Bad Taste on the Run

When I was sixteen years old, I fell in love with a boy named John Harvey. I had actually been chasing after him since I was thirteen. We were in eighth-grade Spanish class together and he rolled his r’s in a way that made me want to do the most romantic thing I could imagine doing with a boy-—go to a movie and share a tub of popcorn.

But then he went to high school in the next town over, so our romance did not have time to blossom until three years later when I saw John Harvey again, at a dance. I had a killer perm and a tan from a summer trip to Israel that lingered into the Fall. John Harvey asked me to dance to a slow dance. What was the song? It was “Almost Paradise” from the classic 1980s film Footloose. And then John Harvey asked me for my phone number. And then, a mere four months later, JOHN HARVEY CALLED AND ASKED ME OUT.

John Harvey had gotten even cooler in high school than he had been in middle school. He drove a car so old and dangerous it was called The Deathmobile. In his room, he had a queen-sized bed, a TV with a VCR, and a windowsill lined with wine bottles covered with hardened wax from half-burned candles. There we watched the Christian Slater movie Pump Up the Volume and that was the first time I heard the Pixies. John Harvey reminded me so much of Christian Slater, and I was dating him, so it was almost like I was dating the star of Pump up the Volume. I pretty much thought I would die of happiness.

Then, after our fifth date, John Harvey stopped calling me. It was like ghosting, but in the olden days. I dyed my hair black-—to match my heart-—and lay face-down on the floor in my house for nights on end, weeping into the peach-colored wall-to-wall carpeting.

What does this have to do with running? Wait, I’m getting there.

When I started college two years later, I saw, befriended, and soon began dating a friend of John Harvey’s. They had gone to high school together. I begged my then-boyfriend to tell me what John Harvey had said about me. Why had he stopped calling? Why had he broken my heart? Why, why, why? In the end, all my then-boyfriend could tell me was this: “John said you had bad taste in music.”

WHAT? In high school I had liked such cool bands as Air Supply, Bread, and Chicago. My first concert was Billy Joel. I really, really, really liked that Bonnie Tyler song “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Wait, maybe John Harvey had a point.

Here’s where we get to running. When I run, I like to listen to music. The badder, the better. My favorite running song of all time is “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf. The beat’s just right to get me floating along at the right rhythm. A few weeks back I went running to the Xanadu soundtrack, with Electric Light Orchestra and Olivia Newton John powering me to new heights:

I’m alive

And the world shines for me today

I’m alive

Suddenly I am here today

Seems like forever (and a day)

Thought I could never (feel this way)

Is this really me?

I’m alive

I’m alive

I’m alive

When I’m angry and running, there’s no better song than “Queenie” by Ethyl Meatplow. Never heard of it? Time to give it a listen. I think the lyrics are like 90% swears.

Sometimes I even listen to “Wave of Mutilation” when I run, which was the Pixies song in Pump up the Volume. And every time I do, I pump up the pace and think of John Harvey.

Joy lives and runs in New Jersey and is Editorial Director of Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers.