningful.

The lesson from that night is that prayers are often answered at the same time you are being blindsided. Bob survived and all that remains of that most missed friendship is the knowledge that my title has officially changed from the World's Biggest Dork to the World's Biggest Jerk. The timing of Dylan's most recent stop in Minnesota couldn't have been better. How cool was it that he was playing a show within walking distance of my house and I was going with a person I don't get to spend nearly enough time with? I needed to see Bob again, and when he hit the stage at Midway Stadium after solid opening sets from BR5-49 and Ani Difranco (who truly impressed me with her terrifically versatile voice and her live performance ability which was better than the recorded efforts I've heard of hers- including a moving cover of the Artist's When Doves Cry- one of my all time favorite songs), it was truly reassuring after the past few difficult weeks. The ability to survive and endure is perhaps Dylan's most appealing quality.

"I waited for you when I was half sick. Yes, I waited for you when you hated me. Well, I waited for you inside frozen traffic, when you knew I had some other place to be. Now, where are YOU tonight sweet Marie?" Dylan opened with a solid version of Absolutely Sweet Marie which I didn't think would make much of an opening song. After hearing the song in other slots on this Never Ending Tour the arrangements never seemed to impress. But there was real fire in the vocal as there was most of the night. His voice was more phlegmy than usual but there was a conviction to the songs that was unmistakable. Next was a seductive version of Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You which made the loss of Marie seem somewhat bearable as the singer turned the tables: "Is it any wonder the love that a stranger might receive? You cast your spell and I went under, I find it so difficult to leave..."

He sort of lost the crowd with the rather obscure Tough Mama which demonstrated his mercurial side- replacing the traditional All Along The Watchtower spot with a jangly Planet Waves song and a version that would have made the Band proud. The sing song You Ain't Goin Nowhere was next and the a cappella OOH WEE finish was a fun moment. At this point I sat back and took stock- my fifteenth Dylan show and I had already heard three songs I had never seen him do live before. The acoustic set was equally as good with a rollicking cover version of Roving Gambler, Mr. Tambourine Man, and Tangled Up In Blue which has become a receptacle for an acoustic jam with Bob gratefully taking the solos.

"It strangled up my mind, now people just get uglier and I have no sense of time. Oh mama can this really be the end?" He didn't say much yet he was positively outgoing, speaking more than I've ever heard him speak before. "Let's hear it for BR5-49, my favorite new group except the Wallflowers of course..." The absolute highlight of the show was the ethereal This Wheel's On Fire sung so poignantly with the bittersweet lyrics performed in front of a passing train behind the stage, "This wheel's on fire, rolling down the road. Best notify my next of kin, this wheel shall EXplode." It was one those rare moments in life when everything seems perfect and the way it should be; when your heart melts and you're with the person you want to be with, admiring and enjoying someone that has added so much to your life. "If your memory SERVES you well..." The moment was matched by Forever Young, a song I've never really liked before this perfect, sad sung, appropriately timed version, "May your heart always be joyful, may your song always be sung, and may you stay forever young..."

Just about on cue the threatening clouds let loose a few big rain drops as the encores began and I turned to my friend who had put her hood up. I had made her a tape a few weeks back of my favorite Dylan songs, of songs he might perform, and a few of his most played songs. Her effort to try and understand and appreciate the man's work because she knew it meant so much to me truly touched me. So as we walked home we talked about the new horizons that await as long as you hang in there and keep trying. At the same time the familiar things you think you know are always changing depending on the moment, who you are, and who you are with. The world may turn upside down overnight but those that are there to comfort after the bad times and that are there to share in the good times are to be cherished and appreciated and never ever taken for granted.

Monday, August 25, 1997

Bottomless Bunny that Bounced and Bounded Away

Slipping down that slippery slope or was it sloping down that sloppy slip? Just when you thought it would never end, it somehow did. To the naked eye it appeared as a fenced in pen full of a horde of happy hares. From east to west all you could see was the back to back bunch of bunnies, either resting, restless or grazing on grass.

The fence that held them back was constructed of wood with a broken down gate that lacked hinges to open and close but which still could be propped either way. Days upon days passed by uneventfully and for those who were aware of the hares there was a certain comfort in the familiarity of their routine. But the gatekeeper constantly kept a nervous eye on the proceedings, not wanting anything to disrupt his recently discovered comfort.

To the untrained eye all the little hares appeared to be identical. But to the especially observant, one bunny was special. Her coat was a little more colorful than the others and her eyes shone brightly, so brightly they could even illuminate a personnel sized office. She had a smile that could make the sturdiest of walls fall. Her legs were more powerful than the rest and once led to a special honor, an award for her athletic skills. Beneath the surface lie a unique poet, a caring soul with a heart as big as one could purchase.

Alas, the day inevitably arrived when the gatekeeper was amiss in his duties and he carelessly left the gate open and all of the bunnies hopped away, all but the special little hare. She gazed upon the horizon with a bit of trepidation in her eyes, turbulently contemplated her options and loyally decided she wasn't quite ready to go out on her own. When the gatekeeper saw what he had done he was horrified. Almost comically, and purely as an afterthought he dramatically placed the gate into the closed position. He looked at the lone remaining hare and wondered if it was worth keeping her there.

She returned his look with that one in a million light in her eyes and an irresistible smile. It was like she knew where he had been, like she had been there too and didn't at all mind and was even willing to help him make sense of the mess. The others had left but she would stay by his side. She even offered to help him mend the fence. She didn't seem to mind that he wasn't exactly hooked up right. He was the type of fellow who always needed to grow into his haircut and could be heard wondering why no one ever sold bubble gum out of vending machines. All that he revealed came after he unraveled. The places he traveled filled his mind with gravel. He stubbed his toe and hurt his sole. He towed his soul and hurt his stub.

They began going to lunch together, grabbing a bagel downtown. Once they even stumbled into a filming of a movie. In a contest they went to a local Blockbuster video store to count the movies they had seen. She had actually seen more than the gatekeeper who had spent so much of his life in the dark. Although they made an unusual sight no one seemed to notice. Her sense of humor rejuvenated him and her friendship energized him even more. He was the type of friend for her she felt comfortable enough to open up to and reveal her fears and anxieties. His experience helped her out. In return her youthful enthusiasm reminded him of another day. She helped him maneuver his way around crowded parking lots. Her keen bunny sense added a stability to his broken compass.

But he couldn't keep her there because it wasn't fair to this little hare. She was ready to take on the outside challenges of all that was in front of her. He would forever need the safety of his little world. So off she went to join the other rabbits. He returned to the empty fenced in area and the only things that had changed was he had a stronger fence with no bunnies to look after, and inside of him there was a hole that missed a friend that he never knew he needed before. Still he appreciated all she shared and had given back to him and how good it made him feel to see how far she had come, how much she grew while he knew her. Hard as it was he couldn't despair the loss of his hare and he would try his best not to care.

Monday, August 18, 1997

Sounds Inside My Mind

It was a SKRINCH, or perhaps it was a SCQUINCH, or maybe it was more of a SKUANCH but from the height of the arc of the ball to the solid sound of the softball against the socket of the eye of the man who misplayed the ball off his face, it was perhaps one of the most dreadful sounds those on the field could possibly hear. In that one moment lives can change, perhaps temporarily perhaps forever. Just a couple weeks before the fielder had revealed to the batter, almost a complete stranger, his reachable dream of building the land he had purchased in Northern Minnesota into a camping area and all the work that would entail.

The nose was broken as the blood drained into the eye causing a loss of sight and meaning an operation to alleviate the pressure in the eye as a possibility. The man spent a night in the hospital and the rest resting. The batter and the pitcher felt bad, one for hitting it solidly and seeing the serious results that can come from playing games, the other for pitching a smaller, more solid softball than that which was supposed to be used and being the fielder's girlfriend.

It was a YOWL, or perhaps it was a long YEOW, but at first from the next house's bedroom it sounded like an unhappy child either crying out of pain or hunger or both. The listener contemplated in the early morning hours, before the sun had risen, whether or not to get up and investigate the outside sound. His cat excitedly darted from window to window. The duration of the YELP led the listener to believe it wasn't coming from a human but from a wounded animal. Should he help out the source of the sound of distress? What help could he be whether that source was from a domestic situation or whether it was from a wildlife nature situation? His weariness was greater than his curiosity thus he managed to put it all out of his mind.

It was the dreaded THUMPA THUMPA sound that as a driver one never wants to hear along with the corresponding bumpy ride. As the driver pulled into the parking lot of the Dakota County Government Center he saw his back right tire was missing the necessary air to effectively do its job and function properly. He put off trying to figure out a solution to the problem however as he scampered inside to attend the meeting which was the very reason for him being in a strange place miles from where he usually was at that time of day.

Throughout the meeting he pondered whether or not to call Triple A, or put on the spare himself, or use the Christmas gift his parents had provided, an aerosol tire pumper upper that filled the tire with a material, enough to inflate him home. He decided to try the latter despite having to drive home on the unfamiliar country highway over the extremely busy Lafayette Bridge during the heart of rush hour. As he approached the bridge and traffic was at a complete standstill he began to question his decision. He had been lucky to get this far how much longer could that luck possibly hold out? He avoided getting on the interstate that would take him home, but rather cut through downtown figuring traffic might be a little lighter. As he made it home he let out an audible sigh of relief. He brought the car to a service center where a competent but quiet young man removed the tire, removed the aerosol gunk inside and looked for the culprit of the loss of air. In the middle of his checks the driver pointed out that he had the young man remove the wrong tire. The young man didn't say a word and went to work on the right tire that was supposedly flat not too long before.

The young woman came over and they agreed to take a walk. They had taken several long walks before which reminded the not so young man of other days when he was quite the walker and when he stumbled upon another who shared his understanding of how useful a good walk can often times be. This walk began awkwardly with the young woman pressing the young man to tell her what had been going on in his mind the past couple of uncommunicative weeks. He was unwilling or unable to share. Their pace quickened as they listened to the sounds around them, of the excitement in young children's voices as they approached the nearby zoo, of the mechanical interruptions of lawn mowers and automobiles, of the sound of the steps of their own feet hitting the hard pavement in front of them. The tension of the silence brought a dreadful look upon the face of the young woman and the not so young man thought he could hear the sound of his own heart beating. At an earlier than expected point the young woman said in a tense voice, "Why don't we turn around here?" And they turned around and carefully retraced their steps. As they approached their starting point he asked her to stay but she got into her car and drove away. The silence was all too familiar and revealing and far and away the most difficult sound of the week.