Sunday, May 19, 2013

No. 382 – One Simple Thing

Performer: The Stabilizers
Songwriters: Dave Christenson, Rich Nevens
Original Release: Tyranny
Year: 1986
Definitive Version: None

This has to be one of the most obscure songs on this here list, certainly top three. The Stabilizers had a career that lasted about as long as a mayfly’s life cycle. The only reason I know this song is because Steve & Garry used to play it quite a bit in 1987. I liked it and taped it. (When Napster and iTunes came along more than a decade later, I had Scott track this track down for me.)

During the time, as I mentioned a long time ago, I was going with regularity to a Fifties bar in Lincoln Park called Jukebox Saturday Night. Cindy, as was her wont, tried to organize another office party there awhile after the time Sasha and I hooked up, but not a lot of people were available. I was game—what else did I have to do that night?

I took the L, and when I got off at Fullerton, it started to sprinkle. By the time I got to Jukebox, it began to rain for real.

Cindy and I danced a bit, and I hung out long enough to have a few beers and get a good buzz on. (Back then a couple beers was all that took.) It was starting to get late, and tomorrow was a workday, so Cindy and I called it a night around 10, I think. When we left, it was pouring. I could see out the windows, and it had been raining hard the whole time we were at Jukebox.

Because I was 23, it hadn’t occurred to me to bring an umbrella or jacket. The walk to the Fullerton L wasn’t far. I ran as fast as I could, stopping under tall trees for a breather, but I was pretty wet as I piled on to the L.

I don’t know whether it was the exertion or the alcohol or both, but when I got on the train and slumped in my bench seat, I fell asleep almost immediately. That’s not a good thing to do when you’re on the L: You’re an easy target, and you don’t know who might come up and hassle you. But, again, I was 23. All that concerned me was how tired and buzzy I felt. So I passed out on the train.

Howard—my stop—is the last stop on the red line, which wasn’t color-coded back then. I suppose I could relax, because I didn’t need to pay attention to where I was getting off. I’d get off when the train stopped. I must have slept the entire way, because the next thing I remember, the train was stopped, the doors were open, and I was the only one on the train.

And it still was pouring. By pouring I mean like someone turned on not a shower but millions of faucets. I had never seen a rain that was this hard and lasted for this long before. The only time I saw anything approach this was during a thunderstorm, but even then, the rain doesn’t come down in sheets for this long. On this night, there was no wind, and I don’t remember any lightning either. It was just water, water, everywhere.

Well, the run to the Fullerton L wasn’t a big deal, but the route home from the Howard stop was going to be a chore. First, it was much longer. Second, it was wide open—no trees to partially block the rain. Third, it wasn’t the best neighborhood to be in at night, but given the weather, I was the least concerned about that aspect.

I still was a bit tipsy when I pushed out of the station sprinting for the first doorway I could find that might provide a respite. I stopped for a breather, then made my way to the next one. I don’t know why I bothered, because I was completely drenched by the time I was a quarter of the way home. It took awhile, but I finally completed the milelong walk/run home. The rain hadn’t let up the entire time.

I went into my bathroom to dry off, and it was only then that I realized I didn’t have my glasses. When I hiked to the Fullerton L, it was raining hard enough that my glasses got streaked like a windshield with no wipers. I could see more clearly if I took them off. When I got off the train at Howard, I put my glasses in my shirt pocket. When I took my shirt off, they were no longer in the pocket. They must have fallen out somewhere along the way. Oh crap!

I had a backup pair, true, but they were a backup pair for a reason—they were 6 months old. They wouldn’t be good enough to read anything on a computer screen. I had to have my lost glasses, so there was only one solution, even though it was close to midnight, and I had to be up for my YMCA gig downtown at 6 the next morning—I had to go back out into the monsoon and look for my glasses. I changed into dry clothes, put on my backup pair, grabbed an umbrella and a flashlight, jumped in my car and headed out.

Considering my condition earlier in the evening—tipsy enough to have passed out on the L—going out in my car might not have been the best idea, but I was fine. I really was. I think from the running and the rain, I had burned up all the alcohol in my system (and there wasn’t much anyway). I felt fine and alert. Besides I wasn’t going to drive far.

I went down Howard close to the station and parked on the side of the road. No one, and I mean no one, was out that night. I put up my umbrella and shined my flashlight on the ground, walking slowly. I would do this the whole route home if necessary. All the while, the rain continued to fall.

Somehow, I found my glasses almost right away—close to the Howard L stop. Apparently, they bounced out of my shirt pocket almost right away, and in my tipsiness, I didn’t notice. They were just sitting on the sidewalk, and they seemed to be fine—intact, no scratches on the lenses. No one had been out, so no one stepped on them or took them. What a break. I climbed into bed feeling I really dodged a bullet.

When I awoke, it still was raining—not as hard and heavy as the last night but still steady. I turned on the Loop, to Johnny B’s show, as I sometimes did (I wasn’t as much of a fan of his), and people were calling in saying the Kennedy and Eisenwhower were shut down; they were swimming in the pudles under the viaducts. No one was able to get to work. I shut off the radio and went to work.

The L was running—It was the L, as in elevated—even though a puddle the size of Lake Michigan had formed INSIDE the Howard station. It didn’t stop raining until long after I arrived at work to find I had been about the only one there. The office wasn’t closed, but anyone who couldn’t take public transportation couldn’t make it. Chicago essentially had been shut down.

The final tally was 9.35 inches in less than 12 hours—a record that might never be approached. I remember that people were saying that if it had been snow, we would have had 9 FEET of snow, which is ridiculous. The snow couldn’t possibly fall as fast and heavy in the same amount of time. But it was a staggering total.

A month ago, we had a huge rain in Chicago that shut down the Edens and Ike and caused large amounts of flooding in the area. I was an hour late to work and got there only because I took the train. It was a mess, but at least I didn’t lose my glasses this time. The rain in that 24-hour period: a mere 5 inches.

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