Friday, February 21, 2014

No. 104 – Fallen Angel

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

After I took the job at The Flint Journal, it didn’t take long for me to climb out of the credit-card debt that paying for two transmissions—as well as an ill-chosen video-dating scheme—had accumulated. One of the first purchases I made when I finally got my head above water was a CD player, and not just any CD player, but one that had a six-disc cartridge that cost $300.

Naturally, that meant I had to upgrade all my favorite albums to CDs. The first one I bought, believe it or not, wasn’t Quadrophenia, my favorite album, but Led Zeppelin IV. Now that I think about it, that isn’t all that surprising.

I also bought some new stuff that I didn’t have either on tape or record. One of those was Robbie Robertson, which I knew from a disappointing evening the previous Christmas (good ol' No. 401). In particular, I remembered this song with Peter Gabriel on soaring background vocals. Consequently, that album—and Fallen Angel in particular—was a constant play on my CD player and, after making a copy, on the tape deck of my car, when I went to Torch Lake in August 1990.

For several reasons, that trip to Torch Lake continues to stand out vividly in my memory banks. In fact, it might have been my favorite visit before 2004. One of the reasons had to do with baseball cards.

I drove home to Columbus from Grand Blanc to see Rush for the first time in June 1990, as I mentioned. The next day, before I headed back north, Jin took me to a warehouse store in town. Jin said she wanted to pick up some bulk supplies cheap before heading back to Chicago, and did I want to come, too?

I’d never heard of such a store, where you could buy merchandise in bulk, like unopened boxes of Snickers bars. Well, if it had boxes of Snickers bars, was it possible that the store had, say, unopened boxes of baseball cards? Jin said it was possible. OK. I’ll come along then just head back to Grand Blanc from there.

I don’t think the store was a Sam’s Club, but it might have been. (I hadn’t yet self-imposed my ban on all things Wal-Mart.) The store was on Indianola Avenue, not far from where I would live more than a decade later. It was small and seemed a bit more dingy than the Sam’s Club store I went to years later.

I went straight to the candy aisle, and sure enough: Just like a drugstore, there were unopened box of Topps cellophane packs alongside boxes of Juicy Fruit gum and Lemonheads. The price: $18. Sweet!

Buying that box marked a turning point in my card-collecting philosophy, or even a returning point, if you will. When I was 12, I stopped trying to build sets through opening packs. I still liked to open the packs themselves and get a whiff of that sweet, sweet bubble-gum dust, but more often than not, I’d just buy the entire set through the mail from some dealer I found in The Sporting News. It was more cost-efficient.

But now I had disposable cash again, as well as a new friend who collected, too. I thought it would be fun to try and assemble a set the old-fashioned way—through opening packs and trades. And this box would go a long way to helping me complete the set.

I took the box back to Grand Blanc and decided to save opening it or a rainy day. That rainy day came at Torch Lake later that summer. And with that, we’ll call it a day.

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