Monday, October 3, 2011

Jack & Diane

I was thirteen and carrying Snoopy when my mom and I departed Philadelphia for Rota, Spain. We arrived in the middle of the night, but my dad took us on a brief tour of the Navy base anyway. My dad, having missed my birthday and Christmas, gave me a boom box containing both a radio and a tape deck that night. We spent a few weeks in the Navy Lodge awaiting our number to come up on the housing list. I don't know what happened to Snoopy, but the boom box became a great source of pleasure. The Armed Forces Network did not include television at the time. I spent a great deal of time laying in my bed, starring at the upper bunk, listening to the radio- news, music, and shows like the Mystery Theater series.

I wasn't familiar with much music outside of what I had heard around my house- the Beatles, John Denver, and Tijuana Brass come to mind. Casey Kasem's American Top 40 was the source of much of the new music I heard until I met friends who had money to spend on tapes and albums, and I got a few babysitting jobs. At a dollar an hour though, it took time to earn enough to buy a tape.

A song popped up on my iPod today. It is amazing how far, how fast, you can travel in a memory. The song Jack & Diane was on a tape I had- likely made from the radio. Shortly after getting the boom box, I also got a walkman. The song took me back to an evening in Old Base Housing where I was collecting pledges for the Swim team- nervously knocking on doors to ask for a financial pledge for each lap I swam during the Swim-a-thon. The houses sat on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, I couldn't see the view from the road as much as I could sense the water rushing at the shore, feel a slight moisture in the air, and hear this song blaring into my head.

The song idolizes youth, and I feared, at the time, my own youth would fall short of this nostalgic view. Adolescence at fourteen felt more like a burden to shoulder rather than the time of my life. Looking back twenty-eight years later, the rock song as philosophy was perhaps not the most insightful, but still, I like the song, and I look back fondly on my Rota years- even the lonesome moments, watching the sunset on a cold evening as I walked about collecting pledges.
Jack & Diane  by John Mellencamp
A little ditty, 'bout Jack & Diane -
Two American kids growin' up in the heartland.
Jackie gonna be a football star
Diane's debutante backseat of Jackie's car.
Suckin' on chili dog, outside the Tastee Freeze
Diane sittin' on Jackie's lap
Got his hands between his knees
Jackie says, 'Hey, Diane, let's run off 'hind the shady trees
Dribble off those Bobby Brooks, let me do what I please."
Say uh
Oh yeah, life goes on
Long after the thrill of living is gone, say uh
Oh yeah, life goes on
Long after the thrill of living is gone
They walk on
Jackie sits back, collects his thoughts for the moment
Scratches his head and does his best James Dean
Well man there and Diane, we ought to run off to the city
Diane says, "Baby you ain't missing a thing"
but Jackie say uh
Oh yeah, life goes on
Long after the thrill of living is gone
Oh yeah - they says - life goes on
Long after the thrill of living is gone
So let it rock, let it roll
Let the bible belt, come and save my soul
Holdin' on to sixteen as long as you can
Changes come round real soon make us women and men
Oh yeah, life goes on
Long after the thrill of living is gone
Oh yeah - they say - life goes on
Long after the thrill of living is gone
A little ditty, 'bout Jack and Diane -
Two American kids doin', best they can