#187 – Saturday In The Park by Chicago
– I’m using an absence of total recall to put the pieces of this puzzle together. It’s not pretty since it’s a tale involving both youth and… well, the stupidity that comes with youth. Then again, when many of us look back at our teenage years, there’s a good chance a lot of growing up experiences fit those adjectives. In many ways, that’s what growing up is all about.
This trek into the past was stirred by the release date of Saturday In The Park. I couldn’t find a definitive date other than sometime in the month of July 1972. But the exact date doesn’t matter since boomers will remember songs were premiered on AM radio in advance of release date. Deejays would hype their insider reputations by announcing exclusive broadcasts of potential hit songs before they were available in stores. The excitement would build and listeners couldn’t wait to hit their local record bins to buy a song they had to have after days or even weeks of only being able to hear it on the radio.
So regardless of the exact release date, it’s a good assumption that even before we were into the month of July that year, Saturday In The Park was in heavy rotation on our car radios. And though I don’t have a specific memory relating to this song, I recall when it was Chicago’s latest hit – which puts us into the summer of ’72. This was also my last summer as a teenager and making experiences that overwhelmingly fit the above dumb and dumber related adjectives.
The mental journey this song takes me on is a road trip. And based on that memory, it would take a 19-year old road warrior to pull off this type of adventure and not be worse for wear and tear. If I was to do this today… well, with age comes wisdom. Maybe I could, but I know enough to not even try.
The first memory exercise comes with placing dates and certain events. In looking at a calendar from 1972 and exactly where I was on specific days, I’m more than dumbfounded my good friend Gary and I even had time to put this adventure together. On Monday, July 3rd a bunch of us were at The Akron (Ohio) Rubber Bowl for an outdoor concert by Rod Stewart & Faces with Badfinger. Then eight days later on July 11th we were at the same stadium for The Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street Tour.
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In between The Faces and The Stones, we made a teenaged road warrior trip
Starting from the shores of Lake Erie west of Cleveland, we drove Gary’s hatchback car to visit our best pal Tim in Albany, New York. This is what we were calling a camping trip because Gary had purchased some type of tent contraption that fit over the back of his car when the hatchback was in the up position. The seats would fold down and the car would have enough room for our sleeping bags. It was easy, fast to set up and for teenagers, very cool.
Oh, did I forget about the stupidity part? That’s coming up…
In 1972 the legal drinking age was 18. In our home state of Ohio, that meant we could buy beer containing a lower 3.2% alcohol. But in New York you could buy anything, including high-potent booze that could make remembrances of stupidity impossible the next day.
Tim had moved with his family to Albany shortly after high school graduation. The three of us couldn’t get together as often, so the goal was to do a quick overnight visit before Gary and I made a sharp right on the highways and headed south to Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. And since we were in New York State, we thought (stupidly) it was a good place to fill up our beer cooler with stock more potent than the 3.2% we were only allowed to buy in Ohio.
While roaming through a beverage store pretending we were smarter than we really were, Tim pointed out a high-potent local beer called Maximus Super. I just looked it up online and the alcohol content is 8.9%.
We were a long way from Ohio.
Tim told us about polishing off a six-pack before a Humble Pie concert earlier that summer. He claimed to have finished the last one just as the band came on stage, then remembers nothing else until waking up in the backseat of the car as his friends were dropping him off at home. He claimed it was impossible to drink that much of the brew without passing out. Using the full mental power of a 19-year old college student and frat boy, I accepted the challenge and grabbed a six-pack for our trip south.
Our first night in Virginia Beach was spent at a place call the Cherry Motel. I remember this detail because of a photo taken next to the pool with the sign in the background. We did tourist stuff by visiting Colonial Williamsburg and Roanoke Island. Our next stop was Nags Head, North Carolina where we set up the car as our tent in a camp ground surrounded by sand dunes.
This was also a very cool destination.
I still have total recall of buying a green t-shirt that said “Peabody’s” that I wore for years, until it finally just fell apart. We also hit a local seafood restaurant where a staff of very cute waitresses served us platters of crab legs (mostly free because I’m guessing they also considered Gary and I were cute) while we went through pitchers of low-potent draft beer.
During one of our sand dune camping days we hit the beach and made plans to hit the town for another night in another seafood restaurant. But before we set out on that adventure, we sat down at a picnic table near our car-tent to have a few beers out of the cooler. I decided that was a good time to take the Maximus Super challenge.
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This is what I remember specifically, because I’ve told this part of the story many times since. I wish I had told it more as a warning for other mentally embarrassed 19-year olds, but it’s mainly been as a confession of stupidity worthy of a few laughs at my expense.
After a couple hours of sunshine, laughs and current Top 40 hits from a portable AM radio – and I’m assuming Saturday In The Park was on the playlist – I finished the sixth and final can of this Maximus brew. I remember standing on the picnic table declaring our friend Tim was a “wimp” and…
The next thing I remember is the bright morning sunshine waking me up.
I was in my sleeping bag, but under the picnic table instead of in the back of our car-tent where Gary was sound asleep. I staggered over, woke him up and asked what the heck had happened. It turned out I was the wimp. After making my tabletop declaration, I was no more coherent than Tim had been during Humble Pie and quickly made my mental and physical exit into the sand under the table. Gary ditched me to go out for something to eat. When he returned he tossed me my sleeping bag and left me to sleep it off in the sand for my recovery process.
As for my learning process, I won’t confess to being an angel because of this incident. But I will admit the rest of this trip was dry as we headed up the coast to New York City for a quick visit with my cousin, one more overnight in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and back in time for a July 11th date with The Rolling Stones in Akron.
Saturday In The Park? I won’t use that song as a soundtrack to describe my road warrior episode since it was fast, furious and along with a brief lack of memory, anything but a calm and simple walk in the park. But on the morning of July 17th when it joined this Dream Song List in the hasn’t-been-heard-in-a-long-time subliminal category, it jump-started my thoughts back to that summer of ’72. The concerts, the friends and the road trip were great. And as for that one night in Nags Head… well, it’s probably best not to be remembered.
But wait. Did this youthful episode of stupidity end my relationship with Maximus Super? Yes – to be specific, it did. But not with the beer’s source.
A dozen years later I visited the Matt Brewing Company in Utica, New York where this brew is brewed. Utica was the hometown of my steady girlfriend of that moment and her pre-NYC job had been as a tour guide and model for the brewery. She gave me the tour and a few extra sample tastes of different beers.
With total recall I’m proud to say I passed on anything that might have had the word Maximus in the name or the alcohol potency to black out an entire Humble Pie concert or a night on a sand dune. So let’s just say… lesson learned (the hard way!).
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Thanks for reading – and keep rockin’!!
Here’s a video of Saturday In The Park by Chicago – beer not included
To purchase Chicago’s Greatest Hits with Saturday In The Park visit Amazon.com
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