Growing up in Southern California for me was all about music, the beach, and a Volkswagen.
My best friend was 2 years older than me. She did everything first. Since I had 2 older brothers who barely acknowledged my existence, this was my person. She had music and a car. I learned most of my music appreciation from her. Her family went to plays; Les Miserable, Phantom of the Opera. I had no idea what this music was until she made a tape and we would just drive and listen over the sound of her chirpy, and very finicky Karmann Ghia.
Every time we approached a signal or police car she would immediately turn the volume down to a low whisper.
“What are you doing?”
“It’s illegal to have your music turned up enough so the other cars can hear you. I am not getting a ticket.”
These were her lamer moments in my eyes.
I liked what she liked. Oingo Boingo, Depeche Mode, Various mixed tapes, and the musicals….usually in that order.
Most of the time the music played matched whatever she was going through. I didnt care. I just wanted to ride around and sing my face off. And we did. (Gas was cheap then and her parents had a little money)
We would either drive up to the Palos Verdes mall and stop at Fat Cat in San Pedro for some Fat Fries or head down to Torrance and drive along the beach. I guess we would talk, but it was mostly music. It’s funny because all this time being an adult now I have always found it funny that when I’m in the car with my kids, it’s music oriented. Sure we’ll talk, they talk, we have conversations, but if certain songs come on it’s, “Shhh, momma’s gotta sing.” When I drive with my husband it is completely different. Not bad, just different. It’s when we catch up on work, kids, life, etc, and there’s usually no music because it’s too distracting.
Driving and music has always been a piece of that teenage freedom. That nerdy, awkward, sarcastic, tomboy, always a bit out of place kid who felt free and fun and careless most afternoons riding home from school or killing a summer afternoon.
I never got it until tonight that as a grown up, thats what I was doing. Keeping that girl that’s buried waaaay down deep alive.
My friend and I were anything but popular. She had a very biting darkness she always tried to pass for wit. I was mellow and sarcastic and happy to make anyone laugh. Together we tended to ice people out, so friendships were scarce for me. I let her lead and didn’t question much until we were older. I very much regret that now.
Any downside to our friendship is overshadowed at this point wistfully by the good that lingered.
She passed away suddenly almost 7 years ago. She went in to get checked out for a persistent cough. Turns out she was riddled with cancer and either didn’t know herself, or never told anyone and died without anyone knowing which was true. We had stayed in touch but not close.
One band started popping up for me recently and I could not remember their name for the life of me. They were really obscure and only she would know their name, but she’s gone. Today I got a Facebook memory of a post she had sent a year before she died asking if I remembered Voice Of The Beehive. As I laid in my bed tonight listening to the one album they did, sobbing and laughing at how terrible and magical those songs sounded after all this time, coughing my head off as I recover from pneumonia, it’s all just a tad overwhelming. But i’m so thankful for that gift. Still able to hear that stupid infuriating wonderful VW ￼￼chirping rumble over our terrible screechy carefree teenage voices singing out of the rolled down windows at the world after all this time.