#137: The Replacements, "Tim" (1985)

137 Tim.jpg

According to Tommy Stinson, “Calling a record Tim—after a bunch of drinks, it was funny. The next day it wasn’t so funny. But if you had more drinks, it became funny again.”

Settling on a Tim tribute where I just write about various Tims I’ve known—after a bunch of drinks, it was funny. When I actually had to do it, though, it wasn’t so funny. But, now that I’ve had more drinks, it’s become funny again.

“Hold My Life”: Until I’m ready to use it. Because I just might lose it. Tim is a middle school principal, and he manages to exude goodwill towards all the liminal lives under his care. That’s some real razzle dazzle, right there. Plus, when his wife was an elementary school librarian, she provided a crucial oasis of a safe space for someone dear to me. And his son used to lifeguard at the local pool. I don’t know Tim’s daughter, but she’s probably some sort of superhero.

“I’ll Buy”: Anything you want, dear. Tim was the manager of a small college bookstore who not only provided superb customer service but also offered his genuine friendship. We happily reciprocated, but what it turned out we couldn’t give him was an invitation to our wedding. With our parents footing the bill, they got first dibs on filling the guest list, and we found ourselves already having to overlook some good friends we’d known in Madison (where we were getting hitched) who were no longer living there. So, we decided not to invite anyone from La Crosse, our new home, since we got to see them every day. But Tim was incredibly hurt by the perceived slight, and he never bought our explanation. We moved shortly thereafter, and didn’t keep in touch; all these years later, it still makes me sad.

“Kiss Me on the Bus”: If you knew how I felt now, you wouldn’t act so adult now. Tim is my wife’s childhood teddy bear, and if it wasn’t for the great rapport I established with him from the get go, I’m not sure I ever would have got past first base, bus or no bus.

“Dose of Thunder”: Only takes a little ‘til you need a ton. Tim was my buddy’s Moorhead pot supplier. For a Mats fan, I had a very unhealthy respect for the law, and so always stuck to whiskey and beer. One night, though, with my semester all but over, he convinced me to see what all the fuss was about, on the house. It was more like a dose of laughing gas, leading to surreal visions courtesy of the knotholes in the plank board supporting the bunk bed above mine and the all-too-real vision of somebody urinating in my tall white laundry basket. I had my last final the next afternoon, and I was still high. I felt like a bonafide dope-smokin’ moron as I struggled to put even halfway coherent thoughts on paper. Later, though, I learned my efforts had earned me an A+!

“Waitress in the Sky”: Don’t treat me special or don’t kiss my ass. Tim is one of my favorite people, even though he is currently employed by an Ivy League institution. Even though he’s a Packers fan. Even though he prefers Jif to Skippy. Even though he insists I don’t actually believe that Elvis Costello is a two-bit no-talent hack, that dinosaurs never existed, or that Frenchy Harrelson and TUM were the real JFK assassins. Tim has a great sense of humor, but he’s also a no-nonsense sort of guy who won’t stand for anybody putting on airs. Unless he’s pretending to be a sublimated version of me at a certain costume party, donning a sweater tied backwards around his neck while babbling about brie, espresso, and polo.

“Swingin Party”: If bein’ wrong’s a crime, I’m serving forever. If bein’ strong is what you want, then I need help here with this feather. If bein’ afraid is a crime, we hang side by side. Tim is a guitar virtuoso who lends his talents to local singing sensation Karen Jonas. I like to imagine how Tim would improvise the tabs/chords for this cut and how Karen’s vocals could improve upon Lorde’s famous cover. Coincidentally, once upon a time, before Tim, Karen also joined forces with one of my other favorite musicians, now Austin-based Alex Culbreth, who for me always has evoked the Replacements with various aspects of his energy, humor, pluck, songwriting, and sound. Check ‘em all out, y’all!

“Bastards of Young”: Dreams unfulfilled, graduate unskilled. Tim is a university administrator who focuses on academic engagement and student success. His job is to ensure they don’t miss the whole first rung on the ladder of success. His mantra could be, “Take it; it’s yours.” Tim knows success. He is a former national champion debate coach and a Steelers fan. Speaking of Pittsburgh, he also happens to hail from the same North Side parish my wife’s family calls home. One of its old priests, Father Joe Knorr, was both a second son to her paternal grandparents and something of a surrogate grandfather to Tim. We are the sons of Knorr, Joe. The daughters and the sons.

“Lay It Down Clown”: Rumors keep on spreadin’ all over town. Tim is one of my senators. He used to be my governor, and I voted for him to become my Vice President, but HER EMAILS, so the Ruskies elected some bozo with orange hair to be our President instead. Tim is a Saint Paul native, a Mats fan, and a mean harmonica player. When the secret police come for us and we have to head for the hills, I’ll be relying on Tim to show ‘em how rock trumps hate by projectile vomiting some chunks of Replacements-esque rebelliousness right in the face of our aspiring dictator-in-chief. Vive la résistance!

“Left of the Dial”: And if I don’t see you in a long long while, I’ll try to find you left of the dial. What exactly Tim does, frankly, I’ve always found to be a little sketchy, but I do know he has helped make movies and commercials and stuff; his pinnacle for me will always be working on Little Big League, a film featuring our beloved Minnesota Twins. If they had a tournament to determine who was the most equally passionate fan of both the Mats and the Twins, surely the Final Four would come down to Craig Finn, Tim, my brother Dan, and me. If you were ever pleased to meet Tim, you’d be immediately struck by his deadpan sarcastic sense of humor. But you might not know that he used to make some of the best compilation cassettes around or that he is currently on a one-man crusade to revive the art of postcard writing. He lived with my brother at the U during the Mats’ heyday; Tim was working in college radio and Dan was working on drinking himself to death. We both lost our best friend when Dan came out of an unsuccessful neurosurgery in the early ‘90s a completely changed person. We dedicated ourselves to forging new bonds with the new Dan while cherishing the moments when the old Dan would resurface. When we lost Dan for good to an aneurysm eight years ago, Tim and I had fallen into a hiatus of sorts, so reconnecting with him since then has meant a lot. The opening chords to this song always make me verklempt with a completely visceral response to their potent cocktail of equal parts transcendence and melancholy. Missing Dan and those old days terribly while fondly recalling all the friendship and fun we shared with Tim gets me to feeling the same way.

“Little Mascara”: All you’re ever losin’ is a little mascara. Tim #10 was among a whole slew of housemates who lived with Dan and Tim #9 in Minneapolis, but we’d known him since we were little, growing up in White Bear, when our families had bonded over the shared experience of living with chronic illness. Smart as a whip and with a tongue as sharp as one, too, Tim never shied away from calling out conformity, mediocrity, and phoniness. He wanted to start a band called Jesus’s Genitals. He was a hardcore Mats fan from the very beginning, but suspected he smelt a sellout after they signed with Sire, so when he heard horns on Pleased to Meet Me he swore them off for good. Later, Tim was so successful restoring and re-selling antiques, he retired by 40 and turned to decorating hand-painted fishing lures in his spare time. I often wonder if he ever gave All Shook Down a listen; if you did, Tim, don’t tell a soul!

“Here Comes a Regular”: Everybody wants to be someones here. Someone’s gonna show up, never fear. Tim is a taxman who can bowl 300 with his eyes closed. He’s also a huge Mats fan, from way back. Above all, though, he’s just an all-around good guy, the sort who insists on spending hours of his time giving you and your mom a nostalgic pontoon boat ride when he hears you are coming to town, even though you haven’t seen him in years. He grew up in White Bear Lake, and he lives there now, too. He’s something of a regular down at the 617. Actually, he’s a second-generation regular. Tim’s dad, still as spry and gregarious a regular as you’ll meet, is a warm and winning conversationalist. Like father, like son. So, if you’re ever out White Bear way, stop in and call out Tim’s name; he’ll welcome you with a great big whiskey and, like a Mats song, he’ll let you know that you are not alone, that you’re someone worth hanging side by side with, that there’s a fellowship of other folks out there who can relate and commiserate and celebrate. Even if nowhere is your home. I don’t know about you, but I can’t hardly wait.

—Chris Foss