Monday, May 28, 2001

The Day the Rabbit Died

"The hardest thing in this world is to live in it."
-The Late Great Buffy Anne Summers

It was a dark and stormy night as I turned right from Western Avenue in Roseville on to County Road C going west. I soon hit the speed limit of 40 miles per hour when I saw a little bunny run out in front of me. We both sort of panicked. The bunny turned, deer in the headlights look, started to go back to the side of the road he had just pranced from, decided against it and tried to bolt to the other side. I tried to decide whether it best to hit my brakes, swerve, continue at the same speed, or speed up. I slowed down and felt my left front wheel thump over Mr. Bunny. I was very sad and quite remorseful and still haven't quite recovered. I've never killed anything bigger than a squirrel before. That night I hugged Mr. Max a little tighter than normal, as the fragility of life dawned upon me.

Speaking of rabbits dying, and on a much cheerier note, a great big hearty welcome to the world to Henry Louis Myers, a divine baby if ever there was one. Eyewitness reports (from one I've come in a very short time to hold in the highest regard) describe Henry as, "adorable, perfect, exquisite... he lives up to the billing. A mere peanut of a lad, but with lots of length to grow into." Can't wait to meet you Henry Louis. I envy one who has yet to hear a Bob Dylan song, has yet to pet a kitty cat, who has never seen an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You have so much to look forward to and learn.

So with all the news, both good and bad, a standout highlight from the past week was a note from a self described "faithful reader" who as I, was quite shaken up by the season finale of the best TV show on the air today. OH MY GOD, THEY KILLED BUFFY! It was downright Star Trek II The Wrath of Khanish the way Buffy was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the good of the many. I mean I love my sisters to the utmost, but I'm not sure I'd jump off into the void to save their lives. The whole thing was handled so well- the devastated look on Willow's face, Zander looking on in disbelief, Giles shedding a tear- just like the moment Kirk realized that Spock was going to die, I found myself along with fellow poet Spike bawling my eyes out.

I was actually home in time on Tuesday to watch the show. Unfortunately the night before I had worked until midnight when the Legislature adjourned, and the next morning I had to be at the Capitol bright eyed to watch the tax conference committee squabble at 9 freaking a.m. So as I lie on my couch I literally could not keep my eyes open even for the highlight of the TV season. So I gave up and went to bed not to wake up until 5:30 a.m. the next day. And I wasn't able to watch the show until Saturday. Egads what a surprise.

But rest assured dear faithful reader, since Sarah Michelle is all signed up to follow the show to UPN I'm quite confident that Buffy will not stay dead. Maybe they'll bring back a bionic, 'nother robot Buffy to take her place. We must remember that she died at the end of the first season too- although that time it was for only a few minutes and there wasn't that awful finality of the showing of her tombstone.

I must also express a tinge of guilt- I've always said that Buffy is by far the weakest character on the show and it would have been much more interesting if the show had been re-titled Faith the Vampire Slayer. But this season I was actually beginning to like the character of Buffy. It wasn't so much the brush with the dark side that Faith showed her- the thrill of the kill- but more her having to come to terms with the meaning of being the slayer. There are those that have responsibility thrust upon them that lose sight of friendships and give in to the esteem of power. Buffy saw that and decided that family was more important than any of that and to lose yet another family member, born out of blood, was more than she could take. So just as I was beginning to like her, they take her away. Typical, damn typical.

Monday, May 21, 2001

Throwin' One Dollar Wienies at David McCarty

"Honey, I'm the original one eyed chicklet in the kingdom of the blind."
-The God Glorificus

The question of the week is what has a longer lasting effect on your tired and cranky historical scribe after months upon months of watching laws made on sunny frightful days- meeting the Dalai Lama or the fine season long writing efforts on the favorite teeny boppin WB soon to be UPN show? Gee, what do you think?

I'd love to answer the question in an awe-inspiring manner but unfortunately I'm just too tired. I've never been more tired in my life and believe me I've been plenty tired once or twice before.

I was strolling into work last week and thinking about how quickly inspiration fades. Meeting one of the world's most famous spiritual leaders did have an effect; indeed it got me looking at and thinking about things in a little different way. But that faded and it faded much sooner than I wished it had.

So there I was trying to hold on to a thought, a belief, a word, a feeling when everything just kind of returned to the way it has been for a while. As the reality fades the television glows and as I got home on Thursday I finally had the chance to watch Tuesday's episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The show has had a wonderful year. The writing has remained clever and funny but it goes beyond the masterful way the words have been put together and the story has unfolded. Rather it has to do with a skilled artist (writer/producer Josh Whedon) operating at the top of his game while expressing himself so fluidly with breathtaking clarity. (Did I ever tell you all about the asthmatic who took my breath away or was it she knocked the wind out of me?)

Years back in the midst of my infamous "blue period" my dear friend Spunky and I decided to sit down to write a television script to help me overcome my writer's block. We figured we had an in into the Hollywood biz because Spunky's cousin Dale Launer wrote My Cousin Vinny, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Love Potion #9. Spunky and I chose to write an episode of The Golden Girls despite having never watched the show.

I was well aware of the charges of selling out that were heaped upon my all time favorite literary hero, F. Scott Fitzgerald when he started writing screenplays but words are words and self expression spread across any canvass can be admirable if done sincerely. Television may not have been as worthy a goal as writing a novel but it was writing and it was channeling my leaking energy in a creative manner. We didn't get very far on the script but a seed to a lesson was planted nonetheless.

This has been a rough year on the character of Buffy. She broke up with her boyfriend. She began questioning the meaning of her profession and her life and how the two so fatefully intertwine and not by choice but by who she is. Her mother died. And now to prevent the fracturing of this reality she has found out she has to destroy someone dear to her heart, a key to her past.

The pressure was too much and Buffy finally snapped. She tumbled within herself in a catotonic trance where she replayed over and over in her mind the things she was running away from while at the same time facing her doomed fate in a surrealistic way. Her crisis, much like President Bartlett's crisis in the West Wing has caused her to question her own beliefs while at the same time gaining strength by such questions.

Never has a show delved so deeply and so expertly into the issues of grief. Life goes on but sometimes we don't. Sometimes it helps to be able to talk freely to your friends but sometimes it's their lack of words or absences that hurt the most. All the feelings that surround an overwhelming loss- the confusion, the sadness, the separation both from all that once brought comfort but also the detachment to one's own soul that comes from having to let go. It's all been there this year in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and with it a lesson: it's not about questioning the source of inspiration, it's about appreciating those that know the distinction.

Monday, May 14, 2001

I Am the Weakest Link- Bye Bye

When I heard last year that the Dalai Lama was going to address the Minnesota Legislature I decided I was obligated to do my best to arrange an interview with His Holiness by using my job as a reason (an excuse?) to meet the charismatic leader.
Not that I'm that schooled in Buddhism nor am I that knowledgeable about the trials and tribulations of the Dalai Lama but I thought it was a rather unique opportunity to be in the presence of an acknowledged world leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner. How often does one get a chance like that? Plus I liked the fact that story after story I read about him emphasized his penchant for giggling. That in itself warranted an effort for an interview.

I of course never thought it could possibly happen. My only previous brushes with fame didn't exactly measure up with this potential opportunity. In kindergarten young Dee Dee Hasselburg, the daughter of actress Loni Anderson, followed me around like a lost, devoted puppy, attaching herself to me for whatever reason in an affectionate way. Later on I bagged the groceries of World Series hero and Cy Young Award winner Frank Viola who was accompanied by his son, Frank Jr. and a whole lot of pop to purchase.

More recently Mrs. Minnesota stopped by our office a few of weeks ago and I got to shake her hand while admiring the tiara upon her head. She smiled at me and as she walked away she did her lightbulb wave and I wished her well. A few days later at the Twins' game they had Mrs. Minnesota sing "God Bless America" and the "Star Spangled Banner." What could be more patriotic you ask? Well for one thing the one who did the singing wasn't the woman I had just met. Somebody's cheating or in some states it's called bigamy. Anyhoo getting back to our story...

I suffered what can mildly be described as a fracture of previous faith after my Mom died. Not that I hadn't questioned it severely before but I really was wondering what the point of all this we face can possibly be. My still best friend was kind and thoughtful enough to loan to me a book of daily Christian meditations with a Seventh Day Adventist bent. I read those passages religiously feeling as if I was shirking my duties any day I happen to miss my reading.

At the same time I further roamed down that super information byway by subscribing to a Buddhist email lesson of the day. The combination of Christian scripture and Buddhist wisdom meant almost as much to me as a friend who could possibly care so much as to be concerned that I didn't at the most difficult time of my life lose my bedrock faith in all things spiritual.

A couple of months back as I attended my first and only meeting concerning the Dalai Lama's visit I expected to be delivered the news that I would in no way be able to interview him because he had far better things to do, far more important people to spend time with. But I didn't hear that. I was told that if he had the time, a Senate counterpart and myself might have the chance to ask the Dalai Lama a few questions. At any rate we were given the promise of access to the retiring room behind the House of Representatives' chamber where His Holiness would greet legislative leaders after his speech.

I tried to formulate some questions for the possible interview in my mind. "Who's your favorite Beatle?" "What's your favorite meal?" "What music do you listen to, books do you read?" "Do you remember specific lessons from past lives and what life was better, reincarnation number five or seven?"

All this occurred while truly believing there was no way I'd ever come within 20 feet of the spiritual compassionate one. But as the time neared it actually began to appear that an interview wasn't entirely out of the question. I was being given access that even those higher up weren't granted and who could guess, maybe His Holiness would take one look at me and decide this was a person he could open up to and answer the questions never before asked.

The morning before his speech I was given my security clearance and told to be in the retiring room no later than 8:00 a.m. for his 9:30 speech. The night before I fretted more than I usually am inclined to do. What exactly do you ask the Dalai Lama?

As I tried to get some sleep I was a tad more paranoid than usual. I double checked my doubly set alarm clock. I checked the air in my newly purchased tires. I made sure I had all my necessary credentials to get into my choice spot.

As the alarm buzzed the next morning and I awoke from a fitful night's rest I speeded up my normal morning routine just in case. An hour later as I nervously approached the never before sacred House chamber I felt a strange but serene calm. My nervousness was overcome with a feeling of genuine serenity- I was going to enjoy this morning despite myself.

As I cut my way through the line that had formed an hour before, I felt honored that while I may not be able to speak with His Holiness I was being given the access that few others were. After wading my way through security much more stringent than the Metrodome's efforts at protecting the beleaguered Chuck Knoblauch the week before, I stood in my designated spot for about an hour. Just as the events were scheduled to proceed I was told by security that I had to evacuate the backroom for yet another sweep and so my only option was to meander out front to where the speech was going to take place. I stood awkwardly out of place and out of time as the Dalai Lama was introduced into the chamber. I was in a spot up front where he had to walk right by me to get to the speaker's spot. After he passed I pressed my way back to the back room, right where I belonged.

After his address he was escorted back to the retiring room by the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader. I stood there knowing I couldn't speak but needed to be the eyes of the many who weren't fortunate enough to have the access. As the members of the reception line one by one went up to have scarves previously distributed blessed by the Dalai Lama I decided to get in line. Scarfless I approached him and he looked at me. I took the step forward, reached out my hand and met his eyes. He stood right hand extended, expectant as if he expected me to deliver some words of wisdom. I said, "thank you" as he giggled.

Later I was told by one House member that the Dalai Lama's gentleness was noticed and admired to which I silently (of course) concurred. Learn to smile and laugh and appreciate the always present compassion that can occur in an exchange between any one of us at any moment and one can overcome just about any obstacle that appears in our path.