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Sunshine, nighttime — and a song for Box


The Polyphonic Spree, “It’s the Sun” (Friday, 5:53 p.m, The Current) and Death Cab for Cutie, “Soul Meets Body” (Sunday, same time, Cities 97). Two variations on the exact same auburn-absolution hue; thanks to all the deejays across the twin towns who honored the most glorious week of the summer by letting the sunshine, etc., in and reminding us to stop and smell the sunflowers.

David Carr, “Night of the Gun.” Speaking of sunshine, this little ray reads like it was written by an impish Irish-Catholic kid who grew up addicted to the sweet sacrament of confession and had to keep going back because he couldn’t get it right: “Father forgive me but I keep sinning.” Gentle reader, if you don’t see yourself somewhere in this harrowing and hilarious tell-all-on-myself, then you’re either a saint, a liar, or totally boring.

Bernard Allison, “Heart of St. Paul.” The other day I asked one of my kids’ teachers if she’d read something in the paper. She admitted, “I’m not a paper girl, but I watch TV to stay up [on things].” Rolling over in his freshly lined ash box somewhere was Don Boxmeyer, who two years ago told me, “I’ve never seen it before where people feel as though something of theirs is threatened, and they become closer to it. People in St. Paul consider [the Pioneer Press] their paper: `Where’s our paper going?’ `What’s happening to my paper?’ I got that today. I get that every day.”

Brian Lambert, Nick Coleman, Richard Chin, David Hawley, and Joe Kimball have all said it well; add to the chorus this blues work-out, the title alone of which befits the memory of Box, “the most under-rated reporter in town” per Pat Reusse. As the daily newspaper midlife crises reached analysis-paralysis stages a couple years ago, I sat and talked the biz with Box and PiPress books editor Mary Ann Grossmann. This is what he had to say:

“When you write a story, and your name is on it, then readers know you as the person to go to for a certain kind of story. I’ve always thought of myself as sort of the Amway salesman of columnists, because I branch out. I tend to write pieces that don’t hurt people, and they come away from it feeling generally fairly good about themselves. And so I become their reporter and then they tell someone else about me. That’s been going on for so long, and now I can’t stop it.

“Part of what is so satisfying is that people still welcome me into their homes. I’ll do this until the day I die, because nobody ever says, ‘I don’t want you to write about me.’ I’m a social voyeur. I like to be in the background. But because my column is so visible, across different generations now, it sometimes makes it hard for me to go places and just observe.”

Dar Williams, “Promised Land” (Razor & Tie, in stores Sept. 9). I walked home from downtown Minneapolis the other night. The bars were closed, the buses weren’t running, the cabs were flying by with passed-out revelers, and even though I was tired and the family was worried, I took my time. I took Lyndale.

I saw exactly two other people during my three-hour trek, which made me wonder what my problem was, walking at four in the morning, thinking I’d see even one more searcher, seeker, lollygagger, freak. But it was just me and August, when the summer wind calms down, the crickets‘ death march gets louder, and I want to be outside as long as I can. Williams’ new one feels like an alt-country classic already, caught as it is between summer and fall, and chalk full of tunes about midlife growth and restlessness (“It’s Alright”) and stuff that goes straight to the election season and beyond (“Buzzer”).

David Brusie, “Flyover State,” and High on Stress, “Cop Light Parade.” Two of the area’s finest song-centered acts return with sophomore works that further the alt-country-pop canon, and provide good porch/campfire companionship.

Husker Du (Reflex three-song single). Recorded live at Duffy’s and Goofy’s and “makes Land Speed Record sound like Warehouse” (Grant Hart), it says here that the ever-feral “Drug Party” and “What’s Going On?” should be heard at Glamorama’s upcoming “Back to the ’80s” throwdown, not to mention the RNC.

Eric Koskinen, “Pretty Girls.” As good a barroom yearn as they come. Alas, the only place to hear it is not on your instant-gratification computer (it’s not recorded yet), but live (on Wednesday nights at Nye’s or Thursday, 10:30, 11:30 and 12:30 at the State Fair at the Heritage Square stage). A kissing cousin to Molly Maher’s “Let’s Pretend We Never Have Met,” this tune about barflies and regulars sets the room spinning every time out — so much so that it recently inspired this clarion call to kindred creatures of the night:

Closing Time

She sits in the park on a bench
lost to the darkness, with her best friend
after bar closing time smoking a cigarette
wondering where all the other women are
where all the other mothers are
for certainly it isn’t just the two of them
up at two a.m. on this summer night
nearly one of the last nights of summer.
The moon is full and the air sweet on her skin
surely they aren’t the only ones
who find themselves here, find themselves
up and unwilling to go home now –
not when she can light a match
watch the tip of her cigarette glow
not when she can laugh in the dark
with her best friend, both of them
praying the police don’t come & harass
them — how would they explain this
to their husbands, to their children,
surely they aren’t the only ones
who see the freedom night offers,
the elasticity of time
how some nights you have to
pull it, let it stretch and give,
some nights you can let the music
pulse and the darkness swallow
everything about you.  Some nights
you just have to be a voice, a shape in the dark
with your best friend at your side, laughing,
as the match bursts and flares, trades gold
for blue.

Julia Singer

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by alex stolis on 08/22/2008 - 06:13 am.

    What a great poem by Ms Singer.

  2. Submitted by Julia Singer on 08/30/2008 - 09:52 am.

    Thank you, Mr. Stolis.

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