If I’m going to write Sunday night for the next Sunday morning, I don’t suppose there’s a reason I cannot write Friday night for Monday AM, eh? This is how the weekend looks:

Write Sun col / write joe / write TV column / christening Sat aft / MC Orchestra Hall concert Sun / work on book / prepare sample graphics for book / do scans for Tracy Ullman show

Which is why I’m sitting here at the kitchen table at 11:19 PM slightly twitchy, drumming my fingers, thinking: meth. Yeah, that’s it! Meth! Let’s go to the drugstore and buy 167 boxes of cough syrup and cook up a batch of Superman Yeager Juice! Or I could write about Friday and pass it off as some sort of hi-ho story of Modern Life, even though it was the usual Friday plus toddlers. I was the Parent Helper at the playroom, and we had eight kids under two. Amazing how they managed to synchronize their defecation schedules – one right after the other, until the room was suffused with an aroma that made a 19th century Turkish prison smell like, oh, I don’t know, a 23rd century Turkish prison, after they get the robots that roam the halls shooting soapy water at everyone. Add the sickly smell of Lysol spray and you felt like you’d ingested a motorized eggbeater. But the kids were sweet, at least. We had fun. When it was done I gathered Gnat from the next room; off to piano practice, stuck behind one of those drivers who dasn’t accelerate after the stoplight goes green for fear she will shoot off the edge of the earth. GO! GO! Gnat shouts, having learned from an expert. The lesson was fun, and I treated her to hot chocolate at Caribou. Highlight of the day for me, that was; just sitting there watching the snow melt (55 degrees on Friday; quite nice) and realizing that the duties of the day were done. Pizza and a nap ahead. The simple pleasures.

I’ve had my iPod shuffle for three days now, and it’s become my favorite iPod. Not just because of the size and weightlessness, although that helps, but because of the Autofill feature, which loads up the Shuffle with tunes grabbed at random from your collection. I have about 10,000 songs or so. As you might expect I rarely get around to listening to most of them. I could dump them all in a big iPod (interesting how the standard issue iPod now seems like a MAINFRAME in comparison) and use the shuffle feature, but when you have 10,000 songs you are always compelled to see what’s next, whether it’s better than this. When you have 100 songs, and A) have no idea what comes next and B) haven’t heard 60 of them in a long long time, if ever, you tend to listen. At least I do. It’s like a radio station in a world with one frequency whose program director and listener are the same person. I never hit NEXT; for the first time in a long time, I listen. I pay attention. Right now I’m listening to a Pat Metheny tune I would probably skip, because I’ve heard it before – but it made me realize how many things I don’t listen to anymore because I think I know them, when in fact I just recognize them. And some songs I don’t know at all.

Sometimes I think you have to be middle aged to realize how cool things are. You grow up with MP3s and iPods, as my daughter will, and it’s the way things are. If you remember the KUNK-KUNK of an 8-track tape, having a featherweight gumpack that holds a billion bits of music is really quite remarkable. (Metheny was followed by something from the “Run Lola Run” soundtrack, which was followed by “I Apologize,” by some nutless 30s warbler, followed by “Dawn” by Grieg.) And then there's the cellphones and the tiny cameras and the widescreen TVs and home computers that sing to each other silently across the world; wonders, all. This really is the future I wanted. Although I expected longer battery life.

Now, a favor. I am up against the gun this week – well, I’m up against several guns every week, but this one has some extra obligations. I am stuck in this horrible cycle for the Backfence – because of the deadlines it’s almost impossible for me to write Thursday about the matters I propose on Tuesday, and it’s killing me; this is why five-piece Monday is such annoying hell. You can help! Tuesday’s Backfence plays off a headline in the Pioneer Press about Amex’s decision to cast off IDS, a financial services company with long deep roots in Minnesota. The headline was “American Express to Spin Off Local Giant.” It cracked me up when I saw it: my GOD, we have a LOCAL GIANT? And is it really wise to “spin him off,” since that sounds like we’re needlessly irritating him? Don’t spin me off, man. I wrote an entire column speculating on where our local giant was, why we had a local giant, etc. At the end I asked the readers two questions: What would be a good name for the Local Giant, and what job should he have? It would help me greatly if you’d answer those questions – brief is good – and send them to fence@startribune.com. I welcome speculation from people in other cities who might find area-specific jobs for their local giants. Just dash something off – if I can open my mailbox Monday afternoon and find some replies, it’ll make Monday so much easier, and I’d actually write a Thursday column about something I brought up Tuesday.

Thanks in advance. Incidentally, it’s now Sunday night. Same laptop, same kitchen, different glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, but otherwise little has changed. I finished almost everything in the list of duties. Favorite part of the Orchestra Hall MC job: walking out on stage, looking at my script, realizing I had the wrong page. That’s nightmare material, eh? Thirty-five hundred people in the audience, waiting for me to speak and get it over with, and in my hand I have the remarks for the next orchestra. I did the natural thing, and sprinted off stage, headed straight for my folio, saw NOTHING! WHERE IS IT! Ah – grabbed the page and headed back. When I started this gig a few years ago such a thing would have been mortifying, but now: eh. If worse had come to worse I would have said “and how here’s these guys playing that thing,” and that would have been fine. The orchestras were all tremendous – Repetory played the 1812 Overture, and because I was reading a book backstage about the Lusitania and the Titanic I am certain I called it the “1912 Overture,” but I’m sure everyone heard it the right way. They followed with “Stars and Stripes Forever,” blowing the roof right off Orchestra Hall. There was a small ceremony for one kid who was leaving to join the Air Force Band, and I talked with him for a while: first they go to Basic Training, then they go right to the Band. Which means you have some buff guy with a high & tight haircut straight out of basic whose first assignment is playing the triangle.

He assured me that they rotate. Triangle one week, timpani the next. Only fair.

Perm link: here.

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