Monday, May 21, 2012

No. 745 – Higher Ground

Performer: Stevie Wonder
Songwriter: Stevie Wonder
Original Release: single, Innervisions
Year: 1973
Definitive Version: None

For the first New Year’s Eve after I moved to Chicago, Laurie came up with a plan that was different from the year’s before, which was good, because the one the year before couldn’t be repeated even if we tried.

To send us properly into 2006, Laurie and her posse decided to get together for dinner at Rose Angelis, which is an intimate Italian place near Lincoln Park. After dinner some of us—maybe half—were going to head to Martyr’s for the main event. Tributosaurus was going to become Stevie Wonder, which seems like a good New Year’s Eve choice.

Laurie and I dressed up in formal wear—it’s New Year’s Eve after all—and headed to Rose Angelis. Good luck was with us as we found parking on the same street one block away. This is no mean feat in an area where the parking is carefully controlled so residents have first priority. Although that’s a reasonable policy, it sure plays heck if you have a business in the middle of such a residential neighborhood.

When I say Rose Angelis is intimate, that’s no hyperbole. We were just there the other day for a wine-tasting benefit, and I had forgotten in the six years since I had last been how small the place really is. Each of the three dining rooms was a distinct room, and there were no hallways, so it really was like you were in someone’s converted house.

Our group had 14 people there, so our table took up an entire room—the room aside of the kitchen before you get to the main dining room in the back and the side outdoor dining area, which obviously wasn’t in use on New Year’s Eve. The food was excellent; I can’t remember what I had other than it was a pasta dish, but I remember that I had way too much for dinner. Laurie also was painfully full afterward, but fortunately we had a whole night of dancing ahead of us.

Laurie and I weren’t the only ones at our table wearing a suit and dress, but we were definitely in the 99th percentile of attire at Martyr’s, maybe 99.9. I was fine with being there that night, but I have to admit: Stevie Wonder is not one of my faves. I’m OK with everything up until Songs in the Key of Life and then it seems Stevie took a turn downhill until driving off the edge of Wuss Cliff in the ’80s. (Ebony and Ivory? Really, Stevie?)

But there’s Superstitious and Uptight and Signed, Sealed, Delivered. My Meemaw’s favorite song when I was a kid was My Cherie Amour, and she got me the 45.

And then there’s this song—the only Stevie Wonder song on my list and the one big song that Tributosaurus didn’t play that night. Really?! How can you become Stevie Wonder on New Year’s Eve and not play Higher Ground? It should be the first song you play after midnight! (Instead, it was the obvious—and overplayed—Sir Duke.)

There was no after party, but we had had enough anyway. All in all, it was a fine night, but Laurie agreed later: New Year’s Eve 2004 was a hard act to follow.

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