Tuesday, February 25, 2014

No. 100 – Available Light

Performer: Rush
Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart
Original Release: Presto
Year: 1989
Definitive Version: None.

Originally, when I got to my top 100, I had planned to take to Twitter to publicize the list but also to learn the vagaries of Twitter for professional purposes. I decided against that, primarily because I could see nothing good come from me being on Twitter. If I need to learn it for work, I can, in probably an hour or so.

I also had thought about writing a bit more about each song, explaining why it belongs in my top 100. I decided against that, too, at least as a formulaic entry, because my list is just that—mine. It’s subjective to the point where my reasons for why, say, this song is No. 100 and not 102 or 98 are ridiculous. Besides, I don’t want to have to say, “I love its majestic fade …” and sound any more like a pretentious hack than I do already.

In the end, I would just say … if you like any of the bands that I list, don’t take my word for it. Find the actual song and give it a listen. Trust me: If you like Rush, you’ll like Available Light. It might be their most obscure song, and it doesn’t sound like anything else they’ve done—what other Rush song features a piano?—yet … it does. And what the hell, the majesty of Available Light’s fade is pretty uplifting, if I may don my Lester Bangs cap for a second.

When we last left this intrepid explorer in October 1990, he was taking in Murnane Field in Utica, N.Y., hot on the heels of his first visit to Cooperstown.

My next stop was Toronto, and I mean stop in the strictest sense of the word. Because of car trouble (good ol’ No. 597), I didn’t have enough time to actually spend the night in Toronto, which was just enough out of the way to make a longer visit unworkable.

So my first trip to Bob & Doug’s hometown essentially became a trip up the CN Tower. I paid both fares, so I could go to the second observation deck, the SkyPod, which at 1,467 feet was taller than the Sears Tower. I took a bunch of pics.

As daylight faded, I headed north on the 400 to Barrie and my final destination for the day in Collingwood. I’d never been to the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron, and I wanted to check it out simply because I’d never seen it before.

Collingwood is a tiny town on the bay, and it reminded me a lot of the small towns in northern Michigan I knew and loved. After I checked in at my motel, I wanted to go out and hike around the town. The next day I’d knock around on the lake.

I went only as far as a nearby sandwich joint to get carryout for dinner, sitting on my motel bed as I watched a TV station that showed an odd amalgamation of U.S. and Canadian shows, including The Simpsons. Instead of hiking around Collingswood, I opened a box of Upper Deck baseball cards I’d bought before embarking on my trip.

The reason why my plans changed and I became a shut-in was simple: I was finished with being on vacation. I’d been excited to see the Hall of Fame, sure, and I loved wandering the countryside, driving through small towns and seeing things I’d never seen before, like Niagara Falls, but I suddenly was struck by the absurdity of it all.

My Cooperstown trip had been the second vacation I’d taken by myself (the first being Colorado Springs the year before), and it was the second vacation where I took a lot of photos and had a lot of stories to show and tell … no one. I mean, who whips out pictures of solo vacations? I can see it if it’s someplace exotic, like Rome, but Colorado Springs and Cooperstown? No way.

It had been two years since I’d had a real girlfriend, and I had no real prospects that this was going to change any time soon. I had no travel companion. I felt very isolated and alone. I felt very depressed. (And not getting a $10 Kevin Maas—definitely at the time—in my UD box didn’t help.)

I felt no better the next morning when I awoke, so instead of wandering around Lake Huron and then up in the thumb of Michigan, as I originally planned, I just drove straight home to Grand Blanc, a day early. It was a Friday, and I would have a couple days to myself before going back to work—all the better for sulking and playing Nintendo. I decided on that drive that I’d never take another solo vacation anywhere. (That vow, kind of, still holds as long as you don’t count trips to card shows or SABR conventions.)

While I unloaded my car, my phone rang. Probably a solicitor or someone else I didn’t want to talk to right then. I’d let the answering machine get it. I brought in my suitcase.

As I flopped the suitcase on my bed, the cheery voice at the other end of the line said, “Hey man! Just wanted to leave a message. So are the Reds going to do it tonight?”

Oh yeah, the playoffs. I’d listened to the Reds win Game 4 in Cooperstown to get one win away from the World Series, but then the Pirates won Game 5, and I’d kind of forgotten about it.

I picked up the phone as Dave was in midsentence. “Hello?” “Hey man … you’re HOME? I thought you weren’t getting in till tomorrow!?” I replied blankly that my plans had changed.

“Well, what are you doing over there when you could be over here watching the Reds win the pennant with me?”

I smiled. Yeah, that sounded real good to me, so I changed my plans for the second time that day.

We had pizza and beer (Dave had pop; I brought the beer) as he, Julie and I watched the Reds in fact win the National League pennant that night. My funk from earlier that day and the end of my latest vacation had dissipated, and a friend proved to me when I really was in need that he was a good friend, indeed.

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