The Geddy Lee Chronicles II: Electric Jambaroo
In three short days, Canada's greatest intelligent rock band returns to St. Louis. In honor of yet another visit by Alex, Neil and Geddy, let us turn back the clock to that moment when Rush earned my lifelong admiration and respect and love: The moment when Geddy Lee saved my life.
In the spring of 1979, my father decided it was time to up stakes and move across the country. It may have had something to do with TWA declaring bankruptcy. Again. But back then, the financial solvency of major airlines wasn't really my business. What was my business was getting psyched up about the impending Great Adventure -- a journey by RV over the Rocky Mountains, following the well-blazed trail burned by the frontiersmen of legend: Kit Carson, Daniel Boone, Jim Bridger and me. A quartet that doubled as a modest proposal for a second Mount Rushmore, or as I liked to think of it, "Mountain of Cool."
We were somewhere in the rugged wilderness of Colorado when the RV's engine overheated. Nothing to worry about, it happened occasionally. And this brief pause in the mountains gave me the chance to find some trail, blaze it, and perhaps carve my name on something soft with my commemorative Indiana 500 pocket knife (not quite a Bowie knife, but still). So, without bothering to alert Ma or Pa, I set out from our temporary camp to find fresh water, or beaver lodges, or whatever shit I thought a frontiersman would do. If I'd had time to grow a raggedy beard and smear bear fat on it, I would have. Commitment.
Perhaps those of you familiar with mountains know what happens next. The lightheadedness, the confusion, the shortness of breath, followed by the panicked realization that I didn't know what direction I should head to get back. And so, I kept walking through the trees. Jim Bridger dragged himself several miles back to humanity after being mauled by a bear, after all; surely I could find a large, bug-spattered recreational vehicle.
After an indeterminate period of time, I heard voices. I broke through to a clearing and discovered a small gathering of teenagers, most of whom looked like they'd smeared their raggedy beards and ratty hair with something much more pungent than bear fat. They lounged across this small patch of earth, mandolins and banjos at the ready. The lankiest/greasiest of them counted off a weedy "1-2, 1-2-3-4" and the rest of the degenerate horde struck up a tune.
It was horrible. A wandering, pointless, limp approximation of the "Beverly Hillbillies" theme song perhaps? But no -- it was much worse than that. A circular rhythm that dogged any known time signature, a godforsaken keening bereft of meaning or soul. This was the music of the damned, certainly, and I felt myself paralyzed by the terror of an evil that consistently rooted out its own tail without ever catching anything. Ouroboros' scaly coils found purchase in this realm through this Moebius Strip-nightmare of flat-picked caterwauling.
A hand gripped my arm and dragged me roughly back into the trees, further and further away from the awful tableau. As the sound receded, I found myself able to move again. I craned my head up and saw an open, friendly face caressed by cascades of chestnut hair spilling out from under a coonskin cap. The man, lithe as a young Kit Carson, smiled at me.
"Those Yonder Mountain String Boys'll kill you as soon as look at you," he said.
I had no idea what he was saying to me, nor did I care, as this brave man dressed in buckskin had clearly saved my life. He pointed ahead; I could see the looming bulk of an RV through the trees, and I knew my family was nearby.
"Are you a frontiersman?" I asked.
He laughed and winked. "We call 'em 'Coureurs de bois' up North, son." He seemed to meld with the trees, and I heard his parting words echoing in my head that night as I fell asleep: "You have to go into the darkness to come out from under the shadow."
I am convinced that this man was Geddy Lee, and that once again Rush's enigmatic bassist had saved my life. But for what purpose?