Friday, April 4, 2008

I'm A Writer, Not A Fighter

Remember 8-track tapes? I was thinking about those today. I had like, five of them when I was young. I didn’t have an 8-track player, of course, but my buddy Debbie did. Debbie also had a 1968 Ford Galaxy 500 convertible. It was red.

I remember the music as it’s etched indelibly with a time and place of joy and unfettered freedom: Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “I’m A Writer, Not A Fighter,” John Denver’s, “Annie’s Song,” Johnny Winter, “Live,” Beatles, “Live at the Hollywood Bowl,” and Glenn Miller, “Greatest Hits.” Yes, I’m a freak who can’t pick a genre. Debbie didn’t seem to mind.

We’d play those 8-tracks as we tooled down the road, my long, wavy hair flowing in the wind behind me, on our way to trouble. We’d wait tensely for the inevitable break in the music we knew was coming, as it clunkily switched from track to track interrupting the perfect moment of being everything and nothing at all.

In Cedar Falls, Iowa, trouble usually consisted of starting the “cruise” up and down University Avenue, which stretched for about 7 or 8 miles through the entire length of both Cedar Falls, the university town, and Waterloo, the working man’s town next door.

Even though this was allegedly also Highway 218, there was a stop light every few hundred feet. For much of the night, we’d drive up and down the strip, stopping at the lights and visiting with all the other cruisers and pull extreme stunts like the dangerous Chinese Fire Drill, where the driver jumped out and ran around the car before the light turned green—sometimes even switching drivers. I never understood why it was called a Chinese Fire Drill, but I’m sure it wasn’t a compliment, knowing the politically incorrect nature of the time and place. Sometimes, we’d see how many lights we could get through without stopping. Debbie used to like to come to abrupt halts once in a while, just to make sure I was paying attention.

We used to carry squirt guns to squirt unsuspecting, law-abiding citizens at the stop lights should they be so foolish as to leave their windows open, until that fateful day when the man jumped out of his truck and leaped into the convertible in his attempt to confiscate our weapons. Never squirt a guy with a clean pickup out on a date.

Trips to McDonalds or the new kid in town, Burger King, peppered our night. The parking lot became an extension of our social cliques, with the jocks in one corner of the lot and the other groups in theirs. Hanging with friends and laughing until we hurt, gossiping about who was going with whom and who broke up that week. If we were feeling particularly wild, we’d cruise along dark and forbidding Airline Highway to the union hall, where we’d invariably invade the den of inequity, also known as a kegger. We’d pay our fee and down a couple brews and go back out to cruise, emboldened by our frothy friend. Sometimes, we’d go our separate ways briefly to enjoy the company of someone who wanted to further our experiments in kissing, only to meet back up later and fly home, exhilarated by our night of decadence.

Somehow, by curfew, I’d be safely deposited at my back door, stepping inside—knowing my dad was awake, waiting for me to come through the door. I’d slam the door a little, so he wouldn’t question whether I was in fact home and get up to check, then take two steps to the stairs and race down to my basement bachelor pad and climb into bed, wondering how being grown up could ever beat this.

Doing all the little tricky things it takes to grow up, step by step, into an anxious and unsettling world. ~ Sylvia Plath


mauniejames3 said...

We had our own sort of ride in Ma..
and so did Hubby two towns over..the more we think we are different the more alike we are...
the good old days........

ndpthepoetress Jean Michelle Culp said...

Yes, the good days of youth when being foolish was fun and life seemed so much simpler. Gone now are those 8-track tapes as stop lights have become a nuisance in our adult hurried pace to here and there to get this and that done before another day has begun. Oh how I do cherish your quote from Sylvia Plath.

Linda said...

Ah, 8-tracks - I remember them well and had two cases full! This brings back memories of a cross-country trip that my best friend from high school and I made from New Jersey to Oklahoma when we were but 18 years old. We loaded up my little blue Chevy Chevette (circa 1975 model) and had ourselves quite the adventure while listening to the music of Linda Ronstadt, Queen, Boston, Foreigner, Blue Oyster Cult, and so many other bands that I can't remember who they are.

Ah, what a memory and what a good time we had stopping at just about every Stuckey's along the way and enjoying the feel of the open road and freedom.

Seems like nowadays I'm scared to drive because there are just way too many cars on the road and some of the fun has definitely gone out of it but the music still blares, though now it's from the CD player and it's generally my almost 16-year old daughter's choice.