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.

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