Yesterday, I was 26 years old again, just for about 20 miles on U.S. 190 back to I-40. You can flat haul ass on that road, and I did, just for a little, in my 1967 Mercury Comet Caliente ragtop. I won’t tell you just how fast because my mom is reading, so I’ll say on the other end of the spectrum that I am typically staying under 70 this trip. What made me 26 again is a compilation cassette tape that I made for my 1989 voyage to L.A., up the coast to Seattle, then back across the top of the country.
Photo in my driveway courtesy of Jennifer Foster, WDAV announcer producer and dear, funny, special, outlier friend, the day of my departure, 13 days and 2,200 miles ago.
On my “Caliente/F.M.” cassette, you can still hear the pops and cracks of diamond stylus on vinyl LP, transferred to the hiss of the tape. You can also hear the buzz of the alternator due to a faulty wiring job. The in-dash cassette deck is by no means original, an addition by Ray Fichthorn of Ray-Lin Restorations, from whom I bought the car in 1988; see about page 5 for some of the original work on the old Comet. Later, I replaced Ray’s deck with another, and at night you had a choice between dash lights and music, based on the interior light switch. Then, I had a Pioneer installed under dash with an iPod jack in the glove box, and new speakers. Now you get no dash lights at all, but I’ve got an LED headlamp just in case. And, I’m not sure which tuner the aerial is hooked up to at this point, but I will check that and run the old cassette into the Pioneer AUX jack. Right. That’ll happen.
Fact is, at highway speed, the alternator buzz rises to a crickety whine that disappears nearly entirely if you turn the stick where the knob used to be toward the bass side and crank the volume stick where the knob used to be up to max. With the top back, the wind takes care of the rest, thus the aforementioned time-warp experience.
Hey, it all works together, for a musical experience muy caliente!
So, here’s the playlist of my old cassette, Side A, the muy caliente road music side:
Steve Miller Band, “Mercury Blues” (self-explanatory)
Billy Ocean, “Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car” (no lot lizards)
Natalie Cole covering Springsteen’s, “Pink Cadillac” (screeching tire intro)
Donna Summer, “The Wanderer” (self-explanatory)
Dion’s “The Wanderer” (self-explanatory, with slight shift of lyrics)
Chuck Berry, “Maybelline” (see “haul ass,” above)
Bobby Brown, “My Prerogative” (screeching tire intro)
Otis Redding “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” (loner/destination tune)
Loggins and Messina, “Your Mama Don’t Dance” (“There’s a light in your eye/and then a guy says, ‘Outta the car longhair!'”)
Delbert McClinton, “Goin’ Back to Louisiana” (wide-open, roadhouse rockin’ blues)
James Taylor, cover of Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land” (“Tell the folks back home this is the Promised Land callin’ and the po’ boy is on the line.”)
Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band (Live Bullet), “Turn the Page” (“Is that a woman or a man?”)
The Eagles, “James Dean” (“James Dean, James Dean, you said it all so clean/I know my life would look all right if I could see it on the silver screen…. Sock hop, soda pop, basketball and auto shop/the only thing that got you off was breakin’ all the rules…”
See you on the flip side, kids.