Saturday, April 19, 2008

Of Tigers, Zillow, and the MC5

The Internet has enabled millions of amateur sleuths. All over the world people are prying into the lives of others as best they can. I know of one magazine publisher who even admitted on his blog that he checks out former girlfriends' current addresses on Zillow to, well, to see if their living circumstances are adequate I guess. Who would do such a thing, I mean... what?... you would? I am so behind the times.

But I do use the Internet to research my own life. My favorite way of doing this is to find the dates of ballgames I attended as a kid. Our family used to go up to Tiger Stadium once a season when I was a fresh-faced youngster. I remember little bits of each trip-- who Detroit was playing, a HR that was hit, an opposing relief pitcher that worked, whether we stopped at the White Castle just down Michigan from the stadium for a bag of sliders for the long drive home.

Well, that last part about White Castle is hard to research, but the games are fun to check out. For instance, I was able to figure out a game I saw in 1964 from upper deck box seats on the third base side right at home plate. I remember the view perfectly--in Tiger Stadium you felt like you were hanging over the infield in those seats. I was in heaven. I wasn't sure of the year but figured I had to be about 10-12 years old at the time. I knew the Tigers beat the Yankees that night and that Mickey Lolich threw a complete game. I remembered Don Wert, improbably, as a hitting star and I remembered that Lolich struck out Mickey Mantle at least once. I was almost certain that Whitey Ford started the game for the stinkin' Yankees. With that I set off through the archives at baseball-reference. And, after only about 10 minutes, there it was September 9, 1964. So what? So, um, to you, nuthin'. To me, though, it's a great memory. I can see the green grass under the lights, smell the beer and cigar smoke of Tiger Stadium in the 60's, and see Tiger great Bill Freehan taking a foul tip right back in the cup. He was in agony, as were all the adult males sitting in our section. I am proud to say that Freehan stayed in the game according to the box score.

But there are other pieces of one's life that can be put together this way. When I was in high school I went to see the legendary/ notorious MC5. I wasn't sure what year it was but I knew that none of us who went could drive-- that meant it was before the summer of 1969. The venue was a place called The Firehouse in Toledo, Ohio. I'm not sure why I remembered that-- it was the only time in my life I was there. That was about all I could recall, but with that little bit I discovered that it was April 29, 1969. (WARNING!-- clicking that link will cause you to confront obscenities. It was the MC5 remember.) Here's what made this research very cool for me though. The poster for the show, while hardly a classic model of the genre, told me a ton of stuff. Like, for instance, The Firehouse was at Secor & Alexis--which I could then look at in a current aerial image and place better in my mind-- I haven't lived in Northwest Ohio for more than 30 years. I learned that the reason we were even able to go was because they were doing an "under 18" show at 6:30PM which reminded me that it was, in fact, light out when we got there. My friend's father who dropped us off must have been horrified, come to think of it. But the real shocker was the opening act. The bass player for that local band was the older brother of one of the guys I went to the show with. I had completely forgotten that part. Dave's brother got to open for the MC freakin' 5!

But the biggest thing I gained from this exercise was the ability to give my ear doctor the exact date that I started to lose my hearing: April 29, 1969 from 6:30 to 8PM Eastern Time. I have been to literally hundreds of shows since then in clubs, arenas, stadiums, bars, race tracks, and convention halls-- sometimes for pleasure, but mostly for work. To this day, however, when it's quiet in the house in the middle of the night, and all I can hear is that high-pitched non-stop whistle and some crackling and popping I always say the same thing to myself: MC5, The Firehouse, Toledo, Ohio. Seriously. They were playing through Marshall amps set at ELEVEN in a low ceiling hall and we were right in the front!

And we were that close because, well, now I know, it was because we were with the (warm up) band! I never would have remembered that part.