Last night I had the privilege of helping at a Portage Schools event called “Empty Bowls.” Children from all of our Portage Schools art classes (elementary through high school) made bowls to represent the plight of the hungry and last night people came to Portage Northern High School to buy the bowls by “donation.” It took a heap of effort on the part of the community’s art teachers and their students to make this happen.
(That we live in the world’s richest nation and have to worry about poor and starving people among our ranks I won’t even get into, except to say that as a statement about our nation, it is in my opinion a disgrace.)
My job last night was that of a a human doorstop (they gave me a job they thought I could handle), and when I finally walked into the high school cafeteria the tables were filled with a mind-blowing array of colorful, creatively shaped bowls — reflecting the influence of the teachers and the creativity of their students. Best of all, a student band was playing Louie, Louie, which immediately lit my fire and even drew a few tears of nostalgia.
In my long-ago college days at Michigan State Louie, Louie was pretty much our anthem. Bill Haeger, my lacrosse teammate and friend, and I used to go to the Coral Gables on Wednesday nights because we knew the live bar band would rip on Louie, Louie. Beer and sweat would flow, and the music would be loud.
So I found something comforting in knowing that all these children, who live in a world of skateboards and blackberries and cell phones and You Tube and stuff I don’t have a clue about..these same kids are learning to create with ceramics and glazes, and some bandmaster is teaching them Louie, Louie. Who woulda thunk it?
By the way, Louie Louie was recorded almost simultaneously by two Portland bar bands, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and the Kingsmen. There then was a battle of the two versions and that of the Kingsmen eventually triumphed, and of course the whole song’s legend is tied to the allegations that it was filled with hard-to-hear dirty words, which made the song a slam at the “man.” The FBI, under Hoover, conducted a 30-month investigation into the song, which just assured its place in history. For the record the song is about a conversation between a sailor and a bartender named Louie and it’s about the sailor missing his girl. The lyrics are in Pidgin English which make them a little hard to follow for some folks. The FBI in fact concluded that they could not ascertain with certainty any of the lyrics. (And we’re surprised they couldn’t put two and two together before 9-11?)
But here you go:
Louie, Louie, oh no
Me gotta go
Aye-yi-yi-yi, I said
Louie Louie, oh baby
Me gotta go.
Fine little girl, she waits for me;
Catch a ship across the sea
Sail that ship all alone;
I never think I make it home.
I’m sitting here with a huge grin as I see the lyrics and remember the alleged “dirty” ones that went with the tune. What really adds to my feelings is that my lacrosse teammates from Michigan State will be getting together for our 45th anniversary at the end of march and we will gather, where else? At the Coral Gables.
I sure hope there’s a live band that knows Louie Louie, or at least a jambox with a disk, or whatever that stuff is called. I can’t think of anything neater than a bunch of men in their early to mid sixties, many with replaced hips and knees and other body parts sweating away on the dance floor mumble-shouting, “Louie, Lou-EYE!”
Some day I hope the students who turned out the bowls for the hungry will have similar memories and can look forward to similar reunions. Oh yeah, Empy Bowls? Word is they made about $4,000 for the hungry here in town. Some days, life feels pretty damn good, eh? Let’s take it on outta here now. Let’s go!