Monday, April 27, 1998

Ma Belle

"You'll never be crowned by the aristocracy, to their delight you'd merely invite them in for a cup of tea."

I'm nothing if not a performer. Perhaps my most impressive Stupid Human Trick is my ability to play just about any Paul McCartney song on the piano. When I'm feeling down I don't know of any better medicine than to come home and bang out Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey on my now really out of tune piano. And hey girlfriend, just don't put me in a room with a captive audience for I might just break into one of my favorite McCartney songs, "You gave me the answer to love eternally, I love you and you seem to like me." Could it be said any better? And even more important to my mental well being than a cathartic belting out of a McCartney tune is the hours I have spent listening to his records. During many of my most troubling times his music has taken a sad song and made it better, playing a vital part in helping clarify what my feelings are and who I am at the moment.

"I light a candle to our love, in love our problems disappear. But all in all we soon discover, that one and one is all we want to hear."

I'd be at the front of the line saying we'd all be better off if we listened to what the man said. Someone wise once said the greatest thing you can do for another is to inspire them. Having been inspired a time or two by another, I'd say it's the best drug of all. It may just result in another silly love song, or a bad poem but to have those feelings created inside is unmatchable. Many have tried to express their heart's inspiration and philosophy but few have been as successful as Mr. McCartney.

"She helps me write the melodies, I let the words take care of themselves."

In life's best moments the memories and the music intertwine and help define each other. I can still feel the hot spring evening when I first put Paul's masterpiece Tug of War on my turntable. "But I can't let go if I do you'll take a tumble and the whole is going to crumble..." "Sole survivor..." "And if I say I really loved you and was glad you came along, then you were here today for you were in my song..." About a year later I was at a high school party playing pool with my heart's desire and her best friend. I, being the nervous wreck I quite comfortably am most of the time, didn't know what to say so I broke into song: "Bobby lived with Patty but they'll never tell their daddy what their love was all about... It'll be L7 that I'll never get to heaven if I fill my head with gloom." My friend's friend looked at me quizzically and said, "Oh really?" But my friend got it. I was trying too hard when all I had to do was be myself. She forever influenced my sense of humor because she understood it so well- material straight out of a good McCartney song.

"Love, faith and hope are beautiful when your world is touched by sadness. To each his own is wonderful, love will never die."

News last week of Linda McCartney losing her battle to breast cancer was sad indeed. She spent the past 28 years being unfairly maligned as helping split up the Beatles and for her highly visible role as her husband's life partner. Not having the comparable creative talents of Yoko Ono, Linda took much abuse for having the audacity of being a member of Wings and for supposedly playing a role in Paul's inability to reach the artistic highs of his Beatles work. Having gained celebrity status by marrying one of the most famous men in the world, the personal criticism of Linda was overly harsh. Her work in promoting a vegetarian lifestyle was admirable. Her supportive, independent and strong will and the couple's commitment to their marriage and love for one and other was a lesson of what life should be about.

"I'm often accused of giving too little it's got me confused, I'm split down the middle. Conflicting reviews of our life coming in, it's tough on a tightrope."

Though Linda herself never wrote anything substantial (close but no cigar for Seaside Woman) she was an influence through Paul's work. Paul need not eulogize Linda for he has already immortalized her in many of his best songs: Hope of Deliverance, Somedays, No More Lonely Nights, Calico Skies, Long Haired Lady, We Got Married, Maybe I'm Amazed... All have touched my life and wouldn't exist if not for Linda. What better gift is there from one to another than to inspire such art and then for the other to return the inspiration by such universal creativity? Paul's remarkable ability to simply express himself has offered many people encouragement. His ultimate message: You need love? Write away. Get it down you'll feel better. Do it now, write away... His solo music has often been criticized for being lightweight, but his music appeals because underneath the sunny portraits of love are a melancholy melodicism demonstrating he knows one doesn't exist without the other. Yet it is his eternal optimism that gives his music its popularity.

"Only one more kiss. I never mean to hurt you little girl. Let's make it one to remember, only one more kiss." Au Revoir Linda.

Monday, April 20, 1998

What to Do When Jerry Leaves

It was one of those cold and windy spring mornings, the perfect type to do a load of laundry. So I was flipping around the TV dial hoping to find a baseball game. No such luck. Even worse was there was a soccer game on. What's the deal with that? This isn't rural Albania, it's America where baseball is our national pastime. Now I realize the game isn't exactly at the height of its popularity but it deserves more respect than being ignored in favor of that other so called sport.

So I was forced to turn to contemplation. And in the end it all may turn out to be a show about nothing. Not that there's anything wrong with that because the nothing adds up. Life is nothing if not rather temporary. You go from one place to another bumping into people here and there that somehow manage to touch you. And more often than not you don't let them know that you appreciate what they bring into your life even just in passing. A smile here, a kind word there can reach you no matter how far gone you can be now and again. Deep down you hope trying your best means that occasionally you do the same for others.

And if you are not a firm believer in fate it doesn't necessarily mean that your destiny has not been determined. I knew someone once who was a good pigeon psychologist but it never meant that she didn't have a point. And it's taken me this long to understand that and to learn to forgive her for her human nature. She may be gone for good but that doesn't mean I can't still wear her shoes to get me to wherever it is I need to go. We shared plenty of movies but in the end the long walks were more cinematic. Just like the other day when I was seated on my front steps waiting for my ride to arrive. Max was behind me looking out the front window perched on the living room couch. Two attractive joggers jogged by and they slowed down as they were in front of my house. They smiled and I smiled back until I noticed I wasn't the one they were smiling at. It was the kitty in the window.

Not knowing much about anatomy (especially from personal experience) I do know enough to realize that having a big heart often leads to an enlarged liver. Thinner lines have stood waiting for the next Sandra Bullock movie. Even my fellow members of altruism anonymous need an anesthetic now and then to remain so blissfully sublime. I once went out with a woman who ended up breaking my pancreas. Ouch. Now it's harder to feel the same things because I'm not using the proper organs. It's taken some difficult lessons but I've learned there are two different ways to feel. One is by touch, through the nerves as felt by the skin. The other is the moody type- the kind that can swing higher than those metal contraptions we used to use on the playground trying to see who could get their feet closer to the sky.

Yaddi Yaddi Yadda. I'm a guy who enjoys flavored creamer in his morning coffee. I especially appreciate the variety of choices on the market: butter pecan, amaretto, french vanilla. The newest innovation has been offered by International Delight who put a little plastic spout on the side from which to pour. What's up with that? This company has begun an advertising campaign showing a woman having difficulty opening the old fashioned milk carton, ending up spilling all over her business attire. Now I may be a sucker for just about any sales pitch but come on. I remember milk time in elementary school and even the dimmest of us seldom had any trouble opening the carton. There would be an occasional dork who opened the wrong end without the arrow and thus had some trouble, but I don't remember anyone spilling all over themselves. Just occasionally squirting the milk out their nose.

Talk about need for coffee. It's replaced sleep in my life as one of the things that keeps me up and upright. Recently people at my work have commented on my frame of mind as they have perceived it to be. Accurate it or not I must admit I've been a bit lethargic as of late. More frustrated than irritated I have tried my best to remain focused on the task at hand and as those who know me have come to understand having a coherent thought isn't always my strongest suit. But I'm not so inwardly tuned not to have noticed a co-worker whom I have gained a lot of respect for and from whom I've learned a thing or two. She quietly goes about her job without complaining, always with a smile on her face and the sweetest giggle I've ever heard. You wouldn't know by looking but these past few years have been a rough time for herself and her family. Two years ago she suffered through a painful eye problem that required surgery to repair. Shortly after she returned she had to have her gall bladder removed and was subsequently diagnosed with Lymes disease which kept her at home for a long spell. She came back and then her daughter had a serious car accident where life was touch and go and the recovery since has been a day to day struggle. I noticed this past week that this co-worker was hobbling around and I asked her why (as if it were any of my business). She told me it was her arthritis caused by the Lymes disease. My heart goes out to her because one would hope at some point things wouldn't be so hard. Yet I don't even know if she sees it that way. Faith is a rather introspective thing.

Sunday, April 12, 1998


Max and I have tons of fun. We have little jokes that never fail to crack me up. Every morning as I'm leaving I say, "I'm off to the Office Max," with a chuckle. Or I'll say, "Do you know the Time Max?" I giggle as he looks at me without blinking. Or the classic, "I'm Mad Max." We are after all, both road warriors having come as far as we have. Last week we came up with a new one. I says to him, "It's time to look in the Mirror Max. Hey wasn't that the name of the studio that distributed the Crying Game?" A bit more of an esoteric reference but endlessly funny nonetheless. Hee Hee Snicker Snicker, oh the joy we share. My sides just ache from all the laughter.

And he is a little more wound up than usual. With the arrival of the warm spring air, the windows are open for the first time in a long time and seeing we didn't get out for any walks this winter, this is his first sniff of fresh air in many a month. So he sits in his favorite window for long stretches with his little nose curiously checking out the different smells and then he'll run into the other room where I'm at and he'll meow and gurgle and let me know about the whole world that's been reopened to him. He doesn't quite know what he wants whether it's to go outside or whether it's to sit on my lap. But it just goes to show we both have our own little quirks. And I'll look at him with a blank stare. I suspect it's not exactly the response he's looking for. The look in his eyes is priceless: part restlessness, part scorn, part frustration and wanting to share what is going on inside. I especially enjoy his pointed meows that suggest agitation until they turn into a healthy yawn and he scampers back to the window with a sigh. Man this cat has a life.

We now have new sleeping arrangements and it's great that he is so adaptable. Just for a change of pace I decided to sleep out on the living room couch. Doesn't give us much room to maneuver but he seems content with the lack of space. And it's great to see the little fellow come back to life after his winter's hibernation. Now if only I could train him to help with the spring yard work. The plan this year is a scaled back garden- tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans and carrots. Other plans? Ma and Pa bought me a basketball hoop for the garage and I have a lead on a guy selling a batting cage. I suspect the neighbors now know that a little kid has bought the house next door but at least he's harmless or so I like to think. He just likes to play is all.

On Saturday we were preparing for Easter and because we figured we'd been crossed off the Easter Bunny's route, the plan was to dress Max up in a little pink bunny suit. He just loves the floppy ears. It isn't so much the hunting for hidden eggs that I miss it's all the associated fun involved. Luckily his favorite visitor stopped by and dropped off an Easter bag full of goodies. What a pal. Max was glad to see someone other than me and just as glad to get out of his assigned holiday duties.

And have I mentioned to you all how much I'm enjoying my new grapefruit for breakfast diet? Them things is tasty. Max doesn't particularly appreciate being squirted now and again with stray grapefruit juice but the great thing about them is that the sour taste of the citric fruit is perfect for getting the juices flowing and jolting one awake along with the morning coffee. Reminds me of the only person I've ever known that didn't like popcorn. Man was she missing out on something. Just like reading about Queen Esther in the Bible. Habakkuk too.

Someone mentioned to me a while back that if I wanted to know the difference in my writing from a few years back it's that I used to be inspired by feelings of love and illusions of grandeur and now I'm inspired by my cat. I don't see nothing wrong with that. The little fellow is pretty special after all. A few years back I decided to try my hand at painting having never really tried that form of expression before. I decided I was going to paint a portrait of Max. It was a most interesting experience. There are similarities in staring and starting with a blank page and a blank canvass. The thing I learned from that endeavor was in a painting while it is important to keep in mind the big picture, to get to that point you have to think about every tiny piece of the canvass. What colors are you going to mix? What texture will you choose? How will this corner of the painting add to the whole? Similarly, in writing each word contributes to the end story. My portrait of Max turned out OK. And with it came a lesson of not being too overwhelmed by the big picture to learn to appreciate those little moments one tends to take for granted.

Monday, April 6, 1998

300 Issues

So it was one of those professionally frustrating weeks and after work I stopped at Rainbow to pick up some groceries. As always I hated the shopping experience with screaming kids running up and down the aisles, people pushing their carts in a way that won't allow you around them. I get to the check out and the young clerk says to me, "I hate people." It probably isn't a way most customer service manuals tell you to greet a customer, but she said it in such a way that I not only knew what she meant, but it was a nice shared moment with another weary human being. I left the store with a smile in the driving rain and was certainly glad I had just had my wiper blades changed just to see a little bit better.

So there I was eating a crusty turkey pot pie and talking about passion with my quien mas sabe who seems to know a thing or two about it. She's teaching me a new language and a new appreciation of my old one. In a world that makes it too easy to slip from skepticism into cynicism, she keeps reminding me it's alright to care. And I wonder if she senses the impeccable timing in her reminders. This week during a moment of distress she was the one I wanted to talk to. The sparkle of a new friendship is as nice as the feeling of comfort.

So there I was catching up on the phone with another talking about how love isn't the only thing that breaks a heart. It can also be about happiness and the loss of, and vulnerability. Sometimes the simplest of friendships are the ones you miss most and catch you by surprise. And I never would have guessed that the person sharing her thoughts and feelings would become the type of friend I could discuss such things with. It was a great conversation and completely unexpected.

So I'm not exactly expecting the Easter Bunny to pay me a visit this year. I've seemed to have fallen out of favor with those in the rabbit family. Bunnies are rather silent. Thinking back over the past year my life has been like a pistachio with no crack. The crack lies elsewhere. When you are in the middle of it, it's hard to see nothing is as irreconcilable as it may seem. Detente happens. Lost communication is a moving target. In one morning it is possible to resume relations with 40% of the people who no longer are speaking to you.

For the past nine years the same promise of renewal that spring brings has caused a wistfulness. I remember a trip long ago this time of year that seemed so perfect and proceeded to be so. Now every time I hold my lucky rock from Australia or whenever I see Sandra Bullock on screen I wonder what happened. Life can be full of wondering. Wondering why you are wandering.

It remarkably followed a frightful period of sickness when something familiar became lost and the fear was that it was gone for good. The cure came in realizing that words are just words and to use them with precision isn't always productive. I more and more see that words seldom accurately describe a feeling (or is that a thought?). People say things they don't mean and later regret they said or put down in writing. You can be good with words and still not be a good writer or speaker. You can make something sound good but still say nothing. Sometimes you need someone to say something even if they truly don't know what to say and when they don't it can color the way you look at things for a long time. Sometimes you don't have a clue to what is going on inside another and you don't believe a word they say. What is left unspoken is equally as important if not more so than what gets shared. In another lifetime a person approached me and asked why I didn't like her. Like her? I didn't even know her and was afraid to try. I hadn't said a word but my skunk eyes inaccurately portrayed my lack of words.

Growing up (the earlier stages) I remember how we would call my Dad at work and all of us kids would get a turn talking to him. He was merely in downtown St. Paul but I remember how excited all of us would get (Mom included) at our evening ritual. To share what was going on with someone who's perspective mattered most made the day complete. So I do consider myself lucky that for the past six years I have been so blessed to again have that daily experience with another. And though we don't spend much time together, my day isn't complete until our talk. The days when that call doesn't happen I feel the pot boil and the stress rise. Nothing much new is shared but the words that flow are never forgettable. Add to that my oldest and in many ways most understanding friendship with the Spunkster. The years put into that friendship add perspective and helps me appreciate where I am, though what happened long ago sometimes grips tighter than what happened yesterday. It's hard for me to see (new wiper blades needed?) but I am in a different place.

So every week for the past six years I've sat down to muse in public not knowing if the pieces ever add up to something whole and knowing long ago I ceased to have anything new to say. Yet it's always been about trying to figure out how those pieces fit together. The predictability of people doesn't mean one can ever figure out human nature. Sometimes the process is more important than the end result. It is a job to chronicle it all and in the end hopefully the words sometimes matter.