Wednesday, May 16, 2012

No. 750 – Bleeding Me

Performer: Metallica
Songwriters: James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett
Original Release: Load
Year: 1996
Definitive Version: S&M, 1999

I finally capitulated on Metallica toward the end of the Nineties after having dabbled in them for about a decade. I can see why all of the hard-core fans went nuts over their “sell-out” with Load and Re-Load, but their mellowing if you will was the thing that got me to finally buy.

I was listening to both albums extensively in the fall of 1998 when my poker crew had one of my favorite outings. Steve’s mom, who was a teacher at Upper Arlington while we were there (I never took her English class), had retired and sold the home Steve had grown up in and moved to her summer place at Buckeye Lake, south of Newark.

She was traveling, so the house was available, and Steve scheduled a more-or-less all-day poker party. We’d get started in the afternoon, break for the Ohio State football game against Penn State and resume the game after until, well, who knows when.

I definitely remember that the ALDS—Cleveland and Boston, with Steve Nagy going for the Tribe in Boston—was on, or I should say, I made sure it was on in the kitchen, because everyone upstairs wanted to watch football. I remember this because I kept sneaking down to the kitchen to catch a score update, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

I had this song on my car CD player while driving the final winding road from the highway to Buckeye Lake on that gray, cool October afternoon. A light mist that waxed and waned throughout the day made it so it was already getting dark by the time we assembled at the proper destination.

The house was cool, like a Florida stilt house, although the chance of Buckeye Lake overflowing was about the same as that of a farm retention pond. Downstairs was the kitchen that you entered through a covered porch on ground level. On the opposite side were the stairs that led to the dining bedrooms (two, I think), living room that had separate dining and sitting areas and then the front deck that looked over the lake. It had wood paneling and definitely looked like a summer lakeside cabin. I loved it.

Steve really wanted to make it a blowout, so instead of the usual six guys at the game—seven can strain a deck—we had 10 guys there. We broke into two tables with the idea that whenever a seat opened at one table, you could move back and forth. As the evening wore on, after OSU won in convincing fashion to much approval, we consolidated the playing, and I seem to recall that that was when my luck went from OK to why-bother bad.

I don’t remember specifically, but I’m pretty sure that that was one of the few times that I lost and lost fairly big. Not that that made any difference, of course. It was all about the camaraderie. So I was down maybe $20 after a full day of scarfing homemade Skyline Chili, pretzel rods, Butterfingers and Labatts, so what? At least the Indians won to take a 1-0 lead in their playoff series.

When we finally broke up the game just before midnight and helped Steve to straighten up the premises, it had been our longest poker outing barring Tom’s bachelor party on the New River, of course.

I had the Metallica back on as I made the drive home, winding around the lake this time and noting the other summer homes that more resembled trailers than the upscale cottages with which I was familiar at Torch Lake. The rain had stopped and everything was still—especially the large pitch-black void that lay beyond the houses. It was very serene, and I could see why someone would want to live there if he or she could.

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