Monday, December 29, 2003

Just 10 in 2003

10) Get Fuzzy by Darby Conley- Recently I've sung the praises of my favorite comic strip as often and as loudly as I can. It's a comic whose humor is based on annoying behavior and it is a reminder that often the ones who annoy you the most (and the best) are the ones who often matter the most. I can't imagine beginning a day without first reading the newest installment.

9) Bob Dylan's "If You See Her Say Hello" at Somerset, Wisconsin- The rest of the concert was pretty typical Bob (in other words pretty darn good and idiosyncratic) made more special by finally going with the biggest Dylan fan I know. When he sang this tune from Blood on the Tracks with wacky new lyrics (something about a woman with blue hair) it was the best single moment of my summer.

8) John Hiatt 9/7 at the Zoo- Someday near the end of time someone will chronicle the history of American music and John Hiatt is sure to get a surprising to most mention. His catalog of songs is such that when he opened this show deep in the suburbs of Minnesota with the rollicking "Lincoln Town," it was one of dozens of great songs he could have sung that would have made my heart more glad than I can ever explain.

7) Dinner at the Melting Pot and then Connie Evingson's show at the Illusion Theater- I enjoyed yet another enjoyable evening with the one who remains my favorite person on the planet. Cheese fondue appetizer, meat fondue meal, and chocolate fondue dessert. My tummy ached. Then we enjoyed an evening of Beatles' songs performed in jazzy arrangements by the Twin Cities finest chanteuse (dressed in some fetching funky pants). But you wanna know the best part of this late spring night? That I got to spend it with my best friend, the one who always continues to be there for me just when I need it most.

6) "Hey Ya" Outkast- There is something so infectious and wonderful about this song that every time I hear it I almost feel like dancing. Yes it's cooler than cool- it's ICE COLD!

5) Lost in Translation- I went to this movie with my wise well beyond her time blue-eyed friend. Both of us had seen it before and both of us NEEDED to see it again. It's a story about a friendship. It's a story about being lost in a strange land and meeting someone who not only makes you not feel so alone but makes you feel if where you've been isn't the only place you have to go back to. It's also a story about an older man befriending a young woman. Geez, how could we relate?

4) Wilco, at the Rock the Garden at the Walker- Before the concert the smartest person I know (but is she truly intuitive?) and I strolled around the garden and she most memorably identified all the plants for me. We then stood waiting for the show to begin and a friend of hers came by. Then my friends came and stood with us. And then Wilco played, and played well and in many ways it was the warmest and most comfortable I felt all year.

3) Liz Phair at First Ave- Years back when Exile in Guyville first came out and blew my socks off (and as it turns out many others as well) I honestly didn't even know what Liz looked like. Then I discovered she's a drop dead gorgeous babe so when she sings about being a "blow job queen" I kind of get defensive about why she remains one of my all time favorite songwriters. Does anyone believe me that I love Liz's songs because she is perhaps about the most perceptive rock writer writing about the confusing nature of relationships? And for the record I like the new CD if only for the devastating song to her son (but in actuality for much much more). I enjoyed this concert more than any other this year.

2) Ike Reilly's Cars and Girls and Drinks and Songs EP- All five songs are superlative. All five songs make you wonder why this guy isn't the biggest thing in the music biz today.

1) Mr. Max- My best friend died this past year. I watched him gasp for his last breaths and each gasp tore the heart out of me. I've tried my best to move on, to remember the things about him that were so special to me. I've even welcomed two other cats into my house this year. But Max changed my very being, my very outlook. We shared a lot in our 12 years together and I still miss terribly the look he'd give me when I got home and how he drooled whenever he was happy.

Monday, December 22, 2003

The Adeam Family Xmas Letter

The Adeam family 2003 Christmas Letter or Miffed and Annoyance

Happy Holidays and I hope the past 365 days have filled you with joy and lots of gravy. For the Adeam family, 2003 was the saddest year on record (remember records are meant to be broken! and have only been kept for six years). There were a lot of fractures and fission (funny how when you check the computer's thesaurus on that particular word it brings up "cleavage" as a choice. Snicker snicker). We all just want to make it through to the New Year and hope for the best.

Little Digger is doing fine. His stint at boarding school in Switzerland ended tragically but he doesn't like to talk about it. The Alps were too "Alp-like"; for him apparently. Digger got his first girlfriend this year, Kim Stathis, the saddest girl in grade two. He figures they are right for each other since she is perhaps the only person on earth that won't ultimately be a lesser person (and far be it for her to be a lesser person) for knowing him. They met in study hall and the baby is due next November. We sent him off for his driver's test last month but he hasn't gotten back yet.

Pappy made lots of money this year. He switched jobs in January going from a position of watching scoundrels argue the issues and get nowhere to helping get them elected and go nowhere.

Mammy continues working on her thesis of whether there are really only two types of people in this world- Shirleys and Leopolds. It's her belief (Fascist as it may be) that you're either a Shirley- the comforting intuitive type, or a Leopold- the intellectual maternal type. In other words you are either for her or against her. Apparently she came up with this theory while she was dating and Pappy hasn't heard the end of it (nor actually the beginning) so he knows both just enough not to really understand it and not be able to forget it. Let's hope she gets that paper done soon. (She still is boiling the pulp.)

The Adeam family lost our beloved pet monkey Chortles in January. He is dearly missed and we have so many extra bananas on hand it isn't even funny. We did adopt two poodles, Precious and David in April. Precious is spunky and relentless while David is missing a limb though he doesn't liked to be defined by what he is missing.

Materially we gathered a lot of dust in 2003. Mammy's collection of plastic newspaper bags have filled more than our kitchen. Pappy's hobby of reading romance novels and weeping his eyes out in a box of kleenex took on new heights (or lows depending on if you're a Leopold or a Shirley). Digger continues to download music though he isn?t allowed to listen to it (thus getting around that whole 'breaking a law' thing).

Athletically Pappy enjoyed his finest softball game ever. He speared a liner, made a spectacular play on a dribbler (you are what your urology exam says!) , and snapped off a double on the new bat that Grandpappy whittled from the tree that fell from Dutch Elm disease. Digger continues to struggle with his checkers play, losing every match feasible. Mammy likes to play hearts on her computer. She considers herself the four of diamonds.

Thus we wrap up yet another year. Time seems to fly by like raisins in a pickle jar. So shake it up because this ain't no jabberwocky this is real wocky!, Mammy likes to sing to hide her hickeys. Hopefully Digger will get back and Pappy will stop sobbing. Hope you all enjoy the Peaches!

-the Adeams (Mammy, Pappy, Digger, Precious, and David)

Monday, December 15, 2003

The Last Bob Column of the Year (Probably)

As experienced as I am at acting (in theory I've been doing it all my life) last week as I performed in my latest role I gotta admit I was a bit clueless at how I should approach the part.

I was supposed to pretend to be an election judge, which is a role that shouldn't have been too difficult to fake since I've done it in real life (if such a thing actually exists). But as you well know often times it's the simplest things that are the hardest to figure out. I've never gone to a fancy acting school so I don't know anything about method acting or studying for a part. So for this particular role what I decided I would do is emulate some of the favorite acting performances, the ones that have effectively stuck inside my craw, in hopes that by faking it, I would, as the girl next door once advised, make it.

Showing up one chilly morning to the shoot site and underneath the glare of the bright lights I took my position in the corner of the room next to my prop, a piece of voting equipment. For the next few hours I watched the crew shoot various takes from the portion of the script that didn't involve me. When the time finally arrived for my performance and the director directed what he wanted to accomplish in the scene I did my best to act dumb- not that it was that much of a stretch. What was I going to use as inspiration? I decided what the role called for was a bit of bemusement and detachment- something like Bob Dylan did as the masked and anonymous Jack Fate in his movie with the same title.

No I didn't have Bob/Jack's pencil thin, Errol Flynn mustache nor do I have his stoic yet mesmerizing facial features (of which the world's finest photographer agreed with me are fascinating) but I went to work knowing that I have successfully taught my cat Thompson to tie my shoes (if only I could teach him to stop tying them together). The director interrupted my Homeresque thoughts with a brusque "Action!" and I did a little Chaplinesque waddle with a hint of a James Dean sneer/smirk/smile on my face. The actress who was pretending to vote approached me and the machine and as she was a rather attractive young lass I really did have to do some acting to pretend I was only sort of interested in what she was doing all the while looking into her eyes and looking away. Like Jack Fate I was trying to create a character who was old for his age but you couldn't tell because he acted so immature.

I was acting my brains out and though I haven't seen the end result I'm sure it was an award winning performance as a few days later one of our state's constitutional officers tapped me on the shoulder and thanked me for my efforts. Look for the award winning performance on your local cable access channel sometime next year.


Speaking of Dylan and acting, I'm a bit of a fan and over the years I have made an effort to watch as many of his television performances as I could. Since his appearances on the medium are so few and far between it might be a bit of a surprise that up until recently I had never seen his 1979 Saturday Nite Live performance. It was only recently I got a copy of the his three song effort and I can't stop watching it. Dylan's appearance on the wacky late night comedy sketch show came a little while after the release of the solemn Slow Train Coming, the first of this three "Born Again" LPs. For those not previously paying attention it was a bit of a shock that all of a sudden Bob was singing the praises of Jesus and a deep found faith. And while many of the songs on the three "Christian" LPs have long been among my favorite Dylan songs (and Shot of Love remains one my top three favorite Dylan CDs) I hadn't quite appreciated this period of Dylan's career appropriately until watching this performance on SNL.

Though his band is sort of nondescript they open with a booming "Gotta Serve Somebody" that clearly means a lot to Bob as the pride he takes in spitting out the lyrics is evident in a smile he is barely able to suppress. It's an energetic performance only diminished by Bob changing the line "You may call me Zimmy" (his one and only reference in over 40 years in the public spotlight to his actual name) to "You may call me Jimmy." His next song is the heartfelt "I Believe in You" and as Bob allows his voice to reach the cracking point several times in the song- it remains one of his most memorable and moving songs, one of deeply expressed vulnerability. The final song of the set "When You Gonna Wake Up?" is a bit of a paranoid rant/sermon "Adulterers in churches and pornography in the schools, You got gangsters in power and lawbreakers making rules" but again Dylan's passionate performance wins you over and makes you a believer if only temporarily.

At the end of the last song the crowd goes nuts and Bob coolly looks straight ahead with a look on his face like, "yup exactly what I expected" (even though a more tepid reaction might have been expected seeing the jarring conversion) and then the goofy looking bass player raises his guitar in the air jubilantly as if the applause is directed at him. Misguided perhaps, but it only adds to the unforgettable appearance.

Monday, December 8, 2003

The Split Tip Jar

I'm always a guy looking at my career options and with that new (well new to my house anyway) musical instrument (my sister's baby grand piano) nestled securely in the corner of my living room, I've decided now is the opportune time to use my nine years of piano lessons to make me some money.

Since I learned much of how to play the piano by playing Barry Manilow songs, I don't think it would be very authentic to bill myself as a rock star. For the same reason I'm hardly qualified to be a classical musician. There is of course that Japanese fiddler in Branson, Missouri, so country may seem like an obvious choice. Unfortunately my current life isn't so much about cigarettes, whiskey, and wimmyn but more accurately about coffee, parking, and kitty litter.

Another handicap might be that I really only play passable versions of two songs, Barry's "Mandy" and Paul McCartney's "You Gave Me the Answer." Beyond that I can do "Let it Be" OK, and if I'm in the right mood, John Hiatt's "She Loves the Jerk," and Brian Wilson's "Caroline No." Stephanie Jane thought I did those last two songs with a little bit too much conviction.

So maybe I won't have much of a career as a professional piano player. Still there are other options. I could always stay at home and teach piano lessons all day long. Two drawbacks to that fallback option: 1) I don't especially like children and I'd probably end up giving lessons like my elementary band teacher Mr. Binstock who used to read the newspaper while I was playing my versions of the scales on my trumpet. 2) If you haven't noticed I thrive on the unconventional and thus would much rather have my students play like my cat Diego-san who dreamily strolls up and down the keyboard oblivious to what the rest of us in the room may think of his music. He may not be melodic but he's going to play the way he is inspired to play. Teach that method to some paying suburban snotty "I don't want to be here but my parents are making me" kid and I'm not sure their mom will continue to send over a check.

So yes, perhaps a rational person given the above choices would keep their day job. Well no one has ever accused me of being rational. So this past week as the one who saunters and I went to see the Matrix Revolutions (a movie that answers the question just what can make Keanu/Neo not mutter "whoa" but rather, "shit!") I did a lot of ruminating. If the reality of the matrix is either a physical world or a computer program can life outside the movie theater be about anything that doesn't happen within the walls of my house? If a cat plays (or pounces) on a piano and there is no one there to hear it ('cept a three-legged cat) is it really music? And when it comes to home repairs is the one who thinks I'm next to worthless really right?

Speaking of things to ponder, if as Ike Reilly suggests, we are all going to be judged on garbage day wouldn't it be prudent to have one's garbage disposal be working and working well? Thus it bugged me when my disposal stopped grinding and I thought to myself I could probably learn to live without it since as a kid our family never had such a luxury. The problem was that the disposal was connected to the lone drain to my sink and without it my sink didn't drain so well.

After I was done doing the dishes one night I pulled the plug (so to speak) and the dirty dishwater just sat there. I was reluctant to leave the kitchen sink (so to be paralyzed) knowing that an overly curious kitty would no doubt want to check out the unusual new situation. Sure enough minutes after I left the kitchen Diego was up swatting suds in the air and tasting the contents. So I spent the rest of the evening watching whether the water level was dropping and then bailing the water out and dumping it into my bathroom sink. Fearing a pricy repair expense I nonetheless called the resurrection number. I was advised that before they sent someone out that I should hit the reset button on the bottom of the disposal. So I did. And it worked. Grinding again! I'm such a handyman!

The next day my car sounded louder than normal. I looked around and saw a small hole in my muffler. Another hole to deal with. It's always something new and old that not even a piano can cure. Or can it?

Monday, December 1, 2003

Room 477

Last time I saw Ike Reilly the world was a whole other place. Last time I saw Ike, Elisabeth Filarski wasn't a co-host of The View named Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Last time I saw Ike, my blue-eyed friend didn't have a college degree. Last time I saw Ike, I didn't have a black cat sorta seeking luck (of any kind) and a tripod companion to neutralize whatever feeling that was supposed to inspire. Last time I saw Ike, my tasty interior designer didn't have a baby grand piano or baby to deal with. Last time I saw Ike, our newest taxpayer hadn't posed nude. Last time I saw Ike, the saunterer hadn't taken a fall and gained a scar (or two). Last time I saw Ike, that same saunterer hadn't lost her grandmother and her mentor. Last time I saw Ike, I hadn't seen Scarlett ask Bill if it gets any easier and Bill replies that it doesn't. Last time I saw Ike, I hadn't enjoyed this morning's cinnamon scone. Last time I saw Ike, I hadn't had my most recent (and last) public meltdown (right here at First Ave!). Last time I saw Ike, Jazzy and Pumpkin had a loving mother/roommate and the roomie's mother hadn't written me a nice card thanking me for my memorial donation (including a 'more questions than answers' admission/reaching out) while trying to figure out why her daughter would take her own life. Last time I saw Ike, I wondered if she'd come the next time, because of all we shared music wasn't something we discussed.

Writers, education administrators, and secret folk rock stars, all hanging out in a downtown bar...


I've been working a lot of hours. Not because of any due compensation or sense of accomplishment. Sometimes you just need something to take your mind off things or keep your mind on anything else. The only thing I allowed a distraction from the long work hours was the ticket in my desk drawer that would admit me to Ike Reilly's appearance at First Ave this past week. So late one evening when I finally got home I gathered up my day's mail and while expecting something wholly different I saw a small envelope with unfamiliar personal handwriting scribbled on the outside. From previous experience (a time or two) I knew the insides contained some type of card though I knew not who it was from since there was no return address on the envelope. Weary of tricky junk mailers I nonetheless anxiously opened the baseball card sized envelope. Inside was an obviously somewhat thought out about card thanking me for a recent charitable donation I made. It was the least I could do and my eyes clouded up when the writer admitted to me, a complete stranger no less, that she had more questions than answers about why her daughter would take her own life.


We only saw each other one time. A friend of a friend of a... When I finally called her up I was in the middle of watching my dear feline friend gasp for the last breaths of his life. I wasn't exactly in the mindset of meeting someone new yet I needed something to distract my mind (catch a recurring theme here?) so I dialed the number I had tucked away. She seemed friendly and somewhat enthusiastic to meet me and we set up a time to get together. I didn't tell her what was really on my mind because how do you know how someone will respond to the revelation that your pet is dying and you are out of your mind and yet you know that you must do the human thing and remain somewhat social? Our first meeting I called to cancel because I had just brought Mr. Max home for the final time and I couldn't devote any less time in watching him and trying my darndest to make him comfortable knowing that really wasn't on the agenda anymore. She was OK with that, and after I told her what was going on she even seemed sympathetic.

A week after Max died we got together. She was kind enough to ask about him and I told her the news and she comforted me and I quickly changed the subject less I started to bawl my eyes out. But she then confessed she had a couple of cats and she couldn't imagine making the decision I had to make. She encouraged me to think about getting another cat or cats because there were so many in this world in need of a good home and having seen mine she knew what I needed to do. We didn't see each other again after that night, though we emailed and meant to get together again. Months later when I did indeed adopt a pair of cats I meant to tell her that her encouragement played heavily in my decision. Then the news came down that she took her life and I thought about how she could do that, how she could, at the very least, leave her two cats alone in this often times cruel cruel place? Should I have called? Could I have made a difference? So then recently I found the tribute her Mom posted on a cat care web site about how her daughter had devoted much of her life to taking in and taking care of lost cats because she had this kind kind soul and couldn't bear to see her intuitive friends suffer at all. And that's when I sent in my donation because I didn't know this side exactly and yet maybe, just maybe it's why we met in the first place and yet maybe I'm reading more to the story and I'll never know. Or maybe soon I will.

This time... it really no longer is about whether one is an angel or a whore or whether my friends are wasted or not or whether Commie drives a Nova or a Crown Vic. My head is bangin' and it has nothing to do with the music anymore. So just when is garbage day anyways?

Monday, November 24, 2003

Odd Triple

Thompson is skittish
Diego-san is mischievous
Maeda-san is cantankerous

Thompson is peppy
Diego-san is playful
Maeda-san is prayful

Thompson is a grunter
Diego-san is a squealer
Maeda-san is a mumbler

Thompson is an observer
Diego-san is an instigator
Maeda-san is the cleaner upper

Thompson is well groomed
Diego-san has beautiful black fur
Maeda-san has a hat collection

Thompson can be restless
Diego-san can be out of control
Maeda-san can be both

Thompson is missing a leg
Diego-san is missing discipline
Maeda-san still misses Max

Thompson has a sweet face
Diego-san has a majestic tail
Maeda-san has a defective reflection

Thompson elicits admiration
Diego-san elicits fondness
Maeda-san elicits strange looks

Thompson has issues
Diego-san is mysterious
Maeda-san is inscrutable

Thompson is soulful
Diego-san is musical
Maeda-san is a poor sleeper

Thompson lives on routine
Diego-san lives in the moment
Maeda-san lives in between

Thompson sometimes seems sad
Diego-san looks at sadness sideways
Maeda-san is the source of sad

Thompson cheerfully greets
Diego-san likes to romp
Maeda-san is known to do a jig

Thompson likes to chase his tail
Diego-san likes to chase a ball
Maeda-san runs in circles

Thompson runs away from the ladies
Diego-san hops on the ladies' laps
Maeda-san likes his oatmeal

Monday, November 17, 2003

Red is the Color of My True Love's Hair (and Blood) or Spewy Bill

"Shake It! Shake it like a Polaroid picture!/Now all Beyonce's and Lucy Liu's and Baby Dolls get on the floor/You know what to do! "

Once upon a dozen years ago, on a particular spooky Halloween morning, Satchel Uhgohrafobik was awoken by his ringing phone. BRRRRRing! Given the early hour Satchel sensed who was on the other end even before he picked it up, since the list of people who would think of calling him at the early hour was short. Indeed the small voice on the calling end belonged to Buckee Sailes who despite the quiet tone she used to greet Satchel with this morning was assuredly not timid.

Satchel carefully listened to Buckee's voice, more the tone than the words- he loved the melody of her voice- and soon found himself glancing past his cat Mouska out the window of a tiny efficiency to the pure white swirling snow that blanketed everything within sight (and most things out of sight as well). Even though he knew who was calling Satchel was still surprised that it was Buckee's voice on the phone seeing they hadn't spoken in weeks since hitting a snag in their relationship. Their silence had rang throughout the office they both worked in and now to hear her voice again, trying to be kind, reaching out, seemed as surreal and out of place as the coat of snow that hid everything outside to such an extent that even the ever placid Mouska looked concerned.

"I can't get my car out of the garage," Buckee said referring to the foot of snow that had fallen overnight. "Can you give me a ride?" To pick her up he had to go backwards- in the opposite direction from work. He felt he owed her nothing, he was angry and hurt and knew she was disappointed in him for all the usual reasons. "Sure, I'll be there in twenty minutes," he said without hesitation.

The drive down the road to her apartment was slick and treacherous and Satchel knew if he stopped moving he'd get stuck. He saw others stranded by the side of the road, their vehicles facing in odd directions. They made it to work a few minutes late. In an office of 84 people, they were two of five that had braved the conditions and showed up. The day passed by in a blur as the snow continued to fall in a record amount. The drive home was slightly less hazardous but still rather slow as the plows tried to keep up with the thirty-one inches that was to fall. The silence in the robin blue Honda Accord seemed equal parts trying to concentrate on the road conditions and trying to figure out the relationship conditions.

"Bless the Lord," Buckee said out of nowhere. They continued on until they finally arrived at her home. She gathered up her stuff and wrapped her scarf more tightly around her neck. Satchel sensed he had to say something. "Say" he said. "Why did you Bless the Lord?" She looked at him puzzled. "Back there, you said, 'bless the Lord.'" Buckee let out a giggle when she finally figured out what he was talking about. "I didn't say 'bless the Lord,'" she said. "I said, 'bus alert.' I was warning you about that bus pulling out."

In all the years (and other stuff) long since passed, buried and smothered, Satchel had only smiled three times. The first was sitting through Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction during the scene when the John Travolta character (assassin) is quibbling with his partner played by Samuel L. Jackson and during a bumpy car ride a gun accidentally goes off and kills the occupant of the back seat causing quite the mess. It's unexpected, terribly violent and a great example at the randomness that can permeate life. The second time was the first time Satchel heard Outkast's "Hey Ya," an exhilarating song that seems like blissful Technicolor compared with the other music currently available that seemed black and white.

And the final smile time was while Satchel was sitting through Tarantino's most recent movie, Kill Bill Vol. 1 when Uma Thurman wills her roman toe to move. Kill Bill is to movies what "Hey Ya" is to music, Satchel thought to himself as he found himself cringing at the wall to wall bloody violence at the same time as he found himself smiling at Tarantino's obvious love of movie-making. Sure the movie was guilty of being all about style over substance and compared to one of Satchel's other all time favorite movies, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Kill Bill's weaknesses became all the more apparent like self inflicted character flaws. Yet Satchel couldn't help but think how Thurman had always reminded him of Buckee, something about her melodic speech pattern and killer smile. One of the running jokes of the movie was that the viewer never knows the name of the character Thurman plays (whenever it is uttered it is bleeped out). But Satchel knew she had to be named Buckee. He saw first hand what happened if Buckee were to get pissed off (does anyone really need to see Lucy Liu scalped?). And the final scene, so Japanese, with snow poetically falling in a difficult situation was memory resurrection defined.

Sixty-seven percent of 12 years of smiles in a matter of weeks- perhaps Satchel had turned a corner (or a page) after all. He remembered one of his final times with Buckee when he picked her up after she had been shopping and bought a wicker chest. "I like your chest," he said to her innocently. She laughed her wonderful laugh.

Monday, November 10, 2003

The Pixley Dream

It was one year short of forty years ago when the definition of delivery involving a Chinese restaurant almost took on a new meaning. A mere five days short of the actual anniversary of this more dictionary than novel like occurrence one of the participants (somewhat the sole survivor of the duo), Dohnat Ucmideyv found himself driving right by the now across the street relocated restaurant during a day where he drove from one location to the next and back again trying to solve problems like some sort of ballot counting superhero.

On the car stereo (with the ever present sound of an annoying vibrating sound of a blown out speaker) played a mix he had made for a friend, a CD that he was trying to decide whether or not was indeed a worthy mixture to give to one who had made him two superlative mixes. An early key song, that blared while Ucmideyv was right near the restaurant he had actually never eaten but was nearly born at, was Michelle Branch's "Goodbye to You" a song included because it captured the exact mood of yet another wayfaring relationship he felt himself leaving at the side of the road. "Goodbye to you, goodbye to everything that I knew/You were the one I loved, the one thing I tried to hold on to/It hurts to want everything and nothing at the same time..." The eventual recipient of the mix would know why the admittedly somewhat adolescent song was there even though she probably was the only one who would know. Ucmideyv was good at that- revealing to another what really involved another and keeping the spheres of his ever fracturing world completely separate everywhere but in his head that thought about such things way into the night (night after night).

Ironically enough many of his favorite people were now having babies. His good pal Spunky recently had an addition to his growing family. Wacky late night funnyman David Letterman also joined the ranks of fatherhood and 92-year-old former Wing Paul McCartney proved if nothing else he has always been rather fertile. Ucmideyv thought about the type of life he likely would never have, a life that included procreation and trying to raise the love of his loins at an ever ripening age.

He had come close a time or two in his life. Years ago the one who got away told Ucmideyv she'd give him her first born if he could find her a copy of the Cities Sampler Vol. 3, the only CD she brought with her when she spent a semester studying in France (this was before burnable CDs made digital mixes a feasible possibility). He was most certainly up to the challenge. For awhile he shopped the Cheapo bins and then Ebay came along and he'd see the CD occasionally available with the winning bid being over $50 (what is the going price of a first born child?). Then someone mentioned that the Ramsey County Library had most Sampler CDs and he put his name on a reservation for the one that would finally guarantee true love. And this past week after a half year waiting his name popped up on the top of the list for the CD. Grab the crib, he said to himself.

Over the years Ucmideyv had replaced a lack of any discernible talent with trying to work harder than anyone he knew. The end result was working a lot of hours with not a lot to show for it. He had learned the value of drinking a lot of coffee as a substitute for actual sleep and admiring his feline roommates in place of trying to connect with anyone else more human in particular (in all fairness he felt the ship his soulmate was on had long since left the harbor).

Moo googai Pan. He thought he might interrupt his role in this year's elections (the odd year where the city council race involved some swirling rumors of the relationship between the county sheriff and one of the candidates who reminded Ucmideyv of a friend who fronted a local band and with her husky vocals had always struck a chord deep within him) to pick up some dinner. Maybe Chinese, maybe a submarine sandwich, maybe some leftover hot dish. The next key song on the potential gift/CD mix was Josh Ritter's "Me and Jiggs" a jaunty countryish tune that was the one song of Ritter's that didn't remind the maker of Nick Drake, the most obvious suicide prior to Elliot Smith. "Me and Jiggs staring at the ceiling the stars above the radar range/Song from a station wagon laying foundations on the shadows of overpassing planes..."

From Long Beach to Mazatlan was as far as a lunar eclipse was from a fatal heartbreak as it was from a hurried Chinese takeout dinner to the nearest delivery room. The beauty of life of course, as it appeared this long day to Dohnat Ucmideyv was that all were interconnected by his mere being (or mirror being he liked to feel) so sticking around to see the end result was the only song that mattered. And then the last song added to the mix blasted out, Outkast's wonderfully peppy "Hey Ya!" The song made all that came before, and all that were to follow blur together properly. "But separates always better when there's feelings involved if what they say 'is nothing lasts forever'/then what... makes love the exception?" Hip hop and don't ride the clutch Clyde because if this song wasn't the best of the year than Ucmideyv didn't really exist and if not for what he heard he wasn't sure how much he qualified in that category.

Monday, November 3, 2003

The Brain Draining Play of Stumbling Mediocrity

There are those that don't need Halloween to be haunted, frightened, and spooked. Believe me, these days every day life does a good enough job. So here then are a few recommendations to escape and calm down if only quite temporarily:

Kimya Dawson's I'm Sorry That Sometimes I'm Mean: A CD from the lead singer of the Moldy Peaches (wouldn't that look great on a resume?) is a bit of a downer to say the least. She sings like a child but writes like someone whose scars stretch beyond the moon (and back). It's a hypnotizing song cycle with "Everything's Alright" worth a definite listen (typically here, Kimya sadly sings about spooning a guy and pretending to still be just friends) and "Hold My Hand" (a most devastating personal song about child abuse) making this CD a must hear (as difficult as that might be).

The Bangles' "Doll Revolution": Their first CD since 1988 the entire disc doesn't manage to hold one's attention (it's like it's like 1985 all over again!) but the title track, a cover of the Elvis Costello song proves the group still knows a good songwriter when it hears one (Alex Chilton, Bob Dylan, Jules Shear).

About a Boy: I usually don't care much for Hugh Grant but his performance here is note perfect. Grant plays a sleazy, yet charming, bachelor who stoops to anything including joining a single parents' group (despite falling short of qualifying) just to meet desperate women. He eventually befriends a young boy and learns a thing or two about how caring for someone/something other than one's self might actually be worth the risk. And who would have thunk that the song "Killing Me Softly" (one of the world's greatest soccer player's favorites) could ever mean quite so much?

8 Mile: Eminem's Rabbit is the Hugh Grant of About a Boy if that Hugh Grant once upon a time grew up on the wrong side of the Detroit tracks. Charming is what usually accompanies Mr. Grant's name be that as it may there is nothing charming about this particular movie. Gritty, coarse, and often mean spirited (much like Em's music!) what is truly fascinating about this movie is the mixture of realism, fiction, rewritten history, and fantasy. When the stunning "Lose Yourself" plays during the credits and Eminem mentions Mekhi Phifer and how this really ain't no movie and sings about losing himself in his music, it's quite inspiring stuff even for those of us who haven't quite met (though might be well on our way there) his anger level. That rascally rabbit- tricks are for eternally wannabe kids.

Bob Dylan's Saving Grace, Tunica, Mississippi, April 27, 2003: Gospel Bob pulls out a song he wrote 23 years ago when he was under the influence of born again Christianity. The song happens to be built upon one of my all time favorite Bob melodies but it's the lyrics here (and ever present quirky vocals) this time around that truly get to me. "I've escaped death so many times/I know I'm only living/By the saving grace that's over me..." He's banging out keys on his keyboard as he's carefully caressing the words about redemption. "By this time I'd-a thought I would be sleeping/In a pine box for all eternity/My faith keeps me alive, but I still be weeping/For the saving grace that's over me" For a moment or two it all, and I mean IT ALL, makes some kind of acceptable sense.

Liz Phair's"Jeremy Engle": An Internet only track available to those who bought Liz Phair (or who have friends who can burn it on to an unauthorized CD) is far superior to most of the other tracks on the official CD. It's good hearing Liz sing about a "gelatinous thingy" and the typically Phair like philosophy, "sometimes all you need is a napkin."

Get Fuzzy: This world became a profoundly more confusing place when Bill Watterson gave up writing his comic Calvin and Hobbes (about a boy and his feline friend- imaginary or not and about so much more). Yes our daily comic pages since have desperately needed a great comic to come along (Zippy and Monty come close but not close enough). Within the past year the Star Tribune started running Darby Conley's Get Fuzzy about a frazzled pet owner with his two pals Bucky (a self absorbed and somewhat caustic cat) and Satchel (a sweet dog but somewhat dim, in an entirely different way- much less malicious- than Bucky). I can't even begin to think about beginning a day without first reading this biting yet often times witty strip. Bucky rules.

Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius: The blue-eyed editor recommended I read this, one of her favorite books of all time. So I got me a used copy and made my way through (admittedly skipping parts of the preface and introduction) the first few pages. I really can't wait to see where this story ultimately takes me.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Diego's Piano

"Maybe he had some problems/Maybe some things that he couldn't work out/But he sure was funny and he sure told the truth/And he knew what he was talking about..."
-Bob Dylan "Lenny Bruce"

I may or may not grow up... to be the next Gavin DeGraw (I just may not have the pipes) but I will go to my grave knowing deep in my heart one of the best things my Mom ever did for me was sign me up for them there suburban, all the rage, piano lessons.

My sisters preceded me in piano lesson takin' and though I always enjoyed listening to them and wanting to be able to emulate their ability to make some music, I certainly was more than a bit apprehensive when my Mom brought me to some music school on Lexington Avenue near Highway 36 to meet the appropriately named Mrs. Good, my soon to be piano teachin' instructor.

On this particular day Mrs. Good tried her best to determine what my existing (if any) musical aptitude was by having me go through some exercises on the piano keyboard ("make the sound of a train" "make the sound of a ghost"). I did my best although it was one of the first times (in a life since full of them) when I felt like a complete fool/idiot knowing that my pounding of the lower bass keys sounded nothing at all like a choo choo train or an just out of sight being.

I got placed in a lesson group with three others- the punkish looking (in a suburban way rather than a cool British fashion) Chip House, the intellectual looking Andy McCue, and the overly sensitive looking Eric Haugen (who would eventually become my closest ally of the trio). At our first lesson the three of them seemed to get along swimmingly like the proverbial now healthily looked upon soybeans in a pod, and as Mrs. Good ran us through some more impish exercises I began to feel like everyone else in the room was in on some kind of secret that was eluding me and I began to feel the tears falling down my chubby little cheeks. Mrs. Good noticed the wannabe unnoticed swollen eyes and try as hard as I could hidden sniffles and she stopped the lesson short.

When I went out to the warm Pinto outside with my Mom waiting to take me home, Mrs. Good shared some out of earshot words with my Mom. Mom kept nodding and the following ride home after the requisite "How did it go?" Mom and I rode mostly in silence, as we were to do for the following eight years that she drove me to and from my piano lessons. (On a memorably icy winter day Mom and I did a full 360 spin in the Pinto at the intersection of County Road C and Western Avenue- a moment Mom later said she didn't remember even though it was the first instance where my life flashed in front of my eyes and optical nerves.) Mom told me to hang in there, that once I learned the rudiments and got beyond just playing scales, that the songs would pour out of me and I would have great fun. And she was right.

Throughout junior high school and high school I frustrated Mrs. Good because I was much more devoted in learning how to play Barry Manilow and the Beatles' songs on the piano than I was my assigned Clementi and Bartok pieces. High school in particular was a period when I'd come home from my day and eagerly jump into my assigned lesson only to be pulled away temporarily (and forever) in pounding out "Hey Jude" or "Mandy" or something near and dear to my blood pumping organ that doesn't always exist in all those soulless ones. So less pretentiously, it was a necessary and needed catharsis from the overwhelming things pounding away in my heart. Yup, sometimes a Beethoven or Mozart piece might suffice but if "For No One" or "Even Now" didn't speak volumes to me about my current situation then the stars above may as well have been made out of the barfed up bag of Skittles of my close by youth and admittedly stilted vision.

When I went off to college and found myself so to speak and so on my own the thing that ended up rooting me more than anything else was going down to the dorm's piano (in a most public place- Enjoy the veal! Be sure to tip your waiters and waitresses! My next show will be the same time same place tomorrow when the sun will come out according to the little orphaned Annie!) or the more private pianos in the music department where I spent a couple of hours whittling away my work/study hours and playing the same old songs I was used to playing at home. It was a reaching out to no one in particular, and maybe it was a slight reaching back to someone quite and quietly in particular.

Post-graduation and living with roommates in thin walled apartments the only time I got to relive and relieve my piano playing days/urges was when I went to my parents' house and between fits of Nintendo frustration of failed electronic journeys going over to the simply standard black and white (no gray!) keys I grew up tinkling and pounding out whatever it was that was in my heart. "Let it Be"? "The Long and Winding Road"? "Abandoned Love"? "Don't Think Twice"? One of the best things about moving into MY house seven years ago was having the ability and the privacy to buy my own piano (who would have thought that day was ever forthcoming or possible in the least?). My immediate and immediately more tolerant than I could ever ask feline roommate Max was never quite sure what to make of, nor quite appreciative of my late night spontaneous piano playing performances but I sensed he knew it was one of those things I did, not because of a need to be my most annoying self but rather because of a need to exorcise and exercise the all too closing in demons within.

More than a number of months back I was sitting in a San Francisco restaurant enjoying a Dim Sum meal with my most talented piano playing sister when we cooked up the idea of my taking her baby grand piano in because having moved from a rented house to a rented apartment she no longer had the room to house the instrument. This plan took a long time to ultimately come to fruition but after much delay this was the week the piano was to arrive in my humble little house all the way from Stockton California where the last person to house it was a friendly chap named Andrew who told me he had just written a symphony on it (I didn't have the heart when I chatted with him to tell him that I have a piano playin' kitty who most likely will be the most frequent user). On Wednesday I got a call from the piano moving company I chose after some Internet research (is there really any other type these days?). I was told to call the driver. I did so and was told I had missed his appearance in St. Paul and he was now somewhere in North Dakota. The anxiously awaited piano and made it's appearance in these parts and had continued on far far away (the story of my life).

I was angry. I needed to pound a few keys and sing out John Lennon's "God" (a song that once upon a long ago I actually did a passable if not forever cloying coy version of). I got a hold of the poor not quite his fault, out of the loop truck driver and the only thing that kept my seething teeth and other body parts from boiling over into undiluted rage was my mind's picture of the certain sauntering schooled in grace Carol Vescey of my life, herself forced to take a few piano lessons in another lifetime- a thing we've shared in words, thoughts and feelings thank God. I heard her telling me to calm down, not that she has ever uttered those specific words to me, but these days, though she doesn't always know it (and far be it for me to tell her) she does have an equally calming as she does agitating affect on me. A deliverer of a cyclamen plant to my ailing Mom at a most difficult time (a picture that just wouldn't leave me alone as I struggled through last week's Lucinda Williams' concert at First Ave) I continue to merely wish that we one day take the time to exchange a time of dueling piano songs (or perhaps we can even make it a separate but shared duet) because if there is but one thing I'm sure of, I'm sure that we have earned that right after all the other things being equal and distinct.

So tonight as I write this my sister's piano is on the way from Chicago to Green Bay. I have been lacking the time, energy, strength and funds to do much traveling these days so I'm a bit envious of all the places the piano has been recently. I'm told it will arrive at my house sometime tomorrow. Visions of grand performances stick inside me and my best friend told me awhile back that she can see me sitting in my living room wearing a tuxedo and top hat and entertaining two captive cats (seven legs between them). It may not exactly be another chapter to my life but I'm sure it'll be worth a footnote when all is said and done (and sung).

Monday, October 20, 2003

Little Digger

"I go out with a friend/Maybe a little music might help/But I can't pretend/I wish I was somewhere else/I wanna watch the ocean end/The edges of the sun then/I wanna get swallowed up in an ocean of love"
-Lucinda Williams

"What does it mean when something changes how it's always been?"
-Liz Phair

Dear Thompson,

I think I get it now. I think I understand why anything out of the routine startles you, how things new to you cause you apprehension; and how some things you don't understand simply frighten you. For example, I understand now why when I turned on the furnace for the first time the other week you couldn't handle it. You couldn't handle the strange noise, the blowing air, the new smells, the heat, and just somehow how the air around us was forever different.

I really wonder what you were like before that fateful day and the accident where you got your paw caught in some type of trap and ended up losing your entire leg. There are times you can be the sweetest little cat, so energetic, so well behaved, and even once in awhile a little cuddly. What convinced me to adopt you and your pal Diego-san was the way the two of you played together so well. I loved how when I visited the two of you in your foster home how you clearly looked at Diego to make sure things, that I, was okay. Once you saw Diego check me out then you were right behind albeit a tad apprehensive.

But Thompson we're going to have to continue to work on trusting each other. I know you have your ghosts and demons and I know that there will forever be issues related to your handicap. Believe me if there is something we truly do share (and ultimately can understand about each other) is that I too have more than few obvious ghosts and demons. I don't think it is an accident that we somehow managed to find each other.

I remember the first night we were together I rolled you a ball that your foster mom had given me as your favorite toy. Unfortunately I rolled it to the side of your missing leg and as you leaned down to grab it with your mouth you toppled over. A friend warned me that in adopting you I had to prepare myself for some psychological issues that might exist and while I listened to her (as I am always inclined to do), I don't think I truly was realistic in how I forever have to try to remember that you do, and probably always will have some trust and fear issues. There are times I just wish it was all easier for you.

As you know it has not been a easily understood few weeks for me Thompson. Going to the funeral services of my uncle and my neighbor and hearing a lost friend's death was ruled a suicide has truly been hard. She after all was in a way the one that talked me into adopting you in the first place. I remember how she told me of her love of her kitties, Jazzy and Pumpkin, and how they related to her and each other that when I met you that I knew what I would someday soon do. I wish I could tell her that.

Thus I appreciate how you and Diego-san continue to entertain me with your youthful curiosity, how everything still seems so new with you guys. I think more than anything watching you two has kept me from falling completely into the all too familiar abyss. Yet with you I have to keep remembering that the trust you have in me comes along with a unhurried learning process. I felt bad the other night when the Cubs fell apart and my chosen team this playoff season (the Florida Marlin{s}) came back from what appeared to be certain elimination to move on to the World Series and as they went ahead I let out a loud whoop with a clap and you fled in fear from seeing this new side of me. One step forward, two steps back (perhaps your distrust of me was deserved since I was rooting against the team my Mom rooted for when she was growing up despite having brothers who were Cardinal fans. Mom had her rebel side after all.)

So here is a lesson I will pass on to you Thompson. Having a broken heart doesn't always involve losing some type of love. Having a broken heart can also mean not being able to feel much at all except a feeling of isolation and a lack of connection with anything or anyone around. I was reminded of this lesson (which I learned a long long time ago) while attending Lucinda Williams' Saturday concert at First Avenue. As you know I prepared myself in seeing one of my pantheon of favorite performers and favorite writers the night before by listening to the sixth greatest song of all time, Williams' "Am I Too Blue?" I'm sure I drove you and Diego nuts by hitting the repeat button on my CD player but the song is great like a little lullaby and it probably is the one I'll sing to my first child someday somewhere. "Am I too blue for you? Am I too blue?/When I cry like the sky like the sky sometimes/Am I too blue?" Maybe my preparation was a bit too good because as I watched Lucinda I only grew bluer and bluer.

She opened with her pop hit (for Mary Chapin Carpenter), a terrific version of "Passionate Kisses." The show featured a lot of songs from her last CD World Without Tears the first being a slow and reflective "Ventura." The song is a tearjerker and indeed there was a jerk in the audience who spent most of the rest of the show inexplicably (and inscrutably? And I don't mean that as an insult) crying. I think I was thinking about how the night before as I was messing up meeting up with the blue eyed editor how I stopped into the local neighborhood Cheapo to try and make a phone call and CONNECT and I ran into Ms. Rose, a big Mr. Max fan, who showed me the picture of Max prominently displayed at the register. I was deeply moved if not a bit sad. I miss Max more than ever as I'm sure you know.

And as I got home that night I particpated in an online conversation with the newest member of the feline sympathizers, Ms. Lisa Anne Marie and that modern day typed conversation was well timed I must say. A connection if not just the most modern type. I must one day meet Lisa's kitty Sidda because she is the cute kitty who chases the cursor from a computerized mouse.

The two highlights of the Lucinda show for me were "Joy" which gathered steam like a runaway train, puncturing any defense that might stand in the way, and "Sweet Side" which is such a bitter tribute to a dysfunctional relationship that it reminds me of a thing or two about the one whose diamond earring I was proudly wearing at the show. Get Puzzy indeed.

During the show I drifted back to fifteen years ago this month when I worked a midnight shift at Cheapo and I had taped the first game of the World Series between the A's and the Dodgers. Not much meant much then so when I came home and numbly fast forwarded my way through the game to try and see as much as I could to taste the flavor of what was going on while at the same time trying to expedite things to get to bed ASAP, I just assumed that the heavily favored A's had won since they dominated most of the game. But that's when I was reminded why baseball remains the one truly great game, as the gimpy Kirk Gibson pinch hit in the end of the ninth against the A's unbelievable closer Dennis Eckersley, and somehow lived up to the Roy Hobbs myth and jacked one out of the park to win the game (and ultimately the Series for the Dodgers). I remember being stunned and happy and wanting to call everyone and someone at the same time. So coming home this night to a taped Marlin(s)/Yankees game was made all the more comforting after a stressful heartbreaking night out greeted by the familiar gait and grunt of your handsomely spotted face.

I'm quite sure none of the people in First Ave shared my now lifelong devotion to the Marlin(s) least of all the people I was with but Lucinda was great. Her voice crackled effectively; she interacted with her band in a mesmerizing way and man she looked great in that black Stephaniesque t-shirt. I bolted in a fashion reminiscent of you when you are unsure of things, when the show was over. I had to get back to the place that is all about trust.

So in the end I must say, I love you Thompson. And I'm trying to make the feeling familiar if not somewhat mutual.

Yours truly,

Monday, October 13, 2003

I'm Just Looking For You To Feel Sorry For Me

"You're not in the world, Casper."
-Angel cruelly to Spike

Every year for a little more than a decade we've devoted the last issue of the newsletter to top ten lists- personal lists of the ten most important discoveries, memories, moments from the previous year. It's trendy, it's hip, and over the years the contributions have dried to a trickle the size of Rush Limbaugh's ability to say "no" to the nearest cheap shot or most available $340 painkiller.

This year for the first time I've sorta kept a running list (I'm getting up there in years you know). And on that list is an inordinate (and unprecedented) amount of activity shared with a friend who I know is frustrated with me more often than not but who has the rare ability to notice the things I notice and thus is as good a witness to history as any other in this version of my life (8.0?). This particular person has noticed that in my rare public appearances that we tend to stand in spots where people end up brushing against me even though there may be miles and miles of other air that could be occupied at that very moment. Yes it sometimes feels like I'm in a place just a little out of sync with others, and this time discrepancy not only manifests itself in unnecessary physical encounters but sometimes the type of mental anguish that can extinguish a good's night sleep here or there or everywhere.

So I went to the dentist the other day, not a favorite thing of mine to do, and I think I may have been diagnosed with a terminal gum disease. Dr. Hill cheerfully described what he thought was going on inside my mouth (ewwww) with x-ray pictures that sort of backed what he was saying- painting a mental picture of the most grim scenario possible -plaque or bacteria making a desperate run for things and ending up somewhere that would cause the most painful demise in written history- even though I've not only been a regular brusher but also a flosser (it's been the favorite part of my day for the past 26 years for God's sake!) but none of it can probably counteract the two or three years I went without visiting the dentist.

So I came home nearly in tears (believe me not so unusual these days) and a new dental regime that would not only take care of whatever it is happening in my mouth (ewww- super ewww) but also cure whatever related mental thing may be occurring. (And suffering from severe! Buffy withdrawal pangs what with the new fall TV season beginning- thumbs up on Alicia Silverstone's quirky charisma! Thumbs down on Kelly Ripa's prominently displayed cleavage!) I plopped in my tape of my favorite Buffy episodes and watched the one where the Slayer is stung by a demon that causes her to drift between a world that she has come to believe in- one where she is some type of bruised hero fightin' the good fight against vampires and all things evil- and another where her Mom is still alive but Buffy is a patient in a mental hospital.

She is forced to choose not only what she thinks is real, but the place where she ultimately wants to belong. And after I cry another time watching the words I've memorized by heart- at the sudden plot twists that made the show so special and that still continue to GET to me- I plop on my newest CD with two (at this point) paying a world's worth of attention relatively new roommates (of the feline variety- seven legs between them)- Thea Gilmore's moody yet most compelling Avalanche.

The British press has dubbed her as the next Dylan or the next Leonard Cohen and I must admit the twenty-something lass has a remarkable way with words (God if "Heads Will Roll" doesn't cut through the every day crap, the every day morose routine then yer deader than the zombies that haunt Buffy's world- or at least used to). Swirling beneath Gilmore's often provocative lyrics is an ambient bluesy backing reminiscent of Emmy Lou Harris' moody (but must have) Wrecking Ball.

In America young women grow up to be Britney Spears but in Great Britain they may not grow up to give a big wet kiss to Madonna on the lips but they grow up listening to Elvis Costello and turning out to be someone who can write a lyric like, "Age plays dirty tricks you're looking like a counterfeit..." And for some in a perpetual disintegrating piece of mind images can mean lots (or Goddamn it even lots more) and narrowing it down, as Thea sings, to dots on the screen. A feeling returns. Most definitely top ten worthy.

Monday, October 6, 2003

For Risa Ree

"There's some people that, you don't forget, even though you've only seen them one time or two..."
-Jack Fate

There is a lovely scene in Sofia Coppola's new movie Lost in Translation where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson are standing in a Japanese hotel elevator separated by a crowd of Japanese. Both stand out for different reasons- Murray's character because he dwarfs everyone else in the elevator and Johansson because she is a lone lonesome blonde. Both also somehow stand out because of an obvious connection problem- of being lost in a strange land, not so much physically but emotionally. As the only two Americans in the small enclosed space they acknowledge each other with a knowing look.

Later on in the movie as a friendship has blossomed, Murray and Johansson are talking about the first time they met and Murray's character has to remind Johansson's Charlotte that her memory is wrong- because she doesn't remember the elevator encounter. When he describes the first moment she asks, "Did I scowl at you?"- her now standard defensive and unhappy typical reflex to life. The movie is full of many similar and familiar truthful moments. Our lives are full of supporting characters- not every relationship is going to be a booming intimate one, yet it is sometimes in those small shared moments with those that come to be a little more than strangers where the connection can be momentarily special creating some of the most unforgettable memories of our lives.

Ever since I moved into my house seven years ago the return of spring has been marked by the familiar return of baseball but also the return of my neighbor, Mrs. Ethier, hanging out her laundry on the laundry lines in the Ethier's back yard. This was an early Saturday morning ritual- thus I was seldom out of bed before the first load of sheets was flapping in the wind. Yet there was something nice about wearily blinking the sleep out of my eyes to the sight of Mrs. Ethier's weekend chore.

A couple of years back Mrs. Ethier was diagnosed with cancer and ever since seeing her hang out the laundry was a rare sight. Her husband took over the chore and whenever I could I asked him how his wife was doing. His response almost always was the same, something about how she was doing OK but she was such a stubborn woman. One weekday I came home and saw a UPS sticker on my door saying they had tried to deliver a package to my house but I wasn't home so they left it next door. I sheepishly knocked on the Ethier's door and the Mrs. answered and told me to come on in. The woman I had mostly seen from afar, the one who always smiled and waved when we did see each other, looked so frail. She looked around for where her husband had put the package all the while making me feel like a long lost son. It was the last time I ever spoke with her.

A couple weeks back I came home from work and noticed a lot of cars parked around the Ethier's house. It was a telltale sign that something was wrong. A couple of days later I was at the dentist waiting for my name to be called when I picked up the morning newspaper and saw the obituaries. I read them almost knowing what I would see, but hoping I was wrong. I wasn't. When I went to the visitation Mr. Ethier told me that his wife had fallen and from there she got weak and the end came fast. I told him I thought something might be up what with all the cars and he said something about the final car being the hearse that arrived in the morning.

So there I was days later watching Lost in Translation, with the loss next door in the back of my mind, at a movie that really captured the Japan I saw when Al and I visited there six(!) years ago. I remember lying in my tiny little motel room after a full day flipping the TV to strange Japanese TV shows thinking about the twelve pound ball of fur I had left with my parents, wondering how he (and they) were doing. I remember during the day studying all the faces that looked like mine but were somehow so different and in a different way than what I encounter every day here at "home." I remember how my oldest sister who had visited Japan a year or two before had told me to bring plenty of Kleenex because the motel rooms didn't supply them only to find that it was common for businesses to hand out small packages of tissues as a promotion (one of many small details Lost in Translation captures). I thought about going to this movie with a friend who probably might repeat Johansson's scowl line if I asked her about the first time we met. And sadly I remembered Mrs. Ethier's devotion to spring smelling sheets.

Monday, September 29, 2003

El Amor de mi Vida

owe an apology to my one true love. I gave up far too soon, lost faith at an inappropriate time and it was a huge mistake.

It was thirty years ago when my Mom shared her love with me of the only game that matters- baseball- a game as complex as it is simple, as heartbreaking as it is uplifting, as unpredictable as it is consistent. I don't think a day has since passed during spring/summer/fall where one of the first things in the morning I haven't found myself doing was checking the previous day/night boxscores, paying particular attention to that summary of the efforts of our local nine. Doesn't matter what period of my life I was in from a current stressful day to the most mind-blowing enlightening day in college- baseball has always remained deep within my heart. Thus my confession/apology. What the Minnesota Twins accomplished post All Star break after a frightening skid in June and July was truly astounding. I'm not exactly a fair weather, bandwagon jumping fan when it comes to Twins' baseball (women's professional basketball perhaps) and having bought in on season tickets during the nadir of the local baseball franchise (the Bernardo Brito era) I think proves a thing or two.

Still I must confess when the team played some of the worst baseball I've ever witnessed at the beginning of summer I wrote them off completely. Sure the teams of the mid-90's used to lose at an even more alarming rate but what made this season's woeful display even more painful was this clearly was a team with a lot of talent and there was absolutely no excuse (or reason) for the way they were playing. Bad pitching, excruciating poor at bats, boneheaded baserunning, inexcusable lapses in the field- nothing was going right and there was no sign that the team could ever turn it around in time.

Posting the best record in the Majors since the All Star break and playing astoundingly crisp baseball during a remarkably long period of time the Twins not only have answered their critics and doubters and all those in between and indifferent with an exclamation point but with a deserving middle finger pointed at all of us who lost faith along the way. Division rival Kansas City was a better feel good story but they were never a serious threat with a pitching staff composed of retreads they were picking up off the street (Jose Lima, Paul Abbott, Jamey Wright). Chicago had superior talent but the team has always been just dysfunctional enough to play their worst at the worst possible time (witness the deciding series of the season the past two weeks first in Chicago and then here at that atrocious Dome we try to pass off as a Major League stadium). I really shouldn't have doubted that our beloved Twins, with their biggest strength being their pitching and defense would come out ahead in the end.

And there were signs along the way that suggested that something special was awaiting all those who believe in such things as fate. There was that game against Baltimore a month and a half back where Michael Restovich struck out for what appeared to be the last out of the game. But the Oriole catcher dropped the ball and Restovich added to the confusion by freezing at the plate and then taking off as he should and that delay made the catcher throw the ball wildly to first allowing the tying and winning runs to score. And then there was a game a few weeks later when the Twins were down to their final out against Anaheim closer Troy Percival, a mean looking, hard throwing reliever who we had never scored an earned run in his nine years in the league. Dustan Mohr was on first when Shannon Stewart hit a double down the third base line and in what seemed like a futile effort third base coach Al Newman decided to wave Mohr home even though the throw beat Mohr by fifteen feet but he crashed into Angel catcher Benji Molina jarring the ball lose and breaking Molina's wrist also allowing Stewart to somehow scamper safely home for a most bizarre and inspiring win. Games like that have got to make you believe that someone somewhere has planned something special for the Minnesota Twins this season. Yet I stopped believing and there were games in the mid-season swoon that caused me to turn off my radio and not read the next day's newspaper account for the first time in my baseball loving life. So I'll eat the deserving crow and say I'll never stop believing again (at least until next year).


My Dad recently bought me a hundred dollar softball bat and new cleats. He kidded me that he expected me to hit a home run with my new bat, dubbed "the Weapon." So my first at bat with my new piece of equipment I put an easy swing on the ball on a low pitch and it flew far far away hitting the aluminum fence of a St. Paul Central High School fence. A few innings later, playing third base I dove for a liner down the line and stabbed the sucker causing team captain Joe Mansky to declare it looked like Brooks Robinson, a "definite Major League play." A few innings even later a guy hit a blooper between home and third and I charged in trying to judge the backspin versus the bounce the ball might take on the rutty dirt infield we were playing on. I grabbed the ball near the ground while I was in the air and in one motion flung it to first. Nipped the runner by inches. Quite the contrast from a few weeks back when I charged in on a ball and ended up scooping up as much dirt as ball thus losing the grip, and tripping over the ball to add to the embarrassment of the all time worst play ever- all to the laughter and derision of the opposing team. So when my nine year old nephew recently asked his mother (my sister) after hearing of my good game, if I was good enough a ballplayer to play for the Twins I had to tell her to tell him if asked this past July I probably would have said yes but the way the boys are currently playing- no frickin way. I'm sorry, Go Twins.

Monday, September 15, 2003

So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star or You're Hearing But Not Really Listening or Tentative 'D'

When Stephanie Jane decided she had had enough there was a vacuum created that really sucked. Big time.

The days that followed (and those days somehow turned to years) I found myself trying to recover from that and so much more, stumbling through the dark, in a tailspin, saving it for a rainy day, and then I heard the Jayhawk's Town Hall Music and it was such beautiful music and it was music I knew that had S.J. and I heard together she probably would have initially not listened to (she was much more prone to being a metal head rather than a country gal) but after some prodding by me she probably would have on an Autumn day where I wasn't around put the music on the stereo and tried to listen and eventually she would have liked what she heard.

The "last" time I talked with Stephanie Jane was in the days following September 11, and I don't want to trivialize any of the magnitude of that event but after a dozen years of deafening silence to hear her voice and then to hear her say when asked what music she was currently listening to, "Music isn't the passion it used to be... I don't buy as much as I used to..." made an already sad me go bitingly numb. Now a seamstress, formerly the finest connoisseur of what mattered that I had ever stumbled across to hear her say that made me feel how far the drift had been and I knew that was all ENTIRELY MY fault.

I was at First Ave Saturday night waiting to hear the Jayhawks live for the fourth or fifth time in my life. It was a benefit concert for the "Developing Arts and Music Foundation." The opening act, Kraig Jarret Johnson and the Program featuring the lead singer to the group Iffy (who I was introduced to by the lost in touch law school student Sarah McKenzie) grooved and was rather groovy as I'm sure the kids in the audience would attest to (did I mention I was carded at the door?). I was with the Feisty Garden Girl and her friend Dave Boquist (who played guitar and other instruments for Son Volt) with no skin on my right leg thanks to a spectacular softball slide (I was safe!) that caused my leg to burn and burn with a passion (I've been told by a couple of different people that the only time they've seen me truly happy was racing around the softball bases and that makes some sense. You never know how far you're gonna go or get or where you'll ultimately end up but as long as you can keep running and be safe you'll be OK and all eyes watching you know will know that and accede to your decisions. Run and run until you can't run anymore...). Ironically the first time I met Stephanie Jane was months after she broke her knee in a skiing accident and she was quite self conscious of the scar left after surgery and was noticeably limping which was one of the reasons I noticed her in my self absorbed dreaming haze and it all seemed so fitting in a novelesque way...

When the Jayhawks finally hit the stage I removed the Ace bandage wrapped around my limb and found my normally jiggling right leg hampered not only by my injury but also by the close proximity to the people around me. But it still found a way to jiggle during the second song, a tear inducing "Eyes of Sarahjane" from the latest CD. "I see the happy times again/and in the eyes of Sarahjane/I see happy times again/We couldn't sleep/Laugh 'til we weep/Then time stood still, so still, so still..."

I melted. Literally melted and drifted to times and ghosts past. I wanted to tell the FGG what was going on but there was a wall (of people if not of existing neurosis) and what can one tell these dayz?

The songs from the new CD Rainy Day Music worked well and seeped into cracks that weren't quite caulked by just listening to the recorded versions. When Gary Louris sang the lyrics to "Stumbling Through the Dark" my knees buckled as I thought about Stephanie Jane (and all her successors). "So much in love little girl/Running in circles, why?/You know it's a crime..." And how about a version of "Tailspin" that was a great example of how much the group has grown from the days I heard them opening for Dylan at the Orpheum years and years back? Forget that they will forever miss (in my ears) the country "Band-ish" influence former member Mark Olson used to provide (not to mention his harmonies) to Louris' otherwise devotion to Beach Boy pop the music in front of me was transcendental.

They closed with "Sister Cry" that had me alternating glances at the stage where Louris was playing the part of 'rock God' complete with feedback (most Moby Grapish) and with the Feisty Garden Girl who was swaying in a way that melted my already misplaced liver textured heart. I wasn't with Stephanie Jane, and I wasn't with whatever feelings being with her used to conjure, but I was in a place that for a brief moment I loved to be. Elsewhere in this publication you'll find an article about why music matters so much to the human soul and you'll find an article about why rock criticism is so dorky and you'll also now find this, a testament to an existing friendship that sometimes hurts more than an aching Jayhawks' melody.

Living in an Eternal Vacuum

Back in the days when I was a bit more impressionable than I am today, I like many a happy go lucky lad wanted a dog for a pet. Sure my myriad of stuffed animals named after baseball players was of some comfort (and exercise for the imagination) but somehow having a real live (as I defined it then if not now) faithful, tail-wagging companion in my life seemed something that was desirable. Alas my sisters were allergic to all creatures fuzzy and thus my pet options were somewhat limited. Mom and Dad did at one point buy my brother and I a pair of turtles but somehow Huey and Louie weren't exactly capable of cuddling and playing fetch and that type of thing.

So one day my friend Steve Benz and I were out at the swamp as we seemed to be most hazy afternoons and we caught ourselves a couple of Red-Bellied snakes. I wasn't going to take mine home but Steve convinced me that it was the prudent thing to do. Still sheepish I didn't exactly rush to tell anyone in my family about my new pet, the one I kept hidden in a shoe box down in the basement, the one I wasn't quite sure what to feed to keep it healthily and stealthy swiggling.

As a few days passed (more than enough time to seem like it time to move on to the next interesting thing to such a decidedly prone to that type of moving on type mindset) I opened up the top of the shoebox to where I was keeping the newest member our family only to discover that he (or maybe it was a she or maybe it was both) wasn't there. Yup my heart skipped a beat or two and my choices seemed limited to either ignoring the whole set of things and chalking it up to a learning experience; or looking around our palatial suburban estate for a snake no more than a cat tail in length; or maybe mentioning to Mom that there was a loose snake (no fault of my own naturally) in the house somewhere.

After a few days more contemplation I kind of came to the realization that I really should probably tell Mom about the loose snake. We began an immediate search that proved fruitless. As a last resort Mom, knowing she had recently vacuumed the whole house decided to look inside the vacuum cleaner. She carefully cut open the vacuum cleaner bag and began to sort, barehanded through its contents. In retrospect I think she was equally afraid of what she might find as afraid what she might have to tell me she might find. But in amongst the dust there was a wiggle waggle movement and Mom let out what may have been a sigh of relief or one let out of disappointment at the unexpected adventure her youngest child had most recently been the catalyst of. I eventually gave the snake back to Steve Benz with a certain sadness borne both out of the grief I caused Mom and the sadness that I really did still want a tail-wagging friend that somehow "belonged" to me.

This most recently passed cold cold winter I was vacuuming one of the few areas in my hardwood floored house I have to vacuum- the rug in my bedroom- when I had one of those frustrating OOPs moments when I saw a shiny object that was just too late identified to be my recently lost favorite earring just as I was running the vacuum cleaner over the recently lost piece of jewelry. Being way too cheap to immediately remove the garbage bag and retrieve the earring I decided that I'd wait until the bag was full and then deal with the lost object of my affection. So this past weekend I decided that I had gotten all I could out of this particular vacuum bag and I removed it. I grabbed a grocery bag, slit the vacuum bag and began emptying the dusty contents into the grocery bag.

So there I was sitting on the front steps of my house, hands hidden in a grocery bag, clouds of dust swirling around me like that that follows Pig-Pen in the Peanuts comic strip searching for a tiny lil green earring. I know I made quite the sight as a neighbor stopped by to ask what the hell I was doing. And on top of it all I was tearing up not so much because of the dust but because 90 percent of the contents I was shifting through was Max the Cat's sucked up fur. There was so much there that I'm sure I could sculpt a life-size replica of my much missed deceased buddy.

That same weekend my Dad told me his home voice mail went on the fritz and he dug out his last answering machine to temporarily take its place. He hit the play button airing the last tape inside and out played the voice of Mom talking to a grandchild about a school the girl had gotten into. The pride in Mom's voice rose above the accidentally erased and otherwise muffled parts of the conversation. Dad and I weren't quite sure what we should think or feel of the unexpected return of Mom's voice. The vacuum her absence continues (and will continue) to create to me remains absolute and astounding. It sucks at least as much if not much more than my now lifetime experience of combining vacuum cleaners with pets both deliberately chosen for comfort and those who were meant to be. Another explain it to me please moment in an time of that type of thing. At the very least putting in a fresh bag makes my vacuum cleaner work much better. It truly sucks. And that seems appropriate.

Monday, September 8, 2003

The Cheetah Who Didn't Ever Try to be a Rabbit

"He's the poet laureate of rock 'n' roll. The voice of the promise of the '60s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock, who donned makeup in the '70s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse, who emerged to 'find Jesus,' who was written off as a has-been by the end of the '80s, and who suddenly shifted gears and released some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late '90s."
-Jeff Miers Buffalo News

When the news came out that Seinfeld writer Larry Charles and Bob Dylan were collaborating on a project it seemed an odd pairing indeed. At first it was reported that the two would produce a variety show and with Dylan in a phase of telling corny jokes, "My old girlfriend was a tennis player. To her love meant nothing..." visions of a modern Hee Haw sprung to mind. It would be just like Bob to do that since it is that last thing one can picture Dylan doing (or at least doing comfortably). Instead what Charles and Dylan ultimately produced was the movie Masked and Anonymous that opened Friday in the Twin Cities.

The national criticism of the movie has been (somewhat) predictably harsh. "Two thumbs way down, as far down as thumbs can go," Ebert and Roeper declared on their TV show. And while I must admit that I don't think I'm capable of being too critical of anything Bob does (except perhaps the few times in his career where he has seemingly taken the safe and easy path) I approached my seeing Masked and Anonymous with some trepidation. From what I read I expected to see the same thing I saw in high school creative writing class, a story of stifling pretentiousness pondering the meaning of (and cruelty) of life at the same time basking in its own cleverness. And yup some of that is definitely there.

What I didn't expect was an at times witty farce. It's Bob making fun of his own legend, of how his work is taken so seriously by fans and critics alike and where every move is scrutinized for a deeper meaning. There's a definite wink to the movie and those who are trying to keep an open mind (as closed as that can sometimes be) may miss that wink if they should happen to blink too soon. One of Ebert's criticisms of the movie was that every line Bob mutters sounds like it comes from a fortune cookie. And while that is true, in a way it is deliberately true. It's what our culture requires and those who can deliver such lines better than others are the ones that critics revere and tear to shred almost randomly. "Cellulose is found in the grass and cows can digest it but you can't... and neither can I," Bob informs us (and for me comically so).

The movie is full of appearances by some great actors and actresses from John Goodman to Jessica Lange, Jeff Bridges to Penelope Cruz, Luke Wilson to Angela Bassett, Ed Harris to Christian Slater, Mickey Rourke to Fred Ward. It's like those in Hollywood were standing in line to participate in a Dylan related movie. And of course all the characters in the movie have these deep (and silly names) from Dylan's Jack Fate, to Goodman's Uncle Sweetheart, from Wilson's Bobby Cupid to Bridge's Tom Friend and Cruz's Pagan Lace. Most of the acting is way over the top (particularly Goodman, Lange and Bridges) that stands in stark contrast to Dylan who sort of swaggers throughout his scenes in a Chaplinesque manner. The man has the most expressive stoical and inscrutable face ever captured on celluloid. He's awkward and he moves funny and he mumbles his lines in a reverent tone but there's a charisma that's undeniable that explains some of his devoted following.

Masked and Anonymous may either be a great movie or it is dreadful dreck and it's hard to distinguish between the two but that is what makes it fascinating to see. Dylan definitely tried a Triple Salchow here and while he didn't exactly stick the landing there is so much in this film that you won't see if you should wander into any other movie theater. You either appreciate the satirical humor (the stabbing look at Dylan puncturing his own legend) or you hate how serious the movie seems to be taking itself. (I tend to lean toward the former seeing how Dylan opened most of his shows the past year with the quote from the aforementioned Buffalo News' summary of his career before he took the stage. Wink Wink...)

For those who marginally appreciate Dylan and especially Dylan's music (the movie makes a convincing argument that there may be a difference between the two) Masked and Anonymous is probably worth seeing for the music scenes alone. Never mind there are several wonderful covers of under-appreciated Dylan songs ("Senor," "One More Cup of Coffee," and "If You See Her Say Hello" in particular) the scenes with Bob and his band are at times eye and ear popping stuff. Midway through the film Dylan sings a bluesy and wistful "I Remember You" that is probably the best version I've heard since the day I was lying in a faraway Rochester bed wondering what could ever come next and if I'd be around to see it. People kill so much time when time is really killing us I heard somewhere. So lock me up Suze I'm gonna kill time seeing this movie again I promise you.

My Secret Government Mission

by Thompson Maeda

"This blonde feline gets caught in a trap and ends up gnawing off three of her legs. And she still is stuck! Enjoy the kibbles and bits and be sure to tip your waiter!"

Say you're a frisky young kitten who is allowed the freedom to roam the wilderness of a nearby park at the same time as someone nice is nice enough to feed you on occasion and suddenly one day you find yourself trapped in a trap. And your paw aches and your leg can't move and you don't know what can possibly come next (if anything) and the next thing you know you are at a white sterile place that puts something in you in another leg and when you awake you're not entirely the same whole as what you went asleep as. Put the immediate pain is gone and all you can think about is eating again because that need left you in all your other pain.

Eventually you are brought to a whole other place where you are paired with this rambunctious black cat with an impressive tail who seems to lop onto all those far and near. You're not sure what to make of things. And the ache in the front side where your leg used to be reminds you to be extra cautious.

At the place where you lost your ability to be free they dubbed you "Tumbles" in an accurate but still somewhat cruel description of your new found state. You do tumble over because there is a certain change in your eternal sense of balance. Let's see anyone else do any better in a similar circumstance if such a thing could ever really exist. But you do have a persevering quality within your being that gets you through even though the fact of the matter is you don't know any better that had you been brought just about any other place your survival would not have been a choice and the easier option of letting you go would have been inevitably made for you.

You find yourself in an obvious basement made into a room (with high windows you have to make an effort to reach) living with that other energetic if not forgotten like soul and another who plays loud music and cuddles and smells good. You try to re-orient yourself to all that has changed but you keep tumbling over and you don't like that feeling. You merely want to prance about like you used to but kerplop something is eternally missing in who you know you will forever now be.

One day a wobbly soulless but needy man comes to visit. He watches not only you but your best friend, that lucky black cat and even throws a toy or two your way. He gently pets you and somehow is smart enough (it doesn't seem part of his natural makeup) not to try to pick you up. You don't like to be confined in any way, you need the freedom of your own movement and you love to dart from one side of the room to the other.

As part of your new routine you have been occasionally brought to this big smelly yet fascinating place where people walk by and look at you and pick up that black cat and then after a few mumbled words walk away. You somehow sense that they were talking about you but you never know. It's all rather scary and at the same time it is yet another bonding experience with your fellow feline friend. It is the one time he seems as scared as you and you call out to comfort him and he calls back. One such visit that wobbly friend comes by with a nice smelling friend. He looks at you and smiles and says "Hi" like he really means it. A few days later he's back to visit you at your home. He plays with you more extensively and you hear more talk that you just know has to be about you.

Then with the sound of U2 blaring he comes back evenings later and you are gently placed into a cloth carrier (loaded from the top as you prefer) and you hear your black cat roommate being also loaded into a carrier. You are carried outside, put into a car that smells like another cat. The drive seems unbearably long and you aren't sure where you are headed or what could possibly come next. You just want to rest your head or run around free. You enter a place that smells more like that cat you never met and your friend the black cat immediately darts down some steps into the darkness. You decide you should explore your new surroundings and you are very meticulous at searching each and every room of this strange place.

The wobbly man strokes your fur and whispers comforting words into your extended and alert ears. Your friend, the black cat, is nowhere to be seen and won't be for another day or two. But that gives you the freedom to roam and make things your own. The wobbly guy seems nice enough. (Days later he tells you about a Bob Dylan film that inevitably ends with Dylan being betrayed by yet another woman and muttering about how people search for the meaning of things when they should spend an equal amount of time searching for what things don't mean. And you know exactly what that means.)

A couple evenings the wobbly man leaves you and your fellow feline alone and on your own even though that nice smelling lady comes and feeds you and plays awhile. It is then you know you should be nicer to the man when he returns and you decide you'll stretch out for a belly rub every morning when he awakes. He's trying and trust will come at some point.

Monday, September 1, 2003

Just Your Ordinary Average Everyday Sane Psycho Super Goddess

"I still take the trash out/Does that make me too normal for you?"
-Liz Phair

Life is quite hard the day you become a parody of yourself. The one moment of my life I was vain enough to consider myself a "writer" (even though I didn't wear a beret at the time) was when I was obsessed with writing my novel and I was working at the warehouse and a thousand thoughts raced through my mind constantly and I found myself jotting down notes on little pieces of paper and stuffing them in my pockets and when I got home I'd unload them all into a cracked yellow plastic basket and later on to my roommate's (the pharmacist Pistol Pete) Apple computer.

I wasn't writing because I wanted to, I was writing because I needed to (and desperately)- I was bleeding words. So you can imagine how unbearably pretentious that novel became. My most familiar critic has since made the observation that the difference between then and now is I used to be inspired by such things as Love and God and Beauty and now I'm inspired by three-legged cats. Point well taken. "Moderation is a memory."

So I may not be capable of doing it with my words anymore (like I was ever any good at that in the first place dammit) but for awhile I did make it one of my missions in life to introduce as many people as I could to Liz Phair's music. It was the least I could do and of course I've said many times, never let it be said I didn't do the least I could do. Thus I was pleased last summer that when I gave Exile in Guyville to the blue-eyed intern now soon to be a world renowned editor (and the one who God bless her introduced me to Ike Reilly) that the CD has become one of her favorites. Cool beans is all I can say (and oh- also can a guy ever eat too many tomatoes? I ask this 'cuz I planted six tomato plants last spring that are now bearing the results of my haphazard gardening efforts so I'm eating tomatoes morning, noon, and night!)

I went to Liz's concert last Thursday in the stifling over-heated air of the unair-conditioned First Ave with my favorite wordsmith (who I must admit I'm insanely jealous of because of her abilities to write circles around lil old me) and I asked her to go because: a) I knew she was a respectful Liz Phair fan (despite hating the newest CD) and b) because if you're going to listen to songs that you absolutely love (and believe it or not due to my rather nondiscriminating tastes- there aren't that many in my life that qualify) who better to share the experience with than someone who can write ovals and figure of eights around your weeble little mind? C'mon people! Am I the only one who has been tempted to make the jump to Mars seeing it is as close as it is and given the state of this world at this time?! Are you with me or against me?

Did I say I love Liz's songs? Lemme clarify that a bit. I'm in love with Liz's songs. When I left my sheltered little Roseville life for the big world of a precious Macalester education (not exactly like one of them public institutions like Marshall State or St. Cloud State or the University of Duluth) what I was expecting (or was that dreaming?) was to meet my future wife-to-be, a woman who would strum a guitar (or plunk a concertina or know at the very least how to yodel) and play me excerpts from her diary. And while Liz Phair ain't exactly that woman she's the closest I've been exposed to, a familiar facsimile that exists (did I mention when the Teutonic Garden Lover and I were leaving our parking space in the urine soaked Target Center Parking Ramp we got behind a blue American made car that had a bumper sticker that was pro-clone and encouraged all its readers to support multiple lives?).

As for the concert itself let me say that despite my many growing neurosis (my concert partner scolded me that she is keeping me from sinking deeper into the insanity abyss "I think I'm losing my soul," Liz sings in "Only Son"), and despite ending up standing behind a girl with the most shrill voice (the type that could quite adequately take a coney-dog order through a tinny speaker) I quite enjoyed the music. From the efficacious opener of Exile's "6'1"" to the most recent attempt at a hit "Why Can't I?" the show was great fun. "Whip Smart" rocked, "Uncle Alvarez" proved what a great writer Phair is and she sang all her new (and highly criticized) songs with a great deal of passion. One of her new songs "Favorite" that is her singing about the virtues of her favorite piece of underwear somehow was most entertaining while on the new disc, ironically entitled Liz Phair, comes across as someone trying to be, in almost a desperate fashion, one who thinks those paying attention expect her to be. Somehow live it fit in with who she probably really is (in real life!). In other words it was like a favorite piece of underwear one might find one self singing about.

If nothing else she proved in concert that she knows that there is a difference between a stupid pop song and a bad pop song. Even at her simplest, at her most uninspired she can't help herself, Liz just has to be like no one else before.