Thursday, October 25, 2012

No. 588 – I Can’t Drive 55

Performer: Van Halen
Songwriter: Sammy Hagar
Original Release: VOA (Sammy Hagar)
Year: 1984
Definitive Version: Live Without a Net, 1986—a great song made even better

After Eric Harvey and I wrapped up our semester together as the Wednesday morning breakfast club on WNDY my junior year, we more or less went our separate ways.

We had no falling out per se. It’s just he was into what he was into, and so was I. He was into the Fiji house and the Sphinx Club and wrestling and I was into radio and newspapers and living off campus.

It got so we almost didn’t see each other at all our senior year, and it was somewhat bittersweet at graduation when he introduced me to his parents … forgetting that I had met them a couple of times freshman year.

But like I said, he was the only one from the Fiji house to really remain friends with me after I depledged (story to come). Eric even helped me move into the dorms, and we still hung out a lot the next year or so.

In fact, he even tried to get me into a Fiji house party my sophomore year. Neither of us thought it would be a big deal. It had more than been a year since I left, and I was established on campus through my radio work and the fact that I was living with Jim, who knew and befriended everybody. The Fijis always had guest lists of unaffiliated folks who were allowed in, and I was now a guest.

It felt weird when I walked in the front door; it was the first time I had been in the building since I had left it a year and a half earlier, and it was weirder when Eric got me and took me up to his room. I was thinking it was for a little preparty, but he said that even though he put me on the guest list, I wasn’t welcome. I guess bygones couldn’t be bygones to some folks.

In fact, at one time, one of the actives whom no one liked because he was an ass made it a point to come into the room to tell us to pipe down and that “a lot of people didn’t like that I was there.” If I had ever doubted my decision to leave, that moment confirmed beyond any question that I made the right decision.

Eric said he would try to work it out, but I was fine with doing something else, and I think eventually after Eric brought up a few more pitchers of beer, we went out with a couple other guys to play some video games and make a Snacker run. It ended up being a fun night even though it started out badly.

Anyway, after graduation, Eric and I lost touch completely. Like I said, we really had parted company after our radio shift ended, so the fact that we lost touch was OK. Unfortunately, this is another story that doesn’t have even an OK ending.

Just before I would move to Columbus from Flint in 1994, I got the sad news: Eric had died of carbon-monoxide inhalation due to a faulty furnace in his apartment building.

The news hit me like a ton of bricks. Eric wasn’t the first of my former friends to have died, but he was by far the closest. I bought a sympathy card for his parents, and the same day, I bought a carbon-dioxide detector for my apartment. I’ve had one ever since. So should you, seriously. They cost $20 and plug into an outlet. It couldn’t be easier.

This was one of Eric’s favorite songs—he loved Sammy Hagar—and we played it all the time on our radio show while jamming out on air guitars in the lobby of the radio station. Of course, I can’t hear it now and not think of Eric, and how he helped to make a difficult transition that much easier—and I’ve never forgotten that.

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