Thursday, May 3, 2012

No. 763 – The Endless Enigma

Performer: Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Songwriters: Keith Emerson, Greg Lake
Original Release: Trilogy
Year: 1972
Definitive Version: None

When I was a kid, we weren’t allowed into the living room in our house on Darcann Drive for the most part. That was for the adults. That’s where the good furniture was and where the good TV and good stereo were. By good, I mean huge—actual pieces of furniture. The TV was in a cabinet about the size of a washer and dryer and the stereo—essentially just a record player—was bigger than a refrigerator laid on its side. I’ve had workspaces at newspapers that were smaller.

The record player was wired to speakers in the basement, so we could play music while we played or when Dad was in his workshop or if we played pool. It was a pretty cool setup, actually, but we weren’t allowed to touch anything.

The living room’s accents—curtains, carpeting and even the furniture—were sort of blue and green and this drab green-gray color that looked like canned green beans that had been left out too long. Generally, me, Jin and Scott were allowed in that room only at Christmas. That’s where the tree was, so, naturally, that’s where the presents were.

But as the oldest, I got to go in there more than the others, and I liked it when I was able to be in there, because it made me feel more like a grown-up. A couple of memories I have of that room from around the time Trilogy came out:

* Although I collected baseball cards since 1971, 1972 was when I really became a baseball fan. I saw my first Major League game and started to pay attention to the standings. In 1972, of course, my beloved Cincinnati Reds made the playoffs and were playing the defending champ Pittsburgh Pirates. It went to a deciding Game 5. The game was on TV during the afternoon, and Mom let me watch it in the living room.

My favorite player was Johnny Bench, and of course, Bench hit a home run to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, when the Reds were only three outs from being eliminated. I couldn’t believe that my hero came through when he was needed the most. But then that’s why they’re heroes, right? Then, minutes later, Bob Moose uncorked the wild pitch that gave the Reds the game and the pennant.

I was jumping up and down and hooting and hollering that my team was going to the World Series, and right then I remember that Dad came through the front door, which was next to the living room, and he was hooting and hollering too. He must have been listening to the end of the game in the car radio. The Reds lost the World Series, of course (sigh), but I was a fan for life after that.

* The first time I had Dominos pizza was in that living room. Dad had a beloved pizza joint from when he was a kid growing up in Upper Arlington called Romeo’s. I didn’t care for it; it was too spicy. Now, I’d probably love it, but I was a kid: What did I know about good food?

When the nearby shopping center opened an annex around the corner from the grocery store (Albert’s at first, then Food World, where I had my first job), a new pizza place opened up called Dominos. (This was 1973.) It was tiny and austere—super clean.

Anyway, Dad was willing to try a new pizza joint, so we got it one Friday night for a late-night pizza snack. I know it was Friday, because we listened to the Wolfman Jack show that was broadcast nationwide Friday night while we had a pizza party. I loved Dominos. (What did I say about being a kid and food?) It was nice and bland, and the pieces were huge. Naturally, Dad hated it, so we didn’t have it much.

After Dad moved out a few years later, whatever restrictions there were on being in the living room and not touching anything were similarly gone. Now, as the man of the house—or at least the oldest kid—I was in charge of the record player.

Dad left most of his albums behind, but instead of moving the good ones up to my bedroom, I left them in the record player, so Jin and Scott still would be able to hear them in the basement. Trilogy maintained a spot in the usual rotation, even though a few new names, like The Eagles and Wings, had found their way onto the stack. I must have figured that in the midst of a major life-changing event, a little sameness was good for everyone.

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