Saturday, January 21, 2006
Which Version Did You Hear First - This One?
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I remember first hearing this song while I was working at "Belmont Park". I was a C.E.G.E.P. student trying to make a few bucks for the summer. In its heyday it was an amusement park with a fairly good roller coaster ride and even a "Carny" show with the prerequisite barker. I clearly recall (as a child) staring at a tattooed woman with a boa constrictor around her neck entreating people to enter the sideshow tent. At the main gate was a mechanical "laughing lady" whose laughter scared the bejeesus out of me when I was five. My father first took me there during an "Italian Festival" - when many of Montreal's Italian immigrant families organized picnics and events for the day. It was on one of these occasions that I resolved that one day I would spend time here on my own. Maybe, I thought I might even work here. That I did.
It was a great summer. I encountered perhaps for the first time people whose lives were out of the ordinary. They did not have regular 9:00 to 5:00 jobs. They seemed free of the binds of this socially constructed reality. The most interesting of these characters was the guy that ran the "House of Mirrors" and the "House of Horrors". I heard the song "Me & Bobby McGee" while working on "The Magic Carpet Ride": a seat fashioned out of steel rollers which upon pulling on a lever would turn into a conveyor belt taking the paying customer down a carpeted slide which seemed to end in darkness. (In fact there were two employees that assisted the customer off the ride.) The manager of the ride had music piped into the setting via ubiquitous loud speakers. It was here in the dark; waiting for the next unsuspecting shill that I heard Joplin's wailing voice.
When they tore down "Belmont Park" because it couldn't compete with all the new rides and technology of "La Ronde" a piece of me was left behind at that "Casse Croute" stand where the girl that gave me free soda pop worked. Still I had Janis' wail - and that was good enough for me.