Tuesday, January 3, 2012

No. 884 – I Have the Touch

Performer: Peter Gabriel
Songwriter: Peter Gabriel
Original Release: Peter Gabriel (Security)
Year: 1982
Definitive Version: Plays Live, 1983

In addition to dating one-third of the communications staff, my internship at the national YMCA was good for my career. Just before my internship ended in August, the editor of the organization’s magazine—Discovery YMCA—gave me the word: They wanted me to do a story on the YMCA in Plainfield, N.J. It was doing some pretty innovative things, and they wanted me to fly out there and get the scoop. They were going to fly me there, put me up in a hotel and give me a rental car to drive around.

That was all very cool, but I told them I wouldn’t need a hotel, because I had an aunt who lived nearby, and I could stay with her and save the organization some money.

Aunt Sally is my mom’s sister, and, as I’ve mentioned, it’s rare to spend time with my mom’s side of the family, so that was another cool thing about the trip. At the time, aunt Sally was married to a big-time stock trader and they lived well—in this amazing, old (I couldn’t tell you how old) farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere in New Jersey. It was so out in the middle of nowhere that they had no address; you could just send mail to them with the street name, and it got there.

I flew in to Newark in the afternoon and drove the winding roads through the various towns, with each getting progressively more sparse until I finally arrived at my aunt’s home. The next day, I’d head down to Plainfield, get the tour and conduct my interviews.

That night m cousin Betsy was there, and I remember that while the conversation flowed as much as the wine, one of the primary topics was whether the Mets should start Wally Backman over Tim Teufel at second base. In fact, now that I think about it, aunt Sally woke me up early the next morning with the news that Paul Molitor had his hit streak snapped at 39 games. Crap.

I headed to Plainfield and took care of business fairly quickly. The YMCA there had started a co-generation system that produced excess heat and electricity that it sold to the local utility. It was the first I had heard of such a thing. It also was going to revamp the living quarters and change up how it charged people and how it chose tenants, although I don’t now recall the specifics.

I then spent the rest of the day driving all over New Jersey, and let me tell you, it was a pain in the butt to go from Plainfield to Trenton (where I was to interview state reps). There were, at the time, no highways and tons of confusing intersection circles, and nothing was marked. Needless to say, I got lost several times, and it’s a miracle I arrived on time to anything.

Fortunately, my rental car had a tape deck, and that typically meant that when I wasn’t listening to Howard Stern to see how much he ripped off Steve & Garry, I had on my tapes. I had just really gotten into Peter Gabriel that year, so Plays Live—my introduction to this song—became the soundtrack of my first real story assignment.

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