Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dancing in the Moonlight Redux


I thought I would be right back. I never thought it would take almost forty years.

But I knew I had to leave town to get my degree, so I applied to and was accepted to the Rhode Island School of Design.  By the time I graduated I had met my future wife (thirty- five years so far) and settled back in my old hometown and we had babies and we raised them and I did the best I could as a husband and a dad.

And I never went back to Ithaca. Or, I should say, I gave up on ever going back to Ithaca.

And, after awhile, it really did seem like a dream. When I thought about it, I thought about being a musician and an artist (like now) and living the hippie life (not like now). We took drugs, we lived in communes, the women braided their men's hair and everyone wore tie-dye. (I never did, but everyone else did.) We bought R Crumb comix and read Herman Hesse.

One time hitchhiking up the big hill at Buffalo Street, I got picked up by Rod Serling! He was a visiting professor at Ithaca College. Nice guy- sounded just the way he did on TV.

Steve Fuld
Kim Stahl (now Buckingham)
The great Al Hartland
Brad Stahl- we were all in a band called Brute.

I worked in a record store, Debbie worked in a bar and then as a waitress in an Italian restaurant. I led a band and played with some great musicians and entertainers. Ricky Jay, the magician and the artist known as Huey Lewis (not his name then) were two.
Ricky Jay with Steve Fuld, the guitar player in Brute to his right. I'm just out of the picture.

Russell Barenburg was another. The guys in Orleans, plus a bunch of people who were easily just as good, but never made it past Lake Cayuga for one reason or another. We played in roadhouses and bars and ate breakfast at 2AM in the State Diner. Everyone knew everyone else in our community, or at least knew of everyone else.

At least, that's how I remember it. I don't think about how I felt when my appendix burst and we couldn't afford an ambulance. Or what it was like to be constantly overdrawn at the bank and not be able to pay rent, as I was until the record store job came through. I don't remember being really really cold in the winter, or stuck in snowstorms.

Boffalongo- the original line-up w/ Sherman Kelly on the right
Wells Kelly playing bass
I remember sitting in a bar with Sherman and Wells Kelly and singing "Dancing in the Moonlight"  until the manager told us we had to go home.

That's what I remember the most- everybody dancing in the moonlight.

Sherman (right) and myself at the Salty Dog Reunion last Sunday
So... it is with genuine delight that I can report that last Sunday I returned to Ithaca, saw a bunch a old, close friends, and stood on a stage with Sherman Kelly and the guys from Orleans, including my old bass- playing friend Milton Jay, and sang "Dancing in the Moonlight" one more time.

I won't embarrass my friends by saying their names, but I found them unchanged, proving that, despite what Thomas Wolfe says, you can go home again.

Ithaca is different of course, but the spirit is unchanged, at least from the view here. There's a lot less hair and a lot more weight, although the women remain beautiful. The colors are mostly gone from the clothes. My friends own houses instead of renting them. There are fewer places to play and it costs a lot more money to live there. But then, so does San Francisco, or here in DC or anywhere for that matter. Ithaca is just keeping pace.

So, for a very brief time, I was able to set the Wayback Machine to 1971 and make some of my dreams into reality, even as I made some of my reality into a part of my dreams.

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