July 21, 2000
*Crest of the Hill Songs*

[and some other stuff]

We were halfway to work this morning ... slowly navigating our way through erratic, TGIF downtown Oakland traffic ... when Mitch Ryder suddenly erupted across the Subaru's not-completely-terrible sound system.

"Oh my god!" I said. "It's a *Crest of the Hill* song!" 

And I reached over and cranked the volume knob as far to the right as it would go. Our little car filled instantly with the sound of thundering organ and screaming background vocals, as Mr. Ryder lurched dizzily from "Devil With a Blue Dress" to "Good Golly Miss Molly" with barely a hiccup in between.

This was definitely a good sign ... even if there wasn't a hill anywhere in sight.

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Flashback ... flashback ... flashback ...

For about three years or so, in the early-to-mid 90's, I took the *scenic route* to work every morning.

It wasn't necessarily by choice. It was mostly due to the terrifying unreliability of my crappy car ... an obscenely unattractive powder-blue 1971 Plymouth Valiant with a black vinyl roof, peeling vinyl interior, no functioning windshield wipers/speedometer/turn signals/heater, and brakes that cooperated only when they were *in the mood.*

The scenic route took an extra twenty minutes ... but at least I wasn't going to die on the FREEWAY, with an Egg McMuffin in my hand.

(There was also the fact that I was usually driving without benefit of vehicle registration, auto insurance or a valid Driver's License. Dysfunctional Mid-Nineties Secra didn't bother with trivialities. She just stuck to the back roads, and kept her eyes peeled at all times for law enforcement personnel.)

I christened my ugly car "The Velmobile," named in honor of the friend who sold it to me for a thousand bucks. My pal Bottlenekk called it "The Lead Sled." Edmund called it "The Matador." The Tots called it "No Way." (As in, "No way am I going to be seen riding in that ugly piece of automotive fecal matter, Mother.")

I loved that car almost as much as I hated it.

The *scenic route* took me from our house in TicTac, near the airport, through a series of nearby residential neighborhoods, across a couple of main drags in Burien and down a long, looping, heavily-wooded hill into Georgetown in South Seattle, where my office was located. I used to love cruising down that hill at a breakneck 45 mph, running over squirrels and joyously singing along with the tinny little AM radio.

But here was the best part. At one point the road dipped and swooped, straight up and over: a rollercoaster-worthy point in the commute I called "The Crest of the Hill."

I had a rule. Whatever song was playing on the tinny AM radio as I coasted over that hill each morning was dubbed *The Crest of the Hill Song.* I considered it a powerful portent of how the rest of my day was going to play out. If it was something wild and wonderful -- like "Devil With a Blue Dress" -- or something sweet and uplifting, like "I'm Into Something Good" -- this day was destined to go down in history as one of the greats.

On the other hand, if it was Brewer & Shipley again ... I was boned.

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Other great *Crest of the Hill Songs* I used to love, off the top of my head:

  • "Judy in Disguise" ~ John Fred and His Playboy Band

  • Most of my *Crest of the Hill* songs were at least twenty years old, and some of them were much older than that, even. (I know this flies directly in the face of everything I've ever said about my loathing for Good Time Oldies radio station "formatting" ... but give me a break. How many obscenely unattractive powder-blue 1971 Plymouth Valiants come equipped with FM radio?) This song filled me with absurd joy, every time I heard it on the car radio. It still does. Plus it has provided me with a fabulous "occupation" for my AOL profile the past five years -- Chimney Sweep Sparrow with Guise. (Although in recent months I've had to change that to Executive Chimney Sweep Sparrow With Guise.)

  • "Spirit in the Sky" ~ Norman Greenbaum

  • During the summer of '72 I was too busy listening to "Rocket Man" (and waiting for my groovy new breasts to finish uploading) to pay much attention to Norman Greenbaum. I made it up to him twenty years later. The instant I heard that soaring fuzztone guitar, the volume went UP and the windows went DOWN. And so did my foot on the accelerator.

  • "Jailhouse Rock" ~ What'sHisName

  • Another one of those songs that I "discovered" -- how many years after it was released? -- 37? 38?? --  this song is as old as *I* am, forcryingoutloud. After hearing it played on the radio my entire life and totally ignoring it ... all of a sudden I loved it. And I didn't just love it a little bit: I loved it obsessively. The very first fax I ever sent was to KBSG-AM, requesting that they play it the following morning ("Preferably sometime between 8:10 and 8:15 a.m.") so it could be my *Crest of the Hill Song.*

  • "I'm Into Something Good" ~ Herman's Hermits

  • If "Marrakesh Express" is the Dreaded Bad Luck Song, this one is the Incredible Good Luck Song. Sweet/twinkly/bouncy/life-affirming. I get a wish if I hear it all the way through, from the very beginning to the very end.

  • "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" ~ Cyndi!

  • One of Daughter #1's very first favorite songs, back when she was barely old enough to squeak "Dey jus' wanna! Dey jus' wanna!"  Mostly I was just amazed by how fast this one made it to the "oldies" station. By 1994 or so, I was hearing it every day. That was fine with me.

  • "Revolution" ~ The Beatles

  • I was the only girl in my in fifth grade class who liked this song.

  • "Ain't Goin' Down ('Till The Sun Comes Up)" ~ Garth Brooks

  • For about ten minutes in the mid-90's, Daughter #1 talked me into country music. We both look back now and cringingly refer to that period as our "Shania Phase."

  • "Wax Ecstatic" ~ Sponge

  • By 1996 I had dumped country and discovered alternative. This sudden shift in musical preference directly cooincided with

    1.) a dramatic increase in my AOL/online time,

    2.) an equally dramatic increase in my cheap chablis intake, and

    3.) a dramatic decrease in my caring about anything that didn't directly relate to #1 and #2.  At the time, some suggested that it was a manifestation of my midlife crisis ... the aural equivalent of the little red convertible. *I* say it was me finally deciding I'd had enough goddamn "I Like It, I Love It" to last me several lifetimes.

    The bad news about converting to alternative, however, was that there were no AM alternative-rock stations in the general TicTac area at the time. So I was forced to plug $27.00 worth of "C" batteries into the old eight-ton bathroom boombox, lug it to the front seat of The Velmobile each morning and point it in the direction of the KNDD-FM radio tower ... hoping it would transmit clearly enough for me to listen to my new best friends Sponge and Alice in Chains and Metallica, as I crested the hill.

    But at least it was a break from AM radio. At the time, I considered that a good thing.

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When Mr. Ryder had concluded his violently exuberant romp through "Devil/Molly," I sighed in pure shivery pleasure. "A *Crest of the Hill Song* never lies," I said to David. "This is going to be a great weekend."

He nodded enthusiastically. "You're right!" he agreed. "I'm already making the list of stuff we've got to do!"


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We interrupt our little musical narrative for ...

*Gratuitous Photo Time* *Gratuitous Photo Time*
*Gratuitous Photo Time*

This week, brought to you by two-thirds of the 'Grillaz:

~ Heavenly Ham! ~
gratuitous photo of FifiOToole's
adorable granddaughter, Grace
~ Italian Ham! ~
gratuitous photo of Bottlenekk
in Pompeii

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And now: back to our story ...

He wasn't kidding. David has already posted the *To Do* list on the kitchen cupboard.

Buy vaccum cleaner! Replace shower curtain! Clean out refrigerator! Comfortable walking shoes for Terri! Asiago cheese! Library books! Scrub bathroom! Laundry!

"We have a lot to accomplish this weekend!" he says, with that dangerously motivated gleam in his eye.

Oh god.

The only things *I* am really interested in "accomplishing" this weekend are catching up on the eleven bazillion metric tons of unanswered e-mail weighing down my cyber mailbox (and my conscience) and spending some quality time with my pillow. In fact, if I could skip the e-mail, climb into bed at 6 p.m. tonight and just stay there until 6 a.m. Monday morning, that would be A-OK with me.

But he's right. We DO have a buttload of stuff to accomplish ... and only two days to accomplish it in. Daughter #1 gets off the airplane next Thursday night, and we are not even close to being prepared for her visit.  The Castle is a mess. The bathroom sink is overrun by ants. There are no clean towels. We are all out of groovy shampoo. The only "fruit" in the refrigerator at the moment is half a can of flat grapefruit soda.

So. I guess we WILL be busy this weekend. Maybe I'd better throw a little Mitch Ryder onto the stereo ... just to *motivate* us.

Talk to you soon.

P.S. In an effort to fairly represent all three of my 'Grilla pals, here is a link to Edmund's latest column. (I would post a photo of him, but he says he's having a Bad Hair Day.  Frankly, I don't know how that's even possible.)

one year ago

throw a rock