I’m not going to pretend I was the biggest fan of the Cars, or that I was into them from the beginning. Like anyone else who grew up when I did, they were a steady presence in my life, not a band I sought but neither a band I’d change the station on. I couldn’t really change the station anyway, because we had one real rock station in town, and through most of middle and high school that’s all I wanted to listen to.
By the time Heartbeat City came out at the end of my ninth-grade year (I’m tellling you, 1984 is the greatest music year ever), I was well-versed in the FM radio Cars canon. I didn’t care for “You Might Think,” the lead single from Heartbeat City, but I dug the next song, “Magic” (“Uh-oh it’s magic when I’m with you…”), and then I reeeeeeally disliked “Drive.” I still think it’s the worst song they ever recorded.
But then DC, my best female friend in school most of those years, bought Heartbeat City for me on cassette for my birthday, more than six months after its release, and I still have that thing. Listened to the heck out of it, almost always fast-forwarding over “Drive” but loving the album, in no small part because it was a gift from DC, whose life I was out of for a very long time while she raised two daughters, but who is an empty-nester and therefore more available for hanging out. As recently as last year, she called me her best guy friend.
She doesn’t even remember giving me the album, which is fine with me (she also gave me my first Rush album without even knowing anything about Rush; she just knew I liked them and didn’t have any of their albums, so she got me Moving Pictures).
When Captain Daveman, my roomie in Hilo, got married to Tasha (whom I knew before I knew Dave) and I was in the wedding party, he asked me what song they should use as the recessional. This was the day of the rehearsal, so we were short on time and were limited to something in his collection or something we could get at a record store in Hilo. Apparently Tasha was letting him choose the escape song, as long as she was okay with his choice.
My first response was the very obscure “Your Love is Like a Tire Iron” by Ted Nugent, but I was pretty sure we wouldn’t be able to chase that one down (yeah, that’s why we didn’t go with it), but then I said, “You know, if it were my wedding and I were given this choice, I would really, really want some rock and roll in the ceremony somewhere.”
Dave agreed with the sentiment, and my next suggestion, the Cars’ “Good Times Roll,” was met with strong consideration.
I wasn’t just suggesting it because of its theme. The song’s intro is just so good, so full of anticipation for a great, great song. If you know the song, that intro really gets you up. And it’s so celebratory.
It was ultimately rejected in favor of another of my suggestions, “Linus and Lucy” as played by the Vince Guaraldi trio. Dave and I were big Peanuts fans, and that worked okay too, but I filed “Good Times Roll” away as an idea for my own wedding someday. Little did I know I’d be 50 and still keeping that idea alive.
Then about ten years ago, I bought that first Cars album (digitally). What a great album. I couldn’t believe it. Six of nine tracks were part of that rock-radio canon. How cool is it to buy an album and already really really know two thirds of it? The remaining three tracks are pretty great too.
And so I’ll say what everyone has already said in their eulogies. Nobody sounded like Ric Ocasek or the Cars. They had a flair for melody without sounding like a pop group. They shimmered, squeaked, wailed, warbled, and created their own thing. I think it’s impossible to categorize them, though you’d have to mention new wave as part of the mix, but they were such a rock band.
Ric Ocasek’s death, for people of a certain age, is the death of a steady part of our childhoods, a piece of the soundtrack of our first dates, first breakups, and most lasting friendships. I’m so grateful that my memories of the Cars are anchored mostly by my friendships with DC and Captain Daveman, and not some crush or girlfriend. Although that would have been pretty cool too.
My top 10 Cars songs in order.
- You’re All I’ve Got Tonight
- My Best Friend’s Girl
- Good Times Roll
- Dangerous Type
- Bye Bye Love
- Hello Again
- Sad Song
- Blue Tip
I did a stupid thing the other day. Crush Girl and I were talking about this friend of mine, and I sent her to a link of this friend’s blog. Then (honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking), I messaged her: “Oh look. He mentions me halfway down the page.”
Dude hasn’t updated his blog since 2011, and halfway down the page, he mentions me as the keeper of the Friday 5, linking it with the old URL. The occasion was Ryan’s death earlier in the week, something I still haven’t written about here.
It was a stupid thing to do because although that’s a dead link, if she wanted to she could easily track down the existing Friday 5, which of course links here, where I’ve done all this writing about her. I’m a little nervous about it, honestly.
Although really, just Googling me would bring her right here as well, in which case this is all moot.
I don’t think I’ve written anything here I’m ashamed of, although perhaps the intensity of my disappointment and depression is not the best message for someone I’m trying to get to know in the friendzone.
I decided while I typed this that I’m not going to worry about it. There are lines within which I write this stuff anyway, and I’d be an idiot to write anything I really didn’t want people to look at. I just hope it doesn’t negatively affect our growing friendship.
We’re sliding into a casual comfort, a wee bit of that real-world friendship I’ve wanted. Maybe Jocelyn is right, and friendzoning makes actual friendship easier.
I admit it still aches, especially on days when she looks especially nice. Yet in exchange for that aching, I get to interact with her about some good stuff. Nothing especially intimate or personal, but more than smalltalk for sure, and I’m grateful for that too. I’m just focusing on trying to be a good friend, something I can certainly improve on. But more about that later.
Speaking of the Friday 5, here we go. This week, it’s Telltale Tales
- What’s a story you really like from your country’s (or ethnicity’s) folklore?
For the United States half of me, I’ve always been especially fond of the stories of Paul Bunyan, influenced mostly by the Disney cartoon(s) about him. I became aware some time later in my childhood of Joe Magarac, the mythical steelworker, and I’ll put him just a notch below Paul Bunyan.
For the Japanese half of me, it’s pretty tough to beat Urashima Taro. CliffsNotes version: The young Taro, something of a loner in his fishing village, rescues a sea turtle from abuse by other boys. The turtle asks him to climb on his back; he’d like to reward Taro for saving him. He takes Taro beneath the sea to the Dragon Palace, where he meets the princess. They spend a few days laughing, playing, and exploring. She asks him to stay. He’s worried about his mother and grandmother who depend on him. Sadly, he says he’s got to go back. The princess gives him a box in whose lid is carved the kanji for the four seasons. She tells him not to open it; it’s just to remind him of her. When he gets back home, nothing looks the same, and he can’t find his mother or grandmother, and nobody knows him. He figures out he’s been gone for more than a hundred years. In an act of — actually I don’t know why he does it — he opens the box, which I guess contains all those seasons he missed, because he instantly turns into a very very old man. The stories of my people are very sad.
- What movie version of a fairy tale do you especially like?
What’s a better fairy-tale inspired movie than Tangled? That film is beautiful. Beauty and the Beast is a far better film but I don’t think that’s a fairy tale, is it?
- Some fables tell the story of how something came to be (for example, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears). What’s a fable you especially like in this vein?
A story every child in Hawaii is familiar with: the story of the Naupaka, which grows near the ocean and up in the mountains, and bears a strange-looking half flower. If you put halves of the ocean flowers together, they don’t look right, and neither do two halves of the mountain flowers. To get the right look, you have to take an ocean flower and match it with a mountain flower. Separated lovers. There are a few versions of the story out there.
- Some fables have a moral attached to the end (for example, The Boy Who Cried Wolf). What fable in this vein is especially applicable to your life?
I was going to share the story of the rabbit in the moon (in Japan, they see a rabbit, not a man), but someone beat me to it. So instead, I offer the Fox and the Grapes, from which we get our “sour grapes” expression. I think it’s a terrible moral, but have I considered it in my trying to recover from Crush Girl’s friendzoning me? I certainly have. It won’t stick, though! She’s too nice. I’ve sorta done the reverse lately: convinced myself that I’m pretty horrible boyfriend material in my current state. It didn’t take much convincing, and it mostly works. Better not to get her involved with the likes of me.
- If you got together with your high-school friends, what’s a story they might retell about you?
At our twenty-year reunion (a million years ago), several female classmates told stories about how I was the first guy who spoke to them when they were new. Because of course I was. You can believe there were no guys telling that story. One classmate, Elise, says that on her first day, I walked up to her with my Walkman headphones on, but the phones weren’t plugged into my Walkman. They were plugged into an apple. Apple the fruit, not the (still to be invented) iPod. I remember doing that. I don’t remember the next part she told, that I approached the new girl, took off my headphones, and asked her if she wanted to listen. Haha. What a terrible, incurable flirt. If she had said yes, I’m sure we’d have been married and divorced by now.
Elise was super cute though. I regret nothing.