The First Time In My Life That I Was Cool

That's me in the middle on top of the van from the radio station I worked at when I was 18.

Two pieces of background:

1.  I was never cool. I was kind of a nerd and kind of quiet. I played the baritone in the band, I had bad skin and I liked magic tricks. I was terrified of girls and I never kissed a girl until I was 18.

2.  The van I'm sitting on was an icon in Colorado Springs where I grew up. It was called the KYSN Love Machine (but we pronounced KYSN as "Kissin.")  Everyone knew this van. It was like the Batmobile or the DeLorean in Back to the Future.  If you saw it on the streets, it was like seeing a celebrity.

And when I got to finally drive the Love Machine myself, I was in heaven.  Me, driving the freakin' Love Machine! My assignment was to go out around town, find people with KYSN bumper stickers and then call in from a very early version of a cell phone and say something on the radio like, "Hey, it's Dave Ryan in the Kissin' Love Machine and right now I'm on Academy Boulevard behind a blue Ford truck with a KYSN bumper sticker. If they pull over right now, I have a six pack of Coke and a pair of movie passes for them!"

Just freakin' cool to get to do what I'd heard on the radio for years.

So here comes my moment. It must have been one of the first times I ever got to drive this van and I was on the freeway behind a school bus.  As I got closer to it, I saw that it was full of kids, probably middle school age.  One kid looks out the back window, spots the KYSN Love Machine and I could see him immediately alert the entire bus to the fact that the most famous vehicle in Colorado is right behind them.

Kids stood up, kids waved. I could see their mouths yelling in excitement as I pulled even closer. Then I made my move.

I picked up the phone (back then just having a phone in your car looked cool as s**t) and pretended I was talking on it. Then I passed the school bus so everyone on the whole bus could see me, in my coolest moment ever, driving the Love Machine.  As I passed the kids rolled down their windows and yelled and screamed and waved as I somehow managed to steer, fake talk on the phone and give them a quick, cool wave. I was a freakin' rock star.

For a kid who grew up on a chicken farm on a dirt road, that was by far by coolest moment of my life up to that point and I'll never forget it.

Footnote:  KYSN went off the air in the early 80s and the Love Machine was sold.  About 1989, I saw it painted over completely gray, with the old logo still visible under the paint and those old heart-shaped bubble windows still there.  A sad ending for what was once such a bad ass van.

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