Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Force That Through The Green Fuse Drives the Lotus

Who would have thought I'd be rhapsodizing about automobiles? I hardly ever even think about cars. I have a love/hate relationship with those gas-guzzling, exhaust-belching, animal-executing death traps.

I love to drive, and I miss my beloved 1997 deep blue mint Mustang convertible. Driving has always been enjoyable to me, but driving the Mustang was ecstatic. My joy was tempered, however, by the knowledge that every time I stepped on the gas pedal I was bringing about the end of civilization as we know it - which, come to think about it, may not be such a bad thing.

I remember clearly the first time I drove through a boggy area in Western Massachusetts and heard the damp symphony of peepers engulfing me; the first time I drove through the dark canyons of Manhattan, the spectacular buildings towering over me; driving north on 91 when it started to rain, and rain harder, until it was pouring, and, top down, I didn't feel a drop. I could go on and on, but the point is, driving my convertible was one of the great pleasures of my life.

Since we moved to California nine months ago, we have been car-less. On one level, I don't miss having a car at all. Obviously, it is inconvenient, but I have done a lot of walking, and have discovered that I like to walk, especially since I am often walking along Monterey Bay. The bus is pretty good, and I don't have to worry about insurance, parking, parking tickets, and all the other hassles of life with Auto. The best part is that I don't feel guilty every time I step on the gas. I feel like proselytizing for walking, and taking the bus, and riding a bicycle. I see these monstrous vehicles everywhere, and watch in horror as people leave them idling while they talk on the cell phone, or, worst of all, watch the sun set over the Pacific (which, incidentally. looks more spectacular because of the smog). 

Going to the Concours on the Avenue (the annual car show in Carmel-by-the-Sea, part of an entire week of fab car events around the area) on Tuesday, was a revelation. Well, maybe not quite a revelation, but it was interesting to see the various ways in which slouching amidst all those remarkable cars affected me. I got in touch with my inner guy/car self, and traveled back on that gray highway to my childhood, when I cut out pictures of cool cars from Life Magazine and heaped them into a hand-made scrapbook. Standing on the blocked-off street in Carmel, I felt lust in my heart. A white Lotus simply caught me unawares. I walked around it, scrutinizing every curve, examining every door handle and gauge, caressing the brushed silver gas cap with my eyes. I do realize that it is just a fantasy, but what a fantasy! Every inch of the car was perfection. I'm not a gear-head - it's mostly an aesthetic thing with me. Parked on the narrow streets of Carmel were some of the most luscious sculptures I have ever seen. Every once in a while, when a Ferrari or a Lamborghini cried out like a magnificent African animal, a thrill went through me. The exhaust smelled good, like a fine cigar, or a pile of burning leaves on the curb of our home in Birmingham, Alabama, when the aroma evoked a season, a way of life, releasing a flood of memories. Once in a while, I would remember that these smoke-spewing beauties were actually causing global warming, and it would kind of harsh my mellow, but the environmental reality would soon give way once again to the erotic thrill of the shapely Jaguar, the ferocious Ferrari, or the paunchy Porsche.

Maybe some day, we'll figure out how to value the environment enough to produce emissions-free automobiles, and value beauty enough to create gorgeous cars for everyone to drive. In the meantime, I have to get back to the Platonic Lotus fantasy. On my walk home. 

1 comment:

  1. Paul,

    The blog looks great! Wow, you have totally surpassed me in blog design and layout! How did you make such a wonderful header? You must teach me some of your tricks!

    Glad you enjoyed the car show, and keep posting such great stuff!