As anyone who knows me knows, two nights of every week are just me and my minions (Nicole works). And it just so happens that those nights, most weeks = Bath nights. Back in the day, bath nights were… well? A bit stressful. But then one night–as water flew everywhere, #NatNatBoo cried about having water in her eyes and Cara… well, was just her typical, dramatic self–it dawned on me how I could make the experience better for everyone. Not just for the girls but for me as well. That realization?
Music. I would play music.
There was no “Hoops Hysteria Playlist” or playlist entitled “If ENDWORLD Had A Soundtrack…” this was pre-playlists. Pre-Spotify. Basically I just plugged my iPod Classic into its Sonos base, picked an album and hit PLAY. Never shuffle… oh no. Not in a world pre-playlists and pre-Spotify. Back then (and still occasionally, despite my proclivity toward selecting a random playlist on Spotify and hitting SHUFFLE) I didn’t mix it up. If I wanted to mix it up I put on one of my old mix tapes. No. I grew up listening to albums. WHOLE albums in sequence from start to finish.
There’s a lot to be said for that. It’s really the only way to understand the artistic progression that the singer or band intended. Case in point? Well sh*t. Pick an album. “Tommy” by The Who. “The Wall” by Pink Floyd. “Sergeant Pepper” by The Beatles. The order of the music is integral to appreciating the album as a whole. Who wants to listen to “Us And Them” and then “Breathe?” NO! “Us And Them” needs to be followed by “Any Colour You Like,” “Brain Damage” and finally, “Eclipse.” It’s how Roger Waters and David Gilmour intended it. And it’s one of the most incredible four song sequences in the history of music. Still not as good as the shorter and more poignant “Golden Slumber Suite” from “Abbey Road” but masterful in a different way. And that’s not just the opinion of a reformed Wacky Weed smoker. There’s a reason why “Dark Side Of The Moon” is one of the biggest selling albums of all time, even to this day, 40+ years after it first came out.
But I digress. Sh*t, when do I ever not? My reason for writing this summer-like evening in April, a few days away from Easter is not to talk about music. Well, at least not directly. In truth? It was my decision tonight, on yet another bath night to listen to an album from start to finish and that album? The one I chose? “Ten Summoner’s Tales” by Sting. The girls haven’t really listened to a lot of Sting and in truth? I haven’t in years. But tonight it just felt… right. I don’t know why. Sometimes intuition defies explanation. Anywhos, I made it through the first two songs–“If I Ever Lose My Faith In You” and “Love Is Stronger Than Justice”–but the third song on the album in sequence was the one that caught my attention. I’ll give you three guesses as to which one it is. Feel free to list them in the comments section though admittedly, I’ll reveal it long before you get there so why bother? Ready? Here goes. Better to just embed it, I think. That way you get the full affect.
Yes. “Fields Of Gold.” A classic ballad circa 1993 that many of you reading this (or in my case WRITING this) likely danced to. Or kissed to. Or did… other things that I won’t go into here to. Those memories are yours and mine alone and should remain that way. This isn’t about, as I used to say “getting schazzy.” I found myself listening to the lyrics as the children went about their bedtime routine and my mind? It went back. Time travel? It’s a funny thing. It’s not just Science Fiction… the topic of “Doctor Who” and selected episodes and cinematic treatments of “Star Trek.” Anyone can travel back in time in their mind if the stimuli are there. The smell of rose perfume. The sight of a parking structure in a town far detached from the one you lay your head in now. The touch of silk, brushing against your hand. And the sound. The sound of a song from your childhood that takes you back…
Back to the Summer of… was it 1994 or 1995? I honestly can’t remember. My gut is telling me 1995 but it MAY HAVE BEEN 1994. Anyone that can confirm the actual year please do so at the end in the comments section. Or don’t. It really doesn’t matter when it was. It was summer and I was younger. Yes, much younger than I am tonight. My grey hair was… prevalant (sh*t, I started going gray in high school) but not over abundant. I was still beardless. Yes, me: Beardless. There was a time when my face was as hairless as a baby’s bottom. My gut lacked the sag it has at almost 42, a sag that remains apparent despite almost six straight weeks of working out. I knew nothing of marriage or children. I knew of college, working two jobs to pay for it and my bedroom at home on good old Maple Street in J-Town. And Wacky Weed… I can’t forget that. That may have been when I developed my deep appreciation for “Dark Side Of The Moon,” sarcasm totally intended.
Those summers… those days of youth “upon the fields of Barley” were much, much simpler. Days and nights… social gatherings were dominated by two things: Alcohol and water guns. Specifically, Super Soakers. That was the time of the great Montgomery County Super Soaker Arms Race. It’s difficult to say when it started. One day, someone simply showed up at someone’s house with a water gun and the rest? History. A blur of one person buying a bigger gun than the next person and doing everything in his or her power to “out soak” everyone else. The result? Two successive summers of Water Wars. Water War I was nothing special–five or six of us on a rainy night on my friend Matt’s country property. I can’t remember if I won or lost that night. Matt and I were always on opposing teams and he was good. REALLY good, so I probably lost. The guy had the mentality of a military man despite the fact that the closest he, and for that matter I ever came to actual military action before Water War I was a late night viewing of “Aliens.” Water War I was, for the most part, unmemorable. I couldn’t even tell you who was on my team. But the next year… Water War II? Well sh*t. That engagement was epic. And it all started with a decision. THE decision by Matt and I to team up for the first time against all would-be challengers.
Our team was small. We liked it that way. Matt, myself, his then-girlfriend-now-wife Caren and our friend Heather. The opposing team was a hodgepodge of friends both past and present… roughly eight or nine participants total. The site of the battle? Pennypack Park in Huntington Valley on a mid-summer afternoon. It was a neutral site and thus of advantage to no one. But Matt and I had done our homework. We’d scouted the park beforehand… devised our attack plan. Smaller and faster. “Hit and run” back to our hidden basecamp where we had stashed everything from backup Super Soakers to water balloons and gallon jugs of water. When the afternoon of the battle rolled around it was 80 degrees, humid and sunny. And we were ready.
Or at least we thought we were. The early stages of the engagement didn’t quite go according to our plan. Heather went down early, the victim of a well-thrown water balloon by our friend and wilderness guru Ed. That left eight or nine people against three. But we were able to rally and even the numbers. When Caren was finally taken out some 45 minutes or so after the battle started the only participants left were Matt and myself on one team, and our friends Alex and the aforementioned wilderness guru Ed on the other. The final confrontation took place in shadow–as thunderheads massed in the sky overhead–on a narrow dirt path bordered on either side by heavy undergrowth. I remember charging downhill toward Alex and Ed, dodging water balloons and soaking streams the whole way. Sadly? I was unprepared for the exposed tree root that lay in my path halfway down the slope and with a scream and an audible “click,” I went down face first in the muck, my ankle screaming in pain.
To this day I don’t know if I sprained it or not. I was not one for seeking medical attention back in those days. But I remember that it hurt. A LOT. I remember the water balloon that hit and exploded upon my chest. It had been thrown before I went down. The good news? Matt managed to flank our opponents while they were distracted, take them both out and ensure victory for our side a moment later. The bad? I could barely walk for about a week. But the pain was tempered by the thrill of victory. We’d done it! An unholy alliance = An epic victory. And in hindsight? That partnership between Matt and I that afternoon… that moment when we set aside our competitive history and finally teamed up was likely the catalyst that started one of the greatest friendships of my life. Booyakasha, Mattias. RESPECT.
Shortly after we left the park the sky opened up. It rained all the way from Pennypack to our dinner in Abington. We ate as friends after competing all afternoon and I remember it being one of the greatest meals of my life despite my throbbing ankle. Those people? The ones that participated in Water War II? They were and thankfully remain my friends… my family to this day. Perhaps that is why the memory is so vivid, even after 20+ years. We’re I to think hard enough… we’re the stimuli right, I’d likely be able to remember exactly what I ate that night. But it’s late and let’s face it: Memories DO have limits, especially at almost 42 years old. But what I remember? It’s like Sting sings in “Fields Of Gold.”
Many years have passed, since those summer days, upon the fields of Barley. See the children run, as the sun goes down, among the fields of gold. You’ll remember me, when the West Wind moves, upon the fields of Barley. You can tell the sun, in his jealous sky, when we walked in fields of gold. When we walked in fields of gold. When we walked in fields of gold.
Do I miss those days? Of course. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t. Would I give anything to have that afternoon back for a moment? Well, not anything. I mean sh*t: I like a lot of what I have now. And I’m fortunate to still know many of the people who were there with me that afternoon so at the least, we can relive it and our other adventures–and oh BOY did we have a couple; I’ll write more of them another time–when we’re together, now with our partners, watching our own children run and play as the sun goes down. Sting’s fields of gold? They’re a state of mind. One that gets passed down from generation to generation. I still look forward to the day when I buy my own daughters their first Super Soakers. Maybe they’ll one day team with Caren and Matt’s children in Water War III. Who knows? Time travel into the past via memory is possible but time travel into the future? Sadly we can’t go there yet. But we can mentor them… teach them… revel in watching our children experience all that we experienced. We can teach them to not just hit SHUFFLE on their own iPod and iPad iTunes or Spotify playlists but instead, listen to an album as it was intended to be listened to. After all, “Going To California” SHOULD lead into “When The Levee Breaks,” not into “Black Dog,” right?
The point of this whole piece of Mental Flatulence friends and foes? Never lose sight of where you came from. Never forget who you were 20+ years ago, happily charging down a narrow, dirt path in a park a long ways away from the place you lay your head in currently. That person? You can always get him or her back. He or she may be forgotten in the stress of bath night or the sadness of a sometimes mundane, routine existence and that’s okay. But you are more than just the you you see in the mirror every day. You’re that person too, but you’re also the Super Soaker toting pre-adult with a less saggy stomach and a touch less white hair “up top,” reveling in what feels like an endless summer day, “upon the fields of Barley.”
G’night, all. Winky emoticon. Smiley face.