Saturday, April 27, 2013

No. 404 – Astronomy Domine

Performer: Pink Floyd
Songwriter: Syd Barrett
Original Release: Ummagumma*
Year: 1969
Definitive Version: Take It Back single, 1994

* Of course, this song originally was released on The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, 1967, except for reasons that I’m unaware, it was left off the U.S. version and didn’t debut here until Ummagumma—and then only as a live version.

The first time I ever heard this song was at the Mistake by the Lake show Memorial Day weekend 1994. The second time I heard it was three days later at a nearly identical concert in the Horseshoe (both already covered).

The third time I heard it was at Torch Lake on the Fourth of July. Scott bought the Take It Back single, and he couldn’t wait to play me the B side. At one point, during the day’s festivities, he took me out to his car, told me—as we did when we wanted to play something unknown for the other—to just shut up and listen.

I recognized it was a live version of this song, and Scott told me it had been recorded in Miami on the first night of The Division Bell tour. That was in March. I was pretty amazed that Pink Floyd turned it around that quickly, and I promptly demanded a copy, which Scott made for me at the lake. After that, I heard it a lot.

The Fourth of July 1994 wasn’t the last time I was at Torch Lake until after I broke up with Debbie, but it was the last time that I was there with full family privileges. (In fact, it was less than a week before Debbie and I went out on our first non-date date.)

I left for the lake the day after Red White & Boom, which is Columbus’ downtown fireworks show. I had to work that night, but Paul let Tom and me go as soon as we sent the pages to press, so we could beat the traffic. That was appreciated considering that 200,000 people pack Downtown, and traffic is a huge nightmare.

I had a date—a pre-date date, actually—that night, but I don’t remember any details other than we met at Stauf’s after Red, White & Boom. Now that I think about it, it might have been Debbie’s friend whom I met in April. No matter. The next morning I was on the road.

I might have mentioned this before, so forgive the repetition, but being at Torch Lake traditionally revolved around activities at the Yacht Club. In 1994, Dad decided—at my prompting, he later said—to get back into serious competitive E-scow sailing while he still was young enough to do it. That was good news, because that meant he would be around less to pester Scott and me to rush down to the Club. Everything’s always more fun if you don’t feel like you HAVE to do it.

Scott and I went to the club for lunch and the races, and it was a fine but fairly nondescript day. That night, Dad and Laura hosted a cookout for the aunts and cousins at their place in the compound. While everyone was out chatting as Dad fired up the grills, I pulled Scott aside. It was time to properly toast the holiday.

Over Memorial Day weekend, at the second 500 barbecue, we tried a drink recipe that we had known about for years. It’s an Uncle Slam, and it was introduced by Steve Dahl on the Steve & Garry show in 1987. It’s sloe gin, cream and blue curacao—red, white and blue—served over a spoon in a shot glass to create layers. You toast to the holiday and shoot the drink. Scott and I break it out on three days only: Memorial Day, the Fourth and Labor Day.

I brought the fixins to Torch, so Scott and I could continue the new tradition. With a celebratory “Happy Fourth of July,” the fruity ice-creamy drink went down the hatch. Yum. Scott then asked if I would make one for Ted, who was engaged to a cousin and a drinking buddy of Scott’s at the lake. Sure, why not?

Of course, you can’t drink alone, so I made another for myself. He liked it. Then Amy, his fiancée, came in, saw me making round 2 for Scott and asked what it was. When I explained it, she said she wanted to try one. Happy Fourth of July … Boom! She loved it.

By now, dinner was drawing closer and more adult cousins came inside to start setting up salads and whatnot and saw what we were up to. You want one? Next thing I know I was making them for even the AUNTS, whom as far as I knew never drank except for a single glass of wine at dinner. They shot Uncle Slams while my grandfather sat outside shaking his head and muttering, “my family …”

(I found out later that he loved that everyone was having so much fun. It was the party that we couldn’t have at a cousin’s wedding in June right after my grandmother died.)

After a glorious dinner of brats, a makeshift baseball game using tennis balls started on the wide expanse of the compound lawn as the sun began to set. I don’t remember how it got started, but I remember that, like with the Uncle Slams, Scott and I were right in the thick of it. Everyone just cycled back and forth, hitting and pitching, nothing formal, and more people, like the little kids, kept joining in or just watched.

At one point, Rob, who was the second-biggest baseball fan in the family after me, was on the mound and I was at the plate. It wasn’t truly competitive, but the energy level was up just a bit, and he plunked me with a pitch. This drew a few “woahs” and calls to charge the mound from the on-lookers, but I just held up my hand. No, I said. I get my revenge the old-fashioned way.

The next pitch I hammered and Scott, playing the outfield, just turned and watched it go—sailing across the entire yard until it landed with a splash in the well-spring pond at the edge of the property. With a wink at the crowd and a flip of the bat, I trotted the imaginary bases. Rob threw his mitt at me.

By now, it was getting dark, which meant it was time to haul out the fireworks. Scott brought some big ones courtesy of Sheltons (where else?) in Indiana to add to the usual cannonade of small stuff that Dad had. The grand finale was the biggest seen yet—and forever raised the bar of family fireworks showings.

We ended the night sitting around a huge bonfire, shooting the breeze on what had been a perfect Torch Lake day. As others peeled off, Scott pulled me aside to say how awesome the day had been. Scott felt that between Matt and Casey and the various goings on of the extended family that he was something of an afterthought in the family. Today, he was the center of attention.

And I was, too, briefly. I wouldn’t be again—at least in person—for another seven years.

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