Jeff Johnson writes fiction, poetry, and essays. For many years he worked as editor of Minnesota Monthly magazine, where he founded the annual Tamarack Award short-story competition. In May 2010 he was named Best Magazine Columnist by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. "Lake Street" was part of his winning entry in the 2009 What Light poetry competition sponsored by mnartists.org, a joint project of the Walker Art Center and the McKnight Foundation.
Driving west today post-sunset,
the boys in the car, not a cloud,
oak twigs like capillaries in
the clean blue skin of the evening,
and I said Man, I love this time
of day at this time of the year.
From his quilted cocoon in the
back seat, the baby made one of
his wet friendly sibilant sounds.
The ten-year-old, though, beside me,
looked up and said What do you mean?
I did not say A sky like that,
the rose wash at the horizon,
the crystalline bigness, the grace,
breathes into me a quiet sort
of glory and does a number
on my tear ducts to boot. Instead
I talked meteorology:
barometric pressure and the
great clarity of cold dry air.
Maybe I was really saying
Store this moment away, and when
you're as old as I am now and
a December dusk is falling,
bring it out and remember me,
your long-gone oddball yearny dad.
And maybe he got all that and
didn't want to think about it,
and especially didn't want
to be told by a dead guy how
to look at an ordinary
winter sky. Over the river
we rolled in near-silence, the massed
trees black beneath the bridge railings,
the water almost bright with the
last of the vanishing day, the
baby the only one talking.
The baby: his carseat faces
backwards for safety. All he'd seen
was upholstery, and maybe
a slice of the deepening east.
- "Lake Street", by Jeff Johnson. Reprinted here with permission from the author.
Posted at 9:13 AM on December 13, 2010
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: News and reviews
With yesterday morning being taken up with snow storm coverage, and related closings, today's round-up features not one, but two days worth of arts stories. Enjoy!
Letters between Julia Child and the woman who would change her life provide a glimpse into history, and the depth of a friendship.
- Kim Ode, Star Tribune
Essays focus on strange misfirings of the human brain
The 11th collection of medical essays by Dr. Sacks focuses on the many ways the brain can let us down.
- Brigitte Frase, Star Tribune
Debut filled with disturbing twists, quirky characters
Minnesota author Ostlund's stories are not pretty or predictable, but they are excellent.
- Pamela Miller, Star Tribune
NOT LIKE YOU OR ME
The biographer of Edith Wharton and cousin by marriage to Jacqueline Kennedy recalls the privilege and odd social customs of his aristocratic class.
- Eric Hanson, Star Tribune
An anonymous act of compassion
Ted Gup discovered a trove of Depression-era letters asking his grandfather for help, and tracked down the writers years later.
- SUSAN AGER, Star Tribune
Dark and troubling but gorgeous fables
Imaginative tales have no answers, but gorgeously ask the question.
- Ryan Vine, Star Tribune
Doomtree spreads its wings for Blowout VI (Night 1)
Sort of like the snowfall today in the Twin Cities, the music on opening night of Doomtree's Blowout VI refused to let up.
- Chris Riemenschneider
Doomtree Blowout VI: Shaking it all night long at First Avenue
In the case of Doomtree's annual concert at First Ave, the term "blowout" is justified hyperbole.
- Jay Gabler, TC Daily Planet
Hall & Oates deliver hits on your Yule list
The Philadelphia duo sounded soulfully timeless on their oldies and some holiday bonuses.
- Jon Bream, Star Tribune
Darry Hall and John Oates at the State Theatre, 12/10/10
The power pair has changed seemingly very little since their heyday of hit Billboard 100 songs.
- Natalie Gallagher, City Pages
'Black Swan's' cinematic madness -- and a Scandinavian Christmas
There was a fairly good-sized crowd at Orchestra Hall for Minnesota Orchestra's Sunday night performance of "A Scandinavian Christmas." It was a lively show, especially as Christmas music gives the percussionist an opportunity to really go to town on the chimes, banging away with mallets like a church tower bell-ringer.
- Max Sparber, City Pages
Children are true stars of Ordway s Joseph'
Anthony Federov has the dazzling look and sound, but the heart of "Joseph" rests with the children.
- Graydon Royce, Star Tribune
'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' is definitely a big show. But is it TOO big?
Rocco crams his stage with no fewer than 41 local schoolchildren in addition to a cast of two dozen grown-ups. He leaves none of the musical jokes in the score unexplained or unexploited and adds in some original gags of his own creation.
- Dominic P. Papatola, Pioneer Press
Director's movie debut lives on as musical
"Billy Elliot," the story of a coal miner's son who chases an unorthodox dream, has been a hit on both stage and screen.
- Rohan Preston, Star Tribune
"Music can take you to interesting places. Having grown up in Bemidji, Owen Weaver is a Bemidji native, who loved to play drums. He ended up in the percussion program at the University of Minnesota music school under Fernando Meza where he added mallets to his drumsticks.
Weaver came to the MPR studios today to talk about his work.
His path then took him to Austin Tx, and now New York, where he is having a blast using a combination of electronics and found objects for this percussive work. He'll play a piece on tuned brake drums when he plays the Southern Theater in Minneapolis tomorrow night in a new music double bill with Jace Clayton AKA DJ/Rupture.
You can find a lot of Weaver's work online, but he only has one piece at present on his MySpace site.
"That's a fun one," Weaver admits of the arrangement of "Born to be Wild" by David Lang.
"He took the text of the classic Steppenwolf song, that we all know and love - I grew up listening to my dad's record quite a bit. And so when I learned this piece existed and I had the opportunity to play it I was just thrilled."
You'll hear no guitars in the Weaver/Lang version, but you do get the words.
"He takes a really deadpan rendering of these lyrics, that you realize when you hear them by themselves how they are totally absurd," Weaver told me. "And he sets it to a sort of clanging percussion backdrop, a driving rhythmic scheme, and all the way through, verse-chorus, verse-chorus, bridge, the whole thing, but a completely different re-imagining of the piece that is both rye and pretty effective and funny at the same time."
When I put it to him it's a mind-bending version of the classic rocker, he agrees. But he sees a real value to it.
"Things like that can be fairly post-modern, but just the amount of leeway we're given these days by the artists and composers that have come before is a nice cushion to have to explore repertoire like this. And I find that a lot of people who haven't heard music of this sort, they hear it for the first time and there's not as much of a shock as you might expect."
It's definitely worth a listen.(2 Comments)