Belinda Carlisle has always induced in me the image of waves crashing against cliffs along southern California's Highway 1.
Approaching midnight, and a state away, we watched the glow of the sky above the Las Vegas Strip fade away in the rearview. It seemed that no matter how far we drove into the deserts of northern Arizona, it was impossible to find a corner where we weren't faced with the effects of civilization. We drove on into the night, swearing we wouldn't stop until we reached complete darkness.
I'm not sure if it's the breathy vocals - sultry and playful, or some long-forgotten memory association of mtv videos with Belinda dancing around in the crashing surf. Even today, anytime I hear Leave A Light On or Circle In The Sand, it brings back southern California, the light in shades of warmth, the azure skyline and the waves roll into off-white cliffs.
In the car we had a single Belinda Carlisle cassette, Runaway Horses. We drove across Arizona arguing over exactly which moment was the climactic point of the album - she voted for the song with the soft beat, the acoustic harmonies backing up a song of complete surrender to a new love. I, on the other hand, wanted nothing less than the new wave synth epics, the dance chorus that left you breathless with romance and movement, even if that movement was within the confines of the passenger seat of the tiny Honda Civic Del Sol. I wanted the synthesized hooks in layers that built and built, leaving a sweaty forehead and a sigh of temptation upon smiling lips. We listened to this tape over and over, each flip her pointing out that her song had come on, each play of mine and Id rewind it immediately after and play it again.
- Oh my love it's you that I dream of
Not to mention, it was the only cassette that either of us had had the foresight to pack.
- Somewhere in my heart I'm always
The night we left, Ingrid had come to the house and given us 7 hand-numbered brown paper bags and told us to open each on its respective day. And here it was only a couple days into the trip and we were already cheating, I mean, sunrise meant a new day... technically... right?
At night we drove into a storm that fell heavier and heavier, her car fishtailing its way along highways completely empty, and we wondered what everyone else seemed to know that we didn't. In the morning, the storm had calmed, and we drove out of Utah, everything around us covered in snow, toward the distant mountains of Nevada.
We had snuck into a mountain lodge cabin through an unlocked window, and left early in the morning so as to avoid any ambitious maids or someone noticing two kids laughing hysterically behind a sloppily replaced window screen. On the road, making our escape across state lines, and, somewhere around the Utah/Nevada boarder, when sleep deprivation combined with victory and a vista of unbelievable sheer beauty, and things seemed near perfect, I leaned out the window and took this picture.
Panaca, Nevada, the morning sun reflected in a thin perfect outline against the snow that clung to the wire fence posts, lined the bare tree-branches, layered solidly the rooftops of the beautiful old desert homes, coated everything in an outline of white. She stopped her car on the side of the road. Neither of us said anything, only stared out at these fields of white, and slowly it came falling down from the trees, sprinkling down from the single power line, a slight snowfall on an early morning, as the day's brisk warmth began to melt last night's new snow. We watched it in awe, and through the speakers came that voice that conjured up the sea and the sunlight, and dancing, fully clothed, into the crashing waves.