Jimmy Eat World – “Sweetness”

When: Late night, January 2002
Where: Northbound on South Los Robles Avenue at Del Mar
Who: My mother
Weather: Cold, clear
Book: The Hobbit

I was burning the candle at both ends, and had been for some time. And with the constant push to get out of Pasadena Unified, I was dousing the candle in lighter fluid and throwing it in the fireplace. After school on Mondays and Wednesdays it was Hebrew school, with the additional scout meeting on Mondays. If it was Tuesday or Thursday, my mom would ferry me all the way to my Bubby’s house in Monterey Park while she took tests to get her permanent teaching credential. Fridays were for piano practice.

This was a Tuesday, and my tireless mother was taking me home from Monterey Park. After a while, some song by Shakira came on, as it had that morning and twice that afternoon. I turned off the radio. In a rare moment of optimism, my mom turned it back on and changed the station to KROQ. This was the first song that came on. I can never forget my shock at the pure intensity of what I was hearing. It was rough yet uplifting, the polar opposite of what I’d been listening to. The dial stayed on KROQ for nearly seven years.

Next: Two schools. Both are seemingly prestigious. But among them is a clear loser.

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