Sunday, January 15, 2012

No. 872 – Sugar Mountain

Performer: Neil Young
Songwriter: Neil Young
Original Release: The Loner single
Year: 1969
Definitive Version: Live Rust, 1979

When I graduated from high school, Dad said as my present I could choose to go anywhere in the continental United States for vacation, and the choice was simple: I wanted to go out West.

At that point, in the summer of 1982, I’d never been farther west than Zenda, Wis., which, of course, is almost due north of Chicago, and I wanted to see some serious mountains. So Dad mapped out a reasonable trip, and by reasonable, I mean insane. In the course of two weeks, we would go from Denver to the Grand Tetons, to Yellowstone, to Salt Lake City, to Reno, to San Francisco, to LA. But I was game. I wanted to see as much as I could.

We were going to fly from Columbus to Denver, and we’d have stops in (and I couldn’t make this up), Indianapolis and St. Louis. Are you kidding me? A two-stop flight to Denver? Back then, I didn’t care, but it seems silly in retrospect: What, we didn’t have to stop off in Topeka, too?

We were scheduled to arrive fairly late, but Dad got a line on an earlier flight. We’d be standby, but we had a chance to get to Denver six hours sooner, which seemed like a good idea. All we had to do was get to Indianapolis at the crack of dawn. As luck would have it, one of his friends from work was driving to Indianapolis that morning and could take us. We made the flight. Now we had to make our stand-by flight in St. Louis, which was going to be dicey because we were switching airlines, from Delta to TWA.

No dice. The TWA plane to Denver was full, so that meant—you guessed it—a six-hour layover at the St. Louis airport. We had breakfast and lunch, and I’m pretty sure Dad napped for a large part of that layover. I don’t know what I would have done if it hadn’t been for the arcade that had Donkey Kong (but not Centipede, alas) or my new Walkman, which I had bought specially for the trip. After my last experience flying—to London—I wasn’t going to be caught without my music.

I had taped Live Rust not long before our trip West, and it (and a couple of other things) quickly became the soundtrack of that trip. This song, of course, opens the album, so it’s perfect as the introduction to my senior trip.

Anyway, it finally was time for our regular flight to get us to Denver. At least we’d be able to make it to Steamboat Springs that night. One problem: The rental car agency screwed up. There was no rental car, we’re very sorry, sir. So they put us up in a Denver hotel for the night, and we’d have to set out the next day.

Finally, on a crisp August morning, we headed out in our K car with much trepidation that it even would make it over the Rockies. Our adventure was under way.

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