Three Scenes From My Life with a Tom Petty Soundtrack

Scene 1: 1996

A bright, sunny day in August, most of my family is huddled under the trees in a small, family cemetery on McColl Road in Savage. They’ve close the road because there are so many mourners. We are burying my 19-year-old cousin Alan who died in a freak road construction accident in Duluth. He fell from a cherry picker while working road construction during the summer break from college.

For reasons I will never understand, after everyone has said what they need to say, and all that can be heard is sniffling and sobbing, someone presses play on a boombox. Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” floats through the air. IT’s been 21 years, and I still can’t listen to the whole song without my eyes filling.

Scene 2: 2008

A cold, snowy February in 2008 at the Town Hall Brewery, Superbowl Sunday to be exact. I’m sitting at the bar with a Tall, Tall Handsome Man a decade and a half my senior, a man I had been romantically interested in years before. When that went belly up we stayed friends. He would read me Flannery O’Connor stories over the phone before bed before we drifted apart. But that year, in 2008, we decided to meet at the Town Hall to watch the Superbowl. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers play the half time show. I shake my shoulders & sing along with “American Girls.” The TTHM remarks about how attractive that habit is. I smile.

Scene 3: 2013-2016

I write and revise and rewrite and revise a book about Rock & Roll, I call it The Beast (FYI: The Beast is still seeking representation if any of y’all are literary agents looking for a client. In a pivotal sequence, our heroine Cora gets her first taste of fame and immediately records a duet with Eddie Vedder, it’s a cover of “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” which serves two purposes: she gets to meet a musical idol and she gets to exact a sort of revenge on the dudebro who recently broke her heart. It is the perfect song for this moment in the book. I listen to it about a hundred times. I listen to Stevie Nicks’ That Made Me Stronger a thousand times.

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