When I first sat down to pen this post, I couldn’t recall a “best” trip of my life. We traveled every summer of my youth and there are several that stand out to me as remarkable vacations. Since it was too taxing to pinpoint the best, I thought I would tell the tale of the worst trip of my life, which was hands down in 1991 when my father, in a rage, deserted my husband and I, newlyweds, in Nashville, TN to find our own way back to Nebraska with no transportation, two tickets to Opryland, and $300 to our name.
BUT! As luck would have it, while refreshing my memory concerning the finer points of Mark Edmundson’s essay “Pink Floyd Night School” in order to teach my students narrative writing, I remembered that I had, in fact, had a “best trip of my life.” Edmundson, in hopes to persuade his students to “take it slow” after graduation and enjoy life, tells a story about his being a stage hand for a Pink Floyd concert, and had he went straight into grad school, he would have missed this particular life event.
Edmundson’s essay reminded me of my very first concert and the very, very bad decision that ends up being one of my best stories.
My folks didn’t allow any of my siblings and I to go to rock concerts while we were in school, not even during the summer. While my friends were taking off to Omaha and Lincoln to see Van Halen, RUSH, Foreigner, KISS, Aerosmith and the like, I was left at home pretending to be at the concerts, but listening to my brother’s cassettes on my dad’s mono-speaker cassette player that I had to sneak into my room.
The summer between my Junior and Senior years in high school, my boyfriend bought 4 tickets to the Iowa Jam in Des Moine, IA, two for him and me and two more for whomever I wanted to include. By some stroke of luck, my parents were planning a trip to Indiana that week to see my grandparents, and I somehow talked my way out of going.
My boyfriend didn’t have a valid driver’s license (loser) and neither Amy, Lori or I had a car, so we put our heads together and decided that since it was only an overnight trip we would take (steal really because my parents had no idea what was happening) whichever vehicle the parents didn’t take to Indiana. My dad had a ’76 brown, 3-speed AMC Gremlin that was his pride and joy at that time – the Lord only knows why – and a Chevy station wagon. We ended up taking the station wagon. All I can say is it was a smooth ride to Des Moines that Monday in late May.
We started the 3 hour drive early Monday morning and were easily at the Iowa State Fair Grounds before the concert started at noon. We listened to some unknown garage bands before the big boys took the stage: Motley Crue, Areosmith, Ted Nugent, Scorpions, and Ozzy. The Scorpions, my favorite of all favorite bands (because 1. I’m a scorpio; 2. They’re German; and 3. I love their music (it doesn’t hurt that I thought Klaus was cute.) were right in the middle of the line up. right at that the point where day is kissing night goodbye, it began to mist a little and Rudolf Schenker (lead guitarist) begins the desperately lonesome intro to Still Loving You, but the drum kit wasn’t set up and Klaus Meine, the lead singer, wasn’t on stage. I’m thinking, “This is my favorite song. Where is he?” After Steven Tyler was booed for forgetting the words to one of his songs earlier in the day, I prepared myself for another let down.
Then I heard Klaus’s unmistakable vocals, gritty and consuming, accompanied only by the forlorn guitar. He started to quietly plead, “Time… it needs time, to win back your love again… I will be there… I will be there.” The crowd started screaming and I frantically searched the stage for Klaus. He wasn’t there. Then I heard the drawn out “Love…” only the ‘o’ sounds like ‘au’ in “caught,” because, you know, he’s German. “Love… only love, can bring back your love again… I will be there… I will be there.” Although, he still wasn’t there. There was only Rudolph, playing his heart-aching solo that dripped with despair.
With the stretched whine of the ending cord, there was Kaus, in the air, descending from the rafters upside down from the drum cage.
The pounding of the drums boosted the lyrics from desperate pleading to resolute determination as Klaus sang, “Fight…babe, I’ll fight… to win back your love again” Oh my god! I swore he was singing to me!
I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. The drum kit lowered into place, and while he was singing to save our love, Klaus climbed off of the cage, walked to center stage, and, I swear, sang the rest of that song to me while I was standing in the rain. With each word, I felt how badly he didn’t want the relationship to end.
At the of the song when he belted out “I’m still loving yooooooooou,” I swear my underwear fell off.
Listen to it here (the song, not my underwear falling off): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqCKvUSik-I
What a glorious night that was. I don’t remember who played after the Scorpions, and I don’t even care. The image of Klaus through the misty night air hanging upside down as the drum cage floated down from the heavens will be etched into my memory forever. A memory I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for one very bad decision.
I recently reconnected with Amy and asked if she remembered that venture. She sure did, and we both at how easy-going her mother was about the whole scam. That woman kept a lot of secrets for me. Amy and I both agreed that we would probably kill our kids if they tried to do something like that.
Those were the good ol’ days – bad decision galore.
Like I told my students, if you are going to make a bad decision, you better make sure you make it memorable.