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Living Hard With The Top Down Open

Living Hard With The Top Down Open

In Loving Memory of Todd Johnson.

Living Hard With The Top Down Open

It’s the clutch-end of 1999 and I am on fire inside with a sense of urgency.

I don’t care about Y2K, I don’t care about ushering in the new millennium - I’m deeply in love for the first time as a young adult and it’s with my best friend’s boyfriend.

That fluttering of lust, confusion and a whole fit of devotion can’t go anywhere but a whirlwind behind my eyes, mouth and my rib-cage. It’s silent from the outside and deafening within.

I watch them kiss, I watch them touch, I watch them connect. Warmth passes between two people I care about and I can’t enjoy it.

I need out.


Blue hits stands at Tower Records and I am one of the first to hold that cellophane wrapped gem to my chest, through a line, and then straight into the Discman connected to the car. Younger folks will never know that headache, and I won’t explain it to them because it was special enough for those who made do.

I get onto the road. I roll all of the windows down in the alarmingly maroon Ford LTD. I light a cigarette.

I press play.



“Anything for you. Turn my castles blue.”

The instant haunting, burning passion and yen pull the unspoken secret ache from inside of my chest out through my pores and permeate the moment.

My eyes sting from the cold November evening and the relief of not feeling so alone for the first time in months. The Wild Thing my comrades referenced me by was floating through the air and dancing with the lyrics with abandon.

Jackie-O with the top down open. That was me. The devotion and longing in the lyrics were my fingers painting through the passing lights as I drove down Highway 160 alongside the Sacramento River.

Courtesy Carly DuHain

That initial moment carries with me to this day as a semi-accomplished adult who wishes for more passionate urgency instead of the 9-5 dread, but we all grow up, don’t we?

The entirety of Blue played at least twice through my speakers that night, and we all know what an opus it is. But that very first song and the gentle trickery of a promise that rises into a powerful roar - it made watching those kisses easier. I lived that ache on the inside, but I didn’t feel so alone anymore.

I had my Jackie-O moment, and never stopped living hard with the top down open.

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