(I love progressive rock. The music of the Alan Parsons Project, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and the Moody Blues all strike a resonant chord in my heart and listening to their music brings peace and directs my thinking to grand and cosmic topics. Unfortunately some of those wonderful songs are “time-stamped” with less than grand events and listening them brings on memories of what was going on in my life when I first heard them, cosmic or not)
It was the latter part of November 1970 and well into that part of the Alaskan year when our days seemed more like life on the Moon than life on Earth. Only five degrees latitude separated us from Eternal Night and with only six hours of true sunlight each day SAD (Seasonal Adjustive Disorder) was a very real battle for people like my dad or my older sister – but not for me.
Why was I so blessed?
- Maybe it was because I’d spent the last eight years growing up in photonic-starved environment.
- Maybe it was because I spent most of my waking hours as a student indoors focused on reading books.
- Maybe it was the distraction music and television provided.
Whatever the case, darkness was no curse for me. It also helped that I had mentally tacked the two hours of morning and evening twilight onto our officially allotted daylight; twilight that would paint everything with a magenta/orange glow as magical as anything found in fantasy or science-fiction. For that matter daily living in a sub-Arctic winter wasn’t that much different from what I saw on 2001: A Space Odyssey: We bundled up in parkas and warm clothing marginally less complicated than space suits and went about our business in harsh conditions under the stars. Alaskans would make great astronauts.
Perhaps that’s why a Moody Blues theme album based on space travel hit appealed so strongly to me. Released in late 1969, To Our Children’s Children’s Children was written and produced as a reaction to the Apollo 11 moon landing – with generous portions of childhood memories and psychedelia as additional ingredients. I’d purchased the record at the suggestion of my friend Bachelorette #21 and soon found that playing it on my stereo wasn’t just a matter of listening – it involved interpreting and deconstructing the music and sometimes just basking in the glory of resonating synthesizers and haunting vocals.
Blasting, billowing, bursting forth
With the power of ten billion butterfly sneezes
Man, with his flaming pyre
Has conquered the wayward breezes
Whispered class-room discussions about the album led to a Friday date with B2 and as I started out that evening the album was still resonating in my head. I was definitely working on an outer space vibe – snowflakes caught in the headlights’ glare could easily be mistaken for stars and planets zipping past as the Enterprise traveled at warp-speed.
…but while totally stoked about both the album and the evening’s activities I was a little jittery – not because of the young lady in question but rather the location of her home just off the end of North Kenai road. I’d be putting 150 hard-to-explain miles on the odometer that night, so it wasn’t the date but rather getting my cover story right that was launching intestinal Stukas. I took a deep breath and drove on, confident that I had planned for every contingency.
Our destination was a cinematic nerd-fest currently showing at the KAMBE theater, a double-feature including the Italian action flick Danger: Diabolik and a nondescript science fiction film entitled Project X. We were able to watch the entire first film, but Time was wearing Adidas that night and we had to leave half-way through Project X2. The snowfall had picked up a bit while we’d been watching the shows but the extra travel time brought on by the worsening weather allowed us to pick up our on-going medium-to-deep discussion about To Our Children’s Children’s Children, and when we kissed on her doorstep I all but floated over the deepening snow out to the Maverick, elated on several levels but mostly relieved that the night was going to work out.
Oh you’d like it
Gliding around get your feet off the ground
Oh you’d like it
Do as you please with so much ease
The Hand of Fate abruptly pulled the cosmic tone-arm across the 33 1/3 record of my life as I ran the car into a snowbank while backing out of the driveway. Twenty minutes of feverish digging and shoving got the Maverick out of the ditch and back on the road but in the process I lost the left brake lens cover and wasted another ten minutes searching for it before giving up and driving off. As I turned onto North Kenai road I glanced at my wristwatch I could see that I had only forty-five minutes to curfew, but if I drove just a little faster I could get home on time. As I loosened my death-grip on the steering wheel and shook some of the tension out of my shoulders I mentally skipped to the next song.
Gazing past the planets
Looking for total view
I’ve been lying here for hours
You gotta make the journey
Out and in
Out and in
All I could see in the rear-view mirrors were flashing red lights, so I immediately pulled over and started digging through parka and trousers for my wallet. An Alaska State Trooper materialized at the side of the car and as I rolled the window down I wondered if Smoky the Bear trooper hats were designed to scare the hell out of people or if terror was just a fringe benefit.
“Going a little fast for conditions weren’t you son? Let me see your license please”
He looked at my license, bit his lower lip then said: ”Are you June Deitrick’s boy?”
“Yes sir” I replied, silently adding “ …and if you’re friends with my folks I am so screwed”
He sighed: “You’re in trouble enough without a ticket. Get home as safe and soon as you can”.
A gypsy of a strange and distant time
Travelling in panic all direction blind
Aching for the warmth of a burning sun
Freezing in the emptiness of where he’d come from
Although I managed to get home without getting stopped by a second trooper unexpectedly cruising the highway close to home my internal dive-bombers had renewed their attack by the time I pulled into the driveway. Expecting the worst I was surprised when Mom didn’t go ballistic over the broken curfew. I explained in my half-truthful manner that I was late because I took a friend home, a friend “who I didn’t want to identify”. Mom assumed the person in question was a football buddy too “— faced” to navigate but for some reason she only grounded me for the next week.
I never thought I’d get to be a million
I never thought I’d get to be the thing
That all his other children see
…Look at me.
By the time I climbed up to my loft and collapsed on my bunk the internal Stukas had all landed and I was able to relax. I cued up the album and let the music wash the stress away – as I’ve written before alcohol had little effect on me and I moved in the wrong social circles to get involved with weed so music was my drug by default, especially brand-new progressive rock albums.
Watching and waiting
For a friend to play with
Why have I been alone so long
Mole he is burrowing his way to the sunlight
He knows there’s some there so strong
…then with a start I remembered the missing brake light cover.
Our legendary midnight summer sun had just edged under the horizon but there was still plenty of light in the sky as I dropped B2 off after our end-of-the-summer-headed-for-college date. As I backed the Maverick out of her driveway two thoughts came to mind:
- Her home and surroundings looked totally different when not buried in three feet of snow.
- The Maverick’s red plastic brake-light lens cover was sitting smartly on the side of the road as if it had been just dropped there…
- See 1971: “…then Dave turned 16 and discovered girls”
- See Project X Amazon Review