Monday, March 26, 2001

The Wolves are Swiffing My Sheep Away

"I don't have a sense of humor. I have a sense of the ridiculous but I don't have a sense of humor."
-Martha to husband George in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?'

I prayed to the immoral commie God to end things here and now and quickly. Suddenly a chunk the size of a Volvo plopped down on my heady noggin. Doing my best Chicken Little impersonation I began to warn others that the sky was falling and that I had been "Mir-dered." They looked at me as if I was a dangerous fugitive that had been afflicted with either the Mad Cow or foot in mouth diseases (with a mild case of Dutch Elm thrown in to boot). "Fools," I said munching down another tainted cheeseburger...

They came and got me and took me away. It wasn't exactly a time out but more like down time. I met plenty of new friends in my crafts class.

The ever increasing number of people that now know me intimately would testify that if I have one love in life it's the theater. Those in the know know I love nothing more than watching a bunch of people up on stage recreating someone's skewed view of life almost as much as I enjoy talking to furniture.

Tuesday after a long day at the Capitol I braved the Uptown traffic along with my young colleagues, the quixotic soon to be law school bound esquire and the kickboxing instructor Australian alum, to try and score some tickets to the Guthrie's presentation of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" As we were standing in line for rush tickets we struck up a conversation with some graduating Macalester students who reminded me that any time I think things are bad now, all I have to do is remember those dreary days of my senior year in college. Good 'ole' freaking Mac indeed.

We got the last three tickets available (call it fate) turned in by nongoing attendees. Two of us had excellent seats a few rows back from the stage, the third literally sat in the final row of the balcony next to a woman that my colleague said was "desperate" what with her inappropriate sympathizing laugh at all the wrong moments. We rotated our seats following the two intermissions.

Edward Albee's play is as searing as it is a barrel full of discomforting chortles. It reminded me of every weekend at my house since the late 1940's. The play reeks of alcoholism as an dysfunctional older academia oriented couple corrupt the new professor and his wife on a single reflective, game playing early morning night.

The Guthrie's production starring Patrick Stewart (Star Trek's Cap'n Picard) as the meek history professor/wannabe author (Richard Burton's role) was exceedingly true to the emotional core of the mind f@#king story. None of the play's four characters can quite be straight with the others. Mercedes Ruehl's Martha struck the exact right unsophisticated non-academically educated, but seriously streetwise tone needed for the fabric of the story to mesh.

The moral of the story has to do with how any one of us that has to deal with a unacceptable loss can delude ourselves into thinking there might exist an alternate reality if only we turn our eyes to what is actually going on around us. Or in other words there is a rather large gap between a fantasy and a dream.

The play asks what is worse- lying to one's self or lying to another who in a discomforting moment allows an admission of love slipped out? Stewart and Ruehl were particularly effective in articulating the dynamic between a couple who know each other too well but never can quite come to terms with how hurting the other is justification for one's own self inflicted wounds. There's a booze steeped cruelty that captures the first drink joking cruelty to the acerbic down to the bone, defenses down nothing to lose moment when you know what you are saying hurts the one who loves you most and you almost find some amusement in that.

After coming home from a rather intense evening I swiffed. Call it a distraction or call it a commercial break. Years ago when I shared a room with my brother I noticed that on the Neil Simon formula I fell far more on the Felix end of the spectrum compared to my brother's Oscar Madison type tendencies. When my roommate took on a feline nature it became quickly apparent to me that there was no victory in the fight against the amount of hair he shed. So now my home d├ęcor has sort of a short gray haired texture to it.

Not that I don't have my fits of cleanliness now and then. My divine friend complete with child got me hooked on the joys of swiffing. I heartily recommend this new product. IT'S BETTER THAN MOPPING! And it makes cleaning seem like play. The last time I was so won over by a product was when my parents gave me a litter box for Mr. Max that allows you to sift the litter through leaving clumps to easily dispose of like little pieces of a Russian satellite.

Monday, March 19, 2001

Homemade Spicy and Ricey Miso Soup With Plenty of Veggies

I can't believe before today your painting never existed. And magically or at least inspirationally with the strokes of a brush to the canvas, a face appears and never leaves my mind.

I wish I had a steady hand that could have taken the colors I had in my mind and did what she did for a mere writing of a check: move another's soul. I have a few photographs that I look at once in a while to remind myself of other days. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and some I know have that many rattling around inside. I wish I knew the equation could be said about words dispersed into the void, read by strangers and heartbreakers reciprocally. A professionally broken covenant, a cracked chalice spilling its blood like wine.

And the person I've shared more words with was the one who saw the painting. Recently returned from the sunny south I've come to wonder why she gave me a first aid kit for Christmas. Just like the time she gave me the white album from a former camp counselor. I read when the Beatles broke up Paul McCartney said that he hid behind his beard. He suddenly felt useless, without a job or a purpose. Once upon a long ago feeling the same I struggled through a myriad of ticks on the clock as the object of the portrait walked me through the abyss. Now I wonder why she did.

I had a long business lunch with the temporary quixotic soon to be law school bound esquire and the kickboxing Australian alum Jezebel who told me my attitude needs adjusting to fill that half full glass. They both chuckled when I revealed that what I wrote was both the truth and fiction. We talked Aristotle and Krinkie and I remembered when I was their age and thought back then I probably could have seen the train up the tracks and wouldn't have minded the picture whatsoever.
Decapitated in an elevator I think I could rise again, heartless I'd be hard pressed to continue on. And I told them so. She told me she was impressed by the size of my record collection and my fondness for Lakeville artist Stuart Davis. The daffodil bloomed in a multitude of cubicles.

I called the Burnsville jewel felon who just had her nails done. Living in a motel apart from her cats she read the number on the call waiting feature of her cell phone and knew it was me before I said a word. An alliance based upon commerce where both sides justify the legality of the compact. I tracked her down with a google search and she said that she might lose it all.

A connection whose existence is destined to exist because a coming upon the annual anniversary of the time a computer fixing offer was turned into a transition from having my breath taken away to having the wind knocked out of me. Never has anyone said anything more cruel, more unfair to me and I didn't dare respond. And I haven't quite been the same since.
A famous once feral feline misjudges a leap suffering from the passing of a multitude of more than the twinkling of an eye. Maybe it's the frigid five year old abode. Maybe it's his emotional state of nexus left alone for too long a time.

Two years ago he liquidated himself on Thanksgiving day. He had had enough. closing his garage door the fumes consumed him. And since that day a ghost has hovered over everything he would have done. If only they knew that instead of an overdose of Tryptophan (notice the spelling) and stuffing he had separated the part that connects his thoughts with his feelings. They were weary of his phone calls and the one he dialed up that day never spoke to him in quite the same way ever again even though she shed a seemingly authentic tear when he announced the lip. Their Last Dinner she asked if she had done something to "offend him." Now he wondered the same. The spilt heart hurt deep.

Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Hobnobbin'

I'd like to thank my friend Spunky this week for his pointing out the article on Ang Lee that appears elsewhere in these pages. The article wonderfully explains why Lee's Hidden Dragon Crouching Tiger touched me so deeply. Also perhaps it's appropriate here to warn about a new phenomenon. My mother taught me at an early age about the dreaded Sports Illustrated jinx. That jinx is based on whoever appears on the cover of the magazine will suffer immediate bad luck. Well last week we devoted several pages of this publication to articles shared by LeAnn about the radio station Zone 105. Days later that station all but disappeared. Call it the curse of the newsletter.

And you'll have to forgive me if this week's column seems even more loopy than normal. I'll come clean up front- I'm under the heavy influence of cold medicine and things are a bit fuzzy right now. Oh look, there's a kitty in the house...

Speaking of which let me share with you now a glimpse behind the scenes here at the newsletter offices. As part of the process every Sunday morning for the past four years when we get to the point of production where the final proofreading is about to occur (yes I know it probably surprises you to find out we do proofreed this publication before it goes to pres( I stroll across Hamline to the neighborhood coffee shop where I have a crush on surly Erin the young coffee clerk who makes my usual double latte to go.

As I look both ways before crossing the road back to my house I usually take a quick glance at my huge front window. There sits Mr. Max. As I get closer to my house I can see Max with his mouth open, a silent meow. It's the cutest darn thing because I know he knows what the routine entails. When I get inside I go over to where his food is and I give him a treat to share with my weekly coffee treat. It's a time for bonding between the two of us. A time to say, "another week, another issue, another job well done."

Things are about to change soon however. Last Saturday I drove out to Mahtomedi to the cat shelter that my niece works at. I am in the process of finding a lil' sister for Max. Brynna, my niece, showed me the cutest grey siamese cat and I was all about ready to write out the check. However these days I'm not home much, and before bringing home another housemate, I want to have time to be around for the transition that I know is going to be a bit stressful for the firmly entrenched feline already roaming the halls.

The idea of another cat actually was cast last summer when Max had his eating the Azalea plant ordeal. I realized then that he isn't going to be around forever so since that day he's been pretty spoiled. Now that the legislative session is draining my attention, I wish I could spend more time with my cat. When I leave in the darkness of the morning he often meows as if he doesn't want me to go. He seldom looks directly at me but he won't take his eyes off me once I put on my outside jacket and gloves.

I figured another human roommate is probably out of the question now that the world's greatest soccer player, who was set to move in, strolled away and I haven't heard from her in three years. Another kitty therefore seems a more viable option.
On the human front it was a week of celebrity tangents. Toward the end of a long, long week I was surprisingly touched when a high ranking 3M official and former boss came over to me before a committee hearing and talked up a storm. He told me he was glad to see I was doing well. Well that was nice.

But better than that was a potential life altering opportunity. When the news was announced last fall that the Dalai Lama was going to speak to the legislature in May, I immediately had this wild notion that with my contacts I might be able to arrange an interview. Wouldn't that be Chris Farley cool? So I've been monitoring all things related to his Capitol junket. Last week I went to a meeting of the planning committee that is setting the agenda for his visit. We went through the minute by minute account of the details involved. I was reminded of one of my favorite M*A*S*H episodes when the gang is planning a visit from Gen. Douglas MacArthur to the 4077. At 10:30 the general is scheduled to meet with the officers. At 11:00 he is to inspect the troops. 12:00- lunch. At this point both Hawkeye and Trapper stand up as if they are about to go get a meal. Makes me laugh every time I see it. The good news is that the idea for an interview was not denied outright and it might indeed happen if only on a very limited basis. I may be one of the few (even legislators are excluded) that have access to the retiring room after his holy one's speech.

Speaking of departed spirits, Friday afternoon I strolled over to the Capitol rotunda and viewed the body of former Governor Harold Stassen. On a cheerier note- Friday evening I joined my neighbor on a journey down to the Walker Art Center where we didn't get to see Yoko Ono but we did get to enjoy the many pieces of art I've heard much about over the years. I will admit jostling amongst the black clad elite just made me want to get home and give kitty a treat.

Tuesday, March 6, 2001

My Knew Friend Katie

"I know it's not my place. There's things, thoughts, and reactions I had that I couldn't understand or even try to explain to anyone else. Thoughts that made me feel like I was losing it or like I was some horrible person. I know it's different for you because it's always different."
-Tara to Buffy on the death of their mothers

I'm more susceptible to the latest news crisis of the day than most who have been to hell and back. Paranoia tends to have that effect. I'd be the last to accuse the media of exaggerating the potential impacts of things especially since at least two of my favorite people happen to be media jackals. But at the beginning of this winter when there was report after report about how bad ice dams were for the health of one's house, I decided to take a proactive approach. I figured if I kept the inside temperature of my house low enough, I wouldn't have to worry about heat loss and thus there was no way those dreaded dams would appear. Dammit, it now appears a questionable strategy and I'm tired of the 58 degree sacrifice.

And then the snow fell... After a week of being dumped on, my Dad was kind enough to buy for me one of them roof rakes. I was reminded of that old standby joke- know that thing I got for ice dams? -it worked, I got them. This despite my best efforts on Sunday as I trudged through waist high snowdrifts, stood near my roof and proceeded to drag a ton of snow from my roof on top of myself. Talk about wintry fun. There I was in the middle of my yard doing my best snowman imitation and wondering how exactly I'd reached that prestigious point. This wasn't something I exactly envisioned when I put down the downpayment towards being a homeowner. There are moments when the absurdity of life is as sharp as the jagged edges of the icicles dangling from the roof ready to spear a random victim.

Wednesday the state's budget forecast was released. I was assigned to cover Gov. Jesse Ventura's press conference on the reduced revenues available. I sat behind Star Tribune capitol reporter Dane Smith in the governor's reception room. A question was asked to Pam Wheelock, the commissioner of the Department of Finance that was technical in nature. Wheelock struggled to clarify the reporter's question. Ventura stepped to the mike and Smith said, "Let her speak," essentially telling the governor to shut up.

Ventura glared at Smith. Since I was directly behind the Strib reporter I too felt the wrath of the governor. He stepped back and for the rest of the press conference refused to answer any more questions. When KARE-11's Kerri Miller asked a specific question about the governor's conference Ventura had just come back from, he said he was through answering questions. She said, "So you won't even answer that?" And he shot back "I already answered that in my speech." And with that he stormed out of the room. The reporters snickered that they had been able to get under his skin. The whole thing reminded me of my days back in the second grade.

But it didn't matter to me because the previous evening I had seen something truly astounding, meaningful and inspirational and perhaps the most heartfelt piece of art (akin to the skill of the greatest Ingmar Bergman film) I've ever had the privilege to share in. It's probably getting old hat my advocating of the special mastery of the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I know I get a lot of rolling of the eyes whenever I praise the show. The same old "David is being David" look I got at Macalester my freshman year when Shawnee Khosden said to me, "I can't take anything you say seriously. Why is everything a joke to you?"

But when it comes to Buffy I ain't exactly kidding even though I know my words will be unintentionally interpreted as hyperbole. After what perhaps was the best hour long episode of TV I've ever watched I went home in a complete stupor. The show in which Buffy's mom dies, touched my heart but also amazed me with it's skill of what that horrible hand detachment feeling is like. The disconnection with one's heart. The disjointed life must go on attempts that paralyze with such trivial things as what is the appropriate attire to wear when one is off to comfort a grieving friend. A spontaneous punch through the wall, inappropriate comments from the new human, child like Anya- it was so accurate, so true to life that I was absolutely transfixed by the entire show.

And I wasn't alone. The next day the world's biggest Buffy fan in New Ulm, Minnesota emailed me and expressed his astonishment at the show. The sharing of words reminded me of how letdown I felt (probably unfairly so) at the behavior and lack of what I considered the minimal words I heard from my friends when my Mom died. After this truly astounding moment in television I was glad there was someone else around who recognized something that very few that I know could appreciate.

The episode was nearly flawless. There was an obligatory vampire kill at the end that made me groan because the rest of the hour was exquisite and so true in how well done it was and how accurate it portrayed a heart that I know I'll never be able to quite touch ever again.