big red van

Andrew Walsh, the producer and co-host of my favorite podcast Too Beautiful To Live, has been on a quest lately to retrieve some lost childhood memories in the guise of four free cassette tapes that McDonald’s gave away in the summer of 1986. You can read about his search and his success in finding most of these tapes here. You can also get exact track listings and download the MP3s, which I just did today and burned to a CD for some most excellent summer cruising music. But Andrew’s journey reminded me of the music of my own youthful summers past, and I grew nostalgic. Here’s a story.

When I was a kid growing up in Syracuse, New York in the mid-eighties, my uncle bought a small camp on Big Moose Lake in the Adirondack region of New York State. Every summer he would load up my cousins, my sister, myself (and a few other adults for backup) into his big red Chevy van and we would drive north into the woods to spend a week or more swimming, hiking, canoeing, and trying not to get eaten by black bears or bitten to death by black flies. He would also advise us to avoid what he called “crotch rot” by making sure we changed out of our wet bathing suits as soon as we were done swimming in the lake. Maybe this had something to do with acid rain. I’m not sure.  But it was an idyllic time. Occasionally we would take trips into the booming metropolis of Old Forge to visit the hardware store, pick up some Archie comic books or eat some soft-serve. The thing I remember most about those trip to camp, however, was the music we played in the red van on the way up and back. As I remember it, my uncle only had three or four 8-track cassette tapes for the van’s sound system. They were, in the order in which they were most frequently played: Eagles Greatest Hits, Fleetwood Mac Rumors, Elton John’s Greatest Hits, and an album by Linda Ronstadt. There may have been some Santana thrown into the mix as well. So now whenever I hear any of these artists I think back to summers past. And I smile. And I’m thankful I never got crotch rot, although I was chased by a black bear once. Which may have led to something else crotch-related, but that’s another story.

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