10000 Maniacs

These Are Days

10,000 Maniacs – These Are Days

This morning I got an email from my best friend that threw my whole sense of self spinning. She was just feeling nostalgic, brought on by the fact that tonight, just like 31 years ago, Villanova is in the NCAA basketball tournament final game. If you’re a March Madness fan, you might know that Villanova won that game over Georgetown in 1985. Let this be a lesson to all parents of high school seniors and college admissions people; when your school wins the NCAA tournament during the yield season, that school will suddenly be flooded with more acceptances than you had bargained for when those fat envelopes went out.  If you’re a 17-year-old who hasn’t quite made up their mind yet about where to attend college, there will be serious consequences for that waffling. You snooze you lose, in the housing assignment game at least.

For 31 years I have believed that I got shafted on the on-campus housing front simply because they were overrun by people accepting the offer of admission and that my number was just unlucky. No. It turns out, corroborated by my best friend’s roommate who was also on this email, that because we had all waited to send in our deposits until after that fateful game, we were joined by hundreds of people that were swayed by the win. Those who got their deposits in early were all set with dorm assignments while we were stuck on a housing wait list. We all wound up over at a nearby Catholic women’s college that often had enough dorm space to take in (female) Villanova students. I somehow managed to screw this up too because I didn’t even get a room there either. I got a letter from the Mother Superior a week before I was due to arrive saying that they had too many students as well (Villanova winning increased their attractiveness by proximity and an agreement to allow for the opportunity to take classes) so I lived in a large basement room with four other girls. That’s a story for another day.

I always felt like I had really just continually had the rug pulled out from under me in those months, weeks, and final days before I arrived on campus. First, it wasn’t where I wanted to be, and getting rejected by the schools I had dreamed about attending* was a sore point. Then to be told, after we’d sent the deposit in by the deadline, that there wouldn’t be housing for me, was really adding insult to injury. Finally, to have the back-up housing solution be a complete disaster was really the last straw. I had been to campus in April, after the championship but before the deposit deadline, and thought, hey it’s spring and it’s lovely here. Maybe this will be ok. But by the time I arrived at the end of August, I was dead set against the place. Forever.

It’s pretty well-documented** that I spent probably 25 years wondering how my life would have been different if only I’d done better in school my junior year of high school. Or if only I’d applied to a different group of schools. Or transferred to someplace else. On and on. But in all those years, it never once occurred to me that if I had put my deposit in right away, and I had been on-campus from the beginning, that my life would have been just as different even though I was at the same school. All that bitterness wouldn’t have been there, for starters, and I never would have met my best friend. I am sure of it. The number of things that would never have happened as a result, some of the most important and defining moments of my life, poof! Gone! Just like that. The best concert I’ve ever seen? I never would have been there. Road trip of a lifetime? Doesn’t exist. I had to stop thinking about it this morning and concentrate on driving in the snow(!) but it’s crazy.

In hindsight, my entire college experience was certainly a character building four years. I’ve always said that the only good points about it were the location, my job at the costume shop, and that that’s where I met my best friend. It’s only been in the last five years or so that I have also been able to see that I learned how to be true to myself and hold firm in my beliefs despite what other people may say or think. Maybe that’s how it was meant to be.

*UNC, the other team in tonight’s game. Oh the irony!

**Click on the College category if you’re curious.

Pit Viper

 

10,000 Maniacs – Pit Viper

This is a curious tape I listened to on my way home from work for Tape Deck Tuesday. I had obviously whited out the track listing but the title (or spine? what would you call the part you can read when they’re all stacked up?) retained the original for side A but whited out side B. It now reads: “Secrets of the I Ching” with “Human Conflict Number 5” underneath that then a bracket spanning both and “Hope Chest” at the end.

Secrets of the I Ching and Human Conflict Number 5 are both very early recordings by 10,000 Maniacs. Even back in college in the 80s these were sort of lost albums. But a CD came out in 1990 called Hope Chest, which combined the two. I have a copy, a reissue, of Secrets of the I Ching from 1988. This was a really difficult album to get a hold of. I have a very vague memory of having to send away for it through the radio station in college or something like that. I just pulled it out and inside was a purple piece of paper with information about “an Evening in Torpor.”

wpid-wp-1417584955438.jpegWow. Here’s where the internet is a weird and fantastic thing. My memories of the Evening in Torpor recording are soooo vague and I don’t have the album. Maybe my best friend has it? We often used to split things up and tape them for each other. But I have the piece of paper with the track listings for it and somewhere I must have a tape because I knew all those songs. Maybe I’ll find it but until then, there’s always YouTube.

Here’s what I figure I must have done, as I have no recollection of doing this. I must have taped Secrets of the I Ching off of the album, then a couple years later, Hope Chest was released which contained that album plus the EP Human Conflict Number 5, so I taped over the original recording and whited out the track listing in favor of what was on the CD. Why I didn’t just tape the songs I didn’t have and leave the original recording alone I have no idea. CDs were thought of as being “better” so that probably factored into it somehow.

Side A:
Planned Obsolescence
The Latin One
Katrina’s Fair
Poor De Chirico
Grey Victory
National Education Week
Death of Manolete
Orange
(unlisted but Wildwood Flower is tacked on the end here)

Side B:
Tension
Anthem for Doomed Youth
Daktari
Groove Dub
Pit Viper
My Mother the War
(lots of dead space)

There’s another video for Pit Viper with Natalie Merchant, John Lombardo, and Steve Gustafson in Dennis Drew’s student film made in Jamestown in 1982 that you should totally check out if you’re remotely curious to see how they all looked way back when.

Some of this early stuff sounds really different from what people normally associate with 10,000 Maniacs. I have to give them credit for introducing me to De Chirico and the metaphysical art movement with this album. Back in those pre-internet days, if bands I liked mentioned things in interviews or if I figured out some lyrics, I’d head over to the library to learn more. No, I didn’t have much of a social life, why do you ask? I sometimes think I learned more during those four years of college by following my curiosity about what influenced the bands I loved, than I did in the classroom.