Monday, July 30, 2001

Being Ryne Duran

Over three years ago while lying down on the living room couch I noticed that Mr. Max had a preference for sitting on my left arm, lil nose facing the back of the sofa. At times it got a tad uncomfortable because the lil fella even at a spry 13 pounds weighs as much as a small bowling ball. But I hated to inconvenience a content kitty so I tolerated the discomfort. It was a matter of having my left arm fall asleep until one day I noticed that the arm never seemed to wake up. There was a persistent numbness.

Now there's nothing wrong with a persistent numbness as long as it's in certain parts of the body. But me being Mr. Paranoid (with a capital and bolded "P") immediately assumed I was a) either going to have a massive coronary soon; b) had already had a stroke; or c) had a large tumor enveloping the nerves around my shoulder. I mentioned my malady to my Mom and she said it very well could be a pinched nerve.

Mom said that she had a pinched nerve in her shoulder once and one day she dropped something, reached out to catch the object and felt an excruciating pain but the numbness went away. The nerve had somehow become unpinched. A friend recently shared a similar story of a person who fell out of his chair and had a pinched nerve disappear. It seemed a tad extreme but I thought about dropping a lot of things or falling out of my chair on a regular basis to cure myself. Now your normal human being may have instead gone to his neighborhood health care facility but being one who once tested positive for having no backbone, I figured if it wasn't killing me there was no need to bother our over busy medical personnel.

But the numbness never really went away and it seemed to not only be spreading down my left arm, but also I was beginning to feel a tingling sensation in my forearm and hand. Again, a tingling sensation in the right part of the body can be rather enjoyable if not nothing to sneeze at so I knew all wasn't right in Davesville. Recently I noticed my hand losing some of its function at various times so I figured if I continued to let this thing fester pretty soon I'd be even more droopy than normal and my whole left side would be noticeably slumped. I'm not one who enjoys a slump so I, with much prodding from an acupuncture survivor, decided it might be time to call the old clinic.

I'm also not one who has a whole lot of faith in the medical profession. My skepticism may have begun with one of my first memories- when I was three I was so excited to see my brother come home from school that I ran smack into the corner of a wall and split my forehead open. Mom hustled me down to the emergency room and I didn't know what made me cry harder- the sight of my own blood or the throbbing pain in my head (if I only knew what life would be like when I was all grown up I wouldn't have said a thing). The doctor wasn't exactly Mr. Friendly. He put a sheet over my head nary saying a word, and begun stitching up my forehead. Years later Mom still commented on how rude Dr. Death was not offering any comfort to a frightened three year old.

My next major medical experience was my secret government mission down to the Mayo Clinic where after a nightmare week I was told my prognosis wasn't exactly rainbows and lollipops and that the cure might involve jolts of electricity. Well call my crazy but I wanted no part of that so I skpped my next ceramics class and got the hell out. So years later going to the doctor and sitting in the waiting room shaking like a bad 8 mm movie wasn't exactly what I would call an enjoyable morning. But I went nonetheless. The doctor put me through some strength, flexibility and coordination tests that I seemed to do OK on. She said the next step was scheduling an Electromyography and not wanting to appear to be ignorant I nodded my head not exposing my lack of a medical degree. Then she said, "I have to warn you it isn't the most comfortable experience."

I went back to work and looked up what the test involved- small electrical jolts to the muscles to test the nerves. It seemed reasonable to me that there was something wrong with my nerves so I read on. I read what the test was given for which included everything from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome to some serious sounding stuff like Becker Muscular Dystrophy and another familiar sounding illness .

If there's one thing worse than contracting a disease named after an athlete, it's being the athlete that comes down with a disease so rare (and by its nature potent and fatal) that you have a disease named after you. Indeed other than Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease) I can't think of another disease named after an athlete.

It seemed to me the perfect irony that I would contract a baseball disease. The two weeks between the initial icky doctor's appointment to the "uncomfortable test" wasn't exactly the most joyous time of my life. The morning of the test I nearly backed out figuring that I needed to get some work done and a little numbness never killed a guy before.

The test was everything it was advertised to be. They hooked electrodes to my hand and zapped various parts of my arm. Ouch. Then the doctor came in and stuck a needle with a microphone in my arm and made me contract different muscles. Bigger Ouch. But the results were negative or positive depending on your outlook. I have nothing wrong with my nerves (snicker snicker) and I do not have Lou Gehrig's Disease. Then again I may be the lucky one who has come up with Wally Pipp Disease, the guy Mr. Gehrig replaced on way to his record breaking consecutive game streak. Never to be heard from again. Yup that glove fits well.

Monday, July 23, 2001

2 Kool 2 Bee 4-gotten

Confession time: For as long as I remember and often pray I would only forget, I've been on a singular and solitary search for one who can come up with an original feeling. Something between inspiration and fear, a saunter and a stupor, love and melancholy. I met one once, a while back (or was it a couple years?) though some would argue that God is the only one capable of inventing new feelings. I wouldn't necessarily disagree that's what it's always been about. You got to get right with God (or serve somebody).

During my original over chronicled and too long drawn out "bleu" period, just about my favorite song in the entire world was Hank Williams' "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive."

Like many (most?) of Hank's songs the lyrics suggest a man possessed by his own muse, in as much pain as can be, yet exorcising his demon in song (" matter how I struggle and strive, I'll never get out of this world alive...") He sings it as if he means it and I believed every word.

In some of her music, Lucinda Williams comes awfully darn close to not only capturing Hank's spirit, but also generating a true original spark of a feeling. There's something so pure in her voice, skilled in her words and it all coalesces in her music to create something awfully authentic.

Her concert at First Avenue Tuesday night came mighty close to creating something all together different (and anticipated) in me. No doubt if she is truly capable of creating a brand new feeling it would inevitably be labeled with an "S" word. Her concert was full of them: sultry and simmering; scintillating and spooky; sweltering and shimmering, sweaty and swampy; singing sweet sad songs. Toward the end of the performance Williams said that the hot humid weather reminded her of growing up in Mississippi with no air conditioning, trying to get to sleep in her sweat soaked sheets. She noted her most recent CD, Essence was recorded in Minneapolis during the dead of winter, and now she was here performing the songs in the "dead of summer." She wondered what was the meaning of the extremes.

Extreme is a good word to describe her songs, there is no ambivalent middle ground. Raw and vulnerable, she doesn't leave much behind. Performing mostly material from her last two CDs, she was in fine vocal form. Admitting about the only way to forget about the heat was to sing the blues she proceeded to do so in a rather absorbing spirit. Her band backed her deftly soaring through some of the more up tempo material like "Joy," "Essence," and "Changed the Locks." Yet it was in a more quiet moment that was the highlight of the show for me. Performing a simple and reserved version of "Reason to Cry" from her new CD, Williams hit a intimate note that existed somewhere outside the rest of her cool cowboy hatted repertoire. ("Just to sit and talk the way we used to do/It just breaks my heart that I can't get close to you.../When you lose your happiness/When no one's standing by/When nothing makes any sense/You've got reason to cry...")

The second song of the first encore, the fourteenth song of the evening (out of seventeen) was Lucinda's answer to Hank's spiritual spookiness: "Get Right With God." She introduced the song by saying she writes about love and sex and God and between sex and God she isn't sure what pushes more buttons in her listeners but she is pretty sure it is her songs about God. As the band hit the spunky intro to the song, Lucinda did a little slow jig in front of guitarist Bo Ramsey. Call it channeling, or call it sterling swaying, the song is the most frightening thing I've heard in quite a while and harks back to that other time: "I would burn the soles of my feet/Burn the palms of both my hands/If I could learn and be complete/If I could walk righteously again..."

I had lunch recently with a new dear friend who enlightened me (in every sense of the word) when she told me she used to like watching scary movies until she realized that life itself is scary enough. I sense we speak the same language and I know her enjoyment of the show had to be somewhere near my own. The atmosphere was uncomfortable and the music equally challenging. Yet it isn't often one gets the chance to see an idiosyncratic artist at the top of their game; an artist who can at least provide a ray of hope that maybe you haven't experienced everything that's out there to feel quite yet.

Monday, July 16, 2001

D. Ma Does Daytime

(Cue music, audience applause) "We're back here on the Shellie Bogg show and our topic today is people who have the self discipline to overcome an obsession all by their own will power. Joining us in the studio is 'D. Ma' who has an interesting story to tell about his rather unique obsession. Tell us your story d."

D. Ma: "Well Shell, it started about a year and a half ago when I heard that my one true, and I emphasize true, love, the Minnesota Twins were going to give out four bobblehead dolls."

Bogg: "Bobblehead, what is a bobblehead?"

D.Ma: "Well they're handmade ceramic dolls with loose noggins, that can do some serious noddin.'"

Bogg: "And aren't the Minnesota Twins perpetual losers? Don't they break your heart year after year like America's sweethearts, the Chicago Cubs?"

D. Ma: "Well not exactly. As long as they ain't slinging out the Rich Robertsons and Scott Aldreds of the world out there I've been pretty tolerant about being able to appreciate having a major league team to root for, to live and die with."

Bogg: "So tell us more about these bobbleheads and your obsession."

D. Ma: "Well, when I first learned about them I thought it would be rather my style to collect all four. They were giving them out to the first 5,000 fans at certain games. And with the then popularity of the Twins at the time I figured I could easily get two or three of each doll... Anyhoo I thought it be cool to place each of the four dolls on marble pedestals in the four corners of my living room. What a conversation piece!"

Bogg: "Uh huh. I see." (Audience chortles.)

D. Ma: "What I didn't count on was the overwhelming popularity of the dolls. I was lucky to get my Harmon Killebrew because there was a large gathering outside the dome, the size of which I hadn't seen since Shane Mack roamed right field and we all thought David McCarty would be a superstar."

Bogg: "So you got all the dolls?"

D. Ma: "Yup. Had to show up earlier and earlier for each one. It wasn't easy waiting for hours sitting on your arse on the hot concrete not knowing if you were close enough to the gates to get one. But I did it. And if I hadn't I don't know what I would have done..."

Bogg: "I see they're going up on Ebay for hundreds. Did the money play a part?"

D. Ma: "Not really. That was actually kind of discouraging because I was no longer so sure I should put them on such prominent display less someone get the notion of swiping my prized possessions. So I just left them on my desk where I could keep an eye on them."

Bogg: "So when the Twins announced four more giveaways this year were you psyched?"

D. Ma: "Yes and no. There weren't enough corners in my living room anymore and the thought of having to wait amongst all those people again just kind of creeped me out. But I got the first one, no problem. I had become a veteran. I knew to buy my ticket in advance and knew how early I had to take off work and be at the dome. Yup I saw them rookies stroll up a mere few hours before the game and scoffed at them."

Bogg: "This was becoming an obsession wasn't it? You couldn't tolerate not getting the next bobblehead doll, right?"

D. Ma: (Sniffling) "You're so right Shellie. I had to have all the dolls. But it was when I realized how much it meant to me to have them that I decided to give them up. I'd achieved my original goal, it was time to step aside and let someone else have a go at it." (The audience applauds.)

Bogg: "So you're ready to get on with your life?"

D. Ma: "Ready and steady Shell." (More applause)

Bogg: "How do you explain this recent TV footage?"

QVC Announcer: "We go to St. Paul, MN and our caller is a Mister D. Ma. How many of our all star bobbleheads would you like tonight d?

D. Ma: "I'll take two of them for now. Maybe more later. I'll take the Sasaki and the Sosa."

QVC Announcer: "Aren't these dolls just great? What collectors items they are..."

D. Ma: "They speak to me. And I listen." (End of tape)

(Audience gasps) Bogg: "You're not quite cured yet are you D. Ma? Despite your claims in yet another of your insipid public essays isn't it true you are soon going in to have an EMG done to zap electricity through your nerves?" (Audience hisses)

D. Ma (Tears a flowing) "OK I'll admit whenever I go out and I see a line of people I wonder what bobblehead they're waiting for and how I missed the announcement. But that doesn't mean I have a prroblem I, uh..."

Bogg: "That's all the time we have. Join us tomorrow when we have people who have been rejected by the goat community. And on Friday a secret society of people who hate Meryl Streep. Until then, don't do anything I wouldn't do. And if you do, tape it."

Monday, July 9, 2001

My Noddin Noggin (Part 6)

One of the saddest things in the world to witness is an athlete who hangs on a year or two too long trying to live the glory of the moment just a little while longer. Athletes such as Johnny Unitas, Willie Mays, Muhammad Ali etc. probably know that their own skills have diminished but still see that they can outperform many other peers and contribute in a small way. Still it is sad to see such great artists perform at a level less than what we have known.

That is the very reason that I have decided after a couple years of a proud accomplishment in my own small way to step aside and give in to the efforts of time. Now granted, my 36 years on this planet haven't exactly produced a plethora of hall of fame moments but there are a few achievements that stick out in my mind as noteworthy and not a complete waste of the share of air I've consumed. How about that time in sixth grade when I was named "Citizen of the Year?" Or still holding the Secretary of State's corporate information line record for answering the most phone calls within a day's work (383)? Or completing a college education and eventually becoming a homeowner? How about being the only winner of the prestigious Mansky award for winning an election administration trivia contest at a statewide training session? Or finally becoming a published writer?

Yup all that looks good on a resume but none of it can compare with the effort it has taken to collect all the bobbleheads the Twins' have given out the past two seasons. Seeing there were only 5,000 of the first two dolls (Killebrew and Hrbek) there must be only a few hundred at the most who have all the dolls given away. And believe me it's no small wonder that my friend Gary and I have spent many an hour sitting on hard concrete, fending off the dreaded precious few who think they can show up at the last minute, cut in line, and get a bobblehead as the riot level builds to a perceptible level.

Yup it's been quite the challenge to have on my desk the noddin heads of Killebrew, Hrbek, Oliva, Puckett, Blyleven, and Carew. They represent what can be accomplished when one puts his determined mind to finishing off what needs to be done to accomplish a personal goal.

Two winters ago when the Twins announced the bobblehead promotion I decided it would be quite the house decorating project to buy four marble stands, get all the bobblehead dolls and place one in each corner of my living room for a conversation piece. Little did I know how popular the dolls would become.

The first giveaway (Killebrew) we were extremely lucky to be one of the few to get a doll. We showed up a mere hour before the gates opened without a ticket, and out of sheer luck met each other at a place other than the planned meeting location. A fellow co-worker who arrived before me at another gate didn't get a doll.

The rest of the giveaways Gary and I were better prepared. By the Puckett doll, the last one done last year, we arrived at 8:00 a.m. as the gates were to open at noon. We were among the last few to get a doll at our gate.

This year for the Blyleven and Carew dolls we got down to the dome at noon, a full five hours before the gates were to open. This last time we played a couple of rounds of that popular board game "Nine Men's Morris" to try a kill the deadly time that creeps along sitting next to ticketholders from Mankato to Hopkins hoping to get the doll of arguably the team's greatest player of all time, and the hitter I've patterned my own deteriorating game after, Sir Rodney.

Gary and I had mutually decided this was our final effort of participating in the bobblehead mania. At some point we weren't going to get one unless we were willing to get downtown earlier and earlier to fight for our spot in line. It felt better to determine our own fate and walk away on our own terms.

As I was handed my Carew doll to the grumbling of a hungry stomach, the sense of relief mirrored the sense of accomplishment. Being a Twins' fan is a trendy thing to be again but the replicas of the heroes from my past proudly remind me that I have continued to participate all along.

Sweet Old World

The other night, days after the two year anniversary (but who's keeping count?) of the moment my Mom gasped for her last breath Mr. Max lie down beside me on my bedroom futon. I held him tight and he, just having consumed some of his dinner, let out the sound of what can only be inadequately described as a kitty burp. His unique inflection somehow reminded me dearly of my favorite saunterer who in an otherwise moment of total elegance and grace is known to belch with the best of 'em.

Max and I had just finished watching a TNT all star tribute to Brian Wilson that was much better than those sometimes rather icky and gushing hideous television events. The artists involved (Ricky Martin, Vince Gill, Wilson Phillips, Elton John, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Matthew Sweet, etc.) did a nice mixture of the ultra-popular Beach Boys tunes with some of Brian's more obscure (and decidedly more melancholy) efforts.

The absolute highlight of the show for me was the married artist couple Aimee Mann and Michael Penn performing perhaps the most heartbreaking song ever written, "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times." It was a rather appropriate duet for the two to sing seeing that neither of their respectable body of work has received the appropriate attention from the masses. And when they traded the marked time chorus lines of "Sometimes I feel VERY sad" and "I guess I just wasn't meant for these times..." they unerringly captured the heart of the song of one who is as full of bitterness and self pity as he/she is of hope that something better is just around the corner. It was a stellar performance.

Yet it reminded me of all those hundreds and thousands of dollars spent in therapy figuring out nothing other than getting to the question without an answer: what so attracts me to sadness? Why do I so admire the insomniac who can sleep through the night as well as the narcoleptic who makes it through a day without falling victim to unwanted slumber? How about that chronic asthmatic who finishes an in-line skating marathon in more than impressive time?

I was reminded of this just a week before as I was a grateful eyewitness to Wilson's performance at the Xcel Center teamed with fellow 60's icon Simon. I was seated in front of a couple who obviously were there to see Simon. I overheard a conversation where the guy was criticizing his partner for buying Beatles' records (so the lighthearted Beach Boys stood no chance) when she was growing up because they were nothing but fluff (obviously the type who would boo Mr. Dylan for turning electric). The two of them refused to stand when the rest of the crowd danced to "Surfin' USA," "Good Vibrations," and "Fun Fun Fun."

After Wilson's set was finished I heard the guy utter to a seatmate who had just arrived, "That was very sad. He's so burnt out he couldn't even hit the notes. It was PAINFUL." Yes witnessing Brian perform these days takes a bit of empathy for where he's been and that he isn't exactly the most animated person on stage. His legendary stage fright takes back seat to his fragile mental state. He seems to exist only in the moment, almost childlike as the filters that others have developed to present themselves to the world in an acceptable fashion don't exist. And yes he strains to hit the notes but to realize that this is the man that has created so many wonderful and under appreciated songs and to be able to be in the same space as him is to understand why his talent is so huge and universal and admirable.

There have been a couple times, and a couple people in my life whom I given some music to because it meant so much to me that I wanted to share and the disappointing response I get is, "it was too depressing to listen to." I'm not sure I understand that. Yeah the lyrics may be sad and the music moody and introspective but how can it not be an uplifting experience to share in the music of an artist who is so willing to share of their gift and heart and express the depth of emotion that is what life has to be about? The music might not be suitable for dancing or head bobbin' but the sheer artistry ought to be worth paying attention to.

And so it goes with this last time I fell in love. After listening to Lucinda Williams latest CD Essence I marveled at what a totally honest effort it is. The relationship with another fizzled as the relationship of the heart and mind coalesces to form song after song of stunning beauty. So moved was I that I only previously owning Williams' last CD Car Wheels on a Gravel Road went out and purchased all of her back catalog. I was properly enjoying the reward when I heard the song "Sweet Old World" for the first time.

The song was written after a former lover committed suicide. The lyrics chide the lost soul for giving up when there is so much beauty in this world to appreciate and love. "Millions of us in love/Promises made good/Your own flesh and blood/Looking for some truth/Dancing with no shoes..." It's a great song sung in a most vulnerable and wistful sometimes cracking voice. Hello Billie Holiday. Yes Ricky Martin may sing circles around Brian Wilson technically in a sunny world but I'll take the authenticity of a naked soul revealing themselves for us any day, any night.

Monday, July 2, 2001

As If Everybody Knows What I'm Talking About

When I left my home and my family I was no more than a boy/In the company of strangers in the quiet of a railway station running scared/Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters where the ragged people go/Looking for the places only they would know..."

It was a hot end of summer Sunday when my Mom and Dad dropped me off in my dorm at the beginning of freshman orientation week at Macalester. As we were driving up Dale past 94 my nerves tingled as I didn't know quite what to expect nor quite what I was doing. It would have been just as easy for me to continue to live at home while taking classes but I decided it was better to become fully involved in campus activities. I had spent my whole senior year of high school brooding, just wanting out, wanting a change. One of the factors in my choice of Macalester was that no one else from my high school was going there. I indeed would have a fresh start, be able to establish my own name and voice on my own without anyone ever knowing the difference.

About the only information I had gotten from the college was a slip of paper telling me the name of my dorm (Wallace) room number (220) and roommates names (Dr. Pete and Boozin' Bruce). As I checked in at a table in the downstairs lobby I heart began pounding. As we trudged our way up the marble stairs more than half of me wanted to turn around and pretend it was time to really wake up. It was the exact same feeling I got when my Mom walked me to my bus stop during the first days of kindergarten.

Bruce and Pete and their families were already there setting up the room. Pete had claimed the bed by the windows and Bruce the bed nearest the sink. I was left to unload my stuff in the far corner bed underneath the fire alarm. Introductions were awkward. My parents quickly departed, leaving me to eat dinner with the other families. I maybe said a word or two all evening but certainly not without being asked a question first.

My whole freshman year was an odd and solitary experience. I in essence didn't make any friends all year, not because of a lack of effort by others nor necessarily a lack of effort (at times) by me. I just needed to sort out where I had just been, where I wanted to go, and the voice I needed to get me passed and there. I spent a lot of time taking walks, sitting down and writing around the area. I soon discovered the joys of walking down Snelling to Cheapo Records and picking up a used LP or two a week.

Towards the end of the year just after a spring shower, I made my semi-regular walk down to Cheapo and after looking around the bins decided to buy a copy of Paul Simon's first solo self titled LP. I was a fairly big Simon and Garfunkel fan having grown up listening to my sisters play the duo's songs on the piano and later learning many of those same songs myself after I was through with the rigors of that week's piano assignment. In high school people thought me such a fan of the duo that the blondest person in the school, Pam Mundt, declared to me without much provocation that she hated the song, "I Am a Rock."

It was that kind of memory I was leaving behind as I was under the impression that Simon's solo work wasn't as good- the stuff I heard like "Still Crazy After All These Years" and "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" didn't strike me the same as the older songs (plus they weren't as easy to duplicate on the piano).

I got back to the dorm room and pulled the record out of its jacket. I cleaned it before I put the needle of the album down on the vinyl and brought the lyrics sleeve to my bed. The first words from the first song "Mother and Child Reunion" struck a chord inside. "No I would not give you false hope on this strange and mournful day/But the mother and child reunion is only a motion away..." The song was about being disconnected and apart from the familiar.

The next song "Duncan" completely won me over. It's essentially about a lost soul who finds some sexual redemption underneath the stars and despite other troubles is satisfied if only for a moment. "Holes in my confidence/Holes in the knees of my jeans/I was left without a penny in my pocket/Oo-wee I was as destituted as a kid could be."

All the songs on the album hit upon similar themes but in a much looser, much more funky style than anything Simon and Garfunkel ever did. Simon was under pretty big expectations with his first solo effort- he had to prove he was the talent of the two (and undoubtedly he was being the writer of the songs) but beyond that he had to prove he could be not only just as good as the two, but better alone. And the LP does that beyond a shadow of a doubt. From references to having his chow fon stolen, to a Detroit Red Wings right winger, it really is the best middle finger with a smile song cycle ever recorded.

There were many times my freshman year when I felt like declaring it time for a forfeit (or as Twins' fans are now calling it, "throwing in the Hector") after attending a class where there were all these bright and talented minds flinging about ideas and questions that made me wonder why in the earth I could consider myself even a little special and why I had thought I was at all qualified among the over qualified for the profession I wished to pursue. It was so draining to return to my room full of doubt when I would play the LP and be SO inspired to know I was on the right journey and it would take some time to find my true voice.

The next few years things really began to fall in place for me. I made some of the best relationships of my life and I was "discovered" somehow for the one thing I always wanted to be noticed for- my writing. I found others that I could discuss the many intricacies of the things that mattered most to me.

Then for what ever reason (call it a life pattern) things came crashing down around me toward the end of my junior year. Maybe it was the realization that I soon really had to begin making some serious choices about what was next again, and maybe it was the little girl next door (that I once knew) but something just wasn't right anymore.

It was after another walk down to Cheapo that I fell in love with the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. The LP remains the one in my collection that I play nearly every week, and I appreciate more and more each time I hear it. There is so much to the music, from bold and bald pure expression of melancholy and longing to absolute wonderment of the human heart's frailties conveyed by those gorgeous melodies and harmonies.

Flash forward to a few months back when I read that Brian Wilson and Paul Simon were touring together and coming to our town. Being a fan of both I knew I had to go and despite the pain of purchasing my $66 ticket via Ticketmaster online, I filed it away as a rare evening to look forward to and enjoy. But with the extreme pain of the personal heartbreak(s) of the past few years and the grinding annoyance of the professional experiences of the past few months, to be frank, the concert didn't even register on my conscious radar. I knew it was sometime in June but I figured like most everything else going on these days, I'd deal with it whenever it arrived. It was merely another scribbling on my calendar (a poor person's palm pilot).

I looked up enough last weekend to take note that on Tuesday I would have to work my way over to the Xcel Energy Center (if this is where my energy bill contributions are going, bring it on!) to try and relax and enjoy an evening out.

One quick observation that was probably obvious to anyone who hadn't consumed too many beers: the pairing was a rather odd matching. Simon and Wilson really don't have anything in common other than both being icons of the 60's. While the cerebral and studious Simon was busy singing about a "brother" who went off to Vietnam, Wilson was writing songs for his real brothers about having fun (fun, fun) until her daddy took the T-bird away. It was clear from the people around us that a greater percentage were old folkies and young wannabes who would never take into consideration the considerable merits of one who has written more than a few surfing classics.

Brian struggled during his set to connect to the crowd. The sure fire stand up songs, "California Girls," "Good Vibrations," "Surfin USA" got people on their feet after a bit of prodding from the writer (who sat awkwardly behind his keyboard without striking a key all night). The absolute highlights from the performance were the two Pet Sounds classics, "Sloop John B" and "God Only Knows" followed by (who would have thunk it possible?) two tracks from the aborted never to be classic Smile "Heroes and Villains" and "Surf's Up." Could anyone with a lighter really appreciate what was happening on stage with a solid and sure vocal from Brian of those songs?

The crowd was much more into Simon's rather workmanlike if not at times spirited set. Sure, the new songs from the Grammy nominated You're the One didn't inspire the same response as the familiar songs from Graceland and the Simon and Garfunkel tunes ("Sounds of Silence," "Homeward Bound," "Mrs. Robinson") but the highlights of the evening were a sterling "Hurricane Eye," a rocking "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" and a rather obscure tune from 1990's Rhythm of the Saints, "Spirit Voices."

I appreciated the company of the most attractive sweet smelling (and again) blonde dancing next to me (don't touch me) who at least got her dancing right at the right times. Unlike those around us who howled with lines like "and I stepped outside to smoke myself a 'j' and "it was against the law, what the mama saw, was against the law..." she is a knowledgeable Simon fan to appreciate and move to inspired writing like "sometimes even music cannot substitute for tears" and "may twelve angels guard you while you sleep/Maybe that's a waste of angels I don't know/I'd do anything to keep you safe from the danger that surrounds us..." As we left the energy center with ears a-buzzing I harked back to my freshman dorm room and was able to let go enough to appreciate I wasn't in a State Government Finance Committee hearing listening to Rep. Philip Krinkie, but instead was enjoying a couple of artists who have made all the difference in the world to me.