The Raven Lunatic

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Bernadine Spitzsnogel

Bernadine Spitzsnogel
December 01
All material on "The Raven Lunatic" blog is copyrighted by the author. Author of "The Luxury of Daydreams"--available on amazon and all major book sites.


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AUGUST 16, 2010 1:36PM

Where were you when Elvis died?

Rate: 36 Flag

My boyfriend dumped me in the summer of 1977.  My grandmother and my favorite uncle died that summer.

Like this summer, it was a long, hot, sultry summer and I didn't have a job.  Then everything changed on August 16, 1977.

I drove to a college journalism workshop at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.  Athens is a fairly decent drive from central Indiana.

I didn't know too many people on the yearbook staff.  The advisor arranged a ride for me to Ohio U.

Early on the morning of August 16 (after an unending evening with friends at the local pub) I went to the arranged meeting place.  I did not look good.  I'm sure I didn't take a shower, and I'm fairly certain I never went to bed that night.

I wore a red bandana on my head -- do-rag style. 

The person I was meeting stood aimlessly by his car -- a 1960s black Caddy.  He was dressed in all white, white painter's pants, a dirty white dress shirt, and a white Gilligan-style cap.  It was not love at first site, though I did notice he had very long eyelashes and Windex-blue eyes.

He mumbled something to me about the heat in the car and the broken windows.  I could not really understand what he said.  There was another girl with him, whom I did not know.

I crawled in the backseat and fell asleep.  What he had been trying to tell me was that the electronic windows were stuck in the up position, and the heat was broken and permanently on.  That enhanced the much-needed sleep.

The White Knight woke me up and asked if I knew how to get to Athens, Ohio.  This time I mumbled some directions back at him and asked him to leave me the eff alone. 

I woke up an hour later in Indianapolis.

"Hey, guy," I yelled at the mumbler in the front seat, "We're supposed to be going east, not south."

The heat was too much for me and I fell back asleep.

Five or six hours later I woke up and the black Caddy was sitting on the banks of the Hocking River.  Like Dorothy in the poppy fields, I could see the Oz of Ohio University beyond the banks. 

But The White Knight had no idea how to get there.  I noticed he had actually left the highway and taken a bumpy, dirt path to arrive at our wrong destination.

We got back in the car and somehow wound our way through the hilly city of Athens and made it to the Martzoff House where several people I knew were waiting for us.

One of them leaned out the dormitory window and said, "Hey, we've been here for hours.  What took you so long?"

Continuing my charm offensive, I said, "I rode with this S-O-B and I am freakin' telling you that I never want to see him again."

That was thirty-three years ago today.  That friend who leaned out the window relished telling that story at our wedding rehearsal dinner.

My White Knight, who no longer dresses in white, still has those magnificent eyelashes and Windex blue eyes.  Right now he's probably lost somewhere in West Virginia, driving our son back to college.  Our son doesn't attend Ohio University, so I hope he is nowhere near the Hocking River.

Later that evening, we learned the King was dead.



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What a story, Bea! You are such a charmer. It's amazing one never forgets on'es whereabouts on certain historic dates, but you'd never have forgotten today for its sake alone. Here's to you and your long-lashed, Windex-blue-eyed sweeheart ! ~R~
What a great story, Bea! My story about where I was when I heard he was dead is too dull, boring, entirely uninteresting. All I remember was that it was hot.
Sounds like you met your "early Elvis" and had a happy, long ride in a black caddy. Really charming, well-told story. Viva Athens! (Did you know the B-52s?) (r)
We heard that Matt Lauer was there that summer, but we never saw him or knew him. Of course he can say the same for us.
I just can't remember Bea.
I remember John Lennon, and Marilyn Monroe, but Elvis draws a blank.
Shame on me.
Rated with hugs
Dusting the living room while pregnant with my first child. That was the moment I knew I wasn't immortal. If the King could die, so could I.
Love it! I love stories about long term relationships that start off on bad feet, hands, tires, and grassy banks.
How long did it take for you to accept the love of your life?
wonderful story, Bea - when did you buy him the GPS ;)
Great read, Ms. Spitznogel.

I remember exactly where I was when Elvis died. I was in Israel and I was shocked that my intellectual Hungarian grandmother was so shocked and upset over his death.
My brother and a pal, many years ago, were thrown out of a Graceland tour when the pal asked the guide, pointing to the toilet off The Bedroom, Is That Where He Died?
I don't have any idea, tho, where I was when that throne lost its King.
oh and rated for a terrific narrative.
I was 14 years old that summer, in between 8th and 9th grades. I remember I was sitting on my bedroom floor (I have no idea what I was doing there) listening to my local Top 40 AM radio station when the DJ came on and said Elvis had died. Being too young to really be an Elvis fan, it didn't shake me to the core but I was still shocked and saddened at his death. Still am.
Now this was refreshing, a sorta love story with a kinda reverse beginning and a strong ending. I am forever guilty of writing all sorts of gushy stuff when I talk about meeting my love and so this story really struck a pleasant chord with me. Thanks for the chuckles today.
Heat does me the opposite. I would of had my head out the front window or something. I have no idea where I was when Elvis died. I drank a lot back then!
Elvis' is one of those few celebrity deaths that I cannot put into context of memory, sadly. I do remember seeing his last television appearance, however.
Wonderful, wonderful story, Bea. Hope he's never turned into a "hound dog."
I was 28 years old. It was my birthday and I was celebrating alone in the kitchen of our ramshackle hippie house with a bottle of Tequila with a radio on top of the fridge playing the songs of the day. DJ's came on to announce the news and I hoisted my bottle.
I was driving a truck of beef to Des Moine when the radio station played Love Me Tender, and then announced his death. My mother was a big fan and my dad told me later she sat down at the kitchen table and wept. The only vacation they ever took was the next year they drove to Graceland.
Great story. You told it so well. I could imagine the hot car, the bumpy roads and your irritation at your driver.

I was a 12-year-old at the breakfast table in Ontario, California when I heard the news. I remember thinking my parents would be devastated. I didn't really learn to appreciate Elvis until much later, but everyone seemed shocked and saddened, even people who were younger than I.
We're on the same page today, Bea? Did my post prompt this vivid memory? So few things are remembered as well as the death of legends- I even remember that I was in camp when Marilyn Monroe died in the early 6os. And so it goes ...
Great story-telling!

I was 19 and starting my sophomore year of college in Kansas City. As a resident assistant in the dormitory, I had to be there early and I remember being with other RAs and hearing the radio announcer say he had died and all of us being shocked, although I don't remember anyone being extremely upset. Maybe because he was enough older that we didn't think of him as "our" generation.
Windex-blue eyes - now there's a description to love.

I was working my first real job in DC. My boss, a man with a pasty-face and a very bad toupe, was an Elvis Fan with a capital F. His face, already the color of old oatmeal, lost all of its color when we heard the news. He sat slumped in his chair, rattled to his core. It was my first realization that celebrities could seem like friends to some people.
Cool story, Bea. I get all metaphysical sometimes, thinking how chance encounters or small, seemingly insignificant choices wind up affecting the rest of our lives. I was teaching high school when Elvis died. Heard about it on the late news while munching on some popcorn. I was all shook up. I immediately made a peanut butter and banana sandwich in tribute.
You never fail to deliver a full course of delight, Bea! Windex-blue, huh? Who could have walked away from those? And who needs Elvis anyway? :) Oh, and I was in Quogue, Long Island standing in my grandmother's kitchen. I was never even remotely an Elvis fan, so it had no impact other than being amazed by all the mourning on television.
I know it sounds strange but I think I was on the toilet. Kidding. A tragic day, I still sing his songs in the well as on the toilet.
Thanks everyone for sharing your answers! I was really too young to fully appreciate Elvis or the Beatles, but it was amazing how people reacted. We visited Graceland in 1993 and could not believe how much people treated it like a church or worship service.

CF -- I bought My White Knight a GPS the summer he took Junior to visit colleges all over the Midwest. Thank God the kid was only wait-listed at Northwestern. I'm sure we could have never found it. We ended up in east St. Louis on the way to St. Louis University prior to owning the GPS.

CC, he never did turn into a hound dog, more like a loveable golden.

Arietty -- loved the description of your boss with the oatmeal face. Please write more on your blog!!!

TS do you see the irony of where you were versus where Elvis died?

Thanks again everyone. I really enjoyed your stories of where you were.
I love your story. I was sitting in the house I shared with my boyfriend and two other college students. My mom called and asked me if I felt bad because Elvis had died. I remember saying no, he was waaay before my time. Funny how clear that little snippet is..._r
My wife Theresa was in the hospital having a Hysterectomy.
I was twenty-three, and had been in the Air Force for approximately nine months. I was on my first assignment, at FEN-Misawa, which is/was a little airbase in northern Japan. (It's a bigger airbase now.) FEN stood for Far East Network, and the station was a joint radio and television station run by the military. I was on-shift as a television board op, and the afternoon DJ was a Marine named Dick Bugda - he was practically in mourning, as were the older NCOs. I think they were playing all-Elvis on the afternoon radio show that day. I myself was a little nonplussed - to me, he was a bit of a has-been. Different strokes, I guess.
I love the way you tell a story, Bea. I had a feeling that Good Humor man was your Herman, Sr.
I didn't see that ending coming, at all. I should have known!

As to the King -- I was riding with my mother in the car on the way to school when I heard it on the radio. I was surprised that she was so upset, because she wasn't a huge Elvis fan. I guess for her, it was like hearing about Kurt Cobain was for my generation.
Is this from an earlier bit of writing? it's so familiar, but the Windex Blue is a new color!
Great account Bernadine. Although I wasn't much of an Elvis fan (had just begun listening to radio as the Beatles were releasing their singles), I'll never forget his death. I was working on a kibbutz and first heard of it in a front page story in the Jerusalem Post. Believe me, it was the only story in five weeks that knocked mid-east politics to the inside pages.
Rated for among many other things, Windex blues eyes.
Ahhhhh! You are always one of my favorites OSer's for good reason. I loved this story.

The day Elvis died, I remember my mother and aunts holding an impromptu wake. I was eight and I love him, too.

You seemed to have made a good day of it. Congrats to your lifelong love and you for coming together on an unforgettable journey on an unforgettable day in history.
Dead? I've heard rumors otherwise. Next they'll be saying Jesus is dead.
Great story Bea! The day Elvis died I was being born. My mother never forgets it as my dad was glued to the TV along with the rest of America instead of helping the nurses with delivering me. So he is very much loved (my dad) and hated (my mom) in my family LOL.
Great story. Love all the detail. For me, I was driving in the car with my Dad, going to pick up my mother from work. We were heading to the UK the next day for a vacation and so I was pretty excited. The news came on over the car radio. Absolutely shocked. Over in the UK you couldn't escape it and "Way Down" was on the radio as seemingly every other song.

Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx, Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby (and for us tuneheads, Marc Bolan) ... 1977 was one of the doozy years for celebrity deaths.
Ahh, back in the day when I was young(er), I was 38 and living in Woodruff WI.
It's a vulgar tourist trap community just like the Dells and all other shitty places like that.
Of course, there are "benefits" such as the bars full of nubile F.I.B.s with phony IDs and some who were even of legal age.
Ahh to be a young(er) lecher again.
Well, I was at the Ancient Mariner, along with about 80 or so of my closest friends.
We were clebrating the easy pickings that night when someone got up on the stage and said, "Elvis just shit himself to death."
That actually happened.
Well, not being an Elvis fan, I just sort of sloughed it off and went back to practicing my line of BS on whatever lovely tourist happened to be on the next bar stool.
So, while I no longer imbibe, either with alcohol or that kind of behavior, I'll just go on not celebrating this anniversary as I haven;t for all those lost and wasted years.
Wow!! I didn't know I was capable of such sartorial splendor, even if it IS laced with a lot of
I was hanging out in London in a decommissioned hospital temporarily converted to a hostel. Elvis to me was the previous generation and anyways I was keeping company with some punks. So it was more a curiosity. Lennon's death a few years later affected me much more.
I really enjoyed the way you told this story. These moments are so engrained in our memories. You really made me start thinking about my own similar memories like where I was when I heard Princess Diana died or Michael Jackson. Brillant writers have that wonderful ability to make us think and relate. Thank you!
I don't think he has died yet. Thought I heard him singing, Suspicious Minds, one time way up the Salmon River, the River of No Return, it is called. He may have asked your husband for directions is my thought.