Monday, December 28, 1998

In Search of Chihuahuas

I spent one of the last days of 1998 with my friend on a mission. She wanted to find a Taco Bell that still had the little stuffed Chihuahua that says, "here lizard lizard..." The restaurant chain is selling four different speaking Chihuahuas and the lizard beckoning one is the most popular. We had limited time so I mapped out our trail in advance. We went to three Taco Bells and called two others before we found one that had a few left. Our little mission made me wonder if this is what my Dad used to go through when we were little kids and one of us wanted a hard to find toy from Santa.

My friend is the proud parent of Kurbie, the world's fiercest Rat Terrier (who sort of looks like a Chihuahua) and she wanted to get the Taco Bell mascot as a gift to Kurbie's doting grandparents. It was a nice moment to remember 1998 by- a year that has been very difficult for me personally and professionally. It was a gentle reminder that in times of trouble if you can keep your mind on a goal, a mission, you can accomplish just about anything. And to share those special moments with friends and family- that's what it ultimately is all about. Here are ten other moments I'll remember the year by:

10) Live Moment of the Year: Los Lobos at the Minnesota Zoo. We were seated four rows from the front of the stage. As the band ripped into One Time One Night in the cool summer air as the dancers swayed in front of the stage I looked into David Hidalgo's eyes and listened to his vocals which were so passionate and pristine. I swear he was singing the song for me.

9) Sporting Moment of the Year: Mark McGwire? Nope. Those incredible Yankees? Not even close. The Macalester women's soccer team winning the national championship? Mighty impressive indeed. But the ultimate sports story was Joan's Jetts, a hapless softball team just a few years back, playing its heart out (with an aging right fielder) and winning the state's softball tournament.

8) Best Song of the Year (Male Vocalist): Imagination by Brian Wilson. Wilson has written better songs that capture his manic genius more impressively but I don't know if he has ever written a song that has touched me more deeply. "To look in your eyes and know how you feel and then realize that nothing's for real." Brian's is a sad story but his music overcomes that. Quite the gift.

7) Best Song of the Year (Female Vocalist): Liz Phair's Polyester Bride. Yes it was great having a new CD from Phair after a lengthy absence. The CD has grown on me with repeated listenings and I always have to smile when this song comes on. "I'm a sucker for your lucky pretty eyes."

6) Best Song of the Year (Group): Fastball's The Way. I heard them perform it on David Letterman and couldn't get the tune out of my head. A few weeks later my friend asked me to pick up the disc because she loved the song. It was then I realized her taste in music was nearly as impeccable as mine. The Latin like rhythm is as irresistible as the McCartneyesque melody.

5) Saddest Farewell of the Year: Frumpy The Clown. He came unexpectedly to the cartoon pages of the Pioneer Press. At first I didn't know what to make of him- an abrasive and caustic clown hired to be the live in nanny for two children. Underneath his squinty weary scowl was a heart of gold. And just as sudden as his appearance he rode of f on an elephant into the sunset never to be seen again. I miss Frumpy.

4) Soundtrack of the Year: Mr. Sinatra's What is This Thing Called Love. I heard the song on one of the many tribute shows after he died. When he gets to the climax line, "So I ask the Lord above, what is this thing called love?" his voice is pure emotion and just smothers your heart. Now I can't stop listening to the song. So long Mr. Frank.

3) John Hiatt Moment of the Year: (Tie) The release of Hiatt's version of The Way We Make a Broken Heart on his Best Of CD. The song was left off his best CD, Riding With the King and was later covered by Rosanne Cash. It was a treat to be able to finally hear John's version. Just as special was his abbreviated performance at the Cities '97 Sampler concert. A stunningly fun show.

2) Bob Dylan Moment of the Year: (Tie): First off his wonderful performance of Love Sick (Soy Bomb) at the Grammy's and subsequent winning of the Best Album of the Year for Time Out of Mind. Second his homecoming concert in Duluth. Third his energetic performance the next night at the Target Center. But most of all it was at that show when my friend who I was worried wouldn't like Dylan, turned to me and said, "I LOVE his voice."

1) Most Looked Forward To Moment of the Year: Every Sunday night for the past few years I have had dinner with Mom and Dad. The food is great but the company and conversation is even better. Just another reminder of how blessed I am.

Monday, December 21, 1998

They're Mossome

Football is to baseball as Cheez Whiz is to Gouda. Baseball is a game of subtle nuances. To fully appreciate it, you have to understand how with every pitch the strategy is different; how depending on the situation (how many runners are on base? what is the weather? what are the stadium factors involved?) the players must react in various ways to succeed. Football despite all its fancy plays ultimately comes down to which of the oversized men can hit each other harder. Baseball isn't over until the last batter is out; football relies on a clock and a coin toss to determine its outcome.

Baseball has always been, and no matter how hard they try to ruin it (extra playoff rounds, growing disparity between large market and small market teams) will always be my favorite game. There is no more exhilarating thing to watch in sports than to see Greg Maddux pitch. There is no more explosive sight than a Mark McGwire home run. But in this time of Presidential sized scandals I have to cleanse my soul and admit that the first time I had my heart broken was in 1973 when the Vikings lost to the Miami Dolphins.

My mother had given me a Vikings yearbook at the beginning of the year. Having just become a Twins fan the previous summer I now switched my attention to this other sport. This was Fran Tarkenton's second year back during his second stint with the team. It was Chuck Foreman's rookie season. The Vikings had gone 10-4 that year and despite having to play the defending champion Dolphins, I was absolutely sure the local team would become the Super Bowl champs. But they played their worse game of the year. My only memories of the game are of the many times it was up to Paul Krause to try and tackle Larry Csonka. The Dolphins ran at will. The Vikings offense went nowhere and it was a painful loss to endure.

The next year my love of the Vikings became even greater. Once again I lived and died with them all season long only to watch another awful Super Bowl performance, this time a 16-6 loss to the underdog Pittsburgh Steelers. (My lone memories from that game are of Mr. Tarkenton having a heck of a time trying to pass over the hands of Steeler lineman L.C. Greenwood. Seems like there were twenty blocked passes that game.)

The biggest heartbreak of all came however in 1975 (the best Vikings team ever until this season) when the team went 12-2 only to lose in that controversial playoff game to Dallas (the Drew Pearson game). It was after this season (with the image of the referee getting hit in the noggin by a liquor bottle) when I decided my heart couldn't take such regular disappointment. The highs of the season were equaled by the lows of the post- season. The Twins who were going through a mediocre stretch in the mid-70's were much easier to take with their .500 seasons and absence from the big game pressures of the playoffs and World Series.

I followed football for a couple more years (and another Viking Super Bowl loss) until my hero, the ever cool Bud Grant announced his retirement. It was to be the last time the Vikings broke my heart. I remember lying in bed on a Saturday morning when my mother came in to tell me of Mr. Bud's decision. I cried.

The Les Steckel year was comical. The Jerry Burns years were mind numbingly tedious. Football was a game to me that increasingly seemed lacking in any personality. Seemed like every game ended up 24-17 or something similar and the players were fast becoming interchangeable (Alfred Anderson or Scottie Graham? Rich Gannon or Gino Torretta? Who the hell cared?)

Before this season I went out on the limb and optimistically told anyone within ear range the Vikings would end up 12-4. I figured their passing attack, impressive as it has been the past few seasons, would be even better with Randy Moss and that the defense with ten returning starters would be much better (especially with the development of Duane Ruud). But being the casual football fan that I was, and despite my high expectations, I couldn't possibly imagine the dominance this team would have. I figured twelve wins was stretching the limits. Now anything less than a Super Bowl appearance would be down right disheartening.

Of course the question for me is can I watch another Vikings' Super Bowl appearance? I have finally after twenty years let the team back inside my heart to the extent I actually have watched most of their games this season (except their appearance in Chicago which I couldn't watch for personal reasons). If they don't make it to the Super Bowl it will be disappointing (just watch them lose to Green Bay). But if they make it to the Super Bowl and lose... someone may have to come and take me away.

Monday, December 14, 1998

Dammit Jim, I'm a Dork

In a fit of indiscretion I once admitted to the World's Greatest Helmetless Soccer Player that as a child I enjoyed watching Star Trek. She thus lumped me in with all those Spock eared wearing techies so associated with the show who have developed a near religious like following (which is a tad bit scary in its devotion ) to all things Star Trek. I even admitted to watching The Next Generation because it was the only way I could talk to my nephew who was the show's number one fan (and as you all know, it's very important for me to be able to talk to the kids as part of my ongoing tough love program).

Once she had that bit of dirt on me however, the World's Greatest Helmetless Soccer Player couldn't resist giving me the business. Though she had seen every other movie ever made she insisted she had never stooped to watching any of the Star Trek movies. On the day that the Hale Bop news hit the airwaves she made it a point to call me up to check to see if I had gotten my purple shroud and Nikes out of the closet (I think she was relieved to know I hadn't). I don't think I was ever a "Trekkie" or a "Trekker." My tolerance level of the show is it is OK to watch but I needn't study any of its pseudo philosophies. If I have to watch a TV science fiction show I much prefer Red Dwarf.

Thus as I was standing in line to see the latest movie in the series, Star Trek Insurrection, I must admit I really gave my harshest pair of skunk eyes to the gentleman standing in the lobby dressed in a Starfleet uniform. I may have sunk quite low these days but as this sighting so accurately proved, there is a whole social strata below me. So I'm a bit sheepish to report that I actually quite enjoyed the movie. The energy crackles from the screen and there are bits of humor that work- which is in distinct difference to much of the series' writing.

Insurrection is sort of an update of the second Star Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan. In that movie the crew was battling a madman who was after the scientific equivalent of Genesis. In Insurrection the crew is battling a madman who is after the scientific equivalent of the fountain of youth. Early on I thought I was really in for something special as they hinted at an anti-technology theme underneath the main story line questioning when the good of the many is worth sacrificing the good of the minority. By the end of the movie of course, that anti-technology sentiment is watered down as we see what the series always teaches us: to live a more spiritually pure life requires the rescue of conventional heroes with their computers and weapons (sort of an update of Witness). Like all good Star Trek films, Insurrection gives us a little sermon to ponder: about the benefits of living in the moment; of somehow stopping time to appreciate what's in front of us. Stopping time is what the greatest movies magically do for us, and that this movie doesn't quite manage to do it without openly stating the notion is one of the film's few flaws.

Things I learned and was amused by? That Dr. Bev (still looking fab) is quite the sharp shooter. That in an emergency, Data can be used as a floatation device. Seeing Worf go through Klingon puberty. Things I wasn't so amused by and didn't really need to see or know? Commander Riker in a frisky mood; Deanna Troi talk about her boobs; Jean-Luc get all googly eyed over an older woman (We expect that from Cap'n Kirk and expect better from Cap'n Picard).

Insurrection is one of the better efforts of the entire series. The movie moves at a brisk pace and the villain (played by F. Murray Abraham) isn't merely evil incarnate, but rather a fleshed out (with stretchy skin) character (we're even allowed to understand what is at the root of his madness). I doubt the World's Greatest Helmetless Soccer Player will stand in line to see the film, but if she should happen to think of me while seeing an ad or a preview, I hope she understands just how much she is missing.

Monday, December 7, 1998

Just What Else Rhymes with Amoeba?

John Hiatt is one of the few artists whose songs so vividly open up my memory floodgates. When I hear Drive South I am still with the one I was with when I first heard the song and it seemed so appropriate to our situation at the time. When I hear She Loves the Jerk I revisit the relationship that made me feel the exact same feelings conveyed in the song. Am I saying his songs are universal and timeless? I don't know if I'd go that far, but I will say his songwriting for me is nearly without peer. He can be clever, sarcastic, funny, poignant, spirit moving and a thousand other feelings all at the same time.

Hiatt was the concluding act in the Cities 97 Sampler Concert following the Honeydogs, Duncan Sheik and the Cowboy Junkies on to the stage of the stately State Theater. (My favorite of the three preceding acts was Duncan Sheik who sang a moving Alibi and demonstrated a most impressive speaking voice of all things (not so much mellow as thoughtful). The Cowboy Junkies were OK, but after their opening version of Sweet Jane (a fine performance of a most fabulous song) it was more of the same and the lack of variety made their set a little monotonous.

Between acts (as we listened to our all time favorite weather gal, Belinda tell us why we were there), my friend helped me take my pulse. Could she blame me that it was a little fast for just sitting there (seeing who was next to me and who was soon going to be in front of us?)

Hiatt opened with the aforementioned Drive South. This song always gets to me: "I didn't say we wouldn't hurt anymore. That's how you learn, you just get burned. But we don't have to feel like dirt anymore. Though love's not earned, baby, it's our turn..." He was clearly in a playful mood hamming it up with his bandmates. He acknowledged his setting with some kind words for our former wrestling governor elect. The second song was a surprise, a bluesy, metallic Riding With The King where John played the part of guitar king with some really fine playing and posing. The song has always been somewhat of a mystery to me but I loved the way he sang the verse, "Well I stepped out of a mirror at ten years old with a suit cut sharp as a razor and a heart of gold. I had a guitar hanging just about waist high. I'm gonna play that thing until the day I die..." And with his guitar performance he backed up his words most effectively.

On the drive in I had given my sauntering Quien Mas Sabe (who later stylishly modeled her headband and hat look) a copy of Bring The Family which we listened to as we stressfully maneuvered our way through the Holidazzle traffic. She, not being a country music fan, didn't especially like the opening cut, Memphis in the Meantime, but the version performed live was much different. The style changes within the song were most impressive: from country to blues, from punk to heavy metal, Hiatt was at his witty best (he updated the lyrics from "I don't think Ronnie Milsap is ever going to record this song..." to "I don't think Tim McGraw is ever going to record this song."). For the first time I appreciated the song for what it cleverly is- a tribute to country music that rips up the now standard format.

The next two songs were cuts from the recently released Best Of CD, and are two songs I admit I haven't much gotten in to (yet). Love In Flames was much better than the recorded version. It is a song that clearly means a lot to John and it was his most passionate performance of the evening. "Tonight I lay me down to sleep on your side of the bed. I pray so hard for somebody to keep you out of my head. But it's no use the sheets take your form into the dawn the ashes still warm..." The following Take Off Your Uniform from Slug Line nearly brought things to a screeching halt as Hiatt tried to find the core to the song that he said he hadn't performed live since 1978.

Things definitely got back on track with crowd pleasing versions of Perfectly Good Guitar, Tennessee Plates, and Cry Love. It was fun to see that the person having the most fun in the entire place was none other than Mr. Hiatt himself.

The first encore was Have a Little Faith in Me with Hiatt alone on stage on the keyboard. Halfway through the first verse his microphone exploded forcing him to stop as a techie tried to fix the problem. Hiatt recovered nicely by saying, "As I was just saying..." and proceeded to give a nice reading of one of his most moving (and famous) songs. (Dear John- it is interesting to see how you can move people with your solo reading of this song as opposed to the gospel choired enhanced version you included on the Best Of CD...) The night concluded with a definitive version of Thing Called Love which proved (to paraphrase an old saying) that nobody sings Hiatt like Hiatt.

Before the show I had told my friend that if he did The Way We Make a Broken Heart I might have an accident of sorts. It's one of those songs that touched me before I realized who wrote it (I love Rosanne Cash's version) and it tears me up every time I hear it. Even though he didn't perform the song I wasn't disappointed because just being able to share the moment with my friend and enjoying the evening of music gave me a special new memory and corresponding soundtrack that will stay with me stronger than all the others. It's quite the feeling to have music, memories and friendships close to your heart and not even be able to discern the separation between them all. It's a feeling captured often in John Hiatt's songs.

Eternity is a Hell of a Long Time

I'm not quite sure if I would have survived high school had I not discovered the Beatles' music in ninth grade. The group showed me there was a world outside of prom and homecomings, and that it was OK to express one's self to a broader audience.

I have always been more of a Paul fan over the years. His cheerful, ever present optimism and melodicism are to me more foreign and thus more admirable than John's more introspective and cynical view of life. When Paul sang "It's getting better all the time," John just had to chime in "Can't get much worse..." Still there are times when I just have to listen to one of John's songs- he speaks to me like no other artist. Thus it was a real treat when I added a welcome addition to my CD collection- the new John Lennon box anthology. The set includes demo, alternative and live versions of his solo work and it just is a reminder how sad it is that we lost such a vital and inspired artist at the return of his creative peak.

I began collecting the Beatles' LPs along with solo work from each member (this was also the time when I discovered the cost saving wonders of used records via Cheapo) when I was in ninth grade. The first new album from an ex-Beatle that I bought upon its first day of release was John and Yoko's Double Fantasy. My initial reaction was that it was great to have new Beatlelike music and I especially loved Just Like Starting Over, but still I was much more fond of Paul's work even at that early point and I was anxious for him to release some new music.

I played the LP constantly and must admit although Yoko's stuff seemed "weird", I enjoyed the interchange and obvious love husband and wife shared. I religiously read all the corresponding press the couple's return to music making caused, and it was comforting to know that Lennon's legendary demons seemed to be lessening their hold on him. He seemed happy as his words and music clearly demonstrated. A few nights later, my Mom and I were watching Johnny Carson when NBC News interrupted with a report that Lennon had been gunned down outside his home in New York City. I remember sitting stunned, and looking at my Mom who knew that the news would sadden me.

I had already established a reputation as being a tad eccentric in my high school. The one thing my classmates really knew about me was my fondness for the Beatles (and how could they not know? I would often belt out a Beatle song at the top of my lungs at the most quiet moments...) So the next day at school was a bit tough. It seemed everyone wanted to know my thoughts on John's murder. I had brought my copy of Double Fantasy with me and I was actually more publicly shaken than I ever remember being before or since.

The Lennon anthology is a thankful reminder of what made me love the Beatles music in the first place: wit, melodicism, inspiration, poetry, anger, love. The best thing about the box set however is its demonstration of John's wicked sense of humor. (My favorite moment is a little snippet were John begins singing Yesterday and improvises the lyrics "I'm not half the man I used to be... because I'm an amputee...") Lennon was full of anger, cynicism and bravado, but I can't think of another musician who has the sensitivity and a sense of humor that can even come close to John's.

There has been no more devastatingly depressing rock album than John's first post-Beatle LP. The brutal honesty, the straightforward confessional is art at its most painful. The irony is that the myth that John admirably attempts to puncture is the very myth that makes the listener want to listen in the first place. The outtakes captured on the first disc of the anthology are therefore the most revealing. In particular the alternate version of God the 1970 LP's defining moment, shows that above it all John was a great singer. In the official released take the drama John creates in his delicate soft spoken singing contrasts with the intensity of his primal screams which makes the silence in the song even more effective. On the up to now unreleased take, John is still trying to find the right voice for such a painful song. It is fascinating to finally be able to hear him try and find his way through this intensely personal song.

There are many great moments on the box set. Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out is pure Lennon. The demos for I'm Am the Greatest and Life Begins at 40 recorded for Ringo Starr are John at his wittiest. We hear an early take of John's most famous song Imagine done as a hymn and it is spine tingling. The same is true with two ballads from the same period, Oh My Love (my all time favorite Lennon song), and Jealous Guy. One Day at a Time sounds downright Leonard Cohenesque in this alternate version.

The anthology had to be difficult for Yoko to ensemble, giving a glimpse of a three dimensional John brought to life, full of pain and passion and brilliant as hell. His is a much missed voice we're lucky enough to hear once again.

Monday, November 30, 1998

Soap Scum and Naked Mole Rats

If there is one thing regular readers of the newsletter should know about me by now it is that there is nothing I enjoy more than endorsing newly marketed bathroom products.

For those of you who haven't discovered it yet, there is a great new cleaner on the market thanks to the fine folks at our favorite chemical company, Clorox. The name of the product is "Tilex" which you use, as it so conveniently states on the label for "The easy way to step into a clean fresh shower every day." With Tilex you spray the product on your shower's surface after you shower. No more need to rinse, wipe or scrub. Dirt, soap scum and mildew stains don't get the chance to build up! I'm a stickler for a clean tub but even I must admit that I've never seen my shower look cleaner.

I can at times approach Howard Hughes in my need to live in a clean environment. Yet much as I demand a clean bathroom, I'm not quite obsessive enough about it to have made the cut as a subject in Errol Morris' wonderful 1997 documentary, Fast Cheap and Out of Control. The documentary features the stories of four rather eccentric men whose work is their lives passion. On the surface none of the four appears to have much in common with each other (or with most of us for that matter), but by the end of the movie we begin to see there is a definite story Morris is trying to tell.

The stories are interspersed and edited together along with scenes from the men's work (and old Clyde Beattie movies) in such a skillful manner that the movie visually is a treat to watch. The first man we meet is Dave Hoover, a wild animal (mostly lions and tigers) trainer. Hoover is a humble and soft spoken man but compared to the other three he is almost charisma defined (he clearly has the most "exciting" job of the four). The next man we meet is George Mendonca, who sculpts animals out of shrubs, hedges, and bushes in a large garden. The third man is Ray Mendez who has spent his life's work studying the hairless mole rat, an animal that lives an insect like existence in underground colonies. The last man is Rodney Brooks who builds elaborate robots at MIT.

The documentary is put together so that each of the four men's stories weave their way in and out of the other's words (and images from their work). Their individual stories aren't what keeps our attention, rather it is the themes that begin to emerge from the images and their words. It's the type of a movie that not only gets you wondering what it's ultimately about, but also wondering what the bigger picture is about. We see the animal trainer and the gardener's work is about the past. Both men have spent their lives trying to control the uncontrollable- nature. The mole rat guy and the robot man tell stories about our future. We see that human life can be like mole rat life in that we often do meaningless tasks to give our lives meaning. It may not even be that far a stretch to believe it when the robot guy says the next step in our evolution will be silicone not carbon based.

All four men are passionate about their work to the point of obsession. Just listening to how much they know about their work and their love for their work makes one wonder where passion becomes madness. Each is ultimately trying to obtain some type of immortality: the animal trainer by trying to tame the wild; the gardener by trying to shape nature into that which is not natural; the mole rat observer by building artificial mole rat communities to study; the robot builder by trying to build human's ultimate replacement. (It is he that appears to be almost crazy at times- especially as he is describing the practical uses we will have for robots in the future. His example is a bunch of tiny robots that will live off the electrons on our television screens that will be programmed to keep the dust off the screen in a cost effective manner.)

The documentary concludes sadly with the animal trainer realizing his industry (the circus world) is dying and even as he tries to pass his knowledge on to his replacement- it somehow has been a life's work that will be lost when he is gone. More so for the gardener who knows that once he dies his life's work- his sculptures- will not be maintained. The closing shot of the movie is of him in his garden in a heavy rain storm, faithfully carrying his most trusted tool, his hand shears, as the light swirls in the rain around him. As the other two men try to describe our future- of trying to learn lessons from the mole rat, and trying to design robots with human knowledge and without human frailties, it dawns on us that life is indeed a fast, cheap, and out of control proposition.

Monday, November 23, 1998

Thanksgiving Day Tale

Editor's Note This story was written in 1983 following a campus visit to Macalester College. I spent the day touring the Mac campus with the reigning Ms. Austin MN pageant winner. Over the years this traditional story has only grown more poignant with its touching holiday message. We hope you enjoy... (Certain bits were edited to bring the story up to date.)

"Hey wake up!" Tommy Turkey said to his sister Tawnda, the reigning turkey beauty queen. Tanwda remained very still. "C'mon sis, don't you remember what today is?" Tommy asked.

Tawnda took a quick glance at her watch and saw one leg on the ten, the other leg on the twelve. "MY GOSH, it's almost Thanksgiving!"

Poor Tommy jumped a mile. "Do you want all those hungry hunters to find us? he angrily asked her. Tawnda being as bright as she was (she always did well on the intellectual part of her pageants) knew the two of them had to find a place to hide. She looked at her brother and asked, "What did we do last year?"

"We lost all that weight so nobody would want to eat us," he replied.

"We can't do that this year. I don't want to upset my delicate figure," Tawnda said. She noticed Tommy was staring at her legs with eyes befitting a skunk. "What are you looking at?" she asked him.

"I know what we can do Tawnda," he said looking quite confident. "We can enter you in the Miss America Pageant."

Tawnda blushed (or as close to a blush that a turkey can get). "Gee do you really think I could win?"

"Of course you can. You have wonderful legs," Tommy quickly replied. "This is America. Anything's possible."

The next day Tawnda and Tommy flew to Atlantic City. Since turkeys can't fly so well, they took an airplane. The two went directly to the Miss America building where they were greeted by Mr. Ross. "Just call me Mac," he said with a slight British accent.

"You see Mac, my sister here wants to be in your pageant," Tommy said. Ross looked Tawnda up and down finally fixing his eyes on her legs. "You've got the best pair of turkey legs I've seen in quite some time. Sure, I'll let you be in the contest," he said holding back his drool. Tawnda squealed in delight.

The first event was the talent competition. Tawnda gobbled her way through "New York New York" and received a standing ovation from the other contestants.

Next was the swimsuit competition. "I hope the judges just don't look at me as a piece of meat," Tawnda said to one of the other girls. No one ever saw a turkey in a swimsuit before, but Tawnda stunned everyone with her poise and her legs.

After all the other events were completed it was quite clear Tawnda was the sentimental favorite. Thus nobody was surprised when Kathie Lee announced, "The new Miss America is... Tawnda Turkey!"

Tommy and Tawnda were safe for another year. They stayed in an expensive motel in Atlantic City with a hot tub (which they were careful not to stay in too long less they risk being poached), a big screen TV and mirrors on the ceiling above the vast bed. All that mattered though was that they were many miles from those nasty hunters.

Late Thanksgiving night Tawnda asked Tommy, "What are we going to do next year?" She was busy grooming her prize winning gams.

"We'll think of something," Tommy muttered. "We always do."

Monday, November 16, 1998

34 and More

Monday: Birfday. Highlight? Woke up and my dear friend had dropped off a card and little thing she had written for me- top ten reasons to celebrate my birthday. In ten statements she was able to capture the essence of what has been the best friendship I have ever known. It made me laugh, it made me cry. And you know? It made me appreciate that once in a while a friendship comes along that makes life seem so... worthwhile? Also got a couple nice emails from family. Maybe just maybe I've reached somebody once or twice...

Tuesday: Meeting in Burnsville with a former sort of associate who wants me to sell insurance. My biggest suspicion? He says he knows I'm a people person. HAR HAR! Prepaid legal. Not a bad concept but how does it coincide with my distaste of everything the legal profession stands for today? I once told someone I used to supervise who told me she was thinking of applying to law school that if she did, I would never speak to her again. The only thing better than a lawyer? A dead lawyer...

Wednesday: Shopping with my friend and I was so out of it that I came home and cried. I don't get to see her much and when I finally do I act like a cadaver.... SNIFF.... My problem- more systemic than muscular. But no time to think... it's off to Uptown to have my birthday lunch with Al, Mary and Dave Higel. Chicken wild rice soup. Damn tasty. It's always good catching up with our favorite record store owner and GM (and getting to know Dave too- although he didn't conform to our group's order of Sprite and the soup of the day. He just HAD to have the Calzone). Dinner with Spunky, whose input and insight remains ever so important. Chinese chow fun!

Thursday: Brought Max in to get his teeth cleaned. They told me he had a moderate case of Gingivitis so I figured it was probably prudent to spend the $200 it would take for the procedure. Can I say I was more than a little worried about him having to be anesthetized? I was told to cut off his food at 7 p.m. the night before and to have him in at 7 a.m. Max is used to eating at night so even though I put out his food extra early he was disciplined to save it until later on only to find that it was gone later on. So when I overslept and woke up at 7:10 a.m. and bolted out of bed he expected to be fed. I instead stuffed him in his traveling cage. When we got to the vet (7:20!) he was not the usual nervous he is when visiting his least favorite place. Nope. He was pissed. Howling his displeasure at me. And as I watched the intern take him away I seriously wondered if this was the way it was all going to end. The guy who has sat with me through all that has transpired for the past seven years. My partner.

I went home and as I was doing some work I kept looking up expecting to see his nonchalant little face looking around the corner. As I lay down to watch some TV I kept expecting him to jump up on my chest. He wasn't there... I go in at 6 p.m. to pick him back up. He's still more than a little groggy. We drive home in silence (which has never happened before- he's always so willing to let me know his distaste of riding in the car). We get inside and I let him out of his cage and he stumbles out, barely able to walk. (Acting I'm sure, quite like when I get too much whiskey inside of me.) He of course heads straight towards his supper dish. I don't want to feed him knowing his dazed drugged state but I do have to give him his first anti-biotic pill, so I stuff the pill inside some canned food and he snarfs it all right down more out of habit than need. He proceeds to head toward his litter box (which is downstairs). I don't want him trying to maneuver stairs so I carry him down. He does his business. I carry him back up. He goes and lies underneath my bed for a bit and gets up to head back to the basement. I carry him down again where he does some more business. I bring him up, shut the basement door behind me as I go to my office. I hear him wandering about and then notice a strong odor in the air. He has tried to go down but couldn't so he found the softest spot he could (his flannel blanket) and did his business again. This ever so proud cat, who is immaculately groomed now doesn't care about the overwhelming urine stench coming from him or the fact he took a dump on the place he likes to lie. My heart is heavy. Then he throws up dinner.

Friday: Have lunch at Sawatee's with a long lost much missed friend from the past that I shouldn't lost contact with. It was great catching up with her (she's a recent new mother for the first time! UDO!) Max's test results come in. Negative on both leukemia and feline AIDS. They don't know however, why his white blood cell count is so low. But the news is good and we celebrate by trying to get him to swallow his anti-biotic pill. Turns into a scene straight out of a Stooges movie...

That evening I head over to our favorite Nagel Woman's (quien mas sabe) house for a post election party with all of our favorite election people. I'm on the fringe of conversations as I most often am. I'm feeling sad that I can't talk to my host because she is too busy hosting. But after everyone else leaves we finally do get a chance to talk. What she tells me helps me see how different we are, how different our situations are and yet? I relate to everything she tells me. Every time we talk I come away learning more about her and even more about me. That's quite rare indeed. I look in her eyes (she obviously was very tired) and I must admit I've never seen anything in my life so beautiful and rare. Bliss and sadness. Holding on for dear life while learning to drive the line between safely and carefully.

One Day Too Long

Every step of the way. We walk the line. Your days are numbered, so are mine. Time is piling up. We struggle and we scrape. All boxed in, nowhere to escape...

Hey Pepe! Listen up! This is one of those voices inside your head. Not the one that gave you that swank advice that if you ate a steady diet of Snackwell brownies it would ensure you a place on that next shuttle to heaven. Nope I've got more common sense than that. I'm here to tell you that you can stop listening to any new songs. I've found one that contains everything you need to know.

The city's just a jungle. More games to play. I'm trapped in the heart of it, trying to get away. I was raised in the country. Been working in the town. I been in trouble since I set my suitcase down...

Of course this song, Mississippi, was written by that fellow Dylan you are so fond of- left off his Time Out of Mind where it would have fit perfectly. Instead he gave it to Sheryl Crow to record for her newest CD, The Globe Sessions. She does a good job with it- better than most Dylan covers- and clearly it is the best song on the entire CD (what is up with that annoying My Favorite Mistake? What a great title for an awful song...). Still it would be fun to hear what Bob could do with this song. The tricky meter changes, the shifting melody line- I'm sure he would bend and twist the words in his own unique way to make this song something quite different than Crow's version.

I got nothing for you. I had nothing before. Don't even have anything for myself anymore. Sky's full of fire and the rain is pouring down. There's nothing you can sell me so I'll see you around...

What makes this song something you just have to pay attention to? First and foremost is its "refrain" tag of "The ONLY thing I did wrong was stay in Mississippi a day too long..." What a great line! Makes one wonder what exactly went down in Mississippi, especially on that last day. And it sets the tone for a vague story about being on the run; about being where one does not belong. Swampy. Very swampy.

All my powers of expression and thoughts so sublime. Could never do you justice, reason or rhyme. Only one thing I did wrong, stayed in Mississippi a day too long...

Could it be said any better? Your exact current feelings. This is where you are! Listen up! Remember that birthday party you went to in kindergarten at Sally Murakami's place? Everyone expected you two would naturally get married since you were the only two Japanese Americans in your class. And Sally brought you to her grandfather(?) who you impressed with your ability to spell "MISS- ISS - IPPI..." Yes if forced to testify under oath you could probably get away with saying that the only things you've ever done wrong were to stay in certain places a little too long.

The devil's in the alley, the mule kickin' in the stall. Say anything you wanna, I have heard it all. I was thinking about the things that she said. I was dreaming I was sleeping in your bed. Walking through the leaves, falling from the trees. Feel like a stranger nobody sees. So many things we never will undo I know you're sorry, I'm sorry too...

The common themes of Dylan's work that always speak to you. LISTEN UP! The devil is after you. Thinking you've heard it all before. Dreaming about being with her. So many things you somehow wish for a second chance but it ain't to be. Sorry? Who's sorry now?

Some people will offer you their hand and some won't. Last night I knew you, tonight I don't. I need something strong to distract my mind. I'm gonna look at you 'til my eyes go blind. Well I got here, following the southern star. I crossed that river just to be where you are. Only one thing I did wrong, stayed in Mississippi a day too long...

Last night you knew her and now you don't. What else needs to be said? Distractions. That's all you've been seeking for eleven years! But take a closer look...

Well my ship's been split to splinters; it's sinking fast. I'm drowning in the poison, got no future, got no past. But my heart is not weary, it's light and free. I've got nothing but affection for those who have sailed with me. Everybody's moving if they ain't already there. Everybody's got to move somewhere. Stick with me baby, anyhow, things should start to get interesting right about now.

No future and no past. Admiration for those you've stumbled across. Things will get interesting. They always do. The penultimate line? "You can always come back, but you can't come back all the way." Did you hear?

My clothes are wet, tight on my skin. Not as tight as the corner that I painted myself in. I know that fortune is waiting to be kind. So give me your hand and say you'll be mine. The emptiness is endless, cold as the clay. You can always come back, but you can't come back all the way. Only one thing I did wrong, stayed in Mississippi a day too long.

Monday, November 9, 1998

Looking for Nancy

When you turn thirty four stuff just doesn't make much sense anymore. It's like your long lost Lara who broke down crying in front of her family during Easter dinner, and couldn't exactly explain why. What exactly did happen underneath the soccer goal posts? They say heading the ball is causing brain damage. I can go along with that. And why did you think of that just now?

Snippets sniffles. Film at ten. A flickering heart. A broken car window. After a 22 hour work day I come out to the chilly street just wanting to get home- to a familiar place. But the shattered glass is a reminder of what is up ahead. My partner is worried. But I want to tell her that of all the things that have gone down this past year, this particular one doesn't even make the top ten. Reaching out but losing touch. My favorite Nagel woman. And none of it makes much sense but you seem to remember that none of it ever did and none of it is ever supposed to. 34.

My favorite Tina memory? We were moving stores east to west, west to east. During a break in the action we decided to go to lunch, Tina and I. I had recently given her a copy of my novel to read and now was my first chance to ask her what she thought. She said it seemed mighty personal. But then she shared more. That of me and my friend she had seen me as the "original" because "you lead the way and then they react." And she recalled her favorite time with Wounded Knee who she noticed I was now emulating with my black Converse canvass shoes. "I came in with a hangover and she was blasting Ted Nugent... I told her to turn it off..." I wrote Tina a song. The only song I've ever written. And it was good. Damn good.

Tina and I also agreed on another thing. Just when we would hit it big something disastrous would occur. It was bound to happen. Happiness? A losing proposition. I do sincerely hope dear Tina doesn't feel that way no more. Because the one thing I've learned is it doesn't have to be.

Another memory I can't quite explain. I started at a new job and was helped by Ms. Nancy K. And I was feeling a bit lost and out of place and she drew me a map of where everyone was at and I appreciated the help oh so much. Finally someone that saw the new guy needed some guidance. But she frustrated me to no end; only because she was so smart, and so well read, and could have... but she let her past, a past she somehow did escape on some level, be an excuse for not taking advantage of opportunities that could have been hers. F***ing the most frustrating person I've ever come across. And now she is missing. Emailed her. Called her at home and work where she is no longer at. Went to her place to find a porch full of newspapers and unanswered mail. Called the cops who couldn't do nothing. Worried but in a guilty way. I was told as a manager by a manager that if I could turn Ms. Nancy around (I was about to throw in the towel) that it would be the best feeling I ever could accomplish as a manager. And I tried, I really did.

I finally had a chance to bring my favorite furry feline in for his annual check up. I was a bit annoyed to find out he has a mild case of gingivitis and the cost it would incur to fix the problem. And my natural reaction was to make my defensive joke. I'm payin' how much? I don't pay that freaking much on my own teeth and gums? But as part of the procedure they did a blood test where the results showed his white cell count is too low. Way too low. And it can mean a few different things, the never before seen vet told me. Doesn't have to be feline leukemia which is the leading killer of cats. Could just be feline AIDS. Oh boy what a relief.

So I tell my drooling roommate, my friend that he can't abandon me now. He has to stick around. He looks at me and wonders why now the special attention. Why I'm holding him tighter and recalling all we've been through together...

They say you can't die of a broken heart and yet they still seem to want to monitor things when they aren't quite right. All the feelings that bore. Right through you. All the feelings keep leading right back to the one. And with another passing anniversary of the beginning of all this I come to wonder why it is when you do make the decision (and why is it so naturally difficult) to reveal that part of you- the part that beats even when it feels ever so beat- that you always wonder whether or not you've done the proper thing. It never fails until it does. So this is 34.

Venturing Forward

Let me start by saying I voted for Norm Coleman. I know it's an example of my political superficiality but the sole reason I voted for Norm was because I figured he was the best candidate to get a baseball stadium built. I personally believe a child can learn more by going out to watch a baseball game than they can by going to school. But that's just me. I voted early by absentee ballot and admit that I had a change of heart after my ballot was cast. Right after Jesse Ventura said he was in favor of legalizing prostitution I said, "Now that's a guy I could vote for." Not because I necessarily agree that is a good solution to that particular problem, but because we finally had a candidate who was willing to say what he believed and not what he was told was what the voters wanted to hear.

For me the governor's race was the least interesting of all the state constitutional offices. I thought Ken Pentel of the Green Party was clearly the best candidate. He was a bright, practical and articulate candidate but he wasn't on my side of the stadium issue. Besides I've reached a point, like many, where I truly feel government has little ability to offer effective solutions. It is all just a matter of politics.

What happened last Tuesday was quite astonishing. I spent the day problem solving voting equipment in various precincts in northern Hennepin County. It was clear during the day that anybody who doubted that Mr. Ventura had struck a nerve had greatly underestimated his speak from the heart message. Precinct after precinct was packed with people- and many who have seemed to be the least interested in elections- young people.

Thus during the night while I was down at the Hennepin County Government Center helping accumulate results, it wasn't much of a shock what was happening. The people of Minnesota (at least the 37 percent that voted for Jesse) clearly saw this candidate as something other than just another politician. That during the campaign he was less than specific about what he'd do if elected didn't seem to bother them. That his communication style of talk show radio host speaking his mind regardless of the obstacles it will create in coalition building ( a necessity in accomplishing anything in the political system) actually appealed to many. It was a campaign rooted in anger and it touched a nerve in many people.

What Jesse was clearly about is less intrusive government. Yet there was a contradiction: how could voters vote for him and also overwhelmingly vote for government protection of our right to hunt and fish? (Likewise how could voters vote to abolish the State Treasurer's office and yet not vote for the only treasurer candidate who was for that issue?)

By election day I think like many, my view of Jesse as this eccentric fringe candidate who had no ability to be our next governor drastically had changed. Why not Jesse? What we have had is no longer working if for no other reason than no one seems to believe in it. To see people energized by a candidate, by a campaign rather than turned off into indifference was quite refreshing. After all the line between professional politics and grass roots efforts is just as great as the line between professional wrestling and other sports. It gets a bit disheartening to see all the professional campaigns that run slick candidates with slick advertising saying their person is for lower taxes and less crime (like anyone would want otherwise). As we lose our belief in government we just want it to be entertaining like anything else in our culture.

Yet there still is a bit of trepidation about what we have done. During the day I was partnered with a woman who was the type who seemed to love the sound of her own voice. I've never seen a better example of a person who talked a lot and said very little. By the end of the evening I was more than a little glad to get away from her. I wonder if at the end of four years we will have tired of Mr. Ventura's act in the same way? Sure it's refreshing now to have a candid candidate but he still needs to follow through on what his campaign was about. What did mama always say? "It's much easier tearing something down than it is building something up;" Jesse was an effective critic of the status quo. It will be important that he offer a viable alternative. If you energize people and then disenfranchise them, their cynicism doubles and you usually don't get another chance.

I did find the first area our governor-elect has to do something about: crime in the streets. At 4:30 a.m. post election day, I wandered out to my car parked on the streets of Minneapolis. Upon inspection I noticed someone had broken my passenger side window. They had not taken anything but it was a rather disheartening scene to come back to. It was a bit nippy driving back in the chill of the twenty six degree air and I have a feeling I will be picking up shards of glass from my car for a while. I was cursing to myself all the way back home. "If only we had a baseball stadium there'd be more people on the streets, more activity, less crime and this senseless act would never have happened," I said trying to console myself as I was quickly losing all feelings in my ears.

Monday, November 2, 1998

Domestic Dave

You may not notice it by looking at me but I ain't exactly an expert when it comes to home furnishing and decorating. I tend to lean toward comfort over style and thus my house contains a mishmash of contrasting colors, textures, and shapes. I figure what good is a piece of furniture that you are going to worry about whether or not someone sits on it? So I when I went to Linens 'n' Things last week to buy a new shower curtain I may have gotten a tad carried away.

My wannabe housemate had big plans for helping to eliminate the bachelor decor that my house obviously has. (I told her she had free rein to do as she pleased as long as she didn't touch the ever famous pink bathroom). Her criticisms of my decorating abilities were appreciated but I still think they were a bit harsh. First of all I may not be Mr. Art Deco when it comes to fashioning my household purchases but I do tend to lean on the side of being more Felix Ungerlike than Oscar Madisonlike. I am most definitely not a slob. I don't like clutter and a messy house bothers me (not quite to the degree of my sleep walking favorite mother of two who actually cleans her house in her sleep). I'm not exactly a neat freak but I do like a clean place to live. I think it may surprise those that know me best that I long ago so easily gave up the fight against cat hair (it was a hopeless cause after all)- the lil' guy sure sheds (Mr. Max has no need to worry about male pattern baldness). Still I must confess with more than a little trepidation that I've had the same shower curtain for at least the last seven years and I still use a set of sheets I had in college. Thus I was a bit perplexed to discover the price of replacements for the old reliables.

Since we are on an official boycott of Target I chose Linen 'n' Things simply because I figured they would have both a shower curtain and sheets. I must admit I was a bit overwhelmed when I walked in. Not only did I have quite a choice to make but I had no idea what an outrageous price was to pay for such items. I even had to sheepishly ask the saleslady what was bigger- a queen sized or twin sized bed since I wasn't exactly sure what I've been sleeping on for the last three years.

When I saw how much it was going to cost me to purchase a set of sheets I nearly ran from the store screaming. I was hoping to buy two sets and finally allow myself the luxury of getting rid of my 15 year old, now see through sheets. I looked a bit further and found a discontinued rack where they had some flannel sheets. Now I come from a house where we always used cotton sheets and thus that was the only fabric I've ever bought. I've experienced satin sheets once or twice in my life but I ain't exactly an emperor and they seemed a tad extravagant. I was leery of buying flannel sheets because I didn't know whether or not the change would interrupt my already wacky sleeping pattern or whether or not they required any extra care. Would they stand up to the sure to happen times when Mr. Max decides to urp up a hairball on my bed? But they were the cheapest set I could find so I put them in my shopping basket and hoped for the best.

Next up was a shower curtain. They had several patterns but quite frankly I'd hoped they would just have a clear sheet of plastic. I like to see what I'm doing in the shower. I picked out the clearest one they had, with little green squares on it since green is my favorite color. While in the area I also decided to pick up a bath mat since my last one disintegrated in my washing machine a few weeks back. I learned that bath mats are paired with larger bath mats and toilet seat covers. Once again I was brought up in a family where a toilet seat cover was determined to be an unnecessary luxury. But I decided to splurge since my toilet seat cover's paint has some cracks in it. Green all the way around.

I came home and installed all my new purchases. Mr. Max was quite curious with all the different smells and wrapping and unwrapping. Twenty minutes later he was enjoying the feel of flannel and I was wondering whether my toilet seat cover now clashed with my pink bathroom walls.

Monday, October 26, 1998

Local Boy Makes Good

I reached a place in 1991 after four years of floundering (or was it struggling? or was it drowning?) where I knew I had to make some changes before I could proceed forward. There were two defining events that helped me decide what I was going to do.

First I took a trip via Amtrak out east where I visited much of America's richest history in Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington DC. I did a lot of walking and writing on that trip. I would start off with a particular destination in mind and allow myself to drift into any area that looked interesting to me. By the end of the trip my knees were so sore from all the walking that I could hardly make it up a flight of stairs. Yet it was a liberating feeling knowing I could go anywhere I wanted, that I didn't have to restrict myself in any way other than to just go to where I felt safe.

The next summer Bob Dylan played five shows at the Orpheum in Minneapolis. Despite not having the kind of money where I should do such things, and still feeling a bit sheepish about being THAT big a fan, I bought tickets for all five shows. The performances at those five shows intrigued and inspired me. Dylan played fifty different songs over the five nights. It was if he was out to prove something yet at the same time the consistent quality workmanlike effort of all five shows was somehow comforting. None of the shows stick out in my memories from the rest but I do remember my favorite individual moments- there were breathtaking versions of Little Moses and Boots of Spanish Leather, a pensive Visions of Johanna and a truly eccentric Idiot Wind. I found myself each night sitting at the end of the show with an astonished goofy grin on my face.

It was at this point where I was beginning to understand a message in Dylan's, by then, constant touring. If there has been one constant in his career it is to expect him to do what is not expected of him to do. At times it's as if he wants to deliberately sabotage the lofty admiration his work has created with his fans. By hitting the road and performing night in and night out with very little publicity, Dylan found a way to maintain his own focus with what is apparently most important to him- expressing himself through his music. In other words he defused the hype by letting his music do his speaking for him.

This message inspired me. His determination to just be himself turned on a light inside. I realized instead of trying to constantly analyze what was and was not working in my life (and my own now painful immediate past) I had to just get on with doing what I knew how to do. There was also a feeling that if I was going to go down in flames, I had to do it on my own terms, which meant I had to stop listening to all the advice from well meaning friends, family, co-workers, doctors, clergypeople, politicians, analysts, writers, singer/songwriters and whoever else I had turned to for guidance. I had for whatever reason stopped listening to the one true voice that really mattered- my own.

Seven years later I have found myself at another crossroads of sorts and when it was announced that Dylan was playing his first ever show in Duluth where he was born and then the next night in the Twin Cities. I knew I was going to go to both shows if for no other reason than I had to get some time away from my routine to clear my head and decide what exactly comes next.

The drive to Duluth was rejuvenating in itself. It was a few weeks too late to enjoy the many colors of autumn, but the brisk fall air was mood altering and refreshing. Duluth of course is a pastoral city with its hills overlooking Lake Superior. I spent a few hours walking by the Lake watching the ripples of the water under a nearly cloudless sky. (Question: How come Lake Superior smells like apple cider? What is up with that?)

I went inside the DECC arena about an hour before the show. There was excitement in the air as people wondered how and if Dylan would do anything special to recognize the fact he was playing at his birthplace for the first time. The opening act, Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men gave a scorching, foot stomping countryish set (Brush with Fame- they stayed in the same motel as me- and I found myself having coffee alone with Mr. Alvin the next morning). Alvin is a talented guitar player with a booming baritone voice. (Another little sidenote here: Wednesday morning I was driving to work when I noticed something happened to my voice the night before- and it was now about an octave lower than usual. It sounded so funky I wanted to turn around and go home and record a new message for my answering machine. That's the type of voice Alvin has).

"Thought I'd shaken the wonder and the phantoms of my youth. Rainy days on the Great Lakes, walkin' the hills of old Duluth..."

My seat was to the right of the stage about a hundred feet from the band. It was the best seat I've ever had at a Dylan show. (Trivia fact: There have actually been two shows I've seen where I never even really saw Bob. At the Metrodome show we had seats behind the stage and every now and then we'd get a glimpse of him as he wandered backstage. At Riverfest in 1989 I was at the back of a throng of people and occasionally when the crowd swayed and parted the right way, I'd get a glimpse of the top of his hair.)

Two years back the World's Greatest Toothpaste Orderer asked me on our way to Mankato why I liked Bob Dylan's music so much. "He has it right about relationships," I said knowing that didn't nearly capture the exact reason. There are just certain artists that reach you- that express themselves in a way that lets you know you aren't always entirely alone; that capture what is inside better than you yourself can. For me Dylan is such an artist. Great art doesn't necessarily make life make any more sense but it gives one hope that there is a sense to life.

Dylan and his band strolled on to stage about 8:30 and opened with a searing version of Gotta Serve Somebody. It was a wonderful opening song, much different than the boogie arrangement used in the early '90's. This was sermonizing blues with Bob stretching out the words in a most playful manner. "YOU KNOW you're going to have to SERVVVVE SOMEBODDY. It might be the devil, it might be the Lord but you're gonna have to serve SOMEBODY..." Other highlights? A wistful Tomorrow is a Long Time, rocking acoustic versions of Tangled Up In Blue, and Don't Think Twice, and a determined and dramatic Masters of War. An example of Dylan's impressive performing abilities was demonstrated with a lilting version of Just Like a Woman. The recently released Live 1966 which features a phenomenal version of the song was nearly matched with this performance although the mood of the two versions could not have been any different. In the 1966 live version Dylan sings it with such a weariness, a resigned sadness at losing his girl to a world he never knew. In the 1998 version he is more scornful, blaming himself for letting the other get to him as much as she did.

All the Time Out of Mind songs (which I was hearing live for the first time) worked extremely well. Dylan snarled out the lyrics to Cold Irons Bound with such biting precision it was spooky. "There's too many people, too many to call. I thought some of them were friends of mine, I was wrong about them all..."Can't Wait my least favorite song on the CD was spellbinding with its hypnotizing riff. Til I Fell in Love With You expressed a sentiment I've felt a time or two better than I ever could. "I was all right 'til I fell in love with you." And Love Sick (the first encore) gave me goose pimples. "Just don't know what to do... I'd give anything just to BEEEE with you."

The trip back to the Twin Cities was full of anticipation. The second concert was to be shared with someone whose exposure to Bob's music was buying Time Out of Mind based upon my review. I so wanted to share my love of his music with her, and so afraid that she'd think it was all so silly. We bided our time through Joni Mitchell's set out in the Target Center lobby(?) where she educated me on what makes a good shoe (she determined there were many people wearing dreadful shoes). She also was the first to spot Norm Coleman riding up the escalator. Coleman was mostly left alone (and he was alone- what's up with that?) until some guys started chanting "Jesse! Jesse! Jesse! behind him. (Earlier I had spotted Chris Wright, Grassroots Party candidate for governor whose single issue platform is the legalization of pot.)


The song selection on this second night was disappointedly similar to the Duluth show. Dylan performed only three songs that weren't performed the previous night (It Ain't Me Babe, My Back Pages and Make You Feel My Love- the latter which I was strangely moved by like never before). My favorite moment was (of course) when my friend turned to me and said, "I love his voice!" She also was somewhat amused by my proclamation before the show that if he did Rainy Day Woman 12 & 35 (everybody must get stoned- indeed) I was going to walk out. So when the band blared into the opening chords, she giggled and sang along.

Bob has developed a set of impressive rubber leg moves since the last time I saw him. In Duluth he was having quite the time doing this heal toe- heal toe- half duck walking, half moon walking thing around the stage. At the Target Center he was doing more of what we called "marking time" in marching band (lifting up each leg in time). I made a mental note that I will have to add these steps to my own dance repertoire.

"There's some people that you can't forget, even though you only seen them one time or two..." In the middle of I'll Remember You I turned to my friend and told her that I was going to cry upon hearing the song again. She rolled her eyes most assuredly and I grabbed her sleeve and it was a moment I'll never ever forget. "In the end, my dear sweet friend, I'll remember you." It was a very special feeling to be with two of my favorite people.


I was paying close attention to my friend's reactions to the concert and the looks on her face were as usual, priceless (to the woman to our right who didn't bring a cigarette lighter to flash but rather one of those fire place starting ignitors; to the gentleman in front of her with five strands of hair standing straight up as if he had moosed them up for some reason).

She turned to me at the end of the evening and asked me (over the swirling techno music we were listening to) what Dylan song contained the lyric, "Don't know if I saw you if I'd kiss you or kill you..." She is such a good listener and I was so glad I asked her to the show with me. A blue eyed brown eyed girl who has all the right moves. She can crack me up with a simple look. She can finish my sentences correctly. The connection is wonderful. When I informed her we were to sing along to Blowin in the Wind her response was a great example of what I have wondrously found to be who she is. I sang the line "How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?" to her and she answered quite assuredly- "Four." Tee hee. Most impressive indeed.


Destiny is often a false idol. To believe that things always happen for a reason is to be deceived. Sometimes that storm door just shuts behind you and you don't have the key. You don't want to show your panic in front of those that would probably want to help out, but perhaps really cannot, at being locked out from your own home but you pray deep within that things will work out. Maybe the door is merely stuck and not actually locked. Things sometimes do work out.

One of the themes running throughout Dylan's work is the concept of stopping time by living in the moment (thus Time Out of Mind). During both concerts I sat there enjoying the energy of the moment and wishing it would never end. I made a conscious effort to try and remember everything- try my best to soak it ALL in so I could carry it with me wherever I end up next. Another lesson learned over the years? It's futile to run away from memories because there are always more just around the corner. At the same time to be able to share a moment with another is something we should never take for granted because it may never be again. Or in another's words: "So now I'm going back again, I've got to get to her somehow. All the people that we used to know are an illusion to me now. Some are mathematicians, some are truck driver's wives. Don't know how it all got started, don't know what they're doing with their lives. Be me I'm still on the road, heading for another joint. We always did feel the same we just saw it from a different point of view. Tangled up in blue."

A trip, a concert, a friendship, a piece of art, a song,- the long and winding path is often difficult to discern and distinguish. You don't want to make too much out of day to day events, but when something special happens along the way you just have to allow yourself to feel a little bit inspired. It's not always a bad thing.

Monday, October 19, 1998

Soup's On

In the six plus years we have done this weekly newsletter, I don't think we have ever published a restaurant review. Since we have covered just about every other subject imaginable we are way past due. And who better to do the first one than your friendly neighborhood editor, fresh out of work, eagerly looking for a new career?

Despite having limited experience in the field, I do come with some clout. It was me who helped determine Boston Market's fate. As I was driving down Division Street in St. Cloud looking for a place to eat dinner, I was being my usual wiener like indecisive self when it comes to such minor matters. Just as I was ready to throw in the towel and stop at McDonald's for a fish sandwich, I happened to see a Boston Market up a few blocks. I remember my friend Spunky once recommended their turkey sandwich so I decided that was exactly what my dinner was destined to be that evening.

As I got closer to the restaurant however, I noticed it was across the four-lane street and I would have to make a left turn, sans stoplights, across two lanes of busy traffic. I didn't need a Boston Market turkey sandwich that badly. Fortunately I seemed to come across St. Cloud's restaurant row and there was a Perkins right to my right. Later that night when I got back to my motel room I turned on the news and heard the Boston Market chain is facing serious financial woes. Ironic? I think not. If you ain't on the right side of the street, forget about surviving as a business.

I actually had two meals at the St. Cloud Perkins. For dinner that evening I enjoyed a delectable (although a bit too hot- I burned my tongue) fish sandwich. I ordered chicken vegetable soup with my meal. The soup was good but as a bonus one of my other options, french fries, also came with my meal. My server, a pleasant young lass, joked about my luck.

Later on in the week I ate breakfast at the same Perkins. This time around the service was slow. My over easy eggs were fine, but my hash browns tasted like well water. Quite frankly I was disappointed in the meal and the restaurant. Call me quirky but I am much more likely to eat breakfast at Perkins than dinner and my breakfast was nowhere near the quality of that mouth watering fish sandwich. This was merely a meal by rote, nothing at all unique to enjoy.

The ambiance of the restaurant was pleasant enough. I sat behind three young women (coeds?) who must have been on their way home from school (they were talking about having gotten up at 4:30 that morning to hit the road). They were talking math, triangles and such and it brought me back to those frightful days of college math when I didn't have a clue, unlike today. Not that I was eavesdropping but they were also talking about the classes they were planning on taking in the future on their way to changing the world. Oh to be ambitious again...

The best part of any Perkins of course is that gigantic flag. It's just plain big! I must admit the next best part of my experiences at Perkins (as has been in the past) is they put a whole pot of coffee on the table for you whether you are with someone or not. Put the combination of the two together and you leave Perkins a wired patriot. The background music was a tad annoying- mostly 1990's country music. I was beginning to think it would almost be preferable to have no music at all when the Traveling Wilbury's End of the Line came on and seemed strangely appropriate for the moment. "Well it's all right, even when you've got nothing to say- every day's a different day."

Being the connoisseur of fine foods that I am I must point out that the menu offered by this restaurant is enough to please most people. You want a hamburger, they got them. You want a salad? They have them too. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, Perkins aims to please. Sure you can get the same meal anywhere but that is exactly the point. When you go to a restaurant like Perkins you don't want each and every one to be different. What you are looking for is something familiar in a foreign setting. A big flag, eggs over easy, fish sandwiches, yes indeed, to go anywhere and have the same choices does soothe ones' soul just a bit. Overall my dining experience at Perkins was exactly what I expected: OK food, OK environment, fairly cheap and painless. That you can go into any Perkins in the country and find just about the same thing can be comforting during those homesick times.

Monday, October 5, 1998

Cloud Nine

I think it was television's Van Patten family that first said, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." Generally I don't disagree with that belief but "old" and "new" of course are highly subjective terms. Take for example, our good friend Kurbie the dog who we were told last week has learned that the reason humans sleep with our heads outside our covers is to breath better. Seems Kurbie has taken to sleeping next to his best friend, little head outside the covers, little body tucked in warmly next to hers'. A lesson well learned and a reward well worthwhile I'm sure.

I must say that making the drive from St. Paul to St. Cloud and back again every day sure gives me time for such major contemplation. I've thought about buying some books on tape to pass the time but I'm rather content with my selection of music which I can enjoy while singing at the top of my lungs. Somehow screaming along to a John Grisham novel doesn't hold the same appeal.

The company I'm doing some work for has agreed to pay for a motel room a couple nights during the week for me but I haven't taken advantage of that yet. I was planning on staying in St. Cloud last Wednesday and Thursday and then I remembered that Thursday was Max's birthday (or more precisely the birthday I assigned to him when I first brought him in for his shots- and by the way that makes him a Libra, Mary). Since I have missed several of his birthdays over the past few years I figured I owed him the pleasure of my company for the evening. I am dorkiness defined. But he seemed to really enjoy the canned treat.

The absolute worst part of the drive is coming back home and crossing the Crow River where Wright County borders Hennepin County. As I see the sign for Hennepin County I think to myself, "I'M ALMOST HOME!" But it still is a good thirty minutes from Maple Grove to my house (especially during rush hour). Let your expectations get the better of you and the fall is so much harder. Someday I'll learn better.

I did take a day off during the middle of the week and went downtown St. Paul for lunch with my friend. We got some chocolate coolers and headed to Harriet Island. We sat by the river and enjoyed the sunny fall day despite our coolers having become warmers by the time we reached our destination. I think the afternoon helped me get my groove back- that and the season premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (sorry I have to disagree with you LeAnn- it was a swell opener).

As all of you know being such devoted fans of the show, last season ended with Buffy leaving her mother and friends behind in Sunnydale after having killed her boyfriend, the evil vampire turned good, turned evil again, Angel, to save the rest of us from the end of the world. The burden of being the chosen one, the responsibility of being the slayer, had gotten to be too much. Buffy wanted a chance for a quieter, simpler life where she was merely responsible to herself and no one else. So she winds up in a small town working at a truck stop as a waitress under the pseudonym "Anne" in a restaurant that has peach pie. Could there be a better, a more accurate mirror for the past half year of my own life? It's as if the producers of the show had pulled a Linda Tripp and wired one of my friends to put my life story on television.

The notion of what comes next for me is a fresh start somewhere else crossed my mind recently. Heck I think the seeds were planted during my trip to Japan. The strange feelings of a foreign familiarity cut as deep as the feelings of for once in my life not feeling so different from everyone else while at the same time never having felt quite as different ever before. Japan is a country where loyalty and honor are deeply rooted. To do something such as leave your job (and your company), especially without something else lined up, wouldn't be considered. I remember how when Al and I would ask our guides their views on America, each of them admired the "freedom" of Americans. One fellow mentioned feeling he already was with the company he would be with the rest of his life.

For those of you who haven't seen the Japanese movie, Shall We Dance, I suggest watching it for a taste of what the Japanese society is like. The movie is about a man who on his way home from work on the train spots a beautiful young woman at work in her dance studio. He becomes obsessed with her, and they have an affair, not one like our President, but one where they learn to share the same passion- for ballroom dancing. The movie is about taking chances and following one's heart; something that the Japanese don't normally do.

Getting back to Buffy, her quest was appreciated but not as much as another quiet moment with my friend. As we were leaving Harriet Island she reminded me of the importance of not giving up on dreams. Then she looked at the clouds, with the most wonderful look on her face. She loves clouds. It reminded me of another day with a certain person who saw puppies in cloud formations. I saw the potential storms that lie ahead. The perspective you allow yourself to take does make all the difference in the world.

Monday, September 28, 1998

Caring and Connected

I spent all of Saturday morning on the phone trying to get through to our good friends at Ticketmaster for tickets to Bob Dylan's upcoming concerts in Duluth and Minneapolis. Tickets for Duluth went on sale at 9 a.m. and tickets for the Target Center show (with Joni Mitchell) went on sale at 10 a.m. Thank God for the redial button on my phone.

I first got through after constant attempts at about 9:15. The operator was pleasant and more competent than your average ticket seller. The Duluth show should be special seeing it is the town where Bob was born and the venue is medium sized (7,500 seats). Dylan has never played a concert in Duluth. One hour later I repeated the constant frustration of getting a busy signal finally getting through to Ticketmaster around 10:55 a.m. This operator was more inarticulate having to reread his spiel a couple of times and having me repeat my credit card information several times. No matter I wasn't going to let anything spoil the excitement of securing tickets. The Target Center show should also be a most fun experience seeing I'm going with someone who has never seen Bob live. I think she is looking forward to the show having been exposed to Dylan's music for the first time after reading my review of Time Out of Mind and promptly going out and purchasing the disc based on my recommendation.

So what is it that she has to look forward to and what is it that makes me want to see the man perform for the sixteenth and seventeenth time in the past eleven years? His performances are often ragged and the musicianship is seldom what one would call virtuoso. Still there isn't anyone around who can capture the feeling of the moment better and when he does, the emotion he can ring out of even his more obscure material can be breathtaking. Although his constant touring has meant he rarely breaks out different songs anymore, he is the one artist I know that doesn't perform his songs the same way and he constantly will surprise by his changing of phrasing or lyrics, or something that makes time disappear and the music express his heart with astonishing clarity.

"I'm sailing away my own true love, I'm sailing away in the morning. Is there something I can send from across the sea, from the place I'll be landing? No, there's nothing you can send me, my own true love, there's nothing I wish to be owning. Just carry yourself back to me unspoiled from across that lonesome ocean." A perfect example is the live version of Boots of Spanish Leather that was released on the CD single version of Not Dark Yet. If told it was a matter of national security to reveal what my favorite Dylan song was, Boots of Spanish Leather would surely make my short list. It is one of his more clearly autobiographical songs chronicling the end of his relationship with one of his first loves, Suzi Rotolo.

Surely it is a song of self pity with the narrator singing both sides and ultimately wishing his love well as she sails away. Both people seemed saddened by the end, hurt by the other, hurt that the other has decided to leave. "But if I had the stars from the darkest night and the diamonds from the deepest ocean, I'd forsake them all for your sweet kiss, for that's all I'm wishing to be owning. That I might be gone a long time and it's only that I'm asking. Is there something I can send you to remember me by, to make your time more easy passing? How can, how can you ask me again? It only brings me sorrow. The same thing I want today, I would want again tomorrow." I've been around long enough now to have seen my share of relationships end and the mood this song evokes captures some of those feelings so perfectly. I may never have lost a love leaving for Spain (France perhaps but not Spain) yet the feelings expressed are universal. One feels jilted at the same time one just wishes it wouldn't be the end while feeling a certain sense of relief that the troubles are over or so you try to tell yourself.

Dylan has performed Boots of Spanish Leather sporadically over the years and it is always performed with gentleness and real care. Clearly the song means a lot to him. This particular version captures his love of the song well. His voice is full of wistfulness and sadness. His phrasing of the line, "I'd forsake them all for your sweet kiss, for that's all I'm wishing to be owning" is heartbreaking and breathtaking in its understated intensity. The singer concludes his story lamenting how jealous he feels of what is in front of her and how sad he feels that he cannot share or be a part of her upcoming adventure. "I got a letter on a lonesome day it was from her ship a sailing saying I don't know when I'll be coming back again it depends on how I'm feeling. Well, if you, my love, must think that way, I'm sure your mind is roaming. I'm sure your thoughts are not with me, but with the country to where you going. So take heed, take heed of the western wind, take heed of the stormy weather. And yes, there's something you can send back to me, Spanish boots of Spanish Leather." The last line is a bit too clever yet it works because it conveys the bitterness and the bittersweet feelings the singer feels. He wants her to do well and be happy, he wants her to know how much she means to him, yet he knows that he has to move on and regrets it all. It's the type of song one drives all the way to Duluth to hear from a singer one has seen many times before and always comes away understanding life just a little bit better.


So I'm in the men's bathroom of the place I've been working at for the past week, the place that takes me an hour and a half to get to zipping along at seventy five miles an hour, and as I'm drying my hands I take a close look at the towel thing on the wall. It's one of those rolling cloth dispensers where you pull down on the towel to get to the clean part. On the side of the dispenser is a warning: "Use on hands and face only! Any other use is dangerous!" What's up with that? How else can a person possibly even imagine using the contraption?

As I arrive at home that particular evening I notice a wire hanging down from the power line next to my garage. I maneuver my car around it not knowing if it is live or not. I wasn't sure if it was part of the power line, a telephone line, or a cable line. But to see something dangling from a source of power (no Monica jokes please) is a rather ominous sight but I was too tired to think about it. I knew enough not to touch it tempting as it was. I go in my house and call NSP who tells me they'll send out a crew and I was very smart in calling it in. I go out for dinner and when I get back home the wire is still hanging. I call NSP again and they say there were several power outages in the area and a crew will get out as soon as possible. It's a perfect example of letting (or not letting) a customer know of the status of the service call as to set reasonable expectations. Had I been told my first call that it might be late into the evening or possibly the next day before they could take care of the problem, I wouldn't have worried so much. But worry is my middle name and I did more than enough for a small sized community. Danger is always just around the corner.

I had dinner that night with my favorite Pioneer Press reporter and her husband. They fixed me a swell meal consisting of crackers and cheese for an hors d'oeuvre (GOUDA!) and pesto with a nice home made sauce on top. For a guy who is satisfied by a meal of Spaghetti'O's and whose best friend told him she didn't see him as a pasta type guy, I must say the meal was terrific and I was greatly impressed. A 1995 red wine from Italy? For moi? Get out!

We talked about movies, music, families, and politics. And the love of our lives. I learned how as a youngest child I shouldn't date other youngest children, that my ideal spouse probably would be the elder child (that explains a lot). It was a theory I never had heard before. And the lawyer husband also told me that he had gone to the State Fair and saw the butter carving exhibit (competition?) and he learned it was tradition for the models of the sculptors to take their likenesses home, freeze them until their wedding day and then use their butter busts for the wedding reception butter condiment supply. Thus another stipulation for the future Mrs. Maeda (sign up now girls!) is to require her to provide an award winning butter bust that we can use in our wedding day ceremony.

The next night I went to my final Twins game of the year, a 2-0 shutout over the Indians (or the Cleveland baseball team as the politically correct Star Tribune likes to call them). It was good to see Mr. Radke pitch a nice game after a horrible second half of the season. It was also fun to get a glimpse of Mr. Koskie and Mr. Mientkiewicz who will play a part of next year's team. In the fifth inning we were given a bite size Salted Nut Roll by one of the members of the Twins' staff. While it was a nice unexpected gesture, I sure hope this wasn't this year's version of Fan Appreciation Night. Thanks anyway Mr. Pohlad. And thank you Mr. Molitor (who didn't play this particular evening) for a most wonderful career.

And did any of you catch Wednesday's Cubs' game in which Sammy Sosa hit two more home runs but the Cubs lost in the ninth when Brant Brown dropped a fly ball? After the game was over Brown violated the rule Tom Hanks so passionately stated in A League of Their Own: "Baseball players don't cry. There is no crying in baseball..."

The next night I decided to wash my bath mat. As I went downstairs after the wash cycle was complete I saw that the rubber backing on the mat had disintegrated inside the washing machine. So I spent the next fifteen minutes cleaning out the inside of my tank. And there are those out there who think my life isn't very exciting.

Monday, September 21, 1998

Elect This, Mister

This past Tuesday I woke up at 4:30 in the freaking a.m. to participate in the State Primary. For a former election official the day brought some bittersweet feelings. You work hard and prepare for the day for over half a year and then you find you can't experience the final fruits of your efforts. Frustrating. Damn frustrating.

I did stay involved as I worked the day for a vendor of election equipment and ballots. I was given the assignment of driving around mostly northern Hennepin County (Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, Maple Grove, Plymouth, Medina, St. Louis Park, Golden Valley, New Hope, and Richfield) going out to polling places to make sure things were going smoothly.

And bless the Lord, things actually did go somewhat smoothly in the area I covered (Dakota County had a major catastrophe with their ballots- and had to have 30,000 reprinted on election day). I repaired just two defective voting machines and had to swap out three others. My arrival at the trouble precincts was a bit nerve racking. First they were glad to see little techie boy come out but quickly the looks of frustration tore into me- frustration of having lines of voters (well, if anything during a 20% Primary turnout can actually be called a line) and having a bum piece of equipment that won't accept ballots. I put on my best customer service smile and did my best to be courteous, effective and efficient.

It was enjoyable to be involved and I got to spend the evening, night and wee hours of the morning at the Hennepin County Government Center with the guru of Minnesota elections, and with my most fun friend to keep me company, on my toes, and slightly agitated. (I finally got to meet my friend's ex-husband who continues the trend of all my female friends having ex-boyfriends or husbands who could squash me with their thumbs. Which means next I am scheduled to be dating the former Mrs. McGwire.) Of course none of the candidates I voted for actually won their contests but it wasn't like I was passionate about any of them anyway.

I also learned that my growing agoraphobia is a recent neurosis (when you accumulate as many as me, it's hard to remember when things were otherwise). I actually enjoyed being out and about during the day. It was a sunny day driving around with no particular destination in mind- only occasionally interrupted by a call on my rented cell phone telling me to head to a certain location. I remembered once upon a time I really did like the adventure of the road.

That was until Saturday. I would have to say that nobody had a worse Saturday than me including our woebegone President. I was in St. Cloud during the day doing some contract work for the election vendor. I headed home into the darkening skies to the east. During a torrential downpour with hazardous driving conditions, I got a flat tire. I pulled off a nearby exit and under a covered gas station. I put some of that inflating goop in the tire and started to head off. I backed up right into a parked pickup truck. The man got out and looked at his bent fender and was none too pleased. I gave him my insurance information and got back on the highway none too soon. I didn't know how long my tire would last so I wanted to get as close to home as possible without speeding for fear my tire would give out as I was going over sixty on the wet pavement. I could just picture getting a speeding ticket to complete my trifecta.

I got to north Minneapolis when my tire went flat again. I pulled off on to a side street trying to find a convenience store (it must have been the only block in the Twin Cities area without a SA). The skies really opened up and water was pelting the hood of my now tricycle like car. I got out between the gusts of rainfall and jacked up the flat side. I was tired, drenched, cold, cranky, and a bit worried. I finally got my cheap little jack up far enough where the tire was off the ground. I then tried to loosen the lug nuts. They wouldn't budge. I was frustrated enough to risk a hernia but I soon reached a point where I realized I needed to figure out another plan. So I went to the house I was in front of (with multiple political signs all around- I figured if the people who lived there were so politically conscious- they might be willing to help out) and sheepishly knocked on the door.

A little, quiet, elderly woman answered looking quite worried. I tried my best to be presentable but there was no way I could erase the scowl on my face from a long week and heck of a day. I had to look a tad frightful but I tried to be as genuine as I could. I asked if she would call AAA for me, as I handed her my card. She agreed, disappeared into the house as I realized she would never be able to figure out AAA's automated voice mail system. Sure enough a few minutes later she reappeared, let me in the house and told me I could make the call. So I did. The operator was very polite and reassuring. She told me someone would be out shortly. My equally weary and drenched tow truck driver arrived to loosen my lug nuts and I was on my way home, never to leave again.

Monday, September 14, 1998

The Week That Was

This seems to be a time for confession and apologies so let me take a moment to say something I've been meaning to get off my chest for a long time. For the past sixty three issues this newsletter has benefited from my use of hydrogen peroxide. Though this substance hasn't technically been banned in the industry, its use is certainly frowned upon. My performance definitely has been enhanced and though that may ultimately be a good thing for all of us, I'm sorry if any of you are offended by its controversial use.

It's been quite the historical week to be unemployed and thus at home a lot. I tried my best not to panic at the volatility of the stock market despite the implications it had on my financial well being ("Think long term, think long term...") I quite enjoyed the home run derby and Mr. McGwire's history making blasts. I was equally as annoyed and amused at Mr. Clinton's latest troubles and the media overkill of Mr. Starr's report on Friday. Man, if this really is the end, I've had choice seats!

Just a few observations of the week's events: It was wonderful to see baseball finally getting some positive publicity for a change. While I greatly enjoyed and admired Mark McGwire's breaking the single season home run record I must say that I am still much more impressed by Greg Maddux's (check out that ERA!) and Roger Clemens' (a fifth Cy Young!?) seasons. Hitting dominates these days and any pitching accomplishments (in an era were a good ERA is considered to be anything under 5.00) to me are that much more impressive.

But still it must be said it ain't no androstenedione that helped McGwire break the record. It's a perfect home run swing combined with an ever shrinking strike zone. His record is legitimate; it's not as if his home runs are barely clearing the fences. The man has forearms the size of my thighs and I could take all the "drug" enhancements in the world and still never hit a softball 250 feet.

As for our President, man talk about some testosterone! Having browsed through the special prosecutor's report I am of the opinion our fearless leader has no choice but to resign. Can anyone take this man seriously ever again? More importantly can anyone ever take what he says at face value anymore? If he lies to cover his behind what prevents him from lying in any other matter?

He has always been the ultimate politician, just saying what he needs to say to sway public opinion. But at some point he has to be held responsible for his actions and be willing to accept the consequences of such- he has to be accountable to all of us. That said how come there is no mention of Whitewater in the special prosecutor's report to Congress? Wasn't that Mr. Starr's assignment? How about something to the effect there was no provable wrong doing? How about some balance and integrity in our federal investigations? Am I right people?

So years from now (if the millennium isn't the end of us all) it will be quite fun to remember the events of this past week and remember where we all were when it all went down (or up as it were). This has been a rare instance where the news that occurred will no doubt actually shape the way things are to come and not succumb to the hype alone. Baseball is our one game that relies so heavily on the significance of its own history and tradition. That we were witness to the breaking of one of the game's most significant accomplishments is to be treasured (and the same can be said if the Yankees are able to break the record for most wins in a season). This was also the week where it became clearly evident that our President must either resign (second time in our history) or go through painful impeachment hearings to the bitter end (also the second time).

We are among the fortunate(?) to see history is similar to what our friend Dave said his Emmy acceptance speech might be: "History is like a mistress. You can hold her. You cannot own her. She is, History..."