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.