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A Taste of Life in Four Point One Seconds
I’ve always wanted to write a preface to an article. Now I’ve accomplished that task.
I was almost twenty years old when I purchased my first new car. It was a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro, canary yellow with a black racing stripe, and loaded with extras. My uncle, in Torrance, California, was a car salesman, and I told him what I wanted and he began his search. Two weeks later I got the call; he had found the car of my dreams, and I needed to fly down to California from my home in Tacoma, Washington, to complete the sale.
Fly down I did, make the purchase I did, and then I drove that beauty up the coast and the love affair had commenced.
And that is what this story is about….a love affair, forty-six years ago, between a young man, his first car, and some complicated, and simpler, times.
Come with Me on a Ride
Buckle up, now, because this ain’t no VW Bug. This is four-hundred and twenty-seven cubic inches of gonad-shrinking power, a widow-maker and test-of-manhood all crammed under an aluminum hood. There’s a barf bag in the back if you need it, so get comfortable and let’s find out what this baby will do.
Do you hear that growl? This pussycat was meant to prowl, meant to pillage, and meant to enrapture. This pussycat hunts the savannah, chases down any prey, and gives your sphincter muscles a workout in the process, and man alive, she be sweet. Let’s take her down Main Street and see what’s happening in this old town.
Down on Main Street
Turn on the radio, KJR from Seattle, Pat O’Day playing the tunes, Honky Tonk Women and Hot Fun in the Summertime blasting as we roll past Ace Hardware and pull into the A&W for a root beer in a frosted mug. Look at those hot chicks in the mini-skirts. I wonder if they’d be willing to give us some good, good lovin’ in this motel on wheels? Can’t hurt to ask, right, just as long as we can duck fast if they get offended by the offer? Damn, ladies, you are looking good in the neighborhood, all groovy in your tie-dye, beads, and sandals on this hot summer’s day. How about you fine ladies climbing in the back, and we’ll go for a magic carpet ride? That’s it, all comfy, ready to fly with no alibis.
Stopping for the red light, Mr. Copper watching us closely, twitching at the thought of giving the young punks a ticket for muscling up the rpm’s, but what do you expect when that clown in the Mustang, Mr. Low-Rider, is revving next to us, just begging to get embarrassed in front of his buddies. Tell him we’ll meet him along River Road, Denny, down by the sawmill, and we’ll settle it all then and there. Don’t need to go home with a ticket from Mr. Policeman; my mom would tan my hide and use it for a wallet.
What do you say, ladies, should we go dragging and kick some mustang ass? Then we’ll take you to the drive-in and watch the latest. I do believe Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is playing, and we can take the top down and watch it in style. Sounds like a plan, Stan, so off we go.
River Road Racin’
The dust and the noise, noise and the dust, one-quarter mile of moonlight and bullfrogs, coyotes and girly shrieks, tossing down the gauntlet and either you pick that bad boy up, and take the challenge, or you head home to mommy and daddy and hide underneath the covers. We won’t be hiding tonight, guys and gals, cuz this Chevy was built for moments such as this, with your best buddy, two fine young ladies, the open road and straddling the chasm between safety and death.
Inch up to the line, now, let that engine howl, and wait….wait….the arm drops down and a combined eight-hundred horses are galloping towards immortality, or at least bragging rights for one Saturday night. Steady now, into second, wait, wait, the perfect revolutions and then third, and we’re inching in front, inching, rolling, stream-rolling that bad boy, and he glances over and you can see it, see the defeat, and any inkling of hope is gone when you hit fourth gear and suddenly he’s in the rearview mirror eating dust and choking on his empty boasting, and then we’re coasting under a perfect sky, Orion smiling down upon us, our hearts leave our throats as we whoop and holler our way to the drive-in theater, the conquering heroes looking for a little entertainment after busting the zero to sixty in four-point-one.
The Auto View Drive-in
Pay the man at the gate, two bucks for the four of us, then cruise to the back row, unwind those windows, attach speaker, then turn to the pretty ones and ask them if they would like refreshments. Truth be told, popcorn and soft drinks are the last thing on our minds, but you go through the motions, you dance the ritual dance, and you hope for the best. Getting to first base is easy; stretching it to a double is the stuff of dreams, but this is a night for dreaming as the four of us inch our way from childhood to adulthood and all the wonders that entails.
We’re holding hands by the time Butch and Sundance rob their first bank, and we sneak in a kiss by the time all hope is lost for the cinematic heroes, then we leave in reverse order and thank the ladies for a fine evening. Promises are made, few of which will be realities, for life is calling and there is no time for seriousness when you are twenty-one and feeling your oats.
Country Road Take Me Home
Drop off the girls, then weigh our options: go home and be in bed by midnight, or see what kind of shit we can get into for another hour or so. Easy decision as I shift through the gears and steer for the country, letting the engine and transmission do their thing, driver, car, and road, becoming one as the trees rush by, the fields come into view, and the smell of honeysuckle and lavender caress us on a perfect summer night. Old-age, vulnerability, financial difficulties, self-doubts, none of that seems possible as the road of unlimited possibilities stretches before us, and we attack life with the gleefulness that can only exist when one has not been tested yet.
There would be more than enough weeping and hand-wringing to come, for adulthood was rearing its ugly head and peering over our shoulders, but on that night, at that time, we only knew that life was a blast, and we had our hands on the blasting plunger. We knew nothing of war, of poverty, of divorce and heartache. We were just two young guys listening to the tunes, seduced by life, viewing our futures through rose-colored glasses in the ’68 Chevy doing sixty in a thirty-five. Reality would soon slap us alongside the head, but until then, I was just working the gears and letting that Camaro do her thing, racing through life, chasing our tails, and oblivious to what was around the next bend.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)