Day 17 from beautiful Medford, Oregon, home of the world famous Harry and David, where one’s wife, who shall remain nameless (but who co-habitats with me) can easily spend $125 at the company’s Country Store on all sorts of fresh fruits, canned and jarred jellies and other items.
Medford is the heart of pear country, not just for Oregon, but also for the United States. The smell of fresh pears permeates the air at this juncture, changing from Bartletts to Boscs picking and processing.
Seventy miles to the east of Medford is one of nature’s most perfect sights – Crater Lake – a stunning combination of true blue water surrounded by 33 miles of rim canyon and mountains. Since no one can go into the lake, it is undisturbed except for rain and wind. Photos taken by even ordinary cameras possess postcard quality.
And you never know what you’ll see en route. Our vehicle was forced to stop for a pair of mother cows nursing their calves – in the middle of the highway. Believe me, neither mom was going to move … so we waited. The three-year-old daughter of our friend, Jennifer, had never seen such a sight and was fixated at this vision.
It is a delightful region – the Rogue River Valley – with forests and mountains ranges as far as the eye can see (Cascades on one side and the Siskiyous on the other). And Tuesday night was a picture-perfect time to head to the Lithia Motors Amphitheater to see one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2005 inductees perform – that little old band from Texas, ZZ Top.
The group has not changed personnel since 1970 – Dusty Hill on bass, Frank Beard on drums and Billy Gibbons on guitar. “It’s the same three guys playing the same three chords,” Gibbons told the sold-out crowd.
Gibbons and Hill still possess those MTV long beards but the grey is now real. Billy tried his best, but the voice was much weaker than when “Legs” and “Jesus Left for Chicago” were first recorded. But, oh my, he can still play guitar. In the late 1960s, Dick Cavett was interviewing Jimi Hendrix and told the soon-to-be legend that he was considered already to be the greatest guitarist of all time. “That might be,” Hendrix answered. “But I just heard Billy Gibbons.”
When I worked for the University of Michigan’s sports information department, I remember having to run an errand one December Thursday morning, on the final day of classes. I stepped outside of the SID offices and was standing on the corner when a pickup, hauling a trailer, stopped in front of me.
“’Scuse me, but can you tell me where the basketball arena is?” the driver asked. I gave them directions but they seemed confused.
“We’re playing there tonight,” he said, and I knew it was not for Michigan hoops. It turned out to be ZZ Top on their first national tour, in support of “Tres Hombres,” opening for Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” tour.
The Texas band, already having a growing fan base in Ann Arbor, was warmly received. Of course, everyone was toked up and stoned up to see one of rock’s master showmen in Cooper.
I sat in a section among many Michigan football players and, sorry to say, the odor of marijuana was strong from this part of Crisler Arena. One player in particular went through two full baggies on stash and, years later, while surfing a Fort Worth cable network, I stumbled across that same player in a new role – evangelical TV minister seeking funds for his mission. Which was NOT to enjoy more Alice Cooper.
ZZ Top hasn’t had a hit album in 15 years; their latest, “Mescalero,” was released three years ago. Their last hit was “Viva Las Vegas,” and they were last heard on the closing credits of “From Dusk ‘til Dawn.” In the mid-80s, the Texas trio filled the Cotton Bowl and every major arena in America. Today, they play at small state and county fairs, cities the size of Medford (63,000) and Indian casinos.
But it didn’t matter to the crowd here – totally consisting of late 30-somethings, 40 and 50-somethings and enough AARP members to have earned discounts. Once Billy and Dusty hit the stage in their lime green sequin jackets, and when they switched to their fuzz-covered guitars, and when they kicked into the back-to-back renditions of “Give Me All Your Lovin’” and “Sharp-Dressed Man,” people were dancing in the aisles.
Of course, some of them should refrain from such public display – especially women approaching their AARP years. Here’s a good rule to live by: if you are 28-34, and still have the shape and suppleness to display your figure in a provocative way, please do so! I am happy to report that our friend, Jennifer (despite having a 3-year-old) and her friend, Tonya, both qualify.
But we all saw too many older women trying to emulate that look and it was a disaster. I won’t even draw comparisons to that mother milking her calf. Add too much local wine and perhaps a little too much herbal smoke, and you cannot decide whether or not to laugh or cringe like you’ve got cramps.
To top it off, while we waited for the crowd to slowly escape the parking lot, a drunk woman emerging out of a stretch limousine, actually went into a small clump of bushes near the theater entrance and … relieved herself!
Oh well, to quote the Top, “She’s bad; she’s nationwide.”