Monday, April 28, 2003


The week began with a call from the intern who had just finished (literally) her undergraduate college class career. She was unwinding (quite apparently) at a Wilco concert on the Duke campus. She held up her phone just in time for me to hear the bouncy and irresistible "Heavy Metal Drummer." Even over the tinny sound of a cell phone the song sounded good. And I was more glad than you would ever know that she shared.

The next day I inadvertently went to work in a holey shirt. My boss thankfully pointed that out to me before anyone else could see. Some day I may show up to work in a holy shirt. I think I may have it in me. Of course that's when I read a quote in the St. Paul Pioneer Press from the world's biggest Wild fan, the haven't heard from in a long time, Mary Meek. Mary wasn't so meek.

By the end of the week I was indeed ready to unwind and quite looking forward to seeing jazz chanteuse (and local gal done good) Connie Evingson debut live versions of the songs from her new CD Let It Be Jazz. The CD features covers of Beatles songs arranged in a variety of jazzy styles.

Let me preface this with a couple of personal tidbits: 1) Like countless others the Beatles music was the first music that changed me. Listening to their songs and falling in love with their music in junior high helped me get through the trials and tribulations and angst of my teenage years. 2) My best stupid human trick is that I can play any of the Beatles songs on the piano.

Prior to the concert my wedding planner and I stuffed ourselves at the Melting Pot in downtown Minneapolis. The new restaurant features a four course fondue feast and it was a great (if not slightly pricy) meal and the perfect prep to go to this particular concert at the Illusion Theater down the street. As Twin Cities' radio personality Jason Lewis tries to demonstrate every night the best Beatles fan is a bloated Beatles fan.

Evingson's jazz treatments of overly familiar (and comforting) songs worked extremely well. She opened the show (as she does her CD) with the one interpretation that failed to add to the original, a mystical reading of "Blackbird." The Beatles simple acoustic arrangement of a song about flight, freedom, and release is perfect and the jazz version with scat singing leaned toward something lounge like that took away from the message of the lyrics. On the other hand the next song "Can't Buy Me Love" skillfully turned the Beatles version inside out. The rocking affirmation became a cool and sedate declaration of the power of love. Evingson caressed the words with such precision that she added a sophistication to the rather simple yet still universal statement. Perhaps the best re-interpretation was on "The Night Before" a peppy early Beatles song that always has brought a smile to my face. I love how John and George's backup vocals ("AHH! the night before) encourage lead singer Paul to become more mournful and more aggressive. Evingson turned it into a reflective lament about how we all change at different speeds.

Halfway through the show (during a transcendental reading of "Fixing a Hole") I found myself transported back to the days I first fell in love with the Beatles songs, falling in love more deeply than ever before. I remember a warm spring day lying on the lime green shag carpet of my bedroom listening to a "new" Beatles LP I just bought, a compilation of their love songs. At the time I was becoming smitten, if not head over heals so, with a young lass named Karen Weiss who happened to be our junior high's best basketball player/french horn player. I was learning to hone my own versions of the Beatles songs on the piano including a version of a song I hadn't heard their version of, "For No One." I had no idea what the song really sounded like yet I loved the melancholy self consoling spirit inherent in the lyrics.

Plopping the newly purchased LP on my stereo I finally got to hear the song. "Your day breaks, your mind aches/You find that all her words of kindness linger on when she no longer needs you..." McCartney's vocals never sounded better and the bridge of the song appropriately featured a wailing french horn (who would have thought that term could ever exist?) solo. I couldn't help but become transfixed by the melodic expression of unrequited love echoing what I felt (or thought I felt) for Karen. Suddenly I could see as clearly as the sunlight blinding me the glare she would give me in my attempts to impress her.

Evingson's performance of "For No One" was terrific even to my less than discerning ears. Everything I learned about jazz I learned from former Cheapo employee Johnny Baynes who helped me establish my jazz collection. After a while I noticed Johnny didn't like any jazz musicians who weren't black. Albert Ayler or Lester Bowie were acceptable. Keith Jarrett and Dave Brubeck were not. The one exception was a little known singer, Shelia Jordan, who was once Charlie Parker's secretary. To me Evingson's sultry pure voice is reminiscent of Jordan's. Her voice ached as it poured out a soul's contents in a torch ballad arrangement of "For No One." Minus the french horn solo the song struck deeply with pianist Mary Louise Knutson's answering the vocalist's heart, and I hoped the one with me kinda felt the same.

Monday, April 21, 2003

David's Justice or My Life in a Nutshell

"Gonna sit at the welcome table/I'm as hungry as a horse/Sitting at the welcome table/I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse/I'm gonna revitalize my thinking/I'm gonna let the law take its course..."
-my favorite sly yet clever V. Secret's Salesperson

Our legislative process somehow survived my scrutiny and participation the past four years. So this past week I was left to wonder if the judicial process would be equally as fortunate. Yup I got summoned for jury duty.

I may be in the minority (gosh now that'd be unusual) but I actually have been hoping for quite some time that I would get so lucky as to be called for jury duty. Most people seem to look at it as some kind of nuisance, an inconvenient interruption in their daily lives. But for years I've wanted to serve on a jury, watch a court proceeding first hand and have the chance to deliberate with others to reach our version of justice. Now that it's all finished I wish I could go back tomorrow. I think I've found my calling- a permanent jury member. For those who have yet to be called and don't know what to expect there ought to be some kind of manual... Oh I can remember it all as if it just happened...

DAY ONE: It was everything we were told it was and more! My favorite pregnant reporter, who lives in the Mansion on the Hill told me that she parks by the Cathedral and walks down to work. So I decided, being the cheapskate I am that I would do the same to avoid any parking costs. The walk down is actually most pleasant until I get to the area by the Xcel Energy Center where a throng of people have gathered to celebrate the first NHL playoff game ever in the city. A bar band is playing on the sidewalk but I don't bother walking around on the street so I mosey on down behind the drummer all the while getting quite the evil eye. With the size of the crowd I'm a bit afraid seeing this is the state that gets worked up over a college hockey championship win over New Hampshire (NEW FRICKIN' HAMPSHIRE FOR PETE'S SAKE) that a riot occurs... Who knows what professional fans might be capable of doing...

All of us lucky ones gathered in the basement of the county courthouse. It's a room that you would expect a less than diverse group of people to gather in on a Monday morning. The computer coded grocery bar code printed summons (how slick in a 1980's type of way) signals an alarm that indicates I hadn't answered the question on the form about whether or not I was or was not Hispanic (invite the Italian in I'm sure it'll all work out in the end- doesn't it always?). And I'm not even an ex-roofer either, I say to the competent, but weary and I'm more than sure heard more than her share spectacled county court employee I was sent back to clear things up with. I answer the question and she sends me rather anonymously into the room with all the others.

I had brought with me the book recommended to me by the Blue-eyed intern My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki. I had started to read it on my trip to L.A. last fall and hadn't gotten very far. But on this day the third of the book I had gotten through prior soon became two-thirds against the clicking clock of the all too white filled room I was sitting in. Every time someone sneezed I thought about SARS and wondered if everyone else was as well. Some precarious time we're living in I thought about saying to my neighbor but he had a little bit of a crazed look in his eye. I don't even consider any discourse with the guy on my other side, with his extra red face, crew cut, and American flag T-shirt, he didn't seem to like me much as he eyed my Asian face.

A respectable looking woman steps up to a podium in the middle of the room. She switches on the microphone and gives a spiel welcoming us all and thanking us for doing a most important civic duty. She kind of tells us what to expect and lays out the rules of the week. There are 85 cases awaiting jury trials. Once we get on a jury we are done once the trial is complete. Otherwise we are to report to the same room every morning at 8:30.

She cues up a video on the jury process narrated by of all people former Channel 11 anchorette Kirsten Lindquist. I'm not sure anyone else recognizes Ms. Lindquist (she was here in the early 90's I believe) but I let out an audible snicker/gasp. It's a real life(?) imitation of the running Simpsons joke of having Troy McClure host all the instructional videos. I also chuckle when Lindquist begins the video by telling us how one of the fundamental truths about America is how everyone has the right to an open and fair and public jury trial when accused of a crime. Earlier that morning I read yet another article about our current government's detaining citizens and non-citizens alike without even charging them of a crime all in the name of the "war" on terrorism.

I sit around most of the day as a couple of groups of six and ten are called for criminal and civil cases. For lunch I wander further downtown to the World Trade Center and Town Square. I used to visit those two places regularly when I worked downtown seven(!) years ago. I can't believe how much has changed in that period. I hardly recognize either place. I choose Subway to eat partially because I'm beginning to look like the pre-diet Jarrod these days.

After lunch I'm actually called up for a gross misdemeanor criminal case. One of the other jurors called is named Jonathan Tuttle. I chuckle. My Mom and I shared a similar sense of humor and her favorite episode of M*A*S*H (and mine too) was an early episode where Hawkeye and Trapper invent an imaginary captain that sends medical supplies to the sisters at an orphanage nearby. They name him Jonathan Tuttle and all chaos breaks loose when Henry, Frank, and Hot Lips hear that there really is no Tuttle. "No Tuttle?" they humorously simultaneously mutter. The episode still cracks me up even though I've memorized each and every line.

A young gentleman is accused of domestic assault and interfering with a 911 call. He's black and I'm the only other minority in the room so I wonder if that will help or hinder my chances of getting on the jury. The interview process begins and the first potential juror asked questions by the judge says he wants to meet in private with the attorneys and judge. They all go back to the back chambers. We are sent to a nearby conference room. After a bit of a wait the judge reappears and tells us the defendant has changed his plea to guilty and we are sent back downstairs.

My favorite pregnant reporter failed to warn me about the walk back to the Cathedral area. It's all uphill. I once again walk through a Wild gathering. Joan Jett's "I Hate Myself for Loving You" blares from some speakers. Playoff hockey in Minnesota and Joan Jett: have I wandered through some sort of time warp? It's nearing 90 degrees out and struggling up the steep hill I begin to wonder if I'll ever make it.

DAY TWO: I check in once again. I finish my book. I look around as more are called upstairs. I'm beginning to think I'll have the misfortune of spending the entire week waiting. I think about lunch, about treating myself to a sushi meal for my travails. Then the county woman steps to the mike and says a jury is being called for a civil hearing. My name is the first to be called out. As the chosen group gathers we head up in an ultra speedy elevator to the 16th floor. The judge gives us further instructions about how we will be interviewed, how the attorneys have the option of dismissing some of us for no cause and others of us because they think we may have a bias about what will be presented. I'm the first to be asked questions. I'm asked about my marital status, my education background, and my profession. The others are asked the same. The attorneys then ask specific potential jurors other questions though I'm not asked anything else. I'm chosen much to my surprise (and delight).

The case involves a dispute between two companies. Company A has just gotten in the business of collecting used oil from places like Jiffy Lube and Tires Plus. They have hired Company B to help store and ultimately truck the used oil to a recycling plant in the Duluth/Superior area. Company A agrees to allow Company B to store a couple of tanks on Company A's leased site in the Cretin/Vandelia area in St. Paul. The storage site is a parking lot with a slight slope and an asphalt surface. Late one Sunday night in December 1999 a driver from Company B delivers an empty tank to the site and hitches up a full tank right next to where he placed the empty tank. He notices the slope and asphalt lot. He knows that it is common to lay down lumber underneath the tank on an asphalt surface. There is no lumber around so he drives off. Sure enough when Company A begins to fill the tank it sinks through the asphalt and tumbles down the slope. Oil makes its way to the Mississippi. We the jury are to determine who is responsible for the costs of cleanup and the Pollution Control Agency's fine.

DAY THREE: Testimony begins in earnest. The driver seems like an humble sort. Officials from both companies are oily trucker types (not that I'm into stereotyping). The attorneys remind me why I have discouraged a couple of youngsters from applying for law school.

DAY FOUR: Closing arguments are given and we are given our instructions. After lunch at the Radisson (no sushi dammit) we begin going through all the evidence. We all agree that the trucking company is negligent because the driver really should have at the very least made a call or left a note expressing his concerns about the storage site. Another juror and I disagree about whether or not the oil collecting company is negligent as well. His argument is that Company A hired Company B as a vendor and was totally dependent on their expertise on the risks of where oil can be stored. I point out that the end product is the oil company's responsibility and they should have asked for more information from the trucking company about what is needed to store oil. The rest of the jury listens to us (well him mostly) and surprisingly enough comes down on my side. The other juror seeing he wasn't going to sway any opinions agrees to go along with the rest of us even though he still thinks the oil collecting company is completely innocent of the consequences of the accident.

We go back to the courtroom and announce our verdict. The judge (Judy) takes off her robe and comes over to us to thank us for our service and to answer any questions we may have. I leave with much more confidence in this branch of government than any other.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Liquid Blue Lemonade like Romulan Ale

I remember, as if it was but yesterday, the first time I confessed my love for potstickers. It was my first year as a reluctant state supervisor and a department potluck led one of my employees to bring in the pseudo-but-true-Asian delight. "Man these boys are tasty," I said to her after scarfing down a few more than my alloted share.

Those days are far removed if only because I doubt I would utter such a purposely profound confession in public anymore. We're at war dammit and not to sound as narcissistic as I often do in these pages but things just aren't so funny these days. Having said that I will admit that one of my current favorite friends, Lisa Anne Marie, earns that moniker because she's just about the only one now who laughs at my admittedly self-inflicted tepid jokes.

Not that it's always been that way. One of the kindest things anyone has ever said to me was the time when I was going through more than a minor difficult period and my mother, before she went to the nearby Rochester salad bar, told me one of the things she appreciated most in me was when our family was going through a hard time how I had the ability to make everyone smile by something I said. Yup I don't or never have said much but that was one heckava compliment from my Mom.

So who better than L.A.M. to go along with to a book reading with from one of my these days favorite writers David Sedaris? After all he is one of the few people who can make me laugh being part standup comedian, part keen social observer, and total wise ass. I told Lisa beforehand that I would only go if she didn't laugh like a hyena. I was kidding of course because I could listen to her laugh all the time, every day.

It was the third time I attended a reading from Sedaris of some of his wonderfully wicked well-written personal essays. And he didn't disappoint.

He opened with a piece about his younger brother's recent wedding conducted near Atlantic Beach by a psychic. Like much of his work it was laugh aloud stuff even from those of us who don't laugh out loud that much. I couldn't help but think of Lisa the entire time as she had just told me over dinner her helping out with the planning of her older brother's soon to be held wedding.

Sedaris plugged the book An Obedient Father he recently read by a writer from India, Akhil Sharma. In describing the writer Sedaris gave the ultimate compliment- that Sharma makes writing seem so easy. He also said the book made him never want to visit India at the same time as it made him want to visit India. He explained this incongruity through a typical Sedaris anecdote- that the book begins with a woman getting bit in her stomach by a monkey and thus having to get a medically curing shot from a needle about a foot long. Sedaris said that he didn't want to go to India only to be bit by a monkey but he wanted to go there because he'd love to see someone else be bitten by a monkey.

Named Time Magazine's humorist of the year in 2001, Sedaris continues to be the type of writer I wish I could be. His work is as funny as it is neurotic and it is also as insightful as it is personal. Wouldn't it be a quite the life accomplishment to make a room full of strangers not only giggle for a brief time but also inspire all those in attendance to look hard at the scary world (covered on all the cable channels!) at the same time as appreciating their own private worlds?

Another essay Sedaris read was about disagreeing in front of dinner party company with his boyfriend about a volunteer work assignment (as if the writer could get nothing else) leading the blind around the subway station. His boyfriend refused to believe that the boss/chef was the owner of a rubber hand thinking the man's hand had to be made of plastic. Sedaris dug in and said he could smell better.

The sharing of a lover's quarrel was intimate but made me appreciate the humor of one who is as funny as all get out. Lisa laughed audibly a couple of times and I cherished sharing that sound more than ever.

Scent of Obsession

Despite being a rather daredevilish type of fellow, I'm not going to replace Ben Affleck anytime soon but I always figured that if I was going to be a superhero my most sensitive sense has always been my sense of smell. Out of the blue I'll sometimes get a whiff of something that will dig up a long buried deeply hidden memory, and just for a moment I'll be transported to another time, another place. As much as I rely on my sight, touch, and taste, none of those tend to have that type of power over my heart. But I beginning to wonder if my ears aren't right up there with my nose. And we're not talking anatomically speaking.

Sitting in the airport watching and listening to things around me I overheard a conversation behind me about a high school hockey player who got a Division 1 scholarship from St. Cloud State. Peterson I believe the gentleman behind me said the kid's name was. The more he talked the more I listened, not because I care a whit about Division 1 hockey (particularly St. Cloud State) but because the man was talking in a familiar voice- both in it's cadence and it's timbre. I said to myself that it sounded an awful lot like Kevin McHale (who always sounded an awful lot like Gerald O'Keefe, my brother's best friend in junior high). I craned my neck and had to crane it some more because indeed it was Mr. McHale, with his familiar Frankenstein like noggin sitting about three feet above my own.

I amazed myself by recognizing McHale's voice from behind me but maybe I recognized it because my antenna was already up, primed to hear the voice of an artist that is in my pantheon of musicians.

Fittingly as I was waiting for my flight I had been planning on listening to the new Lucinda Williams CD I had picked up the day before. I was anxious to really listen to the disc because the only chance I had to listen to it the day before was at work, turned down real low on my PC and I couldn't much make out the words, which is kind of a major drawback when listening to Lucinda. But nonetheless her voice, that sometimes twangy, often times sultry and always vulnerable (but in an aggressive way) always gets me and listening to the music turned way down still had its impact on me.

The most impressive thing about World Without Tears is that the most impressive thing is her voice. It has never sounded better, more full of ache and sorrow, more raw and tender. I could listen to the disc no matter what words she is singing- just for the sound of her singing. But of course as one of the better lyricists around, that would be selling the CD criminally short.

My favorite Lucinda fan has been all over Europe the past few weeks. Copenhagen, Athens, Prague, the southern part of France it sounds like quite the trip. And I thought it was a big step for me just to fly to Colorado Springs for a two-day seminar. There's an accurate photograph of our friendship somewhere in that juxtaposition. There's also a multitude of reasons why I can't wait for her to get back but one of the most important is I can't wait for her to hear World Without Tears because I know she'll appreciate the music as much as me and I dying to hear her impressions.

But alas she was halfway across the world and I was a stranger in a strange town trying to learn all about the new federal election law changes. I couldn't help thinking when sitting in that big conference room for hours that I just wanted to be back in my hotel room with its breathtaking view of Pikes Peak listening to the new Lucinda disc, and the new Jayhawks disc, the new Rosanne Cash disc, and the new disc featuring various artists covering Dylan's gospel songs (I have an aunt in Colorado who recently told my sister she had never heard of Bob!) knowing that there was probably few in the room who even had heard these artists let alone know anything about their music. Somehow for me the inspiring new work from some of our best artists seemed more important than helping America to vote.

I spent most of my time with a group of some my favorite local election officials and one evening I found myself at a Mexican restaurant. The hostess asked us if we wanted to sit out on the patio but some of us were afraid it would be a bit too chilly. When questioned if the patio area was any warmer from the weather we had just walked in from, the delightfully loopy young lass said, "It's the same temperature out back that it is out front." Made a lot of sense to me.

Sitting silently listening to conversations about dogs and cats and drinks and kids, a South Dakotan sarcastically asked me if I was always so talkative. I didn't want to tell her what was really on my mind- the voice from World Without Tears. It's not that I'm anti-social it's just that I didn't think anyone in the group would want to hear a rant best saved for these pages about the great new set of Lucinda songs, from the Patsy Cline-ish "Overtime," the heartbreaking "Those Three Days," and the wickedly sensual "Righteously." Indeed about the only thing on my mind in this not so far away place was the notion that this was the week that I gained a new criteria for any future Mrs. Maeda. After watching Lucinda perform "Righteously" on Leno the other night in a big furry hat, I knew that any future missus of mine would have to look that good in a similar hat- and have to have a voice capable of reaching so far inside.

Monday, April 7, 2003

More Than You'll Ever Know

Underneath grandpa's dresser
Where you've seldom been before
The forlorn look in your eyes
Like you can't take it anymore

I don't want you to hang on
Just for my grieving sake
Yet I don't want you to let go
'Cuz my heart's about to break

I watch as your breathing
Gets harder and distressed
At complete loss what to do
My love was never the best

Reaching out for help
More for me than for you
Yet I'm not the one leaving
I wondered if you knew

Feeding you through a tube
Losing your one constant joy
Trying to bolster your spirit
I feel like a little lost boy

You crawl into the bathtub
Eyes peeping out sadly seeing
Solitude and bewilderment
Absorbed in your entire being

Can't let go or admit the truth
I know the end is achingly near
You sit still and just look ahead
A call to one who holds you dear

Kindness to keep us company
Afraid to turn on the icy streets
Listening for your breathing
An obstacle thicker than sleet

The receptionist takes you in
I'm distraught I must admit
Trying to look brave as I could
Like a shaking leaf I quietly sit

Two of us alone in the room
They bring you in all prepared
I say a lasting tearful goodbye
Remembering all we shared

Time it doesn't matter
A floor without a door
The look in your eyes
Tells me what's in store

Fluid flows as I give the go
They warned me about the rest
Eyes opened more than wide
Holding me tight to her breast

Happy ever after
Once upon a time
Friendships last forever
In memory of the sublime

War's broken out since you left
And my pen can't even express
The sadness that surrounds
The chronically sleepless rest

Can't get it out of my mind
The week that was your last
Can't get it out of my heart
A blink of an eye it passed

Every day is the same day
As the one that came before
Your absence is a presence
That simply cannot be ignored