Sunday, May 3, 2009

Prom 1977: The Legend Lives On From The Chippewa On Down.

(Our story concludes today!  If you're just joining us, please go back and read the previous three entries.  Come on.  You can do it!  By the way, where have you been?)

I slid into the back seat, willing myself to vanish into the turquoise vinyl seats.  Joanie, who had used an entire can of Aqua-Net on her hair, stared straight ahead and said nothing as her date started up the car. The speakers for the 8-Track Player were directly behind my head, so I got the full benefit of Mike's excellent choice of sound technology as this song, blasting out, filled up the car:

That's right.  It's Gordon Lightfoot's cheery tribute to the tragic wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald which plunged into the icy waters of Lake Superior, killing 29.  Oh yeah.  You remember it.  Listen if you dare.  

Scientific facts: 
1) Every five seconds of listening embeds one hour of the song in your head. 
2) CD's of this song were found at Guantanamo.
3) Organizers of Death Marches study the syncopation of this song and marvel at how it increases the effectiveness of said marches.

Back to Our Story:

There was silence in the car except for this song blaring out of the speakers (did I mention they were directly behind my head?)  When the song (all 6 minutes and 20 seconds of it) was done, Joanie leaned forward and with her bony finger, topped with a long, sharp fingernail painted blood red, hit the repeat button.  

Ah, mood music.

 She continued to hit the repeat button each time the song came to an end, so many times, in fact, that this song remained in my head, not only for the duration of the prom, but for a solid seven months afterwards as well.  

Finally, as the line "Does anyone knows where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?" pounded at the back of my head for the last time, we arrived at the building where the prom was going to be held.  

We entered the dining room and since we were late, everyone was already seated, eating.  Joanie and Mike found seats fast since Joanie's sycophants had saved one for their Queen.  The only other seats were at the front at a table of oddball couples.  Well, that seemed custom-made for us.

FF took off to get his seat, apparently forgetting about me.  I walked quickly after him, feeling incredibly embarrassed as all eyes in the place followed me as I made that long, solo to my seat.  I sat across from Fly Face and a server quickly brought us our plates of food which featured some sort of pork patty with congealed gravy over it.  

I looked down.  I felt sick, close to tears.  I just wanted to sink into the floor and disappear.  Fly Face was looking over at me quite often while wolfing down his food.  I felt his looks and nearly looked up, but I was afraid I might burst into tears, so I just sat there looking down at my plate, my stomach in knots, my pulse racing.  

I looked up to see him glance at me again and then down at my plate.  Could it be that he was concerned about me?  Was he upset about the way the date was going and wanted to reassure me that it was all going to get better?  Had we made some connection in the car?  Was he about to touch my hand gently and ask if I was OK?  I breathed deep as I saw his hand approach mine. 

That's when I noticed that the hand coming towards me had a fork in it.  I looked up and watched him balance a mouth full of meat between his teeth, as he jerked his head toward my pork and motioned with his fork.  "You want that?" he asked.  When I shook my head, he stabbed, and procured the object of his ardent concern and desire.

After dinner, we walked over to the room where the dance was.  My Dream Boat had gone stag and so had my best friend, so guess who ended up sitting together and dancing together?  Fly Face spent a few minutes with me, but then ended up with his assorted weird friends who had also gone stag and who did a lot of snorting/laughing/and moving around in strange jerky ways in their tuxes.  I could only stand it for a bit and so I sheepishly looked for some of my friends.  

About a half an hour later, I looked around for FF, but couldn't find him.  None of his jerky friends knew where he was.  More time passed.  Just as I was figuring out how I was going to get home, he arrived back at my side, panting and smiling like a dog who had just returned from an unauthorized run around the park.  He explained that the father of the Devil Children had managed to get Fly Face's car fixed and had brought it down.  Fly Face had been helping him back it into the parking space and get it headed in the right direction.  "This way you don't have to push it," he explained, beaming with pride.

Needless to say, I was glad to be back in Fly Face's (quiet) car for the ride home. Fly Face once again made the amazing transformation to human being and we had a nice conversation on the way home.  He gave me a kiss at the door and as he walked back out to the road to get in his car, I smiled with relief.  It was over.  

The next Monday I went to school.  Fly Face was in the corner with his strange friends, his purple aviator sunglasses back on, obscuring any eye contact.   Joanie moved with her group through the halls, her eyes slitted and searching for underlings she could destroy with just a look.  Kirk screamed, "UG-LY!" when he saw me.  My Dream Boat said Hi to me in an noncommittal way and I dropped my books on the way to English class.  Life had indeed returned to normal at MHS.   

Time marches on.
The years go by.
Memories of high school, and especially of Prom, begin to fade--well, for most people.  

Ah, but luckily for me, all it takes is ONE SONG to bring that night back in vivid and stunning detail:  

"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"
                                          --Gordon Lightfoot

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
of the big lake they called "Gitche Gumee."
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
when the skies of November turn gloomy.
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty,
that good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
when the "Gales of November" came early.

The ship was the pride of the American side
coming back from some mill in Wisconsin.
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
with a crew and good captain well seasoned,
concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
when they left fully loaded for Cleveland.
And later that night when the ship's bell rang,
could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
and a wave broke over the railing.
And ev'ry man knew, as the captain did too
'twas the witch of November come stealin'.
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
when the Gales of November came slashin'.
When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
in the face of a hurricane west wind.

When suppertime came the old cook came on deck sayin'.
"Fellas, it's too rough t'feed ya."
At seven P.M. a main hatchway caved in; he said,
"Fellas, it's been good t'know ya!"
The captain wired in he had water comin' in
and the good ship and crew was in peril.
And later that night when its lights went outta sight
came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does any one know where the love of God goes
when the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
if they'd put fifteen more miles behind 'er.
They might have split up or they might have capsized;
they may have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
in the rooms of her ice-water mansion.
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams;
the islands and bays are for sportsmen.
And farther below Lake Ontario
takes in what Lake Erie can send her,
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
with the Gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,
in the "Maritime Sailors' Cathedral."
The church bell chimed 'til it rang twenty-nine times
for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
of the big lake they call "Gitche Gumee."
"Superior," they said, "never gives up her dead
when the gales of November come early!"


Anonymous said...

WOW. did you actually eat anything? Any Grey Poupon? I have a prom theory. I'll tell you and then regale you with my prom stories.

Brian said...

What I find really fascinating is that the big-haired girl kept replaying the song. What would drive someone to do such a thing? Now, maybe if it were a song about the Johnstown Flood, that would be different.

Bossy Betty said...


This is EXACTLY right! Now THAT would have been a great song that I could have listened to over and over again!

Oh Man, I wish you hadn't mentioned the Johnstown Flood. Now I gotta go dig out that book and read the story again.

Wonder if of could get a giant-sized poster of the picture I published with that post? It would look SO good in my living room!


Shan said...

Aww, BB, this was just sad. I'm sorry you had such a lousy prom. If it's any consolation, I spent all but about an hour of my prom waiting in line for photos. Neither of us got to eat, and I think we danced to one song before things were wrapping up.