Hotel California

Yesterday I was getting in my car after a workout in the gym and as I fired up the car, a song came on that brought back such a vivid set of memories from decades ago.

Growing up, even at the age of 9 or 10, I remember sitting in cars in our driveway. Just to pass the time. I’d daydream, pretend I was driving, and simply hang out. I love cars. And I love music. So when I could borrow the car keys and actually start the car and listen to music once in a while, now, that was the stuff. Until, one day, I started the car in the garage but failed to open the garage door (I was pretty young). That freaked my parents out a bit. But, I’m still here. Perhaps down a few brain cells.

Hotel California was the song I remember listening to at the age of 14, and I decided that was the first song I would listen to when I got my license and could go on that first solo drive. For years I looked forward to that moment, and when the day came, I grabbed my well used remixed tape with Hotel California and jumped into a 1979 Chevy Impala station wagon, my first car. It was a rust bucket, but it was mine (sort of). And it represented my ticket to freedom. And dreaming.

Many miles were covered cruising around Upper Arlington in that Chevy, and I write I can still hear that engine at idle which made a really distinct yet subtle and soft chugging noise at idle. Like a tired, but happy, horse. What made the drives fun were the dreams; I was 16, and had so much to look forward to, with aspirations of playing football (happened) at Ohio State (didn’t happen), of becoming a businessman (happened) and someday a famous one (didn’t happen–yet), and all sorts of related and unrelated thoughts of what my life could someday become.

Years later, I had another ’79 vehicle–but this one was the greatest car ever made in the world (well, perhaps second greatest to a ’91 560 SEL that I totaled in North Dakota which I still lament), a 1979 Mercedes Benz 300SD. It was my dads for years, but by the time I got it she was, well, a really tired, but also really happy, horse. Probably worth not more than the price of four tires–maybe eight–but I loved this car. This time I was a junior in College, and some parts of my life had come together better than I imagined, and others not quite yet. But I still remember the hope and excitement that I had for the future, and my dreams were….well, my dreams. Anything was possible. And some doors were shut, like my OSU football dream, but others were plenty open. Many hours were spent just driving around the countryside of Indiana, and I remember most the long drives where I’d open all all the windows and the sunroof with dusk setting while hurtling down a country highway in the middle of cornfields as dusk settles, the sweet smell of a summer evening. It was fun. Anything was possible.

Yesterday, when I jumped in, it brought back these memories and many more in what felt like a sudden flash. And then it brought me forward. To today. And life. Things I wish I could change. Things still left to do. Mistakes I made. Mistakes I don’t want to make. The life I live (for which I’m really thankful). And the life I wish I lived. Amazing experiences I’ve had. And amazing experiences to come.

Last night at dinner at 21 Club in NYC we were seated right down from what I’ll affectionately describe as “a really old dude.” And I could hear his laughter and saw a spark in his eyes, he was playful, charming, witty (yes, I did have some of my own conversations instead of eavesdropping on his, but was mesmerized by this guy, partly related to the thoughts going through my head from the song). And I kept thinking, all these old people are really just young people…trapped in old people bodies. With their own dreams, aspirations, and goals of greatness. With time ticking.

And it dawned on me, that even though I’m only 37, that’s exactly what I was feeling as well. I’m just at a different phase of it all, with some of my life irreversibly behind me and still some ahead.

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