Friday, May 23, 2008

They Say You Can't Go Home Again

Lately I've been spending time writing on a NING website created by a person I went to high school with in Germany. It's another social network, but it actually works much better than Myspace, and seems more customized than Facebook or Myspace. Fun. Here's a cross-post from that site.
After I graduated from Davenport North High School in the spring of 1987, I had the summer off and attended Iowa State University. After my first year, my Dad had the opportunity to go back to Germany, only this time, he would be working in Heidelberg. I always liked Heidelberg because of the kickass castle that was close to downtown.

The thing was, he was going to be going back around January ’89, the same year my sister was going to graduate high school. So the plan was Dad was going to go by himself, and find a place for him and Mom to live while my mother and sister stayed until school got out. Then we would all go over, move all of our stuff into the place he found, and we would stay the summer there.

Now, I’m all for free trips to Europe, however, I was pretty established at school and the downside was that I was going to have a job with Summer Hire. I had a couple of Summer Hire jobs when I was a sophomore and a junior. Back in ’85 and ’86, they paid you $2.90/hour. The sad fact was that in 1989, they were still paying $2.90/hour. I could have stayed in Ames and probably made close to $5/hour, but then I would have to pay rent, and I wouldn’t get the fringe benefits of being in Germany. Both the Summer Hire jobs I had involved foodservice work. I wasn’t looking forward to that.

Fortunately, I scored what was probably the easiest Summer Hire job EVER. I was working for some semi-secret intelligence agency as a file clerk. Occasionally, I was asked to file, shred files, or do other small tasks, but mostly, I was left to my own devices in an office. There was a radio where we played AFN, but it was never anything great. I do remember hearing Bang Tango’s “Someone Like You” on there, though. I had brought my electric guitar with me (no amp) and a suitcase full of clothes. So when I’d get to work, I’d roll a piece of paper into the IBM Selectric typewriter and just off the top of my head, bang out 10 song titles. I would look over the song titles and decide which ones had lyrical potential, something I could build a song out of, and then work on those throughout the day. I’d take my work home, and try to match up music that I had created to the lyrics.

Since I wasn’t watching a lot of TV, or listening to the stereo all that much, the weirdest thing started to happen…Songs were just flowing out of me. I think I ended up writing about 20 songs that summer, most of which became the basis for my first all-original band the following year in Ames, Exit Wound.

The other things I remember from that trip were hanging out with a couple of Canadian kids. My sister met this Canadian kid and we started hanging out. I remember going to the Canteen with him for lunch, and he stood over the jukebox pointing out the Canadian acts: “Bryan Adams, he’s Canadian. Corey Hart, Canadian, Glass Tiger, Canadian.” This was actually kind of hilarious. I never realized that Canadians could be so nationalistic. It sort of came off as defensive behavior to me. I realized that I was aware of artists being from a certain place; England, Canada, the U.S. I never really put any pride to it, though.

You may think that might just be a single example, but that Canadian guy found out that I had a bass guitar (put in the move to Germany – the original SG bass I used in Blackmail) and said he knew a kid who played drums (Canadian) and a German guitar player, who wanted to jam.
So I went over to jam with these guys. I think we actually knew about 2 or 3 songs that we could play. During a break in the music, the drummer said, “Modern Drummer voted Larry Mullen Jr. (of U2) as Drummer of the Year. What do you think about that?”

I said I thought that there was some merit to that. Sure, U2 had just released Rattle and Hum and so that was probably fueling the nomination for Larry, but he was a good drummer.

He (the Canadian drummer) said, “I think Neil Peart (of Rush) should have won. He’s Canadian.” Then he started a drum beat into the next song. End of conversation.

Overall, I had a good time that summer. The weather, as I remember, was cool, but I’m sure there were some warm days as well. We would go to the Officer’s Club on some base every Thursday for Taco Night (served “buffet style”; the meat was spiceless hamburger, the taco shells broken and stale), and I remember drinking lots of weizen beer.

I returned with my sister for her first year at Iowa State, and my third. I brought back six half-liter bottles of dunkel and kristal weizen in my backpack. I had them in socks. Shared with 3 of my closest friends.

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