The Summer I Turned Sixteen (Again)
October 16, 2006

For nearly ten long years (longer if you count the college and England years), I was carless. Without car. A walker, a busser. I bummed rides from friends, I hailed cabs, and I took my Dramamine. Then, suddenly, (well, not so suddenly, it was a long, intensely thought-out process.) Car came into my life.

There's nothing like summer driving. Even a drive to the grocery store is so therapeutic it should be bottled and approved by the FDA. As the weather inched warm and the sun smiled more than it sulked, Car and I started making daily pilgrimages to Ocean Beach. While Car sunbathed, I'd run and listen to podcasts and when I was done, I'd meet up with Car in the parking lot and we'd go home together. Cruising down Fulton, we drive with the windows lowered and shun the artificially-pumped AC.

I have this ridiculous mix-cd that I've been honing and perfecting for the last couple of years. It contains all my California-ish, summery songs and they all make me very happy. It may sound like the height of cheese, but there's nothing like listening to the Beach Boys' "California Girls" when you are one, or to U2's "Dancing Barefoot" when you can. By the time I get home pumped full of excercise-induced endorphins and humming "California (All the Way), I can deal with a messy apartment, mounting deadlines, and an overflowing TiVo. It's better than a massage.

Sometimes we blast our California music so loud it makes cars next to us roll up their windows, and I remember sixteen summers ago when I was doing the exact same thing.

Except, back then it was a 1973 Mercury Comet, and I drove with the windows down because AC hadn't been a choice in the Vomit Comet for about ten years. I was the only one of my friends who had a car at her nearly-constant disposal, so I was the default chauffeur.

Not that I cared because when you're sixteen and newly-licensed, all you want to do is drive. In fact, there were nights when Puzer, Nix, and I would leave parties early just to spend the hour or so before our curfews driving around the star-drenched lakes. Forget manicures, facials, and glossy magazines, the real bonding took place on those drives. We talked about boys, school, friends, college, and clothes -- all the stuff that was important to high school girls.

Those night drives were as good for our friendships as the long walks we took around the same lakes. The other day, via cellphone, I took another walk with Puzer. I was on the beach in San Francisco, she was at home in Minneapolis. We talked about marriage, work, friends, babies, and clothes -- all the stuff that is important to us now.

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