Change is inevitable. This is what we tell ourselves while we cling to the things of our past – the music, movies, cartoons, trappings of our youth, or at least more youthful years. The things that just aren’t made like they used to be and never will be again. Change is the driver of the creepy van with spray-painted art on the side and no windows. Change tells you to get in. At first you resist, but he is persistent and makes convincing arguments about progress and evolution. And he just won’t take “no” for an answer. Change is like Bono telling you to give the next U2 record a chance.
Bono: You know you want it. It’ll be grand. Rolling Stone called it the best since All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
Me: No, really, thanks for the offer but… [sigh]… fine, it’ll never be as good as Achtung Baby or Joshua Tree or even October or [sigh] Pop… but here’s a twenty. Just keep the change.
Bono: How about a few extra quid to save starving children in Rwanda?
Me: Fine. Actually, here’s my bank PIN #. Take whatever you want and send me the Deluxe Vinyl Edition with the acoustic outtakes from Rattle and Hum.
This is what we do. We march forward, but not without taking certain things with us, whatever we can carry. Others get left behind in the 90s, like Boyz II Men. We’ve accepted their fate, the temporary nature of their existence even when one of them pops up on a reality TV series and the quartet books a date at Heinz Hall. Since I am no longer 15, I will consider attending in passing, to acknowledge the whimsy I might still possess and acknowledge that at one point in my life I knew all the words to every song on Cooleyhighharmony. But we change. And we evolve, sometimes motivated by self preservation but more often by absolute necessity.
Recently I posted a little rumble about car shopping. My current car, a 2002 Volvo S40 had been my first car out of college, succeeding the hand-me-down Jeep Cherokee, also called the “F#ck You” Mobile because of what I always told it when it stalled at every red light or when it only went straight when I turned the wheel 90 degrees or when it would only go in reverse. My life seems so much less adventurous without that Jeep. But I adapted and I grew quite accustomed to vehicles working as they should.
Eddie (the name of our Volvo, clearly) had been a great car – never leaving me on the side of the road or in scary parts of the southern Atlanta sprawl. Last year the repair costs had well exceeded new car payments. Plus, the S40 is a worm-burner of an automobile. Every time I bent down to strap our daughter into her car seat we reduced her chances for a college scholarship. Glancing blows or not, a developing noggin shouldn’t be knocked against the car frame every time we go out for burritos. It was just time. Change sidled up next to the curb, offered me a rocket pop and told me he’d drive me to the dealership.
We needed a new car, even if we didn’t want one. We went through the car shopping motions, test driving, fielding quotes, writing bl-g entries about the relationship between our cars and self-identity and enduring the showroom car salespersons.
My wife grew up in a Volvo station wagon, the kind that last for 200,000 miles. As I mentioned, Eddie the S40 had been the only car I’d ever owned. Cleaning out the car the night before, removing our belongings and the nine-years of misplaced receipts, ticket stubs, parking receipts had been much more difficult than I’d anticipated. It was just a car, a collection of nuts and bolts holding moving parts inside steel frame. But we name our cars. We indoctrinate them into our family. Trading in our Volvo marked the end of a discernible time period in our lives. We were no longer Volvo people. We also weren’t those kids just out of college any more, back when we still had faith in the next U2 record. Sure, we’d welcomed the evolution into adulthood, but during these past six months, life and change had become taxing. Our cat had to be put down in January (we adopted him in college) and the car we’d driven for nine years was now being traded in for a new, 2011 Volkswagen that had no knowledge of the various lives we’ve led. Scrambling for work after college in Atlanta. Our move to Boston. Road trips to Maine and New Hampshire. My wife’s summer in D.C. The “responsible” relocation to Pittsburgh. These things happened on Eddie’s watch. And even if his seats had been butt-numbing and the air blown uncontrollably even with the dial on 0, he’d never really let us down.
We took a final picture with our Volvo before leaving the Volkswagen dealership in our new Tiguan. Because we’re both saps, we fought back some teary-eyed moisture so we didn’t come off as lunatics when they brought our car around. A new car. New car smell. New car gadgets. In the commercials everybody’s jumping for joy over their brand new ride. I handed the keys to my wife. We silently slipped into the front seats. Where would we go from here? Where would Eddie wind up? Would the new owners care or wonder about the origin of their used car with the North Point Volvo (Georgia) decal on the rear bumper? It’s just a car! We tried repeating this a few times before turning on the engine, almost ready to face the new future. The dealer had pre-tuned the radio to the Sirius 80s on 8 channel. The first song to come through the speakers of this Volkswagen? Huey Lewis’ The Power of Love. Sometimes inexplicable things happen, things that reach beyond mere coincidence. Less than a week after writing my rumble reaffirming my love of Huey Lewis, no less. My wife noted that the car had reached out to me through music. I turned up the volume. She rolled her eyes then pulled out of the dealership. One song later, the car offered my wife a peace offering with Def Leppard’s Animal. No words needed to be said. Two songs from our past. Two songs from the youth that we’d felt had just been left at the dealer. Coincidence or cosmic fate? No matter what I actually believe, I’m going to embrace the latter. Music eases our trepidation about marching bravely into our futures – by reassuring us that our pasts are always coming along with us, no matter how old we get or how many pieces of our youth we’re forced to leave behind. Sometimes we just need to have a little faith that where we’re going won’t be that bad. We even need to have a little faith about the next U2 album, but in order to do that I will need to pretend that “Get On Your Boots” never happened.