Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer Breeze and a tale of woe from long ago...

"Sweet days of summer, the jasmine's in bloom. July is dressed up and playing her tune..." One of my essential summertime albums is Seals and Crofts' greatest hits. Yeah, I am a dork. While I am at it I may as well tell you that "Rocky Mountain High" is one of my favorite songs. John Denver, Seals and Crofts, Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead got me through one particularly horrible summer about 20 years ago. I was working three jobs trying to save money to get to England. I was slowly coming out of my Deadhead phase and had spent some time over in Bend, Oregon with some friends from UO. These Bend boys were the cream of the Deadhead crop. Mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing and partying. I came back home from my own personal nirvana to my parents fighting and all sorts of ugly words like adultery being slung around. My little brother hated me because I had deserted him. (He was 16 at the time.) I was living at home in what felt like a war zone. I managed to somehow work in a deli/coffee shop, work at Agripac (one of the levels of Hell) and work in the concession stands at the Lane County Convention Center during the weekends and some evenings before my graveyard shift in Hell. Essentially I would get home from the graveyard shift at Agripac for a couple of hours of sleep before going off to the deli job till sometime in the evening and then a few more hours of sleep and laundry and playing marriage counselor to my Mom. Good times. Anyway while standing at the conveyor belt at 2 a.m., sorting ears of corn and trying to not fall onto the belt as the never ending river of vegetable matter hypnotized me, it was important to stay coherent. The cannery, as the ancient ones still working there called it, was the taker of many a finger or hand or occassionally more from those who let their attention slip. To ward off the loopiness I would sing out loud to myself. I worked my way through Seals and Crofts, John Denver-especially Rocky Mountain High, the Dead, Zep-you name it, I sang it. Normally I do not let anyone hear me sing, I can't hold a tune even if it is handed to me. At Agripac there was no worry of anyone hearing me. If you have never worked or been in a cannery, count yourself lucky. The smells alone are not for the faint of heart (or stomach.) What really got me was the noise. Hissing steam, ca-thunk, ca-thunk of the seamers (the machines that seal the cans), the constant rolling thunder sound of the conveyor belts. I wore a hard hat and hair net and earplugs. The first week or so I felt shell shocked from all the noise. Then I got used to it, to a point. It started to become familiar and almost comforting. When a conveyor belt went down-broken or for maintenance, the noise level dropped dramatically and I remember feeling panic as new lesser heard sounds were able to thump or clank their way into my consciousness. Anyway I would look up once in awhile and every person on the conveyor belt line would all be singing to themselves. It was kind of like the opposite of karaoke. You could sing to your heart's content in public but no one could hear you.
Anyway I did get to England, my parents did divorce (albeit several years later), my brother and I are close and I still like Seals and Crofts and John Denver and the rest.

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