Ready to just do it already

First classes are tomorrow. Last minute dashes to be prepared are today. I got a decent haircut, learned things about cowlicks, and ironed some clothes. When it’s open-the-ironing-board official you know it is getting real.

I’ve also semi-prepared the things I’m going to discuss in class so much that they now seem less interesting to me. And some of these things are interesting! Some of them are about the syllabus. And everyone loves syllabus day. So tomorrow is the first first day for two classes. My last first day is Monday night. I’ll start finishing that class prep on Saturday.

Tomorrow, it is two afternoon classes, and I know most of their pros and cons, schedule-wise. But Monday, it is a night class, that’s new to me. And it’s the last schedule block of the day. Because of Memorial Day, that means the 6 p.m. Monday night class will be the last first day of the semester. I’m sure all of the students in there will be over ice breakers. No pressure whatsoever.

But before that, there’s tomorrow. (It’ll be fine.)

This is the sixth installment of my tracking down the local historical markers. I’m doing this by bike, by the way, which is one good way to go a little slower, sometimes, and learn some roads I wouldn’t otherwise try. Counting today’s installment, I’ll have seen 13 of the 115 markers found in the Historical Marker Database. What will we learn a bit about today? Something that doesn’t exist anymore!

Here’s the first marker.

The fire ring isn’t there anymore. And I had this wrong. I thought this footprint would have been where it went. And I figured it was some sort of bell. Ring! Ring! Fire! Fire! Come out and fight the fire! Ring! Ring!

But this is what it looked like, and it was installed right next to that marker. This is a Google Maps image from the summer of 2016.

By the next time the Google car through, in 2019, the fire ring was gone. And you can see that the other spot, where I thought the fire ring would have been, had some other sort of monument or marker. It was also removed before September of 2019.

There’s another marker, elsewhere, for another fire ring. It’s next on the list to visit. Maybe, if it still there, we can figure out more about the mysteries of the fire ring.

But, for right now, if you look just past the marker above, you’ll see another one. And this wordy little document has been sitting here for generations.

And here’s the bridge the old timers were celebrating.

Now, I don’t know if that’s fertilizer runoff or some sort of punk rock algae bloom, but I’m not swimming in that lake, or fishing it, anytime soon. There were some people fishing in the lake the day I took this photo.

The marker says in some places the flood was 20 feet above normal and, in this location, it reached the top of the current bridge. That’s difficult to imagine, given the flatness of the surrounding flat terrain. (That’s how flat it is. Flat flat flat.) That sounds like a lot of water spreading out, and so it was. A tropical storm dumped 24 inches of rain in half a day at a gauge just 13 miles away. Dams failed, and a railway bridge that ran over this lake … well, here’s a thousand words on that from The Times.

But that date, the dedication date of the new bridge? That was 15 months after the flood. That’s not what stands out. Sure, it is 981 months, to the day, from me writing this, but that’s not it either.

December 6th, 1941, a Saturday. Imagine, the next day the members of the Board of Freeholders (a term no longer in use, having rebranded as county commissioners just a few years ago) woke up, all proud of their efforts, saw their neighbors, went to church, or whatever else their normal habits might have been. And, by dinnertime that night war was no longer a looming shadow. What everyone had feared had come at last. That bridge may have been the last thing built around here for a while.

If you’ve missed some of the early markers, look under the blog category We Learn Wednesdays. What will we learn next week? Come back and see.

We also return to the Re-Listening project, which is aptly named. I’m listening to all of my old CDs in the car, in the order in which I acquired them. I’m writing a bit about them all here, to play some music, to see if I can scour up a memory and, sometimes, like today, pad the place with some extra content. These aren’t reviews — because who cares? — but they’re sometimes fun.

And this time, we’re in the early summer of 2003. Train’s “My Private Nation” was released, their third studio album, and I liked Train. I liked Train three albums worth, and this was the third one I purchased. (They’ve released seven more records since then, the most recent being in May of last year.) This record went platinum, their fifth platinum certification, and ended 2003 at number six on the Billboard 200. A lot of people liked this record. (And five of their subsequent records have ended a year in the top 20. A lot of people like Train. Go give them some grief.)

They released four singles in support of the record. “Calling All Angels,” you’ll remember, was a big hit. “When I Look to the Sky” was moderately successful and, I think, the place where I’d almost had enough. “Get to Me” made it to number six on the Billboard Hot Adult Top 40 Tracks, and is still catchy two decades later. Though I’m not sure if I ever listened to that in the company of another human being.

That could have been a function of 2003. Early morning shifts — my first hit was at 4:30 a.m., which meant I was going into the studio before 4 a.m. most days, which meant my first alarm went off at 2:30 a.m., — shape your social life.

This was not an early morning listen, though. I was singing along in the car to people with a deeper register than Pat Monahan has. Also, right about here on the CD, I think I was starting to discover the Train formula.

Despite that, though, there’s still charming little imagery sprinkled throughout.

For my money, the last track on the album is the best one. And one of the best in their catalog.

Five years later a guy named David Nail covered it and had a moderate success on the country charts. What does that sound like?

It’s a cover.

Anyway. The first time I saw Train was on a small festival stage about 45 seconds before they became a supernova. And then I saw them in the now demolished Five Points Music Hall. I think I caught them once or twice more in bigger places. Then one morning I finished an early morning shift and bumped into them at a breakfast place. They didn’t look prepared for breakfast. This would have been 2001 or 2002. I didn’t see them, I don’t think, when they toured this record. And soon after this members of the band started changing and it would feel like an entirely different show if you went these days I bet. Monahan is the only original member left.

If you want to find out, Train is on tour right now. Let me know if they’re still doing the Zeppelin covers.

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