Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The day I fell for Van Halen

There used to be a bar called Ole's in Maiden Rock, near Lake Pepin. I'm not sure it's still there. Probably is, and I'll find out one day soon. They had the best -- the only -- buffalo burgers at the time. And the juke box was always hopping. It was one of those places you just couldn't drive past. Had to stop.

And so there I was one summer afternoon, striking up a conversation over a beer with Pam the bartender. We got to talking and the conversation turned to Maiden Rock and how it got its name. It was a story Pam had obviously told before.

"There was this Indian maiden, and she was up on that cliff over there," Pam said, nodding toward the bluffs of the Mississippi River. "And there was a young buck with her, and he was wanting to have his way with her, if you know I mean."

I nodded affirmatively. This was easy so far.

"Well, being a young maiden and all -- she was very young, not even 16 at the time -- she wasn't going to have any of that," Pam continued. "Listen, there is honor among maidens. I know, I used to be one, but I didn't last as long as her!" Pam let out a big laugh.

"So anyway, she kept backing away from him, and as she kept walking back she got closer and closer to the edge of the cliff."

I remember taking a gulp of my tap beer at that very moment.

"There she was, right on the precipice, you know? It was either gonna be his way or the highway."

Pam paused and took a hit from her cigarette.

"Well, they didn't name the highway after her," I said. "So they did it right there on the rock?"

"No!" exclaimed Pam. "She was a maiden -- pure as the driven snow. Maidens didn't do that shit!"

"So it was the highway?" I asked.

"Right in front there, right where you parked," Pam said, pointing through the picture window at my truck. "Of course there wasn't a highway coming through here at the time. She had been up there on that rock for quite awhile, looking at that hungry buck, then looking over the edge of the cliff, trying to decide. That girl was in deep shit! And finally the buck, who was clearly frustrated that he wasn't having his way, finally he said: 'Go ahead and jump you dumb bitch!' And she did! That poor maiden girl jumped!"

And I swear to you this happened next. The juke box, which had been silent while Pam was telling her story, suddenly came to life. At first I didn't even notice the rolling synthesizer sound blaring through the speakers. I began to listen about the time a voice -- a scream, really -- yelled a familiar phrase.

"Go ahead and jump!"

It was David Lee Roth. Van Halen. "Jump."

I looked over at Pam, who was smiling back at me.

POSTSCRIPT: Even if you have no time for heavy metal acts like Van Halen you have to concede that "Jump" was a monster hit, one of those songs capable of defining a musical era. It turned out to be the group's only No. 1 single, and it was parked there on this day in the Orwellian year of 1984.

1 comment:

  1. I always had a soft spot in my heart for those knuckleheads. The video of "Hot for Teacher" was a classic.