Monday, June 16, 2003

Franny and Huck

Maybe it's just the monkey pox talkin' but I must somewhat sheepishly admit or confess I really like the new Madonna CD and especially the title song "American Life." Back in the days when I used to work (in the stores) those who had the pleasure of working a shift with me knew I always had a soft spot (or is that more accurately a hard spot?) for Madonna. If nothing else, her divorce song, "Til Death Do Us Part" is brilliance defined as far as I'm concerned a song so nakedly painful it puts all other like minded confessionals to shame. The new disc is often as open and honest as this often inscrutable artist can be- plus we finally get to hear Madonna rap and she timely delivers the rhyme "super duper" with "Mini-Cooper" which ends all that ends all in my book (and novel).

I also love how she has grown from her "Material Girl" days to remind us that living in America and striving for the defined American Dream these days can be a precarious proposition. The direction we seem to collectively be taking and taking for granted, is scarier than your average Motel 8 stay. Yet the beauty of Madonna's "American Life" is that despite the criticism and the darkness lies an eternal optimism. It ain't exactly flag waving (quite the contrary) it's looking for all that we should appreciate living in this wacky country of ours. Forget apple pie and the drive toward getting as much as one can get- it's all about a country that at its core can appreciate the concept of art like no other and the notion that love is what makes it all worthwhile in the end.

She may be perceived to be about style over substance and sex over genuine feeling but Madonna has been around long enough now to warrant consideration as a true American original. She's one of those artists that truly makes me marvel at the whole music business thing. And talking about this American life as you well know by now I have been doing my best to adjust to the high energy and curious playful living of two young cats. One of the areas the late great Max never ventured was the top of my piano where the edge houses many of my mascot oriented bobbleheads. Well upon their first few weeks in living in their new house one of the kitties (and I strongly suspect it was the naturally more rambunctious Diego-san) got up on top of the piano and knocked something off the back somehow without destroying any of my painfully collected precious porcelain collection.

I decided I would discourage the culprit by leaving the keyboard uncovered hoping that if he hopped up it would make a racket that would scare the Dickens out of him and discourage him from committing the same act ever again. So around 5 a.m. last Saturday I hear the plunking of some piano keys. But instead of the expected timid scampering of paw sounds the tinkling of the ivories continued and continued on and on. I rubbed my eyes and relished in the notion that I have a piano playin' kitty! And isn't that ultimately what makes America such a great place to live?!

Another great thing about living in this land of ours is that anyone (and I'm proof positive) can grow up to be the type of homeowner that owns his/her home garden. Some of us have garden spots in both the front and back although the front is devoted to things that look good (as opposed to tasting good) and is completely dependent (and marred) by the necessity to look good above all else. Who among us can really tell the difference between a weed and an acceptable plant?

So the other day my friend, the Pulitzer Prize winning sterling writer was over and she asked me if I knew I had Peonies. She just about lost it when upon further inspection she saw I had clipped back that particular plant thinking it was merely a weed. It's been a life long problem- trying to distinguish what is good (for me) and bad.

Speaking of gardens and being capable of drawing distinctions the aforementioned prize winning friend and I headed on over (driving carefully around my many anxieties) to the Walker Art Center this past Friday to see Wilco at the "Rock the Garden" concert. I must admit that one of the things a TV producing kitty lover and myself share in common is that we are somewhat skeptical of Wilco's music. Never has there been a more overrated underrated band. They aren't exactly known and appreciated by the masses yet never has there been a band that has in ways been worshipped for that as it has for its music.

Sure enough the outdoor City of America setting provided a great backdrop for this most of the time sterling band. As they ripped through a version of a rollicking "I'm the Man Who Loves You," one of the greatest of songs written in the past decade I forced myself to see beyond this short time some of us have left on this planet. I swayed (anonymously and quite by myself) to the music and words and knew that the four foot nine leadman Jeff Tweedy was far and near and about far more than making sad sad music embellished by the sad sad sounds inside his mind; the sounds that forced a record label to drop the group from its roster of artists at the same time as it was being most critically raved about. So just how can one live in a place where love hurts as much as it helps?

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