Monday, February 14, 2005

Crash on the Levee or Three Cool Cats

This week I was going to write about how at last week's Ike Reilly show that it dawned on me that great songs can come to mean something entirely different to you depending on your place in life. I had heard Ike's "Put a Little Love in It" a hundred times yet at the First Ave show the line, "Hang on to your spit for the flames inside your home" struck for the first time as being brilliant. It's a great way to say that one shouldn't bother wasting energy on things that don't matter in the end that there are always current troubles at home that need all one's attention.

Why hadn't I really heard that line before and why did it slice into me so deeply this time? I thought about that all week and was going to sit down and fill up this space with my thoughts on the matter.

That's when tragedy struck not once but three times.

The first bit of bad news was the death of a mentor of sorts- Ms. Marge Christianson- Moogie- the former Hennepin County Elections Manager. Marge was the one that taught me what matters in the end isn't the end count, the final result, what most often matters is the counting process itself. If that operation isn't right then nothing that comes afterwards is worth a hill of beans. There were times Marge took me under her wing and those times I felt quite special- as if what limited talents I do possess- really did matter.

Marge let me know she was a Sinatra fan. She loved "My Way," and "New York New York." So when I heard the sad news of her death I made sure to listen to Sinatra's great "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)" and thanked my lucky stars that Marge and my paths crossed when they did. She meant a lot to me.

The second bit of bad news of the week was a bit unexpected. I knew that bringing in cat #3 into the household would raise the hackles of the existing roommates and cause a bit of stress for a while. What I didn't see coming was that one of the two boyz, Mr. Thompson would not stay angry but rather he would get depressed. Being an involuntary expert on depression I should have seen it coming. I had thought by bringing in a soul to ward off future sadness caused by loss the worst result could be one of anger turned hissy fits. I should have known better. Anger turned inward is depression. Depression turned outward is one of life's largest lost causes.

I came home one evening and Thompson clearly wasn't himself. He skipped dinner. He lay on my bed, ears turned down and wouldn't move. Usually quite vocal he was silent and would barely look at me. A couple of times he also let out a solitary hack as if something was caught in his throat. I almost hoped his behavior change was the result of something physical not psychological. I flashed back to the time I had hit some skids and was lying hopelessly on my parent's couch when my Mom said she couldn't stand to see me the lethargic way I was. It wasn't until after I repeated those exact words to Thompson that the tears really did start flowing from one of us. I ended up taking him to the vet. I recognized the woman at the records desk almost immediately as a high school classmate. I didn't want to let her know that I recognized her however for God know whatever reason. When I told her my name she identified herself and told me she had seen my name in the files. She asked what I was up to and I told her I worked for Hennepin County Elections. She shocked me by saying she had looked for my name on last fall's ballot because I had told everyone in our high school that I was running for president in 2004. I couldn't believed she remembered that.

The next day Thompson lost his voice so being a rather vocal cat things around here seemed sadly quiet. He opens his mouth to let out a meow and nothing comes out. It's the same thing I have seen for two years now when I get home and see him looking out a window and I peer in at him and he lets out a meow that I can't hear. Only in this realm there is no glass between us and my heart sinks wondering what is going on.

For the third bit of bad news I was at work and came across a name that reminded me of one who tortured and turned on me 19 years ago, the one I spent so much capital trying not only to forget, but to forgive for turning our relationship into something much worse than it ever was until she turned it into something 10 times worse than anything I'd ever dealt with before- that one- her name turned up on the missing CNN Americans Tsunami list. I shouldn't have had mixed emotions but I did. Legally I shouldn't have any emotions at all- but I was stunned to see her name again. The end all those years ago was sudden enough but this seemed ten times worse.

Sad to say I stopped being a praying man but I must admit I did say a prayer this week for all those who strayed across my mind. In the end that part about saving spit for the flames inside my home seemed like an eerie foreshadowing for a week that just wouldn't let go.

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