Monday, September 30, 2002

I'm Just Like All Those ARound Me

I'm nothing if not a football fan. I'm one of those that knows the game involves more than just hitting the person across the line from you as hard and as violently as you can. Yup I know stuff about cover two zones and cut back running and the most exciting part of the game when the head coach throws a red flag on to the field and we sit and watch the referee go to a TV monitor and examine an instant replay stopping the game for what only seems like fifteen minutes. I love the game so much I even participated in a fantasy football league last year with a bunch of other people who really passionately cared how many yards Mike Alstott got against the Carolina Panthers.

Two weeks ago on the weekend the Twins clinched their first playoff birth in eleven years I was as outraged as everyone else in town that the Vikings kicker missed two extra points that led to the second of our three open the season losses. Bench Dante, give the ball to Moe more and gosh doesn't that Biekert stabilize the defense? We're doing such a wonderful job of stopping the opposition on at least three of the four downs. Believe me I may be the first, but I won't be the last to lead the 'it's time to bring back Denny chant.'

Yeah it bothered me for a minute or so the news that former Pittsburgh Steeler center Mike Webster died last week from brain injuries he sustained performing like a hall of famer for those terrific Super Bowl winning teams. Webster spent the last few years of his life a destitute sometimes homeless man but I'm sure he was comforted knowing the pain he was in was merely a sacrifice for playing the game so many of us whittle away the weekends watching. But that's yesterday's news- I'm focusing my attention on the pass blocking play of Lewis Kelly. It's about time he got back to work. Who needs that greedy Bryant McKinnie? If he isn't willing to play for less than market value than we can find someone else who will.

And the latest escapades of Randy Moss leave me with mixed emotions. As a guy who lives and dies with each Viking victory and loss I know it's important that we keep Randy on the field with his mind focused on football. I've become a firm believer in the Randy Ratio. He may only play hard when he wants to play hard but there is no doubt that half a Randy Moss is better than two Kelly Campbells and three or four Troy Walters.

The question after the latest brush with the law was, of course, was Randy receiving favorable treatment because he's a big football stud or was he getting harsher treatment because of the same status? Who amongst us haven't wanted to nudge a traffic cop because the wannabe law enforcer is hindering our ability to get to where we want to go as fast as we want to go? If I had played bumper tag with a traffic cop would it have made front page news for three days? Would I have been charged with a felony when said cop hit the pavement? I really don't know. Thankfully Randy seems to be an expert on the law.

"I've been in a situation before. So I know the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor," he said.

When I first heard of the incident I thought it was merely the latest example of Randy not being the brightest bulb on the planet and having the emotional maturity of a twelve year old. Now I know better. I'm not being facetious when I admit he knows things I'll never know and I'll admire him for that as long as he averages 12 yards per catch this season on at least 40 percent of the balls thrown his way (at least the ones he is trying on). The media coverage of the whole thing was only as obnoxious as the amount of talk it generated around town. I'm glad people care so passionately about football and not that boring baseball or even the politics of a guy who was never even elected leading us into a war even though it seemingly will cause a lot more harm than good. We have our priorities in place- this is the stuff people should be worried about.

In the wise words of our great leader, George W., who will soon lead us into battle against the evil Iraq just like Steve Spurrier leads his Redskins into battle against the dreaded Dallas Cowboys, "Fool me once, shame on... shame on you. Fool me... you can't get fooled again."

From a Lover to a Friend

When I entered the fourth grade my Mom made me take piano lessons. Made might be a tad harsh a description- I had heard my sisters play the piano when I was growing up and always kind of wished I could do the same. But with the skills of a newt I knew I didn't have my sisters' natural talent (they've grown up to be college professors and soon to be attorneys and writers with masters degrees) so I sometimes cursed my fate underneath my breath as I was learning to play those grueling scales that I was told I had to learn before I could learn any actual songs. Driving me home from lesson and frustrating lesson Mom told me that once I learned how to play well enough to sight read and play the songs I wanted to play I would be glad I stuck with it. I don't know if she ever knew how right she ultimately was.

The disappointment continued on for a bit longer however as I found myself practicing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," and a painfully slow rendition of Beethoven's "Fur Elise" when I really wanted to be playing "Mandy" and "Rhinestone Cowboy." Then one day I pulled out a book of Lennon and McCartney sheet music and tried to teach myself "Yesterday" and "Michelle." Soon my forays into practicing the Beatles in place of Bach and Beethoven frustrated my teacher, Mrs. Good, who somehow could tell I wasn't spending the necessary time on my lessons. Learning the Beatles songs inside out added to my enjoyment of my discovery of their wondrous music.

I don't know how I would have made it through high school if I hadn't found the Beatles. For every rush of invading intense emotion and heartbreak I endured and the discouraging soap opera I had somehow found myself involuntarily right in the middle of there was a Beatle song to offer encouragement. "Your day breaks/your mind aches/you find that all her words of kindness linger when she no longer needs you..." or "Many times I've been alone and many times I've cried/Anyway you'll never know the many ways I tried..." could have been my senior yearbook quotes (and maybe they were I just don't remember and don't care to look them up).

I remember a sunny spring day late in my junior year when Paul McCartney's Tug of War came out and I bought it the day of its release. It was Paul's first solo record since I had become a Beatles fan and his first music since the death of his partner John Lennon. I plopped the LP on my turntable and lie down on my bedroom's green shag carpeting studying the liner notes and lyrics. I liked the ambivalence (something not usually a part of McCartney's songs) of the title track and the way it neatly segued into the second song the sublime "Take it Away." I remember looking at the picture of Paul writing on notepad while seated at a coffee table and for the first time thinking to myself that the paralyzing personal decision facing me, where to go to college, didn't seem so overwhelming anymore. I'm not sure why.

By the time my record player's needle hit the fifth track, the Lennon tribute "Here Today" I realized I had never been so moved by any music I had ever heard before. Aspiring/dreaming/fantasizing becoming a writer myself, it was one of the finest examples of a writer using something intensely personal and creating a universally inspiring message- expression not as a task but as a necessity. Instead of writing about things in the Lennon/McCartney relationship that all Beatle fans were familiar with, Paul wisely chose to write about little personal moments and sing the song directly to John (with a bit of a wobble in his voice). It's one of the rare moments in McCartney's career where he really nakedly opens his heart and because it is so rare it makes the song all that more touching.

To this very day whenever I pull out my Tug of War piano book and play my rendition of "Here Today" it fills me with memories of that sunny spring day (crystal clear palatable feelings of how the warmth of the weather was only equaled by the warmth the music made me feel inside) and the added feelings of remembering friends and others who I've somehow lost along the way.

When I heard he was playing here I really wasn't looking forward to seeing Paul perform. The cost of the show, having a seat in the upper regions of a hockey arena, and the fact that at this point in his career he has all the artistic significance of Ringo, made me lukewarm in attending. But I knew I'd kick myself if I didn't go. Quite honestly I was much more looking forward to the season premiere of Buffy scheduled for the following night.

As the lights went down in the Xcel Center around 8 p.m. the spotlights shone on several of the aisles of the arena as a dance troupe dressed in 18th Century garb meandered into place backed by some pounding eastern accompaniment. You had your prim and proper females in their bonnets along side some Asian geisha looking gals and a strong man with a bar bell and several tall geeks on stilts. Others were bouncing on balls and then to top it off some people came in the back with a bunch of really big balloons. It looked like a few of the members of Cirque du Soleil had accidentally stumbled into the wrong venue and the ballet/circus presentation went on for what only seemed like forever. The overly lubricated guy a couple rows behind me yelled, "We want Paul!" and although he was the only one drunk enough to say it, I think the rest of us in the section secretly agreed.

Not soon enough Paul appeared behind a screen wearing a dark suit coat (which he quickly shed) and a red long sleeved shirt. The band pranced into a jaunty "Hello Goodbye" and I was immediately reminded of my Macalester roommate Masashi's (the man from Japan) much better version that went something like, "You say goodbye and I say goodbye..." But it was fun to hear this song and I've always adored the coda (the heba heba part). A noticeable drop in energy followed with the Wings' hit "Jet" that I always liked simply because it uses the word "suffragette."

Paul looked good for a man in his 80's and his boyish good looks, charm, energy and enthusiasm were quite remarkable. The man always seems to be having a good time. At least I think it was Paul. From where I was sitting it might have been that guy in Beatlemania. He ended up playing 35(!) songs (37 if you consider he melded "You Never Give Me Your Money" and "Carry That Weight" into a medley as well as "Sgt. Pepper" and "The End" to appropriately close out the festivities). He played for over three hours which is kind of remarkable. That comes out to be something like $1.93 per song for those of us way in back and counting.

He played nearly everything you would expect him to play from "Let it Be," "All My Loving," "Can't Buy Me Love," "Lady Madonna," "Band on the Run," "Live and Let Die," and "My Love" (somebody call the better business bureau). And a few you probably wouldn't expect him to play including "She's Leaving Home,"(!) "Something," (dedicated to George and played on the ukulele which apparently George was a huge fan of- who knew!?) and the aforementioned "You Never Give Me Your Money/Carry That Weight" that was a highlight of the evening even though he flubbed the lyrics. (He also thought Minneapolis/St. Paul was in Wisconsin.) I guess it was a bit much to hope that he would play something more obscure like "Junior's Farm," or "Little Lamb Dragonfly," or "Spies Like Us," or "Why Don't We Do It In the Road?"

He did play four new songs from his latest CD Driving Rain including a wonderful version of "Loving Flame" which he dedicated to his lady Heather who was somewhere in the building. "Lonely Road" also benefited from its live treatment with some driving guitar work from the lead guitarist whose name I didn't catch (it might as well have been the late great Wings guy Jimmy McCulloch). But the show came to a screeching halt with the dreadful title tune and the equally insipid wannabe anthem "Freedom" (no cigar for the lad there- and memo to Paul: this whole terrorism thing may not exactly be about freedom other than we seem to be sacrificing some in the name of national security).

Highlights of the show (and there were many and I'm sure just about everyone in the crowd had their own personal favorites due to the consistently high octane efforts from Paul and the band) included an acoustic "Blackbird" (with some awesome guitar work and playing with the tempo by Paul); a scorching "Maybe I'm Amazed" (with some really nice bluesy vocals); and stunner to end all stunners- a solo acoustic "Here Today" that really got to the heart of a great great song. As the saying goes, "worth the price of admission."

Before the two encores he closed the opening/regular set with a singalong "Hey Jude"- the greatest song in the world that I also happen to consider my favorite song in the world. To hear the composer belt this one out in a passionate way, well any of the constant companion cynicism melts away in goose bumps. Yes I was nah nah nahing with the rest of the sellout crowd.

As he sang "Yesterday" I sat there remembering I'd gotten the attention of my heart's first love by screeching Beatle songs at the top of my lungs on the bus ride home from a band trip in the ninth grade. As we were closing out our senior year and I knew I'd never see her ever again I found myself at a pool table at a party with her and a friend and it was awkward and all I could think of doing was breaking out my version of Paul's "C Moon." "It would be L7 that I'd never get to heaven if I filled my head with gloom...." The friend of the person who broke my heart for the first time turned to me and said, "You don't say." The perpetrator herself, who had smiled at me years back with my go for broke, dark bus primal scream Beatle performance just kind of gave me a knowing glance.

On the morning of the Xcel Energy show I found myself quoted in the local paper about the price of going to see McCartney in 2002. All summer long I have pined over the girl next door and have spent way too many moments in silence in the same room unable to say a word. On this particular day I walked on over and spoke my first sentence to her- "I'm famous," I said. She was reading the newspaper and I showed her the story I was a part of. The reporter had quoted this pearl of wisdom from me, "When I heard he (Macca) was coming, I thought, 'There's no way in hell I'm going to pay to see him..." I explained to the girl next door that my Dad probably would disapprove of my cursing in the newspaper. The girl next door giggled. It was ninth grade all over again.

Monday, September 23, 2002

Taking Advantage of Waning Interest

One of the ways you learn to work your way through a devastating loss is to put your head down, learn how to concentrate on the day to day stuff so you somehow can get through the next day. Make it through that day and all you have in front of you is another day. Long term goals and dreams lose some of their connection as you learn to treasure the dependable routine rather than being caught off guard by any unpredictable spontaneity. You're really doing your best to cope (or at least trying to in your own bruised way) with the loss of something you've always counted on being there that you have to somehow accept will never be there ever again.

And you want to know something odd? Years down the road whether it be two or three or four or five you may not even realize how your own life's philosophy has changed so much. You literally can't remember or envision how it was ever any different. Hard as it has become to picture things (let alone believe in them) more than a mere few days ahead, one of the ways you press forward is for your own struggling financial sake finally deciding to take advantage of the all time low home loan interest rates and refinance your six(!) year old mortgage.

The paperwork and the process is daunting because you've never really done anything like this before other than the time you applied for your original home loan all those years ago but that was an entirely different you, an entirely different period of your life (and mindset) altogether.

So you find yourself one early morning driving to the other side of town following carefully jotted down directions to your strange destination. You've left yourself an hour and a half to fight through the morning rush hour traffic and the inevitability you will get a little lost somewhere along the way. Traffic turns out to be even worse than anticipated (dreaded) and the uneasiness in your stomach is made more noticeable because you really don't know where you are going.

But as your car finally starts moving again after having crept along for an hour or so in bumper to bumper traffic on 494 until you get past the 35W interchange you know you're getting close to the area you are supposed to be in. Your directions tell you as much as does the city limit sign that you passed just an exit or so back.

As you get off on the exit that your directions directed you to follow you look down and realize you have left out one rather significant piece of information: you don't have the actual address that you are looking for. You have the street and the description of the building ("it's a six story office building with smoke glass windows," the voice of the chipper closing agent from the title company had told you). As you drive up and down the mocking boulevard you realize your luck isn't running on high as you see several six story complexes with smoke glass windows. And you don't even have a phone number to call.

A better legal description of where you are in life couldn't have been more accurately or symbolically played out if you had tried to create such a scenario in your mind staring at the ceiling on one of the many sleepless nights you have become used to. You just don't know what your destination is anymore.

You think of the wonderful moment you somehow related to in the Wilco documentary I'm Trying To Break Your Heart where Jeff Tweedy and the band's manager are in the office of the band's new record label Nonesuch. A young woman who clearly has never heard of the group is leading the duo to the upstairs executive suite. Tweedy gives a priceless sardonic sideways glance into the camera seemingly wanting to be anywhere but where he currently is.

The most demoralizing feeling of all in a self imposed and created cesspool of increasingly disheartening feelings is suddenly coming to the realization that you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whether it's as a grade school kid stepping on the wrong bus and getting sent to the wrong side of town or as an adult realizing that on the most significant day in many a year for many reasons for the local baseball team the rest of town seems more concerned about a couple of missed point after touchdown attempts. Such is life when you're a baseball fan in a football town.

You find you have enough left inside to find a way to get your refinanced loan done. Your tightness with your wallet is so legendary that a reporter calls you to ask your impressions of spending an ungodly amount of your savings to see an artist who has shaped your life and has fueled whatever enthusiasm you have ever mustered through the most trying times. You remember how your Mom stopped and thanked you for playing "Hey Jude" on the piano just about every time you pulled that particular piece out of your limited repertoire (she really did listen). You don't have much to offer to the reporter's story other than you have tried your best, particularly recently to somehow take a sad song and make it better.

Monday, September 16, 2002

Ashley, the Cat that Came Back Home

A mere year later everything was supposed to have changed. We weren't going to sweat the small stuff and trivial as much. Culture and everyday life was to be less harsh and meaningless. Community service and dedication was going to take on importance and we were all going to try and pull through this together. Has any of that happened? The lure of the pursuit of wealth, power, and instant/constant personal gratification remains. The saturating overkill of the one year anniversary of September 11 was to be expected. The way we guiltily honor, celebrate, and commemorate things is the essence of being American. Everything is a show, every emotion usually hidden in day to day interactions is worn proudly on our sleeves from time to showy time.

I tried to avoid any of the anniversary stuff as best I could. To me it wasn't about remembering on a particular day who lost their lives in a violent and senseless attack; to do that seemed an insult to the survivors affected with a loss. I would presume for them every day of this past year has been about remembering as much as trying to overcome the reminder of the devastation. Anniversaries are convenient and reassuring but when something so overwhelmingly significant occurs it is supposed to change things day to day in some way and for some it did. For the rest of us it may be cathartic to recognize one year has passed but it may mean even more to realize what and what hasn't changed about who we are and what we tell ourselves we believe.

I'm almost ashamed to admit I've personally gone on in much the same way as I did before the attack. But at the same time what is without isn't what is within. Something has changed. I've spent a lot of the past year avoiding attachment to the usual, to the past and rather instead tried to find something more spiritually significant. I was reading a rather interesting essay the other day comparing the use of art in Existentialism versus Christianity. The essayist's theory was that the difference between the two philosophies was that Christianity views the world as inherently good and it is the sins of humans that makes stuff difficult and bad. Existentialism meanwhile assumes the world is pointless and it is human perception that can make it a little more bearable and that is why art exists in such a realm.

The day before the anniversary I did my now annual community service of serving as an election judge. Having worked in that particular area since 2000 I have come to realize a rather scary thing or two. We base our theory of democracy and the belief that our elections are fair and accurate. And yet as our friends south of us in Florida have at least twice demonstrated we should wonder about that. Elections are only as good as the people running them. And what I personally saw last Tuesday I became afraid, VERY afraid. My job was to run between precincts in a ward of St. Paul and to help out where I could and evaluate what was going on in the voting stations of some of the city's finest churches, schools, and retirement homes. 140 miles later let me just summarize my observations of the day by saying I have less confidence in the system than ever before.

My belief in anything and all things political was slightly restored the following day after I attended the governor led ceremony of 9/11 on the Capitol steps. Yup I saw Mr. Ventura choke up. And afterwards I was walking back to my workplace having picked up a needed cup of coffee at the DOT building. I saw our next governor, Tim Penny coming toward me. We made eye contact and he greeted me with a way too friendly "HI!" I'm sure that is enough to get my vote.

Later I had the increasingly ultra-rare free evening so I headed over to the Lagoon Theater in Uptown for one of the final showings of the documentary, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, chronicling the making of the latest CD from the critically adored but publicly ignored band Wilco.

The band is one that those who somehow know me probably think I like a lot more than I do. Yup they got down that folk/rock/country mixture thing that is my musical lexicon; yup they got the morose lyrics and melodies that some have associated with my musical taste. But other than their second CD, the brilliant Being There, I really haven't liked much or their work. And call me a potential future record executive weasel but when I first heard their last CD, Yankee Foxtrot Hotel, I really thought it was way too much a downer, a self indulgent self examination to ever justify anything.

I must admit after having seen the movie, seeing the powerful images of the group creating and performing I confess something connected and I have since taken the time and effort to re-examine my perceptions of what has come before. Sadly the past year music has meant less to me than I've ever known. Absorbing the struggle Wilco has gone through (being dropped by their label and firing a band member) and still managing to come up with some eternal and admirably internal music was somehow inspiring. Yup, art can save us even if the dust may never ever settle upon any of us in quite the same way again.

Monday, September 9, 2002

Rap it Up

Everything I learned about life I learned from watching the Iron Chef. On the program the two chefs battle fiercely for 60 minutes but when the judgment is in, when Chairman Kaga announces the results and the winner, the two rivals usually are very gracious and humbly shake each other's hand as they congratulate the up to then unforgiving competition on the effort put in. It's as if since they are the only two put through the grueling high pressure ordeal they are more alike than different, and they understand one another on a whole other level than the folks watching in.

This was all reinforced when I recently had coffee and conversation with a friend and it was one of those rare times in life when you are glad to be exactly where you with who you find yourself with. Among the things I learned was that in the kitchen she doesn't have the patience of her mother who is a fine cook. When it comes to following the precision often necessary in making a recipe turn out tasting right she admitted that touch isn't one of her strongest points. At least, I thought to myself, she actually tries to follow some precise steps. I tend to be the type of chef who just experiments and throws things together and hopelessly hopes that somehow it will turn out tasty.

Prime example: my sister gave me a bottle of hot stuff aptly named "Da Bomb" that is a liquid combination of the hottest peppers known to man and Mercurian. It's so potent that I once got some on my skin and it burned for days. (Just imagine what it does to one's stomach lining!) Since I generally get a kick out of spicy food I was most thankful for the gift. I dutifully tried it in stir fry after stir fry only to find out that just a drop of the stuff made whatever combination of stuff I chose to try together taste inedible.

Frying meat and vegetables together is about as ambitious as I have gotten ever since moving out on my own, trying to create the right combination of ingredients to call a dish my very own. I usually include chicken and broccoli but the other elements tend to rotate from vegetables ranging from carrots and onions to potatoes and scallions; to spices like garlic, ginger, curry, Worcestershire Sauce, and thyme. I have for a long time desperately sought something to counter the bite of "Da Bomb" and add some taste to the kick- everything from chicken mushroom soup and yogurt to lemon juice and milk. The best I could come up with to add flavor to the oppressive oral ouchability was mushing up some bananas. Oddly that combo actually turned out kind of OK.

Now if you've gotten this far in this week's entry you are probably wondering what the point of all this is. Well listening to my friend at the coffee house, a kindred Bob Dylan fan, I found myself thinking that life too often can be like cooking. There are those that follow the recipe and those that spontaneously and boldly chart their own course. Often those two end up in the same place with the end result not turning out as well as hoped. Often being a great cook means keeping it simple and basic. Other times those that know enough to use fancy ingredients and fancy mixtures and timing can create a dish that simply cannot be replicated by mere mortals.

Similarly life, often times more complex than we can hope to understand, is about trying to find a mixture between work, friends, and family. When everything comes together and crashes it can often be about sorting through the aftermath, plowing through and hoping for the best. Or it can be about stripping away and simplifying wherever possible.

Ever since the day more than a decade ago of making the decision to take in a feline roommate, I have struggled with the never ending fight against cat hair lying in unsightly clumps around my home. It quickly got to a point early on where I gave up and realized I couldn't ever stay ahead of the fight. But the last few weeks I've noticed that Mr. Max is shedding at a rate even more prolific than normal. I don't know if it is the goofy weather we've had all summer or if it is another sign of his increasing deteriorating health but I've tried to comb him more regularly and tried to breathe through my nose and not my mouth in hopes of not consuming more hair into my lungs.

Then it struck me: since he has no hopes of creating an offspring (snip snip) he may be attempting to create a next of kin by shaping a lump of hair into another fully formed kitty. Failing this scheme the hairballs urped up contain enough of his DNA to be gathered by some sympathetic scientist who will choose to clone him. Call me paranoid but I'm sure this is what is going on.

To foil his plot and to energize one who more and more just doesn't have the energy to do anything but to hang his head at edge of the bed and sleep (looking way too cute) I've decided the two of us will hit the road and form a Rap duo: Notorious Bad Sleeper and Puss Pussy Max. His bellowing meow embellishments to my rants about oppression and sulking cry wolf pigeon philosophy relating to the meaning of life can only make us a hit with the kids. Look for us in a venue near you. But I'll warn you you'd best be advised to stay away from any stir fry that may be part of the offering.

Monday, September 2, 2002

Leave It To The Missus

Date: August 26, 2002

To: Laura Kay Lee Maeda
From: Uncle David
RE: Your Welcome Wagon to the World

Dear Lil' Laura,

I'm sure it all seems rather strange to you right now. I wish I could reassure you and tell you as you grow older some of this will make a little more sense. All you probably are worried about at the moment is why you just can't sleep all the time, when you'll be fed next, and when someone will be so kind as to come along and change you (plus maybe why everyone makes these annoying cooing noises while sticking their fingers in your face). With the possible exception of the last concern, believe me all those others unfortunately will continue to be issues throughout your life.

It has become tradition that whenever a nephew or niece is born into our family I devote column space to a letter of wisdom to the new member. It's part of my award winning "tough love" program. I know none of my words will ultimately amount to much but the letters prove if nothing else as you grow older you will one day realize your uncle, the old eccentric pretentious has been you hopefully will see, was indeed once a young eccentric pretentious has been. I offer the following not so much as advice but as what was on my mind the day I heard you were born.

Here it is: Do the best with what you have. And when things aren't going the way you want them to go just remember that it often comes down to the perspective you choose to take. It's easy to fall victim to getting bogged down in life's challenges. It isn't so easy to always appreciate how precious life can be until it is way too late.

My recently departed best friend and her best friend recently watched the movie Life as a House. Her best friend, a fan of schmaltz loved the film. My best friend said some of the sexual undertones were a bit jarring. I have no interest in seeing the film but was struck by the title and how if I were to write my autobiography tomorrow afternoon that might not be a bad title for the book.

When it comes to home ownership I tend to be a big picture type guy. The small nitty gritty every day details (that of course are of some importance when it comes things like home financing, repair, etc.) tend to bore me and are the type of things I prefer letting my imaginary wife deal with. Instead I like to dream of what my house may be one day- a yard full of artificial turf to avoid lawn mowing duties; a batting cage in back to keep my stroke in good shape; an elaborately finished attic complete with a skylight so I can lie awake underneath the stars. As for my decorating tastes? This summer every day on my way to work I've driven by a billboard with a large picture of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It somehow comforts me to see this large picture from what I think is the most brilliant artful TV show of all time knowing most people drive by without it registering much of a reaction. That is until the billboard started coming apart and the picture of Buffy began peeling down toward the street. I thought about driving by late at night some night, tearing it down, stuffing it in my little Honda and pasting it up on the side of my house. That would be my idea of home decorating. Think big, bold, and creatively...

Thus the reality and the minutia of refinancing my mortgage has been nothing short of excruciating as I try and determine what type of loan is best for me and I peruse an actual legal document the thickness of a novel hoping no one is trying to take advantage of me in any way. I was recently notified by my mortgage company that my loan application was being held up because the city said I was living on a "nonconforming lot." Nonconformity, usually a badge of honor in this case was an alarming word to hear. Seems my house is too big for my lot, a problem I've learned is common with homes in St. Paul.

But you want to know something Laura? Despite the latest troubles I'm proud to own a house: to arrived at a point in my life when I can afford such a thing. It ain't much but it's mine. And despite a financial worry or two, when it comes time to plop down my weary head I'm often comforted that I took a long but rewarding road to get this place (and am reminded of the blessing of such whenever I lie down at night with a happy purring kitty with a thumping tail lying next to me).

Life is often about timing. Being in the right place at the right time, or even better realizing the perfect moment of being in the right place at the right time. Think dental. I was at the dentist the other day for a return visit to repair a cracked filling. It was after I was loaded up with Novocain when the hygienist started talking with me. She asked me what I did for a living. "I woik for the wegislature witing about the waw making pwocess." I said. She seemed impressed.

When all the drilling and all the sucking was done I stumbled out to my car and started up the engine. The music that floated into the air from my speakers couldn't have been more perfect and more poignant. It was Bob Dylan singing his timely song "John Brown." "He tried his best to talk but his mouth could hardly move," were the first words I heard. I don't know much but I do know this Laura: God has her plan and all we gotta do is listen.