Saturday, October 20, 2012

No. 593 – La Villa Strangiato

Performer: Rush
Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart
Original Release: Hemispheres
Year: 1978
Definitive Version: Exit Stage Left, 1982

If it seems as though this song should have an epic tale attached to it—and truth be told, I probably could so attach one—I might agree. The reality is I have a fairly insignificant event burned into my memory banks, because this song was on my car stereo at the time.

I think I mentioned this, but the back way to Wabash from the professor’s house where I spent my sophomore year was for the most part a two-lane rural road that stretched straight across open Indiana farmland. But when you got close to campus, you curved to the left and went down a hill about 40 feet to a hidden little valley before climbing the road into campus.

One snowy night in February 1984, I was heading in to either to use the computer terminals at the VAX center or to study at the library—I can’t remember which. When I came down the hill, a short line of cars formed in the valley.

The problem immediately became clear: The first car in the line couldn’t make it up the hill without the assistance of a bunch of guys pushing. It was a rear-wheel-drive car, and the street was slick enough that the driver couldn’t get any traction. He would drive up, come about 20 feet from the crest and slide back down the hill.

The next car had the same problem. So I got out of my car and with a bunch of other guys—all students I seem to recall—we pushed and eventually were able to get the car over the top. (And being 19, at no time did I ever think we would lose control and have the car slide back down the hill and run me over.)

Now it was my turn. The Fart was a front-wheel drive, and I figured I didn’t need any help. I gave it some gas, and on the first try I made it farther than any of the other cars … but not quite far enough. I, too, began to slide back down the hill.

There is no more helpless feeling then being behind the wheel of a car you have no control over. I slid all the way down the hill, feeling a bit embarrassed at my failure but also grasping at once the problem: I didn’t have enough momentum built up when I hit the incline. I again refused help and backed up farther, so when I reached the hill, I was moving faster than before.

This time I had no problem going up and all the way over. Ah, sweet success.

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