Extraordinary concert at Orchestra Hall on Sunday. It was one of the three Minnesota Youth Symphony concerts I emcee each year. The middle ones are always in February; the day always has that dank cold gray Febbish aura. The November concerts feel cozy and warm, and the spring concert is full of school’s-almost-out energy; you can just feel the kids ready to run out the schoolhouse doors . . . straight to summer school, probably. They’re a studious bunch.

This concert was as much fun as the others; it’s now routine for me. My first time I wrote out my entire script, paced the block practicing it beforehand; this time I opened my notes to see what I’d written down the night before, and the notes said “Wing it.” Oh, great. That’s just what I want to see five minutes before show time. But I had a rough idea of what to say. Took the stage, faced the 2000 faces shining from the shadows of the tall dark cavern, and everybody went to work. This concert, however, had a World Premiere, the Symphony #1 by Russell Holsapple. He’s in his mid 20s. Tall kid, unperturbable demeanor. We chatted before our on-stage interview, and I asked who his favorite composers were - he ran off four names, all movie music composers. Barry, Korngold, Steiner, Herrman. Well: this was good news. Who nowadays cites these boys as their influences? It’s either some unlistenable Czech serialist, or some unknown Baroque clavichordist. It’s rare & brave for someone to stand up and say I LIKE MOVIE MUSIC, because it’s derided as lowbrow dreck. When it’s actually middlebrow art, of the highest kind.

I’m serious.

Anyway, they play his symphony. It lasts 40 minutes. Four movements, scherzo where it’s supposed to be, classic form, none of this blending three movements together and calling it a symphony. (Bruckner gets a pass because he died; Sibelius does not.) From the first few notes I could tell this kid was right - it was Max Steiner meets Herrman and talks about Barry. But it wasn’t pastiche; he was working in the style of mid-late 20th century tonal symphonists, if such a style had really existed. (Never mind Hovannes and his giant bags of clouds and wind.) The second movement could have been the credit music for a 50s Hitchcock film. The third movement needed a tighter reading; perhaps I wasn’t paying close enough attention. But the first three movements could have consisted of penny whistles and tin drums, because the 4th made you forget everything that came before. It was just magnificent. Heartfelt, assured, panoramic, with endless melodic endowments - when it slammed to a stop the audience just detonated. And then the composer himself made his way to the stage, which doubled and redoubled the applause -
he’s sobbing with gratitude, I’m backstage tearing up, everyone else is clutching their fists to their breastbones, because when else in your life are you going to see this? A young man writes a symphony, and a crack ensemble plays it in the premier concert venue between Chicago and the coast, and the audience - all the seats on the ground floor, all the seats in three tiers of balconies - rises to shout their approval. You know it’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment for him, and to a far lesser degree for all those who heard it and saw it.

He works temp jobs to support himself and his composing. I can just imagine the fellow telling the guys in the breakroom at EnormoCo that he’s a little nervous about Sunday, because the orchestra is premiering his first symphony. Quick glances all around the table: suuuuure they are, buddy. Sure they are.

I’m going to try to get the paper’s classical music critic to write about this fellow; if he won’t, I will, and when the Orchestra releases the CD at the end of the season I’ll post a link so people can buy it. No, it’s not Beethoven’s 9th; it’s not Mahler’s 1st. I’m not holding this up as the second coming of music. But it’s a damn good piece of work with more punch, power & heart than most of the schlock scores out of Hollywood today. Here’s the name again: Russell Holsapple. If you don’t see it as the credit for a movie score in five years, then wait. It’ll happen. It had better.
Dishwasher: full. No soap. Hmm. Time for a run to Target, then. Do we need anything? Yes: nighttime diapers, which are calibrated to receive and absorb nocturnal data dumps. Fine. Off to Target. Parking lot’s packed. I head right to electronics; buy some DV tape for the camcorder. (They’re expensive, and twitchy, too - at least 1/4 of the tapes I buy have problems, and it’s not related to my camcorder.) I buy an Xtreme Club Love Mix Super Thomp Party DJ whatever disk, because it has a few songs I want, including the first techno crossover electronica hit, “Pump Up the Volume,” by M.A.R.R.S. Onward to action figures; no new Simpsons figurines. Detour through children’s clothes; I spy a cute yellow outfit for Gnat, and add it to the cart. A woman standing nearby observes this, and I see her look around for my wife. Of course, I’m alone. The woman now regards me with suspicion. Tempted to give her a little Hannibal Lecter half-smile, but think better of it. Move on to men’s ugly tropical shirts; there’s one in my size. I buy it. On to beach shoes. There aren’t any beach socks. Of course, I’m not going to Coz this year, but still. It would be nice to pretend. Over to baby dept; out of nighttime crap-sacks. I pick up some razors, just say no to Valentine candy. And check out.

Once home, I have a sandwich, and as I put the plate in the dishwasher, I think - oh, right. Dishwasher liquid.

Off to the grocery store, then.

That’s life as a man: you send me to buy soap, and I come back with “Mars Needs Women.” My dad was the same way; mom would send him for bread, and we’d come back with ice cream and watermelons.

That was back when the grocery store was brown. Before the took the roof off and gave it that cold, sterile warehouse feel that people seem to equate with savings. “We’ve removed the atmosphere and passed the savings on to you!” But what, exactly, did you save by doubling the height of the room and boosting your heating costs? Hello? Hello?

This store always amazed me as a child, because it contained the two most astonishing technological innovations I’d seen:

1. The mat that opened the door when you stepped on it. There was one of these on the north side of town. The grocery store had it.

2. Scanners. In the early 70s, the store converted to UPC readers, which I now think was rather ahead it of its time. It coincided with an utter browning of the store, though - brown and orange, orangish browns and browny oranges. The entire strip mall repaved the walkways with fake brick. (Brown brick.) All very modern.

All gone now, thank God. Unrelated note: one of the relatives of the grocery store family interviewed me in Washington for a story. Then she wrote her own book - quite well received - about bulemia. I thought: if someone reads the book and it strikes a chord, then they’ll forever connect the name with throwing it up; for me, it’ll always bring back memories of putting it down.

I love grocery stores. Where else can you get square bagels stuffed with cream cheese, individually sealed and endorsed by a smiling imp made entirely of dough?

Besides hell, I mean.


Recent bad movie: “Hollow Man,” which I rented because I was assured it did not contain full frontal nudity of Kevin Bacon.

They lied.

I wanted to see something noisy for a Saturday night, and I wanted to see the special effects, which supposedly were Stunning. (They’re either Stunning or Jaw Dropping.) Well, they are, but they’re in service to the usual Verhoven krep. An intriguing premise - hell, it’s one of the most intriguing & venerable premises in sci-fi - but you know it’s going to stink from the start. It’s full of Movie Scientists, for one thing, and contains one of each archetype:

1. Brilliant unstable mad genius (Bacon)
2. Beautiful genius female scientist (Elizabeth Shue)
3. Square-jawed All-American Beefcake scientist (Josh “I can’t believe my dad is sleeping with that THING” Brolin)
4. Nerdy geeky sexless scientist
5. Overweight sloppy hip-lingo Bluto scientist
6. Sassy street-wise attitude-laden black female scientist
7. Sullen idealistic female scientist who hates brilliant unstable mad genius scientist

And everyone dies. More or less. Hope I didn’t ruin everything. Okay, not everyone. But as I was watching Josh Brolin, I thought: whatever happened to whatshisname, the Private Eye? Quick TiVo search: no episodes of “Private Eye” playing, anywhere. Too bad. That was the third of the high 80s Michael Mann trilogy: Miami Vice, Crime Story, and Private Eye. The last one didn’t last a season. Crime Story, regarded by Mann fans as the “Deep Space Nine” to Vice’s TNG, lasted two, but it meant they had to drastically compress the storyline. I still have a warm, warm spot in my heart for Crime Story; note for note, set for set, porkpie hat for porkpie hat, it was generally better than Vice. It was the Untouchables meets the Sopranos in the Lounge Era, really.

Anyway. There’s a book called “Memoirs of an Invisible Man," written in the late 80s, I believe. They made a very bad Chevy Chase movie out of it, and no, that’s not redundant; I swear by Vacations 1 & 3. The book is the ideal invisible person story. It’s realistic, inasmuch as it deals with the problems you’d have when you’re invisible, but the lunch you just ate isn’t. It would make a great movie, but it relies on character and plot, and hence is of little interest to the multiplexers.

Also saw - as long as I’m on the subject - a Miami Vice episode. TiVo presented me with a wonderful menu: MST3K, Miami Vice, and the Trek episode where they get shot back to the 1960s by mistake. Watched the Vice - haven't seen the show since it went off the air four presidents ago. Taut, well-shot; it’s impossible to describe how new this show looked when it came out, how it made everything else look like, well, TV. Its soundtrack was hip and spellbinding, as opposed to the whacka-chicka drivel or the earnest Mike Post pablum of most cop shows. As ever, Edward James Olmos establishes his character by saying about seven words every ten minutes. Makes him strong, mysterious, authoritative.

I try this in my daily life. I speak slowly. Painfully. Look down at the ground. Speak as though filled with boundless sorrow. Look up -

People have left, or are tapping their feet, waiting for me to GET ON WITH IT.

Maybe it only works in Miami.


“When they opened up his chest,” the dental hygienist said, “the pus just shot out.”

Many people said many things to me today, but for some odd reason that one stuck with me.

As my friend the Dark Chef used to say, ignore your teeth and they’ll go away. Since I don’t want that to happen, I paid a visit to the dentist today. I’ve had phobias stacked up ten deep like planes over O’Hare on Christmas Eve over this matter, but it went smoothly. Granted, nothing was done, which helped, and they gave me gas to get me into the chair, which helped even more. But it’ll be fine. Much work to be done, unfortunately, but so it goes and out they come. (Wisdom teeth, that is. Who-hoo! Codeine!) Since many people are squeamish about this subject - I know my toes curl when anyone even mentions the picks & drills - rest assured that I will not, repeat not, give blow-by-blows of any of the procedures. Just to warn you that if an entry consists entirely of “Went 2 Dintets twoday” you’ll know I’m too hopped up on goofballs to write anything.

Apart from the mild yet pervasive dread and terror, then, and utterly ordinary day. Minded the Gnat in the morning, did some work while she played; dealt with diapers, administered milk and various flavors of Mush, introduced her to peaches. I never liked peaches; in my culture, they were these fleshy things in parfait glasses drenched in pulp-flecked syrup, and eating them felt like you were chewing some old woman’s tongue. Ech. But Gnat liked them, after an initial wha-the-farg expression. What an interesting time in life; so many new things. I took her to the office yesterday, just to show her off; she was on her best behavior, cheerfully waving and grinning at all. I waved her at one single fellow and, in my worst Abe Simpson voice, said this is your future, sonny; this is the end of your freedom.

So I used to think, and perhaps it’s so, but who cares? Everything about these days is insuperior to those that came before (don’t frown; it’s not a real word - another of the Dark Chef’s creations), and the only thing I really, really miss will be this year’s trip to Cozumel. . . but. I’m going to have a little Coz day in April, pathetic as it will be. We’ll plan the next trip, look at photos, and I’m going to have some Hornitos from a glass I bought on my beloved island. Perhaps something I own has that familiar smell, too. It hits you when you step off the plane and enter the airport. On our second trip the scent hit me, reminded me of the first trip - I breathed deep, asked my wife “what is that? The sea?”

“It’s called mustiness,” she said. And she was right.

But it was Mexican mustiness! How . . .exotico!

Did some housecleaning on the TiVo machine last night. As much as I love it, it’s introduced another inbox that has to be cleared and addressed every day. I keep all these Match Games, because I want to put together a montage of “stars” that goes on, and on, and on. (Nipsey Russel! Arne Johnson! Fannie Flagg!”) I had to decide whether to keep or toss some unwatched X-Files. Tossed them. Kept Treks I’d seen 40 times, and dumped two dim bloody shows. It’s not even Grand Guignol. It’s just Guignol. But I kept one that featured Mulder, and watched it.

Let me just say this: I do not want a lumpy ghoul to eat me and throw me up into a me-shaped pit. Consider that part of my last will & testament.

Fascinating how the buzz just . . . evaporated from this show. I’m left with nothing now. Saw a preview for the Lone Gunman that made me wince, hard; perhaps I had better start downsizing my expectations there as well. Just as well. I’ve no time for TV, anyway. Tonight I’ll have time for two 15-minute nuggets: one Judge Judy case, and a Space Ghost. I love them both. I love everyone. I’m sooo happy! Happy!

Yes, they let me take some gas home! Yes sir Yes sir One Tank Full!


Stopped off at Burger King today, because I can. I had already cast my eye ahead to supper - lean fish and a salad - and decided I could work some fatbombs into the weekly diet. The clerk who took my order screwed it up; he screwed up everyone’s order, because his ears were plugged from his horrible cold. I wanted to take my burger and just have him sneeze on it: might as well cut to the chase. Or just swab the back of his throat with an extra-long fry. Anyway: they had a large display of Sassy toys for the kids’ meals, and as anyone with a Sprout knows well, Sassy toys are the best. Ugly, in a certain way - ten patterns, bright contrasts, a variety of tactile surfaces, all designed to jolt & jumpstart baby’s brain. I wonder what Beethoven and Einstein looked at. Probably a wall. With a crack. Or some burlap.

We now have Help. Not a maid, or a servant, oh no: it’s Someone Who Comes In. As in, “do you have a housecleaner?” “Well, we have someone who comes in.” As opposed to someone who stands on the sidewalk and cleans the house via telepathy.

She comes twice a month and scrubs the house down to the atomic level. Today was the first visit, and the house just sparkles. Or rather sparkled, since it only took me 87 minutes to ruin it. I was filling the coffee maker and dumped half a scoop on the floor. Then I made supper and bled all over the place. I had the bright idea of grinding up some croutons, pouring in some Pickapeppa sauce, and patting the mixture on the fish. While handling the grinder blade I realized something: you’re not supposed to handle the grinder blade. So now I’ve got coffee on the floor and blood on the counter. And the bandaids are upstairs. So. Unless I staunch this wound now, I’ll leave a trail from here to the bathroom, and this was not what my wife was expecting to see when she came home. She was expecting a clean house, not a charnel house.

All the time Gnat’s in the exersaucer, laughing: Daddy’s saying funny things in his big high voice! Again, Daddy! Paint another red picture on the wall, Daddy!

It brought to mind the fourth of July, 93; a friend called and said she’d just sliced her hand off cutting a bagel, and might I drive her to the hospital? I did. This was DC, and we went to the hospital on Pennsylvania Ave, where they take all the people who try to shoot the president. If you’re going to die in DC, this is the hospital: top quality. There’s always the possibility of high drama, since you never know if someone’s going to get the lead irrigation down at 1600. Not this day. But they did wheel in a guy who’d been shot for a non-political reason. It’s depressing to be sitting in an emergency room with a bleeding hand, and they wheel in one of the city’s innumerable social-disagreement shootings. You know you have a fair patch of bleeding ahead of you before they get to your hand. You can’t really complain, either.

Anyway. I cleaned everything up, put Gnat down for a nap, had supper. The fish wasn’t bad; it was talupa, or something like that. Some coddish fish that was the center of many investment opportunities a few years back. “The Fish of the 90s,” the package said, and you know, that really didn’t sound encouraging anymore. It’s akin to reading “The Mayo of the 70s” or “The Underrefrigerated Chicken of the Fifties.” But it was good. At least as I made it. Crispy, with just a hint of rubber.

Almost finished with the Interior design of the 60s & 70s site. Have made a command decision: no more. I can’t take any more. Unlike the Gallery of Regrettable Food, which had some variations - bad meat, bad fish, bad jello, then back to bad meat - this is just bad. One empty horrible room after the other. Dozens of them. So I’m declaring the site over and done. One hundred pages of unrelenting krep, coming in March. And now, a weekend. With a baby sitter. And a movie. I hope they sell Sassy toys at the concession stand.