Leg 3: Road to Billings and then onto Glacier

Highlights:

  • Combined Mileage of 739 miles
  • Combined 12 ½ hours of driving
  • Three states
  • Devils Tower
  • A stay in Billings
  • Arrival in Glacier

I’m awake Friday at 5:30 am. Sunrise is early during the summer months as you head north, but today I’m up because our neighbor in the giant RV next to us is hammering away on his water connection (as we are prepping Teapot for travel Murray notes there is something wrong with our water pressure, too). I’m annoyed and manage to drop in-and-out of sleep until about 6:45 AM. Then I start to clean out the tent because today we need to strike camp AND I need to be online at 8 AM so we can get our pass for Going to the Sun Road. Murr gets up at 7 AM, we do a little more packing and at 7:55 AM I’m online and she’s got the phone number pulled up. She calls, I continually reload the page. I look for Sunday tickets — our first full day in Glacier — and there are 180 available. I click and — they’re gone! I refresh, and look at the dates again. We get to Glacier on Saturday late afternoon on the 29th, and the road closes at 6 PM. But, tickets are good for 7 days, and it says there are still 89 available that day. I click and — Success! We are Going to the Sun!

At 9 AM we are on the road, and the drive to Billings is kind of uneventful. It’s our halfway point to Glacier and we have a hotel reservation there. Both Murr and I fantasize of a shower (well, me a shower, she wants a bath), so we are trying to get there in good time. We are cruising along, making Tiktok videos to pass the time, when I see a sign that says “Devils Tower,” and an arrow pointing to the left.

First to our right!
Then to our left!
A Close Encounter of our Own Kind!

“Devils Tower is nearby, I think,” I say as I start to pull out my phone.

“How far?” Murray asks. Reception is bad. I get the spinning wheel.

Murray continues. “Wasn’t it in Close Encounter?”

“Better yet,” I say, my phone finally loading a page, “It’s an official National Monument.” Murray gives me a sly, sideway smile. We are both thinking the same thing: Another stamp in our NPS Passports!

“Right here, here!” I point as Murr brakes Teapot hard and we almost miss the turn. Then it’s a scenic twisty, curvy ride through forest for forty minutes. Like a game of hide-and-seek, we see the top of Devils Tower, sometimes off to our right, sometimes ahead to the left. Once we are about three miles away, though, it just fills the sky. Our plan is a quick stop to get pictures and stamps – but we’ve gotten tons from the road that are actually better than being up close. As we pull into the Ranger station, it is packed – so I circle the parking lot with Teapot and Murray jumps out, stamps our passports and I’m downshifting Teapot through the curves back to the main road.

Devils Tower is the first US National Monument, is a butte formed by rock and magma being slowly pushed up from the Earth, and is highly sacred in the indigenous Plains culture of the US. And well worth the extra two-hours added to our trip.

We get into Billings at 6 PM and by 7:30 PM Murr and I are at the Texas Roadhouse, a restaurant behind our hotel. It is packed (Friday night in Billings) and so we squeeze into the bar between two guys: Justin and Chad. Murr chats with Justin, an ex-Army Reservist that now travels around the country installing GPS systems. Chad is clad in leather Harley gear and a bandana, speaks with the high-pitched voice of a boy tenor, and is also on his own Epic Tour going solo on his motorcycle (I imagine a Hog). Both think it is great Murr and I are on this adventure (I know they think we are a married couple) and we get into a debate about politics with Justin (you can guess how the lines are drawn) but its fun. We head back to our hotel and crash hard.

Sunset in Billings

We opt to take MT Route 2 for the first half of our drive to Glacier instead of Route 90 (both Goggle Maps and Waze say we will save 40 minutes) and I’m glad we did. Murr sleeps and I drive so we don’t have photos — but imagine the scenery of the Aiden Quinn/Brad Pitt movie “A River Runs Through It” filling your windshield for almost 4 hours.

We pull into the St Mary KOA and our campsite is literally right up against the mountains. We set up camp and Murr snaps a pitcher saying, “Our View Does Not Suck.”

And she is right!

A Highway Runs through It
Almost to our KOA site
The Next Four Days Will not Suck

Leg 2: Drive across South Dakota, Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse

The Highlights:

On Monday we are up at 9 AM and packing to hit the road, when Murr throws out her back (OUCH)! She’s a trooper and we still make it out of camp at exactly 10:55 AM and we’re on the road for Mt. Rushmore. Murr is horizontal in the passenger seat, so I’m designated driver for the next 6 hours.

Route 90 in Eastern South Dakota doesn’t offer much, so we blast through as quickly as we can. I’ve planned a stop midway through the state at Chamberlain so we can stop at Dignity: of Earth and Sky. A 50 ft tall statue of a Native American woman in plains-style dress drawn from Lakota and Dakota culture, Dignity was erected in 2016 to commemorate South Dakota’s 125th anniversary of statehood. It’s way cool, especially the star quilt billowing behind her. She stands in front of the Missouri River, which cuts through South Dakota. Murray braves walking for a photoshoot. I imagine Dignity looks awesome lit up from the back at night – but I won’t get to see that on this trip.

Dignity: of Earth and Sky
Murr and Dignity
The Star Quilt

Back in the car and we still have three hours until we get to Keystone. The scenery improves – substantially. We are entering the Badlands — our vista is filled with rolling hills and granite crags. The winds are crazy! You can see the tractor trailers sway as we round gentle corners, and I count three accidents: One where the wind literally blew the 5th-wheel (aka, camper) off a truck, one Winnebago blown across the median, and an entire semi-truck (cab and trailer) pushed onto its side! Plus it eats into our fuel – we get a whole 10.1 mpg!

Tuesday and Wednesday are all about Mt Rushmore – from a helicopter (Tuesday) and then up-close-and-personal (Wednesday). It’s impressive and well worth the trip. And Murr and I both get our Mt Rushmore NPS Passport Stamps and Cancellations! YEAH. And yes, we are both twelve year-old geeks are heart!

The Black Hills
Western View of Mt Rushmore
Mt Rushmore from the Visitor’s Center
My First NPS Passport Stamps of this trip!

But the surprise event is a cloudy day at Crazy Horse Memorial. While it wasn’t on the original itinerary, as we posted about our trip we got many recommendations to visit, and thus we owe all our followers a big thanks!

Requisite Selfie at Crazy Horse

The Crazy Horse Memorial was the vision and dream of Chief Henry Standing Bear and the husband-wife team of Korczak and Ruth Ziolkowski. It’s truly moving – and I can’t do it much justice here, but I’ll give some basics:

Standing Bear wanted a memorial in the Black Hills to his cousin Crazy Horse. He reached out to Korczak Ziolkowski, a renowned sculptor and an original worker on Mt. Rushmore. Korczak agreed to move from his studio in New England to South Dakota in 1947, after enlisting in the Army for WWII. He and his wife Ruth spent the early years working on the land around the giant granite crag that would eventually become Crazy Horse. They built a home for themselves (and their eventual 5 girls and 5 boys) and a visitor center. The first dynamite blast for the monument was June 1948. Today the face of Crazy Horse is complete and the next phase of the mountain (5-10 years) includes his hand and forearm. Murray and I concede we may not live to see the full monument be done.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Standing Bear, Korczak and Ruth had a vision that was greater than just the world’s largest mountain carving, however. They wanted to preserve and protect the culture, tradition and living heritage of Native Americans. Standing Bear was educated in Chicago (yeah) and believed that the war to preserve Native American culture would be with words and ideas, not weapons. He envisioned a museum to store artifacts and educate on Native American history and culture; and an exhibition and performance center (where Murr and I take in some very awesome Dakota Hoop Dancing).

Tradition – Acrylic on Velvet from the Native American Museum at Crazy Horse Memorial
Murr Hoop Dancing With Kevin

What moved me most, however, was the vision and dedication that Standing Bear, Korczak and Ruth had to education. The mission is to establish an Indian University and potentially a medical training center. The University started small, first by giving $250 scholarship in 1978. The program grew, and in 2010 The Indian University of North America opened with the 7th GEN Summer Program. It is a summer residential program which provides students with 12 academic credits that transfer to a college of their course, work experience through internships, and professional development training such as public speaking.

In 2020 The University started the Wizipan Fall Leadership Program, a partnership with South Dakota State University that provides students 15 credit hours in resource management, global food systems, leadership and Native American studies. The program is open to Native American students throughout the United States and 100% of tuition, room and board is provided. Over the past eleven years, nearly 300 students from 20 Indian Nations and 20 States have graduate from The Indian University of North America. The 2021 session opens in September and enrollees will be fully funded by donations and support from the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation.

Crazy Horse: The vision and Now

I think I found my next contribution — and if you’re interested in donating too, click here.

Leg One – Chicago to Sioux Falls

The highlights:

  • 567 miles
  • 10 hours of driving
  • 3 tanks of gas
  • 4 States (Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota)
Teapot At Valley View before we leave for Chicago

Murr and I have cocktails on my deck the night before we leave, and that is a bad idea. I’m slow and just a bit hungover in the morning, but nonetheless we are up at 7 AM. After packing and doing a final walk through of the house, we are on the road at 9 AM. Thus our Epic Trip has begun! It takes two hours to drive out of Chicago towing #TeapottheTeardrop (Murr’s name for her camper, and incidentally one of the hashtags you can use to follow our trip on Instagram. You can also follow on Twitter (@GarthAFowler1, #GarthandMurrEpicTrip2021), Instagram  (@GarthAFowler) and Facebook (Garth A Fowler)). Then it is the long flat roads of Wisconsin and Minnesota until we cross over into South Dakota and find our spot at Sioux Falls KOA.

For those of you not in the know (like I was), Sioux Falls is a great little city (pop 195K). Day one we lounge around the campsite a bit and just before 1 PM we drive into Falls Park. Murr buys a bag of nuts at the local farmers market, and then we head over to the Falls Visitor center. There we met Josh and his canine companion, Echo. He’s on the tail-end of his own Epic trip, 2.5 months in a camper truck departing from Green Bay, WI and then hitting up the Smokey Mountains, New Orleans, multiple parks in the Southwest, up into Glacier, Yellowstone and now in Sioux Falls visiting family. He’s just released an album (Recluse and the Journey). A long day of posing for photos in the sun makes us tired and by 7 PM we are in the camper watching a movie and out early.

Murr Makes a Friend
Up Close and Personal with the Falls

On Sunday we drive through downtown Sioux Falls and Murr does some shopping for hats. Then we find a very cool art store (Sticks and Steel). Located in an old train depot, it is nestled in Sioux Falls’ Brewery Row, so afterwards we grab some nosh and beers at Remedy Brewery. Afternoon beers make one (me?) drowsy, so a little nap back at the KOA and we start our packing process by taking down the tent of Teapot. After sunset we hit the Arc of Dreams, a very cool sculpture in downtown Sioux Falls that spans the Sioux River. It’s next to Monk’s Alehouse, a craft beer bar where I find an St. Bernardus Abt 12 for a mere $6! Murr has a glass of wine. Eventually, it is 11 PM and needing to finish packing and checkout by 11 AM on Monday, we call it an end to the day — and our stay in Sioux Falls!

Sioux Falls get top points, and Murr and I seriously discuss coming back sometime in the late fall, or even the winter as I imagine it would be great to visit when it is a bit cooler and snow on the ground.

Remedy Brewery and the Arc of Dreams

Sarongs and Ninja Turtles Cakes

I’m part of tomorrow’s Do Not Submit online story telling event and I’ve been looking through old journal entries to find a good story. I came across this journal entry about a party my friend Julie and I attended when I lived in Seattle. The event started out with us getting free passes to see one of Heath Ledger’s first major films (trust me, it really isn’t worth mentioning) and then heading to a fashion show/Wednesday night gathering of the Seattle artsy crowd. I worked it down to a short story, but have decided to NOT tell it tomorrow. So I decided to post it here! Enjoy!

On a random Wednesday night, Julie and I find ourselves at a local fashion show and party held in an art gallery on Capitol Hill. The space was a true artist’s venue – eclectic, kitchy, full of somewhat purposefully unconventional (and uncomfortable) clothing.  Neither Julie nor I feel the need to own clothes that look like costumes from a “Fraggle Rock – LIVE” production, so we linger in the kitchen drinking beer from red SOLO glasses. We flit back and forth from the keg to the random people Julie either knows from hanging around the art-scene or just met for the first time that night. Everyone in some way fell somewhere just left of normal, but nonetheless were fun and usually had some most entertaining story to share.

Nick, for example, was wearing a busy-printed sarong and a simple gray t-shirt. Jules and I plowed into him as we were escaping from the kitchen with the last box of Little Debbie Strawberry Shortcakes. While filling our cups from the keg, I rummaged through the pantries of the shared kitchen and came across the box. I suggested we make off with the goods. To make amends, we offered to share our bounty with him.

“Dude,” he exclaimed while mawing through a Strawberry Shortcake, “when I was learning how to weld, I was taking classes down by the Hostess Reject store. And every day I use to go buy a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Cake” for twenty-five cents.”

Now there is an image for you – a sarong clad man with welding helmet and flaming torch, walking into the Hostess Reject Bakery to buy sponge cakes with plastic green frosting and stuffed with nuclear green filling. How did I not cough up my strawberry flavored cupcake?

And can we talk a minute about the fact that there is a Hostess REJECT store? And that our blow-torch wielding friend frequented it? What on Earth can be wrong with a Hostess cake? I mean, the things have a shelf life of years – literally.

When I was working at the Smithsonian one of my colleagues introduced me to the “T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S Site”.  It chronicled the adventures of two Rice University college students who had taken it upon themselves to subject Twinkies to all the scheming and devising that their electrical-engineering degree-earning minds could come up with, like being pulsed in a blender or microwaved. I distinctly remember that a store bought Twinkie – one that had somehow passed the-oh-so-rigorous quality inspections that Nick’s Mutant Ninja Turtle Cakes had not – survived a four story drop with nary a crack in its moist, spongy shell. Since Twinkies come in pairs, the brave second was the controI. I wonder how had the Ninja Turtle Cakes failed the ignominious Hostess Inspectors? Maybe it had not the correct fluorescent, nuclear green glow? Or the fluffy, creamy center had liquefied after only a mere 40 seconds in the microwave? And Nick dared to eat these.

“One day,” his story continued, “for my birthday I bought, like, 20 boxes of these things and then I went home and arranged them on a platter in this pyramid structure.” His eyes glazed over and I could tell that our innocent Little Debbie had somehow transported him to somewhere I, a Ninja Turtle Cake deprived Midwesterner, would thankfully never go. “All my friends came over and we ate them all,” he said. “It made me sick. They were so gross.”

Then he abruptly returned from whatever cream-filled nirvana he had been in and walked over to a lanky boy clad in a Speed Racer t-shirt and began talking to him, leaving me only to think to myself, “How could you be surprised that you got sick?”

Some Stories are Meant to be Told

It’s back! Chicago’s premiere storytelling event: Do Not Submit has started up again, virtually for the time being. I’ve signed up to tell a story on Thursday, April 29th. You can reserve a space to either be part of the audience (or tell a story) here. I’m still deciding what story to tell . . .

Do Not Submit (DNS) is a series of free, open mic events around Chicago where anyone can come tell a story. I love DNS because it is low key, fun and no expectations of perfection, I’ve met some really great people and storytellers at these events. Len Joy, a fellow BQB author, storyteller and triathlete introduced me to DNS some years ago. Whenever my travel schedule allowed, I would hit up the Andersonville session at Hopleaf Bar.

Last time I attended DNS, I told a 7-minute version of the story All in the Family, a story of mine featured in Science magazine about my summer studying Baboons and being visited by my cousin. You can read that original story here (if you have a subscription to Science), or a variation of it on my blog here.

Copyright 2013 AAAS Owen is always watching

4Runner: A little nostalgia on a big road trip

Rostam’s lyrical ode to relationships, road-trips, and facing the unknown broke into the Alt Nation’s Alt18 this weekend. 4Runner is bound to become the summer’s song of reminiscence and nostalgia, at least for me.

4Runner: From the forthcoming Changephobia album

I’ve been rocking out to it the past two weeks as I worked—first on a news piece for Neuron and then on edits and (final?) revisions for Calm Undone. Whenever 4Runner starts on my playlist, I instantly have feelings of nostalgia.

The opening bars with its acoustic guitar and brushed drums—a relentless beat that drives the song from beginning to end—remind me of Peter Gabriel. I’m back in college, hanging out with my friends, young and carefree. So many stories I could tell . . .

As Rostam starts to sing, the lush harmonies build and I’m suddenly longing for …. something, but I’m not quite sure what. Or when. The summer road trip that hasn’t happened yet? The days I wondered Capitol Hill in Seattle with my friends looking for a night of fun? An ungodly, early morning in San Diego, when I picked up my friends to drive all day to a triathlon? Or something that maybe hasn’t happened yet . . . but whatever it is, I think I’m getting closer.

I should confess, I am a hardcore Vampire Weekend fan, where Rostam got his start, at least professionally. And his first Grammy nod. So it isn’t surprising that I’m digging his latest tune.

But yeah, 4Runner, by Rostam. That’s what is wasting my time right now.

A Good Cover

At the behest of my editors, I’m cranking on revisions for Calm Undone, spending hours at my new local haunt, buried under noise-canceling headphones. Since the 12-months of lock down have me missing live music, I stream Alt-Nation’s Virtual Advancement Placement. Listening has been extra fun because I love a good cover, and both Dayglow (@dayglowband) and Gus Dapperton (@GusDapperton) give children of the eighties like me lots of ear candy.

In a different life, I would be lead in a band called “Cover Me,” and we would essentially play covers (in fact, our first and probably only album would be the semi-eponymously entitled ‘Cover Me — I’m Going In’). This is because I don’t have a creative bone in my body, musically speaking. But there is an art to covering someone else’s song well. You can’t just play it like the original, hoping it sounds the same. You have to make it your own, build upon it. A good cover brings something new: A different mood; A funky change in tempo or key. I imagine it isn’t easy to do, so I’m no expert in telling anyone how to do it. But I can tell you when I think someone nails a cover. So I’ve put together a YouTube playlist of some kick-ass covers. Here’s the list, and a brief explanation of why I included each:

  1. Ben Howard’s cover of Call Me Maybe: The original is a cute story of a crush and the awkwardness of trying to get the object of your affection’s attention. But Howard and crew succeed in flipping this silly teenage song into what feels like an obsessive’s confession.
  2. Jose Gonzales’ cover of Heartbeats: Gonzales’ gentle acoustic guitar version brings out the longing, love-struck nature of The Knife’s EMD hit.
  3. Glass Animals’ cover of Crazy: Glass Animals keeps Gnarls Barkley’s pop-sensibility while giving it geek-cool props.
  4. Wolf Alice’s cover of Boys: Charli XCX’s sugar-pop song was a feminist criticism of women’s depiction in music videos, but Wolf Alice’s mash-up with the Cure’s Boys Don’t Cry is kind of genius.
  5. Five Second’s of Summer’s cover of Roots: Alice Merton’s original was a staple on my Sonos alt-rock playlist for most of 2018. That same year, the boy-band Five Seconds of Summer grew up and gave us a harmonically taught, stripped down version worth checking out.
  6. Our Last Night’s cover of Wrecking Ball: I had no interest (none) in the Miley Cyrus original, but I decided to take a chance on this cover. There are tons of other covers to sample, but Our Last Night’s cover was the one that made clear to me the song is not a power-anthem, but a heart-felt, emotional admission of defeat.
  7. Sinead O’Connor’s cover of Nothing Compares 2 U: Despite how I was obsessed with Sinead while in college, I didn’t know her iconic ballad was a Prince original until after reading her 1991 Rolling Stone’s interview. Once you know that fact, his imprint can’t be ignored, despite the stripped down, soul baring, symphonic treatment Sinead delivers.
  8. Silversun Pickups’ cover of Cry Littler Sister: Stick with me as I setup the background here, but trust me I will get there. Growing up in MTv-deprived rural Ohio, my only exposure to music videos was through a local-access show where you would call-in to request videos. Occasionally, callers won prizes, and mine was a vinyl edition of The Lost Boys soundtrack. Despite the strong collection of what were alt-acts of the time (including an Echo and the Bunnymen’s cover of the Doors’ People are Strange), Cry Little Sister was the only song that resonated with me. Even then I thought it merely ‘meh.’ Then Silversun Pickups (whom I think can do no wrong) raised it from the dead and I’m seriously hooked.
  9. Billie Eilish’s cover of Bad: Eilish gives MJ’s pop-classic her trade-mark sotto voce treatment that makes it a classic (albeit this time an alt one) all over again.

It is a short list, and heavily biased. That’s okay, because it is mine. So what it is yours? What would be your short-list of must-hear covers?

Yes Dorothy, You Should Go To College

Despite 1.2 trillion dollars held in collective student debt, the overall answer to attending college is still yes.  The Hamilton Project has a fun online widget that allows you compare your annual income by degree and major (I’m trying not to be envious of my engineering and chemistry friends).  Check it out here.

Earning Advantage for bachelor's degree

Earning Advantage for bachelor’s degree

But college today is different than it was 20 or 30 years ago, and because of that we need to think differently about why individuals go to college, when they go, and what they should expect.  Thirty years ago, going to school (be it elementary, high school, or under graduate) was the best source of information.  This is particularly true  at the undergraduate level, and what most people think of when they talk about ‘going to college.’  Aside from the nearest public library, there were few resources for me to learn what a neuron was and how it functioned (and for anyone that has ever been to Wooster, Ohio, where I grew up, even getting that information from the public library was a far shot).  College provided access to advanced information.

But today information is ubiquitous – and can be obtained almost anywhere for free:  Wikipedia, the Khan Academy, and yes from colleges and universities that are developing MOOCS (massive, open, online courses).  So today going to school to get information is not worth the value, per se.  I’ve taught literally hundreds of students physiology each year, and at times I myself used free resources and movies online that are of high-quality and do a great job explaining how the kidney works, or how gas laws govern lung function.

Getting my students to use this new information was different – and something they could not achieve by reading the book or just attending my lecture.  It was in lab sections or in small discussion groups where we read case studies of individuals with kidney malfunction and discussed how understanding gas law would provide a pathway for treatment that students learned how to apply this information.

When you have massive amounts of information at your disposal, you have a new challenge:  Organizing, analyzing, and interpreting that information in a useful and meaningful way.  This is perhaps the hallmark of what colleges and universities can still provide to students.  And despite what we may want to believe, understanding how to interpret information in our world is not easy and native.  Spend time with a two year old who believes that all four-legged creatures are dogs, and you’ll realize that knowing how to organize and categorize information is not easy.  Nor is teaching it.  It takes time, and experience.

College today isn’t so much about facts, but learning what to do with those facts.  College is where students develop and perfect their research and analytical skills – no matter what their major is (If you think English and writing don’t require those skills, simply read John Irving’s Until I Find You, and realize he did extensive research on tattoos, and had to integrate it meaningfully and entertainingly in order to write his book).  Going to college today doesn’t necessarily give you a job, but instead gives you the skills to do many jobs, no matter what you studied.

I’d Let You Watch

Leave it to the 1980s to spawn a world wide hit that comes from a rock-musical about two chess Grandmasters playing in the Thai capital of Bangkok, written by ABBA and Tim Rice (famous for being Elton John’s and Andrew Lloyd Weber’s lyricist).  But “One Night in Bangkok,” is both catchy, exotic, and very witty (if not at time offensive).

One Night In Bangkok

There is really little to say about this song: It is the musical scene were an American TV analyst (played by Murray Head, a successful British stage and television actor whose brother is also well known for play Giles on the Joss Whedon series Buffy the Vampire Slayer), discusses his love for the intellectual purity of chess, and his disdain for the exotic, Asian capital.  Thailand is the wrong place for the cerebral pursuits he is here to observe, and nothing sums this up better than the line “I’d let you watch/ I would invite you/ but the Queens we use would not excite you.”  Playful, insulting, and a not-so-tongue-in-cheek sexual reference to gay-male prostitutes, he is basically saying what thrills you is but the opposite of what thrills him.

This song makes the list simply because, as a junior high kid, I knew every word, but understand maybe half of what it said or implied. It was not until I was in college that I even knew the song came from a musical, and I really didn’t bother to learn more than that.  I love playing it now to friends my age, and pointing out it is about the game of chess, and a put-down to Thai culture. Ultimately the Thailand Mass Communication Organization banned the song, saying it perpetuated a misunderstanding about Thailand and disrespected Buddhism.

The video for the song is a horrible 1980s video: And of course it would be.

 

I’ve Waited here for You, Everlong

I just realized that my first American band on this list is the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl’s project that grew from the collapse of Nirvana after Kurt Kobain’s suicide.  Having spent his Nirvana years behind the drum set, with Foo Fighters he steps up as a multi-talented guitarist, front-man, and lyricist.

FooFighters-TheColourAndTheShape

His first album, eponymously named Foo Fighters, was just Grohl and a friend singing back up.  But eventually, Grohl was able to form a band and record the breakout album “The Colour and the Shape,” which gave us the trio of hits, Monkey Wrench, My Hero, and Everlong.

In my opinion, everything about Everlong is ground-breaking. The song itself is a total surrender of heart and mind, one that borders on self-destruction.  It bridges the break-up of Grohl’s marriage to his wife, and the courtship of his new girlfriend at the time.  And torn between these two, Grohl writes what has to be the most creepy and yet romantic line ever, part surrender, part obsession:  “The only thing I’ll ever ask of you/ You gotta promise not to stop when I say when.”  Grohl admits that love is an addiction, and despite what we know is best, we sometimes do what we know is wrong.

The original video for Everlong was a Michel Gondry production, which I own on DVD from a collection of Gondry videos.  Gondry’s video is ground-breaking for it’s creepy story line, the disturbing huge-hands (which he claims came from a nightmare he once had), and finale, so creepy as the band members literally climb from out of their own bodies.  It was nominated for Best Video at the 1998 MTv Music Video awards.

However, the Foo Figher’s line up was tumultuous from the start.  Members came and went – especially the charismatic and problematic Pat Smear (I once found myself in a Banana Republic dressing room next to Smear in downtown Seattle, where he told the sales woman “I USED to be a member of that band Foo Fighters, but not anymore,”).  But Grohl would still perform hits, sometimes playing acoustic versions of the complex rock songs that made Foo Fighters famous.  Here is he playing an acoustic version of Everlong, which shows that the song, even in its most basic form, is still endearing and unnerving.