“the trailer’s way too long …”
So, I was just sitting here listening to my music library on shuffle, and going from Rich Brian’s Sydney to an older song from the 80s, I suddenly felt myself transported back in time to another era of my life. One that’s often fuzzy and difficult for me to remember.
I was a bit—okay, maybe a lot—reckless in my teenage years. And my twenties. A lot. To the point where when I think back on those days, I wonder by whose grace I am still here, alive. Because I beat the odds, somehow. Years later, my friend, Claire, would call me a cat. Nine lives, always landing on my feet.
But this song came on tonight, and it reminded me of one summer in particular, 1985. I was staying in a neighborhood in Oakland known colloquially as “ghost town“. I was fifteen at the time.
The MacArthur BART station was within walking distance from the house, maybe ten or fifteen minutes away. I’d cross the street, walk past the liquor store on the corner, cross under the freeway maze above, and somehow I’d get there. Like I said, fuzzy.
One day, I went to the BART station and just sat there, in front of the station, half asleep on one of the benches. A girl came up to me, maybe a year or two older than I was, and we struck up a conversation of sorts. She invited me to go to San Francisco with her. I said sure, why not.
We get on the train, get to the city, and she drags me along to meet up with this group of guys.
They have a van, lots of musical instruments in the back. Some band that was going to play at some club somewhere in the city. I kind of laughed, said I wouldn’t be able to get into the club. Didn’t have an ID. They said not to worry.
I asked the girl how well she knew these guys. She said she’d just met them earlier that week, but they were cool. I followed her into the van.
We get to wherever we were in the city in one piece, despite my suspicions that the driver is high. They were right about the club. I followed the band in before they’d even opened, carrying some equipment they handed me.
Some worker at the club glanced at me, asked if I was twenty-one. I shook my head, knowing full well I wouldn’t pass for that age. Eighteen, then? Yeah, eighteen, I said. He mumbled something under his breath about him only allowing me to stay because I was with the band. But he handed me a wristband and that was that.
The girl I’d befriended and I spent the evening just dancing and hanging out at the club. The rest of that night is fuzzy. Real fuzzy. But at some point, when the club is closing, we’re ready to leave. The band gives us a ride back across the bridge in that same van. The driver seems even more high, and he’s probably drunk, too.
I woke up the next morning at the BART station. Bit of a headache. All in one piece. Nothing missing. Nothing feeling off. I walked home past the liquor store, climbed the steps into the apartment, napped.
Later, when the apartment was empty, the other residents all off at work or school, I moved to the front room and sat in front of the radio. KQAK, the Quake. Or maybe it was KFOG. Come to think of it, more likely it was KFOG. Or maybe it was one of the college stations. I guess that detail doesn’t really matter.
I tried to win concert tickets for New Order, calling in every time The Perfect Kiss came on.
Funny how a song can hold a memory, much like a certain smell, certain foods. I can’t hear that song now without remembering at least the parts of that night, and that following day, that I can still remember. I didn’t win the tickets.