I remember the car. Vividly. A green AMC Gremlin that lives on as a classic in my mind only because of the stories it helped to create during my formative years.
I remember the friend. Scott. He was the kind of guy you could always count on to do you a favor — no matter what — and he should have been much more appreciated back in those days, but, sadly, in my heart I know we all took him for granted.
I remember the girl, too. Cathy. She was my case of puppy love. I was a sophomore, she was a freshman and together we tried to work through the confusion of two hearts connecting and everything that goes with it.
And, I remember the music. The Eagles. The album? Their Greatest Hits (1971-75).
Add it all up and it was one of the greatest road trips and weekends of my life.
And it call came crashing down on me on a Monday afternoon, ghosts demanding to dance with me at the news that shocked my world.
Glenn Frey was dead.
I grew up a fan of the Eagles. From my earliest days of listening to music, of counting down the Top 40 with Casey Kasem, the Eagles — part rock, part country, soon to be legendary — was something that grabbed me and never let me go.
I can’t remember the first Eagles songs I heard. I can’t even pick my favorite. There are too many in contention. But it seems like every time I hear an Eagles song these days, I’m taken back to a time and a place and with it a memory.
Growing up, I had no clue who Glenn Frey was. Or Don Henley. Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner? They could have been the governor of South Dakota and Prime Minster of Canada for all I cared in those days.
I just knew I liked their music.
When the band started, I was just beginning kindergarten. By the time they dissolved (the first time) I was heading off to high school.
They literally were the music of my youth. And that music followed me through the years since … through high school, through my single days, in and out of my only marriage, all the way through today, this October Weekend of my life.
When I turn to Spotify or iTunes for some solace from the real world, more often than not some Eagles songs are on the playlist.
Losing Glenn Frey today wasn’t just losing some musician I never met.
It was like losing a family member I hadn’t seen in years.
It’s been a bad month for music lovers. Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead. The oddities of the legendary David Bowie. And, now, Glenn Frey.
Frey’s death has hit me the hardest and the reason why goes back to the winter of 1982, almost 34 years ago.
I had fallen head over heels for an adorable freshman from my Civics class. This was my sophomore year, so I was 15 and, needless to say, I was far from wise to the ways of the world when it came to girls.
I had done the whole playing doctor thing, held hands with a girl or two and had those uncomfortable stiff-armed slow dances to “Love Hurts” by Nazareth.
But with Cathy it was different. She was the first girl who touched my heart in a way I didn’t quite understand. But I knew it liked it. And I knew I liked her. A lot.
We ran cross country together in the fall and during the early part of the basketball season she was my No. 1 fan. And, as an added bonus, she only lived about two blocks from our high school, right around the corner so a lot of our down time was spent together.
We officially became boyfriend/girlfriend in October, but by December she was taken away from me when her mother decided to move from Bangor and go back to Falmouth, about a two-hour drive to Southern Maine.
When you’re 15, though, it might as well be Wyoming.
I finally knew what a broken heart felt like. And it hurt like nothing I had ever felt before.
I think it was probably Scott who came up with the idea of a road trip to see Cathy.
He had his license and he had the car — that aforementioned AMC Gremlin. And like I said he would do anything for anybody, no questions asked.
He wanted to see me happy again, I suppose. And he would do whatever it took to make it a reality.
All we had to do was convince all of our a parents that a heartbroken boy and a heartbroken girl wanted to be together again, even if it was for just one weekend.
Somehow, we got everybody to say yes and thus the first road trip of my life was ready to happen — a two-hour journey from Bangor, down to Falmouth where somehow Cathy’s mother would allow Scott and I to stay at their home.
It was probably March, maybe April … basketball season must have been over, but snow was still on the ground … it’s so long ago I barely remember the details.
But I do remember the music playing in the cassette player of that car. The Eagles Greatest Hits (1971-75). The music of my childhood, even if I was, in my own teenage way, still a child.
Two hours of the Eagles — of Glenn Frey and Don Henley singing to us and with us — as we made the trip, my heart yearning the minutes away before I saw Cathy again.
It was quite likely on that trip that I learned every single lyric of those Eagles songs and every time I hear one today that journey is still the first thing that comes to my mind.
I was growing up with each mile and each note.
And then, once again, Cathy was back in my arms.
I suppose back then I wanted to hold on to her forever. But we all know how life really works, don’t we?
Somewhere in my box of memories is a card Cathy wrote me and gave me to the day she moved away.
It’s a Ziggy card, drawn by Tom Wilson. Ziggy is in a bathtub, a shower of hearts raining down on him and a rubber duck.
When you open the card there are two clear pages of nothing but words.
“John — Well today, December 18, 1981, is the day we looked at on October 23 and boy did that seem like a long ways away. I am glad we went out and I don’t regret it at all. I hope you don’t either. It’s hard to say how much you’ve meant to me.”
She signed it “Much, much LOVE always forever and ever, Cat.”
Why do I have this 34 years later?
Same reason I have the memories when I hear Glenn Frey’s voice on the radio, or Don Henley’s, or so many other songs that strike that chord and take me back to a time and place.
One of the songs on that Eagles album is “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and there is a set of lyrics that read, “I get this feeling I may know you, As a lover and a friend, But this voice keeps whispering in my other ear, Tells me I may never see you again.”
Driving away from Falmouth and heading home, I didn’t know that two-day weekend at Cathy’s house would be the last time I ever saw her. Once upon a time, you really do believe in forever, but sadly in most cases it is just the memories that last forever.
Feelings fade. Hearts heal (somehow). Life goes on.
Memories, like the music, that lasts forever.
The Eagles have made sure of it.
Despite the road trip, life did go on and the Eagles were always there … even after they weren’t.
Like I said, by the time I was in high school, the band had not officially broken up, but just stopped being.
Glenn Frey went one way. Don Henley went another. The Eagles remained via their music, though.
“Hotel California” takes me back to a time and place. So too does “Wasted Time.” They invoke the same emotions in me today as they did when they did back then when they became embedded inside me.
Frey and Henley still remained at the center of my formative years thanks in great part to MTV, which brought many names and faces to music lovers in a vastly different way — through music videos.
I will never forget the video for Frey’s “Smuggler’s Blues” or Henley’s “Boys of Summer.”
My teens became my twenties and the Eagles were still such a big part of my life.
In the past decade alone I discovered Showtime’s incredible three-hour documentary film, “The HIstory of the Eagles” and watching it I fell in love with the band once again.
Twice, they’ve come to Connecticut to play in concert. Unfortunately, Both nights I had conflicts and wasn’t able to see them.
Now, I’ll never be able to see the Eagles.
I still can’t believe Glenn Frey is gone.
I can only be thankful his gift — his music — will be with all of us fans for as long as we all shall live.
And, of course, for any road trips we once again get to take.