May 032013

Hunkering down at U. Penn's Spring Fling, circa 1986.

Hunkering down at U. Penn’s Spring Fling, circa 1986.

I don’t know about where you live, but where I live, in the Philadelphia area, we are enjoying the most glorious, Classic Spring season in recent memory. It’s been sunny most days with just enough rain a few nights a week to keep the budding vegetation satisfied. The temperatures have been in the 60s, which I’ll take at this time of year. Some people, like my wife, wish we could get a month-long stretch of weather in the mid-70s, but I think that’s asking for too much. Often, at this time of year, we’re slogging through a full week of rain and temperatures still in the high 40s. My nearly half-century experience in this area tells me that once the thermometer hits 75º F in Philadelphia for 2 or 3 days in a row that a quick spike to 90º F with stifling humidity is just around the corner.

I’ve been so carried by the weather this April and the first few days of May that I’ve found myself having flashbacks to carefree spring days of my youth. As with many of my memories, a soundtrack is quickly associated. Days like this remind me of rushing from school or work to meet up with friends and start hitting the bong and/or the $6 case of beer. Freshman year at a college outside Chicago, during a week of just this sort of weather, I recall a friend and I placing stereo speakers on the windowsill of my dorm room and blasting the soundtrack from Apocalypse Now, a double-album set composed of the most of the movie’s dialog and sound effects, for passerby to hear: “Saigon…shit!”

Earlier this week, as the morning sun filtered through the fresh leaves on a winding Pennsylvania road, I had my 2 newly purchased New Order songs cranked up—yeah, 2 of the 25 characteristically ’80s songs I actually liked in their prime! I recalled a few college crushes and actual relationships that petered out. I recalled my efforts at getting over the hump and actually feeling tuned into the times. Soft Cell‘s “Tainted Love” was another song I could enjoy in mixed company—a mix of normal and slightly hip people, that is, not just my posse of high-minded, too-cool-for-school (yet criminally UNcool) outsiders who helped me spend my free time talking B-sides and SCTV skits.

The Buzzcocks have been sounding even better than ever, if you can imagine that. That feeling I’ve carried around for almost ever hit me hard: What’s wrong with this world that barely knows the wonders of The Buzzcocks?

My younger son wanted to hear Blondie the other night, and I had to resist high-fiving him over the thought of prime-time Debbie Harry singing “Dreaming.” I know what’s going on in his near-adolescent brain. But I don’t want to be one of those dads.

Last week our baseball team had its first road game. One of the guys owns a huge, black Mercedes “S.W.A.T.” van. He easily fit most of the team: 10 middle-aged guys and our player-coach’s 15-year-old son, who keeps score and helps out the team (and likely stores up a wealth of laughs). I sat in the back row both ways. On the ride home the van’s owner, our best pitcher, turned on a local rock station. There was a block of songs from 1987. Surrounded by my teammates, all of us somehow riding high after a 19-0 ass-kicking, even Guns ‘n Roses‘ “Paradise City,” or whatever that song is called, sounded great. The station moved onto playing other rock songs from the ’70s and ’80s. Guys started talking music. I kept my mouth shut, for fear of showing how much of a rock snob I was. They were talking about U2 and Springsteen and REM. Our player-coach’s son blurted out, “I hate REM!” I refrained from shooting him a high five.

Finally, our catcher, the guy who reminds me of my Babe Ruth League catcher and my first guitar partner, spoke up. “I liked New Wave music,” he said, “English Beat, The Specials, stuff like that.” I wanted to jump across 2 rows and hug the guy, but I still resisted showing my hand. No wonder, I thought to myself, I immediately liked this guy!

As the S.W.A.T. van approached our tree-lined destination, the driver’s home, right around the corner from me, Cheap Trick‘s “Surrender” came on. I could resist no longer. “Crank it up!” I yelled. He did. Graying, balding heads nodded in unison. I bet even the true teenager among us digs “Surrender.”

Soon enough the season will change to summer, I’ll happen across an Oldies station playing “It’s So Nice to Be With You,” and I’ll be taken back to a horse pasture at my grandparents’ farm, where I hold a vivid memory of hanging with a silken-haired, 11-year-old girl, for whom our innocent childhood friendship through the friendship our mothers struck up as their marriages fell apart, was on the verge of turning into something new!

Considering that I spend inordinate amounts of time hanging in these Hallowed Halls, it’s no surprise that our friendship never turned into something more and that I barely ever saw her again, as our mothers had some unexplained falling out. But those are summer memories with the sounds of poolside music. I want to soak up this season. I hope you’ve been digging your Spring and that cool sounds are springing to mind along with your seasonal memories.


  13 Responses to “Season Cycle”

  1. What are you smoking?…and are you going to share with the rest of us?

  2. [Coughs…extends hand] Here.

  3. diskojoe

    This is the season where I break out my Lovin’ Spoonful albums. I only listen to them during the Spring & Summer months. Songs like “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” fit this time of year perfectly, while “Daydream” & especially “Summer In the City” perfectly encapsulate Summer, especially my childhood ones.

  4. BigSteve

    Nice story, but I hate you for your weather. It snowed Thursday here in Kansas City, so I find it hard to relate. Rain today, with a high in the 40. I think I’ll listen to the Smiths.

  5. Yuk! Sorry to hear that – and the lousy weather you’re having:)

  6. Hilarious. It sounds like they cooked up that version over breakfast. Hetfield’s rock posturing is totally out of place.

    What I really want to see next is Lars Ulrich throwing out the first pitch.

  7. ohmstead

    Was traveling this weekend with limited time to post…but had been looking forward to having the chance to admit to being at Penn Spring Break ’86 – yup I was there – it was my junior year. I even distinctly remember hanging out by the stage for a while…but pretty sure I missed the Nixon’s Head performance…good times.

  8. ohmstead

    Yeah…I was also looking forward to adding to the baseball theme by opining on the sheer spring time pleasure of watching my 8 year old nephew play in a dusky little league game down in suburban DC…never seen so much base stealing in my life…

    …until we got back to town this afternoon in time to take advantage of some gift seats at Citizens Bank Park (great seats – Section 222 directly behind home plate) and then proceeded to watch Roy Halladay give up 9 runs in the first two innings to the Marlins (the Marlins!). A number of people in the crowd booed him when he got pulled off the mound, which really, really irritated me…I mean the guy pitches only the second perfect game in MLB post season history and the next minute he is a bum. Hate that…just hate it.

    Well, still a lot of games to play and I guess loosing 14-2 to the 10 and 22 Marlins is not the end of the world (though pretty close) but couldn’t help thinking to myself when Chooch’s walk-up music – “In the Air Tonight” – came on that there sure was something in the air and it stinks.

  9. That was a depressing game. I agree: under no circumstances does Roy Halladay get booed, at least in Philadelphia (and Toronto, I would think). I only listened to a few innings of yesterday’s game on the radio following the double-header my team played. I was so beat after 6 straight hours of baseball that the Phils fiasco fit right into the mental and physical meltdown I had to battle through. Really fun day of baseball at Spicer Field, however! We lost the first game in our established fashion, but made the second game verrrrrry interesting, jumping out to our first-ever lead, then trading runs until a last-inning rally fell just short. A 13-11 loss was a big step forward for us. None of us got injured, which was huge, although I figure I wasn’t the only guy with cramps atop cramps last evening.

    I was either 2-6 or 3-7 over the 2 games, scoring 3 runs. It’s incredible how relatively fast I am in this league. Speed was NEVER remotely a part of my game as a kid. My final at-bat I got sawed off and broke my beloved old-school bat with heft and a thick handle. I’m now on a quest to find a replacement. I may need to get some bats custom made. All that I see for sale are stinking toothpick-handled bats. If anyone has a line on old-school bat with a thick handle I can choke up on, let me know. I don’t need something as thick as the old Jackie Robinson model; a step or 2 down from that table leg he used to wield is perfect. I need to find 3 mansticks to get through this season. Thanks.

  10. ohmstead

    I’ll take 3-7. And 3 runs! Friggin’ awesome. But sorry to hear about your bat. Interestingly, at the aforementioned Phillies debacle one of the Marlins batters (I can’t remember which one right now) struck out and slammed his bat on the ground splitting it…and they were already up by 10! Ass. They deserve to wear the ugliest uniform in Major League Baseball.

    OK…I think we need to swing this conversation at least nominally back to musical purpose of this site and ask THE question all Town Hallers have been waiting to ask: what is Mr. Mod’s mental walk up music when he strides up to bat?

    And if we don’t get a satisfactory answer we will open it up to Hall-wide suggestions.

  11. jeangray

    No amount of 11 year old puppy love can forgive nostalgia for “Nice to be with You.” Shudder…

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