And it stoned me
The song was a divining rod that summer, the year they painted the little carriage house apartment I’d rented from a friend. The A-framed efficiency sat back off the old neighborhood roads in the Westerwood ‘hood, so flush with green and old expansive magnolia trees that it shook the temperature down a full five degrees, even in July.
One of the house painters, Austin, arrived early in the mornings. I’d lay in bed under thin summer sheets and listen to him set up paint buckets and brushes and wait for the music.
He’d paint and play songs all day from what looked like a hard drive. It was a collection of .mp3s from old iPods and music players that his friends tried to throw away. It created a musical refuge of the most surprising stuff. Traditional Irish reels, Sinatra, Wilco’s “Summerteeth,” and that one song.
“What’s that?” I asked, when I first heard it, leaning out the window to ask Austin, standing on the scaffolding outside.
“I don’t know. I’ll burn it for you,” he’d say. He’d always say that.
“And It Stoned Me,” from “Unplugged In The Studio” by the astral, Irish, Van Morrison. A super spare record. No orchestral arrangement. No horns. Just up-bass and drums on a reel-to-reel tape that didn’t completely erase something they had tried to record over.
After the morning coffee was long gone, I’d sit for hours under the paddle fan on my one chair in the middle of the main room, listen to that record and google for water. A search for a free swimming hole turned up Lake Drummond at the center of The Great Dismal Swamp in eastern North Carolina.
Between the 1600s and 1800s the Great Dismal was home to 5,000 outcasts, outliers, maroons and indigenous americans—one of the largest refuge swamps like it in the United States. A portion of the Underground Railroad went through there.
I fantasized about renting a 1973 black El Camino truck and driving there. I would buy expensive coffee, plunge my hands in the mud and turn my luck around. But I couldn’t afford the gas money that summer for the 231 mile drive from Greensboro to the swamp. No job. No money. No luck.
I did, however, have a brand new Greensboro Public Library card and a short walk downtown.
CHAPTER TWO | Ornery Economy
A song and story series by Molly McGinn, inspired by the Great Dismal Swamp. Album available now, online.