Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

That warm thrill of confusion

I was 19 years old when I started really getting into Pink Floyd: The Wall.

Oh, I remember seeing high-school kids in the early 1980s wearing black T-shirts with that screaming face image, and hearing that “We don’t need no education” chorus from “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2” all over the place, and I remember the trippy bizarre dirty-seeming cartoon images from when the movie came out, but I wasn’t even in my teens yet, so it remained beyond my interest.

In high school, my friend Adam introduced me to Roger Waters’ Radio K.A.O.S. , and I went zonkers for it, probably in part because of its WarGames kind of sensibility, partly because I liked that there was a story here, and partly because there are songs there that still give me that excellent gut-thrum can’t-help-but-sing-along-badly buzz. Adam also got me listening to Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason, which I did like an awful lot (we went to see that tour’s stop at the old Richfield Coliseum in August 1988), but it never led me to Waters-era Floyd music.

Then I spent July of 1990 in Germany, when Waters put on his famous The Wall: Live in Berlin show. I had known the concert was going to happen during my visit, but I also remembered that my host at the time hadn’t much cared for the Momentary Lapse tape I had in my car when we had dated the previous year, so I didn’t even consider asking whether she would get us tickets. Of course, I vividly remember seeing news footage on a DJH television while we were on a bike trip, and she mentioned that some friends were at the concert, and if I had said something beforehand, of course she would have loved to have gone, not necessarily for the music, but because of the symbolic ending of the East-West divide.

When I went back to Bowling Green that fall, things were made strange for starters because I had a randomly-assigned roommate, with whom I didn’t get along too well. We just had very different personalities and priorities. Couple that with the fact that circumstances of all sorts had some of my closest friends leaving my everyday life, and I felt more than a little out-of-alignment from time to time.

Feeling particularly withdrawn one day, I walked a mile-and-three-quarters to the local K-Mart and bought myself a CD-playing boom box, and lugged the thing in its bulky, awkward cardboard box a mile-and-three-quarters back to our dorm. Then I walked down to the music store we frequented and bought two albums: Alphaville’s Forever Young and Pink Floyd: The Wall. (Yes, yes: See clearly the tormented young writer, hunched at his Brother WP-55, the yellow type on its tiny black screen reflected in his sweating brow, a half-empty bottle of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill at his elbow.) And as with K.A.O.S., I focused particularly on the writing and the story of the album as much as the music itself.

(Funny thing: A few days later, my parents asked me if I’d want a stereo with a CD player for Christmas, so I wound up returning my boom box to K-Mart. I think I got someone to give me a ride this time.)

Second semester, January 1990, I moved into a single room by luck of the draw, whereupon I did this:

Apparently, Bill the Cat is to blame for all of this riffraff in the room.

Pink Floyd The Rodgers Quad Wall

I’m still kind of proud of the effort and the results: It’s black electrical tape on the room’s white wall, and what I used to fill the Empty Spaces was white sheets of art paper cut to fit and rubbed with blue crayon. Adam gave me the movie art poster before he moved, and maybe the “Live in Berlin” Rolling Stone magazine ad, too – I can’t remember. I do know, however, that they are strategically placed to cover a large patch of semi-peeling paint which I was hesitant to stick the tape to for fear I would make it worse when the time came for its removal. The brick at left center is another sheet of art paper on which I invited friends to scrawl graffiti, and where I’d write down quotes I liked, too. And the giant green Radio K.A.O.S. subway poster filled out the wall perfectly.

(Yes, those ARE “rabbit ears” on my black-and-white TV, and yes THAT IS a stuffed Bill the Cat. Ack, pththththbbbt.)

One Friday or Saturday night that semester, my friend Ivan and I had rented This Is Spinal Tap, which neither of us had seen. That same night, the old movie theatre downtown  – the Cla-Zel -was hosting a one night showing of The Wall – and we hadn’t seen that, either, so we figured on a cool double-feature.

We got through about half of Spinal Tap when we realized we had to leave to catch The Wall, so we figured we’d come back and watch the ending later, no big deal.

So we go see The Wall and it just flattens us. Just depresses the hell out of everything because, well, it’s not the happiest of movies, folks, and though I still think it’s powerful stuff, it’s not the sort of film you build a Happy Fun Time Night around. Neither one of us felt much like watching the end of Spinal Tap that night.

For a long time, I wouldn’t watch The Wall on television, simply because that experience had been so mind-numbing on the big screen, in the dark, with the booming, echoing sound and everything. I finally did watch it recently on a VH-1 airing, and not only did the commercial interruptions screw up the slow descent into madness, they utterly butchered some pretty key segments of the movie.

Toward the end of the year, of course, I deconstructed my dorm project in the only appropriate way: I took the phone off the hook, cranked my stereo system, and listened to The Wall straight through. Through the first CD, I removed the “empty space” papers and the posters and used more electrical tape to “complete” the wall on my wall. And naturally, at the end, I grabbed that tape in handfuls and ripped it all down. It was fun.

My infatuation with The Wall probably started to fade not long after that school year ended, and it’s been an awfully long time since I’ve had the desire to listen to the album all the way through. If I want to play pop-psych on myself, I’d say that enough genuinely unpleasant stuff started happening in my life that putting myself through a music-induced wringer wasn’t something I needed or wanted anymore.

And though I was initially excited to hear about Waters’ announcement that he’s taking the whole concept/concert on the road again this year, I’m now kind of ambivalent about it for a couple reasons. For starters, I’m sure ticket prices will be jacked beyond belief; and as for the whole “Here’s my chance to finally see that show I missed” thrill, I already did that a couple years ago with The Police.

More than that, though, I’m just not in a place anymore where The Wall connects with me the way it used to, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

April 26, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, 1990s, eighties, Music, Ohio, writing | , , , , | Leave a comment

See, I was NEVER cool.

I’m having serious computer issues today  – and yes, the Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard – but as it happens, I have a semi-relevant flashback handy: It’s been 20 years since the April 3, 1990 concert at the Phantasy theatre in Lakewood, Ohio at which I utterly failed to be anything close to cool. (I actually wrote about this back in 2006, but hey, nothing like two decades’ passage for an excuse to revisit A Tale of Amazing Dorkness.)

My friend Erin and I had bought tickets over the phone. We borrowed a car and drove from Bowling Green, Ohio to the west side of Cleveland, where we saw Nine Inch Nails open for Peter Murphy. At that point, NIN was much more a regional draw, and I kept pointing out every natty-haired, leather-jacket-clad guy I saw and saying, “Look. There’s Trent Reznor.”

So, after the show, we’re leaving, and Erin says, “Look. There’s Trent Reznor.”

Good one, Erin, good one. Almost gotmebutholyCRAP it IS Trent Reznor, leaning up against a wall hanging out. So we say ‘hi,’ he signs our ticket stubs (don’t ask, I lost it years ago), we mention a tenuous friend-of-a-friend connection with his then-guitarist Richard Patrick, and then Trent asks if we want to come to the after-party.

And I can’t believe this, but we say no.

Oh, fine: I say no. This one’s totally on me, and I’ll cop to being a total wuss. My reason was that it was already midnight and Erin and I both had 8 a.m. classes and I had an exam the next morning and it was a two-and-a-half hour drive back to BG.

So we leave.

On the bright side, we get to the car and find that I’ve left the headlights on, and we needed a jump, so if we HAD gone to the party, the battery would not only have been dead, but it probably would’ve been pre-dawn-dark outside, and there certainly wouldn’t have been anyone around to give us a hand.

Yeah, that’s what I tell myself, even though it’s lame. Still, my wife and I will be at the grocery store sometimes, and see a checkout girl in her axle-grease-think eyeliner and purple-dyed hair and her hardcore metal/punk-band-of-the-week wristband and think, “She’s got no idea.”

I actually saw Trent Reznor later that year, in line for the Blue Streak at Cedar Point – the people I was with didn’t recognize him, but I went up and say ‘hi’ anyway, and again, he was pretty cheerful and ordinary, enjoying a summer day at the amusement park.

April 6, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, geek, Music, Ohio, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ah, college weirdness.

Jenn just found this lying around the other day. I remember rediscovering it fairly recently but losing track of it again, so now I’ve taken the step of preserving it electronically, because it’s a reminder of a strange and fun little slice of my Bowling Green years:

Coming up next: Nitzer Ebb, Lush and Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry.

Click to embiggen in all its, um, "glory?"

Yes, “John Wilkes Booth” was my radio name on 88.1 fm WBGU (“The Shark!”) effectively cutting off the assassination-of-Lincoln jokes at the knees, see? Also, it required extraordinarily little effort in its creation.

And as on-air, er, “talent,” we were given free rein regarding flyer creation and posting and generous access to the BGSU administrative copy services. This was, I think, the only promotional material I ever made. Photo scanning and manipulation courtesy of my friend Jeff, who had the awesomest computer setup 1990 could provide, because not only did it allow you to create lasting and important art like this, but you could also play Marble Madness.

February 23, 2010 Posted by | geek, Music, Ohio | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s a Mad, Mad, Madhatter World.

One of the things I love about reading Adam‘s ongoing series of music recollections is the sheer avalanche of quick-hit memories and images and emotions they trigger.

His latest entry, on  Cowboy Junkies’ “Sweet Jane,” for instance, includes this bit:

I remember discovering the The Trinity Session wasn’t their first album when I stumbled upon Whites Off Earth Now!! on vinyl at Madhatter Music Co. (another independent music store now gone) in downtown Bowling Green.

Now, it’s entirely possible that I knew Madhatter was gone, but the last time Adam and I visited our old college town, it was still there. According to its Myspace page

Madhatter Music Co. was founded in 1988 by Billy Hanway and Ed Cratty. Its first customer was a madman by the name of Jim Cummer, who became manager and eventually bought the store. For 18 years, Madhatter has stood for good music, flying under the radar of a diseased popular culture, communing with fellow like-minded freaks and lifers, and rocking out at all costs.

In October 2006, PB Army drummer and local music journalist/heart patient Keith Bergman took the torch and attempted to lead Madhatter from its recalcitrant teenage years into the murky waters of young adulthood. Sadly, he’s packed his bags and inventory, never to return. The store is officially closed.

Now, I remember Billy Hanway. At least inasmuch as he was “that guy Billy” who owned Madhatter.

And while I’ve lost track of which CDs of mine may have come from Madhatter – They Might Be Giants Flood, I’m pretty sure is one, though –  I know for certain that I have two flawless LPs I got there when I still had my first stereo system, since it still included a turntable. One is Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, which I have still never owned in any other format, and the other is The Police, Synchronicity, which I picked up to replace my cassette. I think I paid maybe three bucks each for these.

But what really socked me while reading that blurb was that Madhatter was founded in 1988, meaning that when we started our freshman year at BG in the fall of ’89, the store was only a year or so old. The thing is, it felt like the sort of place that had existed for decades, sandwiched in that dingy little building between bars and gas stations and alleys. Frankly, I figured Madhatter had in all likelihood, been there since the one year my Dad attended BG back in the late 1960s. I would have at least figured the place dated back to the ’70s, but man, I’m telling you: It felt like it could have.

I mean, if you’re what, older than 30, you know this kind of store. You walk in, and there’s a rack of local music rags and a wall that’s been tacked over with countless layers of band flyers and bar show announcements. And there’s one glass case layered with stuff like “Corporate Rock Sucks” patches and anarchy logo buttons and bumper stickers, and another case filled with CDs from Europe and rare reissues and B-side collections and concert bootlegs. The walls are covered in posters and lined with racks of CDs and LP records – and one sadly-neglected bin of cassette tapes is over in a corner – and you go in and start flipping through stuff that you’ve seen before, but maybe something new is out this week, or maybe someone traded in a collection you’re looking for.

Odds are the place smells like someone’s basement that you know – like an old couch and a candle and patchouli and a bit of mustiness that never quite congeals into “rank,” but still kind of encloses you a little bit claustrophobically. It’s not anything you’d call a pleasant smell, but recalling it, by association, puts me in a mood of remembering an important and special time in my life.

Suck it, iTunes. Bite me, Amazon. Yeah, you’re convenient and wondrous and I can’t live without you, but you’ll never be my Madhatter, you hear me?


February 8, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Music, Ohio, writing | , , , | 4 Comments

Maybe I’m all messed up.

So Adam has written some of his own memories of the end of 1989 over at his blog, Random Thoughts Escaping, and while they make for yet another fantastic trip back in time, it forces me admit that at some of the points where our stories about that Dec. 31 can’t both be correct, he’s probably right this time.

As I wrote in an email to him after reading his post: Here’s the funny thing – although in my head and its logic circuits I know your recollection is correct, I can’t fully unseat my own flawed memory of the night. And I think you’re wildly correct in the observation that it was as much us revealing NIN to our friends as you exposing everyone to it that New Year’s Eve. Perhaps that’s where the emotional memories on my part are coming from.

It’s not the first time I’ve bumped into this kind of glitch: While doing some research for Collect All 21! I found my own pretty vivid memory of a conversation regarding Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind coming in direct conflict with the historical reality of when those movies came out and when my family moved out to Lake Township.

Adam nailed it right here in his piece about that New Year’s Eve: This amazing confluence of old and new friends, alcohol and music was somehow significant. It was a mingling of high school and college, Bizarre Love Triangles, and the inherent hyper-dramatic sense of trailing childhood’s end.

This is yet one more reason why I love talking and writing back-and-forth with Adam, whom I’ve known since sixth grade or so: Perspectives and facts shift and change, and even when my memory clouds, it turns out we’re totally in agreement about the important stuff.

January 5, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Music, Ohio, Weblogs, writing | , , , | 1 Comment

A Sudden Sense of Liberty.

With 2009 winding down, I’m in the mood to return one more time to 1989. (My three previous visits are here, here, and >digs through pile of cassingles, Swatches and floppy disks< oh yeah, here.)

This recollection – which I’ve had in mind for awhile but was recently jumpstarted by something my friend Adam wrote – is likely to wander and be a bit nebulous (yeah – surprise, right?) because it’s not focused on a single anecdote or event, but more on feelings and associations and tangents.

See, 1989 was the year that I changed my music.

Maybe not changed, really; maybe it’s more like I finally really felt what sort of music I liked.

And though I’m thinking about 1989, I’m going to start further back because a) I feel like it and b) it gives a little background.

I think the first time I was really hit by music that sounded different from “regular” pop music was in spring of 1985 when I was a freshman in high school and “West End Girls” was all over the radio. I associate it very strongly with a weekend class trip to New York City, and the long bus ride and staying up late in a hotel in New Jersey consuming pretty much a whole package of Oreos.

Synthpop was, of course, a real flavor-of-the-moment thing, but this song struck something deep, and I was hooked on the Pet Shop Boys for long after the tune fell off the chart.

That fall, when I was a sophomore, I gave community theatre a shot and auditioned for a North Canton Playhouse production of The Passion of Dracula. (A possible branching moment: There was also a Junior Achievement introductory meeting that night, which I was interested in, and I had to choose between the two.) To my genuine surprise – this was my first theatre experience, outside my freshman year drama class I landed the role of Dracula. This wound up starting about a year-and-a-half of solid community theatre involvement, including dating a girl I met in Dracula who not only encouraged my Pet Shop Boys listening, but introduced me to Depeche Mode’s Music for the Masses and The Cure’s Standing on a Beach. (Oddly enough, the latter did very little for me, which is funny in a way, considering what’s coming up later.)

Now, not having the Internet and blink-twice-to-hear-similar-artists like these damn kids today, I really didn’t expand my horizons in what we used to call “progressive” or “alternative” music. The next song I really really remember stirring my gut was New Order’s “True Faith,” in 1987 – and it’s still one of my all-time-favorite “windows-down-and-crank-the-stereo” songs when nobody’s around.

So, if you look at my cassette collection in spring 1989, there’s not a lot of “progressive” in there – two Pet Shop Boys tapes, The Art of Noise In Visible Silence (almost solely because of the Peter Gunn theme – or as we called it, The Spy Hunter Music) and the aforementioned Standing on a Beach, which I actually sold to Adam for nine bucks, I think. (Also funny because he had found it in my car when I’d bought it a couple years earlier and totally made fun of me buying it.)

As previously discussed in my 1989 memories, I began dating a girl from Germany early in the year, and as summer kicked off and her inevitable departure neared, I wanted to do something really amazingly cool before she left, so I bought us tickets to the New Order, Public Image, Ltd. and Sugarcubes show at Blossom Music Center. (Because, you know, a rock concert. That’s big when you’re 18.)

Adam, having recently undergone his own change in music tastes, asked if I’d get a ticket for him, too, so the three of us went together.

Mind you, I had no freaking clue who PiL and the Sugarcubes were. And since I had never bought an entire New Order tape, “True Faith” was still the only song I really knew, though if pressed, I might have recognized “Bizarre Love Triangle.”

But “True Faith” still hit hard and deep, and I knew it would be awesome to hear in concert.

It was. And because it was the only song I knew at the time, it’s the only one I can remember, although I do know that I wore an old beat-up fedora that I found in the trunk of someone’s car and that we danced the entire night on the lawn and had a ridiculously good time with all these oddly-dressed and strangely-made-up people the likes of whom I had never seen en masse, but whose company I enjoyed nonetheless.

This was July, 1989: My first – what would you call it? Punk? New Wave? “Progressive?” “Alternative?” – concert. (Yay Internet: Most of the show can be found, badly recorded but totally appropriate for the era, on the series of tubes.)

A little more than a month later, then, Adam and I started our freshman year at Bowling Green State University, which is really where my thing for alternative music exploded. Adam had a kick-ass stereo system (which, back then, kids, meant having monstrous speakers that took up almost as much space as our refrigerator) and a massive CD collection, and he was also good at meeting people and making friends, so basically, simply by having Adam as a roommate, I found myself round-the-clock immersed in the sounds of Xymox and Alphaville and Bauhaus and Erasure and even more of Depeche Mode and The Cure, and when I want to be there in Chapman Hall again, with those friends and all the ridiculous cliched-but-true freshman year drama and heartbreak and anger and love, that music takes me there.

Music has never again played as big a part in my life as it did when I was in college, and it started that fall.

Another aside to The Cure Standing on a Beach cassette that Adam bought from me secondhand: Until recently, it was, I think, the only place to hear a song called “A Few Hours After This.” I couldn’t have told you the name of that song or even described its sound until the past few years, when Adam cued it up to jog my memory and the damn thing put a lump in my throat the size of a tennis ball because it yanked me so hard and fast back to freshman year.

An article in the campus newspaper about a comedy show on the university’s FM radio station (88.1 WBGU – The Shark!) led me to get in touch with its creators, and the rest of that year, I joined its weekly broadcast, which, in turn, hooked me on the idea of spending more time on the radio and started me on the path to discovering even more music over the next few years, when I was a disc jockey at the station.

And now we come to the end of 1989: I am home on Christmas break, and since my Dad is working New Year’s Eve, my Mom stays home and allows my little brothers and me to invite some friends over for the night.

Some of my close friends from high school, along with my new best friends in the whole damn world from Bowling Green, came over, and we had a freaking blast, the details of which are mostly irrelevant here – except this one: Adam has this tape, right? It’s a new tape that some semi-local musician brought into the CD store where Adam had worked, and we all need to listen to it right now.

So we cluster in the living room of the house where I grew up – and I’m not going to lie, there has been some imbibing, though Mom being Mom, there’s plenty of crash room in the house and nobody’s driving home impaired – and it’s me and my best old friends and my best new friends and we’re all a little wound up and goofy and it’s fantastic and awesome and it’s New Year’s Eve and this is what’s going on in my world the first time I hear Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine on my parents’ tape deck.

And it is effing incredible.

I remember smiling and I remember laughing at things like “…did he just say he wanted to fuck the devil?” (Answer: No. He did not.)

Yes, it’s a damn dark raging album, but the thing was, it was so much freaking fun to listen to. I never became a full-on NIN fan, mostly because nothing else has ever hit me the way Pretty Hate Machine did.

It came along at the right moment; the right crossroads; the right ending to a year.

December 28, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Music, Ohio, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Little by Little, I roll my eyes…

Dear Robert Plant,

Out of respect for your legendary rock status, we hereby apologize for making you think this video was a good idea.


The 1980s.

November 28, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Music, Television | , , , , | 2 Comments

U2 3D at the Rock Hall

Kelsey and I got to go to a preview screening of U2 3D at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and I blogged about it for my friends at Positively Cleveland. (The movie’s free with admission to the Rock Hall, so we’re already planning to go back so Jenn can see it, too.)


October 27, 2009 Posted by | Current Affairs, Film, Music, Ohio, Travel, Weblogs | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pepper Has A Secret

I kid you not: This was totally unstaged.

Jenn’s playing Beatles Rock Band, when partway through the song, Pepper brings his “date”  (yes, it’s a stuffed cat with a bandaged paw) into the room. I guess he knows classic mood music when he hears it.

September 19, 2009 Posted by | Music, Ohio | , , , , | Leave a comment

Time and place, shared.

A couple weeks ago, Jenn and I were talking about my then-upcoming 20-year high school reunion.

So, she asked me, if my three or four closest Lake High School friends – and the only people from that point in my life whom she has really met – weren’t going to be there, who was I going to hang out with?

I had no answer. And this kind of sat funny in my stomach and brain the rest of the night, so I let it wander around in my head the next morning when I went running.

Why am I going, exactly, I wondered. I’ve generally stayed in touch with those closest of my high school friends, and even the ones who aren’t nearby it seems like I still get to see every couple years. Online, I’ve casually kept up with a few others and renewed a few acquaintances.

I didn’t go to the 5-year or the 10-year reunion, and the 15-year get-together was just a bring-the-kids super-casual cookout behind the old elementary school.

This one, though, I’d been looking forward to since it was announced, which I guess isn’t all that surprising, since I’m frequently nostalgic and a regular fare for the taxi drivers down on Sentimental Street. (See Ranger, Night.) And while I find it relatively easy to think generally favorably of high school the further I get from those years, I also know that many of the best moments were spent with friends who weren’t coming to the reunion. (And yes, I do vividly remember the sucktacular times as well, but they seem to matter less and less.)

Part of it, I think, is that where I grew up, the place I always called home even when I lived a thousand miles away for most of a decade, is a big part of who I am. Maybe it’s partly because once I started first grade, my family never moved from our house south of Hartville, and I spent my entire childhood in Lake Local Schools. Even as I’ve gotten older and the world has gotten bigger, the easier it seems to be to connect with those people who shared this particular corner of it for awhile.

And there were at least a couple people coming to the reunion who I knew I wanted to see, even though I had no clue whether those catch-ups would be five minutes of stilted small talk or the hours-flying-by sort of conversations that are awesome and fun.

What I wound up telling myself while I was out running that morning was this: Don’t be left wondering.

I’d much rather be there, I told myself, than not go and then wonder if I should have. If it sucks, it sucks, but I find that sort of thing far easier to put behind me than a case of the Coulda Shoulda Wouldas.

So this past Friday morning, I squeezed in one more work-week interview in the morning, and then I generally fidgeted about the house and get ready for the overnight trip to Salt Fork State Park.

Not long after lunch, I hit the road.

To get myself in the proper state of mind along the way, I’d piled the passenger seat with CDs loaded for an All-Eighties drive.

The soundtrack for the drive south (GORGEOUS afternoon), radio loud and the windows open the whole way:

Selections from Journey: Greatest Hits (Digression – Other than being fascinated by their video game, I can’t say I was actually a Journey fan in the 1980s. Yes, I knew their music, but I never owned an album or recorded a Journey song off the radio or MTV. It was only during a Spring Break trip to visit Adam in 1991 that I realized how much Journey I’d absorbed in the 1980s and how strongly it pulled me back to those years.) – Any Way You Want It, Faithfully, Ask the Lonely, Separate Ways, and (duh) Don’t Stop Believing, which was cued up for my initial acceleration onto I-77 southbound.

Selections from U2: Rattle & Hum (because I couldn’t find my Joshua Tree CD) – Desire, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Pride (In the Name of Love)

Selections from John’s Homemade Late-Night Solo-Driving CD No. 1: The Buggles: Video Killed the Radio Star, Pet Shop Boys: Always on My Mind, New Order: True Faith, The Kinks: Come Dancing, The Hooters: And We Danced.

The drive flew by, and when that last song ended, I had just exited the interstate for the two-lane state route to Salt Fork, so I just shut the soundtrack down and thought.

I got to the resort a little after 3 p.m., with not quite three hours until the reunion was scheduled to start. Put my stuff in the room, walked around a little bit, considered taking a swim, didn’t, and then plopped in a rocking chair looking out over the pool and kind of zoned and maybe half-dozed for awhile.

I never stopped wondering what to expect.

Walking back to the room, I ran into the first of my former classmates in a stairway, and the minute or two we spent saying hello eased my mind somewhat.

I went out and sat on the balcony which faced a grassy hillside and the woods just beyond. After a bit, a deer came out of the woods and was eating the grass along the treeline about 100 yards away.

A little later, people on the balcony above me started throwing corn chips and bread to a buck and two does which had come right up to the building and were close enough to my porch that I could see their ribs and whiskers and hear them crunching as they ate.

Every so often, I would walk to the exit near my room and look out at the cluster of picnic tables for the reunion and see if anyone was out there. I can’t exactly say why I was nervous, but it still seemed a very real possibility that the whole night would be a stutter-step of short, uncomfortable reintroductions and me wondering why the hell I was here anyway.

A few minutes past six, I decided to head out. There were a few people out there now, though I couldn’t recognize anyone from a distance. I made a beeline for the bar, because I knew I could use a beer here. And while I was standing there, I spotted a guy I was great friends with for a couple years coming toward me, grinning. And just like that, I got the feeling that the night was going to be OK.

And it was OK plus infinity over dinner and beer and music and drinks and the next almost nine hours. (Incidentally, I thought it was incredibly fitting for our Class of 1989 to have a “don’t-dress-up-we’re-having-ribs” kind of reunion. It just fit well.)

The specifics of these people and moments and talks are not what matters here, because nobody’s recollections will be the same, and we’ll all attach our own significance or lack thereof for better or worse.

What I’m keeping is this: Twenty years out of high school, we’re all in such different places, not just geographically, but socially, vocationally, politically, mentally, emotionally, and parentally, and yet this one slice of a single day was a great reminder that we once lived and breathed in the same time and space, and that even if we didn’t occupy specific moments in each others’ lives, having a small corner of the universe in common is not an unimportant thing.

It was after three a.m. by the time I got back to my room, and I decided to have a glass of ice water and sit on the steps outside and kind of exhale and wind down. The picnic table area was in darkness, and the place was mostly still.

Exhausted as I was, I had trouble falling asleep and staying there.

I was up and showering at 7:30 a.m., and I brewed a bland cup of room coffee to take on a walk around the lodge and scout out breakfast. I hadn’t figured on running into anyone, really, given the late night most of us had, but I bumped into a classmate and her husband, and the three of us wound up eating together in the restaurant and talking about school and life and kids and home (they still live in the same area, too). That we weren’t even close when we were growing up was wonderfully irrelevant.

After breakfast, I walked around a little more, ran into a couple more people here and there, chatted and said goodbyes.

For all the nerves I’d had less than 24 hours before, I was finding it kind of tough to leave.

I packed up my stuff, checked out, and sat back on one of the lobby couches overlooking the pool and had parting conversations with people as they came through, even spending a long time talking to a few people I hadn’t gotten a chance to say hi to the night before.

A little after 11 a.m., I walked out the side door to the parking lot, got in my car and headed home, windows down, late summer air swirling.

The plan for the drive back was to ease the mental adjustment by shifting the soundtrack back toward the present.

But you know what?

I put Journey in again and turned it up as loud as it would go.

September 7, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Music, Ohio, Travel, writing | , , , , , | 3 Comments


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