TRAVELING TO THE PAST – CHICAGO 1968
By RJ Furth
I don’t dwell in the past. I listen to oldies, but not exclusively. I rarely look at yearbooks or wedding albums. My greatest pleasures are in new things, new restaurants or new travel destinations, new authors and new music. During the past week, however, I spent a lot of time in the late 60s and I had a great time.
After our night with Steve Small, the bass player from The Moving Violation, Dennis and I drove to Chicago to meet with two other important members: Jim Cain (rhythm guitar) and Lee Abrams (manager). I’ll save the details for the memoir we’re writing, but I will say that I was enthralled. It was fun listening to Dennis and his old friends revisit 1968, discussing shows, good times, conflicts, old girlfriends, the usual stuff that people hash over during high school reunions. I’m usually put off by such discussions. I liked high school, but I don’t feel the need to return on a nostalgic voyage. It was somehow different to listen to these older men (all 61-64) reminisce about good times that are not forgotten. They grew animated, smiled, occasionally shook their heads at youthful stupidity and jealousy, puffed out their chests when remembering the Bloom High School battle of the bands that they won. Dennis and I have now interviewed four of the five surviving members of The Moving Violation. I am eager to meet Mike Kennedy, the drummer.
Monday, our last day in Chicago, we drove to Chicago Heights, Homewood and Flossmoor, southern suburbs. Dennis had moved from the southside of Chicago when he was little and didn’t have close friends at first. He does not have happy memories of his neighborhood and he appeared uncomfortable as we drove past his old house. That was not the case when we visited places that were part of The Moving Violation’s story: the church where they had their first show, the synagogue where they had a successful show at the start of their brief moment of glory, the houses where they practiced in the basements, Bloom High School where they reached their peak. We headed west from Chicago Monday afternoon with a sense of having achieved something special. After two years of interviewing Dennis, perusing his collection of photos, posters and press clippings, I began to get a deeper, more personal idea of what the band meant to Dennis. Now I begin the process of putting the memoir together.
A final note on the road trip. We drove about 2,300 miles, which makes nearly 6,000 of road trips for me this year. Driving long distances is not fun, but doing it with somebody like Dennis Johnson is a pleasure, or at least as much of a pleasure as you can have on Interstate 80 driving through Iowa and Nebraska. We listened to a lot of music, talked music, and meditated on life. As usual, a few things caught our eyes like the flooding in eastern Colorado and the billboard in Nebraska that said: Guns Save Lives. That was the day after the naval yard shooting that killed thirteen. The United States is a strange place, a country that rightly frightens the rest of the world. It is also a great and wonderful country. During the past six days we meet dozens of kind, friendly people. We laughed our way cross country and marveled at the beauty. I do love my nation.