Wednesday, February 20, 2013

No. 470 – Black Magic Woman / Gypsy Queen

Performer: Santana
Songwriters: Peter Green, Gabor Szabo
Original Release: Abraxas
Year: 1970
Definitive Version: Moonflower, 1977, but really almost any live version will do.

After my sophomore year of living in an off-campus house, there was no going back to the dorms if I could help it.

Fortunately, I met a guy—the general manager of WNDY, in fact—who also was looking for an off-campus living arrangement, so I was all set for my junior year. Unfortunately, he bailed from Wabash … in August, just two weeks before school started. (He either couldn’t get the dough or the grades; he never said which.)

I was screwed. I drove over to Wabash that weekend to try and find an apartment—something cheap enough I could swing by myself. Anything that was single occupancy was taken. I didn’t see that I had a choice: I went to the Dean’s office to get a dorm application. The secretary said she wasn’t sure they even had any openings, but she assured me they would make some arrangement.

Because I went over and back the same day, Beth was allowed to go with me. On the drive home, we went through a huge thunderstorm that forced me to pull over (the last time I ever would). We were parked off an exit just inside the Ohio border when we saw a lightning bolt hit a gas-station sign across the road. It caused the digital numbers to start changing on their own.

A couple days later, lightning struck twice. I got a call from Wabash, and they in fact had an opening at Martindale. I had been in Martindale only once before, and it was like the prison of the school—all dark cement blocks—and not nearly as nice as Wolcott was. Hey, what choice did I have?

But, the secretary added, the other day a student came into the office who was looking for a third student to share rent in an apartment … Oh? She gave me the contact information.

It was a senior named Brian, whom I knew from a class my freshman year. He had studied abroad last year, and he was rooming with a friend named Todd, whom I knew from my Wolcott days. (When your college is 700 students strong, there are few people you never run across at least once.) They had a line on three-person furnished apartment on Grant Avenue and couldn’t find a third (to keep rent at $150 per person instead of $225). Would I be interested?

Sight unseen, I took it. I didn’t have to look at it. I knew where it was—across the side street from the Fiji house—and I knew what the house looked like. I just assumed that if it were a pit inside, these guys wouldn’t have taken it. I called the college secretary and said I didn’t need the dorm room.

We had the top two floors of a three-story house, with our own separate entrance. We had an eat-in kitchen, a living room and one bathroom. Todd would be there first and take the lone second-floor bedroom, Brian had said. Brian was taking the room on the third floor. Being the low man on the totem pole, I got the area at the top of the third-floor stairs. It wasn’t a room with a door, per se, just a large landing. But it had room for a double bed and a dresser. Whatever, I was sure it beat being in Martindale.

I had to be at school a week early for the first football game of the season, so I moved in the following weekend. Soon after the move, I bought Moonflower at the college bookstore, and that’s what I listened to as I set up the living quarters for my junior year.

In the span of 10 days, I had gone from discovering I had no roommate to not having a place to live to going back to the dorms to ending up in an apartment right across the street from the college. It might not have been an ideal situation, but I certainly wasn’t complaining.

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