Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota



20
Mar
07

Put ‘Em on Me

Hand    
Empty and untouched
[fantasy arts resource project]

When I had a chance to touch Cyndi Lauper recently, I turned it down.

When she walked out onto the peninsula of stage projecting out into the masses assembled on the floor of the club, she reached down to the frantic hands grasping at her knees. She briefly clasped fingers, slapped palm to palm, butted fist to fist.

My friend pulled me closer and shouted into my ear. “Do you want to go up there and touch her hand? I’ll go up there with you.”

I hemmed and hawed and eventually decided no. No, I won’t.

“OK,” she said, “but if you change your mind, let me know. I’ll go up there with you.”

I wanted to go up there. No I didn’t. Yes I did. I looked at the bouncing crowd at her feet. It was packed. I’d have to be pretty aggressive to get up there. Rude, even. But I might never be so close again. And why shouldn’t they share her with me? Oh, why didn’t I start out closer to the stage before the show started, when there was plenty of room to stake out a spot?

    Cyndi Lauper
I couldn’t get a good snapshot, but memories “R” Good Enough.
[dnamagazine.com.au]

Lauper retreated, and the hands came down. My moment, my chance, had passed. Much more importantly, I could stop fussing and wimbling and concentrate on the show.

I looked over at my friend. What have I done? (What have I not done?) She sort of shrugged, as if to say, Well, that’s that. I asked you.

Cyndi Lauper was performing with Soul Asylum, Lifehouse and Mint Condition in a benefit concert for Wain McFarlane, a friend of mine. He needs a new kidney, and with the inadequate health insurance of a man who makes a living as a musician, Wain can’t afford the procedure and, more importantly, the anti-rejection drugs he’ll have to take the rest of his life. Thankfully, his brother is donating the organ, and it’s a good match. Things could be worse. But he’s still got to pay for it.

All the performers have a professional and personal connection to Wain, and agreed early on to do the show. Jeff and I flew back to Minneapolis for the show to support our friend — and, I’m not ashamed to say, to see Cyndi Lauper.

Before long, she was back on the peninsula, and my friend was elbowing me in the ribs.

I was reminded of a guy I met online whose cowboy hat Madonna took off his head at a concert last year. She wore it through a song and threw it back out into the crowd. He was apoplectic with joy. (His friends strongarmed the poor person who caught the hat into returning it.) Oh, why can’t I be like that guy?

As it was, I was embarrassed even to be standing there with my cellphone pointed upward trying to snap a few photo. My real camera had been barred at the door, but it didn’t stop us from flipping open our phones, the constellation of those tiny video displays glowing blue and shifting shape for the hour-long set.

It felt so lame and ineffectual. Every time Lauper looked in my direction, possibly even making eye contact a couple of times (which was thrill enough for me), I could feel her disappointment. You’re missing the point, idiot. This is music. This is a party. You’re trying so hard to capture the moment that you’re missing it.

She had enough to contend with, including a band that seemed unable or unwilling to keep up with her and some sound techs who just couldn’t seem to get it right. The diva — cold, raised voice, and forceful gestures (Move. There. Now.) — came out a couple of times. She is the boss and in total control. But she is not without flaws herself. When she dusted off “When You Were Mine,” an apparent gesture to local-boy-made-good Prince, she had forgotten many of the lyrics and couldn’t seem to read them very well from the back of a flyer where they had been scribbled. Eventually, she dropped the paper and rocked the chorus out instead.

None of the images I took turned out, by the way.

I had a friend in college who was a Tori Amos groupie and had a picture of herself with Amos from every concert she had attended. The dedication of waiting at the stage doors after each show, the consistency and Amos’ eventual recognition of her, was impressive to me. I was jealous, but also alarmed. It seemed obsessive. Why the need to do it more than once?

A group of three women pushed past me toward the stage, annoying the enormous man standing next to me. The one in front would gently displace someone and then her friends would rush through. It was a nuisance. There was no room for them. I hated them. I wanted to be them. No, I didn’t.

I don’t think less of people for wanting to make that contact. They were fulfilling a “need” that Lauper was willing to accommodate. Unlike my friend with the Tori Amos fetish, I suppose I just didn’t feel that need strongly enough to act on it. Unlike these women, I didn’t want to interfere with other people’s experience for an ultimately empty gesture.

It struck me that this may not have been about me. By refusing to push forward, I was keeping my friend from getting closer, too. All the emotion around my devision was instantly transferred to guilt. I should do it for her, not me. Though I guess her boyfriend could have taken her up there if she really wanted to go.

It’s enough for me to consider that I am only a degree away from Cyndi Lauper. I felt like an insider just being there. I had the hubris to think that maybe Wain would introduce us after the show. It would be just weird to touch her hand like everyone else. She talked about her upcoming True Colors Tour (which won’t stop in Minneapolis), days before the official announcement. But even that is meaningless. I don’t know her. I have nothing to say except as a one of millions of distant fans.

Cyndi Lauper is a formidably talented musician, not a faith healer. I would love to meet her and tell her I admire her and thank her for helping me friend. But I don’t want to reduce her to a fetish. What would I get out of touching her hand? The transferance of greatness? A palm full of sweat? Maybe the human touch would be just enough to assure them that she is as real as they are. Or that they are as real as she is.

Dammit, I should have just gone up there and done it.

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19
Mar
07

Not Above Average

Garrison Keillor has issued an apology for an ill-timed and poorly executed attempt at satire he wrote last week, which I was hoping for and expecting. I agree with towleroad.com: It comes off as a bit disingenuous, because I know he knows better; I don’t know how he could be surprised by the response. Keillor is no bigot. But even good Democrats can be a bit ham-handed. That column should not have happened, but I think the apology is sincere.

Not everyone gets Lake Wobegon. Not everyone thinks it’s funny. I think Dan Savage overreacted last week — and I know even some of his shrieking might be taken as self parody — but he has some thoughtful things to say today.

UPDATE:
This is satire.

(Special thanks to Good As You.)

15
Mar
07

Lake Wobegon Gays

A friend pointed me today to this Slog entry by Dan Savage about a March 14 commentary by Garrison Keillor on Salon.com about taking care of the kids, in which he extols the virtues of heterosexual marriage and simultaneously defames same-sex parenting. Here’s a sampling:

And now gay marriage will produce a whole new string of hyphenated relatives. In addition to the ex-stepson and ex-in-laws and your wife’s first husband’s second wife, there now will be Bruce and Kevin’s in-laws and Bruce’s ex, Mark, and Mark’s current partner, and I suppose we’ll get used to it.

The country has come to accept stereotypical gay men — sardonic fellows with fussy hair who live in over-decorated apartments with a striped sofa and a small weird dog and who worship campy performers and go in for flamboyance now and then themselves. If they want to be accepted as couples and daddies, however, the flamboyance may have to be brought under control. Parents are supposed to stand in back and not wear chartreuse pants and black polka-dot shirts. That’s for the kids. It’s their show.

Not sure what “stereotypical gay men,” or America’s supposed acceptance of them, have to do with any of the actually quite lovely things he says about kids and the way life can be. He’s so much smarter than this, little more than a catalog of thoughtless stereotypes. Surely his world travels — and his social circles — must have delivered him a broader, truer view of gay men than he lets on.

It’s a cheap shot. The whole two paragraphs are completely unnecessary. It’s an intellectual and moral disappointment.

And then he throws the gays a bone: “I suppose we’ll get used to it.”

Well, thank you very much for that concession. I hope we don’t inconvenience you too much in the meantime.

Keillor’s comments wouldn’t hurt so much if I didn’t respect him as much as I do. Savage, for one, is fighting mad. There’s not much I can add that he hasn’t already said.

In his misplaced, futile and delusional longing for the Goode Olde Days, I think maybe he’s confusing the whimsical, kitschy, also-stereotypical world of Lake Wobegon with the real world. Billy Joel said it pretty well, I think: “The good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.”

26
Jan
07

Kidney Tones (with apologies to Jeff)

   
From the cover art of Wain’s 2001 release That Was Then, This is Now
[myspace.com/wainmcfarlane]

These days, my good friend Wain sticks mainly to cranberry juice. He jokes now about his bar tab. Not long ago, he’d drop a twenty at the most on a night out, because so many people would buy him drinks and the bartenders would do him favors. But no one gets anyone a cranberry juice, even good friends. He has to buy his own. And at a bar they charge you like it’s a cocktail. So now he spends much more not drinking than he ever did drinking.

He’s no alcoholic, and this is no 12-step program. Trust me, if he had his druthers, Wain would be back to the booze — free or not. But he’s got a problem with his kidneys that makes alcohol highly … um … disagreeable to his system. He’s on doctor’s orders. (And when that doctor is from the Mayo Clinic, one doesn’t argue.)

Wain’s kidneys are functioning at roughly 6 percent capacity. He needs a new one pretty badly. And as a musician, he doesn’t have heaps of disposable income and he doesn’t have great health insurance. He does have three things, however, in abundance: luck, friends and connections.

The luck came in at a bar in Walker, Minnesota, out in the north woods. He plays up there sometimes. At this bar, by chance, he met a doctor. That doctor knew a kidney specialist at Mayo. And suddenly there was Wain’s golden opportunity. Introductions made … 87 miles each way between Minneapolis and Rochester, Minnesota … tests taken … and voilà! We have a surgeon and we have a donor (one of Wain’s brothers).

The friends came in shortly thereafter. A bunch of musicians decided to get together to produce a benefit concert on March 10. Wain fronted a funk/reggae band in the ’80s and ’90s called Ipso Facto, and he’s been around the block a few times, having played with Prince’s band, Dave Pirner, Jonny Lang, UB40, Tracy Chapman and scores of others. This is where connections come in.

A few years back, Wain’s brother was Cyndi Lauper’s tour manager, and she became friendly with the family. Wain tells me he once saw her at a party in a gorilla costume. A musician he mentored toured with her. When she performed at the Minnesota State Fair in 2004, she let Wain sing “Time After Time” with her, letting him ad lib a verse dedicated to his late sister. She brought him back out on stage for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” which Wain and her bass player spun into an impromptu reggae jam.

A connection.

   
[cyndilauper.com]

So, we are told, Ms. Lauper has graciously agreed to lend some of her time and abundant talent to the cause. And many other people he’s worked with are helping out, too: Lifehouse, Mint Condition, Soul Asylum. You can read about it on her Web site.

Wain was our neighbor for more than three years. His wife Catherine, another good friend, was our landlady. He sang at our wedding. We planted vegetable gardens and herb gardens together. They babysat our cat. We’ve had Easters and Thanksgivings. We’ve dined on curried goat. We’ve toasted aquavit. He once gave us 15 lbs. of crab legs (there wasn’t enough room in his freezer for 30 lbs.) because the parents of a kid he tutored are fishmongers and they paid Wain in fish.

We just saw Wain right before Christmas. And I guess we’ll be back in March. Apparently he thinks we don’t visit enough, so he’s hauling out the heavy ammunition. I’ll take any excuse to go back to my adopted home for a visit. Even in a month as c-c-cold as March. But it’s not Cyndi Lauper who’s luring us back. It’s the prospect of being part of a concert full of people who are there to give their love to my friend.

(Truth be told, having Cyndi Lauper there, too, doesn’t hurt.)

To all my Minnesotans: Please buy tickets!

21
Dec
06

Goode Grief!

It’s always great when lunatics on the Right demonstrate their ineptitude and blatant xenophobia as clearly as Virgil Goode, a Republican representative from Virginia. It justifies so many of my liberal convictions.

He objects to the decision of Keith Ellison, a recently elected Democratic U.S. representative from Minnesota, to use the Koran when he is sworn in next month. Apparently some voters in Virginia wrote to complain to Goode — who knows what for, except perhaps to put ignorance, idiocy and irrelevance to paper. Goode rewarded them with a heart-warming personal response in which he incongruously rails against illegal immigration and advocates severe restrictions on legal immigration. According to the Times, some intern somewhere must have screwed up, because the good Congressman’s mailing list accidentally included a guy from the Sierra Club — who had written the Congressman about an environmental issue in Virginia, not a representative from Minnesota. This is apparently the guy who made the letter public.

Goode says Ellison’s decision to make his oath on the Koran is unamerican. I guess what he’s saying is that America is not the land of the free and the home of the brave, but rather the land of the Christian and the home of the white man.

“I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped,” he wrote.

Not that we should make it our business to specifically screen Muslims out of immigration proceedings, but Goode seems to have completely missed the mark here anyway. Keith Ellison is from Detroit. And while that may seem like a foreign country to many people (trust me, I grew up nearby), he can trace his family history in the United States back to the 18th century.

He also wrote that “if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.”

Heaven forbid.

It may have escaped his notice that the Constitution allows for people of all religious stripes to run for Congress. Further, their swearing in does not include the use of a religious text. It’s only at the public ceremony that a book is used.

And why should we care if it’s the Koran or The Lord of the Flies? The Hebrew Bible and Mormon texts have been used in the past.

Goode’s attempt to conflate wrong-headed anti-Muslim sentiment, fueled by anti-terrorism rhetoric, with immigration issues is little more than an admission of his gross ignorance and incompetence.

So, bravo! to the intelligent voters of Virginia’s 5th district for electing this loser to Congress. I hope he gets them everything they deserve.

Virginia Democrats, don’t despair: There are some decent folks in Minnesota who are willing to vote in a competent person to represent their interests to the U.S. Congress. You may want to move up north and cast your lot with them.

(Mind you, Minnesotans are also responsible for the election of Michelle Bachman. There may be no hope anywhere in this country.)

21
Dec
06

Hwy 55 Goes Digital

 
Waka waka waka. Someone in Minnesota has Pac Man fever.

Being from the Midwest, I’ve spent a lot of time on highways. Mesmerized by the dots and dashes racing toward me and passing under my car, I have often imagined what Pac-Man might feel like.

Someone with a lot of yellow paint has made this daydream into a two-dimensional reality in Minnesota. The Star Tribune reports that someone has painted a large Pac-Man on Highway 55. Ironically, this act of whimsical vandalism may actually aid the highway patrol in slowing down lead-foot Minnesota drivers — at least for that short stretch of road.

14
Sep
06

Norway, José

KARE 11, a TV station in the Twin Cities, has issued an ad campaign in — what else? — Norwegian. At the end, he even says, “Ya, you betcha.” They’re promoting their new weatherman. And let me tell you, weather(man) or not — this kid is a little hunk of cute.

With a name like Sven Sundgaard, he sounds like he owns a coffee shop in Lake Wobegon. What choice is there? It begs for a little Scandinavian navel-gazing.




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