Monday, July 4, 2005

What If

This past week I spent a couple of days engaged in public speaking. First there were a couple of mandatory training sessions I conducted for some city and school district clerks. Then on Wednesday night I was invited to be on a panel at an event sponsored by the Minnesota Disability Law Center. Anyone that knows me knows that any moment that I can keep my trap shut is a moment I may have a better chance than normal of living with. Of course I didn't have much of a choice. I had to speak. It's all part of my job and I may be a rebel but I'm not one who turns his back on his assignments.

Thus I was glad when I came home one night and David Letterman shared some of the truisms he has learned in life. One of these said that if you know how to fold a shirt and you are a guy, chances are you are gay. Another that Dave shared was that whenever you pull a nose hair you will sneeze. Guaranteed.

If I could add one of my own life lessons to Dave's truisms it would be if you are hurtin from a relationship busting up there isn't a wiser thing you can do than listen to Lucinda Williams. Within the past year two of my female friends have broken up with their boyfriends and as I've gotten together with them I wish I could take away the hurt and offer some wisdom. But of course that would require speaking. Thankfully one of the two told me that after her breakup she couldn't stop listening to Lucinda. I knew she was a bright gal the first time I saw her...

The best thing about Lucinda Williams show at the Minnesota Zoo Saturday night was that she sang a great mixture of older and newer songs like scorching versions of "Pineola" and "Out of Touch" as well as sultry versions of "Right in Time" and "Righteously" and none of them were the highlights as good as they were. Nope the best thing about the show was that Lucinda shared six brand new songs with us and all six sparkled. Whenever a new CD comes out it's guaranteed to be one of her best and that means it will be one heckava CD.

All the new songs have simple titles and cover a spectrum of different musical styles but the transcendental thing about them is they leave behind the blues and depression of the last two studio CDs (Essence and World Without Tears) for a thankful return of humor and biting wit. The first of the new songs Lucinda unveiled was the contemporary countryish "Life is" that contemplates learning about life after a breakup. It contained the standard Lucinda line, "They say the best is yet to come/But I can still taste the taste of your tongue..." "What If?" my favorite of the new songs asks several nonsensical questions like what if buildings laughed and windows cried and cats could walk across water leading to the more searing questions about what if families didn't exist and we all lived alone. The song whimsically builds to the last question, an appropriate one about what if we all loved each other equally.

The burning metallic "C'mon" was in stark contrast to the Hank Williamseque "Jailhouse Tears" a good old foot stompin country tune where Lucinda was joined in a playful duet with her opening act, John Doe. The latter song may sound like a Hank song but it gets its point across with Lucinda's acerbic and at times, vulgar humor.

Another new poppy song called "Real Love" featured some playful lyrics about "squeezing my peaches" and "sending me your postcards from beaches." The last of the new songs "West" a prayer/lullabye closed the show in a quiet but hopeful manner.

Before Lucinda stepped out the guy next to me told me that he and his wife owned a bunch of chickens despite a Shoreview city code that prohibited such practice. During her second song "Fruits of My Labor" Lucinda's voice cracked as she sang about how it's better to take the glory over the fame. Work for work's sake may be a means to an end but there remains something to say for seeking and finding a voice that not only helps all of this makes some kind of sense but whose very unmistakable ache makes it all seem just a little bit more bearable as well.

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