Sunday, May 11, 2014

No. 25 – The Knife

Performer: Genesis
Songwriters: Tony Banks, Peter Gabriel, Anthony Phillips, Mike Rutherford
Original Release: Trespass
Year: 1970
Definitive Version: You’ll Love Us Live, 1980. As far as I know, the Duke Tour was the last time Genesis played what at one time was their most popular song live. It’s kind of like Rush and Fly By Night in that sense, although I can see why Rush doesn’t play Fly By Night—Geddy can’t get that high any more.

Scott bought You’ll Love Us Live in 1985, and my bootleg tape from it became a major play for the next year, including after I started at Northwestern, which is the setting for the shameful story I’m about to relate. Beth came to see me that fall, and it couldn’t have been a worse weekend.

Before I get into it, the other day I accidentally wrecked something of sentimental value of Laurie’s. It was a small picture frame that she got as a going-away present from a job more than 20 years ago. Inside the frame she had one of her personal mantras.

What happened was I was lowering the blinds in our office, which Laurie had wrapped around the blinds as opposed to just letting the cords hang where Henry could get to them. When I pulled the cords loose, they flipped out in a way that swung to where the frame was, wrapped around it and pulled off the pedestal upon which it sat. Crash!

Laurie shined it on, mostly because I was ticked enough for the both of us, but I could tell she was disappointed. It was my mistake, but it wasn’t my fault. It was just something that happened. Besides, it wasn’t even remotely close to the worst mistake I’ve made along those lines.

That brings us back to October 1986. I was excited that Beth was coming to visit to be sure. Beth’s father and a buddy of his liked coming to Chicago, because they could hit the train stores in town, so instead of Mrs. Mac being the chaperone, it was Mr. Mac. They would stay downtown. Beth would “stay with Lisi and Amy in their suite” (ahem).

It happened to be the weekend closest to Halloween, and everyone in my crew was talking about hitting a costume party at the Bennigans in Evanston. Beth, of course, wanted to go and thought of a good couples costume—a fisherman and his catch, a mermaid. Beth said she’d bring her dad’s waders for me.

To ease into the weekend, the crew got together in Don and Frank’s suite and partaked (partook?) of vodka shots, including yours truly, which was the first time I had straight hard liquor. I had fun at the time, but it turned out to be a really bad idea.

The next day, I felt like crap. Beth, her dad and his friend were coming in from Indiana by train, and I was supposed to meet them downtown to pick up Beth and bring her up to Evanston.

Now, nearly 50-year-old me would recognize the symptoms of a simple hangover and apply the cure—breakfast, Advil and a shower. Back then, 22-year-old me was clueless, including just popping a few Tums to settle my upset stomach. Unfortunately, I didn’t, and what had been a growing case of nerves turned into a full-fledged panic attack compounded by the after-effects of alcohol.

Why was I nervous? Well, aside from not feeling well, I was, in fact, a bit skittish about seeing Beth—yes, the same Beth who had been my girlfriend of four years. Not long after I started at Northwestern, Beth changed her hairstyle, to that of a full perm. I’d seen a few photos of her, and … wow! It was such a profound change—and for the better—that it was almost like I was cheating on Beth with this new ultrahot babe.

By the time I had to leave my dorm to pick up Beth, I was so sick to my stomach that I could barely stand up, because I was dizzy. I wandered around in the Engelhart Hall parking lot debating whether I should go downtown or go instead to the hospital. Amy saw me and asked whether I was OK. I asked her to take me to the hospital.

At the hospital, I called the hotel and told Beth I was at the hospital, in the ER. Something wasn’t right, and I wouldn’t be able to pick her up. She asked whether she should even come up, and I said I wanted to see her, that maybe I’d be OK by the time she arrived in Evanston.

That’s when it happened. While I awaited Beth’s arrival, I went to the bathroom. I just wanted to be comfortable and take everything off … including the silver Claddagh ring that Beth gave me years before, and I always wore—crown down to show I was taken. This seemed a perfectly natural thing to do—I took off the ring all the time when I showered—but just to go to the bathroom?

Well, you know where this is going. Yes, when I left to go back to my partitioned room, the ring stayed right where I put it—on the sill beneath the mirror in the bathroom. I don’t know how long it was before I realized what I’d done, but needless to say—and I’ll say it anyway—it was gone when I went back to retrieve it. If my mental state had been atither beforehand, you can imagine it now.

If that wasn’t bad enough, when Beth arrived—looking hotter than Hell—my stomach just flopped over, and we went right back into the ER. That’s where I had to explain what had happened with my ring.

In retrospect, if Beth decided right then that she was going to start looking elsewhere for someone who was a bit more reliable, I wouldn’t blame her. She already was steaming about having to take a cab to the hospital, and now this.

I couldn’t explain why I took off my ring and why I felt so bad when doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with me. What I assume is, like I said, I just started to panic, couldn’t pull myself out of my tailspin, and everything just accelerated until my brain was on a one-way ride to nowheresville.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t entirely a lost weekend, but it was close. We didn’t even go to the Halloween party, because I just didn’t feel like it, even though Beth took the trouble to make a costume. At least I calmed down enough so I could be next to my girlfriend of four years and not be totally freaked out.

Beth forgave me, again. For Christmas that year, she bought me a replacement ring. I swore I never would take it off, and for three months I didn’t—not when I went to the bathroom and not even when I showered. I took it off for the last time when I gave it back after our breakup. It’s just as well. I wasn’t worthy of it in the first place.

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