Monday, April 24, 2000

This One's For You

A lot can be learned about the words you read by being aware of some of the influences of the one who wrote them. I was once again reminded of this last week as I watched a unique TNT special, country singers (Trisha Yearwood, Deanna Carter, Neal McCoy, and Lila McCann among others) honoring Barry Manilow's influence on their music. It without exaggeration was the most peculiar thing I've even seen. (The highlight of the show was the show's conclusion- "Copacabana" complete with banjo backing- I kid you not.)

The premise of the show was that Barry's music wasn't that different from what makes current country music so popular. At the end of the show Barry gave a spiel that only he could give about how this country would be a better place if only the record stores' and radio stations' categorization of music would recognize that his music isn't so much different from country music as it is all part of a big rainbow. Our country shouldn't be about separation it should be about celebrating how we are all in this thing together.

I decided to acknowledge at a very early age I had an affection for Manilow's music and I wasn't going to be ashamed of that critics and friends be damned. Even if I rarely listen to it anymore (although it is on my stereo as I write this) I am proud to say that one of the most influential LPs in my life was Barry's 1978 release, One Voice.

It was one of the first LPs I bought with my very own allowance and to this day that very sacrifice makes it music that alters me every time I hear it. The LP opens with the hard trying wannabe anthem title track that has some lovely acapella singing from my much maligned hero. When I was in junior high, with an unbearable crush on another Manilow fan, I thought about, and tried unsuccessfully to write an editorial for our student newspaper about the universal importance of the message of the song. It takes but one voice to start a movement. It takes many voices to join that one voice to make the movement effective. I was gonna knock her socks off by my acknowledgment of our shared admiration for the artist but I chickened out at the last moment and pulled the story.

I'll never forget the moment I was playing the concluding track from the first side of the LP with my mother in the room. It was Barry's cover of the musical craftsman Jule Styne's classic "I Don't Want to Walk Without You." Mom was surprised to hear Barry do a 1940's song in such a conventional style. The song reminded me of his own "I Can't Smile Without You."

From start to finish the album is pure Manilow meaning it is full of heartbreak and lamenting lost love via power piano ballads. At the time I was just beginning my own rather frustrating piano lessons and strived to one day be able to play the instrument, and express myself as effectively as Barry.

The LP concludes with two of Barry's most typical yet most moving songs. "When I Wanted You" is the standard attempt at a BIG hit ballad found on every Manilow album up to that point. It has a great melody written by the same writer, Richard Kerr, that wrote the song that originally put Barry in our consciousness ("Mandy") but somehow despite the continued high haunt count of his other songs, this one failed to chart for our champion. I love how the song starts so simply and sadly ("Though we're going our separate ways...") and builds to a painful sweeping conclusion ("When I wanted you, I needed you/Now I just can't bring myself to say I'm over you...").

The last song is perhaps the most sincere and moving song from an artist whose catalog is chock full of such sincerity and schmaltz. "Sunday Father" is a love song from son to father. It is about growing up in a broken relationship and having to try to cram all of one's heart's feelings into rare visits. "One day to keep the two from turning to strangers..." It's the type of song that so clearly influenced many of our most popular country performers (and me) to acknowledge their debt to a man many roll their eyes at.

Bluffy the Vamp Like Prayer

Over the years Mr. Max and I have reached an understanding about our living arrangement. He has to put up with my many eccentricities including now increasing after midnight bouts of piano playing and singing at the top of my lungs, and having his dinner time routine encompass an enthusiastic trip to the basement to clean out his litter box (which includes plenty of praise when he has done a particularly good job at leaving behind the previous night's meal). My duties include paying for our food and making sure that during the wintertime the house is a balmy 62 degrees. Last year there was a bit of a worry that the standard arrangement may have to be amended as our income was such that it appeared one of us was either going to have to get a job or go without eating. (We had a lengthy discussion one evening about whether or not people food or cat food was more important and what occupations might just suit Mr. Max.)

In return, Max has been assigned one simple task: bug control. I've never been one to enjoy the sight of a bug, anywhere anytime. As a kid I would do whatever I could to make my brother take care of any bug I saw inside our house. I love my niece Brynna to pieces but when she was in a phase when she was interested in bugs, so much so that she even collected some of them, we didn't exactly spend too much time together working on her hobby.

When Max and I first started living together he aptly proved very good at his assignment. I remember an early night in our tiny little efficiency when a moth was floating around inside. Max was quite patient, having spotted the intruder. He watched him unblinkingly for quite a while. He stalked the moth. And when the moth got within reach, Max, sitting on his backside, reached up with his two declawed front paws and caught the fluttering moth in mid-air. It was the darndest thing I had ever seen. He proceeded to eat his catch and was given a little talk about the sanitary disposal of his duty, but nonetheless I knew right then and there I had found a gem of a roommate.

Over the years I've noticed he is particular about his bugs, and especially whether or not he'll digest his responsibility. I saw him eat a fly once. He has absolutely no interest in ants. Often he doesn't quite get the basis for his job. He'll scamper over to a corner of the room out of the blue and sit there. When I go over to see what he is so curious about it inevitably is a bug. Thus I am left to dispose of the god fearing creature which I have a history of not liking and was the reason the task was assigned to Max in the first place. Oh well, at least our homes have been pretty much bug free.

A few nights ago I was watching another Buffy repeat when I heard Max enter the room. I was lying down on the couch and he didn't come within my vision. A short time later I heard a very timid and remote meow. It was of a timbre I hadn't ever heard from my roommate in our nine years together. At first I ignored him, for the Buffy episode was reaching its climax, but since I hadn't heard another peep out of him (unusual in these days when he has become quite vocal about expressing his opinions) and since he hadn't moved since his sad little meow I went over to check what was up.

He was staring at a most ugly bug, a long rectangular thing with many legs. He appeared to be at a loss at what to do. The look on his face reminded me of one discovering after a horrifying and sad evening that it's already after eight o'clock even though it feels like it's after midnight. He couldn't run away but he didn't dare go any closer. I went to the bathroom and got some tissue and did one of my least favorite squashing activities.

It was yet another reminder that both of us are either prematurely aging or rapidly changing as the world grotesquely whirls on by. They say that part of life is watching it (you) go away. Well Peter cotton tail has long since hopped down that paper trail. So instead of dwelling on the uncomfortable instabilities Max and I sat down tonight and did a little project together. In honor of National Poetry Month coming to an end without a peep here is an abridged version of what we came up with:

Like a bug
flat under a rug
like a hug
that's just been mugged
I've been swept away
Oh Lord, I've been swept away
Too sad to speak
Soul's sprung a leak
Brain feels bleak
And heart is feeling weak
I've been swept away
Oh Lord, I've been swept away

Monday, April 17, 2000

Feh Brew Airy Daze

An anniversary of a half of a 28 day trip that has now lasted well over eleven years...

In the movie business they say each of us has a role we were born to play. I of course was lucky enough to find my role at a fairly early age- that hidden Lama, the Buddhist boy wonder, Bobby Hill from TV's animated King of the Hill. (I hope all of you were able to catch the episode of the series that far and away was the finest half hour of television to be seen anywhere this season.)

In the search for her ultimate role, Sandra Bullock hasn't quite been so fortunate. Up to this point nearly all of her roles have fallen into two categories- the naturally likable everygirl (Speed, While You Were Sleeping, Wrestling Ernest Hemingway); or the wacky likable anti-everygirl (Thing Called Love, Forces of Nature, Two if By Sea). Judging by her appearances on the talk show circuit, Bullock is quite good at playing these two parts of herself.

That's what makes her performance in her latest film, 28 Days so effective. She is naturally playing the same role as we've come to expect, yet this time there is an adept edge, as opposed to a written or acted quirk. In other words her character in the movie, Gwen, isn't so much a character as she is a person. The movie begins with Gwen, because of her behavior, being told by her sister that she is "impossible to love." It is an early indication that this role will somehow go against the typical Sandra Bullock role.

I didn't expect to like 28 Days much judging from the commercials previewing the movie. It looked like a light version of Days of Wine and Roses or Less Than Zero. The treatment of alcohol abuse in the movies is seldom entertaining because the disease itself isn't entertaining. Perhaps the hardest part to play is a drunk. And that Bullock succeeds says much about how well the movie works. It's interesting to compare this movie with an earlier anti-booze themed film that she made in 1992 called When The Party is Over. Her growth as an actress is quite evident at the same time she demonstrates the effort and ability to shed the baggage associated with becoming a star and returning to her real roots of acting.

A little semi-related background: Years back my boss gave me the option of supervising the department's problem employee. Somewhat reluctantly I accepted the assignment but with the guarantee that I could later change my mind. Two weeks into the assignment I was at my wit's end. Every day was a challenge with this person. Though she was obviously a very bright and talented individual, she was, shall we say, less than motivated. After another not on time excuse filled confrontation start to a day, I went from her desk straight to my boss' office. I told my boss I wanted out. She looked at me, settled me down with a few words and offered this bit of wisdom: "You can back out if you want to but if you succeed with her, and can help her turn herself around, there is nothing you will achieve here that will give you more of a sense of accomplishment."

So for the next two years I worked with this person. For every step forward she took two steps back. To show our belief in her we tried to give her every opportunity we could. We offered to pay for further schooling for her. When I gave her more responsibility she excelled; but I couldn't trust her to get her more mundane daily assignments done so I couldn't really justify, nor trust, giving her more responsibility.

I've never met a more angry person. Her mother died just as my colleague was becoming a teenager. Her father was abusive. Her brother had gotten into trouble with the law and her sister had a drug problem. I tried to emphasize how remarkable I thought it was that she was doing as well as she was coming from where she had been. But the words never seemed to take. She never could accept that where she had been didn't have to doom her to where she could go.

Hard as I worked with her I came to realize that as long as she held on to her anger and didn't take the opportunity to change the things she had control of rather than dwell on being a victim of where she'd come from, we weren't going to get anywhere. One day she showed me something she hadn't shown anyone else. It was a hand scribbled letter to a grade school teacher written by her mother. The thoughts expressed were nearly identical to the ones I had shared in her most recent performance review. Her mother had written with the proud words of a parent, that her daughter had so much to offer if only she learned how to apply and believe in herself.

When I left the department we stayed in touch until a few years back when she literally disappeared. I learned that she had been fired, her home phone disconnected. I had someone call her family for me and we found out the family hadn't heard from her in over a year. I stopped over at her place and found a porch full of old mail and yellowing unread newspapers.

Last week, almost by accident I happened to see her name on the Washington County Attorney's web site. She had been charged last December with passing a forged check and driving after her license had been suspended. My first reaction was almost one of relief after long fearing the worst- at least she was still alive. I was saddened however to see that she had gotten herself into serious trouble.

Thus she was on my mind while watching 28 Days. The movie really isn't about alcoholism. It's about how hard life is. We all have moments of pain and hurt. We all have our hearts broken and have to deal with grief. Alcohol is but one choice for avoidance and not feeling. As the movie so effectively points out many of us would rather live in a dream than in life itself. In dreams things happen by chance, not by choice.

The movie begins with Bullock after a night of partying with her boyfriend nearly setting their apartment on fire. As she awakes the next day she realizes she is late for her sister's wedding. In a haze she scrambles to get there. Once arriving she manages to ruin the day and in the process in a stupor driving into a porch while trying to replace the wedding cake she has destroyed.

Sentenced to 28 days in rehab it is at this point the movie straddles the fine line of cliches we come to expect from any movie about alcohol abuse. There is the denial, the anger, the out of control behavior and the acceptance that a problem exists. But the movie never gets preachy about its subject and the characters (with fine supporting performances from Elizabeth Perkins, Azura Skye, Dominic West, and Steve Buscemi) seem like real people. Even when we get the inevitable tragedy that emphasizes the forced warning message of substance abuse, the movie has established enough credibility that the whole thing continues to work.

With out of focus camera shots and claustrophobic sound use, director Betty Thomas does a good subtle job showing the fuzziness and the clanking inner noise that comes from being under the influence. Bullock with the use of her body, specifically her eyes, shows the growth from an out of control drunk to clear headed sobriety. We see that Gwen may or may not succeed just like any other alcoholic. We also see that her chances of succeeding increase with her acceptance that there is a problem and that she can change the outcome with the power of that simple acknowledgment.

Her skepticism of the traditional therapeutic process lessens as she sees that being a victim isn't unique. The rehab center uses hokey group chants, prayers, and support to deliver the message that all who are there share a lot in common. Typical of what makes this movie work: As one patient leaves a staff person is heard to say, "I hope he makes it." Another patient replies, "Statistically only 3 out of 10 of us will make it therefore it is better for the rest of us if he doesn't make it."

Gwen is a writer. She justifies her drinking to her counselor by saying, "I'm a writer. I drink. That's what we do." What the movie shows is that no matter the drug of choice we all would rather not have to face life's demons. The tried and true alternative is to take a baby steps, one day at a time approach to the agony. This may not be any easier than it is an actual choice. Alcoholics have a problem that the ultimate end means death. It isn't that they aren't aware of this, it is that they really don't care. The message 28 Days surprisingly poignantly delivers is that it is, at heart, quite empowering to make the choice to care.

Wednesday, April 12, 2000

No Joy in Minne-Mudville

My brother and I spent much of our youth in the backyard improving our baseball fielding skills. Once the 1981 Roseville tornado blew down the bee and box elder infested tree that stood in the middle of our marred baseball practice field facility, we had an open field to take a tennis racket and ball out and hit grounders, high pop ups and fly balls to each other. Mom was rather amused that years after we both moved out the neighbor girls, who must have been watching us closely, replicated our version of baseball complete with tennis equipment.

Occasionally my brother and I would take a break and lie on the slight hill that once led to the little rose garden that Mom used to tend to and love. We'd watch the corner of our house against the partly blue sky and marvel at how the cloud movement made it appear like our house and not the world was moving. Every once and a while we would be distracted by the notion that the gutter high on the house housed many missing tennis balls and we would have to at some point go up and retrieve them.

Similarly literally the warmest memories I have of growing up are when my family would go to the beach. I remember playing in the water until I started shivering and becoming somewhat blue lipped and then running up the sandy beach to wrap a towel around myself. Inevitably comfortably my Mom who wasn't a swimmer, would be sitting on the blanket by the cooler that held our lunch, always with the radio tuned to the Twins' game.

Prior to the current state of affairs, the 70's represented the nadir of baseball in the state. Calvin Griffith was clearly overmatched when it came to matters of the finance of the game. But Mom never gave up hope. Didn't matter if it was Glenn Borgmann or Jerry Terrell facing Goose Gossage or Danny Walton trying to win a game in the ninth inning against Sparky Lyle, Mom always thought the Twins could pull things out.

This past week the legislature commemorated the Twins' 40th year in Minnesota with the appearance of two of the state's biggest baseball heroes, Harmon Killebrew and Kirby Puckett on the House floor. There was a unique palatable energy to the proceeding as the legislators were clearly moved by the presence of the two local legends. I could imagine my Mom's displeasure however at the sight of WCCO announcer John Gordon opening the session with a prayer. Mom stopped listening to baseball on the radio because of Mr. Gordon, whose style does the nearly impossible, making the most beautiful game all but unlistenable. (Mom would have been properly impressed with how you can now follow a game, pitch by pitch via the Internet.) Of course the current state of affairs was ironically emphasized that evening with the Twins 7-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, an end result that probably will be all too typical this season .

Spring is supposed to represent a time of new beginning and aspiration, an annual opportunity for renewal of anticipation and change. And baseball plays a major part of this seasonal hopefulness in our nation's consciousness. Unfortunately for Minnesotans interest in the local baseball club has reached an all time low. Ask the average person to name five Twins' players and you are likely to come across a rather glossy look.

Things have gotten to the point where even the three year old University of Minnesota's women's hockey team probably stirs more passion in the state's sports' fans than our major league baseball team. You also know things are pretty dire when the Vikings' quarterback chaos warrants greater interest than the opening day of the baseball season. The Twins are dying on the vine and the indifference is myopically depressing.

Recent issues of Sports Illustrated and Sport Magazine ranked the Twins as the 30th best team in baseball. Unfortunately there only are 30 teams. If nothing else the team will be much bulkier than last year with the additions of Butch Huskey, Matt LeCroy, David Ortiz, and TC the bear (who management seems to think is the most important addition of the group). The team may not be any better but it will be bigger.

Even the manager, the admirable cranky Mr. Kelly, doesn't see much hope for this year's club. The team has six legitimate players to pay to see- Brad Radke, Eric Milton, Eddie Guardado, Corey Koskie, Cristian Guzman, and Jacque Jones. The rest would be hard pressed to make the rosters of other teams. Still it's a long ways from the seasons we had to endure where the quality of players available meant having Rich Robertson and Scott Aldred form 40 percent of our starting rotation. At least we've taken a small step beyond that. What's more troubling is the decline in interest that years of bad baseball has caused. It's difficult to watch the absolute depth of the decay. Once upon a time baseball meant much more around here. It's sad to see it otherwise again.

Monday, April 3, 2000

Raise the Tuition Susie I'm Coming Home

As I stepped up my annual in-depth, pre-season study of the Minnesota Twins I noticed for the first time ever I'm older than every single one of the players. But that wasn't why I acted more goofy aloof at work this week than usual. Nope. Those who think they can understand something about me because of the coffee cup I keep on my desk (which happens to be a Washington County mug- a period of my life I'm sure many wish had never existed) or because my welcome mat at home is facing the wrong way (in essence telling people they are welcome to leave my house) have got another thing coming.

Everything you need to know about me is revealed by this- I panicked the first time I flew a kite. I didn't understand that as I let more string out, the kite flew further away. In the land of the Chalupa I never felt so separated from another, as if being told I had to eat more to weigh less. Soon that bright red kite with two smiling faces on it was flying far out of reach, way beyond the railroad tracks as what I held in my hands quickly unraveled. It was the first time I felt the world spin a little faster, the first time I sensed a soon to be recurring theme of being a discarded illicit listening device leftover from the Nixon administration, a nearly saturated sponge. It was like losing the ability to watch a new movie or read a new book because I couldn't take any more surprises. Or wondrously running across the equivalent of the opposite, a person that couldn't read a book or see a movie more than once, because she preferred not knowing how things turn out despite at the same moment confessing she fancied adding sugar to grapefruit to turn the sour into something sweet.

That panic was the same feeling I had about 12 years ago this spring when I descended down the Cheapo stairs to Al's basement office to inform him of my soon to be happening secret government mission. It only felt as if I was reenacting the final episode of M*A*S*H. Al was understanding and kind enough to support the mission. The setting was down in Rochester and lasted about a week. At the time I wasn't sure how long the mission was to last and as I was packing I just took with me one cassette tape almost as a prayer that things wouldn't last too long.

The tape was a bootleg concert of a Bob Dylan/Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker's appearance in Australia. The music had a great deal of significance for me and it was probably the most important element in what turned out to be a life altering one week's experience. Just the sound of Dylan's voice on Dizzy Gillespie's "Lucky Old Sun" was more therapeutic than anything else that went on that week. "Up in the morning/Out on a job/Work like the devil for my pay/But that lucky old sun, has nothing to do/But roll around heaven all day."

Upon my release and return home the state's hottest chili maker, Johnny Baynes became more and more worried about my frame of mind. I was at the stage of forcing myself to find things to look forward to. The pinnacle of that force was the scheduled release of the newest Bob Dylan LP, Down in the Groove. I had reason to be excited- it was Dylan's first new release in over three years. I was anxious to hear what the man had to say. Days before the official release, Johnny and I were in the Down in the Valley in Golden Valley where they were playing an advanced copy.

The fourth track "Death is Not the End" seeped out of the store's stereo speakers. "Oh, the tree of life is growing/Where the spirit never dies/And the bright light of salvation shines/In dark and empty skies/ When you're standing at the crossroads that you cannot comprehend/Just remember that death is not the end/And all your dreams have vanished and you don't know what's up the bend/Just remember that death is not the end." Johnny looked over at me as if he had just seen a ghost, like I was inches away from jumping. I was just thinking that it definitely was Dylan, not the best of Bob, but good to hear nonetheless.

Ironically, 12 years later I actually work for the government for a living and the title on my business card is both in direct opposition and a defiant response to what was at the root of that mission all those years ago. Apparently I'm stronger than I look.

Why did all this flash across my mind Friday evening on my way down to Rochester to see Dylan with my favorite newspaper reporter and favorite attorney (where granted there isn't a whole lot of competition)? Perhaps it's due to the unwelcome but admittedly self-inflicted and deliberate but not liking it return of the heads down muddle through until you find the hopeful light at the end of the tunnel life approach.

No stop in Rochester is complete without a dinner at Zorba's Greek Restaurant. And when you're at Zorba's you must have the tasty spinach and lentil entree if you're in a rush. The Mayo Civic Center is similar to the type of auditorium you can probably find in Casper, Wyoming or St. Joseph, Missouri. It's the type of venue that would be equally at ease holding a Promise Keepers' rally as it would be hosting a KISS concert. A youthful crowd dominated the 5,500 seat arena anxiously sitting through the opening juggling act, Asleep at the Wheel, to see the man who on May 15 along with Isaac Stern will receive the prestigious Polar Music Prize from the Royal Music Academy of Sweden in Stockholm.

That main act's opening song, the jaunty bluegrass tinged "Roving Gambler," has never been one of my favorite Dylan covers. But this night was divine and the Dr. Drew like performance, particularly the vocal harmonies from guitarists Larry Campbell and Charlie Sexton were particularly sharp. The song tells a tale of a woman who disappoints her mother by falling for the charms of a card playing hustler. The concluding punchline stanza struck me as more poignant than ever before. "Now I'm down in prison/I got a number for a name/The warden says as he closed the door/You've gambled your last game." Life can be a roll of the dice, and the conclusion hints at something (a sad end? an eternal beginning?) just around the corner.

From there the band segued into a lilting version of "My Back Pages" complete with the only harmonica solo of the night. Dylan's voice on the refrain, "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now," started high gliding down the scale of his vocal register. A dramatic reading of "Masters of War" was followed by the first delightful highlight of the evening, a cover of Roy Acuff's "This World Can't Stand Long." The country tune was given a cheerful vocal performance which contrasted with the harsh dark lyrics. "This world can't stand long/Be ready and don't be late/We should know this world can't stand/For it's too full of hate/A long time this world has stood/Get's more wicked everyday/The maker who created it/Will never let it stand this way." Dylan was clearly having a good time, much more animated than usual, throughout the show dancing with jiggily jiggy legs, or as my friend said, "happy shoes," with so much vigor it made even me want to wiggle in place. He primped, posed and vogued with a new move in his repertoire that I hadn't seen in 19 shows- holding the neck of his guitar above his shoulder like a guitarslinger.

Danged if each time you listen to Dylan you hear things in a different way. Obligatory performances of "Tangled Up In Blue" (which had a truly inspired phrasing of the refrain, "Ta-anyynnguld up in Blue"), "All Along the Watchtower" and "Highway 61" were performed tautly and with great vitality. Dylan has the uncanny ability to start his singing a beat, a bar late and being able to rush and stretch the phrasing to make the words fit just perfectly. I was moved by "Tangled Up in Blue" a song I've heard literally dozens of different version of, like I haven't been since the first time I really listened to the wonderful story telling of the song. "Then she opened up a book of poems/And handed it to me/ Written by an Italian poet/From the thirteenth century/And every one of them words rang true/ And glowed like burnin' coal/Pourin' off of every page/Like it was written in my soul from me to you/Tangled up in blue."

My favorite two songs of the evening were back to back rare appearances of two seemingly throw off efforts from Nashville Skyline. The playful "Country Pie" featured some wicked guitar licks from Sexton. And the absolutely stunning conviction of "Tell Me That Isn't True" left me mesmerized. "They say that you've been seen with some other man/That he's tall, dark and handsome, and you're holding his hand/Darlin', I'm a-countin' on you/Tell me that it isn't true/To know that some other man is holdin' you tight/It hurts me all over, it doesn't seem right." (Joke of the evening-while introducing guitarist Larry Campbell- "Larry hurt his toe so we had to call the tow truck...")

The opening set was concluded by a wistful "Make You Feel My Love" ("you ain't seen nothing like me yet," indeed) and a burning "Highway 61." The six song encore opened with the penultimate reading of "Love Sick" which was punctuated with theatrical lighting every time Bob sang "I'm sick of love... I'm love sick." The song to me has always been a flawed masterpiece, marred by a single line in the song- the intriguing juxtaposition of the inspired "Sometimes the silence can be like thunder" with the weird and odd fitting follow-up rhyme "I want to take to the road and plunder." Dylan thankfully changed the line to the much more fitting "Sometimes the silence can be like thunder/Sometimes I feel like I'm plowed under." Which fits the despair over anger tone of the song more appropriately.

More than one person absorbed a searing "Like a Rolling Stone" by marveling that we were there witnessing an intense performance of the defiant alienation anthem by the man who wrote it. Does the writer understand the impact the song has had on so many people? "How does it feel, to be on your own? With no direction home? Like a complete unknown? Like a rolling stone?" Good golly, when you stop and really think about it, to be in the same space with the man who created the song, is something to behold. Not all were properly inspired. The youngsters sitting next to us left long before the encores finished, having consumed their necessary quotient of beer.

On the triumphant if not sleepy return home I was surprised by not feeling at all let down. The fear of a post-Christmas like betrayal, actually allowing myself to look forward to the evening for a long time, dissolved inside my buzzing cerebellum. I also permitted myself for a rare moment to feel the approval of one who I know would have been happy that I relaxed and took the trip, and how far I've come in between my visits to Rochester.