Monday, May 26, 1997

Memorial Day

A decade ago I graduated college with my Bachelor of Arts Degree in history and journalism. With my history degree I was taught that to understand where we are now and where we are headed in the future, we first must understand where we have been. Thus my best friend had a difficult time understanding my reluctance and near allergic reaction to attending my ten year college reunion.

The idea of any reunion of course is to catch up with people that played a significant part of your life at one time. It is a time to find out what they have been up to while at the same time boasting about all of your very own achievements. My own personal philosophy has been to stay in touch with the people who I wanted to stay in touch with and all the rest it doesn't so much matter to me where they are now at.

College for me was an enjoyable experience. It was so liberating to spend four years at an institution where the occupants were not people from the same geographic location like the rest of my educational career, but rather people who like myself were on a quest for experiencing the freedom of new and different points of views, concepts and ideas from an institution of higher learning. It was a wonderful situation to live and learn with people from all over the world, from many different values and backgrounds.

Still, where I am at today has less to do with my years in college and more to do with the experiences and relationships I've had in the ten years since graduation day. There were several significant moments and memories from life in college and from those experiences I spent some time dealing with the aftermath, but at one point you do have to let go and move on, stripping away and rebuilding to get to the next path you are destined to follow. The last thing I wanted to do was to relive any of that, to spend time catching up with people I vaguely recall, reminiscing about what we all did all those years ago.

So as I ate dinner with classmates from both coasts, in a place that previously was the host of a very painful moment, catching up on our present lives and at times dredging up our lives from the past it began to occur to me that some of us have done better at moving on and some of us remain stuck in some other time. My own feelings from those days are long since past. The marriages, the divorces, the job promotions, the fizzled careers, the investments, the gains and losses left some of us a little better and some of us a little worse for the wear. As we gathered for the inevitable group photo it didn't even bother me that a pair of eyes might some day look at the photograph with wistfulness and sentimentality and with that regretful those were the days mentality.

It was with some pride that your local high ranking government official and part time editor of everyone's favorite neighborhood weekly publication survived the weekend with his facilities still somewhat detached. What has become my regular routine these days, though maybe not considered by some as much of a life, does create a certain degree of personal satisfaction. Amongst the clatter of conversation and drinks, as cigarette smoke circled the room, I stood with the rest of the name tag wearing Class of '87, some sporting ever graying and in some cases receding hairlines and expanding waistlines, I discovered though I may not have gotten as far as some, my own experiences and development over the past ten years is about as far as I could have gotten out of these often weary bones. In other words I am as much David as I can possibly be which may not mean much to someone I lost contact with ten years ago, but means a lot to the ones that matter most now days.

While it was somewhat fun to see faces that have long since faded from memory and spend time with some I don't get a chance to see anymore, what was even more fun was to come to appreciate my current situation all the more. Most days I am where I want to be. You work a little, you gain some, you lose some, you grow a little and fall back once in a while and still end up standing tall (or as tall as five foot five allows) and feeling a bit blessed with your own little corner of the world. And at the end of the weekend you look forward to catching up again with some of the same folk in say, another ten years, because who knows what lies around the next corner.

Monday, May 19, 1997

To All You Mothers Out There From a Boy Who Loves to Dangle His Participles

Last week we celebrated, honored, recognized and hopefully appreciated a tradition that at least goes all the way back to the day Hallmark incorporated. The newsletter in its five year existence hasn't taken many definitive stands on solitary issues but after a week of review we have decided this issue is important enough to risk a bit of controversy. We are coming out of the closet, as it were, and are stating here that we are in favor of motherhood. Now I've been called many names during my life but as far as I know "mother" ain't one of them. Well maybe it was, but if I was, it probably wasn't the compliment it should be. I continue to marvel at how to be a mother requires immense talent as the good ones show day in and day out year after year.

On the occasions I get to talk with my favorite mother of two she is invariably in between running tasks for her kids getting them to their softball games, participating in a school activity with them, making sure their quickly prepared but carefully planned dinner is ready before they are off to their next event and making sure that dinner meets their choosy expectations. She does all this so well that all she does sometimes gets taken for granted but for those of us on the outside looking in, what she accomplishes on a daily basis is truly admirable.

As is a prerequisite for the job she is a worrier by nature. When one of the kids is struggling with a school assignment she does her best to be encouraging while passing on what she knows. When one of the kids is going through the roller coaster ups and downs of teenage social life, she is there to remind her daughter of all that is special and unique about her all the while conveying the supportive message that the kid isn't alone.

My thirteen year old niece, one of my sister's five children, recently got into some trouble with her friends on a field. trip. I conveyed my opinion to my sister that the parents of the children were equally to blame for their children's misbehavior as their kids were. My sister asked me how I could say such a thing having stated a previous belief that the problem with kids today is their lack of responsibility in such standard things as getting their homework done. My answer showed my novice mothering skills. I said that in the case of homework the duty was on the child since it was being done for their future. Without putting the work into learning, the options of what can be accomplished later on in life are severely limited. What they want to be is thus their own choice. But in the case of a more immediate social situation like a class field trip it was the parent's duty to teach the child the values of behaving well in a group situation. Raise a cat and you think you know it all...

But I have learned a thing or two about mothering from my own mum. My parents have made the effort over the past few years to make it to as many of my softball games as they can. It is a truly appreciated effort not only from their son but also from their son's teammates who don't tend to draw much of a cheering section. This season teammates from both of my teams have told me what great people my parents are. No argument here. It's probably not a hip rock and roll type thing to admit but my parents are pretty damn cool. Phat, positively the phattest parents that be.

My mommy passed on to me her love of baseball and music, two of the continually rewarding elements of my life. When I was in school she always amazed me that whenever I asked her for help she knew how to figure out the answers. I wasn't even disappointed years later to discover that the way she did that was to read ahead in my textbooks to refresh herself in lessons to be taught. That she would even make that effort seems to me to be rather dear and special.

Looking at my mum, you may or may not agree that she is one happening lady. But that she laughs at even the lamest of my jokes tells you that she is proud to have raised the dorkiest of dorks around. And I guess that is what being a mom is all about.

Monday, May 5, 1997


This past week I found out I am just as effective public speaker as I am a softball player. It was a week that will go down in the annals as containing both the Monday Night Debacle and the Wednesday Night Massacre. I'll let the witnesses testify which one had to do with what looks like will be a regular event this summer- my softball team's weekly lopsided loss.

But on that other night I would just as soon forget, I made my way to the Woodbury City Hall Conference Rooms A and B and proceeded to endure for the next hour what only seemed like being stabbed by a hundred steaming cattle prods. The topic of the presentation was Election Process Safeguards and the audience was the Republican Sixth Congressional District.

First off my speech pattern took a rather eclectic twist; I for some reason spoke in sentences where the predicate consistently preceded the subject. Thus it sounded: "The state voter registration system we use." and "The registration card of the voter we check..." Technically those are acceptable sentences but string twenty of them together and it sounds positively Yoda like. "Ask away your questions, I'll do my best to answer..."

And having prepared for my speech by heavy research and focus on dealing with the topic and my own nerves, it never really occurred to me that I would be speaking to a group that wasn't exactly sympathetic to the ideas put forth. The first question asked was why we don't require all voters to show a form of picture identification before receiving their ballot. Harking back to last fall's elections all I could remember was the anger of the many calls we dealt with regarding someone having difficulty meeting the necessary requirements to register because they didn't have a current driver's license. Now I was in a room full of people who wanted to make it tougher for people to vote (imagine how much more time and thus longer lines if election judges had to thoroughly picture identify every one signing the election roster).

Apparently the group was convinced voter fraud is a major problem in Minnesota. Rather than trying to figure out ways to increase voter participation and turnout- admittedly a primary focus of most election officials- this group wanted tougher laws in guaranteeing that only the finest upstanding citizens are allowed to vote. Perhaps their concerns are legitimate, perhaps voter fraud is running rampant in our elections. Skeptics might say however that lower voter turnout is beneficial to the Republicans because statistics show more registered voters are DFL'ers. On top of that the majority of unregistered voters probably aren't the rich suburban types looking for this year's tax break, but rather the poor, the under and uneducated, the type of person who one doesn't immediately associate with the Republicans. A person like the homeless guy that came to our counter last fall and complained because he didn't have an address he couldn't vote, yet because he owned a parcel of land he was still paying taxes. Didn't seem quite fair.

So as I did my best to answer while at the same time ducking from the many pointed questions being thrown my way, I kept trying to tell myself those words once passed along by a kind soul: "that which doesn't kill you can only make you stronger." And actually it was good to see people impassioned about the political process, people who do care how the system works rather than the usual apathy I see.

And then I stood there on another night of the week with the cold howling through my ears as I tried my best to chase down pop flies swirling in the wind, I couldn't help but wonder what the summer holds in store. Life is like the highest of skied balls, the sudden upward trajectory can be strangely fulfilling but in the end, that damn thing is always going to come speeding down. As a hitter there is a momentary frustration after one hits a pop up, but that's followed by the slimmest ray of hope that the fielder will somehow screw up and the ball will fall even though that usually doesn't happen. As a fielder the arc is entirely different- the moment the ball is hit there is a momentary increase in the heart's beat followed by the return of confidence as you camp under the ball. But you don't want to get cocky. You want to watch that ball all the way into your glove because you never know when you have grossly misjudged things. All this came to me too late. If I'm ever asked to speak in front of that group again I'll be sure to use my metaphorical anecdotes. You can count on it (but just don't rely too heavily on the accuracy of that count).