Michael Recommends “American Girl” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

I mistook her for my RA when we met. Bri is self-assured, mature, has always known more about the world. She’s the friend you go to when you need to know how to interpret news on global epidemics, presidential impeachments and primaries.

For many of the years we’ve known each other, Tom Petty’s “American Girl” has scored our hangouts. It might’ve started junior year, when half our friend group was studying abroad and we needed extra pep, when we wanted to flaunt dance moves with fancy footwork and swinging hips for snowed-in pregames in Maine. It might’ve started senior year. Over the summer we worked on campus, Bri used extra cash to make her room the hangout spot–a new mini-fridge, on her wall a tapestry of a forest at dawn. We’d play Mario Kart on her bed, that party lasting all night instead of the ones we could’ve gone to elsewhere on campus.

Petty’s jam is suited to tailgates, pregames, and belting on road trips (it surprised us when we heard Catherine Baker belt it behind the wheel in Silence of the Lambs). We lived together in Maine for two years, and Bri would ask me to queue it up during nights in, which led to us listening to Estelle’s “American Boy” more often because I’m dense. We’d pick through YouTube for recordings with high quality sound, ending up on a slideshow of various American girls. It always felt half-fitting because actresses like Mary Pickford and Joan Crawford figure in, and Bri is a film buff.

Now I’m in North Carolina. She visits me, gets sick, and we spend her visit watching Shrill on the couch and air mattress in my apartment. Only one night do we go out to play pool with my new friends. The bar has cracked cement floors, a poster for Sid and Nancy, skee ball, PBR, a photo booth. They don’t have Tom Petty on the jukebox, but the song would be perfect for a place like this.

(Song recommendation by Michael Colbert)