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April 20, 2000

Know what I thought about today? I wondered what the back of my sofa looked like. Where I live now, it's against a wall and never seen. In the configuration at the new place, it'll be in the family room, facing the TV and fireplace, with its backside toward the kitchen/dining area. So it was with a mixture of relief and embarrassment that I discovered, after pulling it away from the wall, that the backside is much cleaner and more presentable than the front. You know, the part people put their own backsides on.

You might have noticed I haven't written much about baseball lately. If you're not a fan, you don't care. And if you do follow the game, you know that the Giants are on a pace to lose about 163 games this season. (I haven't exactly worked out the math, but it's something like that.) Today they lost to the Cincinnati Reds, 11-1. I don't think "bad breaks" can account for that score, or their pathetic record. Right now, they just suck.

But it's a long season, and anything can happen. That's not just a cliché, because in the case of baseball, it's the truth. And they have had some bad breaks, unexpected injuries to key players and that sort of thing. But mostly they just have to play better.

I'm going to a game at Pac Bell Park on May 2 against the Mets. And Ken went to one last Saturday.

Gordon Lightfoot's concert at the Luther Burbank Center tonight attracted a surprisingly diverse crowd, although the median age was on the more seasoned side. Enough younger folk attended that I have some hope that gentle music with pleasing melodies and memorable lyrics might not be entirely obsolete.

When I saw the list of upcoming LBC concerts a few months ago, this was the one I really wanted to see. It was my birthday present from Suzanne and John. They picked me up after work for an early dinner, and the outing couldn't have come at a better time. I needed some time away from both my houses, and being with people I'm comfortable with is always the best therapy.

Gord (I call him "Gord") was as relaxed onstage as any performer I've seen. And why not, since he's been writing and singing these songs for forty years. As loose as he seemed between songs, though, the performance was tight and his backup musicians knew their roles.

Something about folk music speaks to me. It's unpretentious and straightforward. It seems an intrinsic part of nature and of history. Simple songs that could be memorized easily and sung by anyone were necessary before recorded music made wide distribution possible. Traditional folk music evolved in the sixties into the singer-songwriter movement, but the elemental quality of the music remains. As much as music has changed in the last century, it's still best when it comes from the heart.

There's a quality to Gordon Lightfoot's voice that evokes the things he sings about, the sea and the prairie and the railroads, along with the bonds that people forge with one another. He tells stories, paints pictures with lyrics and melodies. Tonight he sang songs from throughout his long career, and the two and a half hours passed quickly.

If you want to know an answer I can't turn your life around
For I am just a painter passing through the underground.

If you want to know my secret don't come runnin' after me
For I am just a painter passing through in history.

I still have my spelling trophy. And by request, the rest of the story: In the 29th round of the 1962 Redwood Empire championship, there were just two of us left. I was given a word that I didn't know. It was pronounced "vittles," and that's how I spelled it. I couldn't believe that such an easy word would be given in the late stages of the contest. But it wasn't on any of the lists I studied, so I should have known better.

It turned out that it was on the list, and it wasn't easy, because it's spelled "victuals." Since there were only two of us left, all Jackson Dodge had to do was spell that word correctly and then one more to win the bee. I knew I was sunk when I overheard one of the judges whispering to another, "Isn't it pronounced 'vick-chu-als'?"

Well, no it isn't, but that's how it's spelled. But Jackson must have been flustered by his impending victory, because he spelled it "victuls." That kept us even, and we stayed that way for twenty-four more rounds, until he missed "carousal" and I spelled "casserole."

I retired from competition after that win. I didn't see much of a future in spelling, either as an amateur or a professional. I never looked down on unorthodox spellers. In fact, I find creative spelling charming and endearing, even if sometimes a bit challenging.

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Today's recommendation:

Patrick, Inside, April 19, Mouse Girl

Other recent recommendations can be found on the links page.
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