15 Feb 2017

gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
As Valentine's Day has just passed, let me tell you about my first love. The one I spent so many hours with, had so many adventures with, and of course cost me a lot of money and eventually left me.

I am speaking of course, about my first car. What, you thought this was about a girl?

I grew up at was the end of the Golden Age of California car culture. Most of my friends had their licenses and access to a car by the time they were sixteen, and freedom was ours! Going to concerts, hitting Rocky Horror and then Denny's for fries and ranch sauce, and of course cruising the El Camino until it was time to head to the Cinema 150 for Rocky Horror.

For those of you under 40, cruising was when you and several hundred of other drivers packed their cars with friends and drive up and down El Camino Real in an endless loop while listening to to either KOME or KSJO. Certain heretics would listen to KMEL or KFJC, but we could drown them out. The key to cruising was at stoplights; where, at random, people would just switch cars. If you didn't ride in five different cars in four hours you were doing it wrong. I recall one night when I told the driver to let me off at the movie theater and only then realized that I was the only English speaker in the car.

Good times.

But I didn't get my own license until I was in the Army, and even then it was for military vehicles. Only when I came home did my father make a deal to get me a car for my own uses. It was a 1973 Datsun miniwagon. It was baby-shit yellow and had terrifying brakes (later repaired.) Of course I had to name it the Yellow Peril. Named after the yellow biplanes used by the Navy to train pilots before and during WWII. It was, in retrospect, not that great a car, but I loved it.

Because it meant freedom. I could get to Grateful Dead concerts and conventions and, yes, Rocky Horror without begging a ride. If I wanted to go to Santa Cruz and hang out at the Pacific Garden Mall for TOTALLY LEGITIMATE, LEGAL REASONS I could do so. I was only tethered by gas money and the mechanical strangeness of my car.

See, some flathead and pushed a Dodge engine into my little Japanese import and did a poor job of it. I guess he wanted a hot rod build, but in that body? The result was an overpowered engine on a under-powered transmission and drive train. It made for some strange looks from mechanics I knew.

But still, I was able to get around, and being me, the Yellow Peril's paint job soon began to vanish beneath a sea of bumper stickers. I've never been shy about expressing myself, and now I had a rolling forum for my views. Most of these views were "The Grateful Dead are awesome!", as Dead stickers were about 75% of the total surface area of stickers, but I also had funny ones and some political opinions mixed in.

Which led to one of the few times I've ever been pulled over. One of the biggest stickers was my white on bright red QUESTION AUTHORITY sticker which was centered right under the window on my back hatch. One night while driving home from a friend's place, I make the left turn onto Los Gatos-Almaden Road from Leigh and get lit up by the cop who had been following me. At first he said that I "cut the turn too sharply" (WTF?) but then begins interrogating me on my plethora of art and opinions, especially that one. I had to explain to a San Jose Police officer that questioning authority is a cornerstone of a free society, and everyone, including him, needs to be ready to stand up when an authority figure says something that sounds fishy.

In the end, I flat-out asked if I was getting a ticket. I got a verbal warning about my "overly sharp" turns and my "bad attitude" and he let me go. I was royally pissed off, as you can imagine, and decided then and there that I would double-down on my questioning of authority. Been doing so ever since.

Sadly, the Yellow Peril began showing signs of age. I had been riding her hard for a few years, and more problems were showing up than I could afford to fix. Shortly after Kirsten and I moved in together, she broke down for good. I ended up selling her for baby-shit colored scrap metal.

Now I have Darby, my Ford Ranger who I love and wouldn't trade for the world, but you never forget your first love. Even if she drank oil like it was going out of style.


gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)

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