Wednesday, October 24, 2012

No. 589 – The Ocean

Performer: Led Zeppelin
Songwriters: Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham
Original Release: Houses of the Holy
Year: 1973
Definitive Version: The Song Remains the Same reissue, 2007

When I took the Harbor Country News job out of Northwestern, I spent a lot of time in Michigan City for a couple of reasons. The first was obvious—that’s where my office was, or at least where the computer where I could work was.

The other was because most of the time, the social activity took place in Michigan City. Being a newbie, I actively sought that, particularly the first few months of my tenure.

One of the first weeks I was there, a large group went out after work on a Friday. I was game to go, partly because the groups was mostly advertising department folks.

Although the Michigan City News-Dispatch advertising staff was small—no more than six people, I think—almost the entire advertising staff aside from the ad director consisted of hot females. It was something akin to my time at YMCA’s national headquarters and became a truism at all my newspapers: For the most part, the babes work in advertising and marketing, not the newsroom.

Anyway, we went to one of the larger bars in town. I don’t remember the name, but we sat at a long row of tables, like at a honkytonk. That night, the bar had a cover band that played this song.

I’ll always have burned into my brain the vision of one of the ad babes shimmying to this song during the duht-duh-dunna dunt chords. She was the oldest of the group, but under the right circumstances, she definitely could play Mrs. Robinson to my Ben Braddock. Alas, the circumstances weren’t right that night, nor any other night, but a lad could dream …

I have two other memories of going out with News-Dispatch folk to a Michigan City bar that I wouldn’t tell otherwise, so I’ll relate them here.

* One night, a few guys at the paper wanted to go to a bar—I think it was the same as the first one, now that I think about it—the night it had lingerie modeling.

If you’re not familiar with this concept, it’s like strip-club lite: Lingerie models wander through the premises wearing differing outfits. They approach you, and if you’re game, they’ll closely model what they’re wearing, which, of course, means you’re encouraged to ogle under the pretense that you might buy for your girlfriend or wife. Then you give them a little something, you know, for the effort.

At that point, I’d never been to a real strip club, and my guess was neither had any of my compatriots. The event was tame—not to mention a total sausage fest, but then I just mentioned it. I particularly fancied one model who was so over it, she might as well have been orbiting the moon, but we left pretty quickly after we arrived.

In case you’re wondering, no one bought anything.

* Another time, three reporters and I went to a bar close to the newspaper that had a pool table, and after a beer or two, we played some eight ball.

As I mentioned, I grew up around pool tables. I played pretty regularly from the time I was a kid through college, so by 1988, when I worked in Michigan City, I was at the peak of my abilities on the felt.

I wasn’t great, but that night in Michigan City, I shot out the lights in a way I never had before or since. I was playing a guy whose name has been lost to time—let’s dub him Rich—and I won, so I got to break next game. I sank a striped ball on the break and then ran the table—cleaning off all the stripeds and then the eight without a miss.

Larry was beside himself. Wow, he said, that was amazing. I’ve never seen anything like that. Honestly, neither had I, at least live and in color.

We played again, and I did it again: I sank a ball on the break and then proceeded to run the table again. Including the first game, I had sank 18 balls in a row—my record. But just when I was about to etch my name permanently into the lore of the bar, I scratched on the eight, which, of course, meant I lost the game.

And, as it turned out, I lost my focus. I don’t think I won another game that night. I was so hot, I flamed out.

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