Friday, November 22, 2013


            I'm writing this on Friday, November 22, 2013. Today people of a certain age are remembering what they were doing 50 years ago. We attribute a certain kind of importance to specific measures of time.
            My personal experience of JFK involves a November, but it was 1962. I don’t remember the day of the week or whether I had to skip school to execute my plan.
            I was living in Minneapolis, and the president was in town. I decided that I wanted to see his motorcade drive down Park Avenue. I needed to see the president.
This was not the first or the last shameful impulse I brought into our right-wing, evangelical Republican home—meaning I wasn’t free to talk much about my intentions. (“The pope’s running the country now. THE POPE’S RUNNING THE COUNTRY!”  Bang went the fist on the table.  Nixon, Nixon, he's our man/Kennedy goes in the garbage can.)
            I told my mother I was going out. I hopped on my red single speed bicycle with 26-inch tires, and headed toward Park Avenue. It was the longest bike trip I’d ever taken. I wended my way further and further through unfamiliar urban neighborhoods. I remember it being chilly with a familiar bone-deep loneliness.
The avenue was already lined with people when I arrived. I jockeyed my way to the front and stood with my bike at my side, gripping the handlebars. I’m not sure how long we waited on the wide, empty one-way street with our necks craned to look down the road. Expectation and excitement filled the air.
            Finally we saw distant motion and heard the faint rumble of approaching motorcycles under the increasing swell of cheers. A couple other cars came first carrying assorted dignitaries who weren’t the least bit important just now. And then…there he was…passing a few feet in front of me…sitting on the back of the rear seat of his limo…young and strong and in control…confident and out in the open…the famous tousled hair over the square face, the droopy eyelids, the compelling smile, the visible humor, the easy shift of the body that he’d shown in press conferences on TV, the simple wave. It was fast and it was powerful and he was with us and then he was gone.
The crowd quickly dispersed. I climbed on my bicycle. As I made the long ride home I enjoyed my familiar solitude and I tried to absorb the experience—the anticipation and then a flurry of activity that only lasted a couple of minutes at most…or was it two and a half years?
He was real…and then he was gone…

Monday, October 21, 2013

No More Billionaires?

Some of us keep asking why the billionaires want even more money. (For example, the Koch brothers = $71,000,000,000+. How many times can they upgrade their bathrooms? Is there a restaurant that they can't afford?...afford to eat at?...afford to own?...)

The answer finally occurred to me while I watched the last few weeks unfold.

It's about power. Even that thought seems self-evident, but recent events have brought it screamingly into focus. The right-wing extremist billionaires (a very small community) want...they control even more of the money...
They have made it clear that they already control a significant piece of our government...i.e. our And they control it by buying it. Anyone who doesn't recognize this is either willfully/ideologically in denial or simply uninformed/stupid. But if they control even more of the money they will further solidify their control of everything...everywhere.

They will do anything...anything...including destroy your eliminate the competition.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Blood On the Portrait

I lived in Mpls on the day that Blood On the Tracks was released.

(I have personal stories about the night that the Mpls album tracks were recorded at Sound 80...I'll save the stories for another time.)

I was at the door of record shop Electric Fetus when they opened on that day. I crawled over the glass counter and bongs and papers to get to the shipping cases that hadn't been opened yet. I ripped them open myself to get at the first available copy in the Twin Cities of this album. I was desperate after lamentable tho' oddly interesting years of Dylan odds 'n' ends that included Self Portrait.

Today I'm in the Twin Cities again when Bootleg Vol 10 Another Self Portrait is released. And 40 years later I find myself at the Electric Fetus looking to buy the new release of Dylan ephemera from that Self Portrait era. I walk into the store through theft detectors, surrender my bag to a clerk, and find my way to the shelf of new CD releases. The new Dylan is already there as expected and costs $19. A sign suggests asking at the counter about the "deluxe" version. I encounter some stiff, arrogant clerks who show me the $100 deluxe version in a big box with a book and other stuff. I politely offer my credit card and obediently walk out with my $19 purchase.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Zeitgeist Strikes

A colleague and friend currently has this quote from composer Charles Seeger in the signature of his email: “If you judge the musicality of a nation, don't judge it by the presence of virtuosos. Judge it by the general level of the average person to make music.”

It got me thinking.

When the band Kiss showed up with their stage make-up a fan of mine sought me out to say, “So what? You were doing that a couple of years ago.”

When Bob Dylan showed up on stage in Renaldo & Clara wearing a mask someone leaned over to whisper to me in the theater, “Hey, look. Just like you do.”

When I watched the Residents from backstage in 1990, totally enjoying their stagemanship, the startling realization hit me: “Holy shit! This is just like what I was doing in 1972.”

Am I brilliant? Sure, but that’s not the point here. The nature and realities of media make them focus on singularities, but in fact the Zeitgeist strikes in many places at the same time.