Monday, March 25, 2002

Things Have Changed

This is the story of how a sweet innocent young boy decayed into a bitter worn out old man. If you'll give me a moment, I'll tell you what I'm talking about Willis.

I seriously doubt if any of you watched, or enjoyed TV as much as I did when I was a kid. I watched ALL the shows. I took notes and studied character development and plot and actually thought at times my own life would make a delightful sitcom. But as much TV as I watched I never dreamed that one day I would be able to see Danny Partridge beat the crap out of Greg Brady. As I have grown older I have discovered that just about anything is possible/will eventually happen if only you watch long enough.

I was somewhat amused to read that there were some obviously green TV viewers/critics who wrote that the new FOX celebrity boxing show was a new all time low for the medium. The announced scheduling of the show featuring a bout between the tough as nails, wrong side of the tracks Tonya Harding (a once potential D. Ma matrimony candidate) and Amy Fisher oddly coincided with the news that ABC was negotiating with David Letterman to take over the 10:30 spot occupied for the past two decades by Ted Koppel's often taken for granted Nightline newscast. While the voices declared that latest skanky FOX idea was indeed a sign of the coming soon end of civilization, I instead viewed the ABC action as a more accurate sign of the apocalypse. Network news may not be anything to write home about but Nightline truly does some worthwhile work. As cable TV developed the past few years the stories on the ABC show have increasingly focused on issues that don't get enough attention. Much as I love Dave (and does anyone love him more than I?) the idea of eliminating the one worthwhile network newscast at the expense of a still sometimes entertainment effort sickened me.

But as I watched the criticized FOX celebrity boxing show (nights after watching a squatting woman urinate on the urchin-bitten hand of a fellow Survivor participant) I must admit I may not be so keen on TV as I once was. First off it was disappointing that the original opponent of my favorite knee whacking Olympic skater was told she violated prison probation conditions so she couldn't participate and was thus replaced by a wimpy woman who almost brought a President to his knees (so to speak). Tonya, as expected, kicked Paula Jones' scrawny little ass. But it was far from uplifting, it was just sad to watch the continuing disintegrating fall of the one who was the first to do some historic spinny ice thing or multiple lutz action. It reminded me of the great Japanese director Kurosawa's perceptive quote that you can't love someone if you don't even like them.

Through the miracle of the VCR I watched all this unfold days after it truly did matter. At the time I was stuck in the Denver airport a victim of a snow bombarded Twin Cities airport. My family and I thus spent more time in the Mile High city than we originally expected. It was the first time since September 11 that I had flown and I must say that the presence of the military didn't exactly bring about the desired effect. The fatigues were just another reminder to the fatigued that the world since the domestic terrorist attack is such a different jarring place to try and live. It didn't help matters that while going through security in Denver that twice I was the lucky one to be singled out for further inspection and wanding. (It was somewhat comforting to see that the additional frisking alarmed authorities that I had a pack of gum in one pocket and a dime in another.) My own Jones' owned skinny little arse and dishelved appearance obviously makes me a terrorist looking little guy.

The only comfort in the unexpected ordeal was the chance to finally get to visit one of our out of town Cheapo stores. It thankfully was like being at home and though I was sad when I mentioned I was the newsletter guy to the ring up guy and he had no idea what the hell I was talking about I must say I was very happy to finally see the store and get my employee discount on my purchase of I'm sure to be enlightening music.

Monday, March 18, 2002

Tribune Tribute

After another growing night of restless fake sleep not even two lattes could clear the buzzing inside my head. While waiting at the most Denver like intersection of St. Paul, the stoplight where Dale Street, Front Street, and Como Avenue all meet, I sat behind a car with a bumper sticker that read, "If you don't believe in God you better be damned sure you are right..."

Now normally I don't like to think of religion that early in the morning if I can help it but for some reason the message plastered on the car in front of me, with some smugly confident righteous intent I'm sure, echoed inside. At another time of the day or in my life the message may have offended me in some way. But in my current state of mind I couldn't help but agree with the sentiment. If there really is an afterlife that depends on how we live our limited life on Earth, those that have spent their entire lives as non-believers are sure to be in for some kind of surprise. Surely rising above the daily grind for some higher purpose is an utmost challenge to the undisciplined.

As the light finally turned from red to green the thought occurred to me that the opposite was just as true. If there really isn't a God those who have based their life actions on some prescribed spiritual code are in for just as much of a surprise. Think of all the energy that could have been expended elsewhere.

One of the last lucid things my Mom proudly said to me was that she always knew that I would be interested in journalism because it ran in her side of the family. The title on my business card says I'm a writer but I'm not quite sure it truly applies but I am now sure that what my Mom was trying to tell me was without a doubt as true as any bumper sticker.

Mom's last surviving brother, Ben, died last week. I didn't really know him that well. My most memorable memory of him was a trip with my Dad and Mom to Ben's home in Russell, Kansas (Bob Dole's town) after I graduated from college with my journalism degree. Ben had told my parents that there was a nearby town with a newspaper for sale. He asked if I might be interested in buying it and running it. My state of mind those days was extremely shaky but it was a dream to be not only a newspaper employee but the GUY, the one that made the decisions on the content. I may not be able to change the world but maybe I could make a very small dent in a very small corner of things.

It turned out that the paper wasn't for sale and looking back maybe that wasn't such a bad thing. I probably wasn't ready for such a big step and can any of you imagine a precursor to the Cheapo newsletter being hoisted upon the conservative residents of some small town in Kansas? But Ben felt bad nonetheless. He didn't realize, probably because I never told him, that his thinking of me for that opportunity meant more than anything in the world. I didn't care that the chance didn't materialize, it was a simple reaching out that inevitably added a few days to my own life.

I really got to know Ben through his regular letters to my Mom. He wrote about his grandchildren, life in Russell, sports and an occasional comment about something political. I loved his writing. Believe me it takes something unique to actually get me to chortle aloud but Ben did it in just about every one of his letters. He had a dry sense of humor that I knew came from a admirable kindred spirit- a man who said very little verbally but could say it all in a few pithy, jotted down thoughts.

I was quite honored when Ben's family asked me to be a pallbearer at the funeral in Tribune, Kansas just inside the Colorado/Kansas border. Last year when I first heard he was ill I tried to think of something I could do to bring a smile or two in a difficult moment. Words failed me. So I sent the picture of me shaking the hand of the Dalai Lama. It was the best I could do. Ben's niece Gail, who he raised as a daughter after his sister Alice died, told me after the funeral he had proudly hung the picture in his living room. She told me that I was special to Ben, which believe me meant ten times more to me than a handshake with one of the world's most holy of men.

Gail asked Ben to write about his siblings and parents so the family history could be passed on. I read some of what he wrote after the service, and the voice was familiar and enlightening. I found out that three of Mom's siblings including Ben were the editors of their high school's newspaper just like I was. I truly cherished the voice of a wonderful writer who wrote humbly yet proudly of his family and his memories. He sacrificed some of his dreams so that those he loved could achieve their own dreams and I can't think of anything more admirable. One of the other pallbearers, an editor of a nearby town newspaper told me that though Ben spent much of his career on the technical side of newspaper production he always wanted to be a reporter and he was a great writer. The most moving part of the funeral service was not the Biblical passages or the soaring version of Ava Maria but rather the poem and words from an interview from his granddaughters. He obviously had taught them well: the love of education and the special meaning of a carefully chosen word. Good-bye Uncle Ben.

Monday, March 4, 2002

Dave's World

"I've heard that song before luv, I think I have the sheet music."
-William the Poet

In a semi-perfect world, the group of people who annually select the "best album of the year" would recognize a collection of bluegrass songs including tracks from Ralph Stanley and the Cox Family.

In a perfect world the same group would have selected another CD from a performer who on the same telecast sang the unmatchable, skillful, and revealing verse, "Well there's preachers in the pulpits and babies in the cribs/I'm longin' for that sweet fat that sticks to your ribs/I'm gonna buy me a barrel of whiskey, I hope I don't turn senile/Well I cried for you- not it's your turn, you can cry awhile" decked in a dapper cowboy hat, face stern with a pencil thin mustache, in front of a old time cavern club movie house coolly lit set, with a great blues band that followed his quirky sense of timing with perfection.

In a semi-perfect world the same sit in judgment group would select Lucinda Williams' performance of "Get Right With God" as the best female vocal performance of the year.

In a perfect world more people in the world would be aware and appreciative of Lucinda's song and performance rather than the vast number of people who know of the Pink, Mya, Lil' Kim, Christina Aguilera whorehouse video, "Lady Marmalade"

In a semi-perfect world science would finally figure out a way to clone kitties.

In a perfect world old drooling kitties would never get sick and everyone would know the joy of a weekly walk across the street to get a double latte and on the return trip seeing said old drooling kitty in the picture window silently meowing in anticipation because he knows he too will soon get a tartar control treat.

In a semi-perfect world some genius would come up with the stellar idea of arranging a prime time boxing match between Tonya Harding and Amy Fischer .

In a perfect world science would figure out a way to clone Survivor The Outback's Elisabeth Filarski and The Late Show with David Letterman's Stephanie Burkett into a single person who would be known to the world as Mrs. D. Ma.

In a semi-perfect world the Breeders would open their current shows with a cover of the TV theme music to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

In a perfect world more people would have seen another thought provoking episode of television's best series that offered real insight into trying to cope with loss, grief, and how being alive may mean feeling dead inside and where being dead may mean trying to feel alive again; where once you decide that it doesn't matter whether you are dead or alive how you can never feel the same again and might end up doing some extreme things to feel otherwise; and what it means to love out of comfort, and the nobility of treating all life (both living and dead) with dignity.

In a semi-perfect world the point in time where one becomes close minded, where one sticks with the familiar forgoing the life learning experience of trying something new, of listening to someone else's perspective no matter how foreign or different is self recognized. Does the road that leads to that place find its basis in hatred or indifference?

In a perfect word the morass of pain and confusion is made tolerable by those who understand the value of a Zippy the Pinhead like view of things- where the every day repetition can be amusingly absurd, where the simplest of understandings can make all the difference in the world.

"What is the point of this story? What information pertains? The thought that life could be better is woven indelibly in to our hearts and our brains."
-Paul Simon