Undaunted, I Knew the Game was Mine to Win

Undaunted, I Knew the Game was Mine to Win

     Hello once again faithful readers. I hope this posting finds you all well… I know I’ve been well. This past week, minus some of the bothersome rains, has been pretty good, dare I say excellent. The weather’s been getting better, and we’re nearing the Cherry Blossom Festival (a special time for visitors and DC-denizens alike). It seems that I’ve been slowly becoming accustomed to this-here corporate grind: waking up on time, getting my extra-curricular work done early, and getting to bed at a reasonable hour. Yes, I’m finally becoming an old man, but somehow it feels good. I have some small sense of accomplishment over this; knowing that when I’m done for the semester (and subsequently done with my college experience for good) that I’ll be ready to embrace the “real world.” I’ve pretty much stumbled upon a new me. Enough rambling about my cathartic transformation into pure adulthood, though. I’m sure you’re all eager to hear a sampling of my misadventures for the week (or the past few worth of events that I’ve stored for you all). Today, choosing to repeat a post format from a previous week, I’ve decided to re-relate some of my experiences to songs that I think best summarize the highlight events over the last good chunk of my time out here. Here I’ll choose three entirely new events paired with three entirely new songs for all of you to sample; showcasing not only the breadth of my musical enjoyment, but also the breadth of experiences that have taken place over the last couple weeks. So buckle-up folks, there’s a bumpy ride ahead!

the Alan Parsons Project's "Sirius/Eye in the Sky" vs. the Verizon Center

Bulls Game

     Starting off this week’s recap of events, I thought I’d start with something only a true Chicagoan could properly appreciate: the Bulls game. That’s right you heard me correctly, I attended the Wizards vs. Bulls game a couple weeks ago. Now, not that well-versed in the ways of professional basketball these days, don’t expect me to ramble off a dictionary’s worth of statistics, because it’s not going to happen. In fact, the only reason I went was because the opportunity simply fell into my lap one Monday night. Also, tickets were only fifteen bucks a person, albeit they were in the nosebleed seats, but more on that later. The song I’ve chosen to help me define this memorable experience can be none other than the Alan Parsons Project Classic – “Sirius/Eye in the Sky.” I simply can’t help myself whenever I hear this song then to bellow out in my best Ray Clay impression: “AAAAAAANNNNNNDDD NOOOWWWWW, THE STARTING LINEUP FOR YOURRR CHIIIICAAAGGGOOO BULLLSSSSS!!”

Defense

scoreboard

     The song, while only a minute and fifty-four seconds long, might be the finest example of music adapted for a sports team’s theme song. This song defined my childhood, growing up watching the Bulls win a total of six NBA championships between 1991 and 1998. Ahhh, the memories, ladies and gentlemen. Well, it’s a good thing the Bulls are back on the up-and-up with a .723 percentage, equaling fourty-seven wins and eighteen losses, and fully taking advantage of dominant superstars on the squad like Derrick Rose who is averaging 24.7 points a game so far. On my trip to the glitzy, neon-plastered Verizon Center, the result was no less than exactly what I expected. The Bulls ended up coming out on top, tromping John Wall and the Wizards in a 105 to 77 beating. But, the game didn’t start that way. In fact, the entire first half was fairly close. But, just like the building, swelling melody of “Sirius,” so the Bulls too had to pick up speed before dominating the second half. Just as the slams of Ian Bairnson’s guitar crash your eardrums during the crescendo of “Sirius,” so did the Bulls’ players crash the boards, taking advantage of every open shot and any loose ball. By the end of the game many of the Wizard fans, and even Chicago fans, had left the game, choosing instead to get out of dodge before the floods of people attempted to exit the stadium and retreat down into the clogged hallways of the Metro station. Considering this was my first Bulls game that I’ve been to in many, many years, I found it quite enjoyable, as did my roommate Francisco, who had, up until this point, never seen a game of professional basketball played. While our original seats were somewhere between the nosebleeds and the catastrophic bleed-outs, we, under the cover of halftime, snuck our way down into the one-hundred section, claiming spots roughly twenty-to-thirty rows behind floor seats diagonal to the Bulls’ defending basket. This were, simply put, the best seats I’ve ever had at a basketball game, and being so close surely made the experience much more intense. In this sense, as the tides of victory rose and swelled in the Bulls’ favor, so did the ever-present tune of “Sirius,” reminding me of not only a rich history of basketball, but the rich history of my very childhood. Plus, to not have the Alan Parsons Project as the general ever-playing music in your head at a Bulls game seems like a downright sin. Therefore despite the fact that “Sirius,” along with the next track “Eye in the Sky,” are both quality prog. Rock songs, even if I didn’t really enjoy them, I couldn’t help but choose them. I didn’t pick the song, the omniscient spirits of the ’97-’98 Chicago Bulls did… hands down, one of the best teams to ever have played the game.

 Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" vs. The National Vietnam Memorial Wallsoldiers

     Coming up next my most esteemed of readers is a little track called “For What It’s Worth,” by Buffalo Springfield. This, of course, relates directly to me experience at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Meeting up with my TWC course out in front of the monument, at the statue of the three soldiers, our group was led by our course professor in a riveting discussion over the causes for war, and how a country, like ourselves, goes about engaging in and withdrawing from armed conflicts. Without drawing you all into a snore inducing monologue about the power and politics behind making war, I will say that our class’ discussion was quite thought-provoking; challenging our commonly-held views about the U.S.’ role in making war around the globe and presenting more than one eye opening factoid regarding the realities of warmongering. However, it was as we walked along Maya Lin’s famed edifice to all those who served in Vietnam that I felt the biggest impact.

wall

     Walking along the wall, I couldn’t help but let my fingers brush up against the face of the monument, skimming over the hundreds and thousands of names neatly lined up in rows. The names just kept continuing, stretching onward along the row, reminding me of the vast amounts of gravestones in Arlington National Cemetery. Most of the young men listed on the wall couldn’t have been much older than me when they died fighting for their country. This was the part that hit home the hardest for me. Letting my mind drift off, I could hear the words of Stephen Stills fill my head. “Stop children, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down.” Thinking of these young men and women, many of them deep in the jungles and lush forests of the Vietnamese countryside, almost all of them scared. They were fighting an enemy who didn’t necessarily play by the rules. “Paranoia strikes deep, into your heart it will creep.” It all seemed so astute, so exactly perfect for the moment that I was having. I know it sounds corny, but music helps people express emotions, and thinking of this song in that moment as I moved along the wall helped put everything in perspective for me. Had I been born in a different generation, I could have been drafted. I could have been one of those guys, tromping through flooded rice paddies, constantly scouring the bushes for booby traps, praying for dear life that I make it one more day. But, I’m not. So, with this in mind, I can at least pay my respect for those who served, those who struggled despite “getting so much resistance from behind,” as Stills notes. The soft echoes of the simple guitar chords played through my thoughts like a clock’s chime, pacing the steps I took as moved across the face of the monument. It was powerful. But not the kind of powerful that overwhelms you or makes you want to sob or anything like that. It’s the kind of feeling that makes you think “damn I’m a lucky S-O-B for not having to trudge through that.” Maybe that’s the implicit meaning of the memorial. To allow us all to somberly reflect on those who sacrificed it all for something that, for what it’s worth, was a pretty undefined and unreasonable cause, forcing us to reexamine how we make war today in the hopes of never repeating what had come before. Either way, “For What It’s Worth” is a great song, even when you strip the context of the Vietnam War from its meaning. The simple, yet effectively-chilling music really hits you down in your gut, offering each of us a revelation to seek out the true meaning behind events like the Vietnam War.

 the wall 2

 

Led Zeppelin's "The Ocean" vs. the National Mall

mall

     My next, and final event that I’ll be talking about is really less of a defining memorial or museum, and more of an amalgam of many different sites and sounds that, when taken together, were compelling in and of itself. I’m speaking of course of a time a couple weeks ago when I had the distinct pleasure of taking a half-an-hour stroll down the National Mall, our nation’s front yard. Walking along the wide pathways, stretching my gaze from the Capitol Building on one end, all the way across to the other, looking towards the Washington Monument and what lies beyond, I couldn’t help but be amazed, yet invigorated, at the sites that lined my peripheral range. Maybe it was just because I happened to be listening to it on my IPod at the time, or maybe it really does fit the atmosphere of walking along the mall, but either way only one song comes to mind when thinking of that brief experience I had on my stroll: “The Ocean” by Led Zeppelin. “Singing in the sunshine, laughing in the rain, hitting on the moonshine, rocking in the brain,” these immortal words crooned by Robert Plant swooned through my head. The rock-y pops and twangs by Jimmy Page reverbed of my eardrums and sucked straight down into my feet, adding an extra swagger in each step I took down the long, drawn-out pathway towards the Washington Monument. “Got no time to pack my bag, my foot’s outside the door.” I could kind-of relate to that line. It didn’t matter what I had with me, or even what I wanted to have with me. All that mattered was I had my two feet driving me up and down the mall, exposing all of its wonderful sights to my more-than-eager to indulge eyes.

castle

     When it comes to Led Zeppelin, there’s simply just too much soul. It’s like a blues demon came in and possessed their bodies to produce some of the dirtiest, nastiest sounding blues songs of their time. But it’s not the kind of blues and soul that brings you down. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s the kind that makes you want to get up and shout/dance/sing or whatever your body really feels like. It’s infectious, it takes you over. It surely did that to me. I ended up replaying the song probably three times as I walked up and down the pathways, catching glimpses of the different Smithsonian museums, the Smithsonian Castle, the Washington Monument, and a slew of other truly remarkable buildings. Maybe Zeppelin fit so well because on my long road trips through Iowa with my roommates on our way to Dubuque’s lowly ski resort, Sundown, we would put on seemingly endless Zeppelin playlists. It was the music of the road for us, a way to enjoy the journey at hand by embracing the soulful mood it put you in. I guess you could argue that my trip along the mall could be a similar scenario. Rather than stacking up miles in a Honda Civic, I was hitting pavement with my own two feet, exploring the outdoors around me, embracing the sites of the land. “Awww, it’s soo good,” Plant wails at the end of the song, perfectly summarizing my entire trip along the mall. All that I can say is, next time I have to make a big walking adventure through downtown DC, the National Mall area, or any big foot traffic area, you can bet your sweet butt that Zeppelin will be ringing through my headphones, keeping my feet grounded, but my soul lifted: drowning my souls in some of those oh-so-sweet blues riffs and croons.

smithsonian

     Well, that about covers it for tonight, ladies and gentlemen. It seems that this old lad is growing a tad bit tired, and struggling to keep his heavy eyes open for much longer. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed my new music picks for the week and will take my words to heart regarding my experiences so far in Washington DC; I know I have. From the land we call our nation’s capital, this is Dan Corwin saying: keep your head up and keep it real, tomorrow’s a new day.

dan at game

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