Sunday, July 17, 2016

Story - My Sharona (Or "A Single Lunch In My Road Trip Of A Lifetime")

This story is part of the four week road trip of a lifetime I took back in the days of Desert Shield (making it Dec 1990 to Jan 1991).

My Sharona, The Knack, from YouTube

One of my favorite songs back in the day was My Sharona, by The Knack. I suppose that's not unusual since it was a huge hit back then.

The song came up at some point during my four week "life exploration" thing. I allude to the road trip here in a post from 2010. I left Connecticut on Christmas Day morning 1990 and returned at the end of January 1991. I brought both my mountain bike and my road bike along with a ton of spares and tools and such. I planned on doing some long rides when I could, in whatever places struck my fancy. I chose a few destinations for various reasons:

 - Dayton, OH - customer and fellow rider from the shop days moved back to his home there after completing some internship near my shop; his family offered me dinner and a bed when I came through.
 - Winter Park, CO - customer and fellow rider was traveling and would be there; we hoped to ride or ski or just hang out.
 - Boulder, CO - customer visiting parents near shop lived in Boulder and offered me a bed.
 - Grand Junction, CO - where the famous "Tour of the Moon" stage took place in the Coors Classic
 - Santa Cruz, CA - we were there a few days before the big earthquake, virtually at the epicenter, and I wanted to re-ride the route we did just before the earthquake
 - Santa Monica, CA - wanted to check it out; it had a pier like the one we used to go to in Schevenigen, in Holland. Well it seemed similar anyway.
 - San Diego, CA - seemed like a good spot to go, as far as I could go from Connecticut within the 48 states, plus I might be able to see Mexico which I hadn't seen before.

I used a micro-cassette recorder to make audio notes to myself. I wanted a way to chronicle things without writing by hand. I considered tying a notepad to my thigh as one of my book protagonists did when said protagonist made notes about his car set up and such (book was something about hot rods in New Jersey, no idea of the book name... although some Googling makes me think it was Hot Rod by Henry Gregor Felsen, I'll have to read it to see if it's the one). Whatever the idea of trying to write on my thigh while driving didn't make sense to me. The micro-cassette recorder made more sense. I even have the tapes somewhere, and I think the actual player as well.

The car in Salt Lake City, mountain bike is inside.
The high for the day was 10 degrees F I think, I have to check my notes.
It was the morning of Dec 28, 1990, the start of the fourth day of my trip.

It was quite an adventure, to be honest, with crazy good luck and incredible risks on my part. I suppose I'll do some posts about it later. I wrote a short trip diary about it and it ended up about 10 pages long so it would be in bits and pieces.

For now I'm writing because someone posted a My Sharona clip on Facebook and it reminded me of this part of the trip.

At this point of my trip I'd been driving maybe two weeks, I don't remember exactly how long but I was starting to head back. I'd stopped in Dayton, Ohio; Winter Park, CO; Salt Lake City, UT; Santa Cruz, CA; Santa Monica, CA; San Diego, CA; and now I had just returned to Santa Monica.

I was staying at American Youth Hostels for most of the trip for a couple reasons. One was that it was cheap. The other is that I could meet people in the areas where I hadn't lined up a place to stay. In less populated areas, like in the middle of Kansas, I stayed in motels for their convenience.

In San Diego I'd stayed at the hostel near the beach.  At the time the hostel was closed from 9 AM to 5 PM. That meant that anyone staying there had to find something to do for those hours. The first day I was there I went for the mother of all bike rides. I held the chain link fence separating Mexico from the US (and an INS chopper started hovering near me, prompting my ride guide say that we had to leave). I saw where the Exxon Valdez had been refitted and renamed. I rode around Fiesta Island. Stuff like that.

Then I met Diana.

She was traveling alone as was I, we seemed to get along okay, and so after we shared a table at some dinner we ended up hanging out together.

Since I had a car we drove around a bit during that 9-5 "outside" time. This particular hostel is really geared for people on foot, like a backpacker kind of traveler, so the car was an unusual luxury. We drove out to Joshua Tree National Park, we drove out to Ocean Beach, stuff like that. Our relationship was platonic, which I think made it even more enjoyable. There was no worrying about "that" stuff, it was just hanging out and having fun. I'd liken it to hanging out in high school or even college, where it was more about exploring the area with a new friend more than anything else.

I remember one night where we stayed out talking in whatever parking lot I'd found for the car. It was light out, maybe the moon was out, but it was night, it was nice and warm, and we just sat around talking about whatever. This kind of thing really doesn't happen anymore for me. Even when the Missus and I were alone last year (the night before the White Plains Crit) we were working on the crit.

When it was time for her to leave we talked about me coming up to Santa Monica with her. I'd just been in Santa Monica for a week so I sort of knew the area. She was already planning on staying there, I had two more nights allowed there (I think they limited a traveler to nine nights a year or something at the time). Plus if I drove it would take a couple hours. If she took the train it was an all day thing, with transfers and such. We decided to make it a road trip and continue our adventures up there.

The woman checking in guests in Santa Monica thought we were a couple, even married, so that was pretty funny. Apparently we looked like we got along to others. After getting our own separate rooms we explored again. Santa Monica wasn't as foot-friendly and we didn't have the money or inclination to go travel to the typical tourist locations like Disney or Universal Studios or whatnot. I think we went out once in the car but mainly we walked around for the two days and change we had together.

We were walking near the hostel, I think on a block converted into a walking street, when we decided to stop in a place for lunch. We were at some salad bar or something, I forget exactly what the set up was, buffet style or Chipotle style or just a salad bar, but whatever it was a bunch of people in the restaurant had to get in some line for food, including us.

At that moment we happened to be talking about the music we liked when we discovered rock and roll. For me the first two songs were ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down" and, of course, The Knack with their hit song "My Sharona", linked at the beginning of the post.

While we were talking about the songs (I think I had to sing a bit of My Sharona as Diana didn't know it) I noticed an older white guy giving me the evil eye. Now, back then, I was subject to quite a bit of racism, being Asian. Whenever something weird happens to me I always take my race into account, to see if maybe that was part of it. Being in an unfamiliar environment I wasn't sure what, if any, things I should or shouldn't do. Diana was white. With my first girlfriend, also white, I got flak from various strangers, randomly, and sometimes in quite ugly and public ways.

(I'll note that this is mainly no longer the case, just to make things clear.)

Therefore, unfortunately, this guy giving me the eye set off some internal alarms.

Diana and I sat down, away from that one guy; I actually directed her toward a different part of the restaurant. The place was pretty crowded, we were pretty far from the guy, so I felt pretty safe. I wasn't really being too provocative, we weren't making out or anything, just two people having lunch. We continued our conversation, moving on from our favorite music as teens to other topics.

At some point I looked up. I was shocked to see the older guy was standing right next to me, at our table. He glared at me.

"Were you talking about the song 'My Sharona' when you were in line back there?", he demanded.

The whole restaurant sort of went on mute. The man's posture, his demand, it seemed a prelude to something not really good. I know I went into high adrenaline alert; I'm sure others were feeling the same way.

I looked up at him.

"Yes, I was."

The man's face broke into a huge smile.

"That's great! You know, Sharona was my daughter! She was dating that guy and he wrote the song about her! They ended up breaking up and he married someone else but that song is about my daughter Sharona!"

He turned and yelled across the restaurant, across a sea of curious and mildly concerned faces.

"Honey, I was right! They were talking about Sharona!"

The whole restaurant collectively sighed, everyones' faces turned back to their meals, and the restaurant went back to normal.

Except for our table, of course. The guy was obviously really psyched about his discovery. He told us how he used to hear the song, and people talking about the song, all the time. As time went on, though, the song sort of slipped away from the public eye. Hearing us talk about the song really made him happy. When we left he waved to us, lightly elbowing a woman who must have been his wife and pointing at us. I'm pretty sure he was telling people that, yeah, "that guy over there knows the song about my daughter".

Of course I have no idea who he is, or who she is (or was). In fact, until that moment, I didn't even know what the title of the song meant. I thought it was "Mysharona", like some weird name of a place or animal or flower or something - I never really paid attention to most song's lyrics, still don't. I just liked the bass beat, the octave up and down thing. And the muh-muh thing.

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