Posts Tagged ‘Jim Valley’

‘Maintain’

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

Long ago, about midway through my 1973-74 stay in Denmark, the American girl I’d been seeing became very unhappy with me for very legitimate reasons. I sought counsel from my friend Gus, who was a few years older and much more experienced than I at the dance of relations between men and women.

“I messed up, Gus,” I told him, more or less. “How can I fix it? What am I gonna do?”

And Gus looked at me and said, “Maintain.”

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“Just maintain.”

Okay. Well, it was the early Seventies, after all, a time of seemingly weighty catch-phrases. And Gus was a vet, so maybe that pithy bit of advice came from his time in the service. Looking for any life preserver to cling to, I tried to internalize “maintain.”

Sometime in the next few days, I spent a few minutes making a small sign to tape to the cabinet that overlooked the study table in the small room I shared with a guy named Roger. It read “Maintain,” of course, in three different colored inks. It was pretty badly done. But I stuck it on the cabinet, and it brought me some comfort as the days crawled by and repairs to what had been my first serious relationship seemed less and less likely.

As the next weekend approached, I decided to get out of town. A couple of the St. Cloud State students in our program were doing their student teaching at an American school in Copenhagen that quarter, so I hitch-hiked the 120 miles to Copenhagen for a four-day weekend of Carlsberg beer, Chinese take-out, piano-led singalongs and some intense conversation.

Late on the first Monday afternoon of February, returning from Copenhagen, I opened the door to the small room I shared with Roger and stopped. Taped to the cabinet in the spot where my admittedly ugly “Maintain” sign had been was a delightfully designed sign in red marker that read “C’est La Vie!” Fuming, I unloaded my backpack, and when Roger came in, I let him have it. He had, I told him firmly (and likely loudly), no right to remove my sign. Yeah, I said, it was a crappy piece of work, but it was mine.

And I left the room, no doubt slamming the door as I went. Some time later, calmed by a cup of coffee from the vending machine in the hostel lobby, I returned to the room, ready to apologize to Roger. I opened the door to Room 8 and started to laugh. Roger had put up a new sign on the cabinet.

Again in red marker, it read “Main-Fuckin’-Tain!”

I still have both of the signs Roger made for me, tucked away in a box full of memories from that year. And as public life has become stranger and more stressful in this awful year, I have on occasion posted my own sign of encouragement at Facebook:

Maintain1

A search through the digital stacks found one track with the title “Maintain,” a 1967 record on the Dunhill label by Jim Valley, a one-time member of Paul Revere & The Raiders. An earlier record, “Try, Try, Try,” had bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 106, but “Maintain” didn’t chart, and Valley’s journey went in new directions, as chronicled at his website. (The single came my way via the massive Lost Jukebox collection that was posted online some years ago.)

Maybe Gus knew the record, maybe not. But as terse and cryptic as his advice was, it was valuable. Here’s “Maintain.”