Monday, February 27, 2006

Toys and Boys

Excuse me but I'm hopped up on Mexican coffee and those delicious bacon wrapped Jalapeno pepper pretzels served at the Cheapo Anniversary Party at Grumpy's.

My friend just got back from her annual pilgrimage to Mexico where this year she spent two and a half weeks getting some much needed R&R. She brought me back a pound of coffee, probably the smoothest, least bitter coffee I've ever tasted. She also brought back a wooden kitty holding a fishing rod with a cloth fish dangling from the end. My favorite mother of two gave me a similar cat statue a couple years ago for my birthday so I set the new one up next to the old one right next to a plastic Sumo wrestler I have that is wearing a cross made from the old dome roof of the St. Paul Cathedral.

Of course given the current population of my household, I will have to keep my eye out for a third wooden fishing kitty to honor my three boyz, Thompson, Theo, and Diego-san. Strangely enough Theo has already seemed to catch on to this misrepresentation of our reality. Being the third cat added to the house he maybe can be excused for being sensitive to his role in life.

For years I've had a particular cat toy, a plastic fishing pole with a stuffed cloth fish that is to be used to cast and reel back in, with the intention of getting the cats to chase the bait. The boyz generally love this toy because not only can they chase my cast, but they can also follow the reel in, and there's also the love of chewing the line if the fish seems to be hard to find. We don't play with this toy that often but whenever I pull it out it gets all three boys' attention.

I store the toy at the edge of my desk, fish hidden underneath a storage cabinet that's part of the desk. For whatever reason the other day Theo just had to get at the fish bait no matter what. He stretched himself out as far as his tall thin frame would allow and pawed at the plastic fishing pole. It was just beyond his grasp but he wasn't about to give up because this had become the only thing he could focus upon.

He probably wanted me to play with him, casting the fish into another room and allowing him to chase the fish back and forth from room to room, up and down the hallway. I just wasn't in the mood though so I went about other business.

I was in the kitchen when I heard a crashing noise coming from my office. Seems like Theo was finally able to reach high enough to roll the fishing pole off the edge of the desk. He sat there licking the cloth fish, looking somewhat proud of his accomplishment.

It was then I looked up at the two wooden fishing cats and for a moment I actually could believe that young Thelonious was telling me that he noticed that I only had a duo of fishing kitties and there are a trio of cats in this house, and this needed to be remedied so he was going to become that third fishing kitty if I wasn't willing to do something about the situation.

So now I'm in the market to find a third wooden cat holding a pole with a fish dangling from the end. I'll eventually find the right one that will take it's rightful place next to a plastic Sumo wrestler wearing a cross made from the old dome roof of the St. Paul Cathedral. I guess that figure can represent the Japanese American member of the household, the one with continuous spiritual issues, and who finds as year after year goes back that his pants are needing ongoing expansion to accommodate the ongoing expansion of his waist size.

Of course maybe just maybe I've been out of sorts and away from home about two and a half weeks too long and my leaning toward the delusional side has finally tipped the scales. I've contracted and likely will return to expanding. Here's to finding whatever will solve the current dilemma as wooden as it may end up being.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Cash Checked

Last year when I was sitting at the Minnesota Zoo waiting for Lucinda Williams' show to begin, the guy sitting next to me first tried to get me to take some chickens off his hands. Seems as if he and his wife had got the chickens thinking they'd like to have fresh eggs every morning only to discover that they had come home with all roosters- not only nixing the egg idea, but ensuring quite the racket come sunrise.

After I declined his offer of chickens we talked about recent shows that we had been to. His favorite was Rosanne Cash's show at the Zoo just a few weeks before. I knew she had played at the Zoo but I really didn't have any interest in seeing her even though a few years ago I would have paid top dollars to get a good seat.

I think my waning interest in Rosanne began shortly after the Iraq war began and I read the anti-war message she left on her web site. It wasn't that I disagreed with the sentiment. It was just the writing was so simplistic and hippie like that I lost some respect for one whose music to me was always full of so much depth. I didn't make a conscious decision to stop listening to Rosanne's music but still when I was busy filling my iPod with my CDs, only 1990's Interiors made the cut even though there were others that were surely better than so many I was uploading from other artists.

I had forgotten how much over the years I had loved Rosanne Cash's music. Songs like "Seven Year Ache" and "The Way We Make a Broken Heart" are sung with a combination of precision and passion that the first time I heard them they stopped me in my tracks. Her version of "Tennessee Flat Top Box" is head and shoulders above her father's version of the same song. Interiors is the best divorce CD I've heard this side of Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. Interiors would make my short list of desert island picks- the songs are full of such harrowing heartache and honesty that it almost makes me feel like I've gone through a divorce even though I've never been married.

Her absence on my iPod didn't even occur to me until I was sitting watching Walk the Line where the Rosanne character in the movie sole role is that of a crying child- crying when her daddy isn't at home, crying when her daddy and mommy are arguing, crying for God knows what reason at the dinner table. I quite enjoyed the film but I left wondering what in the world the real Rosanne Cash must have thought about this on screen portrayal.

Thankfully she both answers and ignores that obvious question with her new CD Black Cadillac. The CD is a full of sadness and intensity and insight over what it is like to suffer the loss of loved ones. Within a two year period Rosanne lost her father, mother, and step-mother. The poetry of the music from Black Cadillac is astounding in its ability to capture the resiliency of the human spirit. The singer isn't a survivor by choice, the title track's lyrics lamenting being left behind in hell on this earth leave no doubt about that, but when one suffers through a devastation like the loss of a parent, it the only choice that one must continue on in a world forever a little bit bleaker. In other words loss can make you stronger if only because you no longer have the nurturing spirit that was the important guide that nursed you through other losses since the crying days of your childhood.

My favorite song on the CD is "Burn Down this Town" a bluesy stomp that begs to rock out but never quite does. The tension created by being somewhat muted is the perfect example of how so much of Black Cadillac delivers the goods on such difficult material. "The sky is falling with the ash and blood/You've got to make a promise blood to blood/So shut the door and slowly turn around/And you know you can't make a sound/Burn down this town" the singer sings accompanied by a driving, soulful, swirling musical backdrop. The song then segues into "God is in the Roses" a bittersweet lament that reminds us that God may be responsible for all things beautiful (like rose petals) but God is also responsible for the thorns as well.

Johnny Cash has rightfully secured his place in the history of American music so that when a student is studying that history 100 years from now songs like "Ring of Fire" and "Folsom Prison Blues" will rightfully likely get a listen. Rosanne's contributions will probably warrant a footnote but hopefully that same student will dig a little bit deeper and listen to some of her songs as well. Her best work is timeless and constantly rewarding.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A Foray into the Doghouse

ONCE upon a recent time in a place far, far away lived Kurbie and Torii, two rat terriers with an abundance of personality.

Kurbie was the older of the two, well entrenched both in his ways and his senior citizen status. He also was the smaller of the two. And as our story begins, we see Kurbie as is customary of his species, big ears earnestly pointed skyward gazing intently forward. His life has somehow recently changed and as he adjusts he can't help but wonder when things will get back to normal. Most of the time not only does his tail wag, but his whole back end waggles as his handsome face, adorned with a Clark Gable like mustache, creates something wholly irresistible.

Torii is not only taller but more stout. He's full of mischievous pep with his motor seemingly running 98 percent of the time. His ears aren't as erect and in moments of reflection one ear will droop down giving him the look of both shadowy sadness from something long gone and appreciation for being given such a loving home.

The one who regularly cares for, feeds, and loves the two boys affectionately refers to them as her "lil assholes" Torii and Kurbie aren't so much companions as they have learned over time to co-exist. If one was introduced to Kurbie nearly a decade ago one would have seen he was living with an elderly dog named Sammie who he would mercilessly but playfully pester.

Sammie's long gone and Torii entered the picture just a couple of years ago. He can be a handful. His history isn't totally known but there are suspicions that he may have been abused by a previous owner. It took Torii a long time before he trusted human males.

Both dogs are full of passion and expect a lot of attention. Ironically now that Kurbie has entered into the role of the elder he is the one that now has to put up with a young housemate who seems to think that part of his responsibility is to irritate anyone of the like species that happens to be around.

Kurbie has charisma to burn. He is as cute as can be. As he slowly eats his meals he takes each morsel aside from his dish and looks up as if he wants everyone to admire and enjoy his eating abilities. He also does this neat thing where he crawls along the ground, stomach slithering along like a snake.

Despite his reputation for being the bad boy Torii is a friendly young soulful dog. It's his nature to be getting into things he knows he shouldn't yet he can still be the sweetest boy around. His favorite toy is a stuffed goose that used to squawk when squeezed. Torii takes the goose in his mouth and violently shakes it from side to side. The goose has long since lost all its stuffing and its voice but all you have to do is say, "Torii, where's your goose?" And he tears through the house to locate it.

He also amazingly is quite the TV observer. When a dog appears on screen Torii will spot it and go over to the TV and try to paw at the pixel made dog.

They get fed twice a day and it's the part of the routine that is truly anticipated with unabandoned joy. After they are finished eating up the dry dog food they each get a scoop of yogurt. It's a treat that's woofed down like it was invented just for the boys.

At night both boys love to crawl under the covers. Kurbie is the grouchy old guy scowling if touched or if he senses somebody is getting too close. Torii just wants to snuggle up close.

For those more accustomed to living in a feline world, the two boys have been great hosts in guiding a newcomer along for the ride. And the moral of this story, if ever a story needed a moral, was that by being open to existing in new places one is forced to look at things in a slightly different way. And that can never be a bad thing.