Friday, May 23, 2014

No. 13 – Third Eye

Performer: Tool
Songwriters: Maynard James Keenan, Adam Jones, Danny Carey, Justin Chancellor
Original Release: Ænima
Year: 1996
Definitive Version: None. I love the studio version for its slow buildup through the Bill Hicks lines that comprise the introduction. By the time Hicks says, “It’s not a war on drugs; it’s a war on personal freedom is what it is. OK. Keep that in mind at all times. Thank you,” the musical maelstrom is absolutely raging. Remember the old Maxell tape commercial? It’s like that: You can feel your hair sticking out from the back of your neck. However, a live version I found from the Lateralus tour in 2002 is pretty phenomenal in all other respects.

Third Eye is my No. 1 song from the Nineties. Interestingly enough, I didn’t like this song when I first heard it. It was TOO abrasive, if you can imagine that. It was so when I put Ænima in my CD carousel in anticipation of poker night, I blocked out Third Eye so as not to offend the more delicate ears amongst my crowd. (I thought having Maynard screaming out “Prying open my third eye” a dozen times was a bit too much for those who preferred the stylings of, say, Dave Matthews.) One day, I unblocked Third Eye to give it another listen, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Third Eye became a regular play at the gym. I put it at the end of the tape, so I could listen to it during the cool-down at the end of my workouts, which seems an odd choice considering how intense it is, but it worked for my mind set. I always liked to occupy my mind during cool-down by conjuring up these elaborate stories in my head.

The one that fit Third Eye and really raised it out of the primordial ooze revolved around a series of articles the San Jose Mercury-News did in the late Nineties that exposed how the CIA was instrumental in the introduction of crack cocaine to Southern California. I never did anything with the story although I have all sorts of scenes locked somewhere in my noodle. Maybe after I end this here blog and my baseball book, I’ll spend some time on it and the other stories I have rattling around in my head.

So, in just a few years, Third Eye went from the outhouse to the penthouse of music. It just goes to show you, again, how a different perspective can illuminate a song in a way that you hadn’t heard before.

My time at Torch Lake is in no further need of re-examination. It was one of the best three months of my life. Getting back from Chicago at the start of November seemed to be a real demarcation point. October had been pleasant and mild. November roared in cold and windy.

Before long, it seemed that most of the few hangers on at the lake all were gone. The lights that dotted the lake at night dwindled, and it gave me a real sense of how the lake must have looked a half-century earlier, when my grandfather first visited it with his family—a lot more unspoiled … and out in the middle of nowhere.

Maile and I continued our walks and adventures. One day I discovered across the street that one of the big trunks on a multitrunk ash tree crashed down during a storm and lay across the drive to the pole barn where all the sailboats were kept for the winter, even the family Jeep.

Well, this was no good. The tree had to be dealt with before everyone came up for the summer, and that seemed like a good chore for me to handle. I’d never operated a chainsaw before, and I thought that my first time shouldn’t be when I was by myself in case I sliced off a digit.

I was comfortable with an axe, however, from splitting firewood when I was a kid. Besides cutting up the tree Honest Abe style would provide a decent workout, and God knows, I could use the exercise that I wasn’t getting aside from morning walks with Maile.

So each day for most of November, I’d take Maile on the leash across the road with my axe. I’d tie her up to the fence so she wouldn’t go roll in deer poop and spend an hour each day back in the woods whacking away at the trunk.

The wood was hard, so it took a long time to cut through the base. When I finally did, I couldn’t drag the trunk out of the way—it was too heavy. So I began pruning the top and dragging the tree branch by branch into the woods. Maile lay on the ground, waiting patiently until I was done for the day and we could go play stick by the lake.

I liked having a project that got me out of my mind and into my body, and the tree was back in the woods enough that the wind was blocked, so I could take off my jacket and work without getting cold. When I finally cut the trunk down enough so I could drag everything out of the way, I felt a real sense of accomplishment.

It turned out that that wasn’t the only tree-pruning service I performed. After Maile went home for the winter at Thanksgiving, another tree came down in the wind. This one was a tall but rail-thin fir that held a prominent place at the bottom of the driveway that leads to the boathouse under the Little House. I once again retrieved my axe from the work shed.

After the ash tree, chopping up that fir was like cutting butter. The fir was done in a single Saturday, although I didn’t have to cut it up as much as I did the ash, because it was lighter and easier to drag out of the way. (It’s amazing how much a tree that’s 30 feet tall can weigh even if the trunk isn’t much wider than, say, a street light.)

It was just as well, because I had another, larger chore just before I left. My entire schedule at Torch Lake was predicated on getting out of there before the snow began to fall. As I found out, this was a necessity when it came to transportation.

In early December, a few days before I was to head home, the first significant snow of the season fell overnight. It was a light dusting although enough to cover the ground, and it didn’t seem to amount to much … until I went to drive my car. I had to go to Bellaire, but I found out that a light dusting of snow on an unpaved driveway causes havoc.

In short, I couldn’t get the Happy Honda up the hill. I’d get a few feet, lose traction and slide down. No matter how much speed at built up at the bottom of the hill, I’d get only so far and then have to slide back down, backward, to the bottom. At least I didn’t have to worry about hitting another car.

I let myself slide down, because gunning the engine on the hill would turn the slick snow into ice and make any passage impossible. So, I’d grab sticks, stones, anything I could find onto the soft soil, so my tires could find something to grip. Then I’d jump in the car and give it another try.

I made slow progress, getting farther up the hill each time. Finally, after more than an hour, I made it to the top of the hill.

This was a real problem. I couldn’t take the chance that the driveway might become impassable with further snow. So after I got back from the store, I parked my car at the top of the hill, just off the street, so I wouldn’t have any problems moving it again—particularly when I went to drive home.

Of course, this meant that when it was time to load up everything I brought with me to Torch Lake, I had to carry it up the hill to put in the trunk of my car. The traction my boots provided was only slightly better than that of my car’s tires, and packing was more or less an all-day ordeal.

I left on time. It was late in the day, but it was the day I was supposed to leave. Even better, my work was finished, too. My time at Torch Lake—including two trips to Chicago to see Laurie—had been a true once-in-a lifetime experience, but I was ready to get home. Since Maile went home at Thanksgiving, I was very lonely, much lonelier than I expected to be those last two weeks. Now, I had Christmas to look forward to and another trip to Chicago at New Year’s.

And I was looking forward to seeing Maile again. I had really fallen for her at Torch Lake, but I wondered whether she’d remember me now that she was home again. It was late at night, and Dad was letting Maile out for the final time when I pulled into the driveway in Columbus. As soon as I got out of the car, Maile ran over and promptly threw herself on the ground, tummy up, whimpering for a pet. “It’s my buddy! It’s my buddy!”

It was good to be home.

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