My kid started back to school this morning, so I’m in a reflective mood today, thinking back over the summer, which flew by at record speed, I think. It’s been a pretty significant summer, full of positive changes, like the fierce exercise program I talked about here. And, by the way, the fierce exercise is paying off in a big way – I had my yearly physical last week, and the doctor walked in the exam room holding my report with a big smile on his face and said, “this is what health looks like”. Yep, all my numbers have improved greatly, so I highly recommend fierce exercise if you’re of a mind to improve your health. But anyway, enough about me, let’s talk about me.
As a kid and young teen, I spent a lot of time riding around my neighborhood on my bike, especially in the summer. I would spend hours just riding around, going up to the Tote-Sum store for Now or Laters, riding by my crushes’ houses, visiting various dogs that I had made friends with, etc. But around age fourteen or so, my favorite thing to do was to ride up to the junk store.
It appears to be called the “Short Stop” now, but back in the seventies, it was called “The Hodge Podge Shop” and it was run by a nice old lady who would give me peppermints and let me rummage all day through the junk, although she knew I wasn’t going to buy anything. The place was musty and dusty and marvelous, chock full of odds and ends that would probably be worth a fortune now – collectibles and memorabilia dating back to the early years of the century, I now realize. There was an old trunk full of letters, cards, postcards, and ancient photos in one corner, and I would sit for hours, sucking on my peppermint, reading the letters, looking at the pictures, and making up stories in my head about the people in them.
But to get to The Hodge Podge Shop, I had to ride my bike a couple miles down a road that cut through the fields – there were no houses around and it wasn’t heavily traveled, so this was a forbidden activity. Naturally, I thought that was a ridiculous rule, so I paid no attention to it, but this meant that I couldn’t tell my mother where I was going on my Hodge Podging days. This is the road…
So one day I was riding my bike down the road on the way to the Hodge Podge Shop when a carload of older teenage boys began messing with me. At first, it was done jokingly, nothing too bad or scary, just slowing down and catcalling, no big deal. I just kept my eyes straight ahead and kept on going. They eventually drove off and I thought it was over, but they came back. This time, there was a different vibe about them. I think one of the boys in the back seat was the main instigator and evil influence, because the whole time they were harassing me, while the other boys were cutting up and laughing and making crude comments, he was just repeatedly saying, in a low voice, “get her”.
As things got scarier, I frantically tried to figure out what to do. My first instinct was to jump off of my bike and run off across the fields, and I almost did it, which would have been a serious mistake, I think. Fortunately, something stopped me from doing that and I stayed on my bike and kept my head down, thinking it was best to avoid eye contact, but at one point, I turned my head slightly and looked straight into the eyes of the guy in the front passenger seat. I think he saw the terror and misery in my eyes, and I think I saw that he had a soul.
That’s when the epic battle between good and evil started. The guy with the soul started shouting, “just go; leave her alone”. The car pulled up ahead and I thought they were leaving, but then they stopped. A car door opened in the back. Then a car door opened in the front – on the passenger side. I’m pretty sure my fate hung in the balance. Since they were stopped ahead of me, I turned around and I rode as fast as I could in the other direction without looking back. But behind me I heard an eruption of angry profanity and the sound of someone being thrown hard up against the side of a car.
The fight must have turned out right and good must have prevailed, because no one came after me and I made it back home safely. I couldn’t tell my parents what had happened to me, because I wasn’t supposed to be on that road in the first place, and I never again went down that road or re-visited the Hodge Podge Shop. Until this summer.
Dan Fogelburg. I say that name and I think most people, if they know who he is, instantly have this connotation of cheesy, overly sentimental pop music. If so, that’s probably because they are thinking about his later albums, because he did kind of lose his touch a little, in my opinion, and drifted too far into saccharin sentimentality. But his first two albums, Home Free and Souvenirs, were deeply emotional masterpieces. Souvenirs had back-up vocals by Don Henley, Graham Nash, Glenn Frey, and Joe Walsh. Mr. Walsh produced the album as well. The whole album, which is so aptly named for a pilgrimage, is great, and I recommend you listen to it if you’re of a mind to, but this is my favorite song from it, hands down.
Better change before the sun goes down. Better raise your fortresses or tear them down…
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