The big prize is when you feel it again

One of the most wonderful things about music is how it attaches itself to certain memories and hangs on to those memories with a sweet tenacity.  I was reminded of this yet again this morning during my run when a certain song came up and I listened to it four times in a row and relived those memories, distracting me.  The song was from this album (to be historically accurate to my memory I should say cassette):


This is one of those albums that I still listen to some 25 years later and enjoy just as much as I did back then.  The particular song that fueled my run was this:

I think I actually like this song more now than I did back then, but that’s not particularly relevant to my memory; another song from the album is the focus.  We have to go back to my senior year at Antelope Valley High School, 1987.  I was on work experience, which meant I had a job (K-Mart) and only had to go to school for four periods – I got out every day at lunch.  For some reason I didn’t park in the student parking lot, I can’t remember why.  It must have been cooler to park on the street.  At the time I was driving this fine vehicle:


Not this particular one.  Mine was white and had dents and rust.  I paid $350 for it because my dad lost a coin flip, or else it would have been $300.  In retrospect it was a nice, functional car and I learned a lot from it: how to drive when the hood suddenly flies open, how to bend the hood hinges back into shape when the hood flies open, how to light a fire in your ashtray because the heater doesn’t work, and much more.  So yeah, I parked the car on the street right outside the high school.

A few other people parked out there too, and we saw each other every day.  One of them was a pretty red-haired girl (with apologies to Charles Schulz, but this is true), that I developed a crush on.  Part of it was the pretty, part of it was the red hair, and part of it was the car she drove:


Again, not the actual car.  To me that CRX was the sweetest car I could dream of at the time, and my falcon was a bit jealous of my feeling for it and its driver.  As with some of the other details I’ve forgotten the girl’s name but I know she was a senior like me and was on work experience like me.  I pined for her in true high schooler fashion for a few months and then decided to act upon on it like the bravo male I was/still am.  On the way in to school one day I stopped at 7/11 and bought a cheap rose (although nothing is really cheap when you’re making $3.40 an hour at K-Mart) and laid it in my passenger seat to wait for lunch time.

I got to my car before Red showed up, and that gave me time to get nervous and probably sprout a little flop-sweat.  She finally showed up and I acted like I’d just gotten there too, and we exchanged pleasantries and then she started to get into her sweet ride.  I asked her to hold on a second and then pulled out my rose.

The look on her face was that dawning apprehension you’ve seen before in real life or movies or both, and it was followed by the equally familiar expression which I learned to call the “how do I break his heart gently” look.  In retrospect I don’t blame her; I was an awkward kid with no confidence and if I’d been a chick approached by me I would probably have turned myself down.  Red then resorted to a lie to spare my feelings and said that she’d just started seeing somebody (she’d mentioned previously she wasn’t) and things were going pretty well, and so on.  I went through a few rapid stages of emotions: denial, denial, denial, grief, and sadness.  She apologized and got into her CRX and took off, and I got into my Falcon and set the rose back on the seat.  I was crushed but after a few minutes of sitting and thinking (and concluding she was, in no particular order, a liar, a bitch, stuck up, and a lesbian) I started up my car to head to wherever I was going next – probably to Smith Brothers Hobby to get a new Dungeons & Dragons module or Rave Up Records to get some more music to be miserable to.  As the radio came on, the cassette player kicked in and this song from “The Big Prize” started playing:

I had a decent stereo cassette player and it had the cool features of that day: blank-skip to find songs and auto reverse.  That song was on side two and when I’d stopped in the morning I’d just finished listening to side one.  So, I got the whole song right from the start, including the “Nooooooooo!” that starts it off.

That may sound horribly sad and completely appropriate, but it didn’t sadden me.  It made me laugh and improved my mood.  Thanks, Honeymoon Suite!  You guys rock and I’m glad you had my back.  I was crushed but thanks to the laugh I was already recovering and starting to wonder if I knew any other hot babes that drove a CRX, so I could recycle my rose.

Perhaps all this is the reason I still love this cassette to this day.  It all comes vividly back to me when I listen to it and I can still see the interior of that Falcon and see the rose wrapped in a plastic cone and sitting on the seat.  It’s actually a good memory.


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