Years ago a radio station in Ottawa, CHEZ 106, asked listeners to send in stories about how they came to love certain albums, with the chance of winning a CD, and I thought I’d give it a shot. Several weeks later, I climbed up into the cab of my semi tractor, and on the radio the disc jockey was reading my letter! Great timing. Soon after that, my new CD came in the mail.
It was a short story, but today I’m giving a slightly longer version of it. There’s no hockey, remember?
If you were to drive along the old Rama Road outside of Orillia, past the big Rama Casino, past the site of the long-gone Orr/Walton Hockey Camp, and carry on for another few miles, you would come to an old limestone quarry where they once dragged limestone blocks across frozen Lake Couchiching and into Orillia to build the beautiful Catholic Church and probably other fine buildings too.
It’s all very important. Men found work, a church was built, and a hole got dug. And thank goodness the hole got dug, because it sure was a good place to have a party.
The hole was deep, and when the drugs took effect, we had to be careful or we’d fall to our death. We weren’t afraid though, and I suppose we weren’t very smart either. But it was the late 1960’s. Nobody was afraid or smart.
Darkness took hold around the same time as the chemicals, stars jumped around the sky, and at times we could just barely make out those of us hanging on to rocks for dear life. Such fun. Why don’t kids have fun like this anymore? Good, clean, healthy fun. It seems a shame.
Or maybe they do. But do they wear jean jackets?
At one point on this particular night, Sal found us and explained that in the pitch black, he’d put his hand down and blindly came up with a bag of unknown pills. Such grand luck. Another bag to go with the several we already had. We loved the quarry.
It was also on this night that we looked up from whatever ledge we were clinging too, and saw a parade of car lights coming in to our quarry. Yes, it seemed slightly unusual, but it could have been the Gestapo and we wouldn’t have cared. As long as they brought their own dope. The cars contained older people from Orillia, probably even 22 years old or so, and we barely knew them because damn, we didn’t have a lot in common with old folks. But they parked their cars and said hello, and we all went back to doing what we did best – clinging to ledges.
I can’t describe fully just what a grand time we had, but I can tell you that in the annals of party history, nothing could be more important than Phil Hanniford’s gigantic bluish, turquoise convertible. Phil, also an older guy, had the top down because it was fine summer night, and myself and Mike and Hobo, and probably others as well – Rugger, Pye Man, Charlie, Sal, Lifty, Baker, all sat in the back at different times and listened to music coming from the complex technology Phil had had installed – a brand new 8-track player. We’d never seen one before, at least I hadn’t, and Phil’s worked like a hot damn.
What a quarry. What a hole. What an 8-track machine. Phil put on Led Zeppelin’s first album, and we were simply taken away by this new British blues/rock band. We sat in that convertible and rocked our heads and shook our hair and looked good in our jean jackets, and I must tell you – there can’t be too many feelings better than this. Maybe a night with Patti Boyd, but that’s about it.
It was after the third or fourth time Phil had played Zeppelin for us, that he suddenly pulled the 8-track out of the machine, and the silence was shocking. We yelled and swore at him, (even though he was older), and he said to just hold on, he had something else, and then fired up Bob Dylan’s brand new release, Nashville Skyline.
I forgot I was mad at Phil in about 30 seconds. I’d always loved Dylan’s early music, but this was different. Dylan’s voice was softer and more soulful, he crooned like I didn’t know he could, and I fell in love with Nashville Skyline on that night like I’ve never loved an album before or since.
Phil played it over and over, and at some point, the boys yelled at me that they were going back into town to get some more MDA, and was I coming with them.
Nope, I said. Bob Dylan’s bringing me my MDA.
And for that, I won a CD from the radio station.