Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Steely Dan -- "Midnight Cruiser" (1972)

For one more time
Let your madness run with mine . . .
No time is better than now

This post will discuss streaking.  If that disturbs you, you should probably hit the "back" button on your browser toot sweet.  (As Sheriff Seth Bullock once said to the ruthless mine owner George Hearst in an episode of Deadwood, "I am putting you on notice.")

FYI, this is the second part of a two-part post.  Here's a link to the first part of this two-part post, of which this part is the second part.  

Dick Stuart
That reminds me of a story.  Back in the good ol' days when Jon Miller was the radio announcer for the Baltimore Orioles, he told wonderful stories during rain delays.  My favorite was one about major-leaguer Dick Stuart -- a slugging first baseman from the 1960's who was nicknamed "Dr. Strangeglove."

Stuart's best years were spent with the Pirates, but he played a couple of seasons for the Red Sox late in his career.  After he retired from baseball, he hosted a sports-themed interview show on a Boston radio station.  Miller told a story that the late Curt Gowdy (a well-known baseball and football broadcaster) had told him about Gowdy's appearance on Stuart's show.  It went something like this -- just imagine Miller doing all the voices:  

Announcer:  And now, it's time for THE DICK STUART SHOW, starring DICK STUART!  Dick Stuart's guest today on THE DICK STUART SHOW will be Curt Gowdy.  We'll be back with THE DICK STUART SHOW right after these messages from the fine sponsors of THE DICK STUART SHOW!

Announcer (after the commercials had played):  Welcome back to THE DICK STUART SHOW!  And now, here's the host of THE DICK STUART SHOW, DICK STUART!

Dick Stuart:  Thank you and welcome to The Dick Stuart Show.  I'm Dick Stuart, the host of The Dick Stuart Show, and I'm very please to have Mr. Curt Gowdy as our guest on The Dick Stuart Show today.  [Applause, applause.]  Curt, welcome to The Dick Stuart Show!

Curt Gowdy:  Thanks, uh . . . it's Dick, right?

(Moving right along . . .)

Steely Dan's first album, Can't Buy A Thrill, was released late in 1972, and became hugely popular on college campuses.  The first song on the album, "Do It Again," made it to #6 on the Billboard singles chart, and "Reelin' In the Years" made it to #11.  "Dirty Work" is another staple on "classic rock" radio stations.

Steely Dan was called "cerebral, wry, and eccentric" by one critic and "baroque artists, the Rubens of the seventies" by another.  The band's founders, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, who met at Bard College in upstate New York, were "east coast beatniks with nothing but contempt for west coast hippies."  They were also obsessive perfectionists in the recording studio who stopped performing in front of live audiences after a couple of years of touring.  In Bizarro World, they would be the Grateful Dead.

The singer on "Midnight Cruiser" is Jim Hodder, the band's drummer.  It was the only time he was the lead vocalist on a Steely Dan song.

Now that the music stuff is out of the way, let's get back to the Beer-Bike Race stuff, shall we?

Our Beer-Bike Race team usually practiced several times on the Saturday afternoons before the event itself, which usually took place around the first day of spring.  The college would purchase a keg, and we would fill pitchers with air-temperature beer a couple of hours before practice, occasionally pouring it back and forth from one pitcher to another to hasten the release of its carbonation.  As noted above, beer that was warm and flat went down much faster than cold, fizzy beer.

You might do three or four practice runs -- each one timed with a stopwatch -- in no more than one hour's time.  In other words, you would consume six or eight cans of beer in an hour -- don't think you didn't feel the effects of that pretty quickly, boys and girls.  (You might also sip on a cold beer or two or three between your practice runs.)  I usually went back to my room and promptly fell asleep.  Sometimes I would wake up in time for dinner and sometimes I wouldn't.  (Girlfriends were usually not big fans of practice days.)

Rusty Staub
The Houston Astros did a promotion back then where kids got tickets to a special "AstroBuddies" game of the month, a T-shirt, and a baseball card of their favorite Astro, all for a nominal fee.  (My favorite Astro was CF Cesar Cedeno, who had Willie Mays-like talents, but never fulfilled his promise.  He also accidentally shot and killed his girlfriend in a hotel room in the Dominican Republic one off-season.)

One friend and I discovered that 18-year-olds qualified to be Astro Buddies, so we signed up just before we turned 18.  I remember the first AstroBuddies game we went to, which happened to be against the Montreal Expos.  We were seated in a special AstroBuddies section surrounded by hordes of 10- to 12-year-olds whose falsetto boos rang down every time former Astro Rusty Staub, who had bright red hair and was known in Montreal as Le Grand Orange, came to bat.

Once I wore my "AstroBuddies" T-shirt to Beer-Bike practice, and feel asleep in it after practice was over.  When I woke up to shower later the night, I threw the beer-soaked T-shirt into the corner of my closet where I kept my dirty laundry and forgot about it for a week or so.  By that time it was severely mildewed, and had to be thrown away. 

Texas-shaped table at Kay's 
One year, the Beer-Bike Race took place immediately after St. Patrick's Day.  Kay's, which was a popular neighborhood bar that was known far and wide for having a big-ass table in the shape of the state of Texas, had graciously donated a keg of leftover green beer for our use.  Until you've guzzled down a few 24-ounce helpings of warm, flat, green beer before noon, you haven't truly lived.

My Beer-Bike team didn't distinguish itself in the races I participated in.  (Weiss College did win the year after I graduated.  Guess they finally got some decent bike riders.)  But I do remember one very memorable Beer-Bike practice.  

The Weiss College courtyard where we practiced was only a short distance from the Rice baseball field, where the Owls were taking on the powerhouse Texas Longhorns (who had six players drafted by the major leagues in 1972 -- including one taken in the first round -- and seven drafted in 1973).  

It was during the height of the streaking craze, and after a couple of practice chugs, it seemed as if all us lads had exactly the same idea at exactly the same time.  In the blink of an eye, a dozen or so of Weiss College's finest had stripped naked (except for our shoes, of course) and started running toward the baseball field.  As I recall, we carried our shorts and T-shirts with us as we ran --  no one wanted to get back to the starting point of our little excursion and find that his clothes had been hidden by some merry prankster. 

We made a beeline for the baseball field, hopped the low fence that circled it, headed for 3rd base and ran from  3rd base to 2nd to 1st while the game was in progress -- and then made our escape by hopping the fence on the other side of the field and running back to Weiss.  We made it without incident, although it was a close call for me.  

You see, I got a late start and was not the most fleet-footed team member.  I was bringing up the streak's rear (so to speak), running as hard as I could in hopes of catching up with the pack ahead of me before some Texas player or umpire decided to teach us all a lesson by tripping or tackling me.  Fortunately, nothing like that happened.  (It was also fortunate that they hadn't yet invented cell phones with built-in cameras.)  

I may have streaked at night as part of large groups once or twice after that.  But this was by far the best streak I ever heard about at Rice.  It was broad daylight, and there were fair number of fans watching the game.  

The spectators included my college girlfriend and a high-school friend who was visiting her for the weekend.  I have no doubt that she pointed me out proudly to her friend, who probably looked upon my girlfriend with increased respect from that day forward.  

A law school friend of mine used to say, "I've got it, I was born with it, and I wash it twice a day."  I don't really know what that means, but this seems like as good a place as any to use it.

Here's "Midnight Cruiser":

Here's a link to use if you'd like to order the song from iTunes:

Here's a link to use if you prefer to order from Amazon:

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