Welcome Back, My Friends (Again)


If at first you don’t succeed…

Fans of Keith Emerson and Greg Lake can be forgiven for being a little nervous this past Wednesday when an announced 7:30 showtime came and went with no sight of the famous prog rockers.  Sure, it’s not unusual at all for rock concerts to start quite late, but those of us squirming restlessly in our seats had been through this once before.  As previously documented, the Emerson/Lake tour had been set to debut in Cleveland on April 1, but the show was abruptly called off at the last second to the consternation of a stunned audience.  The next two dates were canceled as well, and sheepish statements were issued from the boys that vaguely attributed the mishap to unresolved technical issues.  When at last the tour started with a successful date in Annapolis, the next evening’s show in Alexandria was canceled due to laryngitis.  Finally the ball got rolling, and our heroes managed to pull of a dozen consecutive performances without incident.  Ticketholders from previously canceled shows were assuaged with rescheduled dates.  Then, on what would have been the duo’s thirteenth concert in a row on April 28, Lake’s illness forced a cancellation at Colorado Springs.  Before returning to Cleveland, the Emerson/Lake tour continued with a trio of Texas shows.  So, given the tour’s 79% success rate, we weren’t about to get too excited until we saw the whites of their English eyes.

The minutes passed by, dry ice swirled under the lighting rig, a bottle of water was set in place for Mr. Lake — all of the things that had happened last time at the Lakewood Civic Auditorium.  As I began to experience an uncomfortable feeling of deja vu and reassured myself that they surely would not cancel a second time, the noticeably thinner audience was getting restless.  My front-row seat at center stage was flanked by three empty seats to my left and three empty seats to my right.  Even some of the people in the VIP orchestra pit seating had apparently taken refunds rather than return.  Someone called out from behind me, “We’ve waited a month!” Then, just a couple minutes shy of eight o’clock, Keith Emerson and Greg Lake took the stage, and all was forgiven. Read More



I hadn’t thought about this object for quite some time.

The other I day I was teaching my class while walking about the room with a long, wooden pointer that I sometimes use to highlight important information but mostly enjoy twirling as a prop.  There’s something about giving it a few spins that seems to relax any physical tension while simultaneously enabling me to focus my thoughts.  On this occasion, I was giving some routine instructions, thinking ahead to how I might best manage the next activity, and absentmindedly spinning my pointer.  After a few rotations, I held the long stick still, and in doing so I unwittingly brought the small metal ring fixed to its blunt end to within a centimeter of my nostrils.

For an instant I was suddenly transported from my classroom to another place.  It was not so much a detailed location as it was a sort of vague, cerebral space, and dominating this mental plane was the vivid apparition of a gyroscope.  I recognized it at once as the cherished childhood possession that my sister had given me, one of a number of gifts that were thoughtfully chosen to improve my overall development.  Alas, her attempts to increase my physical activity were unsuccessful, as I never quite got the knack of shooting the basketball, and I simply could not advance more than several bounces on the pogo stick before careening dangerously askew.  But the gyroscope occupied my attention for many hours.  I would moisten the end of a string on my tongue, delicately thread and load the axle, then set it going with all my strength.  I loved watching it stay upright no matter how precarious  its perch.  The sturdy device had a peculiar smell, a dank and earthy metallic odor,  a sort of dull acridity that smelled just like…just like…well, just like the little metal ring on the blunt end of my classroom pointer.  I hadn’t thought about my old gyroscope in years, but everything from its shape to its heft in my hand suffused my mind in an instant.

Such is the power of our sense of smell to resurrect latent memories. Read More

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