Back then, I LOVED Huey. That’s what we called the band, me and my friend Shawn. Our little inside nickname.
And that’s where I go with this song, to the Summer of ’85, when I was 12 and where Shawn, and certain “awakenings” (please note, Shawn and the “awakenings” were in no way connected) played a huge role.
There are two specific memories of
that summer that this song takes me back to. The first is this was the summer I fell in love… with baseball. After two summers in baseball, I had spent the next three summers making an unsuccessful — misguided, even — attempt at playing soccer. Didn’t score a single goal. But then, it’s soccer. The average score is 1-0. But then baseball came around again. (Technically, I was playing softball, since our town didn’t have a regular baseball league at the time.) I don’t know exactly how it happened. It was just some sort of perfect storm that destined me to fall in love with the game: me playing again, being on a good team, combined with the Jays having the best regular season t
hey’ve ever had, to this day, and heading to the postseason for the first time. I’d liked baseball before. But it got into my bones that summer. I wanted to play or practice every day. I found out I was good. I was our slugging first baseman. And I could run, too. The bat would hit the ball and my soul would soar, my body would tingle, as I raced around first base, watching the ball go deep to left-centre field, then I’d really turn on the jets as I carved around second, spying the outfielders still chasing the ball, knowing that I was going all the way. We had no home-run fences in those days, so every home run was an inside-the-park home run. No lazy trots around the bases for us.
Thanks to our success on our house league team, Shawn and I were invited to try out for a traveling all-star team that would represent the town in a few tournaments, and we both made it. We got to play against stronger competition, but more importantly, we got to play more baseball.
And in between all the baseball, our families spent a weekend in Buffalo that summer. Has a weekend in Buffalo ever been described as idyllic? Somehow this one, in my memory, was. First of all, I was a weird 12-year-old Canadian boy who loved his country, but also loved the whole idea of the United States: its history, the restaurants and stores we didn’t have, the cereal we didn’t have (COOKIE CRISP!). So I just loved being there. I believe we stayed in a Marriott. We were on the ground floor with a walk-out to this amazing tropical oasis pool area in the middle of the hotel. Palm trees waving over the pool, surrounded by bamboo-style snack bars and, probably, regular bars. I’m talking a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny’s, checking out the mall’s Kay Bee Toys store, Shawn and I strolling through the aisles of Kmart while practicing our windmill pitching form, heading to the flea market to buy some comics and baseball cards, then the best pizza and wings ever at Jacobi’s.
None of that means anything to you, I know, unless maybe you’re Shawn. You’ll enjoy the next part more.
Then there was that other “awakening.” Well, I was a 12-year-old boy, so you can imagine. I was very quiet about this stuff, though. “WHAT?” you ask? Kevin was quiet? It can’t be. If you don’t know me well, imagine that last bit in a sarcasm font, if it actually existed. Two things: First, I have a distinct memory of being in the hotel room in Buffalo with Shawn and having this strange desire, for the first time in my life, to see boobs. One of the Cannonball Run movies was on HBO and the copious cleavage somewhat satiated my craving.
The second thing: There was a crush. An unspoken crush from afar, as was my brilliant strategy with the fairer sex for many years. She was the sister of one of the guys on my house league team. I don’t even remember her name. That’s how well I knew her. I don’t even know if I ever spoke to her. I just know her existence made me feel all mushy inside: her tan skin, happy, slightly pink cheeks and long, golden hair. She seemed kind of quiet, too, which made her more attractive to me. I could relate to her. She, in my introverted fantasy world, could relate to me.
And then there’s the music, too. This song. One of the things that still stands out to me about this song is the guitar solo. I hadn’t started playing guitar yet at this point and I certainly wasn’t into the blues yet. But this is a pure blues guitar solo, really, almost Albert King meets Chuck Berry, so maybe it helped “awaken” that passion in me.
You know, it’s weird that this never occurred to me before: All these “awakenings” in the Summer of ’85 were, in their way, about love. Maybe that’s why that summer resonates so much in my memory. My sprouting loves for baseball, for bluesy music, and for, well, love: I was beginning to feel the power of love.