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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Rusty Firebirds, Serious Girlfriends and Christopher Cross

By P.M. Wortham

The late 70’s started out as a major bummer for me. My father had decided on his own, or perhaps with the help of his bowling buddies, that the best high school option for me was a Parochial College Prep school on the border of Detroit that I’ll just call “Prison”. Prison was much like other high schools, that is if you liked dudes, because no girls were allowed to enroll and the place was run by Franciscan Monks. The dress code was suits and ties while the “Dean of Men”, a former Marine Drill Instructor, would walk the halls with a rusty pair of scissors making damn sure your hair length was well off the collar.

 It was a party to be sure.Thankfully, those girlfriend-less years grounded to a halt in 1978, when I broke out of Prison. I like how bad-ass that last sentence sounded, even though it only meant that I graduated from Parochial hell, while wearing a new powder blue Leisure Suit and wide collared satin shirt in the process. Over the coat collar of course.

College was a fresh start and thankfully some confidence had started to grow. A new job at a local Hilton hotel put me in the union and the wages were pretty nice for a part time worker and college student. My grades were excellent, a by product of having to pay for classes myself, and I made some actual friends that weren’t bastards. Everything about the late 70’s was new and positive and welcome.

In 1979 I decided to pay a visit to one of my buddies who was away at college a couple hundred miles to the north. Before the actual trip I had called the guy a few times to catch up, talk sports and of course, girls. Before getting connected to his actual dorm room, calls were routed through the campus switchboard. Somewhere between the second and third call to my friend, I noticed that I had gotten connected to the same girl at the switchboard. I recognized her voice. I liked her voice. It was friendly and intelligent and playful. Her name was Janet. On my fourth call, Janet and I talked for more than an hour. On my fifth call, just before the actual trip to visit my buddy Tim, I asked if she would like to meet.

She was tentative but curious. Thanks to the Hilton and another line chef job I’d held before that, I had learned how to cook. I offered to come over and cook Steak Diane, double baked potato, broccoli with Hollandaise and chocolate mousse for dessert. I think I had convinced her at the “offering to cook” part.
The meeting was filled with anticipation and the hope that we would not repulse each other. Funny thing about blind dates in the 70’s, there was no Internet or camera phone to share pictures. The date was truly blind.

I drove up in my rusty Firebird with groceries and sauté pans in tow and found her apartment easily enough. Janet greeted me at the door with a smile and she got a big one back. Pictures weren’t needed. She was as attractive as her voice suggested; something I would learn to be the exception rather than the rule. I mean, have you seen pictures of your favorite radio DJ’s? Gives me the shivers.

I wound up making dinner for Janet and her roommate, something I had not expected but went along with. I figured that it was in my best interest to make friends with both of them and so I did. I was sure that the conversation about me would be fast and furious after I left for the evening so I decided to be the perfect gentleman. I would learn later that Janet had arranged some sort of signal with her roommate to be used if I turned out to be OK. That was the roommate’s cue that it was safe for Janet to be left alone with the strange guy. Apparently Janet had determined that I was in fact a decent guy but the roommate wouldn't leave. Janet told me months later that as soon as I started unpacking the food, the roommate had decided it would be three for dinner. The Steak Diane by the way, kicked ass.

We dated for months albeit long distance. I would drive up most weekends and stay at my buddy’s place or at her parent’s house which was pretty progressive in those days. Her father never seemed to mind. He was a pretty cool dude, actually. But, all things eventually come to an end and so did this relationship. It had been more than 8 months and I had started to fall in what I thought was love, but pieces and parts of the relationship had started to get weird and unexplainable.

It was the summer of 1980 and Janet had taken a temporary job near her home for extra cash. During our calls she would continue to bring up the name of a co-worker when talking about anything. “Dan” said this, and “Dan” said that. Dan? Really? Wow, Dan sounds like a great guy. Dan was also my first experience with a poacher. Dan was good at asking Janet things like, “Does he do this particular thing for you? Well, if you were my girlfriend I would do this for you every day”. Dan made a living out of picking on the fact that I lived hours away. Bastard.

On my last trip to see her that summer, Janet began to tell me about some trip that Dan was planning overseas and how she was thinking about going too. That was the end. For weeks she had been trying to tell me it was over, but with a concrete block for a head, I wasn’t hearing the message. Hey, you only have to tell me four or five times. I pick right up on those nuances.

It was a sad last day as I packed my car for the moonless ride back to Detroit. She waved, and I drove on. I remember a series of songs that played across the magic of FM radio and all of them were sappy love songs. Why is that cliché so true? One in particular seemed to have been written just for me. It was Christopher Cross and the song titled “Ride like the Wind”. All of it seemed to fit me perfectly as I drove south on I-75. “It is the night, my body’s weak. I’m on the run, no time for sleep. I’ve got to ride, ride like the wind, to be free again”.

Of course the song lyrics and my girlfriend situation parted ways as soon as we got to the part of the song that took me to the border of Mexico, but you get the idea. It was a long and painful ride home.
Doors have a way of closing and opening. The Janet door left a scar for a while but another door eventually opened. I had made enough money at the hotel to take college classes full time but then needed some sort of holiday employment for Christmas cash. I wound taking a minimum wage job at a large shopping mall selling cheese for a company called Swiss Colony. Yes, the actual low point of my entire working history. Did you know that one of our daily activities was removing the moldy cheese and scraping off the green stuff for re-wrapping? Did you know that the crust on Brie is actually hair-like mold that some farmer mashes down with his bare fist before packaging? I am a wealth of useless cheese trivia, but I’ve clearly digressed.

I was one of two guys working with a staff of women at this place, the Y chromosomes presumably hired to help unload the trucks as they came in, and of course scrape mold off the cheese. Three of the employees at the time happened to be sisters. On one slow Saturday afternoon, a cute little girl in nicely fitting jeans had come in to talk with what seemed like two of the three sisters. A friend I thought. As it turns out, the visit was staged because all three sisters had identified me as an available target for sister number four.

A few years later, after plenty of dating, graduation and acceptance of my first real job, I happily married sister number four. I recall Christopher Cross songs remaining popular all through the early 80’s and sad memories from “Ride Like the Wind” were replaced with fresh and happy ones. Sister number four was a keeper. I also remember thinking that for a guy with a great voice and lyrics, Christopher Cross was one ugly dude. I guess the old MTV adage is true, video did kill the radio star. On a similar closing note, I’m not quite sure what or who eventually killed the leisure suit, but thank you just the same.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Haven't forgotten you

Soon another great story will be up. Keep an eye out for it soon to come.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Melancholy Trip Down the Highway

The ride down the highway isn't always sugar and roses. But sometimes it gets us through the day.

Sitting in your chair so calmly
Waiting for the energy rush
That you know isn’t gonna come
Cause you are all doped up

And the only sound you hear
Is some old rock and roll song
Playing in your ear
All you hear is some old rock and
Roll song playing in your ear

But that’s ok, cause it isn’t Flatt and Scruggs
That’s ok it isn’t a country song that someone else loves
It’s a rock and roll song you hold dear
And it’s playing in your ear

And you notice then that though you’re less than lucid
You at least can make the words out clear
Of some old rock and roll song you have playing in your ear.

It’s the Stones
Singing Mama’s Little Helper
And you laugh out loud cause
You realize it’s time for your next dose

And you realize that even though you’re
Sitting in your recliner chair
Your phone in hand but no one’s there
And you’re listening to your favorite rock
And roll song
And you start to sing along.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Of Wannabe Hippies and Rod McKuen

a double shot from writer Juen (sic) Crawford Sanders


Toward destinations known and unknown in the new
freedom of the seventies our volkswagen squareback
traded later for a bus held all six of us a dream weaving
across roads mapped by rand-mcnally and hi-lighted
by dairy queens, cool streams and a yellow marker. West
to california disneyland the magic kingdom one magic day
on almost the last tank north to camp in the trees work for pay
then continue on our way out west where never is heard
but not so often and the wind blows free and so did we.
Resurrecting a raft at ruby beach the Children sailed the inlet
in search of adventure thru sunny days tented nights campfires
and stars keeping watch over us all six of us dream weaving


Me and McKuen

I once wrote to Rod McKuen
(and now I've given away my age)
He wrote back - a treasured page
And spelled my name Juen.


And one of Mr. McKuen's poems thrown in for good measure:

It’s nice sometimes
to open up the heart a little
and let some hurt come in.
It proves you’re still alive.
If nothing else
it says to you–
clear as a high hill air,
as diving through cold water–
I’m here.However wretchedly I feel,
I feel.
I’m not sure
why we cannot shake
the old loves
from our minds.
It must be that
we build on memory
and make them more
than what they were.
And is the manufacture
just a safe device
for closing up the wall?
I do remember.
the only fuzzy circumstance
is sometimes where and how.
Why, I know.
It happens
just because we need
to want and to be
wanted, too,
when love is here or gone
to lie down in the darkness
and listen to the warm.

Music, the Magical Healer

Been around the block and back again
A hundred times or more
This last trip that I took I fear
Has left me mighty sore

Mad at myself, at my situation
Mad that I can’t turn back time
Mad that I don’t have a potion
To ease the hurt that is mine.

They’ll fix me up, I’m sure of it
But what I’m really thinking.
Is how do I get through it all
Without so much as blinking?

The only thing today that works
Is getting back to the music
It’s bringing me out of my funk
And helping me not to lose it.

So I’ll go back to the basics
Crosby Stills and Nash and Young
And hopefully they’ll change me back
To the woman who’s mighty and strong…

~Wooden ships on the water, very free and easy,
Easy, you know the way it's supposed to be,
Silver people on the shoreline, let us be,
Talkin' 'bout very free and easy...~ CSNY



Friday, March 22, 2013

Memories of Friday Night High School Dances in Chicago

By John Henrichs

As teenage boys, we welcomed the area’s new all girl’s Catholic High School. We couldn’t thank the nuns enough for collecting all those girls for us! Better yet, the school would hold dances on the weekends, and we were allowed in. We thought it was nearly impossible not to come out a winner in this situation!

Of course, as usual we were wrong, but it wasn’t all bad. We got to hear some great local bands while being ignored by our intended prey. The band I remember most was the GTO’s. They played quite regularly around the area. We had a great time just listening, (and hoping we’d get noticed).

Years passed, I got married, and my wife, Carol, and I moved 600 miles away from our old home. By chance, I had to get a window screen fixed, and the man who fixed it owned a small shop west of town. I learned he was from our old area, and we had a nice chat regarding the “old days.”

I work for an estate sale business, and one day, my employer mentioned that we were doing a sale for the man at his shop. Since I was punctual, we had some time to again hang out and chat. As we waited for my boss, he showed me the items he wanted to sell. We came to a couple of guitars, and I asked “Do you play?” He answered with his own question, “Ever hear of a band called the GTO’s?”

The past came rushing back so fast it almost knocked me over! To see a person you saw in a different state, in practically a different life 40+ years later, was beyond my imagination! We have been friends ever since. I guess that sometimes, not often but sometimes, you really can go back!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Day the Hippies stole Hitler's Car

By Jackson Ahern

It was only a joyride to the gates of redemption
They ran like laughing children to the outskirts of Teutonic disgrace
splashed it with the colors of a Gypsy sunrise
and the fertile mud of Yasgur's farm
They took the folk's wagon and hid it
in the deepest part of their imaginations
shouted Shalom Aleichem into the heavens
frolicked like freaks and waited
for the Furher to self destruct