Saturday, April 21, 2012

No. 775 – Legend of a Mind

Performer: The Moody Blues
Songwriter: Ray Thomas
Original Release: In Search of the Perfect Chord
Year: 1968
Definitive Version: Live Bootleg, 1986

My residence dorm in Engelhart Hall at Northwestern was small. In fact, it was about three-quarters of the size of just my bedroom my senior year at Wabash. The dual-suite dorm had a shared serviceable kitchen and a full bathroom.

I remember my roommate well, but I couldn’t tell you his name. Mike, maybe? Anyway, he was an engineering student, if I recall correctly, and we never saw each other—even when we were both home. We kept the doors to our respective bedrooms shut most of the time.

After Wabash, this was a big switch for me. Maybe it’s the difference between being at a tiny school in a small rural community vs. being at a Big Ten school in a Chicago suburb, but I never kept my bedroom door closed the past two years—three if you count living in Dr. Herzog’s house my sophomore year.

And the community space at my Wabash residences was shared extensively. I always interacted with my roommates, whether studying, watching TV or just hanging out. The past two years at Wabash, unless someone had noted otherwise due to studying or whatnot, which at times was frequent, I took part in a group dinner, either as the cook or the bus service afterward.

I wanted to continue this at Northwestern, but Mike wasn’t interested. He was on his own schedule, and if he ever cooked for himself the whole time we shared quarters, it was when I was out, because I never saw him do it. I was in the kitchen frequently. I had been responsible for my own meals for the past three years, and there’s only so much money for a burger at the Scarlet Grill, so I had acquired a rudimentary menu of recipes that I would rotate on the days I didn’t feel like trudging over to Burger King.

My bedroom itself was just large enough to hold a single bed, a desk and chair, a dresser and a bookshelf and still provide enough floor space so you could move about but not need to go more than two steps to get to anything.

Unless I was really busy, Sunday afternoon and evening were my free time, and I developed a real routine for that time. I’d sit on my bed and play Strat-o-matic baseball while listening to the Bears on WGN. After the sensational 1985 season, I was so geeked to be in Chicago (well, close enough) during Bears season, and it was going to be another great year. So I’d tune in to a bit of the pregame show and then listen as Wayne Larrivee, Dick Butkus and Jim Hart took over.

Butkus was awesome. He was a dyed-in-the-wool homer, whose analysis consisted mostly of “YEEEEEAAAAHHHHH!” when the Bears did something good and “OMIGODOMIGODOMIGOD!!” when they screwed up. You had absolutely no idea what happened until Butkus was done and Larrivee would explain it. Hart wasn’t nearly as bad, but he was definitely a passenger on the Butkus Bears bandwagon.

After the game, I’d listen to the postgame Sportswriters show while I cooked dinner. The show was a forerunner of sports talk radio (minus the idiot callers) and frequently amusing—often in infuriating ways. I was a big Mike Tomczak fan—OSU boy, thrust into the fire when Jim McMahon went down for the year, did OK for a rookie but not well enough for the fans or the other critics. Every game, it seemed, was a deconstruction of how the Bears won despite Tomczak being worthless.

When that was finally over, I’d switch to the Loop for music. Usually on Sunday nights, they would broadcast a concert. I don’t particularly recall that it was the King Biscuit Flower Hour, but that would make sense that it was.

Anyway, early on, they broadcast a Moody Blues show from a recent if not current tour, and I taped the whole thing. This song was the first song in the encore (the other being Question, as I mentioned), and I can’t but help thinking about my weensy room, listening to the Bears, missing Beth while the L rumbled by my room and wondering whether I would even make it through my first quarter at Northwestern—particularly as the fall turned from brown to gray and the wind began to whip in more sharply off the lake. But that’s a story for another time.

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