5 min read



Hey y'all.
Do you believe April's gone?
So here's Installment Numero Dos of the Remains Of The Day tribute to my friend Viet Dzung.
I just wrote the song that's linked below and I call it "1978". The song encapsulates several situations Viet Dzung, Quang, Lori and I found ourselves in, during that second summer after leaving high school. Come to think of it, that's about when I met Lori.
Lori's Mom, Patsy, took a Dale Carnegie class that Dad and I were also in.  The Dale Carnegie folks organized a graduation party and asked Peggy Sue Nieman and me to provide music at the celebration.  Peggy and I sang, then I sang, then everyone sang until our voices wouldn't go any more.  At the end of the night, I was carrying out my guitar and Patsy says "Well Verlen, don't be a stranger."  And much to my (internal) glee, Lori -- the demure gorgeous blond who's been tapping her foot all night, pipes up: "Yeah, he's gonna come by the house and bring his guitar and sing some songs." (First I'd heard of it but OK!) Later, but not much later, Lori told her mom "That's the guy I'm going to marry."  Took me three years to get the picture but y'know…slow learner!
Anyway, Quang, Dzung's uncle (his dad's brother), had a brown Trans Am, a facsimile of which appears here.

My most vivid memory of our forays in that car is one tiny moment in a sea of time. In that moment, we were turning left off North Broadwell and onto Capital Avenue west in Grand Island, Nebraska.  As in the song, "Cruisin' in that Firebird, T-tops off and the windows down", mid-summer hot wind blowing in our hair - I had hair then.  Laughing, joking planning our next trip to Phil Harris' studio to work on the album we'd begun. Absolutely no thought of closing windows in favor of conditioned air!  We did indeed have the stereo "blasting out a Journey song".  Just one of those fleeting carefree moments one holds onto. A feeling even more than colors and textures.  Although I can still feel "that August wind that takes your breath". Wow!
Another car (I had a succession of them in those couple of years) that got it's share of windy, stereo-blasting driving was my 1973 Grand Prix. Similar to this one.

1973 Pontiac Grand Prix

Mine had stock Pontiac rally wheels, a white vinyl half top and an Alpine stereo that could melt your face. Face melting stereos we’re important back then.  And we did blast us some Journey, Led Zeppelin, Edgar Winter Group, Gordon Lightfoot, Michael Johnson, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Eagles, Dan Fogelberg… y'know all the metal bands.  I crack myself up.

Another of my rides was a 1975 yellow Vega GT, which I drove the wheels off.  Not literally but, perhaps another story for another day.

1975 Chevy Vega GT

Lest I turn this into a history of car's I owned as a teenager (I think there are only three more), let's move along.
"Sitting in a cheap hotel, playin' our guitars…"
Dzung and Quang had a room for a couple nights at the Courtesy Court motel in Grand Island.
It appears that the Courtesy Court is still operational. And the photos I found show it exactly as I remember it in 1978 - white one story, park in front of your room door - which door is red!  Iconic!

Courtesy Court Motel - Grand Island, Nebraska

So yeah, we hung out there until the wee hours, writing songs and acting like musicians. Slept a little, woke up and started right where we left off.
Yep, warm beer and cold pizza for breakfast.  What could be better to inspire some good songwriting?
"With no idea where we'd go, how high or just how far.  Me, I found the open road and you wound up a star"
Since this post is already getting long, I'll save the story of how I came to leave the music business in favor of another life on "the road".
Viet Dzung stayed his course in heralding the cause of his people,  working endlessly toward giving them a voice in the international community.  He is a revered international human rights activist.
Hence the road with his name as well as many other commemorations of his service to the cause.

Here's some interesting information on this stretch of road.

Lastly, where the lyrics say "I see you in old videos and try to hum along", humming is the best I can do because I long since reached the limit of my Vietnamese!

"And never did I ever think the next place I'd see you - would not be in some coffee shop, but your picture on a stone"

Click below for one of my favorite old videos of my friend.

Việt Dzũng - Một Chút Quà Cho Quê Hương | Asia 27

So there you have it -- hope you enjoy the song, the story, like and subscribe here as well as on YouTube. Not for me but so that more folks to whom this project will be meaningful can hear about it.
Many blessings! Take good care of yourselves and each other!

Here is the video of "1978", with the lyrics below.




Cruisin' in that firebird, T-tops off and windows down
That August wind could take your breath, but slow down we did not
Blasting out a Journey song,  Lori loved that sound
We’d write a few songs of our own to play in some small town

Now I saw your name on a road sign, I hear your voice in a song
I see you in old videos, and try to hum along
And never did I ever think the next place I’d see you
Would not be in some coffee shop, or ever take this long

Sitting in a cheap hotel playing our guitars
Warm beer and  old cold food  we’d bought the night before
We’d no idea where we’d go, how high or just how far
Me I found the open road and you wound up a star

And I saw  your name on a road sign, I hear your voice in a song
I see you in old videos (I love to watch your videos), and I try to hum along
And never did I ever think the next place that I’d see you
Would not be in a coffee shop, but your picture on a stone

#remainsoftheday #vietdzung