The year was 1985. I had just gotten my driver’s license and was terrorizing the streets of Phoenix, Arizona in my beige Dodge Omni. (My dad always bought the most Al Bundy-esque cars…)
Yes, the Dodge Omni was ugly. No, it was not the most reliable car I would ever drive. Yes, it had a cassette tape deck. That was all I cared about. My cassette collection was impeccable. If a band was featured in Star Hits magazine or on MTV, I most likely had their cassette. I joined the Columbia House record and tape club, and then quit, and then rejoined, so I could keep getting 12 records or cassettes for A PENNY.
However, sometimes a band was so important, I had to actually go to the record store and buy it on the release date. Scritti Politti was one of these bands. I had a very dangerous crush on the singer, Green Gartside. (Now that I think about it, he kind of looked like Nick Rhodes, who was my scary obsession in the 80’s.)
My parents had gone out of town to Las Vegas (some of you may remember my dad’s gambling problems, as mentioned in my earlier post about the the time I went to Las Vegas to see Barry Manilow with my parents). Since I was the oldest child, it was my responsbility to be a grown up and so I was allowed to drive the car in case of an emergency.
What could be more of an emergency than buying a brand new cassette of the new Scritti Politti record? Plus, the record store was only a couple of miles away, I rationalized to myself.
I headed to Zia Records, where all of the clerks would give you a hairy eyeball if you bought disposable 80’s pop, such as Scritti Politti. It was very much a “John Cusack in High Fidelity” atmosphere. At sixteen years old, I really didn’t care what a bunch of old hairy dudes thought of my dodgy record-buying habits.
Shiny new cassette in hand, I headed back to my car and ripped the wrapper off. I popped the cassette in and listened through the car’s tinny speakers. The sound of Green Gartside’s voice was like a balm for my soul. He sounded like he had been filled with helium. He sounded like the aural equivalent of spun sugar, and I was bursting with joy. I sat in the parking lot and listened to the first song, and then I decided to head home.
You know those ads that say “Don’t text and drive”? Well, I should have been told not to listen to music and drive. I was so absorbed in what I was listening to, I didn’t realize that the car in front of me had stopped. This car was driven by a little old lady and she had stopped in the middle of the road for NO REASON. There was no light, no stop sign, nothing.
BANG! I rear ended her car with the old Dodge Omni. I didn’t have my seat belt on (Wear your seat belts, kids) and my chin slammed against the steering wheel.
I was freaking out because I had only gotten my license a few weeks earlier, and now I already was going to get a ticket. The car was not too bad, at least, but I knew my parents were going to be so disappointed and angry. I started crying, and I threw the door open to take a look at the situation.
The old lady was already out of her car. As soon as she saw me, she pointed at me and started screaming. I looked around. She told me to look in the mirror. I sat in the driver’s seat and looked in the visor’s mirror, and there was blood dripping down my chin. It didn’t hurt, probably because I was in shock.
I WAS WEARING MY “FEED THE WORLD” LIVE AID SWEATSHIRT AND THERE WAS BLOOD ON IT. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!
Then I realized I was bleeding because my teeth had cut through my chin and punched a big old hole in it. Hooray!
The police came and gave me a ticket. I tried to act brave, but then the cop said they were going to bring the paramedics and that I should go to the hospital. They asked me for my parent’s phone number to get medical consent.
This is when I started crying really hard, because I didn’t have a number for them. They were in Vegas, and this was WAY before cell phones were invented. I told the cop what was going on and he told me that he couldn’t leave until he knew I had medical attention. I told him maybe we could go to my friend’s house, because her mother would be at home.
I remember that I was shaking, freaking out, and bawling as I headed to my friend Sue’s house, which was just down the block. Her parents were home because they weren’t degenerate gamblers that were enslaved to the one-armed bandit. (Thank God this was before Indian casinos, because we would probably have been homeless.) The cop told Sue’s mom what happened, and she hugged me, cleaned me up, and took me to the emergency room. She told the docs that she was my aunt so I could get stitches. She also gave me a ride home afterward, and got my car back to me the next day. Sue’s mom was the best.
I had stitches that looked like giant black hairs growing out of my chin like an old Russian lady, which is just what you want in your junior year of high school.
I decided that I wanted Green to send me a letter or a card or something. I had no idea how to reach him. (Remember, no Google back then)
Who could help me? Oh yeah, Star Hits magazine! I should write to Jackie and ask her! And I did. And it got PRINTED! I was printed in Star Hits! My first publishing credit…under an alias…which is how I prefer to live my life.
I never heard back from Green. Maybe he will see this post and send me a note…