One of my best friends, Gene, moved to Atlanta after eighth grade. And when he moved back for his junior year, he had a Georgia driver's license, his grandma's Cutlass, and a car stereo with a graphic equalizer. This was no less than completely awesome, because anyone who was friends with Gene got a head-start on the age-old suburban art of CATNIP-ing (Cruising Around Toward Nowhere In Particular) while the other suckers had to wait another year for their driver's test.
During those glorious months, we burned a lot of gasoline and listened to a lot of Cars music. Those albums became the soundtrack of a formative time, when my social agenda starting separating from my family's and I learned the basics of adolescent male bonding. We rode around like a mini-gang, except the most dangerous thing we were packing was our Chemistry homework.
Cut to the mid-90s, when I first realized that Ric Ocasek lived somewhere in my neighborhood. He's a tough guy to miss, a 6-foot-5 stick insect with a purposeful stride and jet-black everything. After years of seeing him from afar, I bumped into him last night in our local bodega. I sized him up as he ferreted through the freezer, searching for the dozen or so frozen Snickers bars he eventually bought. He looked much as he did 20 years ago, with a few extra creases. And perhaps a botched eyebrow procedure.
We were the only people in the place, so I said hello. Then I think I stammered something about how great it was to see him in the news again. He was shyly appreciative at first, but he lit up when we talked about his recurring role on "The Colbert Report." He said it came totally out of the blue; Colbert's a fan, his people called Ric's people, and the rest is history. Overall, he seems like a happy guy. He might look like Joan Crawford's stunt double, but he sure is living the good life.
I also enjoy knowing that Colbert and I listened to the same stuff when we were kids, and if I had my own talk show I would totally have Ocasek on to do something. Except I can't, because Colbert thought of it first. Bastard.