Tuesday, April 2, 2013

No. 429 – Soulful Terrain

Performer: Eric Johnson
Songwriter: Eric Johnson
Original Release: Tones
Year: 1986
Definitive Version: none

When I went to North Carolina in 1992 to attend my friend Matt’s ordination, I had an agenda for the day I arrived beyond just making it to where Matt lived, a teeny town just East of the Research Triangle whose name has been lost of the sands of time. There was no way I couldn’t pass through without stopping at Durham Athletic Park.

Bull Durham wasn’t yet my all-time favorite movie, but it was on its way to becoming that. It is, in my inexpert opinion, the best baseball movie ever made. I’ve seen it 100 times, I would bet, and at one time I probably could’ve recited the entire movie. (I haven’t seen it in a long time, so I probably could recite only 70 percent of it now.) In 1992, I had a chance to see where Crash and Nuke and Annie mixed it up, and I wasn’t going to pass up that opportunity.

I rolled up in front of DAP at about noon, and the first thing I noticed when I got out of the car was that I wasn’t in Michigan any more. It must have been at least 70—it had been about 30 when I left—so the first order of business was to change into shorts.

The second order of business was to hike around the park with my camera. I don’t know if this was typical, but the park was open, so anyone—like, say, some schlub from Michigan—could just wander around inside. I took pictures, noting the bull on the right-field wall. There was evidence that the yard was being spruced up for the upcoming season—fresh paint here and there, new sod. I was the only one there, and when I left, I swiped a chip of brick that had the signature Durham Bulls blue paint on it for my shadow box.

Then it was off to Matt’s town. As I mentioned, Matt knew I was coming, so he wasn’t surprised to see me, but he was pleased all the same. He couldn’t get over that I’d drive all the way down from Michigan. Well, you sent me an invitation. Yeah, but still …

There was no question but I would stay with him and his very pregnant wife—her baby shower was that night—and we spent the day hiking around the area. Matt showed me where he had buried Ziggy, who had died the previous year after 15 years—one of which was spent as a Wabash campus dog in our senior-year apartment. It was in a woods next to a pond, and it seemed like a good place for her to be.

Matt had a cookout for dinner, and I went with him to his shower next door. He had to go, and I was the only other man there, which led to some tittering, but I didn’t have anything better to do, so why not partake of fresh lemonade and cake?

The next day was Matt’s ordination, and although it was in a Presbyterian church, because it was in the south, the music was a bit more groovy. The neighbor who threw the shower sat next to me during the ceremony, and she was into it, swaying and proclaiming as she sang in the Baptist tradition. I was more like Eddie Izzard in Dress to Kill. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about.

We had another cookout that night for dinner, and with a large chunk of Matt’s family descending on the house, I was shunted to a daybed in the living room that night, but I didn’t need great accommodations anyway.

And just like that, I was off again, heading back to Flint with a planned stop in West Virginia. It had been no trouble for me, but my attendance—I was the only of Matt’s friends he had invited who came down—was a huge deal to Matt. We had kept in pretty good touch after graduation, but our friendship picked up after my visit.

A couple years later, he moved back home—to Delaware, Ohio—and our friendship flourished then. I just heard from Matt not long ago after a fairly long break in communication, and it’s good to know I still have friends in high places.

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