Tuesday, April 30, 2013

No. 401 – Somewhere Down That Crazy River

Performer: Robbie Robertson
Songwriters: Robbie Robertson, Martin Page
Original Release: Robbie Robertson
Year: 1987
Definitive Version: None

When I left the Daily Herald for the Flint Journal in 1989, I left behind some unfinished business, as I mentioned.

Sometime after I had moved, Sara called me while I was at work. I was surprised and pleased to hear from her, and a part of me thought, well, maybe this could work out even though the rest of me knew this was ridiculous. Herald City was a six-hour drive from Flint. This wasn’t going to happen, but rather than leaving well enough alone, I entertained the idea.

That year, I spent Christmas again with Bob’s family in New Buffalo. Bob had been my photographer at Harbor Country News, and for practical reasons—I didn’t have enough time off to go home—I stayed with his family for Christmas in 1988 and had such a good time that I decided to stay again in 1989.

This time I had an agenda: On Christmas, when they went to visit extended family, I could drive to Chicago and see Jin, who had moved there just before I left for Flint, as I mentioned, and Sara.

Jin also couldn’t make it home, so getting there would be a chance for her to at least see someone on Christmas. We planned to get together during the afternoon, and then I would head to Sara’s place for dinner.

The day started out fine. Bob’s brother is autistic, and I brought him an old phone book from Flint—he reads them, like Rain Man—and that present went over great. Then it was time to head out.

The weather was cold but clear, and I arrived about 2. I think I mentioned this, but Jin moved to Chicago in the fall to attend Columbia College and pursue a degree in film. That was her passion. She lived in a residence apartment building, like a high-rise dorm, close to the Gold Coast.

I went to her place, and we hiked around to find somewhere that was open for lunch. I didn’t want to eat, because I had another meal coming in a few hours, but obviously this was going to be Jin’s Christmas dinner, so I had to at least go out—and pick up the tab.

I don’t quite remember the place where we ended up after finding few things that were open in the area—I think it was a hot dog stand. We ate and went back to her residence for a very make-shift Christmas in the lobby.

Jin was appreciative that I came to see her, but I felt guilty. I should have invited her to New Buffalo for Christmas Eve. It would have been a big imposition, but I’m sure Bob’s family would’ve said yes. I also was concerned about the drive. It had been very snowy and icy when I drove over from Flint. That’s why I didn’t do it, but, sitting in that lobby, knowing I had to leave and feeling Jin’s loneliness, I was sorry I hadn’t at least asked. It’s something I regret to this day.

With that already in my back pocket, I headed out to Sara’s place in Palatine. She was going to make dinner, and, well, maybe I wouldn’t be driving back to New Buffalo that night if the dessert was what I was hoping it would be.

We talked for a bit and then she went to cook dinner while I sat in her living room. This was before I had discovered wine, so I wasn’t really much into the appetizers scene and hanging out and eating cheese and crackers like I would be later. Sara put on Robbie Robertson.

I don’t know why I stayed in Sara’s living room—specifically, as in she told me to stay there while she finished cooking; or philosophically, as in why the hell am I in here when she’s in there? I guess I already felt the vibe that it wasn’t going to happen between us, and I came to quickly feel that this visit had been a big mistake. Even more, I was regretting I didn’t just spend the whole day with Jin.

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, I stopped at a pay phone to tell Bob I was driving back to New Buffalo that night after all.

Whenever I heard this song, it conjured memories of a day I really wish I could have had over. It was not one of my better days—then or in retrospect.

About a year and a half later, Dave’s brother-in-law visited him in Flint, and Dave decided it would be fun to take him to Windsor and partake of Canadian culture and liberality with regards to the imbibing age. He invited me along.

It was the first time I had been to a gentlemen’s club, let alone Dave’s brother-in-law. We went to the Million Dollar Saloon, and I’ll never forget it. We walked in, led by a tuxedo-clad doorman. Neon glowed and laser lights flared out near the ceiling of the open two-story room as surprisingly and stunningly beautiful women danced totally nude sloooooowly … to this song.

I never would’ve guessed that this song would be played in a strip club. Some hair metal or hip hop, sure, but not this languid tune. It actually was the right call, because it was hot.

And how I came to view this song in my mind had completely changed.

600 down, 400 to go.

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