Performer: George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars
Songwriters: George Clinton, Bernie Worrell
Original Release: Cosmic Slop (Funkadelic)
Definitive Version: Live at the Beverly Theatre in Hollywood, 1991
I had this big, long-winded philosophical think piece going regarding the tribal mentality of rock fans, the divide-and-conquer nature of the music business and how it relates to this song, which was introduced to me by my funky, funky Journal sports compadre, Brett, but it was turning into a big pile of un-cosmic slop. So, as a good editor would do—and I’m a good editor—I junked the excess word count and pared back to basics.
Laurie likes to say that Chicago is the biggest little town in the world. What she means is that she always comes across someone she knows, and for the first year we met, it seemed like that happened all the time: We’d be out and someone would come up to her who knew her from somewhere. She said that never happened to her in Kansas City, which, although still big, of course, is less than half the size of Chicago.
Jim Abbott can count on his right hand the number of times that happened to me. In other words, it never happened to me—not when I lived in Columbus, when I knew a lot more people and it was one-sixth the size of Chicago; not in Flint which was one-sixth the size of Columbus; and not in New Buffalo, which was one-sixth the size of Flint. Well, OK, it did happen in New Buffalo a bit, but only because, as the public face of Harbor Country News, I was a minor celebrity.
In 2007, Laurie and I went back to Harbor Country for Memorial Day weekend. This time I was fully aware of the trip ahead of time. We stayed at the same place—The Firefly in Union Pier—and we even stayed in the same room. There was a bit of nervousness when we arrived, because the inn-keeper couldn’t find our reservation at first and had mumbled something about renting that suite to someone else. I don’t know if she ever found it or just relented because it was late at night when we got there, and the room was available.
We awoke the next morning to someone trying to come in our front door. It was locked, and after a while whoever it was went away. We surmised that it probably were the people who had booked our room due to the inn-keeper’s snafu, but we didn’t answer it. We were here first, and possession is nine-tenths of the law.
That Saturday, we did many of the same things as during my birthday celebration in 2005: We hiked along the Union Pier beach in the morning and went into New Buffalo for Redamak’s (of course). That night, Saturday night, we were going to check out Timothy’s in the Gordon Beach Inn, which Laurie had read about and wanted to try. It was new since I had lived in New Buffalo nearly two decades before, so I didn’t know anything about it.
As we were heading back to our room to clean up that afternoon, we passed a large group of people hanging out in the back porch of their room and I heard someone say the word, “Will.” That was my name, but I didn’t know of them, so I kept going. Then I heard it again. OK, this time I turned around.
Sure enough it WAS someone calling for me. It was my aunt Nan’s oldest daughter—Annie. What are you doing here? She said that she and a bunch of her friends, who lived in Chicago, wanted to spend Memorial Day weekend in Union Pier and she joined the crew. How about that?
Yeah, she said, and when we got to our room, someone was already in it. Yep, my cousin’s crew were the ones trying to get in our room that morning. Well, we had a good laugh about that, and it turns out it worked out for them, because they had a group of six and they were able to rent an empty two-bedroom suite. Ours was only a one-bedroom.
Afterward, Laurie said, see? Yes, Harbor Country isn’t exactly Chicago, but it is a vacation spot for Chicagoans. Laurie said it counted—an extension of the biggest little town in the world.
That night, as we drove to Timothy’s, which turned out to be an excellent fish place, I debuted a mix CD I had made not long before the trip that included this song. So our trip back to Harbor Country in 2007, along with serendipity, is what I think about when I hear it.
OK, I also think about tribalism, divide-and-conquer music magnates and my old, funky friend Brett, but then you knew that already.