Performer: Pearl Jam
Songwriters: Stone Gossard, Jack Irons, Eddie Vedder
Original Release: No Code
Definitive Version: The studio version.
The first time I heard this song, I was somewhere in the Sawmill shopping district on the Northwest Side of town, which was my usual shopping grounds after I moved back to Columbus in 1994. I didn’t go much after a while because of my remote location in Gahanna and my alienation from my family. I must have been visiting Mom or something to have been there that fateful day.
No matter, as I drove to various stores, XRT was playing Pearl Jam’s brand-new song, Who You Are. (No Code wasn’t out yet.) Any new Pearl Jam was to be admired, and I liked the song anyway, so I sat in my car to hear the end. Then, I figured, I’d go inside the store.
When the song ended, there was dead air, and I laughed: Oh, the DJ got caught in the bathroom. Then another Pearl Jam song came on, which began with a beat reminiscent of Who You Are, except a lot faster and a bit looser. Then the pace turned up a notch and a bit more recklessly. Woah. Forget Who You Are. THIS is a great song.
I sat in my car for the whole thing. When it was over, and the DJ came on and said he’d let the CD run so you could hear another Pearl Jam song, I couldn’t wait for No Code, out the next week.
I also couldn’t wait for my next card show. After my relationship with Debbie settled down—by the time No Code arrived and In My Tree became my favorite new Pearl Jam song—I threw myself into my baseball-card hobby full force. Even moreso, my interest in collecting baseball memorabilia skyrocketed, first in augmenting and replacing what I already had in our apartment and then in anticipation and realization of The Baseball Room at our house.
So, for the next four years, whenever Debbie had a friend come visit, I’d take advantage of those weekends and drive up to Gibraltar in Taylor, which, of course, is south of Detroit and thus two hours closer to Columbus than the complex in Mt. Clemens, where Dave and I used to go. Taylor was about a three-hour drive from Columbus, so it was possible to do in a day. Sometimes, Dave would drive down from Flint to join me. Most of the time, however, I went solo.
I’d get up at the crack of dawn and head out so I’d arrive by noon, which would give me the whole afternoon to shop before I’d start the three-hour trek back home. I’d arrive about 8, which still was plenty of time for Debbie, her friend and I to go out to dinner somewhere afterward.
Debbie always made me take her cellphone. Again, this was back when neither of us wanted one except to have in the car for emergency purposes. I think we had a 10-minutes-per-month plan. I’d call from Taylor, letting her know I made it and then again at day’s end when I left.
One time, Debbie accompanied me, much to my chagrin. As I said to Dave years earlier, I never wanted a girlfriend to go with me to a card show, because I figured she’d dump me if she saw the people I associated with. But Debbie said she liked seeing the memorabilia; she WANTED to go.
Also, when it got to be around Christmas time, Debbie had some shopping of her own to do. And, consequently, every year, I’d get something awesome in my stocking. In 1996, I got perhaps the most awesome stocking stuffer of all.
Earlier that year, we were walking around together at a Taylor show where Dave joined us, and I showed Debbie the Greatest Baseball Card of All-Time, aka, the 1952 Topps Gus Zernial card. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, make it a point to find it. I merely pointed it out as a great card, not as something I wanted.
Well, guess what ended up in my stocking that year? I couldn’t believe it, and now, I, too, own the Greatest Baseball Card of All-Time.