The Night The Trivial Streak Ended

Originally posted October 20, 2008

I’ve got an extremely good memory, as I may or may not have related here before.

I know I’ve written about my love of detail – as in the nine-inch pan – before.

Combine the two, and I was absolutely enthralled with the game Trivial Pursuit when it came out twenty-six years ago. I received as a Christmas present the board game with its original set of questions, and over the years, I’ve collected other question sets and a couple of other game boards in different boxes.

For a time in the late 1980s, when I was single, living first in St. Cloud for a brief time and then in Minot, North Dakota, and spending my quarter-breaks in St. Cloud, my friends and I played a lot of Trivial Pursuit. I’m good at the game, good enough that my friends instituted new rules for me. As you know doubt know, the point of the game is to move around the game board by answering trivia questions and get your playing piece to certain spots on the game board. At those spots, you answer questions that earn you little plastic wedges.

When you have six different colored wedges – for the six categories of questions – you maneuver your playing piece to the center of the board, at which point your opponents decide on a category for one final question. If you’ve shown a disinclination for science and nature questions, for example, your opposition will likely select that category for your final question.

My friends upped the ante on me: Instead of answering one question at the points where I could collect a wedge, I had to answer two questions. And at the end of the game, instead of answering one question from the six on the card my opponents drew, I had to answer all six. I shrugged and spent chunks of late 1987 playing more Trivial Pursuit . . . and winning. We started keeping track after a while, and my winning streak – before and after the whiteray rules went into effect – was nearing one hundred games.

My lady friend of the time and I spent New Year’s Eve in 1987 at my apartment in Minot. Aside from the likely appearance of a ghost – a story I may tell another time – it was a quiet evening. About ten o’clock, we got out the Trivial Pursuit board. My lady friend was pretty good at history, geography, some entertainment and the basics of science and nature; being in the process of seeking a master’s degree in English, she was very good at arts and literature.

Her downfalls generally were sports and leisure and rock music. When she got a question that seemed to call for the name of a rock musician for the answer, she regularly said, “Bob Dylan.” She explained: “Eventually, I have to get a question where ‘Bob Dylan’ is the answer.” As to sports and leisure, she generally left her one required question in that category for the end of the game. And during my winning streak, she never had to try to that category.

On New Year’s Eve in 1987, things went differently. With the northwest wind rattling the living room windows and Gordon Lightfoot playing on the stereo, she got a music question and answered “Bob Dylan.” I don’t recall what the question was, but that was, in fact, the answer. A few turns later, as I was about halfway through collecting my wedges (by answering two questions per wedge), she landed on a sports and leisure wedge spot. The question defined a sport played on ice with large stones, and she identified it as curling.

We were laughing as she moved her piece toward the center of the board and as I tried to collect the rest of my wedges. I wasn’t worried, as she’d have to answer another sports and leisure question when she got to the center of the board. I don’t recall how many wedges I was short as she reached the center of the board; I might have had them all, might have been maneuvering to the center of the board myself, when she reached the center and asked for a final question.

I chose a sports and leisure question. It asked for the name of a sport that combines running with the use of written directions and a compass.

She thought for a moment and said, “Orienteering?”

I nodded. The streak was over.

She laughed. “You mean I actually beat you?” I laughed, too, pleased by her delight.

We put the game away and marked the New Year by watching an old movie. She left Minot the next morning, returning to St. Cloud. But before she did, she made me sign a sheet of paper that she could show our friends, a statement attesting to the fact that she’d defeated me at Trivial Pursuit.

The tale came to mind this morning for a couple of reasons. First, over the weekend, I saw a commercial for a new edition of Trivial Pursuit. Second, I was pondering what to post today, and just as my long-ago lady friend turned to Bob Dylan when in doubt, so do I turn to Richie Havens.

Havens’ Now, a 1991 release, was one of the first of his albums I got on CD, evidently finding it during a Saturday morning of visiting garage sales in the western suburbs of Minneapolis in August of 2002. Finding it reminded me that I had very little of Havens’ music in mp3 form (I had plenty of Havens’ work on vinyl, and I had a good turntable, but I was still some years from being able to convert vinyl to mp3s). So I began to haunt libraries and to check for Havens’ work at used music stores. I found a few things and began to build a library of Havens’ work that now numbers a hundred and seventy-four mp3s.

Now is a good album, if not quite to the level of some of the work Havens was doing twenty years earlier. Johanan Vigoda produced the CD, with several musicians creating the background tracks and getting co-production credits. For example, Tim Moore – the same one who wrote “Second Avenue”? I don’t know – is listed as composer of three songs and is credited for the music tracks and given a co-production credit on those recordings. Other music track and co-production credits went to Fuzbee Morse, David Grow and Nick Jameson.

Also credited are Gordon Barnes for guitar on two tracks, Stephen Parsons for drums on two tracks and Lee Howard for bass on one track.

Highlights? Well, the opener, a subtle reading of Jimi Hendrix’ “Angel,” stands out. I also like Haven’s work on Grow’s “After All These Years” and on “Let The Walls Fall Down,” written by Morse. And Havens also does a nice job with “Time After Time,” the Cyndi Lauper tune.

If there’s a flaw with the CD, it’s the reliance on drum machines. It makes the album sound too mechanical and not nearly as organic as one expects Havens’ work to be. Still, the voice – a classic – pretty much overcomes even that flaw. It’s not a great album, but it’s a good one.

Here are Havens’ liner notes for the album:

A moment sheared on both sides.
By the past and the future . . .
A second within which happens . . .
A billion things,
Yet is unperceivable in conscious memory . . .
A flash idea; a revelation; a miraculous change . . .
Never to return to that place again . . .

An increment of life seeking expression
As form-meaning-advancement . . .
Reversing Now (Won)
We can leave this world in The Rightful Hands
Those who know they’ll live on a planet
And have eyes that see no borders
In the eyes of others
Those who are living Now . . . The Children

You Are The One
That’s The Way I See You
After All These Years
Love Sometimes Says Goodbye
Message From The Doctor
Time After Time
You’re My Tomorrow
Let The Walls Fall Down
It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

Richie Havens – Now [1991]


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