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Gary Horton: Life can be a sound track by the B-52’s

Posted: February 20, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 20, 2013 2:00 a.m.

It’s sometime in the late 1980s and our family and friends are piled inside our Ford cruiser van heading off to a family ski trip to Lake Tahoe — or to a Boy Scout boating trip at Lake Mead — or some other fun teen-friendly vacation destination.

The road is long, and the trip will take eight to 12 hours on the highway as the van-full of excited kids bounce off the walls anticipating the adventure ahead.

Dad is driving the overflowing van, maybe even towing a ski boat behind, and the old guy, despite his own excitement for the trip, is prone to road fatigue. So we fire up the stereo and crank up the volume.

First up on our family’s top 50 is the B-52’s ... loud, silly, raucous, with their own brand of ‘80s rock reenergizing Dad and paving the road ahead.

Trip after trip, those B-52’s, with their big hair and outrageous lyrics, laid down our tracks — and without me knowing at the time, laid down deep memories, too.

“The Love Shack is a little old place where we can get together. Love Shack baby, Love Shack bay-bee. ...”

Sometimes we’d stop half way to Lake Mead and buy fireworks at the Indian reservations on the other side of State Line.

Once we stopped at the Peppermill Hotel in Mesquite for a break on the way to Lake Powell.

That was the day Kirk Gibson hit his incredibly famous home run, with two out and a 3-2 count at the bottom of the ninth, winning the Dodgers’ first game of the 1988 World Series and creating an emotional bedlam that reverberated through the entire hotel. Even today that memory remains a “wow” moment. ...

And then we’d pile back into that van and fire up the stereo and chances were that the B-52’s would be playing and maybe this time they’d be singing about Quiche Lorraine or maybe even about wigs. ...

“What’s that on your head?

A wig

Wig, wig, wig, wig. ...”

Roll the cassette forward 20 years and the now-considerably older B-52’s again show up on our playlist of life. This time, our son Jonathan, now 32, has given us B-52’s concert tickets for a concert in Ventura.

Since graduating college and well into adulthood, Jonathan has attended a multitude of B-52’s events. This time, he wants his mom and dad to accompany him along with his girlfriend, Amber.

And so, like before, we pile on into our car, not quite as big as a whale, and head on down to Ventura — for a standing-room-only concert with those longtime family friends, the B-52’s.

I’m older now and I’m not as enthusiastic as I used to be. My feet hurt. My hips hurt. And the concert requires standing for nearly two hours. But I’m playing the part of the Good Dad as best I can and I put on a good face.

Like me, the B-52’s have aged. Their hair isn’t as big — and neither are their voices. But they carry on well and sing some familiar songs mixed with newer tunes.

We’re swaying, but not dancing, humming, but not quite singing. Then comes Love Shack; then Wigs, and then Rock Lobster! These are our all-time favorites, and even fuddy-duddy daddy can’t resist.

The concert is a hit and we chalk it up as too much fun.

Jonathan insists on walking Carrie and me back to our car parked on the street. I apologize for being too reserved when the other folks my age had let their hair down and rocked out.

Jonathan insists it’s OK, and he thanks us for coming out with him. Then he speaks more dearly. ...

“I wanted you to come because every time I hear the B-52’s, I remember all the fun we had together as a family growing up. Their songs revive my memories of our road trips, our adventures, the people, and all the great times we shared. The songs connect ‘me’ to ‘us.’ Those special times are so much a part of me. Thank you so much.”

Our hearts melt and I feel like a complete jerk for not having let go of my 56-year-old cares and not dancing my sore feet off with my son and family.

Jonathan reassures me it’s really OK. He knows his dad is a reserved square. We exchange long hugs and Carrie and I drive off in a love haze that’s rarely equaled.

Oh parents, how we’re constantly building our kids’ memories (and character) for both better and for worse! We never know the implications and ramifications of even little things — like shared fun and music — until many years later.

Just know that we’re constantly building lives with every passing moment and we need to stay perked up to drive the family car and enjoy the ride.

“Love Shack, that’s where it’s at!”

Gary Horton is a Valencia resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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