You’d think this Cycle365 Monthly Challenge would be particularly easy for me since I’m the one who proposed it, and you’d probably assume I had already thought long and hard about it and had my ride and song ready to go. While it’s true that I have thought long and hard about it, selecting a song has been much more difficult than I imagined.
Millions of songs have been written and recorded. Luckily there are only about 10,000 of them that I like. Yet, 10,000 is a pretty big number of songs to pick from for this project. It’s almost like trying to narrow all the words in the dictionary to one single favorite word. (Actually, that was a bad example because, in my case, the words “ME” and “MY” would easily make the top of the list.) Let’s use this example instead:
Well, March has arrived and a couple of people have already posted some rides for the Song Challenge. That’s a little embarrassing. I decided that if I expected to be a leader –not a follower — of my own challenge, I had better make some kind of commitment ASAP. My solution was to go to Google Play where I’ve stored about 200 of my favorite albums. I said to myself, “click on ‘SHUFFLE’ and the very first song that comes up will be my theme for the day.”
Oh yeah, it was a great idea in theory, but it didn’t work out. The first song was Neil Young’s “Round and Round” (the version with CrazyHorse.) I forwarded to the next one, Grateful Dead’s “Brokedown Palace.” Then came “The Hook” by Stephen Malkmus. I like all those songs but none of them connected with me at the time. None of the next bunch of songs made an immediate impression either. That’s when I decided I would keep forwarding through the playlist until I finally came to a song that reminded me of a very special place and time.
I clicked forward another 20 or 30 times until I came across a song that definitely fit my criteria. I chose the one you’ll see below because, not only did it bring back a memory, but it’s also a pretty darn good song.
Wow, I just listened to the song again and I think I’ll have to get to the specific memory in the next paragraph. Lowell George’s lyrics now resonate with me in ways I never thought about before. For example, I too have been “warped by the rain, driven by the snow.” And I consider myself a trucker, of sorts, because I ride a Surly Long Haul Trucker. Plus, The Feeshko’s real name is Alice and she really IS pretty (though I’ve never called her “Dallas Alice.”) And, truth be told, I’ve used “weed, whites, and wine” in days gone by. And when it comes to cycling, I AM “willin’ to be movin’.” I admit I haven’t “driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made” and I haven’t “driven the backroads so I wouldn’t get weighed.” But I HAVE driven quite a few bikes that have been made and I’ve driven the backroads so I wouldn’t get slayed (by a truck driver.)
I had fun adapting the lyrics to my own purposes, but here’s where the song immediately reminded me of a certain place and time. After The Feeshko and I moved to the Minneapolis-St.Paul area, I re-connected with some college acquaintances who had moved here a couple years earlier and we are great friends to this day. We saw many fine bands from the area in the early 1980’s. We had some crazy, crazy times.
On the particular night I referred to earlier, we checked out The Mary Jane Alm Band — a cover band with a good local reputation thanks to the namesake lead singer. I think it was on a cold winter night in early 1982 and the place was a now-defunct music venue called Mister Nibs. [*See Footnote]
Mary Jane Alm was mesmerizing in how she should easily alternate between a voice dripping with sweetness and a voice soaring with soul and power. She was sort of a blonde Twin Cities version of Linda Ronstadt. And that night she sang a very impressive version of “Willin’.” In my opinion, it was her best song of the evening.
This morning I thought it would be cool to drive to Minneapolis and re-visit the area around Mr. Nibs with my bike. Since I couldn’t remember exactly where Mr. Nibs was, I Googled the address and learned that the building had actually burned down a couple decades ago. Even so, I wanted to check out the site.
Most of the other venues we went to back then are located in downtown Minneapolis. I didn’t feel like riding up there when the streets are still a little icy, so I backtracked and rode a few miles on the Midtown Greenway — one of America’s great urban bicycle commuter routes.
I know this post is getting pretty long — and maybe I should put an end to it right now — but in addition to Mary Jane Alm’s memorable performance, something else happened too. If you’re bored, I grant you permission to stop reading.
As we were leaving Mr. Nibs, a very short woman with long dark hair, Native American I think, tried to pick me up. She was very aggressive about it, grabbing me, rubbing her frontal area against me, and whispering unintelligible words in my ear. She was very drunk . . . or high on drugs . . . or maybe both. She might have even been a prostitute. I tried to discourage her by telling her my girlfriend probably wouldn’t appreciate me bringing her home. My friends and I left and, as we walked up the street laughing and joking, I remember also feeling very sorry for that girl.
[*Footnote:] I must give credit to my friend Al. I could not remember the name of the music venue, so I texted him last night to see if he remembered it. Of course he did! He was a drummer in the Marquette, Michigan musical underground before moving to Minneapolis, where he became, and continues to be, a big fan of local live music. He’s still drumming and has played in several Mpls. bands and local jam sessions. He also remembered a few other details from that night at Mr. Nibs which I had completely forgotten about. I don’t think I’ll get into that right now.]