Tuesday, April 17, 2012

No. 779 – Vital Signs

Performer: Rush
Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart
Original Release: Moving Pictures
Year: 1981
Definitive Version: Grace Under Pressure Tour, 2009

As you might suspect from previous posts, I’m not anti-Napster, although I never used it. The best thing that “stealing” music has produced, however, is a release, well, OK, a trickle, of the hostages—music that you’d never know of unless you bought the bootleg.

Take the Grace Under Pressure Tour album for instance. It came out just three years ago, but I knew of it for almost two decades before then. Scott, who was a frequent shopper at Magnolia Thunderpussy back in the day when he was home from college, bought a bootleg from Rush’s 1984 tour and made a tape for me.

At about the same time that Scott sent me this tape, Flint was in the throes of Bulldogs fever. Or maybe that was just me, Dave, and Bill. Going to home games that inaugural season wasn’t enough. In fact, I preferred the road trips, and Dave and I accompanied Bill on one weekend jaunt to St. Thomas, Canada, on a Saturday and then Detroit (Fraser, actually) on a Sunday.

St. Thomas had a glorious barn, Elgin Memorial Centre (pronounced SAHN-truh in franglais) now a skating rink, where the wood seats hold two, like a love seat. A very outdated photo of Queen Elizabeth high above the ice stone-facedly watched the action, and the good folks of St. Thomas believed in thrift. If the inside thermostat was set above 40, I’d have lost a bet. You never took off your coat or gloves, and you could see your breath inside.

Dave and I sat in the corner, each taking our own seat (plenty of good seats still available) while Bill took up residence in the press box, which is to say, behind a fold-out banquet table with folding chairs that was more or less in the top row of the arena. (I mentioned that it was a barn, right?)

I seem to recall that although the score was close, the Bulldogs lost, which wouldn’t be a stretch. As I mentioned, they were brutal that year. The standout memory of the game, though, was when we went up to visit Bill during one of the intermissions, and he pointed out that one of the refs was Ron MacLean—THE Ron MacLean, you know, Don Cherry’s straight man on CBC? That one. As if he didn’t have enough professional excitement, now he gets to ref a Bulldogs game.

The next day, in Fraser, the start time was such that we hit Gibraltar in Mt Clemens for some card-show action beforehand. Dave and I took advantage of the typically bargain-basement Gibraltar-show prices to each buy a box of Donruss baseball cards for roughly 50 cents a pack. We spent the entire game—when we weren’t rooting on a good dahnce, of course—opening packs of cards and playing the stiff game, which involves determining who gets the worst player in a pack.

I can’t remember whether it was disgust at the lack of quality despite the now-buck-a-pack price of the cards, the whole rookie-card phenomenon, the putrid play of the Bulldogs or a combination of all of the above, but that day and that show made me and Dave reach a boiling point.

Everyone who wrote about card collecting during that time—and there were a lot—were stone shills for the industry. No one spoke for the collector who loved cards as a kid and collected because it was fun, instead of because they thought that some day they’d flip their collection to send Junior to Harvard. Heck, no one spoke for the kids. The only message was: buy mint, pay book, don’t play with your cards and reap the profits. Dave and I had been collecting for 20 years, and we had a slightly different viewpoint—one that we felt needed to be heard.

As it turned out, I just happened to have an in on the Flint Journal sports department, and a once-per-week card column seemed to be just the thing for a Friday edition. A week later, Card Collecting Corner was born to much mockery within the newspaper’s walls. Philistines!

No comments:

Post a Comment