Words from Dic(tionary)
Akron: (n) a city in northeastern Ohio; population 217,074. Noted as a center for the rubber industry, the first rubber factory was established there in 1870 by B. F. Goodrich.
It was a process called “vulcanization,” which had absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Spock or mind melding. I know very little about it–except that tires for cars are the blessed by-product.
But for me, Akron has a very different association.
On a Tuesday night, I drove the 116 miles from my home to a little coffeehouse in Akron called The Avalon. I was young, foolish, energetic and very viable, which was cancelled out by my penchant for stupid decisions.
I had just started a music group and we were looking for anywhere to perform, where people would listen for a few moments and hopefully praise us for our efforts instead of giving us the benefit of needful critique.
The Avalon coffeehouse agreed to let us come and sing a couple of songs, so we were ecstatic. I knew nothing about this venue. As it turned out, it was one of those spiritual youth hostels, where people under the age of thirty gathered to teeter in an existence in spirituality would not totally disrupt their carnal pursuits.
On the other hand, my little group consisted of small-town-America high school graduates who had all the travel sensibilities of Christopher Columbus heading for the West Indies but settling for the Caribbean.
So the first thing we did was dress up for the occasion. All I owned was a fancy dress coat with a shirt and tie. The two girls traveling with me had their prom dresses from the previous year, and felt they shouldn’t go to waste, so why not wear them to the Avalon?We also traveled with a young hobbit-looking oboe player, who wore glasses which resembled goggles from a steel mill.
So you can imagine the surprise of the young hippies at The Avalon, dressed in blue jeans and hemp blouses and shirts, with bare feet, when the prom king and his two queens showed up.
Even though there was a pending snicker in the air, to their credit, the patrons set aside their bigotry and gave an ear to “Goober and the two Gooberettes.”
We sang a song called “Jesus Generation,” which was about the corniest thing I’ve ever written, and a rendition of the Beatitudes called “Blessed,” which had a prelude played on the oboe suitable for chamber orchestras in the Mozart era.
Matter of fact, there was a level of appreciation–perhaps mainly for our courage in showing up–which warmed my heart.
And to top the evening off, for the first time in my life, the hat was passed and we left that small gathering with $33.25, believing we were successful prospectors from Sutter’s Mill.
I don’t know what they said about us after we left. It doesn’t matter. But for one night, cultures clashed without the need for violence, ridicule or debate.
It is how I will always remember Akron.
It is the blessing I received at The Avalon.