What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This is one of the newer series on Dubsism, and as the title suggests, it’s about songs tied to certain recollections. The word amongst those in the know is that the nose is one of the most common triggers of memories.
What better way is there than using a bad line from a Barbra Streisand ear-worm to tell you this is a series all about songs which bring back specific memories? Don’t lie; you know we all have them; the difference is I’m willing to share mine…no matter how bizarre they are. Buckle your chin straps, gang….this one is even better than Homer Simpson’s version.
Today’s tale is the third in this series, but it’s the first which does not take place in southern California. Instead, this story’s setting falls on a July 4th weekend, smack in the middle of summer, smack in the middle of my college years, smack in the middle of the 1980s, and smack in the middle of America.
To say I’m not an “outdoors” sort of person is more than a mere understatement. I firmly believe in the benefits of the rise of civilization, and if God wanted me to spend my vacation sleeping on the ground with only a piece of canvas between me and the “great outdoors,” he would not have given man the ability to build hotels with valet parking and free breakfast.
I believed that even in my “broke-ass” college student days. The town where I attended said college didn’t invent winter, but it certainly perfected it. That meant at least once during those 14-month long winters, I was willing to pony up what little money I had to spend a weekend in a reasonable hotel…so long as it had an attached restaurant and a hot tub in which to thaw my bones.
But that also meant you treasured every moment of those 38-hour long summers. A fun consequence of such climate-driven and/or limited recreation options often dictated measured compromises, particularly when it came to dating relationships. I would never to presume the level of importance which the following topic would rank in the life of the average college student, but I’m willing to bet the relations with active and/or desired sexual partners is high on the “College Kid Casey Kasem” countdown.
As such, the value you placed on your romantic possibilities was directly proportional to your willingness to make those compromises. Since there is nothing which would exempt me from such a postulate, when I found myself in such a season-spanning rélation d’avoir, I became a veritable Henry Clay. The winter end of this double-header was my home game. We drove to a nearby town which had a hotel meeting my aforementioned “minimum requirements.”
At this point, it is important to understand that my ‘minimum requirements” were significantly different back in the days when I had no choice but to finance an entire weekend’s festivities on two hundred bucks…preferably less. Back then, it was hard to get more “bang for my hotel buck” than a good “old-school” Holiday Inn.
They weren’t “four-star” accommodations by any means, but you could get a decent room with cable TV, a king bed, and most had a pool, hot tub, and sauna facilities. Not to mention, the one I frequented had the mandatory attached restaurant with an “all-you-can-gorge” buffet and a weekend seafood special. It didn’t need to be “The Four Seasons” if it gave me a place to stuff my face, get drunk, and peel the Calvin Kleins off a willing co-ed, all while getting change from a couple of Franklins. All that and a weekend’s respite from a sub-arctic winter….that’s totally a “win.”
Remember the “compromise” aspect here. In return for a weekend’s worth of canoodling in a middle-of-the-road hotel, her end of this “home-and-home” involved an overnight camping trip on Independence Day weekend at a state park a few hours away on one of those “fake” lakes formed by a dammed-up river.
The time comes, she has all her gear stuffed into her 1979 Toyota Crapmobile, and as the song says…we’re on the road again. You could call it an omen if you want, but less than an hour into the weekend, I quoted another song. This was all about “I Can’t Drive 55,” since I managed to attract the attention of a state trooper to the tune of 72 in a 55 M.P.H zone.
At the time, speeding tickets in this part of the world were dirt-cheap…but that wasn’t the problem. Part of our camping supplies happened to be some “recreational-grade” pharmaceuticals; possession of which the state did not have such a nonchalant view. Thankfully, our friendly neighborhood state trooper was more than content to hand me a speeding ticket for $27.50 and be on his way. We did the same, arrived at said state park, and the camping excursion was officially underway.
No camping excursion can be complete without a camp site. This is the moment when I learned that naivété is a polite way of saying “You should have seen this one coming, Shit-For-Brains.” To this day, I think it was reasonable to expect somebody who owned their own camping equipment to know how to set it up. Given my aforementioned proclivity for vacations which come with turn-down and laundry service, you don’t need the FBI Crime Lab to figure out I’m not well-versed in the ways of the tent stake and mallot.
But before we get there, here comes something else you can consider an omen. Our dinner plans for that night centered on grilling steaks on a hibachi. Again, I’m expecting the person who wants to go camping to know what all is needed for such an endeavor. Again, I’m mistaken.
To make a long story short, raise your hand if you’ve ever tried to light charcoal briquettes with no starter fluid. But it wasn’t until I tried to remedy this problem that the real mistake happened. Let’s just say that while I was siphoning some gasoline out of her Toyota Crapmobile, I had failed to fully think through my solution to the “starter fluid” problem.
Raise your hand if you know where this is headed. If you have your hand up at this point, you understand what the combination of gasoline and a hibachi means to the term “impressive fireball.” In addition to those of you with your hands in the air right now, we can add the park ranger who was piloting the spotter plane which came to orbit over my beach-bound mini-inferno to ensure I wasn’t about to burn down the whole park.
By the end, that hibachi gave its life, but I managed to get those steaks cooked before it died. To this day, I’m not sure whether it was the struggle to get them cooked, or the “special” mushroom gravy topping them, but these were soon to become the most memorable steaks I’ve ever eaten.
After dinner, it was time to retire to the tent for a digestíf of cheap beer chilled in an even cheaper styrofoam cooler. It didn’t long take long for the romance of the summer sun setting over a scenic lake shore to kick in. A few minutes later, some other stuff kicked in…particularly the combination of the “special” gravy and beer coursing through the same veins which weren’t surge-protected from the hormones of two horned-up college kids.
The timing of the evening’s festivities moving inside the tent meant both of us missed some massive clouds supplanting that sunset. This led to a tripartite exercise in increasing intensity… algorithmically expressed as a function of recreational chemistry, the neurophysiology of sex, and the thermodynamics of a thunderstorm about to spawn a tornado.
Focus is a funny thing; it locks you into one thing while making you completely oblivious to your surroundings. That’s how I got to the point where the wind whipping through trees and the initial spats of rain hitting that tent didn’t even register in my head. Focus had me well-beyond even the inside of the tent; the “Casey Kasem” countdown show playing on the radio was pierced by the sheer shrill of one of those storm warning tones, but unless it grew hands and grabbed me, it wasn’t going to stop what was happening a few feet away from that radio.
Focus also has a proportional relationship with intensity. In this case, it was only widening the gap in awareness between what was happening in that tent and in the storm cloud over it.
Eventually, the sensation went from the psychedelic scene near the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey to being naked and sweat-stuck to somebody inside a giant pulsing balloon filled with lava lamps and strobe lights punctuated with thunder you could feel.
As everything…what’s happening in my head, what’s happening inside that tent, and the storm battering the bejeezus out of it…are all coming to a crescendo, the moment comes where intensity and focus slam into each other like mile-long freight trains colliding head-on at full speed. The split-second after that moment, the echo of the perceived impact was swept from my ear by a perfect, yet eerie moment of clarity sound-tracked by Casey Kasem introducing what might have been the worst song I’ve ever heard.
But it was also the perfect song to represent the complete antithesis of what was happening at the moment; a soft bit of maudlin, folk-pop whine about child abuse playing under the strains of two college kids having an intense, potentially child-producing moment all their own.
Moments of clarity are also a funny thing; they have a way of providing foreshadowing, even if sometimes it’s in an inverse way. The next morning, as we were packing up the remnants of what once was a badly-assembled camp site, that goddamn song came on the radio again.
The saving grace is that the best moments of clarity come with a life lesson learned. In this case, the takeaway is the bonding power created by even the most amazing intimacy is perishable. That became apparent during the two-hour ride home on a broiling summer day in a Toyota Crapmobile sans air-conditioning; the fact we weren’t able to shower away the residue of the previous night presenting itself ever more aromatically with each passing mile.
That’s when I changed the plan of simply heading home. First, I found a dumpster where after a few poignant words, the remains of the camp site…hibachi, tent, and all…were laid to rest. Then I checked us into my “go-to” hotel. This is where we reminded ourselves that anything you can do in the shambles of a tent, you can also do in a solidly-built, convenience-laden Holiday Inn…including hearing that fucking song again.
You can see all the Misty Water-Color Memories here.