When In Rome’s “The Promise” just played on Pandora’s “80s Pop Radio” station (one of several random ones in my current shuffle mix, which also includes stations for Mogwai, Royksopp and She Wants Revenge). It’s one of those songs that instantly transports me back to a different time and place.
In this case, it’s seventh grade, and the first time I lived in Las Vegas. The song puts me in two different places: One is my bedroom on the second floor of the house my family moved into on the (then) far west side of the valley just before I started junior high. My bedroom window faced east, affording amazing views of the entire city, although sometimes I’d enjoy such views from a slightly better vantage point: the roof of said house. It wasn’t even a flat roof. I’d prop a folding chair up on the top of the roof, straddling the two sloping sides, and maybe bring a glass of lime Kool-Aid with me for refreshment. I was a bit of a weird kid, a slight daredevil, and my parents were pretty liberal about such things.
I spent a lot of time in that bedroom, though, listening to music, building worlds out of Legos, drawing comics and generally developing all the proto-skills I’d eventually use to varying degrees of success in my adult life. We didn’t live in that house for long (we moved back to Pennsylvania right in the middle of the school year), but the time we did was highly memorable. And I loved the house itself, which had super-high vaulted ceilings, a very open floor plan, a loft overlooking the lower level, and a balcony that wrapped around the side of the house, accessible from the loft.
The other association I have with that song is at a school dance at Garside Junior High. I’m not sure if it’s an accurate aural memory. I seem to recall only attending one school dance that year, a Valentine’s-themed one, and I can only assume “The Promise” played there, because it was early 1989 and it was one of the biggest hits of 1988. As with most school dances prior to … um, I guess my junior year of high school? … it was unremarkable, involved no dancing, and mostly was just me agonizing with a friend over whether or not to ask a girl to dance. I do seem to recall dressing very “Miami Vice”–some sort of pastel T-shirt with a rolled-sleeve blazer.
My plan for the dance–sadly, I did not have a Plan B–was to ask a girl I was crushing on to go, for her to say yes, and then we would have a wonderful time or something. Her name was Michelle Matlock. We never talked that I can recall, but that didn’t stop me from writing her a note in a Valentine’s Day card, which may or may not have included an “ask” for the dance, and … well, you know how that went.
I’ll avoid explaining how, years later during high school, I made another slightly creepy attempt to woo her, but you can ask me about it later. Fun fact: Although we weren’t at the time, Michelle and I are actually still friends to this day, 25-plus years later.