When I was in the seventh grade, we began studying music appreciation. Most of my classmates hated this class because everyone was into the Top-40 music that we heard on the radio. I enjoyed the class because I always liked new and interesting things. Slowly, but surely, we learned about all the different instruments that comprised the orchestra. We listened to individual instruments on a phonograph so we could recognize them when the orchestra played in unison. These music appreciation classes continued through the eighth grade. As a result of these classes I have had a life-long love of classical music. In the eighth grade, we listened to Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird and his music made a lasting impression on me. It’s funny how this association with Stravinsky’s Firebird always connected me with other Firebirds.
When I was at Divine Heart Seminary, I used to go to the library for study hall and listen to The Firebird on the phonograph with a headset. For driver’s ed, our first car was a 1971 Pontiac Firebird! It had a four-speed manual transmission. Our first day of actually driving in a car, we got to drive on U.S. 30 Highway at 70 miles per hour. We weren’t allowed to play the radio in the car, but I kept imagining Stravinsky’s The Firebird playing while I drove the driver’s ed Firebird on the highway. This was one of my greatest driving experiences ever. The Stravinsky’s music accurately described the Firebird’s forward motion on U.S. 30. The Pontiac Firebird was my fantasy car throughout high school.
Until I was eighteen and I worked at Derby Foods. Despite not wanting to work in a factory as a manual laborer, I made the best of a bad situation. I earned enough money to buy my own car. So, I bought a brand new 1975 Pontiac Firebird. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough money to buy the souped up Trans Am version. But I was the only student at my high school with a brand new sports car. It was Buccaneer Red with white interior. I remember it well. I immediately regretted the white interior because it got dirty very quickly and it was very tough to clean. This was during one of our many previous gas crises (Americans just never seem to learn from the past), so the speedometer only went up to 85 mph since the national speed limit was lowered to 55 mph. Suddenly, a lot of girls started talking to me because of my car. I ignored the ones who were suddenly attracted to me because of my car. My friends thought I was really cool because of my car. The only thing the car lacked was an 8-Track Player! Well, I drove all over the Midwest in my Firebird with my friends, and later my girlfriend whom I eventually married. That is still my most memorable car. I always think of it whenever I hear Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird.