Thursday, January 31, 2013

No. 490 – I Feel Free

Performer: Cream
Songwriters: Jack Bruce, Pete Brown
Original Release: Fresh Cream
Year: 1966
Definitive Version: None

On the one hand, I’ve already written about The Sopranos. On the other hand, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention how that show got me into this song.

Because Debbie was a huge Eric Clapton fan, as I’ve mentioned, she was into Cream pretty heavily, not that I had a problem with that. She knew this song real well, but I didn’t when we first started dating. I went through a big Cream/Blind Faith phase in 1998, as I also have mentioned, and then it faded—as did any affection for this song.

Fast forward another year. I’d been watching The Sopranos since finding it late one night, as I mentioned, and the season was building to a climax. I don’t want to get too into the details. If you’ve seen the show, you know this already. If you haven’t, rent or buy the first season. Trust me: You won’t regret it.

Each episode, of course, ends with a particular song on fade out as the credits start to roll. All season long, it had been stark acoustic numbers, oldies, Frank—stuff you would associate with a story about the mob.

Then we get to the second-to-last episode, which was nothing short of riveting. It wound up with Tony Soprano on the phone talking to his shrink, saying “All in all, I feel pretty good. When I find out who took a shot at me, I’ll feel even better.” Cue this song’s vocal intro and jaunty Sixties-rock pace.

It was astonishing—not only because it was the first rock song used all season, but also because it produced what, in my inexpert opinion, was a perfect ending. A perfect ending is not to be dismissed, because they are so rare. A perfect ending can take your breath away, at least it can for me. Examples include: A River Runs Through It, Goodfellas, the finale of Six Feet Under.

The Sopranos had two: the aforementioned second-to-last episode of the first season and the last episode of the first season, which featured State Trooper from Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska album as the credit closer.

All writers aspire to nail it at least once, and David Chase did it on back-to-back episodes of a single show, in my opinion. Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, the pressure will be on me to stick the dismount when we finally reach the end of this here blog next year.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

No. 491 – Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

Performer: Crosby, Stills & Nash
Songwriter: Stephen Stills
Original Release: Crosby, Stills & Nash
Year: 1969
Definitive Version: Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More, 1970

This isn’t the first song on this here list that at one time could’ve laid claim to being my No. 1 song of all-time (Do You Feel Like We Do? and Stairway to Heaven). I guess it’s another song that suffered from familiarity as time marched on.

I like the Woodstock version, because the song hadn’t yet become iconic. The band still was finding its way in it, so the finale hadn’t yet become a communal experience or one that Stills oversung. (For the life of me, I don’t get why the sound is punted down at the end of the song on the CD before being punted back up for the post-song comments.) It’s possible that the version from Four Way Street might have been definitive, but I haven’t found a full-length recording.

That Four Way Street includes only the final 30 seconds of this song as something of a prelude always perplexed me. Why wouldn’t you want to include the whole thing? It was—and always will be—CSN’s most well-known song. (SPOILER ALERT: It’s not my favorite.)

The answer is obvious, of course: Four Way Street wasn’t a CSN album, but a CSNY album, and this song was—and always will be—a CSN song. As far as I know, Y never joined CSN on this one the way he has for, say, Wooden Ships. The closest he came might have been when he sat to the side of the stage on the piano bench and watched CSN do the whole thing in 2000. At the end, in Columbus, he said that some songs take you to a certain place and this was one of them. Then he said, “that’s a great song.”

Actually, this song doesn’t take me to one place but several: the basement at Darcann, seventh-grade art class, football season junior year of high school, Live Aid, the 2000 show as mentioned, a date with a nurse in 2004, Millennium Park. I suppose one place it takes me to in particular isn’t pleasant per se, but it definitely was memorable.

The first time I heard the snippet off Four Way Street was at my grandparents’ house in Upper Arlington. Aunt Nan had bought this album, apparently, years before and left it at home in the family stereo (one of those pieces of furniture jobbies with album storage) when she went to college. That’s where Dad found it.

In 1975, when I was in sixth grade, Mom threw Dad out of the house for the first time after a particularly disturbing round of fights. I still remember him leaving while I was in bed late at night. My grandparents were gone—I don’t remember whether they were in Florida or at Torch Lake—so Dad stayed at their house.

He was gone for a few weeks, and I thought that my parents were going to divorce. At the time, that was a terrible thought. When it finally happened a year later, it was upsetting, but I already was prepared.

Anyway, one night early on, Dad was feeling lonely, so he took me over to my grandparents’ house. It was a school night, and I had homework, which I took with me. I would bet money that we ordered pizza for dinenr, but I don’t specifically recall that.

What I do recall is how we hung out in the formal living room where the stereo was. I did my homework on the floor and Dad played Four Way Street for me—sides 1, with this song, and 4, with Ohio. Being a big CSN(&Y) fan, I liked it right away. It felt odd to be there under the circumstances, but it wasn’t bad. I wasn’t yet as estranged from Dad as I would become in the next few years.

Eventually, Mom and Dad reconciled, and Dad came home. When he did, in the great tradition of my family when it comes to albums that have been left behind, he brought Nan’s Four Way Street with him. And when he moved out for good the next year, I carried on the tradition. I moved the left-behind album up to my bedroom, where I could listen to it over and over—pretty much solid for the next year.

I believe John, Shani’s brother, now has it. And so it goes …

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

No. 492 – Subdivisions

Performer: Rush
Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart
Original Release: Signals
Year: 1982
Definitive Version: None, I suppose, but anything live works for me.

At one time, this song was near the top of my list. I guess I drifted away from it although I don't know why.

As I’ve mentioned, I was a big-time vidiot at the dawn of video games—the simpler to grasp the better. Once games started going 3-D in movement, I was out. Give me the glorious 2-D playing fields of Donkey Kong and Pac-Man.

After I left the Fiji house my freshman year in 1982, I no longer had to be at study table for nine hours a day. I suddenly had a lot of time to fill. I spent a lot of it in the basement of Wolcott Hall, my dorm, shooting pool or watching TV. I also started spending more of it in the basement of the Sparks Center.

The Sparks Center is the student union. The main floor was the mess hall for the students who lived in the dorms, and I tried to avoid it as best I could during my freshman year. I had my cube mini fridge in my dorm room, and I kept it stocked with milk, so I didn’t have to have breakfast in the mess hall.

In the basement of the Sparks Center were the bookstore and the Scarlet Inn, which was something of a burger stand. I’m pretty sure I knew about the Scarlet Inn before I left the Fiji house, but now it meant something. A burger at the Scarlet Inn beat whatever it was they were serving upstairs, even if it did come out of my own pocket.

My favorite was the mushroom-swiss burger—sautéed mushrooms and swiss cheese on a third-pound burger in a basket loaded with waffle fries. It was my first experience having waffle fries, and I couldn’t get enough. Waffle fries are an experience not to be underestimated.

But the REAL draw down in the basement was the game room adjacent to the Scarlet Inn and across from the bookstore. It had all my favorites, particularly Galaga and Tempest. You remember Tempest, right? It was gloriously featured in the video for this song, which meant I had to play it all the time. My initials were always all over the high-scores list.

I wasted hours playing video games my freshman year but even more the next year, when I lived out in the sticks in Professor Herzog’s house. I learned by my sophomore year that I concentrated better when I studied at the library, instead of at home.

On the nights when I drove into campus to study (assuming I could make it up the snowy hill, of course), I had a routine. I’d park in the lot next to Wolcott Hall or along the mall and I’d hike over to the library. When I was done for the night, I’d play a few games of Tempest or Dig Dug to unwind before driving home.

Back then, if I had a quarter in my pocket when I was done studying, chances were good it was going to end up in a coin slot in the basement of the Sparks Center. I mean, what else is a poor vidiot to do?

Monday, January 28, 2013

No 493 – Us and Them / Any Colour You Like

Performer: Pink Floyd
Songwriters: Roger Waters, Rick Wright, David Gilmour, Nick Mason
Original Release: Dark Side of the Moon
Year: 1973
Definitive Version: Pulse, 1995

One could make the argument that all of Side 2 of Dark Side of the Moon is one song, or at least everything after Money. I broke it up thusly, because it seems more to me that Lunatic / Eclipse are their own suite, and radio, if it plays this song at all, will play Any Colour You Like immediately after at least half the time. That’s really the best part anyway, in my inexpert opinion.

Speaking of radio, this song was on the radio—and the whole suite was played—an important morning in May 2005.

April had been a huge month for me and Laurie in that we made huge strides in our relationship. When we arranged for my visit to Chicago in the middle of May, it was going to be the quickest turnaround from the last time I saw her since we began to date—a mere two weeks.

Just before I left, Laurie took particular care to wish me safe travels and urged me to drive safely. I always do, but I assured her I would.

It’s just as well, because after I turned north on I-65 at Indianapolis, the sky started to turn black. I was hopeful I could get ahead of the storm but no such luck. I drove into the teeth of the storm at Lafayette, and it was a monster. I’ve driven through a few storms in my day (and even around one once, as I wrote), and this one was one of the worst.

The wind blew the rain sideways, and within seconds, visibility was down to about zero. Dozens of cars and trucks were pulled off to the side of the highway.

I don’t see the point of that. If you’re afraid to drive, it’s better to pull over. I’d rather just take it easy and plow through the storm, because you don’t know how long it will last, and it’ll will always go more quickly if you drive through it. I slowed to about 35, so I could see the road ahead through the furious rain and windshield wiping, and turned on my flashers, but I kept going.

The storm continued for what seemed an extraordinarily long time. In fact, it seemed a second wave hit after easing up enough so I could get the Honda back up to 60, and this time, I was back down to about 45.

Finally, the rain started to ease up for real. The sun was setting, almost at the horizon line behind a wall of low-lying dark clouds. It found a gap in the wall, and the sun’s rays were shining up into the canopy of the huge storm I was about to finally pass through—shafts of gold in a sea of gray.

It was one of the most incredible things I ever saw. We’ve all seen the sun’s rays shining down shimmering shafts through a hole in a gray cloud wall, but I’d never seen them shining up in such a similarly well-defined way before. It was like a little reward for persevering through the storm.

When I told Laurie about this after I arrived, she hugged me and told me why she had been so worried for me on this particular trip. Her mom had been killed in a car crash during a storm 24 years earlier almost to the day. She always got emotional around Mother’s Day for that reason, but now she had a new reason for feeling particularly anxious—me. Lightning might have struck in Indiana, but it didn’t strike twice.

I don’t know what role that factored into what happened Sunday, perhaps none. We were lolling about in bed, having a particularly lazy morning listening to the radio and talking about this, that and the other when this song came on.

Up until this time, even though the relationship was moving forward, no long-term plans had been made. The plan, now that I had been both to Cooperstown and The Sporting News Archives, was that as soon as the Clippers season ended in September, I was going to move to California in with Jin and Paul to write my book and look for work.

Laurie know that that was always the plan, but now she didn’t like it at all, and as Rick Wright’s ethereal piano played in the background, she said, well, you know, there are lots of jobs in Chicago. You could look for one here.

It wasn’t explicitly stated, but we both knew the truth: Laurie was asking me to move in with her. I couldn’t afford to live on my own due to my almost completely drained savings; she was well-aware of that. I couldn’t believe it. I was overcome with emotion, as was she, as I readily accepted her gracious offer. Yes, I’ll come here and stay long enough to find a job. Then I’ll get a place of my own. California, again, would have to wait.

Unlike almost every other weekend visit that we had during the first year of our courtship, I don’t remember any details about what we did or where we ate that visit. It was all of secondary importance, blown away by the gale force of Laurie’s invitation. The sun’s rays shined down on both of us.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

No. 494 – I Know What I Like (in Your Wardrobe)

Performer: Genesis
Songwriters: Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford
Original Release: Selling England By the Pound
Year: 1973
Definitive Version: You’ll Love Us Live, 1980

Although I’m a huge baseball fan, I’m not much of a football fan—pro football anyway. That hasn’t always been true.

When I was a kid, I liked the Los Angeles Rams. I’m pretty sure I chose them because a bunch of the first football cards I ever had, from the glorious 1971 set, were Rams players. (As an aside, the Rams cards from that set are awesome. Most players making gloriously hokey old-school poses. Check out the Jack Snow in particular.)

That affiliation changed in the Eighties. In Columbus, Ohio, we were fed a steady diet of Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns games on TV, but for whatever reason, I didn’t gravitate to those teams. When I started going to Wabash, the local TV team was the Chicago Bears. (Remember, this was before the Colts hightailed it out of Baltimore.)

Well, I loved Walter Payton—who didn’t?—and Dick Butkus was my favorite player when I was a kid. Then the Bears drafted Jim McMahon, a fave while at BYU. Because Bears games were on every weekend (Tim Ryan and Johnny Morris back in the day), it was a natural thing to root for the Bears. My timing was perfect, because when 1985 rolled around, no one accused me of being a bandwagon-jumper.

I’ve said that the 1999 Cincinnati Reds were my all-time favorite baseball team. The 1985 Chicago Bears were my all-time favorite team, period. I never had more fun following a team than that team, with the possible exception of the 1986 Bears, which was, of course, after I moved to Chicago and could take in the entire experience.

I suppose if you were a fan of a team the Bears beat up on or you got sick of hearing about them, you hated the 1985 Bears. Otherwise how could you? They were characters who made the game fun to watch, and they coached by the biggest character of them all. Come on, William Refrigerator Perry running the ball, catching the ball and trying to carry Payton into the end zone that one time? McMahon and his nutty headbands? Ditka’s insane press conferences? The Super Bowl Shuffle?

I watched every minute of every game that year. The 1985 season was the culmination of something you could see coming. 1983 was the first sign, when they won five of their last six games. They rolled to the NFC championship game in 1984, and expectations were really high going into 1985. You just KNEW they were going to be good. We just didn’t know HOW good.

I would argue that the 1985 Bears were the greatest NFL team of all time, despite the one blemish on a freakish night in Miami. (As someone once said, if you throw a pass that bounces off a defender’s helmet into the arms of a receiver and it goes for a touchdown, as Dan Marino and the Dolphins did that Monday night, you know it’s not your night.)

They also delivered my all-time favorite game result. Just as I grew up loving the Rams, I hated, repeat, HATED, all caps, the Dallas Cowboys who always seemed to beat up my beloved Rams when it counted. The 1985 Bears made up for all that and then some in Dallas, pulverizing the Cowboys in a way no one had before in my lifetime. The Sports Illustrated cover the next week said it all: 44-0. The only way it could have been better would have been if the cover read 100-0.

As with my music, I got Scott into the Bears in a big way, and we’d have phone conversations about the games each week. He bought The Superbowl Shuffle as soon as it came out.

We finally got to watch a game together during Christmas break. It was the last regular-season game of the year, in Detroit, and I remember distinctly that Scott had just bought You’ll Love Us Live and was playing it for me in his underground lair (the aforementioned B--- Off Room). The version of this song, with the well-miched crowd in the background and Phil’s tom solo, particularly stuck with me that day.

The other thing that stuck with me was one play in an otherwise sloppy but certain rout of the Lions: Late in the game, the Lions had the ball deep in Bears territory when they fumbled. In one motion, the Fridge leaped over a fallen player, picked up the ball and rumbled off to the end zone … 80 yards away.

As soon as the play happened, I started jumping up and down, yelling, “No way! No way!” in joyful disbelief. I mean there was NO WAY Perry was going to run it all the way back. His season was already legendary enough as is.

Of course, Perry didn’t: He was tackled at about the Lions 20, but it was another awesome moment during my favorite sports season of all-time.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

No. 495 – W.M.A.

Performer: Pearl Jam
Songwriters: Dave Abbruzzese, Jeff Ament, Eddie Vedder
Original Release: Vs.
Year: 1993
Definitive Version: Dissident Vol. 3: Live in Atlanta, 1994, with Doug Pinnick from King's X sharing vocals

When I decided to play with The Journal men’s team in fall 1993, it was the right decision. I played a lot more than I had in the spring and summer, because fewer people played then. With Bill and Jared also from the coed team around as well as Doug as manager, I had a good time and was assimilated effortlessly.

That said, I remember only a few of the games—one because while playing catcher, I suffered a jammed neck in a collision at home plate. (I held onto the ball and made the play.) One game I particularly remember was as close to a racial incident in which I ever was (superficially) involved.

I can’t remember the name of this particular team, but it was all-black. This fact will be important later. Anyway, they could hit the hell out of the ball, as in over the fence with little effort. When we played this team, they beat the crap out of us in the first game of a doubleheader, like 20-5 or something ridiculous.

In the fall season, the league played doubleheaders to maximize the games in the short period of time. I don’t remember whether we played with a one-strike rule, like in the coed fall league the year before, but the games moved fast, because the American Legion fields where we played weren’t lit. We had a finite amount of time before the sun set.

In the second game, however, we got the jump on them right out of the box. A bunch of the guys, some of whom were our best players, didn’t make it to the game for various reasons, so I ended up playing the whole game at second base. I’m not the smallest guy in the world—6 feet, 180 pounds (ding)—but that day on that field, I was one of the smaller guys. Their left fielder played me close.

The first at bat of the second game, I cranked one over his head. He was fast and had a good arm, so the base coach held me up with a triple—only my second on a Flint softball diamond. I soon scored, and before the dust had settled, we were up 4-0. The other team couldn’t get their bats going this time, and we piled up our lead. When we finished the fifth inning, we were up 11-4.

The sun was setting, and it was getting dark fast. There had been the expectation that we’d play just five innings due to the light conditions. This was going to be, in my opinion, a major upset for us.

Well, one side of the field wasn’t too happy about that. As you can imagine, it wasn’t our side. The ump, who said earlier that he probably was going to call it after the fifth, now merely said, play ball.

We groused a bit. It wasn’t impossible, but it was getting difficult to see the ball, and we had the disadvantage of being in the field in the bottom half of the inning, which, of course is later—and a little bit darker—than when we batted.

Well, this HAD to be the last inning. We didn’t get any runs, and their balls started to find the holes—or we had more trouble seeing the ball than we thought we would. In any event, we got out of the inning still ahead 11-7. And that really should have been that.

It wasn’t. Doug argued with the ump. We can’t see the ball any more. The ump said nothing but play ball.

At this point it was obvious what was going on. When I said one side wasn’t happy about the decision to call the game early, you’ll note I didn’t say one TEAM. The other team might have wanted to play longer, considering they perhaps they could rally to win—particularly in the dark—but they didn’t say much about it. It’s just a softball game, right?

Their wives and girlfriends, however, had been riding the ump since the fourth inning, and their complaints had a definite racial tinge to it, saying that they were being robbed by a white ump helping out the white team. (We had two black guys on our team.) Believe it or not, they invoked the name Malice Green.

Malice Green, for those of you who forgot, was the Rodney King of Detroit—beaten to death by Detroit cops in 1992. (Save your outrage; I know there were mitigating factors.) Pearl Jam wrote this very song with Malice Green in mind.

This was outrageous. Really? You’re going to compare a softball game to a murderous beating? Yes, they were. By the sixth inning, even the guys on that team were turning around and telling the women to the shut the hell up.

But it worked: The ump clearly was intimidated, and we were just going to have to win the game in seven innings if we were to win at all. I don’t have the best eyes, and when we took the field in the bottom of the seventh, I couldn’t see the ball come off the bat—as in at all.

Softball never should be a matter of life and death. Like I said, these guys could hit the hell out of the ball, and I wasn’t about to take a line drive off the old pumpkin. I backed up until I more or less played second base from short right field. Any ground ball hit to me was going to be a single.

To no one’s surprise, the other team came back and won the game, scoring the tying and winning runs when our right fielder dropped a ball hit right to him because he couldn’t see it.

As you might suspect, the ump got out of there as soon as he could, and the post-game handshake was subdued, but instead of just saying “good game,” the other team kept saying “sorry.” They knew the truth, even if the women didn’t: It was just a softball game, or at least it should have been.

Even after the win had been secured, the women still were bitching in the parking lot about the game and still comparing it to Malice Green. My guess is Malice Green would have thought: Gee, overreact much?

Anyway, the next spring, as luck would have it, we played the same team in the opening game of the season. This time we had sunlight for the entire game. We won 10-5.

Friday, January 25, 2013

No. 496 – Questions 67 & 68

Performer: Chicago
Songwriter: Robert Lamm
Original Release: Chicago Transit Authority
Year: 1969
Definitive Version: None

One thing that has been collectively forgotten, I think, is that Chicago was a really good band before they let Peter Cetera drive them off the edge of Wuss Cliff. Their first four albums—all double albums—are rock solid.

And some of their songs are LONG. I was shocked to learn, for example, that the real version of Make Me Smile is about twice as long as the radio version. Radio … So my respect for Chicago is high even though this is the only one of their songs on this here list.

I read once that this song was about contemplating the horror of nuclear war. I was impressed that Chicago, which wasn’t known for its big-picture themes, would tackle such a topic, and my admiration of the song grew. Consequently when it came time to make mix tapes to take to Northwestern because I wasn’t taking my record player with me, this song made the cut.

Only recently did I learn, however, that that was completely wrong. It’s really about Robert Lamm’s relationship issues, of course. That’s not as impressive, but I still love the song anyway.

I originally was going to write more about the first work-study job I had at Northwestern, but upon further review, I more or less said all there is to say about it earlier. Because this is a song about relationships, however, I’ll write about one (such as it was) that happened at about the same time—fall 1986.

When I began Intro with Bob McClory, I found myself seated next to an attractive woman named Lara. We began talking, and soon we began walking together to class. She lived in an apartment that was along the same walk I took from the residence hall, and we met up on the street naturally.

At the time, I wasn’t interested in anything beyond a platonic relationship. Keep in mind, I had been at Wabash—the all-male bastion—the previous four years. I didn’t have much opportunity to develop a friendship with a woman, and for some reason doing so now appealed to me. I had Beth, so I didn’t want anything romantic, even though she was farther away than ever before. I suppose it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, had Lara forced the issue, I might have changed my mind on this matter.

I also suppose that, with that in mind, I was giving off mixed signals about my intentions. There was an opportunity one night after dinner at the nearby Burger King where I think I could have pursued a different type of relationship, and I think, at the time, Lara wanted it to go there. It didn’t.

Soon after, Lara and I stopped doing things together, and we even stopped sitting next to each other in class. I wanted to be with a group of friends I had met at the residence hall, but I’m sure Lara interpreted that differently. Maybe it didn’t matter. She started dating another grad student seriously after that, and that was that.

Naturally, after Beth and I broke up the following spring, I wondered whether I should have pursued Lara differently and how that would have worked out—my own Questions 67 & 68. In retrospect, it was a missed opportunity, but it wasn’t one that I mourned for long.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

No. 497 – With Your Love

Performer: Jefferson Starship
Songwriters: Marty Balin, Joey Covington, Vic Smith
Original Release: Spitfire
Year: 1976
Definitive Version: None

I always liked this song as a clean sequel to Miracles, but it hit me in a big way as I was driving around Chicago in fall 2007.

Things were going great as I passed the second anniversary of my move to Chicago. I had been promoted earlier that year, bought a new car for the first time in 16 years and now lived in a great, large apartment. Things were going great with Laurie, and I decided that it was time to make an honest woman of her.

We had a trip to visit Paul and Jin and see Bridget, who had just turned 1, in Los Angeles planned for December. However, one of the days we were there, we decided to return to the scene of the crime—our first date—in Santa Monica. I thought of proposing to Laurie on the pier. That would be cool.

However, I was woefully unprepared. Unlike last time, with Debbie, this time I wanted to do it right. I would present her the ring rather than have her buy it herself later.

One problem: Just any old ring for Laurie wouldn’t cut it. Her jewelry tastes run to the antique—I’ve had great success buying jewelry for her—and I hadn’t done enough shopping after I reached my decision to when our trip was scheduled. Even if I found the right setting and diamond—a long shot without multiple shopping trips—I didn’t have enough time to get it resized.

I suppose in retrospect, I could have gone ahead with it without the ring, but, like I said, I wanted to do it right this time. So I decided to delay the proposal to get my act together … but till when?

In my family, 44 is a magic number. Laurie was 44 when we met, and I was coming up on my 44th birthday. May 2008 would mark our 44-month anniversary, so that seemed like a perfect time.

We had a great long weekend in sunny California just before Christmas. It was particularly fun to tour Santa Monica. We stopped at Fatburger for lunch—the only time I’ve been—and hit up Yankee Doodle for a celebratory drink before heading out to the pier. That part of the day felt weird, knowing what could very well have happened then and there if I were better organized. Laurie was completely unaware.

But my revised plan was better, I concluded. I’d propose at the Morton Arboretum—a crucial location for us—at our favorite spot in May. What could possibly go wrong?

What indeed.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

No. 498 – Half a World Away

Performer: R.E.M.
Songwriters: Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe
Original Release: Out of Time
Year: 1991
Definitive Version: MTV Unplugged, 1992

Laurie and I didn’t do a whole lot of preparing for Italy last year the way we had for Mexico, when I had to get a passport and we both got hepatitis shots. This time, I bought a carry-on suitcase as well as an Italian phrase book. Everyone who had been to Italy insisted that the locals spoke English, but I didn’t want to rely on that. Besides, it’s rude to go to a foreign country and not try to speak the language—at least enough to get around.

I got the carry-on bag, because Laurie said we wouldn’t want to walk around the various cities with huge suitcases. I was dubious but what did I know? I relented wondering how the heck I could get two weeks’ worth of clothes in there. The only way was to concede that aside from underwear everything would have to be worn twice. No problem as long as I didn’t spill anything.

The travel day was crazy. Actually, it was multiple days. On Friday, Laurie and I worked as normal before heading to O’Hare. We had a 9:30 flight to Heathrow in London, and there were some nerves as to whether it would even come off, because American was canceling flights left and right due to pilots protesting their latest contract offer by calling in “sick.” Fortunately, our pilots were healthy.

We took a 777, and it wasn’t too bad. I zoned out the first couple hours of the flight, but I’m not sure I slept. I had plenty to occupy myself, and I even brought an extra computer battery, so I’d have enough juice to get across the Atlantic.

We arrived in Heathrow early for our three-hour layover, during which I bought a UK power adapter so I could power up my phone and computer as much as possible for the next leg of the trip—the two-hour flight to Milan, which was chosen as the travel hub due to its central location.

We had to switch terminals, so we had to go through security again. However, I didn’t have to take off my shoes or go through an invasive body scanner. Apparently, the Brits aren’t as reflexively afraid of dying the way that Americans have become, so they aren’t as willing to give up their privacy or dignity for a little more safety.

The Brits also aren’t too busy to provide actual customer service. For our flight to Milan, we shifted to British Airways, and the service was like going from night to day. They even fed us—ham sandwiches. Laurie and I stowed ours, because we had lunch at Heathrow. (I had bangers and mash, of course.)

Arriving in Linate airport was like arriving in a different era. First, we disembarked the plane on the tarmac, just like in Leon, Mexico. There’s something I like about going down an airplane’s steps. From there, they piled us on a tram to the airport building.

We passed through customs, and I got to deliver my first “buongiorno” and “grazie.” Customs at Linate was in the baggage-claim area, and aside from the passengers, customs agents and a few token airport employees, there wasn’t a sole there. There was a bathroom for each sex and a couple of vending machines, and that’s it. This was a major metropolitan airport?

When we opened the doors to leave the baggage/customs area, it was like going from black and white to color in The Wizard of Oz. Shops and restaurants were bustling with activity. HERE was the airport.

And here were the hucksters hawking cab rides. Laurie was tipped off to not accept anything from anyone inside the airport but instead head straight outside where a line of taxis awaited. In other words, we went to the people not looking to get our business. With a hearty “prego” from the driver, we headed to the Milan train station. Milan wasn’t our final destination; Venice was.

The train station was even more alive with activity than the airport, and we tried not to stick out like the sore tourists we were. Everything had gone to schedule, so all we had to do was kill another hour until our train.

During that hour, while I was walking around somewhat in a daze, a young guy bumped into me. I don’t think it was anything untoward, but Italy has a pickpocket reputation for a reason. Even if he were trying to, he wouldn’t have gotten anything anyway: Laurie bought us both money belts for the trip, and we put them on in London. I had nothing in my pants pockets.

We boarded the train for our two-hour ride to Venice with the help of a frazzled Italian train employee who directed us on how to validate our tickets and to the correct track. As we pulled out of Milan, we whipped out our saved sandwiches, and they were … really good. I mean legitimately good, not just “good for airline food.” The sandwiches were way better than they needed to be—another plus for British Airways.

I continued to work on some research stuff I brought with me, but I started to nod off here and there. Why not? Local time was about 11 p.m., or 23 as they say in Italy, on Saturday. If you go by the clock, I’d been awake since 6 a.m. Friday—41 hours earlier. OK, so Italy is 7 hours later than Chicago. That’s still a long time.

Finally, we pulled into Venice. I had been told by several members of Laurie’s posse, who are far more worldly than I am, that there’s nothing like arriving to Venice by train. I couldn’t imagine it, but now I was going to see for myself.

We walked through the wide but shallow station out the front doors. The Grand Canal was directly in front of us with boats going by. Across the canal was an old church and apartment buildings alight. My smile widened. If you were to look up Venice in the dictionary, this is exactly what you’d see. We made it.

But we weren’t quite at the end of our travels. We had to take a vaporetto, or water bus, to our hotel. Our language skills being what they are, figuring out which vaporetto to take and from which dock was something of a difficult task, but we managed to pull it off. Riding through Venice at night seemed unreal, like we were on a ride at an amusement park.

When we reached our stop, we had to negotiate the narrow streets—footpaths, really—to reach our hotel, which was a quaint seven-room inn. Somehow, against long odds, we made it and with no serious problems.

Soon, we were in our room, which had a full bathroom and—gloriously so—no TV. We opened the windows so we could hear the water of the canal lapping at the cobblestone streets—Laurie’s insistence at brining only carry-on bags was on the money—and the church bells near Campo Santa Margherita. It was after midnight on Sunday, and our epic three-day excursion came to a quick, sleepy and very satisfactory finish.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

No. 499 – Folk Song

Performer: The Sundays
Songwriters: David Gavurin, Harriet Wheeler
Original Release: Static and Silence
Year: 1997
Definitive Version: None

I started coming out of my post-Debbie-breakup depression at the end of the summer of 2001, and a big reason was my first trip to Las Vegas.

Jin had been going to Las Vegas for about a decade. It started as a trip between just her and a platonic male friend, Timm, and grew to become the Rat Pack Weekend. By the time I scheduled my first excursion, the Rat Pack consisted of nearly two dozen members.

But Jin and I made additional plans. I’d fly to Los Angeles and hang out for a few days; then, we’d drive to the Grand Canyon for a couple days before finally heading to Vegas. Scott and Shani, also making their first trip, were flying in from Cincinnati.

Jin and I had a great time in L.A., and I’ll have more to say about specifics of that part of the vacation another time. In fact, the time in L.A. was so enjoyable that Jin and I began to discuss a possible move by me to her neck of the woods.

Since she moved to L.A. in November 1993, Jin had been trying to get family members to move closer. It was mostly in jest, but now all the stars were aligning. I suddenly had no responsibilities and was looking to move on. She had a house with a spare bedroom. I could earn my keep by cooking and cleaning and maintaining the home, while she worked. She all but demanded that I freeload off her as I plotted my next step, which I was in the process of figuring out.

We listened to Static and Silence a lot during this vacation, and that’s when this song really connected with me. It fit the laid-back vibe I was feeling, and I can even connect it to a sensory memory of how the guest bedroom smells. Jin has two orange trees and one lemon tree in her backyard, so it’s very fragrant—with just a hint of the incense and the ocean in the distance. It drew me in, and I noted with some delight on a recently concluded visit that it smelled just the same.

As you know by now, of course, I didn’t move west—then or later—and I’ll explain how that came to be in the days ahead. This song, however, didn’t get locked into that time, like other songs do.

When Laurie invited me to visit her a third time at New Year’s in 2004-05, we agreed to have a little Christmas gift exchange on New Year’s Day. One of the gifts I got her was a mix tape of songs that she might not know by artists that she loved, like The Sundays. She knew Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, but she didn’t know this album.

I called the mixtape Laurie Tunes, and I wrote a brief passage for each song, not unlike this here blog although far more brief. This was the opening song on that tape.

Laurie loved it, and this past New Year’s, I gave her Laurie Tunes No. 9. It’s now more of a musical review of the past year than anything general, but it’s a gift to which Laurie always looks forward.

I still make the tape, but after about a week, I put the new songs on a thumb drive that we play in our dining-room mini stereo. The drive includes all of the previous Laurie Tunes. When we hit shuffle, we hear songs from all nine versions. But whenever this song comes on, we always note that it was the very first Laurie Tune.

Monday, January 21, 2013

No. 500 – Going Under

Performer: Evanescence
Songwriters: Amy Lee, Ben Moody, David Hodges
Original Release: Fallen
Year: 2003
Definitive Version: None

Paul and Jin set a September 2004 wedding date when they got engaged in 2003. However, because they’re pagans, they wanted to have a handfasting ceremony. Paul’s family is heavily Catholic and Jin’s family—my family—isn’t exactly known for its open-mindedness, so they decided to have the handfasting ceremony separately and in secret.

By secret, I mean only the closest circle of friends and loved ones were invited to attend. I was included, of course, as were Scott, Shani and Matt. (Leah, who wasn’t yet 1, would stay home with Dad and Laura.)

Jin also wanted to invite Casey, but she had reservations. He’s closer to Dad and Laura than anyone, and she wasn’t sure he could keep a secret—even at 16—so she gave him a cover story: He was invited to California to attend Paul’s bachelor party, along with the rest of the family and their friends in L.A. That the weekend just happened to be on the Summer Solstice made no impression with anyone.

I wouldn’t have missed the ceremony for anything, but the Clippers were on the road that weekend in a stroke of good fortune, so I didn’t have to miss any games. Scott and Shani drove up from Cincinnati, dropped off Leah and the four of us flew to L.A. At the time, I had a large suitcase, and I thought it was pointless for me and Casey to have separate luggage, so I had him pack all his stuff in my bag, too. (Matt had flown out from Torch Lake.)

The flight was uneventful, and Paul and Jin greeted us at the airport. We went to baggage claim, and after a fairly long wait, we got Scott’s bag … and Shani’s … and … and … uh oh.

It’s a sinking feeling when you don’t see your suitcase come out onto the carousel, and when the conveyor belt finally shut off, we knew we were in trouble. We went to the customer-service counter and were told that, yes, the bag wasn’t on that flight. (No kidding.) It seems the airline tagged my suitcase for Salt Lake City for reasons only it could fathom. The customer-service rep said the airline would ship it as soon as it could—arriving sometime tomorrow.

Under normal circumstances, this delay would be a nuisance. However, on this trip, it was a real problem. The handfasting wasn’t going to be in L.A. but in Carmel. We needed to get on the road first thing in the morning. Everything Casey and I brought was packed in that suitcase.

There was only one solution: Head to Target and buy underwear and a few other pieces of clothing we could wear up north aside from what we had on. At least then we would have something.

When we got up in the morning, however, we heard from the airline that my suitcase had arrived and it was on its way out to Jin’s house even as we spoke. It turned out we didn’t need our Target clothes after all. Jin said she’d return them, so I’d get my money back—apart from a couple T-shirts Casey and I decided to keep.

Naturally, because it was an airline, it wasn’t exactly United on the spot, so we waited … and waited … and waited. Finally, we couldn’t wait any more. A few people, including Paul and Jin, were going to stay at a campground south of town (the rest stayed at a hotel in Carmel), and the campground registration closed at dusk. We had to get going.

Paul and Jin rented two vans to take everyone up. Paul’s van would haul Scott and Shani and two of Paul and Jin’s friends from L.A. The other van was Jin, Matt, Casey, me and all the luggage that couldn’t fit in Paul’s van. Paul took off to get on the road. We said we’d catch up.

Just as we were about to leave, with me and Casey’s Target clothes after all, the airline van pulled up and gave us our suitcase. (All things considered, I’m surprised it didn’t charge me for the “service.”) OK, off we go.

We took Highway 1 up, which, of course, Is an amazing drive. I had taken it once before all the way from Carmel to L.A. with Dad in 1982 and had gone as far south as Big Sur with Debbie in 1995.

It also can be a slow one due to the windiness of the road and the scenery. At some point, we figured we’d meet up with Paul, yet we never heard from him. He was on a mission. It also didn’t help that after we got north of Santa Barbara, our cellphone reception got sketchy. By the time we hit the cliffside portion of Highway 1, our cellphones were worthless.

Fine. Paul could get to the campgrounds and check in. It was a beautiful day, so we meandered, stopping multiple times along the road for pictures. One time we even saw a whale a ways off the shore.

Everytime we stopped, Casey tried to throw a rock into the ocean. We were right on the edge of the cliff. How difficult could it be? Considering we were probably at least the length of a football field from the water, impossible—at least for him.

It was getting dark when we finally arrived in Carmel, and when we finally were able to get a cell connection in town, or at least enough of one to reconnect with the first van, it was discovered that there had been much tumult. To wit, the passengers in the first van had no idea we were so far behind and couldn’t get reception at all at the campgrounds.

Consequently, Scott was concerned that we had wrecked and did a fair job of convincing himself that all his siblings were dead. He was overjoyed to see us when we showed up at the restaurant where he and Shani were having dinner.

Jin, however, was ticked that Paul had just vanished over the hills instead of stopping at some point to wait for us. When he showed up, Matt, Casey and I went to get our own dinner and left them to talk, and afterward, when I spoke with Jin, there was doubt whether the handfasting even would come off. Maybe all we needed was a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow’s another day.

(To be continued)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

No. 501 – The Outsider

Performer: A Perfect Circle
Songwriters: Billy Howerdel, Maynard James Keenan
Original Release: Thirteenth Step
Year: 2003
Definitive Version: None

To recap: The first meeting between Vicky, with whom Laura’s friend Kathy set me up on a blind date in April 2004, went well. In fact, Kathy was impressed when Vicky told her that I had taken her to an Indian restaurant, because she was a vegetarian. What, she was expecting I’d take her to a steakhouse?

Anyway, when I called Vicky as promised a few days later, she agreed to get together again. This date, if you could call it that, was a quick hitter, although I don’t remember why—probably because it was after a Clippers game, so it was late. Anyway, we decided to meet for a drink in Grandview at Gibby’s (now long gone). I’d never been, but it was Vicky’s suggestion.

I again brought Vicky a little gift. At our lunch date, she disclosed that she liked Tool, which surprised me given their reputation as a guy band but definitely pleased me. I asked if she had the new Perfect Circle album—Thirteenth Step. She said she didn’t, because she didn’t like APC as much as Tool. Interesting, so Vicky liked louder, longer, more challenging music. This bodes well.

But I insisted she should check out Thirteenth Step, because it was more Tool-like than Mer de Noms. So, for our second date, I burned her a copy (for archival purposes.), and I threw in Ænima, Tool’s last album, of course, before Lateralus, which she said she oved.

I again got there first and got us a table. Vicky ran a little late but greeted me warmly with a quick hug and voiced her approval when I presented her my handiwork. She said she definitely would check out Thirteenth Step and let me know what she thought.

The date was fairly short because of the lateness of the hour, but it again seemed to go well. I walked her to her car and asked to see her again. In my mind, it now was time to go on a real date—dinner, a movie, and, well, we’ll see what happens after that. The Clippers started a road trip the Thursday before, so now I had fee time at night.

She agreed and sealed her agreement with a brief but hot makeout session in her car. Hot damn! Next Friday couldn’t come soon enough.

And with that, we’ve reached the midpoint of this here blog--ironically on the occasion of my sister's 45th birthday. We’re halfway home.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

No. 502 – Let’s See Action

Performer: The Who
Songwriter: Pete Townshend
Original Release: Single
Year: 1971
Definitive Version: Live at the Royal Albert Hall, 2003. Eddie Vedder sings the final lines at the all-star gala and completely changes the tone of the song.

In August 2003, I decided to go to Torch Lake for a long weekend just because I could. When you’re your own boss, you set your work schedule however you see fit. I arranged to stay with Doug and Theresa one night. Then the next day, I’d head up to Torch Lake.

The day I left—a brilliant sunny day—I worked out and did a few small chores before leaving and got away a little later than I intended. I needed gas, but I wanted to get going. The Happy Honda could go miles even when the needle hit E, and I figured I had enough gas to get to Toledo before I’d have to fill up.

However, at the last second, I decided to just stop and get gas at my usual station in Lakewood after all. Now I wouldn’t need to stop till I got to Flint. That proved to be an amazingly fortuitous decision.

I detoured west of Toledo rather than go straight up I-75 due to the construction that was encountered during a trip to Detroit in June. Other than that, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary, except that perhaps traffic was a bit lighter around Toledo. I chalked that up to the time of the day: It was mid-afternoon now, about 4.

I got to Flint in good shape. Doug wasn’t home from work yet, and Theresa let me in, asking if I had heard the news. What news? I went into the living room and saw the TV tuned to CNN.

The blackout, the story said, started in upstate New York and quickly rolled west along the Great Lakes, engulfing Cleveland, Toledo and Detroit before then affecting pretty much the entire northeastern seaboard. Flint, obviously, was unaffected, except that because Detroit was, the reports were not to drink the water without boiling it first. I called Dad and Laura up at Torch, and they said they had no problems whatsoever.

Holy crap! When did this start? Not long after I left Cleveland, and the fortuitousness of my early decision became obvious. Gas pumps operate on electricity. If I hadn’t gassed up in Lakewood before I left, I would have been stuck in Toledo with no gas and no way to refill until the power was turned back on. But, because I didn’t wait, I was ahead of the blackout.

It was odd to not have drinking water in the middle of the night that night, but otherwise, it was no big deal. The next day I was at Torch, and it was though nothing was wrong. The issue, of course, was how long would power be out in Cleveland and most specifically Lakewood. There was no sense going home if I couldn’t do anything.

By Monday, the day I would have left anyway, everything apparently was back to normal, so I went home on schedule. But I changed up the drive a bit, because I wanted to stop at a store in the northwest Detroit suburbs. I forget what I wanted to buy. I think it was a particular bottle of wine Laura had recommended, but I’m not sure. I’m fairly sure it was something kitchen-related and I had surfed the Internet to see whether it was something I could pick up along the way.

But what made the shopping destination stand out was the location—Birmingham. In fact, the address was perilously close to West Bloomfield and where Melanie used to live. I was fairly certain the toxic waste from our nuclear meltdown surely had to be cleaned up by now. I, thus, embraced the chance to take a bit of a walk down memory lane—not all the memories were bad.

I even decided to take the route there just as I would have back in 1988, which was a pretty long way out of my way. When I cut east on Rt. 14 off U.S. 23 in Ann Arbor and saw the traffic sign leading to Farmington Hills, that really took me back to the same feelings I had in 1988. The realization made me smile.

I can’t remember now whether I found for what I was shopping, but the trip wasn’t a waste. I didn’t go past Melanie’s house—that would have been too long of a digression from my path—but I did go past a few other places where we had dinner or stopped for ice cream or to shop.

However, I definitely remember that I was listening to Live at the Albert Hall. Scott had burned me a copy (for archival purposes), and I specifically had this song on while I was in Detroit. I hadn’t been a big fan of this song before then, but it hit me like a ton of bricks—particularly, as I mentioned at the top, the final lines. It seemed perfect as 15-year-old memories and thoughts washed over me: Nothing is everything; everything is nothing.


Speaking of meltdowns, when I got home, the power was on, but it had been out long enough in my apartment for the freezer to defrost completely. My produce bin was full of water with floating lettuce decaying in the flood. My freezer and the produce bin were a total loss. Oh well, it certainly could have been worse.

Friday, January 18, 2013

No. 503 – Rattlesnake / No. 503a – Fight the Good Fight

Performer: Live
Songwriters: Ed Kowalczyk, Chad Taylor, Patrick Dahlheimer, Chad Gracey
Original Release: Secret Samadhi
Year: 1997
Definitive Version: None

Performer: Triumph
Songwriters: Rik Emmett, Michael Levine, Gil Moore
Original Release: Allied Forces
Year: 1981
Definitive Version: A Night of Triumph, 2004

As promised at the outset, here’s the first example of a full-blown 1/1A entry where a song joined the list already in progress but must be included. I have at least one more example of this coming.

I’m going to call an audible here and write about the new song—Fight the Good Fight—even though, of course, there’s nothing new about it besides the idea that it should be on this list, and this is where it should go (and I have other songs where the story I would tell for Rattlesnake would work).

In 2010, Mom turned 70, and I thought a good idea for a present for a person who has nothing and wants nothing would be to send her on the train back to California to see Jin and Bridget. She hadn’t seen her granddaughter in a long time, so that seemed as good a reason as any for her to visit.

It had to be the train, because Mom refused to fly. Besides, I’d made that trip: The train was better, as long as you had the time and the money to do it. Jina nd Scott liked the idea and said they wanted in. I had the money and would pay for Mom’s ticket. Scott would contribute by driving Mom from Columbus to Chicago and back, and Jin, of course, would act as hostess.

I didn’t make it for Mom’s birthday specifically; I just announced it then, because I wanted to wait for when Jin was between jobs and could have time to visit. That meant the trip was delayed till August. Mom was surprised but liked the present.

However, in July, Mom called and said she had to refuse the trip, even though she appreciated the gesture. It seemed she had developed a lump in her throat, went to the doctor and had a biopsy of it. It was cancerous. The plan was immediate surgery followed by chemo and radiation. So, you see, Mom said, in her inestimable way, of course, she couldn’t go on a vacation.

Well, this was an unforeseen development. As you can imagine, Mom was pretty upset when she told me, but I remember that I really didn’t think much of it at the time. After all, Mom had kicked lung cancer in the ass more than a decade before (story to come). This was just another bump in the road.

Mom said I didn’t have to do anything. Scott would take care of the transportation to and from the hospital—at least for the surgery—which was fine with me. I took point back in 1999 when I lived in Columbus. Scott was the closest.

Well, we’ll just have to beat this thing like the last time, I said. And when you do, the trip to L.A. will be waiting—incentive to fight the good fight and win, again.

Naturally, that’s what I think of when I hear this song, although I suppose to a certain extent I think about the time Scott and I went to Toronto in 1991. We saw a Blue Jays game, and Rik Emmett sang O Canada before the game, which was the first time I ever saw a celebrity—or at least one I cared about—sing a national anthem in person. It wasn’t Geddy Lee, but it still was cool.

No. 502 – Let’s See Action

Performer: The Who

Thursday, January 17, 2013

No 504 – Nearly Lost You

Performer: Screaming Trees
Songwriters: Gary Lee Conner, Van Conner, Mark Lanegan
Original Release: Sweet Oblivion
Year: 1992
Definitive Version: None

Scott and I had such an excellent time in Toronto in 1992 (story or stories to come) that we decided to do it again the next year, and the destination was obvious: Seattle. I always wanted to go anyway, but now that it was the music capital of the world, that added emphasis to the decision.

Although Seattle might have been the destination, it was never going to be the whole of the trip. The plan was to fly to Seattle from Chicago and then drive back and see everything in between. Scott liked it. In retrospect, that trip was too rich for his blood. He was only 21 and still in college. But at the time, he wanted to do it. The whole adventure has been immortalized as The Seattle Trip.

So I booked the flight for July 1993. A one-way flight was, like, $500 per person. A round-trip was $200. I booked two round-trip flights, and we’d just unfortunately miss the return flight. (Accidents happen.) Because this was pre-9/11, you could do stuff like that. The airline had its money; it didn’t care. Then I booked the rental car.

As I mentioned, the first part of the trip—at least for me—was a weekend in Chicago for the National. I did my usual forced turnaround on a Thursday, getting up at 11, which was a little earlier than usual, to drive to Chicago, so Dave and I could have some card show time that night. This fact would be important later.

We stayed with Jin, and although we didn’t have to deal with any funky roommates this time, we were on the clock. Back then, the National was a big deal, and card companies held all sorts of press announcements. Because Dave and I were card columnists for The Journal, Dave wanted to hit them all—including Donruss’s 7 a.m. breakfast to announce its entry into the hockey-card market. Working on 2 hours’ sleep, I was nonplussed, but, like the man said, I’ll get all the sleep I need when I’m dead, so I agreed.

Actually, I remember the press conferences better than I do the actual card show. The Score press conference featured the company proudly introducing Alexandre Daigle, the No. 1 NHL draft pick that year and the next hot thing, as official spokesmen. He had been well-coached by the company, because when Dave asked him what cards he collected when he was a kid, Daigle said, Score cards. Score had been in the business only the past three years. Daigle was only 18, after all, but still …

Anyway, that night, we went to see the White Sox, accompanied by Jin, which meant another long day and late night. By Saturday, I was pretty whipped after getting a total of 14 hours the previous three nights. No matter, Scott was driving from Indiana that day to pick me up at McCormick Place and head to O’Hare. I was jacked up.

As I recall, traffic was brutal on the Kennedy until we got to the Junction, but we gave ourselves plenty of lead time to park the car in a distant lot. Back then, security was a quick walk through the metal detectors, so that wasn’t a problem.

I booked the least expensive flight I could. We flew to Minneapolis, where we had a bit of a layover and then changed planes to Seattle. By the time we got to Seattle, it was after 10 p.m., which meant it was after midnight, Chicago time, and 1 a.m., according to my body.

We jumped in the car and headed off to the hotel, which we hadn’t prebooked. Scott had a specific hotel in mind on the other side of Lake Washington, but I just figured we’d find something after we got away from the airport, a Red Roof, anything.

It turned out that there was nothing along the way and soon we were driving through downtown Seattle. OK, let’s try the burbs. There has to be something. Nope. We made a loop around Lake Washington. We stopped twice. One place was too funky; the other was too expensive for Scott. Scott kept saying, let’s just go to the place I found.

Finally, after at least an hour of driving around Seattle, we found Scott’s place and called it a night. All the while, we had KND on the car radio, which played almost nothing but local music. Of course, in Seattle, local music meant Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and, of course, Screaming Trees, so it wasn’t all bad.

When we hit the rack, it was about midnight local time. I was zonked, and tomorrow was a big day.

(To be continued)