Wednesday, October 31, 2012

No. 582 – White Mountain

Performer: Genesis
Songwriters: Tony Banks, Peter Gabriel, Anthony Phillips, Mike Rutherford
Original Release: Trespass
Year: 1970
Definitive Version: Just a Pool of Tears, 1976

When I went to New Jersey in the summer of 1987 to do the story on the Plainfield YMCA, I laid a little groundwork for future Mom’s-side-of-the-family get-togethers—very near future, it turned out. Aunt Sally invited Jin, Scott and me to come to New Jersey for the week after Christmas that year.

Betsy would be home from college and Tom and his girlfriend also would be in town. It sounded like a great time and in fact was. I thought it would be cool to be in New York between Christmas and New Year’s.

We flew in to Newark on the 26th in the late afternoon. Betsy picked us up at the airport and drove us out to the swamps of Jersey. That night we had a take-home Indian feast, and that was the first time I ever had Indian food. It also would be the last for more than a decade, until newspaper duties forced me to give it another try … and discover how much I liked it.

Anyway, the next day, all the young adults headed into New York City to knock around for the day. Betsy drove, and what was most memorable about the commute was we entered New York City by the World Trade Center where Betsy almost got us all killed when she made an illegal turn in front of an oncoming truck. Who needs amusement-park rides for thrills?

We made our way to Little Italy for lunch. I don’t remember the name of the place where we ate, but I remember we sat in what seemed to be an enclosed heated outdoor area and had excellent red-sauce pasta. I also seem to remember we were the only ones in what seemed to be an otherwise-closed restaurant.

And that’s kind of how the rest of the day went. It was like the entire city shut down for the holiday (as opposed to Hurricane Sandy). It was cold and windy that day—it certainly was gray—but I don’t remember it as being anything outstanding that would completely clean the streets.

After lunch, we went to Greenwich Village to do some post-Christmas shopping—well, the women did—and we split off in groups of two. I was paired with Scott, of course, and we quickly found a cool record store. You know what that means, right? It sold bootleg recordings.

Scott made a beeline for the Genesis records and pulled out Just a Pool of Tears, which he bought on the spot. I didn’t find anything that suited my tastes, although I can’t recall now whether I even looked for anything in particular. At the time, my heavy rotation included Genesis, Peter Gabriel and Steve & Garry.

Scott and I then hiked around the neighborhood further until we found ourselves at Washington Square Park, by the arch. And, like everything else that day, the park was mostly void of human existence. If Scott and I weren’t the only ones there, there couldn’t have been more than a half-dozen other people at the arch. It actually was kind of cool to be somewhere so well-known and feel as though we were the only ones there.

At that point, everyone met up and we headed home to beat rush-hour traffic. I don’t remember what we had for dinner that night, but I remember the wine was flowing and the dinner conversation turned to topics such as how old each person was when he or she did it for the first time and if you could have any ability, what would it be.

Tom’s was to play jazz piano like Keith Jarrett, which I thought was pretty cool. My ability would be to hit a major-league curveball, because if I could hit a major-league curveball, I could hit a major-league fastball, and I thus would be in the majors. Later, we all ended up in the hot tub with more champagne despite the snow on the ground, but that’s another story.

But before dinner, Scott and I went out to the coach house garage to play his new album. This song particularly stood out, because it was the only one on the album I had never heard before. I liked it right away, and now when I hear it, I can see that coach house with its large open living room in the dying afternoon sun.

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