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2008-08-26 - 3:25 p.m.

Because, when jingling change, quarters speak loudest, grabbing your fingertips' attention, sometimes I lean in close and listen. Quarters are somehow special. Bigger, sure, but slightly more important for a good reason, like army majors or Guns N' Roses cassette tapes. Today, I saw that one of my quarters was minted in 1995. That was a big year for me.

So: in May of 1995, I graduated from high school. Then, all summer, I played baseball for the last time (dozens and hundreds of games, it seems) and delivered pizzas until late into the night, sometimes staying up until dawn to read, or watch TV, or listen to Jimi Hendrix until my dreams were all sharp-edged, clanging melodies. Then I started college, got stoned a lot, got caught for getting stoned, and got laid some after what felt like waiting my entire life. Eighteen years, it felt at the time, of being held hostage by wanting to get laid. No wonder teenaged boys crash cars and start fights and punch walls. They're one hundred twelve percent constantly frustrated, legs jittery, fingers restless, every thought and step dictated by the hips.

It was the Smashing Pumpkins--"Rocket" and "Cherub Rock"--the Stone Temple Pilots left over from the previous summer, and, for me, Led Zeppelin all the fucking time. A friend, sitting in his mom's burgandy Buick, turned me onto Led Zeppelin II and I played it and Weezer's blue album nightly, when I decided to finally try to go to bed. I had to keep it low so that the bass on stuff like "Whole Lotta Love" wouldn't bother my parents, and so I spent a lot of time finding the sweet spot, going in and out of my bedroom to find out exactly what could be heard in the hallway.

It was gas for a dollar-fifteen a gallon, something like that. It was cheap cigarettes in my friends' cars, going to Rocky Gap to camp for a night or to Charles Town to see Lollapalooza that year, sneaking beers but not really because even then we knew we were pretty much on our own, that we were more or less grown up and that any trouble we got in was ours to bear.

And at the end of the year, floored by a bad case of mono, I was back home after my first semester of collge, thinking I might be in love but not sure about it at all, opening Christmas presents from my parents. It was a pretty big year, that one: Plymouth Sundance with the decent stereo system, the smell of large pepperonis and fried mushrooms, big fountain Pepsis sloshing on the floor, always threatening to tip over at sudden stops, always threatening to turn it all into a sticky mess.

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