Michelle Evans was 25 when Dave and Amy were born. She was born and raised in nearby New Cambridge and moved to Ridgewood when she married Parker Evans. She dyed her auburn hair blonde (worn short), had blue eyes, was 5’ 6”, and had a fit and trim athletic physique, left from her days of dance in high school and at college when she considered becoming a dancer. She majored in education instead and became a seventh grade science teacher at Ridgewood High. At work, she wore colorful blouses with either solid skirts or blue jeans, and pumps. At home, she wore T-shirts with either jeans or shorts, and bare feet. When the weather was cold, she wore sweats with either tennis shoes or furry slippers.
Michelle was polite and soft spoken, cheerful and agreeable, and wise and witty. She was wonderful to be around when she wasn’t overdoing it or worrying about finances. She sometimes overwhelmed herself with too many after school projects and left herself vulnerable to exploitation. When overwhelmed, she had a penchant for turning molehills into mountains, difficulties into stress, and worry into hypochondria. Dave and Amy tried to avoid this aspect of Michelle because she was a force greater than them and could put up instant roadblocks and interrupt their plans.
Michelle was a great listener and was the voice of wisdom to Dave and Amy. As Amy’s guide and advisor, she freely offered advice and was quick to involve herself in Amy’s problems, ready and willing but not always able to help. She meant well even if she messed up.
Dave and Amy lived with Michelle, at 238 Lake Road north of Alice Lake, in a shingle style Victorian house. Dave’s bedroom was upstairs and across the hall from Amy’s and faced west; he could see Myers Ridge from his only two windows. Below his room was the family room. Michelle kept a piano in the room and Dave often fell asleep at night while listening to his mother play. She taught Amy how to play (Dave had no interest in learning, only listening), and from there Amy wrote songs for ARC.
Music was important to Lenny, David and Amy, just as it was to me. I imagined being in a band, playing guitar or beating on drums with my friends. That never happened in real life, so I made it happen in fiction.
I wrote in one of my notebooks: “Within the realms of poetry and music lie many possibilities. Dig deep. There is an Arc of Topological Space to be mined.” That winter, Amy put together ARC, a basement band that soon turned into a garage band when Mrs. Evans complained about how loud the music was beneath her study room and library.
ARC was “A” for Amy Evans (lead guitars, lead vocals), “R” for Amy’s friend and neighbor Riley Leighton (rhythm guitars, keyboards, vocals), and “C” for their friend Cheryl Sherwood (drums, percussion). Although it started as an all-girl trio band, the group added Vree (keyboards, flute, oboe, vocals) and Dave (bass guitar, harmonica, vocals). They jelled into a solid act in no time.
I began writing lyrics in 1969. Sometimes I created songs on a harmonica and wrote lyrics to the music. This led to the creation of ARC in 1971. The group’s music began as cover versions of standard Top 40 rock of the 1970s for a month until the group began writing music and composing their own songs.
Riley Leighton was a minor character brought onstage during scenes with the band. She played rhythm guitars, keyboards, and sang harmonies.
Like Amy and Vree, Riley was constrained in character, but not a bit shy. She and Amy were next door neighbors at Alice Lake as well as classmates and friends. Riley had blue eyes and blonde hair that was straight and always past her shoulders, never short.
Riley’s nicknames were “Rile” and “Riles.” In ninth grade, she was 5’ 5” and 95 lbs. and was very striking in appearance. Her usual dressing style was the conventional shirts and jeans uniform worn by teens all over America, but she favored colorful clothes and sometimes wore skirts and dresses. And she was the one who wore the occasional fancy perfumes, makeup and lipstick, and painted her fingers and toes. She would become the HS prom queen her senior year and eventually marry the captain of the football team.
Riley’s poetry sparked ARC’s evolution, and it was the basis of the band’s earliest songs. She teamed up with Amy and the two would write most of ARC’s music catalogue from 1972 to 1975.
Here are my two favorite poems written by Riley in 1971 and turned into song the following year.
Crows talk / Noisy devils they / Jays squawk / Raucous rascals they;
Birds walk / Some hop / And birds track bird tracks, hey.
Ruffed grouse / Aggressive take-offs they / Woodcock / Bursting thickets they;
Birds fly / Some soar / And wings beat wing beats, hey.
Woodland birds call woodland bird calls / Listen:
Hear chicken-like birds drumming on logs / And snow bank divers bursting from bogs.
Woodland birds live woodland bird lives / See them:
See perching blackbirds watching it snow / On tree branch beauties grooming below.
Woodland birds / They speak to me / Woodland birds / Some answer me.
Woodland birds / Fly up to me / Woodland birds / Are part of me.
Woodland birds call woodland bird calls / Listen.
Woodland birds live woodland bird lives / See them…
Visions come in sleep to dreamers on the hill / Hands so soft and warm chase cold from daffodil.
Lovers smile like children caught stealing off with pie / Laugh with thoughts unheard—
These dreamers, you and I.
We are the dreamers / Yes we’re the searching ones
We’re always fitting pieces / To learn if there’s a plan;
Not sure why we do it / But when we hear the call
We know we’re getting closer / To answers for us all.
Dreamers dream a world with groundwork of good will / Build a better place, better, better still.
Power falls like liquid sent flowing out to sea / We will be as one—
As equals, we will be.
We are the dreamers / Yes we’re romantic souls
We’re always climbing higher / To get a better view;
Not sure why we do it / We find it hard to stop
We’re always working harder / To make it to the top.
Cheryl Sherwood, or CJ as her friends called her, was ARC’s drummer and percussionist. She played the same story role as Riley: very minor.
Cheryl had chocolate eyes and hair. She wore her hair long and straight to the middle of her back. She often wore baggy tops, T-shirts and blue jeans, tennis shoes, clogs, and sandals. She wore flip-flops at home and around town during the summer, as well as shorts and swim tops. In the winter she liked wearing sweats indoors, and favored a furry parka and knee-high boots outdoors.
Cheryl was the highly intelligent member of ARC (she was offered advancement at school but she refused to leave behind her friends), which made her seem older than she was. This aspect seemed like free admission to hang with older students, which she did as she got older.
Among her ARC band mates, Cheryl was the quiet one and wild one rolled into one person. In her quiet mode, she was thoughtful and artistic, a trait she shared with Dave. However, she was also the girl who partied at the older kids’ houses, was sexually active with a senior boy when she was 16, and seemed to be in a constant identity crisis. Her drum kit was her therapy couch, and often immediately after school she went into a transitory snap and beat on her drums until she came out feeling better about herself.