Friday, February 28, 2014

No. 97 – Squonk

Performer: Genesis
Songwriters: Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford
Original Release: A Trick of the Tail
Year: 1976
Definitive Version: You’ll Love Us Live, 1980.

When I left off talking about the trip that Jin, Scott and I took to New Jersey to stay with Aunt Sally after Christmas in 1987 (good ol’ No. 582), we just had finished a dinner of epic conversational proportions.

So that meant it was time for the kids to move the conversation—and the champagne—out to the hot tub. By kids, I mean everyone under the age of 30. (Scott, at 16, was the only minor in the group.)

No one brought his or her swimsuit, so it was all freeball tubbing. Hey, we’re all family, here, right? That went for Tom’s hot live-in girlfriend at the time, or as Scott said later: “Welcome to the family.” The champagne and conversation continued to flow, and I might have ended up rolling around in the snow after a cousinly dare. (Full disclosure: Betsy did it first, so I wasn’t the only fool in the bunch.)

A couple days later, Sally took me, Jin and Scott into New York to see The Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center, home of the Metropolitan Opera. This was mostly because of Jin, I think. I’d seen The Nutcracker years before, with Beth, but I was keen to see something at such a prestigious venue.

We took the train in, and the thing I remember most about that is that Scott, I think, brought along a game of philosophical questions he found. The one I remember was this: If you could take a pill that made you sleep only one hour a night with no physical effects but you had to give up half of everything you owned to get this pill, would you do it? My answer then was I probably would, and that answer has become certain even as my wealth has grown. Who wouldn’t want to add hours of free time to their day?

We had dinner in the city, although I’ve forgotten where. The ballet was OK. I guess I’m not enough of a fan of the real ballet to be able to discern quality distinctions. To me, the standout thing was the tree. At this performance, it was real—a 50 foot tall real Christmas tree for The Nutcracker. Can’t get any more New York than that.

We left for home on the 31st, and I felt gypped by that, because I was hoping I’d get a chance to see The Ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Tom and Betsy had plans anyway, so it was time. When we got home, Jin split apart to go to a party to which she had been invited. That left just me and Scott on the first New Year’s Eve I’d be without someone—Beth—in six years.

Mom had moved into a new condominium earlier that year. With me finished with school at Northwestern and anxiously awaiting word from Michigan City, Ind., regarding a job for which I interviewed just before Christmas, I was staying with her on what I hoped was a very temporary basis.

Neither Scott nor I wanted to hang out at Mom’s, so we decided to go out on our own. Well, Scott was 16 and didn’t look as old at 16 as I had, so we weren’t going to go anywhere where he might be carded. Instead, we drove to a nearby grocery store, where I bought a couple four-packs of wine coolers and then around the corner from Mom’s condominium complex to a park that had a parking lot off the main street and out of view of any cops.

There, we drank wine coolers and talked as we listened to Genesis on my car stereo and counted down the minutes to 1988. 1987 had been a tumultuous year to be sure. The big event, of course, was my breakup with Beth, but a lot of good things happened, too.

Although low-key, it ended up being one of my most memorable New Year’s Eves. It really was the first time I ever did any drinking with my brother but certainly not the last. In fact, in the next decade, several nights included being parked somewhere in Columbus with Genesis on the car stereo, including one particularly memorable one in 1993 or 1994. But that’s a story for another time.

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